February 2014 Haiti Trip – New Orphanages!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Haiti Feb 2014Haiti Trip February 2014

This trip started with an interesting plane ride. On our way to Haiti we had a connection in Fort Lauderdale. As we were coming in to land the plan e all of a sudden took off again. After flying around for about 10 minutes the pilot told us that the flaps were not working which meant the landing would be fast and hard. He was worried about us blowing a tire and they told us how to brace for impact. Then we went down to land again and again took off. This time the pilot said we were coming in too fast and he needed to lighten the load so he went and dumped fuel. When we were coming in to land for the third time, everyone was praying. My dad, Mike Bertram lead a prayer for the plane and we miraculously landed OK! (I think God had something to do with that!) There were dozens of fire and rescue truck waiting for us on the ground which just confirmed how serious our situation was. Thank God for a safe landing! He had great plans for us on this trip!

We went to Haiti supporting one orphanage with 19 kids – we came home with three orphanages to support and 80 kids total! Here’s how.

On Monday, we went to help organize medical supplies for the TB and HIV clinic that is run by American doctors. We learned Haiti doesn’t want a TB clinic because then that means they have a TB problem (I know, great reasoning). Anyway, Dr. Coffee who runs the clinic has become a source of referrals for us as she deals with sick AIDS and TB patients. We wanted to help her out and get to know her a little better as she has taken care of our kids. That was our plan, however I think God had another plan as well. While helping organize the supplies at her base camp, we meet another American girl who was there visiting a child she supports as well as local orphanages. She told us about a couple orphanages with no constant support, not even enough for food. That was enough for us to want to visit these orphanages too.

Tuesday and Wednesday we visited these orphanages in the morning and spent time with the CHOIAIDS kids in the afternoon. The first has 35 kids, most between the ages of 5 and 12 however some older and some younger. It is a spacious area with plenty of bunk beds and a big outside courtyard to play. All the kids were all dressed in matching blue shirts or dresses with tan shorts that the wife had made. This orphanage is run by a couple with really no other help other than that of their daughter. Washing clothes and bed sheets and cooking and doing school…too much for two people to do. They were out of money for food for the month and also out of gas for their stove which left them to cook the rice they had left over the open fire causing much smoke. The kids were as all kids, so cute. They took pictures for us (seems all kids like to use electronics) and danced to the music we brought (I wish I had their moves).

The second orphanage we visited had 26 kids, 20 of them were under the age of 5. This orphanage also didn’t have any continuous support which means not enough food. Most of the kids were small, a couple 18month old little boys were the size of a small 7 month old and were not able to crawl or stand even with help because of the malnourishment. All the kids were quite, they didn’t have the typical energy of toddlers which is an effect of not having the right food. They would just sit our our laps and want to be held. It seems the couple running the orphanage were nice and loving with the kids but it is like growing up in a daycare, they don’t get all the attention they need. The couple that ran the orphanage said that they could feed the kids on $300 a month, however that is a basic diet of rice and beans and cornmeal, not proper nutrition. This orphanage really captured our hearts! We paid for food for them for the month and we also bought mattress for the beds (on many of the beds they only had blankets) along with a propane stove to make cooking easier and healthy than an indoor fire for them.

On Thursday after spending time with the kids we then went to judge the business plans of the s participants in the Personal Success and Business Planning workshop lead for three days by Jim Kackley from our team along with Pastor Renes (a local Pastor we work with and stay with while we are in Haiti. This workshop was a great success! Jim is a great teacher, he helped participants learn how to think through a business plan for themselves. This is important because going to get a job in Haiti is really hard as there are not many jobs so people have to think with an entrepreneurial mind. Pastor Renes wants to start an entrepreneurial center to help people succeed – this was the first step. Pastor Renes is planning on coming to Wisconsin this spring to work with Jim to set up curriculum for this new center. We are excited about this because it is a step to help Haiti get out of poverty and preventing some of the issues that come with poverty such as people having to take their kids to orphanages.

On Friday we celebrated Valentine’s day by taking two orphanages (the CHOAIDS orphanage and the new little orphanage) to the beach. Going to the beach is a huge deal for these kids who never get to go anywhere. It is great to see the CHOAIDS kids swimming better each year we go! The little kids were also very cute. Some of them were a little cautious and just enjoyed sitting on the edge and throwing rocks in. Some however loved going out in the water with us and would get the biggest smile on their face! For lunch we made hot dogs and smores – they loved them! Each kid probably had 2 or 3 hotdogs (we cooked 150) and a couple smores (we used 5 boxes of graham crackers and 4 bags of marshmallows)! Everyone was sleepy on the way back. Saying good bye that night was hard, especially with the CHOAIDS kids as they are older and understand more so they are all crying when we have to leave.

We come home with the kids on our hearts. We cannot see kids in such need and not help. We want to support these new orphanages too. In order to do so in the right way, we will need to raise more support as it will cost about $2000 a month to properly support them and provide the food and care they need.

Why?… Why not?


I believe we were created by God to serve others. I also believe that if we all did what we were called to do, this world won’t be in the mess it is. The problem is illustrated in Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan. The first two who passed by in the tale walked on the other side of the road and, in my interpretation, pretended not to see the problem. It is easier not to see. How many times do we, as Americans do that? We pretend the problems in this world don’t exist or at least they are not our problem. We don’t want to get close, don’t want to look at those hurting in the eye… I don’t want to do that. It is a battle I fight all the time. I don’t want to sit in my comfortable house watching my big screen TV, pretending there is no problems in the world. I want to see! I want to do whatever I can to help.

My work with CHOAIDS is not all that I do service wise, but it has made the most impact in the past year both to them and to me, my team. I have attached a picture of our first trip. I think the picture says it all… I felt total despair. I cried when we left overwhelmed by the conditions (physical and emotional) these kids (and I know many others) were living in. I had been praying for a place I/we (my team and community) could partner with so we could see the changes happen. This was it.

It is hard to even describe the changes we have seen in CHOAIDS. Since we meet them, we have moved them to a new (bigger and leaner house), improved their diet, enrolled them in a new school and, most importantly, gave them a family who loves them. These kids were abandoned, some beaten or thrown out with the trash by their families because they were sick. Providing for their needs showed them we care, not just when we are there but all the time. We went to celebrate World Aids Day with them in December 2011. The put on a program for us that included singing, dancing and poetry… all in Creole so none of us understood the words, but all of us understood them. They sang and danced with pride. They were no longer abandoned… they felt the love of a family. They had American mamas and papa’s watching them along with the Haitian staff. I don’t think there was one dry eye on our team. Some of us were crying just thinking of the huge change we saw in them, others who were on their first trip cried because we were it, we are their family.

Back to the story of the Good Samaritan… there are three things he did which I think we can all learn from. One, he saw. He choose not to walk on the other side of the road but to look at the problem, see the hurt in the eyes of the victim. Two, he physically cared for him. He touched him, carried him, spoke with him, and treated him like he mattered. Three, he paid for the man’s care when he could no longer be there. I am often asked why I don’t move to Haiti and run things there. The answer is simple. It is not what I feel called to do. If I didn’t work here, I wouldn’t be able to send money there. I think it is great for those who do leave everything here to go there (wherever there might be for them) but I also know they need money to do anything. I believe God has blessed me with a good job here so I can send money. It took money to move CHOAIDS, it takes money to feed them and provide clean water. I do however believe we are all called to do all three things the Good Samaritan did- see, touch, and give. I love taking people to see, to touch. Everyone who goes comes back changed and will give with a new sense of purpose. I love to go, to touch the kids – hug them, play with them, dance with them… and then I/we come home and pay for their care in our absence.

I was once asked why I give so much to these kids; they are not all my responsibility. Really, whose responsibility are they? Who is going to care for them if I/we don’t? The same person came on the next trip with me and by the end they understood. When you look them in the eye, how can you walk away? How can you not do what is in your power to do?

My motives in helping CHOAIDS along with everything else I do in life are simple, I want to honor God and live the way He asks me to. I plan to continue with CHOAIDS forever. To see those kids grow up and help them follow their dreams. I/we are also partnering with a couple local Haiti pastors who are serving their communities. We want to see their transformations – see people be able to care for themselves, feed their kids and provide them with education. We want to be part of the transformation in Haiti. I also run a local teen center here. I want to see them get a “Good Samaritan” vision for their life.