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.”Read More
I stepped off the plane and it was just how I remembered, except this time I was alone. As I entered the immigration area, I was pushed and shoved as individuals tried to get green forms and get in line to exit the airport. An overwhelming feeling came over me, and I thought, “Can I do this? Can I really do this trip by myself?” I put a forced smile on my face and got in line to hand off my form and exit the airport. As I got on the escalator (that typically does not work), I felt the heat of Haiti hit my face. It was all so surreal. I was back in a place that felt so comforting and yet so foreign all at the same time. As I made it over to the baggage area my mind began racing, wondering if someone was going to be outside to pick me up and how I would find them in the large crowd. Filled with anxiety, I continued through the airport towards the exit. And just like that, I saw a familiar face and all of the mixed feelings I felt previously were gone. I knew I was supposed to be here, and I was beyond excited for this new avanti.
This second trip to Haiti was not only about adoption, but it was also about finding comfort in being alone in another country. So comfortable that I would soon be able to lead my own group in Haiti. I want to help bring awareness to a cause that many people do not know about, I want to show individuals another culture, and I want to present an opportunity to be completely selfless. This has been a dream of mine since my first trip.
Am I nervous to lead an entire group in a foreign country where I am not fluent in the local language? Absolutely. But, I feel like this has been my calling for a long time and instead of letting fear hold me back, I am letting go and letting God lead me.
*avanti- Creole word for “adventure”
– Hilary Clemons, Senior Adoption Counselor/Orphan Care Team Leader
- Click here to apply for the Orphan Care Trip!
- Check out Hilary’s Blog: Help, Hope, Haiti
- Learn More About Haiti Adoption
- Contact a Haiti Adoption Specialist
Be the Change You Wish to See in the World
UPDATE: Our Orphan Care Team is back from a successful trip to support the orphans! Stay tuned for more information about our next Orphan Care Trip.
Would you like a way to directly give back and help children in need this upcoming holiday season? Do you want to see how YOU can truly make an impact? Then join Hilary December 1-5, 2017 for Children of All Nation’s first 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 an experienced guide. During this trip you will have the opportunity to work directly with children, complete orphanage projects, explore local businesses that support orphans, and even go to the beach!
There are limited spots available, so apply as soon as possible! For more information, please contact our Orphan Care Team Leader Hilary at email@example.com or call 512-323-9595 ext. 3062Read More
Did you know that your own home is a prime vacation destination? To an orphan in the Philippines, your home is an oasis where a child can find out what the love of a family is outside of the orphanage. Last winter, an amazing group of children had the opportunity to spend a “stay-cation” in a home with a family – we want to provide that same opportunity this summer for a new group of children. Make memories like the one in the photo with a host child and be an Orphan Warrior for one amazing kid!
Bring one of the amazing children in our Philippines program to spend a 4-5 week long vacation with your family this summer! All proceeds go toward the children’s hosting costs. The kiddos in our Philippines program are healthy, know some English, and are excited to spend time with you and your family! Whether you want to host to adopt or host to advocate, WE NEED YOU! Hosting Grants ARE AVAILABLE NOW! Ask us today! Tentative dates are mid-July through mid-August, so if you’re ready to be an #OrphanWarrior, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more details. Or apply today!Read More
In the fall of 2014 we heard last-minute about the Great Wall Winter Hosting Program. Our family felt compelled to move forward with the program and host a boy during the holidays. We entered the program with the possibility that we might adopt, but it could be that we were to advocate for the child.
We chose to host a six-year-old boy who turned seven a few days after his arrival in the US. Our family welcomed him into our home and he settled in quickly into our busy holiday schedule. We celebrated his birthday, attended a family wedding, enjoyed several Christmas gatherings, had numerous play dates, and stayed at my parents’ farm for a few days. It was a delightful time and he added a lot of fun boy-energy to our home with three daughters!
About halfway through our hosting, we knew we had to make a decision about whether to move forward to adopt or to advocate for his adoption. Our prayer had been that we would know whether to adopt or advocate. He fit into our family so well and we love him so, but for reasons we couldn’t really understand, our family felt we were to advocate for his adoption. That was December 31st. Our family prayed that God would lead us to the family who was to be his adoptive family.
That night at the New Year’s Eve Service at our church, a lady I knew casually came over to ask a few questions about the hosting program. As we talked and I shared about adoption (our three daughters are adopted), it became evident that this family would probably be his forever family. They had talked about adopting at some point and recently had discussed that with the ages of their biological children, it might be a good time to move forward with adoption. On January 2, they made the phone call to Great Wall to start the adoption process.
We could not have selected a better family for him! He will join a family of loving parents with a sister and brother close in age to him. The boy is three years older and the girl is about a year older, so they will be in the same school and participate in a lot of the same activities.
What we couldn’t understand quickly became evident and the beautiful journey continues to unfold. The rest of the time he was in our home, we made more memories with him that we will always cherish! The last two weeks, we spent many hours with the adoptive family, though he did not know they would be his forever family (in keeping with hosting guidelines).
Our family is so blessed to know this family even better and have our host boy grow up in our community. Of course, the first few months, we will keep our distance as he bonds with his forever family, but we look forward to being part of his life and watching him grow! What an amazing journey for us, the host boy, and the adoptive family as several lives are changed forever through this hosting experience!
We have the children listed on the photo listing. Due to Philippines confidentiality, the kids photos are not listed. If you request more information on them, one of our hosting team members will contact you and provide them and additional information for you.Read More
It’s official! The 2015 Summer Hosting Program is starting off with a big bang! We have already matched some really great kiddos thanks to our VIP families that registered early. We only have 40 spots available and as of this evening there are 36 spots available which will decrease by several over night.
Visit our hosting page here to request a password and begin looking at all of the sweet children ready to visit America.
Please reach out to our matching team today if you are interested in being a part of the 2015 Hosting Experience. Our hosting program has so much to offer for those who are looking for a way to give back to these sweet children.
We need families that are looking to host to adopt, or host to advocate. What does host to advocate mean? It means bringing a child into your home for the summer and giving them the experience of a family. But more than that, it’s getting to know them as a person to help in the advocacy efforts of finding them a forever family. It’s sharing that child’s story with your friends, family and community in efforts to find that child’s forever family. It’s committing to that child wholly knowing you will not stop until you find the family that can best serve that child’s needs. It’s being that child’s advocate.
We also need families as back up host families. Unforeseen circumstance occur, and situations present themselves that not everyone can handle. In case of an emergency we need families all over the united states ready to take action in the event the child can not stay the entire time with their original host family.
We need chaperone host families. Families that want to open their home to one of the caretakers that will be traveling with the children. The adults that travel with children also need a place to stay, you could provide that for them at no cost to your family.
We need home safety visit providers, approved individuals that can help families get their home approved for hosting a child.
Lastly we need advocates, we need people like you that are reading this right now because you care about the children, to share the hosting program information with people you know. You can share a child’s photo listing photo on your Facebook, twitter, etc. Help get these kid’s faces out there so we can find their host family and potential forever family!Read More
It’s More Than Just Adoption
Moving forward in the year of 2015 brings ample reflection on the years past and planning for the busy year ahead. We take this time to stop the phones and the hectic attempt to answer each and every email that pops into view so that we can assess what we are going to do for the parentless children around the world, our families, our staff and the agency as a whole. No pressure or anything. We are always so focused on the day to day that it really is an eye opening moment when we get to stop and count up all the boys and girls that we can now say are officially sons and daughters. We matched over 150 children with their forever families this past year through plenty of long long days, nights, blood, sweat and most definitely tears. We’ve given our best and we have relished the reward of just being a part of a family’s journey through adoption. It’s kind of hard to describe or pinpoint just what makes all of this worth-while. I’m positive it must be different for everyone. Of course the best part is the joy of seeing those little faces of all ages, needs and circumstances at home in the arms of their smiling moms or dads. If you ever wanted to believe in miracles, just ask. When you’re ready, I’ll show you about 150 recent occurrences. They’re really cute too.
The most promising prospect I’ve noticed as a consultant is the realization that the basic information families are starting to educate themselves with reflects a genuine understanding of the realities in International Adoption today. It is starting to sink in for most that this ever evolving process, from thought to fruition, is so much more than just adoption. How such a simple concept could hold so many different meanings for so many has always been a challenge for International Adoption Consultants like me. But now, it is clear more families are coming to the table with the ideal child in mind being actually someone we could deliver. They know that any child without a mom and dad is a child of special need. Any child that has not been given the abundance of love, attention and care that we all desperately not only need but crave, is globally lacking. Their delays are a given and their developmental challenges are expected and even embraced. No child is easily categorized in one way or another. They can only be labeled as one thing. Deserving.
One way of enabling more families to experience this passion is to give more people the opportunity to be involved no matter what connection they have or wish to have with the adoption world. We have developed and are currently developing a variety of services that provide an open door to anyone who is interested in being a part of a wanting child’s world. You can now host an orphan in your home either to get to know a child before adopting or to help them find a family. When a child is brought out of the country of their birth and literally placed in your arms, it takes all the mystery out of what is meant to be. Innocent bystanders see this and can’t help but want to be a part of it too. Suddenly, they are telling their friends who then tell other friends how easy it can be. The spirit of wanting to help a child have what we all know is paramount to a human being becomes a viral sensation. Who knew going viral could be good anywhere else but on YouTube! By the end of 2015 hosting will be available from 4 different countries where older children, children with special needs and sibling groups seem to be languishing the most.
In some countries the lack of resources has inhibited them from getting orphaned children legally ready and available for adoption. In response to this, we have put our talents to work and developed an adoption network system that can be used by country ministries to keep track of all children available for adoption. We have given this system as a gift to two countries, Guyana and Burundi and are providing training for the government staff therein as well. Our President and Board of Directors hope that this will help more children get adopted by more families, more easily. Bottom line.
And last but certainly not least, we have developed the CONNECT program. This helps families with adopted children they cannot continue to be parents of, find a safe and legal path to a permanent home for their child. We connect the family with all the resources they need to cope and if necessary, find a new vetted family fit for the child. We vow to help any family who adopted any child from any agency find the way to peace again. No one asks for dissolution, so therefore no one should have to bear that burden alone or be forced to take drastic measures, just because they want their family to be happy. We feel as an authority and a staple in the world of International Adoption, it is our absolute duty to set this example.
I know what you’re thinking. How amazing is that! How smart are they, those folks over at GWCA and Children of All Nations. They will have tons of business coming to them in 2015. What’s even more surprising is that these programs will probably not make us a dime. That’s right, you heard me. We are investing in you, the children and these countries because that is what we want to do. It’s as simple as that. Our love for you and children has made us absolutely loose our minds with passion. Of course we know and hope more than anything these programs and new services will inspire families to adopt, but it is absolutely true more than ever that what we do here and what you contribute to this organization goes far beyond the surface value. It is so much more than adoption. If you are ready, we are here to carry you along and surround you with our warm hopes for you, your future and the future of all children everywhere.
Are you interested in hosting a child from China or Philippines, but not quite ready to take the full plunge into being a full time host family for 4 weeks? If so, consider participating as a Backup Host Family to gain valuable experiences and opportunities with host children who may need to be relocated from their primary host families. These host children may need to be moved on a rare occasion for several possible reasons, but ultimately they need a safe, encouraging environment while they are here.
Here are FIVE great reasons to be a Backup Host Family:
1) All hosting fees for the Host Child placed with your family are already paid in full by the Primary Host Family (excluding potential travel expenses to pick up child and expenses during the child’s stay with your family)
2) All necessary paperwork and action items for you to qualify as a host family will already be accomplished, so if you enjoy your experience, signing up to be a Primary Host Family the next go around will be simple and easy
3) You can always discuss the child’s habits, likes, dislikes, and learn more about the child from the first-hand experience of the Primary Family before you bring the child into your home.
4) You will receive full file disclosure from the country (medical history, personal interviews, etc) on the Host Child staying in your home
5) If you are asked to take over as a Backup Host Family, you will have access to a Program Mentor, Program Coordinator, and Translator to support you full time during the program.
Backup Host Families are needed in cases in which the Host Child can no longer stay with the Primary Host Family. Often, these are through no fault of the child and may simply be due to an unforeseen emergency within the Primary Host Family. There will be a transparent line of communication with Backup Host Families about any issues the child may experiencing that might have cause the need for a move. You can let us know, for any reason, that you will not be able to serve as the Backup Host Family for a particular child after we contact you. The children from both China and Philippines are accompanied by Chaperones from their orphanages or social workers from the Chinese/Filipino Governments to the United States, and the Chaperone will check in with the child during his or her stay with your family. You are always supported as a backup host family.
If you are interested in this opportunity, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call April at 512-323-9595 x3061.Read More