JOURNEYS

So Hungry, So Thirsty

Ryan Horn, of Food for the Hungry, recounts seeing hunger and thirst up close in Haiti

A young girl that this journey author, Ryan Horn, interacted with at an internally displaced person (IDP) camp during his time in Haiti with Food for the Hungry. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians have moved to IDP camps after the earthquake. © Ryan Horn 2010

Ryan Horn, this journey post's author, stands amidst the rubble in Haiti. ©  

A young couple stands where their home used to be. Now, there is nothing. The earthquake in Haiti has left more than a million homeless. © Ryan Horn 2010

I will never forget the horror of Haiti, to see a people and their living conditions so destroyed, to see so much hunger on such a widespread level. Yet, I saw hope just the same, a hope in the Lord. It was evident when I saw children playing in the streets and a wedding ceremony concluding on a curb side; the bride and groom were gleaming with their smiles in the heart of downtown Port-Au-Prince that lay in rubble.

Feeding the hungry is what the organization I am a part of specializes in. We’ve brought nutrients to needy villages around the globe. And while we’ve met deep need in those places, and continue to do so, the experience in Haiti seemed to surpass other conditions…simply because the quake took out so many vital resources and shattered so many forms of sustenance that were already weak to begin with.

I came in early February to Haiti with president of Food for the Hungry, Benjamin Homan, and a group of Pastors whose churches partner with us. We wanted to get a feel for where the need was, to meet with our staff that is planted there, and to make new partners who might be able to carry the work as Haiti rebuilds.

Food for the Hungry has been involved several different distributions of food, water, and water filtration systems to areas in need, particularly in the communities of Siloe and Bellevue la Montagna. I was involved in assembling water filtration systems. We connected the filtration systems to 600 water collection containers—each one having the capability to hold 5 gallons—and gave those out to those in need. The filtration systems are very important to the people and their health, as the filtration systems are able to take out 20 different types of potential diseases and bacteria.

I also was able to participate in an FH/USAID supply distribution, in where we were able to hand out hundreds of tarps, rope, containers and other tangible supplies. It was uplifting to see people without anything to at least get supplies to put a temporary roof over their heads.

Even as we saw so many positive things happening, I still knew that there were a lot who hungered and needed water. While we were traveling on the one of the mornings there, we got stuck in traffic and suddenly there was a large rag moving in a circular motion wiping the dust around in an attempt to clean the window. When the rag was removed, I saw the little boy who was holding it. He couldn't have been more that 8 or 9 years of age. I didn't see him standing there with any family or any friends. We rolled down our windows, and I was expecting him to ask for some money. He was speaking Creole faintly, in which none of us in our vehicle could understand. Then, all of a sudden he started touching his lips and whispering the word 'aqua'. This little boy wasn't worried about money, but only was needing water. My heart broke instantly. We handed him a bottle of water, in which he snagged it and ran off. This little boy was doing nothing but surviving for the day. Tears streamed down my face. I knew that God had placed us there for a moment in time to meet that little boy's need for water.

Food the Hungry continues to work in these places, to ensure clean water is made available, as well as provide the staffing and equipment for a number of medical facilities in a variety of cities. I was able to visit these medical clinics during my time there and while it was hard to taken in the pain of people there—many whom had to have amputations due to limbs crushed in the earthquake—I knew God was at work providing healing. Much of the initial needs have now been met, but still the threat of diseases and the recovery of those that were injured create a great need on medical professionals.

In the midst of all of the destruction, all of the pain of the hurting people, all of the suffering -- I really felt the peace of God in a lot of the Haitian people I encountered. I experienced a lot more Haitian people smiling than tears from their eyes.

The faith of the Haitian people amazed me. I heard Haitians praying out and singing out loud to the Lord. On Sunday morning, I saw a congregation of probably 75 people having church in the street. God was absolutely there with His children in Haiti.

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Food for the Hungry began in 1971 and currently is working in 26 developing nations. In Haiti Food the Hungry, is focused on food distribution, shelter distribution, creating “child-friendly spaces,” and working closely with pastors there to enrich their church body.

Ryan Horn works in the creative services department of Food for the Hungry and can be reached at rhorn@fh.org.