"I have a wonderful opportunity to travel with some staff from Compassion Australia to see their work in the strife torn country of Haiti (remember the earthquake in 2010!). I will be joining a group of pastors from around Australia and travelling to Haiti via the Global Leadership Summit being held Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. (This is the same event One Community Church hosted last November and which we will host again in October 2012.)
Yesterday we landed in Haiti and the Capital, Port a Prince. It too suffered a devastating earthquake 2 years ago. However, that is where the similarity ends. Here, the building still lie in ruins. The are no barriers preventing people going near unstable buildings. People now live in them. 200,000 people died in that earthquake and it is easy to understand why. Port a Prince is a very hilly area with house perched on the side of steep hills. Many were swept away in landslides. There has been no enforcement of building codes for decades and so multi-story buildings collapsed. We saw the remains of the presidential residence, the cathedral, the university and the list goes on. It is utter devastation.
Haiti is the poorest country in the world. It is one third the size of Tasmania and has 9 million people. It has a troubled past and corruption remains a major problem and a way of life.
I confess to being quite shocked by the conditions people are living in and state of the capital city of this struggling nation. It is hard to believe this place is just over a one hour flight from Miami. I am left asking why I was fortunate enough to be born in Australia and the people I see here were unfortunate enough to be born in Haiti?
Today we met a group of Restavaks? There are an estimated 300,000 Restaveks in Haiti. They are children whose poor parents give them up to families in the cities. They are told they will be given an education and a future. This rarely happens. The reality for most of these children is nothing short of slavery. Many are sexually abused. Compassion has a program where they offer free education to these most vulnerable of children. They work with these "host families" to give these children dignity and hope. It was inspiring to hear them tell their stories of being without parents and yet finding a home in a local church and the Compassion program.
The team I travelled with are an awesome group of individuals. Most of them pastors from around Australia along with staff from Compassion. I will miss them as we go our separate ways.
For the record, Compassion has over 100,000 sponsored children in Haiti. Each Compassion program is run by a local church. I am super impressed with the staff here in Haiti. The Director told us how there is a massive "brain drain" in this country with many graduates emigrating. It was humbling to hear this highly educated, capable man say that he was going nowhere - he believed in the future of his nation and with God's help he would help to see Haiti transformed."