From volunteer Rae Stevenson
The word itself is often almost an abstract concept. We say “have hope” or that something is “hopeless”, when, really, most of us never think about the magnitude of that word, myself included.
Hope is so much bigger than I ever thought it was. Hope is an orphanage full of kids who smile bright and give big hugs and lead you around by the hand. Hope is in the art that lines the walls of the ACFFC, all made by children to sell and support their home. Hope is in the kids who turn styrofoam into bricks to build houses. Hope is a tangible force and a spirit all its own, and it is alive in the children I met in Haiti.
I have learned more in this week than I have learned in the combined experiences of my entire life. I have learned that no one is incapable of changing the world. In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Before this trip, I thought I understood that quote, but after seeing the true fruits of the combined efforts of a loving group of people, I can say with absolute conviction that few things are truer than that statement. I saw what was once an empty lot, now a home. I saw children who should, by every standard, be hopeless, smiling and giggling and bursting with joy. I am humbled. Every problem I have seems small now.
People should not pity Haiti. Everywhere I went, I saw people fighting to overcome overwhelming odds to rebuild and grow. I saw maybe one or two beggars in my entire trip; everyone else was working, selling things, insisting on making a living with their hands and hearts. I don’t think any child I saw at the JCC, ACFFC, Faith and Love or Jacques’ felt unwanted or unloved. Each child was smothered with it, pumped full of hope and surrounded by positive influences. Futures once bleak are now bright, and so much of it is thanks to the hands of a few.
I have the smiles of many children tucked deep in my heart and sewn in forever. I’ll carry what they’ve taught me forever. I know in many ways, we have helped bring hope to Haiti – but I’ll be forever grateful that Haiti brought so much hope to me.