PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – I’m standing in the sink. Spring. Where the sink should go one day.
“We have to lay drainage pipes,” says the builder.
“Uh-huh,” I say.
I move a few meters further. I’m in the fridge now. Spring. Where the fridge should go one day.
“We have to feed in 220 volts,” says the man.
“Uh-huh,” I reply.
I slide over and stand in the oven. One more step and I’m in the propane burners. A few more inches and I’m in the freezer.
There is no bottom yet. Orange dirt soils my sneakers. There is only one wall and half of another. I step into a corner between chunks of concrete and metal rebar.
“What goes here?” I say.
“Mop up the sink,” says the man.
“Uh-huh,” I say.
I am building a kitchen. For 100 people. I have no idea how it’s done, but it has to be done. We have 60 orphans and 40 employees in a country so torn by poverty, corruption and gang violence that nobody goes outside anymore. It’s gotten so dangerous that earlier this year we uprooted everyone from where we’d been for years and moved up the hillside to a safer facility.
MITCH ALBOM:Unfortunately, the horrors of Haiti today are very believable
And now it’s Thanksgiving week when the kitchens take center stage.
So I stand in the sink and ask for help.
Can you even imagine that?
Some of you already know my story when I founded Have Faith Haiti Mission & Orphanage in 2010 after the devastating earthquake that killed nearly 3% of Haiti’s population. I come here every month. Our incredible children are among the greatest joys of my life – and of many who visit, work or volunteer with us.
As I write this, I can hear the children singing outside the window. They march up and down a path. Their spirit, curiosity, faith and endless gratitude – while living in the poorest country in the western hemisphere – amazes me every day.
But food is always an issue in Haiti. A recent report showed that almost half the population does not have enough to eat. half the population?
Could you imagine that every other person in America would go hungry? I can not. Because I didn’t grow up in such bad conditions. But I see these conditions here every day. bony bodies. Emaciated children. We recently took in a baby who we were told had nothing to eat but sugar water for the first six months of her life. She was barely alive.
Even our longtime kids, who are fed three times a day, often attack the food when it is given. They brush it off and are always ready for more. Once you’ve been hungry, you never stop wondering if the food will run out. It’s a terrible shade for a child.
So a kitchen here isn’t just a necessity, it’s a symbol of hope. The fact that you might have enough food to use a kitchen sends an important message: we’re going to eat today.
Here’s how you can help
I think back to the kitchens of my Thanksgivings. The further back I go, the smaller they got. Our dining table was in the kitchen of my parents’ house, you could pull out your chair and turn on the stove.
When we moved, my parents set up a dining room, so we didn’t eat right next to the stove. Later, when I bought my own house, I saw my dream of an “open” kitchen where everyone could talk, cook and eat at the same time. This blessed facility will be the setting for the 30th consecutive Thanksgiving we will be celebrating in this home this week.
So my blessings are abundant. But others are not. And I believe in a simple obligation: those who have must try to take care of those who don’t have.
So we started a campaign called ‘A Year of Thanksgiving and Giving’ at our orphanage to try to turn our new facility into a home. Each month we focus on a different need. In November it’s the kitchen, because November is the month of the kitchen. I would love it if one day our kids could create their own Thanksgiving amidst what is now a mound of dirt, pipes and cinder blocks.
If you would like to help us, you can do so at havefaithhaiti.org or send donations to Have Faith Haiti Orphanage, c/o ASOP, 29836 Telegraph Road, Southfield, Michigan, 48034.
I’m standing in the mop sink, but one day we’re going to empty mops there. I’m in the freezer, but one day there will be food in it.
I stand at the crossroads of hunger and childhood and see no alternative but to bridge the gap between them with a kitchen. In a week when our own kitchens are bursting with abundance, how can we not?
Contact Mitch Albom: [email protected] Catch up on the latest updates on his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchhalbom.