I had 2 primary purposes for coming down to Haiti this time aside from just needing to make our presence felt. First, with the end of school coming, it was very important that I come down and make sure that all of our kids are progressing well, will be able to pass, and do not need anything for the end of the year. The other primary purpose, and probably the most important reason for coming this time, is that our kids’ house will have electricity soon! I have been working with the same electrician who worked on our house and, as of yesterday, the work on the kids’ house has begun! We have our solar panels, our inverter, all the wiring we need, and really everything but the generator (which should be delivered soon).
The first thing I need to say over and over again is Thank you to the Deerwood Rotary Club in Jacksonville. They raised the money needed for this project and we are so thankful for that. I will be speaking at one of their meetings soon to tell them “thank you” in person, but I wish every member could have been here to see the kids’ faces when I first told them what was happening. We were actually hoping to get started on my last trip down, but that did not work out based on some extra work that needed to be done to make the house ready.
A long time ago I met with someone who had been helping to run an orphanage in South Africa for many years. I met with him just to learn from someone else who had been doing the same thing I was doing for a much longer period of time. One of the things that he told me has really stuck with me and has been a factor in many decisions that we have made for our kids. He told me that we should not get too caught up in making the facilities of the orphanage extravagant. In fact, he told me that he did not have electricity in any of the homes where he worked and he had only recently plumbed the homes with running water. When he told me that, my initial reaction was to turn off everything else that he said because it sounded so cruel. Why would we add electricity, plumbing, and other modern conveniences to our own home but not to theirs. My guess is that is the first thing that came to your mind as well.
Luckily, I did not turn him off. I actually listened even closer to what he was saying to try and understand his reasoning. He told me that we need to remember where our children are going to live for the rest of their lives when making plans for the orphanage facilities (and anything else for that matter). His point was why do you want them to get used to having electricity while they live with you just to leave the orphanage and enter the hard reality that very few people have any electricity at all much less 24/7. It was challenging and it was true. When we are taking care of our kids one of our greatest concerns has to be what will become of them when they can no longer live with us.
I know I have mentioned this same principle before when I talk about where our kids live now. Their house is in the middle of a neighborhood. There are probably 8 teenage boys and a couple of girls who live on this same street and many more in the surrounding area. When they go out to play they are not going out into a “compound” but out into a community and this is vitally important for their long-term prospects of living in Haiti. There is this balance that has to be struck between keeping our kids safe and, on the other hand, sheltering them from the very community where they will eventually live. I do not want to be so cautious and keep them inside a wall for so long that we cripple their chances of succeeding in their life outside.
Now I have explained to you the struggle, but in the end we really wanted the kids to have electricity. The benefits far outweigh the negative that might have come from it and our kids have known for a long time what it was like to have neither electricity nor running water. For now, when it gets dark they will still be able to see. When they get hot they will be able to turn on a fan. When they run out of water, they will be able to turn on their pump. When they are scared they will be able to turn on a light. When they have things that need to stay cold they will be able to put them in a refrigerator. These are wonderful things and in the end we did not want to keep our kids from them.
I do want to close by asking for your prayers. There are so many decisions that we are making here that will affect our kids’ futures and it can be daunting. When raising children everything we do can affect how they turn out, but there are so many new variables living in a different country, being a part of a different culture, and trying to navigate what it is like to live in a place that is not our home. Do we offer every advantage that we can or do we try and keep things realistic and prepare the kids for what living here is really like? Do we push them through school no matter how old they are or do we start searching for a career, and if it is a career when do we transition? What is the most important skill we could teach them right now? Basically just continue to pray for wisdom for us and for the employees that we have been blessed with to help us make the best decisions for the kids that we love.