On a Monday morning, Holmes Stamp & Sign CEO Bryan Croft woke up earlier than most Mondays and prepared for a full day of travel. A 12-hour-journey would take him and his friends, including Holmes’ IT Manager Daniel Kellogg, to what would’ve felt like a different world for most. With nine suitcases full of donations they headed to Haiti on a mission’s trip. Two plane rides later, they arrived in Port au Prince, what he described as the “true poverty” of Haiti. Their day of travel wasn’t close to over yet as they climbed into a canter truck and headed west past the city, coast line and mountains.
After a five hour road trip, they arrived at their destination: Kay Mari, an orphanage that houses 35 children between the ages of nine months and thirteen-years-old. These children, as Bryan put it, are the ones who’ve “hit the jackpot” in comparison to the other locals because they consistently have food and shelter. The orphanage and a church sit on a gated piece of land. Katie, the backbone of the orphanage and an Ohio-native that traveled there as a missionary seven years ago and never returned, and seven locals all care for the children.
At the heart of this orphanage is an organization called Haiti180. Founder Sean Forrest first travelled to Haiti in 2002 and experienced the lack of love and compassion each child received in the orphanage system due to a need for more caretakers. From there, he and his group built and now operate Kay Mari, a state-of-the-art school, an elderly home and are working to build a medical facility.
The children ran straight to them when they arrived at the orphanage. Now his fifth trip to Kay Mari, Bryan said he’s built a relationship with some of the kids and they recognize him, just waiting for him to bring out the tootsie rolls.
The days to follow would be full of digging a large hole for the orphanage’s new well, walking the children to their school miles away and dividing donated items brought from home and spreading them throughout the surrounding village. They’d eat chicken boiled in a pot of hot water, level the ground of the orphans’ home and kick soccer balls around with the kids. They’d tend to a 38-year-old man who lives miles away from the orphanage named John Simone.
Five years ago, John was in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed. With no family to take care of him, he lays helplessly in a small, clay hut day in and day out, unable to move and care for himself. When Bryan and his friends arrived, Katie expressed her great concerns for the man and they all quickly agreed to help however they could. So with the little supplies they had, they walked to the man’s home daily to care for his brutal bed sores and give him a reason to smile.
“We went there four days in a row and the first day it was like we made eye contact with him but that’s it. But by the last day, and he could hardly move,” said Bryan, “But he was trying to grab our hands and say ‘Thank you!’”
Bryan said he returned to Jacksonville, FL. with one word resonating in his mind: perspective.
Haiti180 brings missionaries to Kay Mari every year to help build and support a self-sustaining environment so the children can grow to one day be the leaders Haiti needs. Whether you form your own group or join an existing one, the opportunity to change your perspective and help someone much less fortunate is always there. You can also donate toward their current goal of $220,000 which will help them complete the medical facility.
Visit www.Haiti180.com to learn more about the people of Kay Mari, to apply to be a missionary or to donate to the cause.