Twelve years ago, after seeing a Haitian boy being beaten at the Dominican border for taking food out of a garbage can, our friend Danita Estrella left the comfort of a privileged life in the U.S. to move to Ouanaminthe, Haiti. She didn’t speak Creole. She had no money and no wealthy connections. But she knew that a child shouldn’t have to dig around in a garbage can for food.
She rented a small place and began taking in kids off the street. For the first two years they had no electricity and no running water. Sometimes they barely had enough food. But she stayed determined, and committed to her vision of bringing hope to that ugly and awful place.
A couple of nights ago Cherie and I had the great privilege of being with Danita on her birthday. That evening the older children in the orphanage gathered to wish her a happy birthday. After the traditional happy birthday song, some of the children stood up and told Danita what she has meant to them in their lives. I can honestly say it was one of the powerful and emotional things I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Cherie and I were both a little embarrassed to be there, as it seemed as if we were intruding on a private family meeting between a mother and her children. Many of the children spoke. Some told of having been taken in off the streets and loved for the first time in their lives. Some told of how they had been hopeless and hungry. Some told of how they had never known of God or his love for them. Some had been with Danita for all twelve years. One teenage girl who spoke lost an arm in the earthquake and has been at Danita’s less than a year. All the kids who spoke, no matter their story or how long they had been with Danita, told her how much they loved her and her much Danita’s love meant to them. It was a truly incredible experience.
Twelve years ago Danita had nothing but a dream and determination. Today under her leadership Danita’s Children feeds and educates hundreds of Haitian children every day. The orphanage is the full time home for almost 100 children. Her church is filled with people from the surrounding community every Sunday. A modern children’s hospital is under construction and will be completed soon, offering a chance for quality health care for Haitian children who do not have that chance now. That she has been able to achieve so much in a place where it is so difficult to achieve anything, and to do it without debt and without compromising her vision or integrity, is an awesome testimony to God’s favor on her work.
What an amazing two days we just spent with our friends at Danita’s Children and at the Lambs of God orphanage. As before, we come away inspired and in awe. There is so much to tell and I’m so inadequate to do it.