Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Two Years ...and counting

Two years ago, I made one of the best decisions of my life. I took my first mission trip to Haiti!! Today, January 1, 2013-- marks my 2 year Haiti anniversary. 

The kids were what captured my heart on my first trip to Haiti. 

December 31, 2010, I wasn't anxiously awaiting the start of a New Year with new beginnings... I was anxiously awaiting the flight I would be on at 6:50 AM the morning of January 1, 2011. It was an unexpected trip, booked just 3 weeks before departure. I couldn't resist the opportunity to travel to Haiti for 10 days to serve some of the poorest people in the world. While in Haiti, I had the opportunity to deliver water to people in the poorest slum in the western hemisphere, to hold a baby weighing 1.5 pounds at 6 months old, and to witness, firsthand, malnutrition/disease/poverty at its worst. Without hesitation, I walked on the feces and the piles of garbage that filled the slums; something no one expected from this neat-freak, germaphobe, perfectionist, girly-girl, and fashion-loving 22 year old (at the time). These memories have forever been engraved on my mind... on my heart.
Kids at Cite Soleil in 2011
Water Truck line in Cite Soleil 

Slum of Cite Soleil 

*Might I point-out that Haiti has so many beautiful attractions, amazing culture, compassionate people, and delicious native foods. I don't want to paint a poor picture of the whole country with too many devastating/ mind-boggling scenes.

A beautiful scene at the ocean!

The mountains of Haiti are beautiful with the lush green and crisp, clean air!

 I was completely shattered on my first trip to Haiti. Everything that I clung to... my security, my pleasures, my comforts and luxuries, my hopes and dreams..... they were all shook like a violent earthquake. I couldn't (and still can't) seem to grasp how a world like this could exist in the same world that I thought I knew. How could a world with over 7 billion people... with so many resources..with so many luxuries....  with so many opportunities.... allow HUMAN BEINGS to suffer with ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. (I still find myself asking why and how there can be so much injustice in the world... )

Someday, I would love to give the kids in the slum opportunities they can't even fathom. 

Over the course of my first trip and the subsequential trips, I have established relationships with people and with a community that have forever shaped my life's missions (to walk with the people on margine's of society.....to bring justice, hope, and compassion to a world in need... to help solve world hunger). My life continually changes as I grow deeper in relationship with Haiti (the people of Haiti, the community of Haiti, and the people who care about Haiti)...I find myself letting go of more luxuries, more comforts, more securities...and seeking opportunities to LEARN so that I can be a better steward to the earth and the people that inhabit this space with me.

This is me with some of the future leaders of Haiti... Love these guys! :) 

I love spending time with the feeding center director and night cook!! 

 This is the kitchen staff for the Feeding Center at Grace Village.  I absolutely LOVE working alongside these ladies...
Mama Lynoue-- Our Operations and Feeding Center Director-- is an amazing young woman. It has been such a joy to get to know her as a person and a leader. 
Rosemond and Doloris (our two female guardians) have been such good role models and nurturing leaders for our kids at Grace Village. I hope our girls will be able to be world-changers... to be doctors, professors, scientists, and maybe even dietitians! :) 

Josue (far left) is our male guardian for the kids and a wonderful role model/leader for the youth of Haiti.

Today, I am incredibly thankful for taking that "risk" to travel to Haiti. A risk that was both mentally, emotionally, and financially an investment....A RISK TO NEVER BE THE SAME PERSON AGAIN.  My relationship with Haiti over these past two years has been worth the sacrifice, the joys, the sorrows, the heartache, but most importantly, the unconditional love... that comes with any meaningful relationship.

In two years, I have taken 6 trips to Haiti spending anywhere from 10 days- 6 weeks at a time (this next trip will be 9 weeks!!). Over the course of these two years, I have participated in a variety of experiences, initiated several programs, and started to uncover a whole new meaning of life. ( My "living to the fullest" never looked quite as full.... ).

Here is a picture timeline of my two years... I dont think I have enough time to tell you it all in words.

January 2011, 
I took my first 10 day trip to Haiti. And fell in love...

 June 2011,
I co-led my first mission team ....

 I stayed for three weeks that trip....

 1. Worked alongside a Haitian doctor...

2. Brought my mom to Haiti and watched her break open...


Fall 2011,
I was asked by Healing Haiti to investigate supplements for the kids moving to Grace Village...

Found this gem... Medika Mamba from Meds & Foods for kids.
January 1, 2012
I returned to Haiti again.....

1. In two days,  performed over 90 nutrition assessments (80 of them were children and about 10 of them elderly). Plotted all the kids on the WHO (world health organization) growth Charts and determined who would benefit from a supplement..


3. Received this message on my way home...

Spring 2012,
I continued to monitor the nutritional program/ growth of the kids from afar, while I finished my dietetic internship, took my boards, and become a Registered Dietitian. 


My internship director.
June 2012,
I led my first mission team to Haiti. All of the members were young adults. What an amazing opportunity to share Haiti with my generation...

June 2012
After my team left Haiti, I spent two weeks at Grace Village to work with the kids that were malnourished and worked with the Feeding Center... 

 Summer 2012,
While back in the US, I continued to monitor the kids from afar...

 September 2012,
I returned to Haiti for 3 weeks, ready to take on a whole new set of projects...

 1. Helped start a school breakfast program that provides a sandwich for over about 450 people- 5 days a week!(Hoping to expand this some day to a full meal).

 2. Helped the kitchen staff to enhance the micronutrient value of meals..

 3. Analyzed the food budget, researched foods in Haiti, and decided it's best to switch our kids to a more pesco- vegetarian focused diet... use more produce, increase use of nutritiously dense foods, and support the local Haitians without dramatically shifting the budget. The menu switch required experimenting with new recipes... like black bean burgers!

October-December 2012, 

For 6 weeks.. I worked with the feeding staff to continue experimenting with new recipes to increase use of native foods in the feeding center.....helped with staffing/ hiring/ promotion/ management...enforced health behaviors, food safety.... budgeting/costing out meals... (the list goes on). 

The pictures on the top are the old breakfast items, the pictures below the "breakfast" are some of our new menu items. We are using more eggs, bulgur, and peanut butter. 

The top pictures are the old menu, the bottom pictures are from the new menu. We are working on moving away from imported white rice to using grains (millet, bulgur, and native rice) from Haiti inorder to support the local communities in Haiti. We are also working on cutting out our use of excess fat, using more beans than meat/poultry, and trying to always have a nice portion of vegetables! 

The dinner menu has been the most drastic change for our feeding center. The kids used to just eat an oatmeal (flour, milk and sugar), a chocolate drink and slice of bread, a bowl of cereal.... 
Now the kids are eating a variety of colorful and nutrient-packed meals... we use beans ALOT. "Mock" sloppy joe's (made with beans), black bean burgers, avocado and bean sandwiches, beans with breadfruit, beans with squash... 

January 2013... and beyond.
I am returning to Haiti again January 7  for 9 weeks. I am excited to see what this next year will bring... what new opportunities will arise and what things I will learn. I look forward to the opportunities to continue working alongside the Haitian community to help them create meals that are nutritiously dense, as well as supporting the local farmers/ vendors (who are often poor due to competition with imported, convenient foods). Someday, I hope I will be able to target a larger audience in Haiti.. and to help them meet their nutritional needs by being creative with the natural resources available to them! 

1 comment:

  1. Wow Kristina...what you have done for Grace Village at such a young age in such a short time is amazing to me!!! I remember being sad at the food they were eating as I am a health nut. It wasn't until recently that I saw a picture of where the kids use to live....I was shocked! Jeff and the whole team and teams that come have blessed the people of Haiti beyond measure! Thank you for your commitment, your research, your time and energy and the love you pour out, not only to the kids but the staff. It is so evident through the pictures! I hope I will be there to meet you sometime!! Peace and blessings!!