Friday, February 13, 2015

Just in time for Valentines day... Christmas update! #sarcasm

I’m finally starting to feel recovered from the whirlwind of parties and visitors, more parties and sports events!… I hate to say that I have to “recover” from Christmas (and New years and my birthday) but I do. It was all so much fun, but also so incredibly exhausting! How do moms do this every year for even just a few? and Jhony thinking about this perplexing question

I had a quick fundraising trip to the US with Linsey during the beginning of December. During our weeklong trip to Texas, we were able to raise over 20k. That’s huge! Also on this trip we received the funding to MOVE OUR KIDS TO ANOTHER HOUSE!!! This is such a huge blessing and answer to prayer. We are currently down town Cap-Haitien. (I say we, however Linsey and I have our own houses. We do not live at the safe house and neither do our staff, just the boys and the security staff for the night).  The house is roach/bug infested and too small for us. There is no outdoor space for our kids to play and so they go back out on the street to look for something to do. Not good. As of mid February we will be in a 14 room, huge house on the edge of the city.  This house not only has plenty of bedrooms and a huge “living” room, it has a separate house we can use as a shelter for the rough street kids not in our program (safety off of the streets) and a yard!!! Our kids will have their very own yard to play soccer and basketball and really whatever they want!

some of the kids touring the house for the first time, one of our night security guards is in all black. (Linsey and our Exec. Director in the background with Judelin our 4 year old)

Also, during that trip I was able to eat my weight in blue cheese (love that stuff) as well as Thai, Indian, and Tex-Mex… everything I can’t get here! Christmas shopping for our staff was so much fun, but giving them their gifts was by far the best part of December. It’s nice to see the staff feel appreciated. They really work hard, long hours to protect the house, Linesy and I and keep the kids thriving! To everyone who donated their old, unlocked iphones… THANK YOU!! Our staff were beyond excited to get them!

I’ve said this before; I love my life. I can’t imagine living anywhere else or doing anything else.  With that said, it’s not easy here and taking risks comes with a price. I had to kick out my foster son. I still cry about this. The betrayal kills me. I believe somewhere in his heart that funny, sweet, thoughtful kid I met 2 years ago is still there… but recently he started hanging out with the wrong crowd and made poor decisions, including stealing from me… a lot. How could he turn on me? How could he do that? He took all the prizes I bought for the kids for scripture memorization… he took my personal stuff?!? I just don’t understand how he could do that? This is not the kid I knew, this is not the kid any of us knew. Totally betrayed. During my time in Israel, a beautiful friend of mine gave a lesson on betrayal. What sticks in my mind right now is the question she asked, “what will you do with the betrayal of your heart?”.  Coincidentally, there is this really great book I like to read that talks about this. Even though Jesus was betrayed and denied, He still loved those that didn’t love him. That is the example I have to follow, even when it's hard. He has asked for my forgiveness and I have given it, but he will not live with me again.  

Even with our kids… One of my favorites, Johnky, had been incredibly horrible to me for a few weeks. He wouldn’t talk to me, gave me dirty looks, and ignored me blatantly when I address him, especially in front of visitors and other kids. This kills me inside. This is (still) one of my favorite kids. He had my picture on his backpack for months. He prayed for me everyday while I was sick. This is my baby… he called me mom…what happened? I would go into my room and cry sometimes at how mean he was. How is it possible that this kid can break my heart, can hurt me so badly… and for what? I had no idea why he was upset with me. He wouldn’t even talk to me. I hate to admit that I thought a few times “forget about him. He’s not worth it.” And all the while, I have 40 other kids that are so happy to see me every day, and I’m excited to see them too. But when one pulls away, it is excruciating in my heart. But I chose to love him regardless. I told him that every day. For weeks I would find little ways to whisper to him “I love you still… even if you don’t love me, I love you still”. Mid January, Johnky came to me and apologized. I didn’t ask him why he treated me like that… it doesn’t matter. He apologized. He may very well do it again some day. He has endured some very serious abuse in his life; I can’t even imagine how I would cope emotionally if I had his background.
my "baby" Johnky

Now on to the parties!! One of my favorite things is watching our staff interact with the boys.  With one of our groups, we had a beach day. As soon as we got to the beach the boys attacked Sony! Hilarious! Kids were diving at him and teaming up to take him down. Sony laughed and ran… this went on for a good 10 minutes until Sony was on the brink of a heart attack in his old man state ;) The kids had a blast, ate great food and just really felt like “normal” kids all day. It’s so cute to watch them and know what life used to be like for them… they hardly remember that life anymore. And!! they remember to say “thank you” on their own… we’ve come a long way!

Also, since most of the kids know where I live now, I often wake up to little knocks on my door at the crack of dawn on Sundays asking me if I will go to church with them... Frankie and Zamor started this trend. Since it was too early for church to start I gave them nutella and crackers and some juice... I am pretty sure word got out that I do that and THAT'S why they come over so early now (including Johnky...TWICE!). Gotta nip that one in the bud ;) The 6:30 wake up call, not the kids wanting to go to church ;) 

left to right: Frankie, me, Zamor

Christmas morning… The entire week of Christmas there was, not one, not two, but MULTIPLE parties on the street ALL night! I could hear speakers blaring popular Haitian songs, voodoo drums, and 24 hour church revivals all competing for who can be the loudest. All night. 
So naturally Christmas eve, in true Haitian fashion, my Landlord (who lives on the 3rd floor of my house) threw a party with the speakers strategically placed right outside my window. I was exhausted from being on the go for the entire week… and despite the fact that my house was pulsating with the beat of the music, I fell asleep fast in preparation for my 4am alarm. Even at 4:30 when I was finally on my way to the safe house, the streets were packed with people having mini parades, mini revivals, and just hanging out in prom dresses (literally). We snuck around the house putting the kids stockings in the bed with them so when they woke up they would have their presents with them. They all start waking up around 5ish anyway… they were ecstatic to say the least! Each kid got a new watch, a bandana, fresh new shoes for football or basketball (depending on what they play),  head phones with little radios, and a ton of candy. So many people played a huge part in donating to our kids Christmas! Thank you for making these kids really feel special!

"you're a grumpy little elf"... please tell me someone get's this quote! 

Zamor loving Christmas morning!

Julio also got new shoes... he has the highest GPA in the house. Almost straight A's by US grading scales! 
So now, after being spoiled for Christmas and a day at the beach, our kids hosted a Christmas party in Petit Anse (one of the poorest slums in Cap, we call it the “landfill church” because that’s what it looks like out there). Our kids facilitated the (surprisingly) orderly conduct of getting each child in the Petit Anse church an individual photo they could take home. Jacquelin Louis, who is usually very quiet and reserved, took charge. He surprised me big time! He had an entire system worked out and everyone fell right in line. Super proud of him.  All I really did was dance (literally. I think it’s programed into my DNA… music = must dance) around and play with the little kids while our kids worked. If they needed me, I was there, but otherwise, I let them do their thing. We really want to teach our kids AND the community that it doesn’t have to be the foreigner coming in to save the day. Haitians can help each other.
​so while our kids are busy working I'm playing with the kids in the church ;)

Finally, the main event… The “ALL STREET KIDS PARTY” was held the last Saturday of December. The kids on the street look forward to this. For weeks as I would drive through town on my moto, I would hear kids yell "Jenni!! 27 December!!!". Word was out and they were pumped! For 4 hours, we had fun games, music, dancing, crafts, photos and a feast for every street kid in Cap. All are welcome regardless of clothes, shoes, and hygiene… All the local hotels and some businesses made donations to make this party happen. Rice, beans, chicken, veggies, juice and CAKE!!! Our staff and all the volunteers had a great time too. At the end of the party, we had stockings loaded with goodies and hygiene items. The kids are supposed to each get one…ONE. They are sneaky though; they were coming back around trying to get more with the first one stuffed in their pants. I had our older boys helping me with this and our staff trying to keep the line from fighting. Remember, these are the rough kids that have not left street life or the mentality that comes with that lifestyle… eventually every kid got a stocking and no one got stabbed. I was just impressed they formed a line ;) Baby steps people, baby steps!

panorama of the party, all of our staff working and many ex-pat's volunteering as well. The party was packed!

Little Williamson was happy to have a sticker book for Christmas

Fritzon has been with us for almost 2 years. He's a great kid, doing well in school and is learning English

Giving very specific instruction for handing out stockings... 

The miracle line... hilariously enough, I do see one of our kids in this line trying to sneak a stocking. Ha! Also, notice my knee strategically placed on the box to hold the lid down ;) Sneaky lil' boys! 

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