All the children seated in a wide circle on the dusty ground giggled with delight as they were tapped, screaming out “duck, duck, duck” and then bursting into laughter every time “goose” rang out.
“We taught them to play the game and they just loved it," said Holly Hammel, 21, of Shelby Township. "They looked so happy.”
Not a bad impression to leave on the poverty-stricken children of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, whose residents survived a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in January 2010. Hammel and Macomb residents, Kyle Jones, 24, Lea Jones, 21, and Kyle Hunt, 21, were part of a college missions group of 18 from Trinity Lutheran Church in Shelby Township, who spent seven days (May 18-25) ministering to the people on the Caribbean island.
The trip is one the local students won’t soon forget as they saw the crushing results of the earthquake's destruction and unbelievable poverty in the city. Garbage was piled high along the streets, the smells were horrendous and there were residents living in makeshift tent cities everywhere, the students said.
“We had a guide driving us and the roads were just full of rubble, garbage was everywhere and people and animals were just walking right in the streets,” Lea Jones said. “It should have taken about five minutes to get to our hotel but it took 25 because of everything in the road.”
The students were relieved when they arrived at their hotel, housed behind walled security, a virtual paradise that included a pool, a restaurant and air conditioning at night.
Projects packed their schedule including painting a church and school, teaching Bible lessons in local classrooms, sorting food to be delivered to a village outside the city and spending time with infants in the local orphanage, which was also a hospital.
The children, including those in the streets, left the biggest impression. Just after walking into the orphanage, the Trinity students were handed bowls of food to feed the babies as they wiggled in their cribs, anxious for attention.
“There was one baby, he didn’t even look old enough to stand up yet, but he stood up when we walked in and raised his arms to be picked up,” Kyle Jones said.
“The orphanage was very emotional, we all broke down, girls and guys,” Lea Jones added.
All four students shared thoughts about how the experience has changed them.
Kyle Jones: “The babies really got to me and I really appreciate our government– they have none, no education system and we have things so well here.”
Holly Hammel: “The kids in the classroom and just the way they respond to someone they don’t even know, who doesn’t speak their language, has affected me. And you can’t flush toilet paper in Haiti and the electricity is in and out, and I will never complain about Hall Road again.”
Lea Jones: “I’ll remember the way the kids just light up and smile when they live in such poverty; you see real joy and there has to be a little bit of hope for them to adapt to that. It has changed me already. We have everything at our fingertips and they have nothing. It’s making me put things down when I’m shopping.”
Kyle Hunt: “I couldn’t believe how the kids don’t go to school. They don’t have any money and they don’t realize that they have nothing. They smiled and were playing soccer next to a pile of trash.”