When Kids Visit a Third-World Country

Our sweet little 4th grader, will never be the same because of last week’s trip to Haiti. This next week or so I’m going to share about the trip through his eyes, through the thoughts and takeaways from our ten-year-old son.

People ask us all the time what the right age is to take a child to a third-world-country.

Want to know my answer?

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Now.

Why do I say that?

Our children need to see how much of the world lives. We need to show them different cultures, traditions, and languages. We need to show them there is such a thing as joy in spite of need, and that life as they know it is not how millions of children grow up. I have SUCH a deep longing for kids to know that THEY CAN CHANGE THE WORLD NOW. They do NOT need to wait to be grown to make an impact.

My first time out of the country was in 5th grade when I tagged along with my dad and some of his friends on a medical mission trip to Guatemala. It changed my life forever because it burst the little bubble I didn’t realize I lived in. It opened my eyes to poverty and need and an entirely different culture I didn’t know existed.

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I remember flying into a tiny remote village in the mountains on a rickety little Cessna piloted by a man named Ludin who worked for MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship). I recall like it was yesterday, how livestock was cleared from the field as we dipped down to land, likely taxing over cow pies and who knows what else. 

I remember being followed around by children who wanted to simply touch my hair because they’d never seen a blonde child and they thought I was magical. Their toys were dolls made of sticks and bits of fabric and instead of trucks, they played with rhinoceros beetles the size of my hand that had been preserved in formaldehyde.

We woke every morning to the sound of roosters and walked downstairs for hot polenta pancakes set out on a veranda covered in bougainvillea before setting out for the clinic. I was curious about everything and the team of doctors let me sit on the windowsill and watch surgeries as long as I was quiet and made me promise if I felt nauseous at any time, that I’d leave quickly and quietly so as not to disrupt the already nervous patients. Especially since some of them weren’t put all the way under because of lack of resources.

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The goiter and tumor removals were the ones I remember most. Well, that and the smell of cauterized flesh as they worked. I realized sitting up there in the teal colored tiled windowsill that people in this beautiful country just south of mine didn’t have access to medical care like I did. I saw a woman with a basketball-sized tumor removed from her stomach cry with joy and relief, still sore from surgery. As I watched yet another large and strangely shaped growth extracted from someone else, I realized these people knew for years that something was growing inside them… but were without both the funds and access to a surgeon and therefore could do nothing about it. I didn’t think that was fair.

One thing that I just couldn’t wrap my mind around on this trip was the inability to drink the water. Even while in the shower, I made sure to keep my mouth clamped closed for fear I’d become sick. And brushing my teeth was a major adjustment as I was told I’d need to have a bottle of purified water next to me to pour on the brush and to swish around my mouth after spitting. As these incredible doctors gave treatment to so many beautiful Guatemaltecos (native Guatemalans), I understood for the first time about water-borne illnesses like amoebas.

Children were sick from their own water? Grown-ups, too? I didn’t understand it. Something life-giving was actually taking some of their lives? I didn’t think that was fair either.

But I was just a kid. It didn’t cross my mind that I could do anything about it.

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That’s why it was so important to me that when Run5050 and Healing Waters International approached me about bringing some of my family over to Haiti, I basically said “YES!!!” before actually asking my husband if he could clear his schedule.

Ben and Laith boarded a plane last Sunday, headed first to Port Au Prince and then crisscrossed around the country checking on water projects, completing a portion of Run5050’s marathon, and meeting loads of Haitians who like the villagers on my trip, had never seen a little blonde child before. I warned Laith that they might follow him around and touch his head. And like my trip to Guatemala, they rubbed his head like he was a genie who held all sorts of magic.

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I come to you not only with stories, but with a question. Will you join our family in making a difference?

We have committed to selling 1500 t-shirts because…

with income from those sales, we’ll have enough funds for CLEAN WATER FOR AN ENTIRE COMMUNITY!

Would you buy one for yourself? Or perhaps one for each of your kids? Christmas is quickly approaching…would you purchase some to stuff into stockings or to wrap around a wine bottle as hostess gift for the next time you arrive at someone’s house for a party?

What if instead of a traditional teacher’s gift, you gave a water bottle with a tag attached saying you have donated $10, $20, $30 (or more!) to Run5050 in their name?

What an impact your children would feel they were making with this sort of gift!!! I mean, think of it!!

Your children will LITERALLY be changing the world with this type of gift!!

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I’ll be sharing more of Ben and Laith’s experiences next week, but I’m just so excited about this trip that I wanted to share this first. Because the exciting thing is that we don’t have to go across the ocean to make a difference in the world.

You really can change the world by simply clicking this link and ordering a shirt.

And to be honest, Bonfire’s shirts will quickly become your favorite because they’ll be the softest, coziest ones in your drawer…so you can just thank me for that later. And I’ll thank you for making an impact now. Seriously. THANK YOU.

Stay tuned for more on Laith!!

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Take Joy,

Teresa 

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