A Team Leader’s Experience in Haiti
Volunteers are an important part of what Child Hope is doing in Haiti. Teams, specifically, are a critical element of our efforts. In an interview with Jody Giles, he shares his experiences leading teams to Haiti.
When Jody Giles first visited Maison De Lumiere (MDL) orphanage in June of 2011, along with his family and several members of his church, he didn’t know he had begun a lifelong relationship with the orphanage and Child Hope International. Giles described a scene at the Newark Airport as the group departed for Port au Prince. Problems with airline mergers had caused the group to change both airlines and airports at the last minute. This resulted in the party arriving at the gate after the plane had pulled away. Said Giles, “The gate agent was on the phone asking that the plane please return, because there was a missionary needing to board who was going to help little babies. I looked around to see who she was talking about and realized it was me!”
During that first trip, 13 travelers headed for Haiti, each bringing two suitcases full of supplies such as computers, tools, sewing machines, etc. for the mission. When asked what the travelers did with their own belongings, Giles replied, “Each person was allowed a knapsack or carry-on item. All of their personal belongings had to fit in that.” One of the projects the group hoped to accomplish was to build a small pre-fabricated home for a Haitian family. Once they began the home construction project, the group soon realized that it was better to allow the locals to complete the construction and so earn the income to help their families. This allowed the visitors to focus on other projects, such as establishing a computer lab and teaching Vacation Bible School.
Later that year, Giles, who has known Bill Manassero since before his family moved to Haiti and is currently Chief Information Officer for Under Armour, was asked to be on the Board of Directors for Child Hope International. Giles says he is proud to serve amongst an amazing collection of board members.
Giles has visited MDL four additional times since that first trip in 2011. His family, including his wife, Bernice, and sons, Eric, age 19 and Daniel,17, have all been to Haiti. His sons really want to give to the Haitian community and have made lots of friends in Haiti.
Giles reports that he was impressed with the guest house, which is safe, comfortable and clean. On each subsequent trip, Giles and his family were able to reunite with children and staff they had met on prior trips and see their progress. He said of the additional visits, “The sequel is better than the original.” Also, Giles states that the name of the orphanage garners a great deal of respect among the locals. On one trip Giles and another missionary were stopped by local police. They had only to mention MDL and Mr. Bill and were respectfully allowed to go on their way.
In July of 2012, Giles led a group that hosted a retreat for the children of MDL at a beach resort. Asked if there was anything memorable about that trip that he would like to share, Giles said that the children loved the beach and the pool. Relaying an unexpected reaction by the children, Giles said, “The huts we stayed in had air conditioning. The adults were comfortable, but the kids were freezing! They kept putting on more clothes.”
One thing that Giles would like potential donors and sponsors to know is that the impact of the ministry goes far beyond the 52 children in the orphanage. MDL coordinates a school, a feeding program for street children, a medical clinic, and a transition/vocational training program. The transition program helps children aging out of the orphanage to learn skills that will help them live independently.
“MDL truly is the beacon of light in Port au Prince,” states Giles. His journey started with a love for ministry, but has grown into a love for Haiti.