By Lisa Williams
A holiday in Haiti may not be what most 13-year-old American girls would dream of, but it was a dream come true for Margeaux Stapleton of Gilbert.
Margeaux and her family (mom and dad Allison and Scott, younger brother Jack and younger sister Kennedy) spent their Christmas week in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with Love Him Love Them, an organization based in Georgia that provides support to more than 19 orphanages in Haiti.
Leesville United Methodist Church hosted the Haiti Orphans Choir through Love Him Love Them in September, and the Stapleton family opened their home to five of the children for the weekend. After that experience, the entire family knew they had a calling to Haiti, but the Christmas trip to Haiti came about in a unique way.
Allison said, “Our oldest daughter (Margeaux) asked to forego her Christmas gifts in order to gift her Haitian brothers and sisters with what she would normally receive.”
“We were fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to not just give them gifts for Christmas but also be there with them on Christmas Day in Haiti,” Margeaux said.
As is typical when Americans visit a country like Haiti for the first time, the family members said they were all moved and enlightened by the experience.
“I think the most surprising part of Haiti is the spirit of the people,” Allison said. “The conditions of the country are something you would see in a movie, yet the people don’t even realize that their country is as depressed as it is. They wake up every morning with the attitude of working hard and making the most of their day in order to survive. They have amazing attitudes.”
Scott was particularly moved by the tireless work ethic he saw in the Haitian people.
“We would pass a guy every day coming off the mountain that was making gravel by hand using huge rocks and a hammer,” he said. “He would start with a small pile of gravel in the morning, and when we would come back in the evening, his pile would be 5 feet tall. Patience and persistence!”
During the week in Haiti, the Stapletons, along with other Americans on the trip, visited several orphanages and schools. On the first day, they visited Lifesaver orphanage (where the orphans the family met in the Haiti Orphans Choir live) and gave them all new backpacks. The second day, they visited a school of 400 children where they were able to feed the children lunch and give them gifts. On Christmas Eve, they spent the day at Lifesaver again, where Margeaux was able to give the children the gifts she had specifically requested for them. The boys got bikes, and the girls got purses and baby dolls.
Their accommodations while in country were challenging but also very beautiful, they said.
“We were surprised at the absolute beauty of the country,” Allison said. “The mountains, lush tropical plants and the views were amazing in such a tragedy-stricken environment.
“We were physically challenged with the living conditions, as well as the elevation of where we were staying on a mountain at 7,000 feet. With a more limited supply of food and water, it was a lot easier to find yourself dehydrated. The kids were troopers in adjusting.”
The scariest part about the trip to Haiti for the Stapletons was ground transportation.
“The lack of laws on the roads was quite scary for our entire family,” Allison said.
While many things encouraged the family, the Haitian children were special encouragers, particularly “their loving spirits, thirst to learn and unconditional love to strangers,” Allison said. “We felt like they were all our children.”
Rather than feeling challenged by any particular aspect of the trip, Allison said they were enlightened.
“There is so much trust and faith testing that goes into a trip to a Third World country, especially with young children. As a family, we felt as though we had a good understanding of how fortunate we are in the United States prior to our trip,” she said. “We were each touched in a different way to realize how much we take for granted in our country, as simple as going to the pantry for a snack or the tap for a drink of water. It’s the simple things that opened our eyes the most.”
Possibly the most exciting part of this experience for the Stapleton family is the future.
“We are not finished with our work in Haiti,” Allison said. “We feel the Lord has led us to a place that our family can continue to contribute and impact the people and children of an amazing country.”
By Lisa Williams