“They…we…are all still afraid.” Those words, from the director of Mt. Zion Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, explained why, two months after Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake, none of the children were sleeping inside their orphanage building.
Along with two other Heaven’s Family staff members, I had come to Haiti to assess the situation at two Christian orphanages that our Orphan’s Tear division has been assisting since 2008. This was, however, my first time to personally visit Mt. Zion Orphanage.
Mt. Zion sits in the middle of a poor and crowded Port-au-Pince neighborhood. To get there, we had to navigate back alleys filled with earthquake debris and displaced people. Still, I was not prepared for what I was about to see.
We arrived. There sat a small, gray, dreary-looking concrete house. Some tarps were hung over a rope strung between the house and a tree, and a few old tents sagged in the small, dirt yard bordered by a crumbled concrete-block wall. My first thought was, No one should live in such a place. Before me stood the “residents”—23 precious children who had been waiting for our arrival.
They were very happy to see us, but their smiles could not mask their pain and fear. Our team played with them and passed out candy and toys. We all laughed together. For a while, at least, we seemed to be transported to a better place.
Shortly before it was time for us to leave, I peeked into the house that had been their home. Its dark and dirty concrete interior made it seem more like a prison than a home for children. As we waved goodbye, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of despair. There must be something we can do to brighten the days of those children, I thought to myself. Then, an idea was born.
Four months later, a Heaven’s Family team of seven returned to Port-au-Prince to help build homes in our adopted resettlement camp as well as spend some time at Mt. Zion. Because of contributions to the Orphan’s Tear Special Gifts Fund, I sent them armed with paint brushes and gallons of yellow “sunshine.” In one day they transformed Mt. Zion’s building with its first-ever coat of paint. The atmosphere seemed to change as well, especially after a few of the team members started a small paint skirmish by dabbing the faces of the children with their paint-soaked fingers. It was all smiles and giggles. And I’m happy to report that, tonight, all of the children are sleeping inside their bright yellow home.