Echo Zielinski is one of our amazing trip leaders with a special place in her heart for Haiti. Echo began traveling to Haiti with God’s encouragement, and now is a member on the MamaBaby Haiti volunteer board in the United States. MamaBaby Haiti is an organization of midwives and volunteers whose mission to create a safe place for Haitian women to receive free maternity care. Echo plans on writing several more entries for this blog, so follow along with her and learn more about her experience and this fantastic organization!
It’s been two weeks since I have returned from my latest trip to Cap Haitian, Haiti. Each and every time I get the opportunity to encounter its beauty and am able to love on its people, I am left completely changed.
In case you do not already know, Haiti is about an hour and a half flight south of Florida in the heart of the Caribbean. It sounds like a dream to visit (um, the Caribbean!) but in reality, there is a visible contrast that hits you as hard as the humidity. The stunning terrain and palm trees that are surrounded by beautiful warm water is also home to the poorest people in the western hemisphere; a level of poverty that most of us could not even imagine! As you ride into town, your senses are overwhelmed by the number of people in the streets, the smells of cooking food, and the amount of trash that has inevitably taken a huge toll on the country.
However, with just one look into the dark eyes of the Haitians, you quickly recognize the human connection and that these people are just like you and me. Men who want to care for their families, women who want to love their children and provide a better life than what they had, and kids who want to stimulate their minds and bodies with toys and play. Much looks different than the lives Americans live, but when you strip it down to the bones, you will see that the Haitians are strong, bold, courageous people who desire the same comfort and stabilities as you and as me.
If you drive a little further into the country, you will find the oasis that is MamaBaby Haiti. MBH was founded by a group of midwives in 2010 after an earthquake devastated parts of the country. They quickly saw that women and babies were dying too often, and not because of illness or sanitation, but simply due to the fact that they did not have a safe and compassionate place to receive prenatal care and give birth. Normal pregnancies were ending gravely after women chose to stay home because of the costs and travel associated with trips to the hospital. Where there is severe poverty, mothers sometimes have to choose between food for their family or having a skilled attendant at their birth. MamaBaby Haiti believes this is not okay, and it is their core belief that no woman or child should ever die because of where they live.
The founders opened a free clinic to provide complete care to every woman and baby that walked through its doors. They were determined to save lives, one mama and one baby at a time.
I became involved with MamaBaby Haiti after I felt the Lord simply said GO. Since the only way to make change in this world is by God’s people saying yes, I did not overanalyze this charge, but merely started making the arrangements and trusting His provisions. What I found when I got to Haiti has changed my life forever.
I saw people I needed to fight for, situations that needed to be illuminated, and my own boldness that I needed to tap into. When I hopped on a plane to head home, I knew that my work had just begun! If there is one thing I am sure of in this life, it is that God does not invite us into these opportunities to make us feel good or to receive a pat on our backs. He invites us because we are literally his hands and feet and he has us here on this earth for far more than our own comforts and joys; we are here to love his people, hear their cries, meet their needs, and most of all, when they are no longer in your sight, to commit to relationships and return to complete the work being done.
I am now on the board of MamaBaby Haiti and every day we are making strides toward thriving Haitian families. Four Haitian midwives run the organization with the help of eight Haitian support staff members, and a six person volunteer board in the States. We have big dreams for the future, full of healthy mamas and babies, micro-businesses for our families, sustainable gardening and farming, and of opening a midwifery school to train more Haitians to care for their own.
This is just a glimpse into what is happening at MamaBaby and in Haiti as a whole. Follow along as I share stories of Haiti’s resilient people, opportunities to get involved and ultimately the victories that will come if we are willing to step out of our comfort zones; victories our God is always willing to provide.