Haiti Cherie, 

January 12, 2010 You are once again garnering  the attention of the world. This time it is a natural disaster by way of a massive earthquake that has brought You, this tiny impoverished country in the Caribbean, to the forefront of all. 

The children...thier smiles, thier eyes, they reach right through you...

I was introduced to the plight of Your people at an impressionable age by my father, who, in the early ’60’s got involved with International Child Care, a group of caring people that worked to relieve the ravages of tuberculosis in Your country. I was 12 years old when I made my first trip to Your beautiful shores, and determined that I wanted to do something to “make a difference.” And this sense of mission would intensify and evolve as I grew in years. And so not a surprise that  I would work to spend a summer volunteering at Grace Children’s Hospital, as a college student. And following that positive experience I would be further enticed to return as soon as I graduated from college, to serve as a volunteer for a 2 year term that I would extend to 3. I truly felt I had been “groomed” for my role as “constituent services coördinator” for International Child Care, as I  served as their guide/cultural liason for the “mission tours” that were organized through various church groups throughout the states and Canada. It was with great passion that I would take on this role, hoping to make said constituents furthered warmed to the cause they were supporting and at same time dispelling myths that they had held about Your country/people. 

The land as beautiful as the people.How many times did I visit the Citadelle in Cap Haitian, the Albert Schweitzer hospital, The Baptist Mission, Kenscoff Market, Boutilliers, Cite Soleil, Iron Market, Jacmel, Ibo Beach, Presidental Palace, just to name a few of the regular stops on our “tours”. And what great friends I would make with the many regulars/vendors that anticipated my visits with my entourages? And how I loved chatting up in Creole, maneuvering the roadways (and sometimes excuses for roads)  participating in the craziness behind the wheel, and simply enjoying a life, appreciating/respecting that I was merely a guest, learning every day something from You. 

And when I finished my 3 years I couldn’t let go of the impact You and Your people had on my life…still wanting to do “something”. As much as I thought my work through International Child Care would continue stateside, such would not be the case. But another opportunity would avail itself with the support of my fiancé, (my now husband of 23 years) that I did indeed meet in Haiti, by way of bringing  the fine works of Your artisans to an outside market. 

Tree of Life, made from recycled oil drum, was very popular.

How wonderful to work with so many of Your gifted artisans, buying a selection of what I thought I could sell on Your behalf. It was with self-same great passion that I created and worked Kado D’Haiti (gifts from Haiti)….buying sisal handbags, paper mache crafts, bead necklaces, banana bark greeting cards, hand painted iron work, carved ducks, wooden apples, and a range of vibrantly painted boxes, trays, and other “knick knacks”. 

1986, after 5 years living on Your island, and following a dramatic time with the effects of the Revolution just in their infancy stages, my husband and pregnant self moved from Haiti….first to Boston MA and then to Cambridge Ont (yes, all in the course of our first year of marriage) carrying along my small inventory of crafts that I was determined to sell….somehow. 

…and I did. Yes, I did. First at craft shows in New England (for the short time we were there) and then in Ontario, hosting home parties, setting up shop at the St Jacobs Farmers Market, knocking on doors of stores and then growing the business through exposure garnered as exhibitors at the Toronto Home and Gift Show. For 5 years I would lovingly work this business as my family grew from 3 to 5. The joy I received from knowing that I was able to support those people that I had come to love and respect outweighed the fatigue I felt as my days melted away with 3 pre schoolers underfoot. 

The 1991 move of our family from Canada to Asia would require me to pass on my little business to the hands of others.  I truly felt I was leaving a part of myself behind as we boarded a plane to Thailand, but was thrilled that my younger sister would take on Kado D’Haiti, and carried it until a struggle with cancer would require her strength and attention. 

Need for more rooms had my folks lease a 2nd house to accomodate guests. A hole in the wall makes for easy access between the two houses.

My mother and father had followed their hearts to Haiti as well, and, at the age of 60, in 1984 would move  to act on this. (Yes, a little overlap with me living there…) My mother would support the work of my father, the development organization he established, that being FIDA, with the income earned from a guesthouse they started in Port-au-Prince for missionaries/relief workers that were looking for an inexpensive (but cozy) place to stay while in Your country. (Story here. )And my elder sister would take over the running of this organization as my father retired at the age of 80. 

She would carry on my parents work with the same passion and committment that fueled their pioneering efforts. And a hands on approach would find her making regular trips to Your shores. I have to believe that there was “something” more than chance that she landed on Your fair shores this past Tuesday, just before You were so rudely visited by an earthquake which doesn’t even have a name. We are most fortunate to have news that she and her daughter (who started working with her last year) are safe. Images that we see on TV they are experiencing first hand. I know this to be a life changing experience for them. Frankly, a mere visit to Your nation has done that for so many, as I witnessed  …living through this tragedy with Your people will be impactful beyond belief. 

Those eyes again...And so again, You are available, fully available, to receive the aid of others. In fact, as the situation stands, You simply cannot do without. Your people have suffered immeasurably over the decades, with political oppression and subsequent violence, and with “the” mother of all earthquakes now bringing You to a new low. So there is this huge opportunity for us to come to Your aid…a people that have had so little for so long that now have even less….and we are coming Your way, from all corners of the earth. I hope it is enough. I hope that it makes a difference. I hope it counts. And I hope that by way of our outreach to You that that many more people can be touched, as have I, by the warm Spirit of Your people….a people that has a strength of Spirit and fortitude that is out of the grasp for many of us. You have much to teach and show us.

Help coming from all corners of the world to this ravaged nation.

Yes, I have known for a long time that  You would give to me more than I could ever give to You. And this feeling is brought to the fore once again…that the balance is off and I need to find a way to give back to You and Your people…again/more. And so with this letter, I am making a committment to do that.  I know that there are many out there that have a connection to Haiti. Let me know about your connection. If you have an organization you support, let me know and I will post on my site and in my blog. Spreading the good works of many in Haiti is my starting point…so, give me something to write about. And stories. I know there are stories of how lives have been touched by Your people and their indomitable Spirit and Faith. Let’s not let this fade. Let’s not let the plight of your people slip away from us…ok, from me. Yes, I am still learning from You and Your people. 

…. may I serve well as an ambassador on Your behalf. 

God Speed to all….