The Saturday before Thanksgiving found me stepping off a plane at midnight having just returned from 2 weeks on La Gonave. I was stunned to see Christmas lights on each of the baggage carousels and to realize that in less than 48 hours my adult children would begin arriving from out of town expecting Thanksgiving dinner. A “first world problem” to be sure, and never as starkly so as coming into this situation from some of the worst hunger I have seen in my 10 years of work in Haiti.
Many of you have experienced the overwhelming sense of abundance after being in Haiti for a week and making your first trip to a grocery store after returning. Honestly, do we really “need” two full rows of breakfast cereal choices?
My first trip to the store this time was the very next day and included the frenzy of shopping for a major holiday dinner. I was mostly inclined to sit down on the floor in one of the aisles and weep.
On this trip people I have known for many years talked to me about their fear of the decline in purchasing power due to rising prices from the hurricane and market pressures. How hungry everyone is. Hardly anyone asked for anything in particular. They just wanted to talk. I have learned to live with seeing hunger all around, but these folks were just plain scared. For themselves, for their neighbors, for the future of their country.
The one resounding positive note I heard from many was, “Thank God for our lunch program.” It seemed that as long as the children were being fed one good meal a day they could go on a bit longer. All I could think of was, “I don’t even know how to be that thankful.” My life has not put me in a position to be glad that my child is eating at school each day so that I can not worry about her going to bed hungry.
The funds from our Hurricane Relief Campaign have made it so that Pere Vil can buy rice, beans, and oil on the open market and get it to the hungriest people up in the mountains. He does not see that need ending anytime soon and he is in the difficult position of having to decide when he has distributed all he can afford. In his wisdom he has kept the school food separate from the relief food. There has to be a line where the children are fed no matter what. But, that puts our lunch program on another funding track.
Unfortunately, the hurricane hit just when we were beginning to raise money for our lunch program. We, without fail, are clear about using money as it is designated. So, we now are tasked with asking, yet again, for your help with the school lunches.
Each day 1700 children will eat a hot lunch at school whether their family has food or not. “For many it will be the only meal of the day” sounds worn and trite at this point, but I can tell you that when I was there, one of the Fridays was a national holiday and the joy of having the day off was overshadowed by the concern about the children not being fed that day.
As I sat down to dinner on Thanksgiving with my family, we took time to go around the table, each one saying what we were thankful for before beginning to eat. But, I can assure you, that as heartfelt as each comment was, none of us know how to be as thankful as the people on La Gonave who know their children will eat at school each day during these hardest of times.
It is still hard for me to understand why we live with such abundance and others struggle so. I will, no doubt, die before I sort that out. But, what I offered at the table on Thanksgiving was that I am most thankful that God has given me the health and resources to be with and respond to those who have less, and the ability to see that we are all the same…no matter the circumstances.
If you are able, please consider helping us sustain this most important program of providing school lunches to these children. Their parents are so grateful and God knows it is the right thing to do.
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or, visit our website at www.lagonavepartners.org.
For the Partnership