Covenant Day students, staff return to Haiti to help orphans
by Morgan Smith
Using actions rather than words to show love and compassion was somewhat of a difficult task for Covenant Day senior Emily Salo, who recently attended a mission trip to Haiti with some of her fellow classmates.
But thrown into a country where the native tongue was French Creole, Salo quickly learned that her actions could say more than any amount of words, especially in the case of Claudia, a 16-year-old Haitian girl whose parents died in the 2010 Port-au-Prince 7.0 magnitude earthquake, and is now separated from the rest of her family.
Salo described an experience that occurred toward the end of her trip, when Claudia needed a shoulder to cry on, a friend and companion.
“She grabbed my hand and walked with me to one of the school rooms where she just sat down on one of the benches and just cried,” Salo said. “I asked her if it was her family and she said ‘yes.’ In America, I would have tried to use words to try and comfort her, which would have been so wrong. But because of the language barrier, I was just able to sit with her and stroke her back, pray with her and sing a song she had actually taught me in Creole earlier in the week.”
Salo and classmate Kyle Hunkler both described their Haiti experience as relational, where the most important aspect of the trip was communicating friendship to the orphans of El Shaddai Ministries in Jeremie, Haiti. El Shaddai Ministries is an organization that currently operates 29 schools with more than 6,000 students and 10 children’s homes serving 1,400 orphans. The Covenant Day group, which included four teachers, a parent, alumna and 12 students grades nine through 12, spent Feb. 18 through 25 working with 143 of those orphans. The majority of those orphans, like Claudia, came out of Port-au-Prince after the earthquake.
Clifford Chin, a Bible teacher at Covenant Day, was the coordinator of the trip. This is the fifth year for Covenant Day to participate in a mission trip to Haiti, but Chin said there was something particularly special about this year.
“I think this trip was more meaningful to me because it was relational – we are now getting to the point that (El Shaddai Ministries and the Haitians) understand we are committed,” he said.
This year, the group had several projects planned for the trip including loading typing software on computers in a lab Covenant Day installed last year. The group also planted Moringa trees, or miracle trees, at the orphanage and the pastor’s home. These trees have large amounts of much needed nutrition right in the leaves.
One of the major projects the group did, with the help of students from back home, was purchase 14 goats for the orphanage.
“Our hope is they’ll be able to raise them and breed them, and use them” for meat, Chin said.
Covenant Day High School students actually donated all proceeds from their winter dance to the Haiti goat project.
“A lot of this is actually funded by the students,” Chin added, noting that although only 18 people went on the trip, the efforts really were a schoolwide project.
Chin said the school will continue sending groups to Haiti to help. Organizers are considering installing an aquaponics system, a sustainable food production system that involves growing food and raising fish.
“It’s such a wonderful experience for our students to continue to go,” Chin said. “It stretches us – we go back not only for the orphans, the orphanage and the ministry, but also the ministry for our students; how they can see and learn the love of Christ – these students come back changed.”