Today, exactly 20 years ago, my life changed dramatically. I got into a plane that would bring me to an unknown country. A country that would feel like home straight away. A country, where I would leave my heart, with a culture that would get into my blood. So many kids became ‘my kids’ – they didn’t have a mom. I cried so many hopeless tears for them and my heart would never feel the same again.
For me, moving to Haiti was one of those life changing decision that happen only once or twice in a lifetime. As I entered this new life of helping the poor, the sick and the homeless, I had no clue it would mark me forever. I just knew that it was good. That it made a difference.
One of my fondest memories is one that still can bring me to tears. I had become very close friends with this nine year old girl, who stayed in the same hospital where I lived at that time. I took care of her in the evenings, after my day job. Christina was sick, and she knew she would die soon. Her parents had abandoned her, too overwhelmed with worries about their seven other children.
We spent hours playing together. She was a trouble maker! She wrapped all the nurses around her finger. And she taught me so much. She was chatty and funny, sensitive and spiritual. Sadly, the sicker she got, the quieter she became. Her brain got affected and her lively energy was gone. Life was slowly being sucked out of her. Until she was gone.
Christina was maybe the biggest inspiration for me to continue my mission in Haiti. Instead of returning to my home country after one year, I decided I had to stay. There was too much to do, too great a need, too much adventure and too many friendships waiting for me in Haiti.
I became close with many kids like Christina. Boys and girls of all ages, and in spite of poverty, loneliness, or sickness, they were radiating courage, light, hope, humor, strength, and resilience. All those kids with ambitions, with talents and commitment to work hard for a better life. They came into my life after that one life changing decision, made in 1998, the decision that turned my life up side down and that planted the seed for Kids Connection Haiti.