I'm ME - My experience in Haiti

Visiting Haiti was one of the happiest and saddest experiences I’ve ever been through. The first day I arrived we immediately went to the feeding program where orphan children who live on the street are able to have a meal a few times a week. You’d never know these children are suffering. They are so happy and have a glow, playing and laughing with out any worries in the world. They are so welcoming and want to hug you and hold on to you. Because of the poverty, violence and AIDS, Haiti has the highest percentage of orphans of any country in the Western Hemisphere. Before the 2010 earthquake, the United Nations estimated there were 430,000 orphans. These children not only don’t have families, but they’re learning to survive on the streets from a very young age. It was sad, but also beautiful to see how these young children were taking care of one another. A girl who couldn’t have been any older than six was holding a another child’s face helping her drink the one cup of water provided to each child that day. These children don’t get to be children, they are parenting one another from a very young age. I spoke with one of the CEO’s of the foundation I was with and explained how I was confused about how happy these kids seemed although they were living on the streets. David explained to me that these children feel safe during this time, they know they don’t need to have survival mode on, but as soon as they leave the broken down cement walled area they change. They go back into survival mode and are afraid. It’s horrible to know that more than 10% of Haitian children die before the of age five. These children aren’t even given a fighting chance to live, be children and experience life.

I’m Me Foundation’s goal is to break the orphan cycle and not only care for the orphan children, but also prevent any more children from becoming homeless and parentless. They want to provide jobs to the parents so they are able to support and keep their children. On my trip they brought us to an orphanage. The best way to describe this place is like a little piece of Hell on Earth. As I walked into the crumbled, cement, dark building the children begin to run out of the darkness and into my arms. It was overwhelming to have all these children who are suffering so much and don’t know who you are come running into your arms and not want to let go. They want love so badly and want to hold on to something and someone who may love them back. I wanted to never let go of all these babies. Before I came to Haiti I was so worried about catching a sickness or disease, but as soon as these beautiful children were looking into my eyes and holding on to me, my fears faded. Not once was I afraid for myself while I was there, I was only afraid for these children. I was afraid that some wouldn't even make it to see next week.

Where the babies were laying at the orphanage. Those towels were added once we picked up the children.A group of us were brought to the lower level of the orphanage so see the babies. It was like a dungeon for prisoners. Walking down the hallway with no sunlight I was afraid to see what was ahead. It was much worse than I could ever imagine. Little babies with no bottoms on were laying on a pee stained dirty mattress all together in a dark room on the floor. It was like they were rag dolls, like they weren’t even alive anymore. I couldn’t hold back my tears, I was so afraid for these babies. How could someone be okay with leaving these gifts from God in this dark hell hole alone, naked and afraid? I could see all their bones, I could see there back bones and tale bones. I was so scared to pick these babies up, I was afraid I’d hurt them or break them. Once I was holding them I couldn’t put them down not only because I wanted to give as much love as I possibly could, but because I could tell they felt the love was taken away the moment the embrace was broken. It about killed me to witness their suffering.

We turned our attention to some of the older children for a few hours, we played games, sang songs and talked about what they wanted to be when they grew up. We were in this broken building with smoke pouring into the cracked walls burning our eyes so badly that they watered. We began to pack up and head out and upon seeing this, the children realized they were not being adopted and that the were not coming with us. They begin to break down and become num again. Their smiles faded away knowing they were stuck here in this terrible place. Some of the older children ranging from around eight to thirteen actually came up to the leaders of I’m Me to tell them to take the babies, because they knew they wouldn’t survive. These children who are living in this terrible place don’t put themselves first, but once again are parenting and wanting to help the babies. A five year old came up and took a three month old out of my arms to parent him and make him smile. What five year old knows how to hold and make a baby not cry? It is shocking how quickly these children have to grow up and lose their own childhood.

While I was at the orphanage I held on to a little boy for a while, he ended up feeling safe and fell asleep in my arms. The entire time I was there he hadn’t smiled or laughed once, finally I got him to laugh and smile, it was the best feeling to finally get to see this little boy relax, let go and be happy. Once I put him down he followed me around the rest of the time I was there. Later I noticed he had peed himself. His shorts were completely wet, I kept looking at the lady who is in charge of the orphanage, but she didn’t care, that was just normal for her I suppose. The women in charge of the orphanage is also trying to survive in life and knows that some of these children when “bought” are being turned into work slaves or being put into prostitution, but she turn her cheek because she also wants to survive. This beautiful little girl was saved by ImMe. They became legal guardians of Tiana at age nine months. When they first brought her home she was weighing only eight pounds. This is what many of the babies at the orphanage looked like.She is now fifteen months, walking and weighing sixteen pounds. By donating you'll help give many more children an opportunity to survive.
I’m Me has become the legal guardians of eleven children in Haiti and have changed these kids lives. When they first adopted these children they looked like they were about to die. The doctor they brought the children to said good luck and to just pray that they live. I’m Me’s goal is to build multiple homes and to take these orphan children out of the orphanage and give them a chance at a happy long life. Not only will they be adopting these children and providing for them, but they will also be providing jobs for adult Haitians to become the nanny’s for the children, the cooks, the teachers, and many more jobs. They don’t want to take the Haitian children out of Haiti, they want to better Haiti and give these children the resources and confidence to do well and succeed and better their country.

The lives of these ten children have been changed and they want to change the lives of as many as they can. They want to pick up those babies off the dirty mattress in the dark room and never put them back. It was beautiful seeing how much these kids lives were changed once adopted. The children they rescued are smart, bright, happy and loved. They’re so friendly and loving and I truly believe that these kids they saved will do great things for their country and help make a difference so that the orphan cycle can end. The suffering needs to end. I’m Me is helping change this country, save children and show these kids that they can do whatever they put their mind to. They’re helping build confidence and teaching them that they can do anything. They are letting these children know that they are loved and that they too can make a difference. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to witness so much love and compassion.

I went to Haiti hoping I could make a difference in the lives of these beautiful babies, little did I know it would be they who made a real difference in mine. FAMILY SHIRT PrettyRebels and I created (ALL PROCEEDS GO TO I'MME NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION). For only twenty-six dollars you can help, plus you're getting a cute shirt. Click on image to head to site and purchase! Photos by: www.jensensutta.com
Head to immeorg.webconnex and see how you can help make a change. Go on a vision trip, donate, buy one of their products (100% of your purchase helps to save the life of an orphaned child), raise awareness (post on your social media and help get people involved). Need more information on I’mMe imme.org/about-us

LifestyleAustin Payne