On Tuesday, June 14th, we planned to attend the official inauguration of the village in the morning and meet with the remaining 15 families in the afternoon. I knew it would be a full day, but, other than that, I didn’t have any particular expectations for how the day would run. That said, if I had had expectations, I think they would have paled compared to what we actually experienced. It blew my mind!
|Our bicycle escort on inauguration day.|
As we neared the village, our driver slowed down and rolled down the windows. We were confused. It was hot AND humid. We were running air-conditioning. Why deal with the heat and humidity before we had to? So—at our insistence—the windows went back up. Well…they went back up—until we saw what the fuss was about. In front of us, we were being escorted the rest of the way to the village by a group of about ten teens on bicycles. “That’s sweet,” I said as I watched them ride ahead of our vehicle, not thinking anything more of it.
|We received a very warm welcome!|
|I was overwhelmed and had to wipe tears from my eyes. Behind me, Ally and Tricia receive their bear hugs.|
|Check out their creative use of empty soda bottles to decorate the parade route!|
Then, as we reached the edge of the village, we began seeing people lined along the road, cheering as we drove by. After the driver stopped and we got out, a large crowd of jubilant Haitians quickly surrounded us. Someone put straw hats on our heads. A woman approached me and gave me a bear hug that lifted me off the ground. People yelled out chants, thanking us for our help.
I got a little emotional when I first saw the crowd. I think that's when everything started to sink in. I didn't expect that type of welcome. To me, what I'm doing isn't that big of a deal. To them, it is everything. And they wanted to make sure we knew it.
Sometime between our departure Monday evening and our arrival Tuesday morning, members of the community decorated the road that led to the center of the village. They had planned a parade—complete with a band! We marched with the crowd to the inauguration ceremony with people waiving sprigs of tree branches and shouting out cheers.
I wish you could have been there to experience it firsthand. If you have supported the Village of Joy, they were cheering for you! They appreciate the help you provided, and they want you to know it. On their behalf, I say, “THANK YOU!” In the days and weeks to come, I will tell their stories in the hopes that I can adequately convey the extent of the impact you are having in their lives.