My First Visit to an Orphanage


adopt from haitiI had the opportunity to travel to Haiti recently. I was excited, nervous, stressed and many other emotions in the five days leading up to my trip. There was a last minute change in plans because my boss was supposed to go on the trip, but wasn’t able to go so she sent me in her place. I am a planner by nature, so probably best that I didn’t know too much in advance or my level of stress would have been much higher. I was excited to visit a new place and looking forward to meeting people we work with in Haiti, but most of all I was looking forward to the orphanage visits. I didn’t know quite what to expect, but I have seen lots of photos and heard stories from co-workers and families that have visited orphanages so I had some frame of reference. Side note…in Haiti orphanages are also known as crèches.  However, when we visited Haiti Social Services they told us that the preferred term was children’s home.

On our first full day in Haiti we met with IBESR (Haiti Social Services) and asked if it would be possible to visit a crèche. They were able to send a representative from IBESR with us straight from the meeting to tour a nearby crèche. When we walked through the gate and into the outdoor play area we were greeted by children swinging on a play set and singing songs. I would guess the kids in this area to between the ages of three and six. I wanted to play and interact with these kiddos, but that didn’t happen. We said hello quickly and were lead into the house where the crèche director gave us a tour of the space. Kitchen, family room, bathroom, bedrooms, etc. which was all nice to see, but where were the kids? I just wanted to hug and love on some little ones. We then go out on the upstairs patio where there are two caregivers feeding the babies and toddlers.  I was sure this would be it; I would finally get to hold the babies, love on them and pray over them, but not the case. I didn’t want to just pick a baby up out of their high chair without asking or being prompted. I hoped that maybe one of the older babies would lift their hands up, prompting me to hold them, but that didn’t happen. I knelt down and talked to a baby in a little plastic swing. There was very little expression or emotion from this child. I looked around at the other young children sitting in high chairs and they were all the same, just blank stares, not smiling nor having much interested in the new people there to see them.

We stayed upstairs for a few more minutes. One baby started to cry, I wondered if I could pick her up to comfort her, but did not feel that was the appropriate thing to do. Maybe I should have tried and at least would have known if it was ok or not, but I didn’t. Instead we walked back downstairs where the older kids were now being served lunch which was a bowl of rice and chicken that looked like a very large amount of food for a small child. The kids were eating now so no chance to play or love on them so we stood around for a few minutes, took some photos and said our goodbyes.

I left feeling disappointed and sad. Disappointed that I didn’t get to hold any babies and sad that they didn’t seem to mind or even want to be held; maybe my expectations were too high. Not that my hugs, prayers or affection for an hour would provide any long term comfort for these children; only a permanent, loving, forever family can do that.

During November, National Adoption Month, MLJ Adoptions is raising money for its Special Needs Adoption Fund. Money donated to this fund will be used to provide adoption grants to families adopting children with special needs which include medical needs, children older than five and sibling groups. Won’t you donate today to help provide one more child with a loving, permanent home?

Jen Gavin is the Associate Program Director for Africa and the Pacific Isles. Jen graduated from Anderson University, with a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership. She sees working in adoption services as a calling, which she became acutely aware of through a personal passion assessment at her church.