One year ago today, Wilson and I arrived back in Haiti to be house parents of the Promise House at Children of the Promise. We knew we would be caring for 8 kids with special needs, some of whom we knew quite well, some we had only met briefly, but all of whom we had been praying fervently for and preparing our hearts and minds for throughout the previous year. We were alive with hope, full of dreams and plans, but also anxious about the difficulties we would face, both expected and unforeseen. We knew one thing for certain; God had placed a call on our hearts that we simply could not ignore.
I wrote to my mom and sister our first night in the Promise House, which I like to read from time to time. If we don’t look back to where we started, it’s impossible to see how far we’ve come.
“We knew the physical space was less than ideal, but I was more concerned about the location than anything. We will take pictures tomorrow, because it’s a bit hard to explain the state of things. The kitchen sink is falling out of its hole in the counter, the dish rags are disgusting, and there are cockroaches everywhere. In the sink, on the counter, in every crevice of the only 2 dining room chairs that sit at the table. There is so little food in the house that we didn’t have anything to cook for dinner, so we got leftovers from the volunteers upstairs. The couch, the old one from the girl’s apartment, is so dirty and is torn to shreds. The arm rests are just draped open to the wood and cardboard and foam and whatever else a couch is made of. I haven’t gone in the kids’ bathrooms yet because Wilson warned me of the stench after he checked inside. According to the nannies, all the kids and nannies beds have bed bugs and nobody sleeps well at night because of it, the kids wake up with bumps all over them.”
This was before we discovered the two mice nests, one in the couch and one in the oven. Improving the physical space we live in started almost immediately, but it has definitely been more of a marathon than a sprint. We did kill all 15 mice in our first 2 weeks, and have only a few stray ones since then, which is to be expected when COTP is surrounded by sugar cane fields. The cockroaches took a few more months to beat, but we are so grateful to be rid of them as well. The bed bugs are still an issue, though not for lack of trying. Attacking that issue is one of our goals for the 2017.
Ridding the house of pests was just the beginning. Wilson has worked tirelessly on so many other things in the house. Doorways are now wheelchair accessible. The two kids’ bathrooms were completely gutted, one to make a laundry and storage room, the other became a completely accessible bathroom with a roll-in shower and padded changing station. Each child has a hook for their own loofah instead of sharing communally, with the same for towels. We switched to cloth wipes and are using only cloth diapers as well. A special sprayer sink was added to rinse off the diapers before putting them in the washing machine. Clotheslines were installed on the roof so everything dries in just a few hours. For rainy days, we have a dryer converted to propane, so we can stay on top of the laundry.
After some deep cleaning in the bedrooms, mattresses were replaced and open-faced closets were added for the kids’ clothes, shoes, and linens. The worn and stained clothes were replaced with new and new-to-us items that had been sent down on the bus. All the kids who needed special braces were fitted for them and now have AFO’s for their feet, and hand/wrist/arm braces as needed.
The kitchen got a new sink with some retiling where needed. The chest freezer that was acting as a fridge, is actually a freezer again as someone had donated a new refrigerator. Once we got the stove/oven thoroughly cleaned, the oven didn’t actually work, so we inherited one from another house. Pantry shelves were built and food storage bins were added. For those who can sit up, appropriate seating has been added to the kitchen table. A half-wall now separates the kitchen from the living room for the safety of our kids and their growing curiosities.
The living room got some new paint and a new couch. A video projector was installed for family movie nights. All the kids now have appropriate wheelchairs and we also have mats, bean bags, and exercise balls for play and therapy. Old and broken toys have been replaced by new, engaging toys, and a library of books now sits in our own bedroom so they are protected from busy little hands between story times. Fans were fixed and dead or missing light bulbs were replaced.
The backyard has been fenced in, adding a door from the laundry room to the yard. A cement pad was laid for chairs and a new BBQ that Wilson made from an old propane tank. A hammock rests between palm trees and a new swing set of special needs swings has been donated. The initial work has been started on replacing the septic system, another project for 2017.
But a house is not a home without the family who lives in it. Stay tuned for Part 2 and I’ll tell you all about our kids and the progress they’ve made in the last year!