Friday, September 9, 2011

Impact Stories from Haiti Part I

"These boxes have given us hope again."

Jeff Adams is the Samaritian's Purse Director of Communications.  He reports from Haiti...

If some of my loved ones were killed in an earthquake that also left me and my children homeless and
living in the streets – then we had to survive a hurricane and a cholera epidemic – I think I’d struggle to
find much joy in a shoe box filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items.
That may be true of me, but earlier this week, I learned it is families who have begun receiving gift-filled Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes as part of Samaritan’s Purse’s plans to distribute boxes to 250,000 children throughout Haiti in the next few weeks.
Children will also be offered in their Creole language “The Greatest Gift of All” booklet which tells the
story of Jesus’ birth, life and resurrection. And they will be invited to participate in the 12-lesson
“Greatest Journey” discipleship program, offered in partnership with the Billy Graham Evangelistic
Association, will soon be available through several local church partners. Some classes have begun.
More than 70,000 children have made commitments to Christ so far through “The Greatest Journey.”
The shoe boxes for Haiti, including 50,000 from Canadians, will be among almost 8.2 million
distributed by Samaritan’s Purse worldwide – part of 85 million distributed since Operation Christmas
Child began in 1993.
All seven families I randomly approached – because they’d received Canadian shoe boxes in the past
month – said the boxes have helped renew their hope after what has been a tragedy-filled year for Haiti.

-The January 10, 2010 earthquake that killed at least 230,000 people and left 1.6 million homeless
-Hurricane Tomas that caused extensive flooding and forced more people out of their homes
[the cholera epidemic that has killed more than 3,650 people and led at least 171,000 more to
seek treatment (including at some Samaritan’s Purse-run facilities).

I had expected at least one or two families I approached to laugh with bitterness when I asked if the
shoe boxes their children received have provided any comfort or joy. But instead of bitterness or
cynicism, I found thankfulness – a thankfulness so obvious and genuine that it left me humbled.
“On Jan. 12, 2010, I didn’t have any hope for the future,” says Beatrice Roland, 32. “I didn’t have
anything. But these boxes have given us hope again.”
Beatrice’s mother, father, brother, and four cousins were killed by falling debris in the earthquake. “The
house fell on them,” she says. The bodies of her brother and two cousins were never recovered.
Although Beatrice, her husband Dumas and their three children survived, their home was so badly
damaged they had to abandon it – salvaging nothing – and begin living in the streets.
Dumas no longer had employment (6 out of every 7 Haitians are now jobless), and so the family’s
savings ran out quickly. “Sometimes, we could not even eat one meal a day,” Beatrice recalls.
One day, a Christian pastor approached, saying an organization called Samaritan’s Purse was building
semi-permanent shelters for Haitians who had become homeless. Pastor Kelly Balde helped arrange
for Beatrice, Dumas and their children to move into a four-metre-by-four-metre shelter last March.
Dumas is still struggling to find work, and Beatrice sometimes has to ask her friends and neighbors for
food, but the gift-filled shoe box that her 12-year-old daughter Anaika received has sparked optimism.
“It was a nice thing to get the shoe boxes (Anaika’s favorite new toy is a skipping rope) in December
because I didn’t have any money to buy the children anything,” Beatrice says with a warm smile, while
standing outside her home. “The boxes have brought some hope to me. I thank Samaritan’s Purse.”

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