Category Archives: Volunteer Stories

Unexpected | a volunteer story

“Haiti will not be what you expect it to be.  It will be what it is.”  Those words from the COTP volunteer handbook rang through my mind as our plane descended on the country.  Scattered puffs of smoke could be seen over the landscape; mountains and valleys, brown and green, sprawled out before me. 

“Haiti will not be what you expect it to be.  It will be what it is.”

As our plane landed, I thought, “God, what will you teach me this week?  How are you going to use me?”  I really wanted to be able to leave Haiti thinking, “This was an amazing week!”  Driving through Cap Haitian on the way to COTP, I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into.  Unloading the van and moving into the volunteer house, my prayer was, “God, You will need to help me through the next 8 days because I’m not sure that this was such a good idea!”

“Haiti will not be what you expect it to be.  It will be what it is.”

Two days into the trip, I really questioned why I was in Haiti.  What good can I do? How can I be of service to the people here?  Sure, I will help the nannies by caring for the children.  I can assist in food prep for the volunteers and staff.  I can even be a “go-for” in the construction process, if need be. But, really, why am I here?

Then God opened the floodgates to reveal His awesome power and impeccable timing.  You see, I’m a seamstress.  I’ve been sewing personally for the last 45 years and professionally for the last 15.  But who knew that a seamstress like me would be placed in Haiti at just the right time?

A fellow volunteer from Michigan took a refurbished sewing machine to Haiti.  Even as a seamstress, taking a sewing machine to Haiti would not be at the top of my packing list. That sewing machine was her carry-on item on the flights.  No personal bag, just a sewing machine case.  Why?  Even she admits that she had no idea why she took it, just that she obeyed the Holy Spirit’s nudging to transport it to Haiti.  Once the word got out that there was a sewing machine and a seamstress in the compound at the same time, the projects came rolling in.  “This dress is too big – can you take it in so it fits my daughter?”  “Someone left a skirt and 2 dresses for me but they are too big – can you adjust them so I can wear them?”  “This skirt is falling apart. Would it be possible to fix it so I can still wear it?”   “ My ‘beloved’ hammock is falling apart – can you line it with a bed sheet so I can still use it?”  And then…

Haiti Hospital Appeal, an organization based in the UK, brought wheelchairs for several of the special-needs children, both those living at COTP and some from the surrounding communities.  After measuring and fitting, the chairs were matched to the children who could best use them.  Just one problem – the children needed chair pads to provide comfort and support while in the wheelchairs, but HHA didn’t have any child-sized pads left, only adult-sized pads.  These were too big for the children’s chairs. The foam and fabric would need to be cut down.  What to do?  Duct tape might work, but certainly would not be very comfortable.  The director of the project asked, “Would you happen to have a sewing machine?”  “Yes!” was the reply, “and we even have someone who knows how to use it!”  So, for the next several hours, I converted adult-sized wheelchair pads into child-sized wheelchair pads for those beautiful children.  For the first time in their lives, these children could sit up comfortably and move around without having someone carry them.

You might think, “What’s the big deal?”  Some might chalk this up to coincidence or good fortune.  I happen to believe differently.  God used all of the circumstances, all of the details, all of the situations to bring about His purposes.  Why did I go to Haiti in the first place?  Because the Holy Spirit had been working on my heart and mind for the past year.  Why was I there on that particular day?  Another group from our church had been at COTP the previous week and I could have very well been with them instead.  Why did Haiti Hospital Appeal come that week?  Why did they make COTP their last stop on the trip, having used all of the child-sized chair pads they had taken with them, and literally not knowing what they were going to do for wheelchair pads for these kids?  Why in the world did a fellow volunteer from Michigan haul a sewing machine along with no particular use in mind? Why? There’s no reasonable human response to any of these questions; only God could have orchestrated this trip.

I left Haiti, anxious to go home, yet feeling exhilarated from the experience.  God taught me again to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and leave the details up to Him.  And I left Haiti thinking, “This was an amazing week!”

-Merilee P.
A volunteer at COTP