Kathy Skipper holds a child at Little Children of Jesus Handicapped Home just outside Port-au-Prince. The home was untouched in the quake and all the children are OK.

By Kathy Skipper

Haiti is on my mind.
Like a newfound love, it is the prism that colors everything I see. Like the old and familiar, it is a comfort and a treasure.
Day and night, I think of Haiti.
It’s been like this since I traveled there in December and then saw the country shockingly rocked to its knees on Jan. 12.
You are not supposed to get this attached, I think. Don’t let yourself become obsessed by this. But it is too late. I have fallen in love with the Haitian people.
When I traveled there as an employee of Food For The Poor, it was with 20 others looking to see the situation in Haiti firsthand, and to serve the poor. Some of us were staff; others, from around the country, took time out during the busiest season of the year to feed the hungry and visit the sick. They came from Texas and New York, from Michigan and from Georgia.
My husband, a journalist who has traveled to Haiti many times, told me what to expect: the streets, the smells, the very air of destitution. My co-workers counseled me on food, water, on the outpouring of love we would receive from the Haitian people.
I listened carefully, and tried to prepare myself.
Despite all that, nothing truly readied me for what we saw after a two-hour flight from South Florida. I felt like a time-traveler.
The infamous poverty was everywhere. Yet so was the hope and love.
As we fed lunch to children at a home for the handicapped, they were all over us, head to toe, touching our hair, and blessing us with their smiles.
We witnessed market day in Gressier, a town where we could not distinguish the mud pens from the houses. Children begged for food. Even though we learned many of the people soon would be moved to Food For The Poor houses, the bottle of water I was drinking choked me.
In Cite Soleil, the worst slum in the Western Hemisphere, we washed the feet of the poor and gave them new shoes, while they sang hymns to us in Creole. They prayed for us.
When I left, I made two commitments: to work harder for the poor, and to return as soon as possible. Then the news of the earthquake came, and our hearts broke.
With each call came more news of devastation. Most of downtown Port-au-Prince was destroyed. The Hotel Montana, where we stayed in December, had fallen. We would learn that one of our staff members would be rescued after 17 hours in the rubble, and that six members of our January mission trip with Lynn University were lost.
We also learned that we were able to serve hot meals, that aid was getting in and that most of our houses had withstood the test of the quake.
I still can’t wait to return to Haiti and to the people who refuse to let love and hope die.
They persevere. And so will we.

Kathy Skipper works for Food For The Poor.

Food For The Poor is the largest international relief and development organization in the United States.
The interdenominational Christian agency feeds millions of poor people in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America, as well as providing emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance.
More than 96 percent of all donations go directly to programs that help the poor.
On the Web at www.foodforthepoor.org. ;

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