We witness a miracle each time a child enters a life. But those who must make their journey home across time and miles, growing in the hearts of those waiting to love them, are carried on the wings of destiny. And placed among us by God's own hands.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Answering to the Call

Imagine that you are a young child living in the poorest country in the western hemisphere. You live in a crowded shack and most nights your stomach aches with hunger. The only comfort you know is the loving and warm touch of your mother. Then just like that you wake up in the middle of the night and you are in a strange place, your mother is no where to be found. You are taken to a unfamiliar compound filled with noise and movement. There are many children there and few adults who seem to do their best to take care of you. You get food and a roof over your head, you start to feel safe but nothing will fill up the empty void left by the loss of your family. Then one day something happens and your world is shaken, literally to it's core. The other children scream and cry, the nannies do their best to move all of you, but it all happens so fast. The roof of the building shakes and cracks, a wall collapses and the very earth that you stand on moves beneath your feet. When it is all done everything looks different and the adults are afraid. You wonder who will take care of you now? For many, many days there is little water and food. Some children are hurt, and some of the nannies are not with you anymore. You wonder what happened to the family that you used to know. You don't believe there is any hope any more. You are scared. And then the earth shakes again and the adults are even more scared. They do not want to go into the building where your things are, the building that is supposed to protect you. Things eventually start to settle down but inside of you, nothing is settled. You are afraid and anxious and don't know who to trust to take care of you. The hope that had started to rekindle before the earth shook is now gone. So far gone that you don't even cry anymore because there are so many others crying that you know the adults will not respond to you. The numbness sets in and you are now invisible.
This is how I imagine the orphans of Haiti. It is not a true story, I based it on my own experience of visiting orphanages in Africa and reading first hand accounts of the earthquake in Haiti. As a mental health professional I know the risks that the people of Haiti face. The children are particularly at risk because so many of them were in vulnerable situations before the earthquake occurred. What we do know from research is that not everyone reacts the same way to trauma. The more that a person is exposed to stress and traumatic events then the more likely they are to present with more severe symptoms and longer term mental health problems when faced with a traumatic event. Most troubling for people are the forms of trauma that are out of our control and inescapable. Some individuals will however, not only servive following a trauma but thrive. This is where resiliency comes into play and why it is such a important topic in psychology. If we know what makes people resilient then we should be able to foster resiliency. We do know that children are more resilient after a trauma when they had a stable, safe and predictable life before the trauma. Unfortunately, for the children and orphans of Haiti the odds are stacked up against them. There is hope however, if they are able to receive consistent and responsive care after the trauma from familiar adults then they are better likely to recover. Also if they are able to learn strategies to help themselves cope with stress and emotions they will regain a internal sense of control even if the external environment is still something that they cannot control. But for the children to receive predictable care then the adults need to care for themselves as well and that is usually where things get complicated. Clearly, many are struggling in the aftermath of the quake http://www.uscatholic.org/news/2010/05/mental-health-needs-quake-survivors-pose-risks-haitis-recovery

This is why I have been asked to come to Haiti. Asked to spend a short time doing what I can to help the adults and children at a orphanage assisted by For His Glory Adoption Outreach http://www.forhisgloryoutreach.org/. I closely followed their updates after the earthquake and now I can't say no. Yes, it seems crazy that in the middle of my husband loosing his job and then getting a new job that will require us to either move or live separately, that we should now at this time spend money that we do not have to travel to a country in turmoil. Odds are that our home is not going to sell anytime soon or for any amount that it is worth. Someone kindly suggested to me at the end of the school year that I should go on a nice vacation this summer. Instead I am choosing to volunteer my professional services for one full week and my husband has agreed to do the same. Why? Because the need is great and we have knowledge and resource to give. So we are both taking a leap of faith and going to Haiti on June 14th. This is where you step in, we need your help. Honestly, we desperately need you help to at least partially fund our expenses to get there. Airfare from Colorado to Haiti is surprisingly expensive and so is the cost of lodging due to a shortage of safe places to stay.

Please stay tuned, tomorrow I will reveille a fundraiser to raise money for our Haiti mission trip. Thanks to the help of a amazing fellow adoptive mom, we will be selling beautiful custom designed t-shirts. 100% of the profits will fund our services and supplies for the orphanage in Haiti. Not only will you get a really cute or handsome shirt but you will also be a part of this once in a lifetime opportunity to make a difference for children directly affected by the earthquake in Haiti.

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