Author Archives: jenna d. clements

A Day in the Life | Child Home Nanny

DSC_2867Meet Lunise. Lunise is an aunt, or Tant Lunise, as we say in the Grace House.  She arrives at work every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with a smile on her face.  Sometimes the children chant “Tant Lunise, Tant Lunise” as she walks up the road to our home.  She laughs and gives them a hug or kiss or a pat on the head as she steps onto the porch.  She greets us all and asks how we are and how our family is, and we do the same.  When the “hellos” are complete, she quickly changes into her work clothes and begins to work. In the morning she mops the kitchen…when there are ten children eating three meals a day, a lot of mopping is required.  She then cares for the children while the Willis family does their homeschooling.  When Holly comes up to get the older children for preschool, she often needs to console the little ones who desperately want to go to school.  Meal times are quite busy with two children who need to be completely spoon fed, and then several more children who need help with getting their food and some of them needing help and supervision.  After working together to get everyone fed and cleaned up and down for naps, the dishes are finished and then there is a chance for some down time.  Lunise will lay down for a while, chat with others, or  fold some laundry from the morning.  Sometimes she listens to a sermon or singing on the radio.  After naps the afternoon is filled with playing, sometimes a walk, and then dinner.  After dinner and clean up comes one of our favorite times of day.  We worship each evening with everyone in the home.  We read Scripture, sing songs, and pray in both English and Creole.   It is evident that Tant Lunise loves the Lord.  She has a beautiful voice and loves to praise Him with it. Some of the things we love about Lunise are her love for Jesus and for people.  She has a quick smile and loves to laugh.  We love to hear her sing.  She has come into our bedrooms and prayed for those of us who have been sick and is always quick to pray.  She is deeply involved in her church and recently took some time off from work to participate in a retreat with her church.  She is a diligent worker and cares about each person in our home.  She takes God’s Word seriously and loves to read the Bible.  We love the relationship with have developed with Tant Lunise and are so blessed that she is part of the Grace House family.   -Holly Willis, Child Home parent

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“She Could be a Friend” | An Employee Story

She was already 8 years old when she left her family to live at an orphanage.  Though she had been raised by her dad and mom, times were tough without employment, and there were days of hunger and children without schooling, so when the opportunity arose for she and her sister to be cared for at a new orphanage in town, her mother agreed, and Magalie spent two years under the care of Cap Haitian Children’s home.

Seven years later she would start her employment at another childcare facility.  Children of the Promise had moved to Lagossette and along with her mother and sister, and many aunts and cousins, too, Magalie began to build a different life for her future than what she experienced in her own youth.

I first met Magalie when we moved to Haiti in 2012.  She was one of the nannies working in our daughter, Rose’s room in the days before we could take Rose to live with us.  She was a nanny who played so well with the babies, hoisting them over her shoulder for a game of piggy-bag, giving gentle tosses, and zurberts.  Rose loved her!  I was still a very new Creole speaker and after stumbling through a basic greeting and trying to ask about how Rose was doing, she responded with, “you can speak English if you want.”  Her eyes smiled and I knew right away she could be a friend.

Last year when admissions dropped and lay-offs were necessary, Magalie lost her job.  Then she entered an unexpected pregnancy.  Her jaw tightened when she told me she was going to have a baby and she wasn’t sure what she was going to do.  “Bondye konnen – God knows”.

We talked about healthy pregnancy and birth and healthy babies.  We talked about worries, family support, and scared baby’s daddies, too; how life and priorities change with a baby, how she was going to keep this child, how she was going to be a Mom.  How there are mistakes and redemption.

In November Nevenson was born, plump and healthy, with silky brown skin, perfect black rings of hair, and all the needs of one who wakes wet or scared or hungry in the night, demanding Mama’s all.  Magalie just looked and looked at him with the amazement and pride of a new Mom.  She told me even if she had to raise him on her own, she was going to do her best for him, and I believed her.

Raising a baby is not an easy thing in Haiti.  There is no running water or toilet or even electricity in Magalie’s house.  Sometimes while at home, it is less expensive to do extra laundry than to pay for disposable diapers.  While the house is now cinder block instead of stick and mud, and the nag of hunger and malnutrition has moved to someone else’s place, these increments of progress, still leave hardship.

There are mosquitoes that carry diseases that endanger the lives of Haiti’s little ones so all the worries of fever and illness that we have in the Western world are amplified with the knowledge that there may be no Tylenol for the fever that ravages.  There is no WebMD or nurse call line to access for pressing fears in the night.  There is so little money for a trip to the hospital or the moto ride as you bounce along the dirt road through sugarcane fields, cradling your baby to your chest and praying.  These unexpected needs often mean asking, once again, for help from a neighbor or friend; once again trusting that God has placed the resources somewhere within your reach to care for your children, or the grace to accept what comes if He has not…

Magalie started working mornings for our family at the start of the school year last year.  While I taught Noah and Elijah school in the morning, Magalie helped with watching the girls, walking Natalie to pre-school, and doing some kitchen prep work.

This year I have not needed as much help at home but Magalie has been able to pick up some part time work subbing for other nannies in the family homes, in the baby house, or when there are sick kids in the hospital.  In addition to this, she has been chosen to begin working with a team from the US dedicated to increasing entrepreneurial work in Lagossette.  They arrive next week to begin training for a product that Magalie and other family members will be able to make from home and sell to both local tourists and potentially for a foreign market as well.  Magalie also hopes to start a small home business, using a small loan to buy bundles of used clothes from the US and reselling them to people in the local community.

There is much reason for hope for the future for Magalie and Nevenson.  She is young, but she is willing to work hard to support her family if given a chance to do so.  Children of The Promise has been able to play just a small part in her life by providing employment and I hope we are able to do so for many years to come!  She is such an asset to our community and I am blessed to call her friend.

IMG_0659Christina Vander Pol, MA, LPCC
Infant Mental Health Coordinator
Children of the Promise
Lagossette, Haiti Nord

Nadege

Nadege has been involved with COTP since the early years. She had a daughter that she couldn’t care for herself and so her daughter came to live at COTP. After that she began working for COTP as a nanny and has since had another child, Vladimir (4) who she is now able to raise because of her employment. Nadege faithfully worked as a nanny for many years, loving and caring for our children. In the fall of 2012 she came up with the idea for someone to plan activities for our children. A few months later she was promoted to the position of activities coordinator. She spent her mornings doing pool days, planning organized play time, and teaching, singing, and playing with our children. Our children looked forward to the days they got to go play in Nadege’s room and the children who weren’t quite old enough to go to our English preschool liked that they still got to go to school like the bigger kids. In early 2013 our overall number of children was lower and our percentage of children with special needs was higher. We knew we needed to help these children be the best they can be and we promoted Nadege to an on the job trained position as our physical therapist. She has really done well in this new position and has soaked up all the information she has learned like a sponge. Nadege takes pride in the work she does. Her love for our children is evident through every interaction with them. She is proud of the developments our children make whether they are big or little and continually works hard to help them achieve their next developmental milestone. She smiles and boasts about what they have accomplished (largely due to her hard work and dedication). Nadege, our Haitian nurse and I were able to attend an infant massage training course where we learned to teach others how to massage their babies. Recently we have been able to use that education to teach our formula program caregivers how to massage. Right from the start of the first class Nadege stepped up and took charge and is a really great teacher. She engages with the caregivers well, doesn’t let them slack, and eagerly prepares for the class each time we meet. She also has made great use of the massage knowledge as a component of her therapy—especially when a child is not feeling very well. Whenever given a new responsibility Nadege always rises to the challenge and surprises us with how well she does. She is a great student as she absorbs as much as she can and a great teacher as her quiet, caring heart does all the talking. We have laughed together and we have cried together. It has been an honor to get to do life with Nadege and to learn to navigate the waters of care for our children with special needs together. -Tori Rayle, Preschool Teacher and Therapy Coordinator IMG_0753IMG_8855

Adopted and Free: Reflections from Haiti

Alone. Enslaved. Unworthy. That is what we were.
Adopted. Free. Beloved. That is what we are. 

“In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” – Ephesians 1:4b-6

Since the dawn of creation, God has planned to reach out his hand, in love, and adopt us as his children; and this adoption was not without cost. Jesus Christ shed his own blood and died, that we may be free children belonging to the Father.

This boggles my mind.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

The greek word for see is “horaó” meaning to “look upon, experience or perceive” with the mind, this great and abounding love. The inclusion of the phrase “And that is what we are!” reiterates the astonishing nature of this love. John is driving home the point, asking us to experience, perceive and dwell on this love, because he understands how unbelievable and incomprehensible it is.

“My sin I should be burned with, I’m guilty, filthy, and stained, but He became a curse, drank my cup and took my pain.” – Lecrae, Lucky Ones

While we were full of sin, living in rebellion, and unable to save ourselves, Jesus took the cup of wrath we deserved, that we may be adopted as a coheir with Him.

In the book Follow Me, David Platt touches on this astonishing love by comparing the adoption of his son Caleb, from an orphanage in Kazakhstan, to the way God adopts us into his family. He tells this story:

“One day when I yelled ‘I love Caleb’…he stopped, looked at me, and said, “You love me?
I said “Yeah buddy I do.”
And then he asked what seems to be his favorite question: “Why?”
Because you’re my son,” I said.
So he asked the question again: “Why?”
This time I thought to myself, Now that’s a good question…I teared up and said to him, “You’re my son because we wanted you. And we came to get you so that you might have a mommy and a daddy.

Platt finishes the story with this analogy: “Doesn’t it take your breath away for a moment to hear God say, “I love you.” To which we, in our sinfulness, must certainly respond “Why?” To then hear Him answer, “Because you’re my child.” To which we must ask the obvious question, “Why would I, a hopeless sinner, now be called your precious child?” Only to hear him say, “Because I wanted you; and I came to get you so that you might know me as your Father.”

This beautifully depicts the appropriate response to God’s adoption of us; seeing, perceiving and dwelling upon (horaó) the Lord’s love for us, and in response, showing that love to others.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:16-18

We are loved that we might love others. And what does this sacrificial love look like? James 1:27 says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

But there is a heart-breaking disconnect that we so often face; these people- these children- in our minds, they don’t affect us. We wake up every day and live our lives as if they didn’t exist.

“What can I do?”
“I’m too busy right now.”
“That’s not my problem.”

The list of our excuses is as long as my arm.

I beg you to dwell upon what our lives would be like if God was as unsympathetic to saving and caring for us as we often are to saving and caring for the orphaned.

We would still be alone, unloved, dead in our sin, without  purpose, joy or hope.

But we aren’t. We are adopted. We are free. We are beloved.

And these children can be too.

In his book Radical, David Platt declares “We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”

I saw this truth become manifested in my own life exactly three years ago, in a small village in Tamale, Ghana. Since that day, God has continued to open my eyes and my heart to the fatherless and the least of these (not because I am a great person, but because I am the child of a great God). This summer, I was blessed to continue my journey with Christ by spending some time at Children of the Promise, an orphanage and multi-faceted ministry in Lagosette, Haiti.

The kingdom work, I witnessed at COTP (Children of the Promise) absolutely blew my mind. From the Haitian nannies, cooks and social workers, to the American families and young people serving day in and day out, God’s love is being made SO beautiful there.

COTP is currently the home to about 40 children, while simultaneously providing school sponsorships, special fortified food for malnourished children, prenatal help and immunizations, jobs, electricity, and clean water for the community. Through rehabilitative care, COTP seeks to help babies who are extremely sick and malnourished by admitting them for three months or more, while their family gets back on their feet; after this time, the baby is reunited with their biological family.

For children who have been orphaned or abandoned, COTP cares for them during their adoption process through foster care. These babies live in a family setting in one of the children homes at COTP, with international parents, insuring they learn a concept absolutely vital to the rest of their lives: healthy attachments.

Children desperately need healthy attachments.

Abandoned children often seek to attach to absolutely anyone or anything that might come their way. Without a caretaker, a baby is hopelessly left to cry and lay in their own mess, desperate for love.

They need to be provided for. They need to be fed. They need to be burped. They need to be wiped. They need to be changed. They need to be rocked. They need to be sung to, and disciplined and played with and loved on. They need a mommy, and they need a daddy. And they are desperate for it.

And we are just the same.

Without him, we seek to attach to anyone or anything that may- even for a fleeting moment- make us feel loved. We look to the next new thing- the next paycheck, the next buzz, the next high, the next relationship- to find purpose.

When he is not at the center of our life, we are just the same – hopelessly left to cry and lay in our own mess, desperate for love.

But we have hope.

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:14-15

God is our provider. He gives us our daily bread. His blood has wiped away our sin. His grace has changed us, and made us new. He is our rock. We hear his voice, feel his discipline, bask in his joy and live by his love. He is our daddy- our Abba.

In ancient Rome, those who were adopted were given a new life. They were fully and legally co-heirs with their brothers and sisters. And they were given a new name. When my brother was adopted, he too was given a new name: Jonathan, meaning “a gift from God.” His story is a beautiful depiction of our spiritual adoption, shown in Galatians 4:6-7:“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” 

We were slaves, and now we are his children.

In John 14:18, Jesus promises “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” And He did. He adopted us.

And we are called to do the same for these precious children.

James 1:27 is not an option; it is a command.

Jesus demands that we care for the orphaned.

In Matthew 25:40 Christ declares, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Brothers and sisters, may we seek the Lord in prayer.

May we ask him to forgive us for our apathy, thank him for His sacrificial love, and boldly ask for a spirit that does the same.

May we join together in this good and eternally significant fight.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

Adopted.

Free.

Beloved.

Here we are, Lord.

Send us.

-Jake Nagy, COTP volunteer (June 23-July 9)

Esther'sParty 5

Dreams | Haiti Edition

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I remember after I graduated college I got asked the question, “What is your dream for your future?” multiple times. That question was intimidating, but also freeing. After college I felt like I could do anything, see anything, travel anywhere. Maybe you know the feeling. Dreams about having a job that I love, a family to love, and a home to settle in. People all around the world have dreams. Dreams for their future and dreams for their children’s future. Truth be told, for many of us, our dreams can be made a reality. We simply have to work hard and strive for it.  Dreamers in Haiti have a whole other set of hurdles to overcome to reach their dreams.

We try so hard to pretend that even without money we can make our dreams a reality. And this may be true…if your dream is to fall in love or be a good mother. But the reality is, most dreams involve money. There are many ways for us to get money; work extra hours, fundraise, loans, rob a bank. You know, the norm. In Haiti, it is more difficult to do any one of these things.

In a country where the unemployment rate is at 80%, simply having a job is dream come true. Any money you’re making is going straight to food and shelter. Not much extra is saved or even left over. For some, their extra money is given to those in even less fortunate circumstances than their own.

Next to the COTP compound there sits a school. Every day from 8-1pm about 322 students come to school with faded pink uniforms. The girls all have big bows holding up their freshly done hair and boys belts tied tight fastening their loose pants. When I get ready in the morning, I hear the laugher and chatting of kids before school begins. This is one of my favorite sounds in Haiti by far.

About a week ago I wandered into the Manna school to take some photos of the kids celebrating one of the last weeks of school. I ended up being too late to get the celebration, which including all the kids in a big circle singing, dancing, and clapping. Instead, I met, for the second time, the principle of the school, DeConge. He offered to walk with me through the school and let me take pictures. The kids were all in their classrooms, some eating, some studying. I was very thankful to be able to walk through and snap some fun pictures of the kids. After we finished the walk through, I got to talking to DeConge. DeConge has been working at Manna as the Principle since 2002. The Manna school has classes kindergarten-6th grade with 322 students who attend.

Public Education in Haiti costs anywhere from 500-3000htd. This cost does not include shoes, uniforms, books and exam prices. These costs along are enough to stand in the way of a child going to school. However, with the abundance of NGOs in Haiti, education can be afforded for many. Most NGOs offer free education. Manna school being one of them. Manna school pays for lunch, shoes, uniforms, and books for all the students. Allowing many kids without the means to go to school a chance to receive an education. But this education gets them only so far.

In my conversation with DeConge, I found out that after the oldest grade graduations, sixth grade, they rarely have enough money to continue their education elsewhere. Keep in mind that these sixth graders are between the ages of 16-20. Currently at Manna school, the sixth grade class has 8 girls and 14 boys. And after this week, who knows if or where they’ll find further education past the sixth grade.

“After our kids are done with primary school (6th grade) they usually don’t continue. Their parents don’t have money. It’s pointless for them to finish primary school when they don’t plan to go much further. After they are done with 6th grade, I see many go and sit at home and that makes me sad. When I see a kid on the street it makes me sad because they need to be in school. I am passionate about this. I love these kids.” –DeConge

DeConge has a dream. He described to me how he wants to start a high school with a sponsorship program for students to continue onto a university. He wants a place for the students to be able to learn about mechanics or carpentry or nursing etc. I preceded to ask him what is stopping him from carrying this dream through,

“Money. Money is the biggest issue because without money you can’t do anything. We don’t have any money.”

He continued on to explain how he is always looking for more contacts in the States. Because to him, the States mean money and money means he can make his dream a reality. This is not an uncommon conversation to have with people in Haiti. People talk about their dreams but then usually end the conversation with an “ask” for money to help make their dream possible.

Being in Haiti, I’ve realized the difficulty that many have to see their dreams come true. People work hard every day to make enough money for THAT day.  Saving for the future usually takes the backseat. The idea of having money left over to start a school or orphanage seems nearly impossible. What I can see, most larger organizations in Haiti are completely funded by wealthier countries in North America and Europe.  This is so prominent that many have began to refer to Haiti as the Republic of NGOs.  Many see this as a problem. And yes, I do agree. I believe in a perfect world Haiti should be able to support itself.

Now, I don’t have all the answers…I don’t even have ONE answer. But I have hope that some day God will restore Haiti: The Republic of NGOs. I pray that some day Haiti will be able to have schools and universities independent from donated money from the States or anywhere else. I pray that someday Haiti will be able to hold itself up by their own two feet.

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DeConge


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Giggly after cooling off with some water


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My friend Rachelle. She runs to the fence to chat with me most mornings on my way to COTP.

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Written by Jenna Clements from her blog, Overseas

Chick-V

Yesterday as I drove through a neighboring village on my way home from Milot hospital, Brother Borell flagged me down with a finger wag and a nod, which I was to understand, meant “stop”.

After the usual pleasantries and inquiries about family and children and the wellness of them all, he says, “Sister Christina, my brother’s son, Grey, is very sick.  He has high fever and pain in his bones. It’s the virus.  We don’t know what to do.”

Litzner, aka “Gris” (Grey, in Creole) is a young boy in our community of Lagossette.  He is the son of a poor farmer who works the ground next to our compound, and whose wife who works in the laundry pavilion here at COTP.

While you might notice his labored walk and awkward crutch use as his palsied body moves along the dusty roadside on his way to school, you are more likely to take note of his flashy smile and cheeky spirit.  If he has limitation from his crippled form he’s not about to admit it in his face.  He is full of life despite his daily struggle against the movements of his own body.  But as I step through the open doorway of his stick woven house, none of that life is observable as he lays on a simple, clean, reed mat on the ground.  His eyes are open but dulled with pain.  His forehead glistens with the sweat of his fever, and his parents wear the tired worry in their shoulders and brows of those who love but have nothing else to give.  He appears to have Chikungunya, the mosquito-borne virus hitting Haiti and the Dominican hard right now.  He father says he has already been sick for a couple of days and they do not know what to do to help him.  They cannot afford to seek medical care.  They cannot afford a bottle of Tylenol to help ease the pain and fever he suffers from.  They cannot afford to build a house to better shelter him, so they pray and apply the traditionally known leaves and herbs to try to alleviate his illness.

There is not much more I can do for them, but I listen, and pray, and then I take his mom back to my place and give her some acetaminophen in a little bag with careful instructions for how to take them and not to take more than instructed.  They are so grateful for this small thing that I feel ashamed not to do something more.  A dollar’s worth of off-brand Tylenol and sympathy… that is all I have to give right now.

Almost every day I hear similar accounts from friends and people I know from our village or towns nearby.  A family member is sick with “virus Chikungunya” — a father, a wife, a child.  And I pass out my little oval tablets from the big bottle that never seems to run dry.  When life is already hard in this place, I want to do something to show those around me that I care about their added burden.  Perhaps the bottle of Tylenol is just a good reminder for me of Mother Theresa’s God-filled words to “do small things with great love”.

According to the CDC, Chikungunya began in West Africa in 1952 and has sickened people worldwide since then. Only recently has it made it’s way to the Caribbean and not to Haiti and the Dominican Republic until 2013.   For most people symptoms develop 3-7 days after a bite from an infected mosquito.  Primary symptoms are high fever (102 F) and joint pain for 3-7 days.  Other possible symptoms are headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, and rash.  In some people, joint pain can continue for months to a year.  People at risk for more severe illness are those who compromised health,  underlying health conditions the very young, and the older adults (over 65).

Here at COTP increased groundskeeping including mowing and restructuring drainage as well as spraying of the grounds is being done to help prevent exposure to the virus.  Even so 3 people on the compound have gotten it thus far.

If you would be willings, I would appreciate prayer for our community and compound and that God would be glorified even for those who afflicted with this rough disease.

Written by, Christina Vander Pol
Check out her blog here – Provoked

 

Do it Because You Care

Before I moved to Haiti, I always heard about sponsorships. “Help a child in  ___(fill in the blank with third-world country)…send a child to school”. But truth is, I never felt connected. Not sure what it is, but this feeling of being connected is something we all take very seriously. When we feel connected, we feel the urgency to do something – to take an action.  There is something about having a relationship with people that draws us to give our money. When we  know where and who our money is going to, we are more committed to give. Before I lived in Haiti, it was easy to over look this call to sponsor a child and focus on my own need for my own money.

Then I moved it Haiti.

I’m realizing that it doesn’t matter if we are connected through a photo or even if we ever meet the child. The reality is, there are children in Haiti who can not attend school because of money. There are children who don’t have enough money to pay for the next school year. There are children who are sitting at home during the day instead of in school. There are many children who can’t attend school past the 6th grade. They are here, waiting for someone like YOU to take a chance on them. Regardless if you’ve met them or not. Each name has a face and each face has a dream. A dream that can not come true without your help to send them to school.

Normally, I try my best to not encourage us to believe that we are “saviors” or “heroes”…but to be honest, these kids do need us.  You can give these children the opportunity to dream. To dream about who and what they want to become.

I believe the root of building a better Haiti begins with education. Education allows children to dream about the future. To dream about a better Haiti. I don’t know about you, but I believe that’s what we are all fighting for.

I want to challenge you. I purposely did not post any photos in this post. (Believe me, this is hard for me when I’m dying to share some with you) I don’t want you to be moved by the one photo. I want you to be moved by the need and reality of the situation in Haiti. The reality that there is a child in Haiti waiting to make a difference in Haiti. Will you take a chance on him? Do it because you care about the future of Haiti, not because you were moved by one photo.

School Sponsorship3

Written by Jenna Clements & re-posted from her blog, Overseas.