In late February 2017, the Ozinga executive team experienced the Ozinga values of service and learning by spending four days in Haiti. The majority of the experience was spent in the area of Jeremie, a city that was devastated by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. The aftermath of Hurricane Matthew destroyed 80% of the city, and most of the 40,000 residents were left homeless, as well as isolated from the rest of country by washed out roads.
The Ozinga team spent most of the trip assisting with hurricane relief, in partnership with El Shaddai Ministries International (ESMI), an indigenous Christian organization involved in meeting the physical, medical, educational, and spiritual needs of the Haitian people. El Shaddai is headquartered in Jeremie, where they sustained major damage to their orphanage, school, church, medical clinic, and water purification facility. In addition, every major building at the University of Jeremie, which was started a few years ago by ESMI, was uninhabitable for at least a month. (To get a sense of the damage, check out this video.)
The Ozinga team served at the Lundi Children’s home, which houses 133 orphans. We don’t know the story of each of the 133 children at the orphanage, but we know that many of them lost their parents suddenly in the 2010 earthquake, which killed more than 250,000 people in Haiti. Some of them watched their parents die a slow, painful death from cholera. Others were abandoned by a parent who simply couldn’t find a way to support their child. Recently, more than two dozen children were orphaned when a mudslide buried a wedding party.
Although Hurricane Matthew devastated their home, they were excited to see it rebuilt. Ozinga spent time painting their dining hall. (In the interest of full disclosure, we started to paint their dining hall, but the children wanted to join in the fun and grabbed the brushes. Several of the orphans ended up as “painted” as the walls, but we did finish the first coat of paint.)
We also worked on the medical clinic, which had lost its metal roof in the hurricane. It’s been replaced by a new concrete one. We shoveled out rubble and dug through it for needles, syringes, and medical waste—all on the edge of the children’s playground.
Most importantly, though, we played with children. We fixed their broken swing. We took their pictures with our phones and showed them their glowing faces. We became human jungle gyms as we carried them, spun them, talked with them, and hugged them. We loved them as every child deserves to be loved. We treated them, at least for a few hours, as precious treasures—as the crown of God’s creation.
During the trip, we also visited TopLine Materials, Haiti's premier provider of concrete block, aggregates, and ready mix concrete. Matthew Flippen, the founder and President of TopLine, shared the incredible story of this company, which is providing jobs, materials, and inspiration for the people of Haiti.
Take some time to enjoy the video of our executive team discussing the impression the trip to Haiti left on all their hearts.
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