Haiti Orphan Care Trip 2017 Recap

Hilary, our Orphan Care Team Leader, found her calling helping the children in Haiti. She shares her memories from the previous Haiti Orphan Care Trip below.

Traveling to Haiti has quickly become a part of me. The excitement that fills me as I prepare to travel and the anticipation of when I will be back have become very familiar feelings. This past trip was different though…this trip provoked emotions within me that I have never felt before.

The countdown began. I was one week out from traveling to my favorite place in the world to be with the most amazing children and to see individuals again that I now call my friends. The WhatsApp messages were rolling in, donations were packed and goals were set; I was as ready as I could possibly be. A few days before leaving I had a conference call with the group joining me in Haiti and that is when everything got really real. I was going to lead these people in a foreign country…I was going to show them around, be their point of contact and coordinate our daily activities. WOAH. I started reflecting as the departure day got closer, “What was I thinking??” Prior to leaving I was filled with anxiety and for those of you that think you know me well you might think that I am an extrovert. I love talking with families on the phone, sharing stories and really getting to know everyone. However, news alert, I am not an extrovert at all. But, I looked at this opportunity as a growing experience; A chance to raise awareness, connect with new people over a cause and country that I care so much about, and a chance to impact those around me.

With all of these thoughts and emotions swimming through my head I boarded the plane in Austin, TX with a final destination of Port Au Prince, Haiti.

The plane began descending and as I peered out the window I felt at ease. I was back. I exited the airport and hopped in the back of the truck. I felt the hot sun beaming on my face as we drove through town and headed to the guesthouse. I could barely sit still–I was so excited to see the kids and get to work.

I unloaded my things at the guesthouse, changed and immediately headed out to one of the orphanages. This particular orphanage is small and has very limited funding. The children always seem happy, well fed and loved by their caretakers but their needs are mighty. The orphanage has two floors and around 30 children. I gave the orphanage director supplies for the kids and we discussed projects that needed completed around the facility. This orphanage does not have much outside help and doing anything so much as putting new paint on this walls is extremely expensive. We headed outside to the porch to talk more and a little one followed behind us. The children began peering around the corner seeming to wonder who we were and what we were doing there. Now, most orphanages in Haiti that do have outside assistance the children react to newcomers in a very different way. They may run up to you, yelling “blan!” or do anything they can to grab your attention. They want someone to pay attention to them, play with them and interact. However, because these specific children are not used to new people they were shy and more reserved. And, after the many of orphanages I have spent time in this was almost unfamiliar because it is not the norm of a Haitian orphanage. The little one that followed us onto the porch stood by my chair holding onto the arm. He was about three years old and was sucking his thumb and occasionally rubbing his eyes. This sweet and curious little boy eventually climbed into my lap and as I began rocking him back and forth while speaking to the creche director he quickly fell asleep. In all the chaos that is Haiti, I often find a lot of peace and this right here, was one of those moments.

We traveled back to the guesthouse and I prepared for the group to arrive the next day. I reviewed flight itineraries and the schedule, drenched myself in mosquito spray and went to sleep.

I woke up early full of excitement for everyone to arrive. I got dressed, headed down stairs for some traditional Haitian oatmeal (my favorite!) and headed over to the orphanage to start some projects while I waited for the group to arrive. Trip after trip we went to the airport and just like that everyone was here.

That night as we all ate dinner for the first time together, reviewed our purpose for all being here, the vision of the trip and the schedule for the week.

Day one. Day two. Day three.

The trip was officially in full swing. Everyone filled up their water bottles and we headed out to the orphanage. I honestly felt so powerful. All of the anxieties and worries I had before were completely gone. My group was here and I was leading them around Haiti. I had prayed night after night about this and God guiding me and us through this experience and I knew that no matter what might come up in the trip I was not alone–I had Him. We walked through the orphanage gates and many “bonjours” were exchanged. The kids saw us and screams came from all directions. This alone can sometimes be the most overstimulating part of the trip. Walking up to the orphanage everyday and especially the first day. This is what the kids wait for…for groups to come to hold them, rock them, throw a ball across the courtyard, talk to them and love on them. This is their norm and it is all they know until they are reunified with their families or a forever family is found for them. And, sometimes, this is all they will ever know. This is the sad reality of not just orphaned children in Haiti but orphaned children all over the world. For some of these kids, the only way they will ever know to truly love will be a very surface level definition of love. Yes, they may remember you trip after trip and some of the kids may eventually attach to you but you always leave and this is something they have become very accustomed to.

We continued walking through the orphanage and I introduced various kids to the group and showed them around. We also had the privilege of having a family join us that was there meeting their child for the first time. In the past three years of working in adoption I had never been given a chance to see a child and a family meet for the first time and this experience shook me to the core. I saw a family who had been praying for this child for 5 years finally see him walk through the doors of the orphanage and as I looked back at the family they starting falling to their knees. Tears were streaming down their faces and as I looked back at the little boy I was instantly reminded of why all of us who call ourselves orphan warriors do what we do. This little boy would soon be pulled out of an institution and placed in a family that would support him, love him and cheer him on everyday and that is why we do what we do. Now, as moved as the family was the little boy was confused. He had seen many of his friends have families come and he understood the process to an extent but they are always in awe/shock when someone has come for them. He was walking closer and closer towards the family and went straight to mom and gave her a hug. I think the reason this experience was so meaningful to me was not just because it was full circle and I was finally getting to see the whole picture but because as the little boy embraced his mom and I looked around at the other family members I could see the pain in their eyes, the joy, the love—every emotion they had experience together for the past 5 years. As the week went on I got to see this family become more and more of a family unit–a forever family if you will.

This was great for the group to see throughout the week too because they got to see more into the adoption world and advocacy efforts. We headed off to start on some projects and thought we would tackle the classrooms first. Then we moved onto the rebuilding the kitchen wall and worked on these projects for the next two days with exploring a little bit of Haiti in between. Throughout the week I saw the adoptive parents on the trip really start to connect to one another and conversations started happening involving widening age ranges, opening up to sibling groups and their ideals of what they thought they wanted in an adoption began to change as they met more and more kids and saw the needs of Haiti. From doing manual labor in the orphanage, to taking supplies to another, seeing the beach, eating pizza in Haiti and spending countless hours riding around in the back of a truck it was a quick glimpse into the country that has grown so dear to my heart and experience that I was so grateful to finally share with others.

A quote from one of the group members about her experience:

“Our orphan care trip was an indescribable experience that one can only appreciate by visiting. The smells, the sounds, the touch of holding a child’s hand are experiences so unique to the orphanage and the island that they very quickly intensified the love I have for the child we have yet to bring into our family. I cannot tell you how highly I recommend putting your trust and making this trip a reality, prior to your prospective match. My ONLY reservation is, candidly, if you think you are anxious now about the length of this process prior to homecoming, just wait until you experience the love and gratitude for your visit in each any every child’s eyes. It was a few days for the orphans, but it will last a lifetime for us. It’s an experience that has changed our lives for the better, especially as an adoptive family to one of Haiti’s littlest blessings.”

If you have ever felt called to a place, a country, a cause…go explore it–discover that feeling. There is a reason you are being called in that direction. That is how I always felt about Haiti and now there is a reason that I am always saying, “see you later” and never just, “goodbye.”

Trip number two is coming…won’t you join me?

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Haiti Orphan Care Trip 2018

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World

Would you like a way to directly give back and help children in need this year? Do you want to see how YOU can truly make an impact? Then join us from April 27th to May 1st, 2018 for Children of All Nation’s Orphan Care Trip to Haiti! This trip is perfect for anyone interested in supporting a good cause or learning more about the culture in Haiti.

You will be travelling to Haiti with our Orphan Care Team Leader Hilary, who’s an expert guide. During this trip, you will have the opportunity to work directly with children, complete orphanage projects, explore local businesses that support orphans, and more!

Our previous Orphan Care Team had the experience of a lifetime helping the children in Haiti. Read about their stories here and here!

Spots for this trip are limited, so don’t wait- apply as soon as possible! For more information, please contact our Hilary at hilary@childrenofallnations.com or call 512-323-9595 ext. 3062

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Valentines for Haiti

A big thank you from all of us at GWCA and CAN for sending love to the orphans in Haiti for Valentine’s Day! We sent over 200 valentine cards, stickers, and cake to the kids. Because of you, these kids spent Valentine’s Day feeling special and loved. Check out pictures of their Valentine’s celebrations below!

If you want to send something special to the kids in Haiti, it’s not too late! You can order a cake package for any occasion. For more ways to help the kids, please contact our Adoption Counselor Hilary at hilary@childrenofallnations.com.

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Intercountry Adoption Changes

Dear Families,

As you may already know, each adoption service provider (ASP) is licensed to process adoptions within their state, as well as accredited by the Department of State (DOS) via an approved accrediting entity. An accrediting entity effectively governs compliance with the Hague Convention rules and regulations, under the supervision of DOS. Since the inception of the Hague Convention, the accrediting entity governing compliance has been the Council on Accreditation (COA). Recently, due to conflicts with DOS centering on how ASPs should be overseen, COA has resigned from its role as an accrediting entity. In its stead, a new agency, Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity (IAAME), has been approved. The transition of duties is still taking place, but in the meantime new requirements have been announced and we would like to make everyone aware.

Last week, IAAME released its fee schedules for accreditation, monitoring, and oversight, which are applicable to every ASP currently operating. Included in this fee schedule is a “Monitoring & Oversight” fee of $500 per adoptive child that will be assessed on any new adoptive families contracted on or after February 15, 2018. GWCA/CAN (and all other APSs) will be required to report new adoptive families each month, and then pay this fee per family the following month. As this is a fee charged by IAAME (and approved by DOS), this is what we would call a “pass-through fee,” wherein GWCA/CAN is merely a third-party processor. We want to stress this fee is NOT charged by GWCA/CAN, nor does GWCA/CAN have any say in this fee moving forward other than the requirements of reporting and billing. This fee is non-refundable per IAAME.

Beginning February 15, any contracts signed will be assessed this fee. In addition to other fees due with the signing of your contract, you will need to remit payment for one child (or the first child, if intending to adopt multiple children). If you are a family intending to adopt two or more children, please note that you will not be required to pay the additional fees for each child until you accept the referral which will be unique to each family’s case.

We understand that additional fees in an adoption, especially those not expected, can be frustrating. For this reason, we would like to once again stress that this is not the choice GWCA/CAN (or any ASP). GWCA/CAN is following the directions of IAAME, who is operating at the direction of DOS. If you do have any questions, please feel free to contact your application case manager.

Sincerely,

Great Wall China Adoption/Children of All Nations

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Benefit for Burundi: 30 days to $3,000

UPDATE: We’re happy to announce that over $2,500 was raised in the fundraiser for the orphans in Burundi! Thank you to all of our supporters!

In 2017, we launched a Benefit for Burundi fundraiser in hopes of being able to help an orphanage in Burundi that is near and dear to our hearts. Unfortunately, this orphanage does not have any financial assistance. Because of this, they are many months behind in rent and have minimal supplies.

At the close of our last drive, we were able to send funds to help this orphanage pay rent, buy supplies and much more! However, the orphanage still needs our help. In our continued efforts to find something more sustainable for this orphanage, we are asking you to help us raise $3,000 in 30 days. All proceeds raised will go towards the orphanage’s needs.

By purchasing a shirt or making a contribution, YOU will directly be impacting the lives of many children who did not choose for this to be their story. Thank you for helping us help them!

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New Haiti Referral

We’re excited to announce that we received a referral for a family that’s adopting from Haiti (a 4-year-old girl)! A referral means that a child has been selected for a family, and it’s an incredible milestone in the adoption process. Congratulations to the family from all of us at CAN! The next step for them would be to travel to Haiti to meet and bond with their new little girl. We look forward to following the rest of their adoption journey!

Haiti Adoption

CAN’s Haiti adoption program has both a Healthy Track and a Waiting Child program. Our Healthy Track program gives families the opportunity to be matched with a medically healthy child, while the Waiting Child program helps find homes for older children, sibling groups, and children of all ages with special needs.

Each year there are a limited number of spots available in the Healthy Track program, and they typically fill up very quickly. We are now accepting applications for our 2018 program, so now is a great time to get started! If you’re interested in learning how you can be matched with a child through CAN’s Haiti adoption program, visit our website or contact our Haiti Adoption Counselor Hilary at hilary@childrenofallnations.com or 512-323-9595 ext. 3062.

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Haiti Valentines

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner! This year, we want to send love to all the kids at our partner orphanages in Haiti. We’re accepting Valentine’s cards and stickers at our office until February 5, 2018, and we’ll send them to the kids for Valentine’s Day.

If you’re interested in sending cards or stickers, please mail them to:

Attn: Hilary Clemons
Children of All Nations
248 Addie Roy Rd.
Suite A102
Austin, TX 78746

If you have any questions, please contact our Haiti Adoption Counselor Hilary at hilary@childrenofallnations.com. Thank you for showing the kids how much we love and care for them!

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New Haiti Referrals

We’re happy to announce that we’ve received TWO new referrals for families that are adopting from Haiti (a boy and a girl)! A referral means that a child has been selected for a family, and it’s an incredible milestone in the adoption journey. Congratulations to the families and their new kiddos from all of us at GWCA and CAN, as they are one step closer to being united. We are incredibly excited for them, and we look forward to following the rest of their journey home!

Haiti Adoption

CAN’s Haiti adoption program has both a Healthy Track and a Waiting Child program. Our Healthy Track program gives families the opportunity to be matched with a medically healthy child, while the Waiting Child program helps find homes for older children, sibling groups, and children of all ages with special needs!

Each year there are a limited number of spots available in the Healthy Track program, and they typically fill up very quickly. We are now accepting applications for our 2018 program, so now is a great time to get started! If you’re interested in learning how you can be matched with a child through CAN’s Haiti adoption program, visit our website or contact our Haiti Adoption Counselor Hilary at hilary@childrenofallnations.com or 512-323-9595 ext. 3062!

Resources

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Vacation for Our Hearts

In December 2017, a group of staff members, adoptive families, and other passionate volunteers traveled together to Haiti to support the orphans there. For our Orphan Care Team, it was a life-changing experience. One of the volunteers shares her experience below:

“The primary reason we chose Children of All Nations to facilitate our international adoption was the representatives’ passion for Haiti. From the very beginning, we always expressed an interest in visiting the country, and our desire to keep our adoptive baby’s culture and heritage was both understood and fostered by CAN. To Children of All Nations, Haiti isn’t just a Hague country providing Americans the opportunity to adopt a child in need: it’s a beautiful, beloved country that will adopt us as a family.

Prior to meeting our CAN specialists, we had researched Haiti and were astounded by the history of the island and its people. Haitians are no strangers to strife and have experienced a tumultuous past, seemingly always struggling to overcome obstacles. It is not an island for the faint of heart. We decided quickly that today’s Haiti cannot be read about in a book; it must be experienced. We wanted to learn. We wanted to see where our child’s history will originate, the sights and sounds our child will first experience, and how we can best serve our child in continuing their growth as Haitian-Americans based on the country’s culture, beliefs and values. We felt it was the very least we could do to begin our journey as a transracial Haitian-American family.

When CAN introduced the organization’s idea to coordinate an orphan care trip to families in process, we applied the first day the program was open. This was the opportunity we’d been waiting for. Visiting Haiti requires organized, tough leadership with thorough knowledge of traveling there: the community, currency, political stability, lodging, direction, even down to the location of the closest market and ‘Haitian Home Depot,’ as we called it. CAN exudes that confidence. Our representatives were dependable, knowledgeable, informed, and connected. Honestly, it was as if they were residents. And they were so courteous and allowed each traveler to experience Haiti and the orphanage in their own way, on their own time. So while we adhered to a loose schedule to keep our days full and productive, we had plenty of time to reflect on just what we were experiencing there in an orphanage that might be our baby’s current home. It was profound. And, having our representatives to rely on for all of the essentials provided us the opportunity to have a vacation for our hearts. Since returning to the United States, that’s exactly how my husband and I have described it to our loved ones.

Haiti is a dramatic land. It’s a place of extremes, certainly. I knew of the heat; I knew of the poverty; I knew of the earthquake; I knew of the hurricanes; and I also knew of its beauty. What I didn’t know; however, was of the children. Truthfully, never in my life have I witnessed such positivity, spirituality, hope, and gratitude in stark contrast to the environment and circumstances. The children are cared for, no doubt, and they are loved, but their existence is, like Haiti, tumultuous and rough. The children taught me so much, but mostly, that they have no time to wallow in what they might not have because there’s so much life to be lived. I can only aspire to achieve the attitude of optimism they possess.

Our orphan care trip with CAN was an indescribable experience that one can only appreciate by visiting. The smells, the sounds, the touch of holding a child’s hand are experiences so unique to the orphanage and the island that they very quickly intensified the love I have for the child we have yet to bring into our family. I cannot tell you how highly I recommend putting your trust in CAN and making this trip a reality, prior to your prospective match. My ONLY reservation is, candidly, if you think you are anxious now about the length of this process prior to homecoming, just wait until you experience the love and gratitude for your visit in each and every child’s eyes. It was a few days for the orphans, but it will last a lifetime for us. It’s an experience that has changed our lives for the better, especially as an adoptive family to one of Haiti’s littlest blessings.”

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Helping Haiti

In December 2017, a group of staff members, adoptive families, and other passionate volunteers traveled together to Haiti to support the orphans there. For our Orphan Care Team, it was a life-changing experience. One of the volunteers shares her experience below:

“When I first heard of this opportunity, I was just so excited to return to Haiti, as I fell in love with the country and the people my first time around. However, I had no idea how rewarding and encouraging this trip would be in relationship to my adoption process.

I was fortunate enough to get to bring my husband this time, and to show him this place in which I’d loved. Meeting our agency rep was especially helpful because we were able to ask several questions during the trip. We were so happy to learn that she was compassionate and fully invested in what was best for our family and our future children. Of course we’d assumed this before based on previous interactions via email, but this was much better.

Perhaps one of the most helpful parts about this trip was getting to talk with other potential adoptive parents. The adoption process in Haiti is so difficult to explain to others who aren’t involved. It was nice to be around people who understood! We’ve made lifelong friendships on this trip!

What I wasn’t anticipating about this trip, was its ability to eradicate some of my worries about adopting from Haiti. I had previously met some children who are not in a currently accredited creche and I was very worried about whether or not I’d be able to welcome into my family, children I hadn’t previously met. That worry was quickly removed upon visiting this new orphanage I hadn’t seen before and seeing all of the beautiful children that I could easily see joining my family someday. My other prior concern was that I would be taking these children from the place they were meant to be and that that would be selfish of me. Haiti is a beautiful country with beautiful people and exquisite culture. I didn’t want to remove that. But after talking to several older children at the orphanage I realized that they truly did want families. They did want to come to America. And I realized that we can continue to take trips to Haiti as a family in order to keep their heritage alive.

It was an incredible experience and I would go back in a heartbeat!! Thank you for the opportunity!”

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