Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Overdue Thank Yous

I just want to start by thanking everyone for their love and support through this incredible journey. I am sorry for the delay in the last couple blogs. Coming back to Canada was a real struggle for me. I didnt feel ready to be home and was suffering from a loneliness I cant quite explain. I desperately missed the country of Haiti and the relationships I had developed and strengthened in that short amount of time. This was without a doubt a life changing experience and one that I feel entirely unworthy of. I was so blessed to be part of Gods work and to be working alongside some of the most beautiful hearts I have ever met. This blog was supposed to be a personal reflection of my experience and a way to remember and reflect on all the miracles I had witnessed. I never dreamt that anyone other than my family would be interested in reading what I had to say. So thank you for taking time out of your busy lives to share this with me.
I am not sure what is in store for me just yet. I am hoping that God will lead me back to Haiti but that is not for me to decide. In the meantime I am learning to be patient and reminding myself that it is in Gods time and not my own.
A good friend explained it to me this way... often times we are put on the front lines of battle. We push through, no matter what the struggle, continuing to fight the good fight. What we dont always understand, is although we may feel we have the energy to continue, the best thing for us is to rest. Like any effective solider, we need to reenergize and recuperate before heading into battle again.
The battle for Haiti is not over, not even close. The country is facing new challenges everyday and I want to encourage everyone to continue to pray and support the efforts being made there. I can say truthfully that I have never seen faith as I have witnessed in that country. People are pulling together, praying together and working together to rebuild a broken country. No matter what you see, read or hear please know that these people are beautiful. They have displayed their faithfulness in the midst of tragedy and despair. Their resilience sparkles and has personally lit a fire in my life.
Thank you....
Yours truly and sincerely
Janelle Richardson

Coming Home

Dragging my feet I started down the hill from the Toddler house to the Main house. I looked around purposefully trying to take as many mental pictures as possible. The brightly painted gate, the abandoned vehicle, the stray chickens, I didnt want to miss a single detail. I just wasnt ready to leave. Soaking it all in, I intentionally dawdled. Had it really been a month already?
My belongings bounced around in the back of the SUV as we weaved our way out of the mountains into Port Au Prince. The plan was simple, we had to be at the airport by noon to board a plane chartered by Samaritans Purse by 1pm. The airport still wasnt open to commercial airlines so this was our only option. There was no picking airlines, comparing prices, times, or routes. This was it, one plane, one destination, one list and fingers were crossed that my name would be on it.
The devastation isnt something that I think anyone gets used to. Driving through the countries capital, the magnitude and severity of kilometers of rubble once again took my breath away. Every turn was another block of uninhabitable homes, destroyed businesses and displaced families. I couldnt help but think “Where do you even start?”
I had my eyes closed with the window rolled down when I heard the loud speaker, “Messi Jezi, Messi Jezi.” As we drove by I was amazed to see a crowd of at least 200 sitting packed under the hot Haitian sun. People spilled out from an empty parking lot into the surrounding streets to take in the pastors message. It was Sunday and it appeared that no one in this neighborhood was going to miss church, no matter what the circumstances. As we continued throughout the city, we passed over 20 makeshift churches. A gas station, an open park area, the street closest to a tent city, it didnt matter where, people were congregating. Loud speakers boomed with a message of salvation, of thankfulness, of forgiveness.
After my beautiful experience at the tent city, I looked with longing at these resilient people. Their voices once again filled the air as parades of men, women and children marched through the streets. It was the final day of the nations 3 day fast and prayer, and the Haitians continued to celebrate. Singing and praying they walked together, hand in hand, declaring their love for the Lord.
The airport was strangely quiet. The flurry of activity that I had gotten used to was reduced to the odd helicopter taking off and small engine plane landing. The calmness was oddly disturbing. There was still so much need, where were the cargo planes full of supplies? Where were the droves of volunteers, doctors, nurses and camera crews? Had the world forgotten already?
Patiently waiting for our plane to arrive the knot in my stomach was tightening. Was the decision to leave the right one? As my internal battle raged I looked over at the military tents, thinking back to the day we sent the Dutch children home. The hot heat, 37 children, and multiple dirty diapers. My eyes rested on the grassy hill where 87 American children waited patiently to board the plane to take them home. My memory returned to the 20 Canadian children who stared wide eyed at the roaring plane packed full of volunteers. All of this had happened on this exact tarmac. I thought back to the beautiful faces of the children who had impacted my life so drastically. The number of lives that had changed on this pavement was immeasurable, mine included.
We boarded the 8 seater plane at 1pm as promised. My teary eyes were glued to the window as the plane charged down the runway. The country that captured my heart was slowly disappearing as we climbed higher into the clouds.

Windowed Reflections

My heart was pounding as I sat in the back of a pickup staring anxiously out the window. Just breath and remember what you have been told. “These are just people. You dont have anything to offer except a prayer. Smile, be friendly and remember that these are just people.” Words of advice that were meant to sooth and calm my fears, but I wasnt afraid. I was bursting with excitement. As we bounced along the windy, pothole stricken roads, I kept catching glimpses of my reflection. My hair was pulled back in a greasy ponytail, stray hairs did a nice job of making me look like a mad scientist, and the bags under my eyes were clearly visible. I looked down and realized that the scrubs I was wearing did a nice job of disguising both the dirt and my inability to do anything medical. “Doctor, Doctor,” I had been called all day, when really a simple butterfly bandaid eluded me. I smiled into my reflection in the truck window and thought to myself, only in Haiti would I be proud to look this horrible.
Finally the truck started to slow down as the pedestrian traffic increased. We must be getting close. Weaving in and out, we passed vendors, tap taps, carts and played chicken with other anxious vehicles. Then there it was, tent city.
I had seen the tent cities before, marveling at the amount of people that could be cramped into one small space. Tarps and sheets were strung together the length of entire city blocks, while cardboard and scrap metal were strategically placed to block out wind, noise and create some sort of privacy. As we piled out of the truck the smell stung my nose. A mixture of urine, people and saturday supper lingered in the hot heavy air. Two outhouses stood at the corner looking silly while people continued to line up outside of them. There was just no way that they would stay empty for even an hour. In the battle of people versus outhouses, the outhouses were tragically outnumbered. As we started towards the tent city I could barely peel my eyes from the road, making sure to lift my feet and carefully avoid any pooling of “water”. There had been no rain for weeks so it was safe to say that these were not your typical puddles.
Our mission was clear, we were not there to gawk or explore, we were there to simply invite people to watch a Christian film in Creole, a modern day story of the prodigal son. A sheet had already been hung on a huge billboard and the projector had been set up. All we had to do was send out the invitation. I was paired with another volunteer and he and I set out to complete this task.
With our limited Creole we managed to smile and say good evening to people as we passed. In the short amount of time since the earthquake this tent city had already established a variety of vendors. Walking past a popcorn machine and even a makeshift barber shop I knew the locals could tell I was impressed. More than once we were offered what little food they had, or invited to sit and talk. We were even given a dance performance from a couple teenage boys that were adamant that they deserved to be the next Michael Jackson.
We stopped to pray for an older man that was hopeful our prayer would quickly heal his broken arm. Holding hands, we bowed our heads in the middle of the path and asked for healing and strength. As amen was said I opened my eyes to greet a smile that stretched from ear to ear. The gentleman continued to thank us as we shook hands and wished him well.
Dodging string, rope and twine that precariously held the makeshift homes together, we fumbled our way through. We invited anyone who so much as looked in our direction. Kids, parents, grandparents, it didnt matter, we invited them all. Cinema? They questioned. They must have thought we were crazy, where did these white kids think a cinema was?
I was humbled as I saw the few possessions that filled these temporary homes. How were these people surviving? The odd blanket, a couple of pillows and some dirty laundry were all that laid on empty ground. There was no distinction between homes other than a torn sheet divider. Eight to ten people would crowd under each tarp, sharing what little space they had.
As we walked around we began to notice people leaving and heading for the centre of the tent city. Deciding to follow we found ourselves in the middle of the most moving and intense worship service we had ever witnessed. Every age group stood, eyes closed and hands reaching towards the heavens singing praises to God. They sang with such passion and thankfulness that you would never know that they were battling such a poor and seemingly hopeless situation. Singing filled the air as the energy began to build. Looking around I couldnt find a single person who wasnt dancing... dancing for joy, dancing for the Lord. Not knowing the words, we struggled to keep up, receiving encouraging smiles from the believers who surrounded us. For that brief moment in time there was no separation among us, we were all Gods children and we all had reasons to thank him.
After the celebration the film started. People filled the streets to watch, with no room to sit, they stood taking in the film. The response was overwhelming. At the end of the night when I climbed back into the truck I looked again at my reflection in the window. Although my hair was still greasy and there were still bags under my eyes something about me was different. A smile swept across my face, I was beaming. I looked around the vehicle to see that same light in the faces of my fellow volunteers. We had just witnessed Gods grace and love first hand. We smiled at each other confirming in our hearts what we already knew, that there is hope for Haiti. That there is hope for all of us.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Golf Courses and Margaritas

An older woman sat patiently beside her husband and gently wiped a cold cloth across his forehead. He sighed deeply and smiled at her as though there wasn’t a single other person in the room. For a brief moment it seemed as though he had forgotten about the pins protruding from his left leg and the cast that held his right. This is the Baptist Mission Hospital. Twelve or more beds are crammed into each of the three tiny rooms that hold only earthquake survivors. Some are seriously injured, while others are on the road to recovery, most are missing limbs and all are suffering from extreme pain. It is a harsh and painful reality that is difficult to comprehend and even harder to stand by and watch.
Long pew-like benches line the halls of the hospital where people who are waiting admission anxiously sit. Volunteer doctors and nurses scurry between rooms, grabbing meds, taking temperatures, changing dressings, prepping for surgery and cleaning the odd accident. It is a constant flurry of activity.
I had gone to the hospital with the intention of being an extra set of hands and not just an extra body in the way. Timidly I sat back for probably the first hour, doing my best to give a smile to a suffering patient or stumble my way through Creole with a family member. I was shy, timid and completely out of my element.
In the process of running prescriptions, getting blankets and doing any other kind of errand that needed to be done I received so much encouragement from the medical staff. I readily admitted to not having any medical background in which they replied, “that’s wonderful, we need people like you!” Definitely not the response I expected.
Before long patients were starting to call me by name. Some just wanted to hold my hand or play with my hair. There were many times throughout the day where I just thanked God that he had saved these people physically and prayed that they would be saved spiritually.
Samaritans Purse plays a big part in the Baptist Mission Hospital. Volunteers from that organization are often found in the halls and by the bedsides of patients. I was doing my best to comfort a young woman while her pain medication kicked in when a couple stopped at the bed beside me. An older woman spoke softly to the Haitian pastor that stood next to her, both clutching their bibles looking intently down at the man in bed. It was obvious that his leg was a casualty of the quake, being that it was removed just above the knee. He was a smaller, quiet man who I hadn’t really noticed up to this point. He had been sleeping most of the morning and had no visitors that I could recall. When I had taken his temperature earlier in the day, he sat with his eyes closed, almost as if to block out the reality that was going on around him. Now the older woman asked in English if she could speak to him for a little bit. The Haitian Pastor at her side translated and they were both invited to sit down. I was doing my best to not eavesdrop but my curiosity kept getting the best of me. Every so often I would look over to see what it was they were talking about. It took me a while to figure out that the older woman was quietly telling this man about Jesus Christ. I wasn’t certain as to whether or not this man was a believer but could tell that the words this woman spoke were ones of comfort and hope. After about a half an hour I heard her ask him if he wanted to ask Jesus in his heart. Before the Haitian Pastor even finished translating, this man who had been bed ridden for weeks emphatically said in English “Yes!” It was there in the room that held 11 other patients and a slew of other strangers that this man gave his life over to Christ. As he followed along in prayer my eyes started to fill up with tears. As I looked around the room, patients nearby closed their eyes and lifted their hands saying quietly “Mesi Jezi”, Thank you Jesus! Even in their own pain and sorrow they knew they were witness to another life saved. Mesi Jezi!
I have to tell you about a woman at the hospital named Mimi. She is an 87 year old woman who shows up to work as a nurses aid every day. She truly is an inspiration and a real witness to what love and sacrifice really are. I would be surprised if Mimi stood over 5 feet tall and weighed more than 110 pounds. Throughout the entire day she stayed busy changing bedding, pushing wheelchairs, and feeding anyone that was unable to do it themselves. She would catch my eye and give me a grin that literally stretched from ear to ear. If she spoke English she didn’t let me know but instead would whisper words of encouragement in Creole to me or a nearby patient. By the age of 87 most people feel that they have served their time and that it is their turn to be waited on. Not this Haitian lady. I caught her lifting an older gentleman clear out of his wheelchair and into his bed. This man was almost twice her size, had both of his legs in casts and was completely unable to assist her in anyway. I would never have even asked this frail, grey haired woman to hold a gallon of water for me, let alone pick up and place this crippled man into bed. Before I could get over to where she was, she had set him down and was proceeding to change the gentlemans soiled underpants. At this point she was attempting to lift him with one arm and shimmy his clothing on with the other. It was like nothing I had ever seen. Had I not been there I have no doubt in my mind that she would have completed the entire task successfully and without complaint. Even with my help she insisted that she lift the man while I dealt with his clothes. I smile just thinking about her and marvel at her unending energy. I hope that my retirement looks a little more like Mimis and a little less like golf courses and margaritas.
When I left the hospital I felt like I was leaving behind family and friends. There wasn’t a single nurse, doctor or patient who hadn’t embraced me, whether it was physically or emotionally. Everyone there was so focused and willing to work together for a common cause. Most had come as strangers from all over the world but ended up leaving as family. They are all in the business of saving lives and were willing to work around the clock to do so. It was an incredible experience that I will hold in my heart forever.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


The entire neighborhood started clapping and shouting for joy. I couldn’t figure it out, was there a soccer game on or something? What was I missing? I followed what some of the children were doing and poked my head over the wall at the Toddler house. For the first time since the earthquake you could see little points of light stretch out for miles. Public electricity had been restored. Something we take for granted had caused this entire neighborhood to dance and sing in pure happiness. We turned and looked at one another and smiles broke out on each and every face. Excitement filled the air! I have been witness to so many little moments that they start to all blend together. That in itself is a shame. I don’t ever want to forget the magic I felt standing on my tip toes smiling at the streetlights.
We have spent days sorting through the various supplies and donations that have come back from the States with us. So far we have created packets for each Haitian staff member of GLA that contains a tarp, a lantern, a hygiene kit, 2 towels, 2 blankets, 2 packets of rice and a tent. We have also taken any excess that we have and created packets for any visitors or families that come to our door. It fills my heart to know that donations are going directly to families that need it instead of sitting in a warehouse somewhere while people continue to live in sheet houses.
I haven’t been down to Port Au Prince since taking the Canadian children home so I cant say if there has been any progress. We have been told that there is a ninety percent chance that Haiti will feel another earthquake larger than a 5.0 so I am not sure if it is statistics like these that continue to prevent people from returning home. Things up in the mountains of Kenscoff feel as though they are slowly returning to normal. Even up at the Baptist Mission the street vendors have put up their paintings and carefully displayed their sculptures although I am not sure how much business they would be getting.
We received a container down at the Ports in Port Au Prince that had been shipped prior to the earthquake. The container was ¼ full of donations for GLA. So a truck was hired and the supplies were picked up. We are full at both the Main House and at the Toddler House and have run completely out of storage space. This left one other option…Ft Jacques.
There is a beautiful piece of property up the mountain in Ft Jacques that has been purchased by Gods Littlest Angels as the future home to the orphanage. This piece of land currently contains a large stone wall that surrounds the property as well as a depot and garage. As money continues to be raised you will eventually see a 3 story building that will allow the main and toddler houses to be combined. This project will take at least one million dollars to complete but I cant even begin to explain what a blessing that would be.
So with this truck en route we climbed into the vehicles and headed up to Ft. Jacques to unload. I don’t think I have ever seen so much baby food, diapers or toilet paper in my life. The truck was full. We received at least 2 pallets stacked with baby food! It was absolutely incredible. To think that this has been in the shipping process for quite a while and was delivered now when it is most needed is amazing. It took 20 of us a couple hours to unload the truck and briefly sort through what was there. Talk about team work. I am not sure what the plan is for distribution but I do know that GLA is ready for any child that comes their way. If only they would start coming….
Thank you to everyone who continues to pray and support Gods Littlest Angels. In bible study this week Yvonne talked about how we have to make a conscious choice. We either choose to live in fear or we choose to live in faith. The staff at GLA I believe has chosen to live in faith. Slowly but surely their hearts are starting to heal and happiness is starting to seep back into their lives. We are an organization that is thankful and amazed at what God can and continues to do.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Today We Eat

Seven flights in one week. I am a nerd for counting but 7 flights in one week has got to be a record, and being a pilot doesn’t count. I have flown from Calgary to Toronto to Miami to Port au Prince to Ottawa to Toronto to Miami back to Port au Prince. If there was ever a time where I was afraid to fly I cant remember it. It almost seems weird that I am not hurrying through customs, crossing my fingers through baggage check and waiting anxiously to take off or land.
I am so blessed to be working with this organization. I was lucky enough to spend the days between dropping the kids off in Ottawa and our flight out of Miami with some of the staff from GLA. As hard as this transition has been for them, they remain upbeat, positive and are simply a pleasure to be around. Everything they do, they do with a smile on their face and prove to me everyday what it truly means to be a servant of God. Whatever needs to be done they tackle it, so often seeing the bigger picture that I tend to miss.
Staying in Miami with our group of 6 girls we did some serious shopping. Knowing that we would have room to take supplies back with us we went to work in the aisles of Target, Walmart and even drove half the city of Miami searching for the Super Walmart. We loaded shopping cart after shopping cart with blankets, tarps, tents, and lanterns. We cleared the store shelves completely before heading to the checkout counter where people would literally stop and stare. I don’t think there is a single Rubbermaid container left in the whole state of Florida. Beans, rice and cooking oil were also on the list of essentials to bring back with us. We filled up the huge 8 passenger van we rented at least 3 times with items we had purchased.
Clearing the shelves was the easy part. It’s the loading, unloading, hauling up to the 7th floor, sorting, packing, loading, taking down to the 1st floor and filling up the shuttle busses that was hard. In order to have the room we needed to sort, divide and pack we literally took over the entire 7th floor of the Marriott hotel. We lined Rubbermaid containers along the walls in the hallway and went to work packing all 30 of them. To get out of their rooms, guests had to crawl over 50 lbs bags of rice, weave between the stacks of blankets and try not to trip on the kneeling girls. Not sure how popular we were so we offered both smiles and apologies to anyone who dared to leave the safety of their rooms.
Its never ceases to amaze me how willing people are to lend a hand. You hear the expression to give the clothes off your back but when have you ever witnessed such a thing? As we were well into our sorting and packing process a man and his wife stopped to ask us what we were doing. A valid question considering we were virtually blocking the entrance to his room. One of the staff members explained who we were and why we had created such a mess. As she was speaking I could literally see the mans face light up. He asked when we were leaving and if we would be willing to take anything that he had to give. Within minutes he had come back with his and his wife’s winter coats. He sheepishly asked if they could be used in Haiti and explained that he would give us so much more, but it was the only two articles he had that didn’t need to be washed. This man was ready and willing to give the clothes off his back but felt that the Haitian people deserved more than his unwashed laundry. So instead he brought us what he could saying that he had been looking for an opportunity to help. In a split second this gentleman had chosen to part with something of his in order for it to be blessing for someone else. Please keep this selfless couple in your prayers.
It wasn’t long before I was back in Concourse G at the Miami International Airport. It took two shuttle busses and a truck crammed full in order to get all of our supplies to the airport. I would imagine that the same guy who had tagged all 10 thousand pounds last week, was not too happy to see me again. Despite the task ahead he managed to give me a smile and a wave. This time we knew what to expect and the process went sooo much smoother. We were on the airplane and circling Port Au Prince before we knew it.
The language of love is a powerful one that I am blessed to be learning each and every day. The world may be weeping for Haiti but the people here are resilient. We had a visitor at dinner explain that she had started to cry at one of the hospitals, overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness. She told me that a young man had come over to her to try and comfort her. He asked her gently why she was crying. Through her tears she explained that she was crying for him and for all the people of Haiti. He responded to her, “Miss, don’t cry for us. Today was a good day. Today we got to eat.”
There are so many examples of why this country holds my heart. Please pray for the people of Haiti that they would continue to smile and continue to hold on to that positive attitude. May they be blessed for their endurance and strength!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Did you bring anything special back with you?

"Would you like a coffee?" such a simple gesture from a Red Cross volunteer, yet the act of kindness was enough to make me break. "Here you go ma'am. We have chili if you would like also" I could barely answer the man that stood their dumbfounded wondering why the girl he was trying to give a cup of coffee to was choking back tears. I am thankful that the package I blindly grabbed was sugar and not salt as I frantically tried to blink back the tears.
3:30 Tuesday we received a call from the Canadian Embassy telling us that arrangements had been made to allow our Canadian kids to go home. The flight was scheduled through an Air Transat plane and was scheduled to depart 9am wednesday. Unlike both our Dutch and US evacuations, the Canadian government felt it was best if they helped see the entire process through. According to them in order to do that it was necessary and feasible to pack up all 20 children, drive them down and check them into the Canadian Embassy by 5pm on Tuesday. Oh and yes, all 20 children along with their escorts would be expected to spend the night at the Embassy in anticipation for the flight the next morning.
You wouldnt believe how quickly the staff at GLA can get clothes, diapers, formula, snacks, sandwiches, juice, pajamas, paperwork and all the other necessities needed to care for that many children ready. It really is something to see, I had a hard enough time packing up my own personal belongings let alone having to worry about the kids. Within an hour and a half the vehicles were loaded and we were on our way.
The Canadian Embassy was not exempt from the destruction of the earthquake. In fact we were told that they are only able to operate out of 1\4 of the building as the rest of it has been condemed. So with the small amount of room that they had they managed to squeeze in our party of 20 kids plus volunteers. They were kind enough to feed us and lay foam mattresses on the floor for the kids. They brought us blankets and did their best to make us as comfortable as possible. Thankfully most of the children didnt have any problems falling asleep. The adults were another story. We had people sleeping in chairs, snuggled into any open mattress space, and curled up on the cold tile floors. We had everything from poopy diapers, to crying babies, to hands, heads, and feet sprawled all over the place. We were a sight to see.
I dont think a single adult was able to get more than 1 hour of sleep at a time so when the sun came up we were anxious to get on with the day. We changed the kids, some multiple times, fed them and loaded them onto the bus that would take us from the Embassy to the airport. I knew that we were in for a long day but you could literally feel the excitement in the air. The older kids knew that today was the day they would meet their families and I couldnt help but burst with excitement for the younger ones who would finally be showered with all the love and attention they deserved.
Everytime I have gone down to the airport we have taken a different route, which means everytime I get a little bit more of a picture as to the actual devastation the earthquake caused. Signs litter the streets asking for help, people are lined up blocks long waiting for what I can only imagine is food or water. What were once huge buildings have now been reduced to piles of rubble. It still amazes me that 35 seconds has changed this country so dramatically.
As hard as it was trying to get that many people ready in an hour and a half, spending the night on the Canadian Embassys floor and then waking up at 5 the next morning, it was worth it when we pulled directly up to the Air Transat plane. There was no waiting, no keeping the kids entertained, we simply had to get off the bus and climb the stairs to the plane.
Through this whole ordeal there has been a ton of media coverage. As the bus pulled up to the plane I have to admit that I started to get nervous as the cameras started flashing. Air Transat provided a plane full of volunteers that were ready and willing to help us off the bus and onto the plane. The first couple minutes were a whirlwind of activity. There were people everywhere and in the confusion our luggage never made it as carry ons. So for us that meant that all of our diapers, wipes, snacks, and winter clothes were sitting in the belly of the plane. Luckily for us, the volunteers were totally prepared. We were given food, diapers, bottles and virtually everything else you can think of.
The Transat volunteers explained that they had virtually as much notice as we did. They hopped on the plane and flew down to Port Au Prince solely to be another set of hands to help. They each took a child and prepared to turn around and fly right back. How cool is that?
The flight was 4 hours which translated to one meal, 3 snacks, 2 naps and 8 diaper changes. If that seems long just remember that I have sat in traffic in Calgary for longer. As we prepared to land we were told that there had been a change of plans and we would have to step out onto the tarmac rather than pull right up to the airport. I looked around and every child that we had on board was dressed in short sleeves, shorts and skirts. Again the Air Transat volunteers came to the rescue. They brought around boxes of boots, toques, scarves, and jackets. In no time we had kids dressed and ready for Canadian winter.
When I walked off the plane, we were greeted by Red Cross volunteers who draped us in blankets and helped us off the plane. I thought there were a lot of cameras in Port Au Prince but they had nothing on Ottawa. Camera crews took up the entire length of the hanger. I couldnt help but reprimand myself for not at least trying to fix my hair or put a little makeup on. I guess some things are just more important.
I am sure my eyes grew two sizes bigger as I walked into the hangar and saw all the people. The Adoptive families had been allowed to come in to greet us in order to take their children through Immigration. This was an unexpected suprise. The first person I spoke to was another Red Cross volunteer that asked the name of the child I was holding. She then went to work zig zagging through the crowd in order to unite us with her family. At Gods Littlest Angels each child has a box that is filled with personal belongings that their families send them that more often than not includes a photo album. As I weaved through the crowd I was begining to recognize the faces of excited family members, anxiously waiting for their children.
Finally I was able to see the couple I was looking for. My eyes filled up with tears as I presented them their daughter. I have never been a part of something so incredibly special. She never even hesitated as I passed her from my arms right into her Mothers. I watched as this beautiful couple clung to their little girl, so much worry and anxiety washing away in that very moment. Words dont even describe the joy that I felt as I looked around the room and saw children continued to be reunited with their Forever Families.
Immigration for me was drastically different from what the families had to go through. As I stood there and passed my passport to the nearest immigration officer, I wiped away a tear. He looked at my declaration card, then looked me straight in the eyes. "Did you bring anything special back with you today?" I answered grinning from ear to ear...."You bet I did!"