I wrote a blog a couple of days ago asking for messages of love and support for orphans in Haiti. I got one cynical response and only 30 messages out of 306 views—a meager 10% return. I made no request for money; God knows these are hard times and money is tight all around. Just a little message, a few words that would give solace to little children who have lost their parents, their world, everything--including hope. How, I wondered, could so few step up to the bar? Then I realized that one cynic perhaps represented the 90% who rejected my plea.
So here’s the backstory. Only now can I tell you--because as I write, it is all finally happening.
A week ago, I received a phone call hours before dawn from a friend in Texas. He'd just received disturbing news from a mutual friend. She and her husband were in the process of adopting a little girl from an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. They got word the orphanage had been completely decimated in the earthquake but miraculously, the children had survived.
They were moved to the backyard of the cousin of the Anglican priest who runs the orphanage. Tents from bedspreads slung between trees were their only cover from the elements. They had no food, no fresh water. Two of the 40 orphans had been seriously injured.
My friend, who has wealth, said he wanted to charter a jet and rescue the children. That would be impossible, I replied. He said, come up with a plan. We have to rescue the kids.
So we did just that.
It took until now to execute the evacuation.
I won’t go into the innumerable details. But within 48 hours, we had a four-man armed team from Global Rescue on the ground with a paramedic to assess the condition and tend to the medical needs of each child. They brought food and fresh water—enough ‘til our own team got to them. Desperate times fuel the darker side of humanity and there are armed gangs in Port-au-Prince, ferreting out the many clusters of small orphanages, like ours, robbing them at gunpoint of what little food and water they have. And yes, there are wild dogs that are beaten off with sticks because after all, the dogs are ravenously hungry and desperate too.
A good friend here in my village, who is a recently retired social worker, has long had a cottage in the Dominican Republic, right on the Haitian border. He's the one who pulled together our team on-the-ground in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He dropped everything and caught a plane--he's already there, hard at work, heading his team, making everything happen. We have 40 beds and bedlinens, supplies of food and fresh water, clothing, medical supplies and a doctor ready to care for the orphans the moment they arrive, everything they need, all--everything--entirely bankrolled by our Texas friend.
The plan for the evacuation changed as circumstances forced it to change but as I write, the children are safely on buses on the 300 mile journey to their new home. They are all going to be all right. They will be safe, and fed, and clothed and loved.
So that’s the story. I translated the messages posted to my blog into French—anyone could have. There are free online programs that translate English to French, the native language of Haiti, at the click of a mouse. Half the children are too young to read, but your messages will be read to them. I've printed them one to a page, so each child has mail, a little envelope of his own to open. At Church Sunday, I asked the congregation to write letters, too. Every child will have a letter of his own to open.
I’m leaving today for JFK Airport in New York, a drive of 350 miles, to see my Texas friend off on his flight to Haiti, where he will go for as long as he's needed to help care and provide for the children. I will give him the letters to personally carry to the children. To the person whose blog suggested the messages would be carried on the wings of butterflies, the answer is--no. They're in the carry-on bag of a very good and generous man who had--and used--the means to make a very big difference in the lives of 40 little children.
To those who wrote messages to the children, thank you. To those who want to write, go ahead. I’ll make sure the children get them. To those who want to send blankets and teddy bears—sit tight. The borders are jammed right now and there’s no assurance your gifts will get through. When everyone is safe and settled, I will give you the contact information for the orphanage. Actually, in the course of our evacuation plans, we came in contact with another orphanage, headed by a remarkable American woman who has helped enormously--and as a result, we now have 150 children. Stay tuned. I'll let you know by blog.
No, friends, this wasn’t hype. This was simply the effort of a few who did nothing more or less than aspire to be decent human beings, and to answer a call for help when help was sorely needed. We are merely ordinary people in extraordinary times, doing the best we can.
And to what end?
Delight is to him—a far, far upward, and inward delight—who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth, ever stands forth his own inexorable self. Delight is to him whose strong arms yet support him, when the ship of this base treacherous world has gone down beneath him. Delight is to him, who gives no quarter in the truth, and kills, burns, and destroys all sin though he pluck it out from under the robes of Senators and Judges. Delight, —top-gallant delight is to him, who acknowledges no law or lord, but the Lord his God, and is only a patriot to heaven. Delight is to him, whom all the waves of the billows of the seas of the boisterous mob can never shake from this sure Keel of the Ages. And eternal delight and deliciousness will be his, who coming to lay him down, can say with his final breath - O Father! —chiefly known to me by Thy rod—mortal or immortal, here I die. I have striven to be Thine more than to be this world’s, or mine own. Yet this is nothing; I leave eternity to Thee; for what is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God.”
—Father Mapple’s Sermon
Herman Melville, Moby Dick