Have you ever seen pictures of kids who were so hungry that their stomachs were bloated? I honestly didn’t think those people existed…until I got to Haiti. Some children (however, not all) are severely malnourished and in need of care.
Some children have red or yellow hair to show their lack of proper nutrients.
Some children look like they are 5 or 6 when they are really 10.
But the child who broke my heart the most had a disability that could have been prevented.
On our first day in Haiti, we went to the children’s home to help feed some of the special needs kids. Most of these kids were in wheelchairs, suffering primarily from cerebral palsy. They were happy to be fed and to interact with us.
One child called me over with his bright smile. I walked over to his wheelchair and touched his hand. Suddenly, he took both of my hands and picked himself up out of the wheelchair! I didn’t expect him to stand. While holding my hands, he walked with me around the playground. When he got tired, someone helped me pick him up and put him back in his wheelchair.
In the dining area of our camp, there were bios about the special needs children at the children’s home. The bios included their birthdays, where they were found, their medical conditions, their likes and dislikes, and special informatiom about them. My eyes scanned for my new friend. When I found his bio, my eyes widened with shock. He had been found on the street. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy…and a muscular condition due to severe malnourishment.
What my friend had could have been prevented. All he had to do was eat a little bit more than nothing, and he might have been able to walk without help.
In Haiti, we were able to distribute food. Because of the donations of generous people, we were able to buy enough rice, beans, oil, and fish to feed 639 families of 5-6 for 2-3 weeks. We also had some rice and beans left over. Each time I handed a bag to a needy family member, I was grateful that one more family was blessed.
You may be thinking, “OK, you fed 639 families. Big deal. What about the other thousands of families that need food?” Honestly, I had thought about this myself. We had handed out food from a locked church building because we knew that there were much more than 600 families out there. Even after we handed out bags, we had people crying through the windows (In English), “Hey you! Please give me food.” We had to turn our backs because we simply did not have enough resources to feed everyone.
But quickly after I thought about the hundreds of families who we were not able to feed, I realized that we used what we had to help a community. We did what we could, and that’s all that mattered.
If we all did what we could, more bellies would be full at night.
There has been a controversy about whether to simply give food to people in third world countries or teach them how to grow their own food. After seeing what I have seen in Haiti, I think that both are necessary. Where we served, the ground was rocky. It is difficult to plant anything among the desert-like soil. As a result, much of Haiti’s diet is imported food. However, organizations such as Plant With Purpose (www.plantwithpurpose.org) plant trees in areas where vegetation can be grown. According to the organization’s website, one can sponsor a village so that vegetation could be brought there.
If food is something you enjoy, think about ways to fill the stomachs of malnourished people in third world countries.