by Tony Pezzullo & Joni Schwartz
Tony and Joni, winners of the Reliv Kalogris Foundation’s “Papa Noel” letter writing contest, joined the RKF on a trip to Haiti in December.
We arrive at an unrecognizable world. Towns with mountains of rubble are bereft of clean water, food, electricity and toilets and filled with structures we’d not remotely consider calling home. Smells of burning wood and lye permeate. Chaotic streets overflow with starving animals, pregnant women carrying overstuffed baskets on their heads and homeless children completely unclothed. We easily spot the ones suffering from malnutrition — they have orange hair.
Finally, we arrive at a shell of a building where Dr. Emmanuel Mareus (“Dr. Manno”) treats patients left over from the latest cholera outbreak. A 10-year-old girl lays wincing and writhing in pain. She will soon die. Our memory of her will last forever. Whose idea was it to come to Haiti? Oh yeah, it was ours.
Thankfully, St. Jude’s School is next where 200 happy, lively children dressed in bright yellow uniforms standby to greet us. Today, in addition to the “magical” Reliv that keeps them thriving, they’ll get a chicken and rice meal. It takes a while to dish out 200 plates of food. Amazingly, every child waits until everyone is served and grace is said before taking one bite. These children with nothing offer smiles, appreciation and love. This is more than we could ask for.
The highlight comes the next day at the Reliv Kalogris Foundation children’s home that was built with Reliv Distributor donations. Here, 38 and counting orphans, who’d otherwise be dying in the street, are cared for 24/7. They have food, beds, clothes and clean water. And now, for the first time, they’re getting presents from Papa Noel! You’d think kids who have known hunger most of their lives would be possessive of their gifts. But they share everything, down to the lollipops. They’re beautiful! We want to bring them all back with us.
But just behind the orphanage is the most extreme case of poverty, replete with floods, garbage piles, naked starving children and “homes” unable to provide even the most minimal shelter. We go to the feeding station expecting 150 kids; 300 show up and we run out of food. We’re devastated as children hold out their hands, but we have nothing more to give. A reality check — we leave in tears.
The sustenance that Reliv provides for 11,000 Haitian kids daily is spectacular. Yet so much remains to be done. We take comfort knowing the beacon of hope grows brighter every day, thanks to the Kalogris Foundation and your generosity.