We landed and were greeted by Mackson (Max), an old friend, our interpreter for the trip, and a kid (now a young man), formerly supported by rice bowls. We gathered our bags, headed to the truck, and then proceeded to the hotel. After arriving at our hotel we unpacked our bags in preparation for the week and headed out to the pool.
Rice bowls works in seven countries around the world and when we take trips to visit homes and gather content it is rare that we enjoy the amenities of a pool or warm showers. In fact, sometimes we don’t have a proper bed, but this somewhat more relaxed trip was the perfect recipe for a trip that would reveal two truths that I already knew but had not truly grasped
We sat by the pool for about an hour until Marie Victoire, Roger, and Roberde arrived. These three grew up in the same home as Max and were fed by Rice Bowls during their years at Mercy Village Children’s Home. We made our way to a poolside table where we ordered drinks and some small appetizers to share. The four interacted in a way only siblings would. Though born to different parents, their circumstances brought them together to become family - a support system for each other. We sat out under the stars as the warm Haitian breezed rustled the palms and we caught up on all that had gone on since our last visit. Brother John, asks each of them about their studies, their jobs, their dreams, and of course, their love lives.
John Ramantanin is Rice Bowl’s Director of Operations, but much more importantly a father figure to many kids around the world. For Max, Marie, Roberde, and Rojere, this is the case and he shares a special bond with each of them. In fact, John first met them through letters in 2005 and finally, in person in 2010 just after the earthquake. To these four, they know him as “Brother John” . John’s job at Rice Bowls includes many things, but for him, the most important thing he does every week is checking in with kids like these that he has deeply invest in.
The evening seemed to slip away quicker than most as we laughed and talked on many subjects. Getting to stay at this hotel for Max, Marie, Roger, and Roberde was a special treat and that made the trip all the more fun and more importantly allowed us to get to know them better. On this first night I realized the first of the two truths. That is, the kids that Rice Bowls is supporting, are just like you and I. It is easy to just say we are giving to kids in need, but forget that they are just the same as us in many ways - they have dreams and desires, they have painful memories and good ones too, they laugh, they cry, grow up, they find jobs, they fall in love. This truth seems obvious, but it is easy to forget.
Max is 23 years old and training to become a dentist. He is passionate about art, sports, and serving others. He works for Blessing the Children Home and is the child liaison with Rice Bowls.
Marie is 24 years old, an administration student pursuing a career in social work so she can help others like herself. She is full of passion and wit. She works as a translator for several mission organizations, including Rice Bowls & Restavek Freedom.
Roger is 18 years old and finishing high school. He is adventurous and slightly mischievous. He is currently investing time with a boy name Osnel at Blessing the Children Home and works part-time on the weekends as a moto-taxi driver.
Roberde is 25 years old and has a very kind and gentle spirit. He works as a tutor for kids at a children's home near his house and is pursuing a career in electromechanical work.
We woke up, ate breakfast, sat around drinking coffee, and then headed out to spend a full day at Blessing the Children, one of the orphanages that Rice Bowls works with in Haiti. Blessing the Children Home is an especially significant story to Rice Bowls as the home was brought on as a partner home only after Max began working at Blessing the Children and noticed a need for food in the home. Because Max grew up eating nutritious meals provided by Rice Bowls, he knew something wasn’t right and he was able to help advocate for this home and eventually bringing Rice Bowls on as a partner of the home. I spent the day watching Max take care of these kids, playing with them, cleaning up after them, and doing lots of things around the home. Max is in dental school and is an artist, but he makes time every week to spend time with these kids. Why? Because he knows that if someone hadn’t done the same for him, he would not be where he is today. Max has dreams outside of working at this home, but he knows that no matter what he does, he will always find a way to impact his country in a positive way.
We wound through a neighborhood that was nicer than most in Haiti and finally arrived at a beautiful home that was full of life: Flowers, trees, and welcoming faces. They were at first shy faces, but before long, warm faces. We had arrived at Restavek Freedom - a home for girls rescued from child slavery. A restavek is a child slaves in Haiti and is a very common practice in the country. Marie Victoire was also a restavek as a young girl and shares a deep connection with the girls at Restavek Freedom. She often visits these girls to spend time with them, encourage them, and mentor them. She does this, because she enjoys it, but also, because she knows first hand the importance of someone being there for these girls. That evening, we shared an incredible Haitian meal, played games, danced, sang, and before we knew it, the sun was setting and it was time for us to leave.
We arrived back to the hotel and John stopped the group of us. He recalled all the fun we had with the kids over the past days, but more importantly how important our presence in these kids lives is. He explained how the Restavek Freedom girls rely on Marie to spend time with them, Blessing The Children relies on Max to help out around the house, how Roberde tutors kids in the community and those kids rely on him. He then challenged Roger, the youngest of the four, to find a way to serve the needy - to serve his country as he has been served. It was in this moment, that I realized the second truth. I realized, Max, Marie, Roberde, and Rojere were living the future we always talk about - we always hope for. This is why we sell candles that feed. This is why you buy those candles. Yes to feed hungry kids, but more importantly, so that they can flourish and grow into future leaders. We were amongst not kids that Rice Bowls supports. That chapter of their lives had closed. Now they are leaders impacting the next generation of kids.
Max, Marie, Roger, and Roberde, are some of the first adults that Rice Bowls has formerly supported. Today they are working along side Rice Bowls in their own way, making an impact on the country of Haiti. Every time you buy a Bridgewater candle, you are helping invest in the future of a child much like one of these four.