Two years ago I had the chance to go on a mission trip to
Port-au-Prince, Haiti for just under two weeks with a church-based nonprofit called Christ in Youth (Joplin, MO). I remember as if it was yesterday the emotions that were arising the night before we got on a plane to Haiti; anxious, overwhelmed and second guessing if I could actually do this. But my now good friends provided that support needed in the moment and reminded me that God’s got this. The next morning we were on a plane by 5am flying over the ocean where we finally arrived on Haitian soil. Arriving in Haiti was a very surreal moment---nervous to start this journey but extremely excited to meet those that we would serve alongside.
While in Haiti we did VBS (vacation bible school) at multiple villages throughout the mountains of Haiti. Many we drove right up to the village in our van or tap-tap but another we endured an hour hike up the mountain. The moment we walked into the community area we would be hosting VBS each of us were immediately being loved on by the sweet, sweet kids who wanted nothing more than a hug or to be able to sit on your lap.
One village that we went to left me truly in tears and wanting to do something more. Before we arrived at this location one of our translators informed us that it is very likely that we would witness extreme malnourishment, but as much as he told us about it nothing actually prepared us for the moment we saw it with our own eyes. Something I quickly noticed after arriving was that some kids had a red tint in their hair. Being someone who was majoring in Elementary Education, I had the awareness that the red tint meant that it was at least a couple days since that sweet child had any food. To say my heart broke would be an understatement. That afternoon we provided the kids and as many adults as we could with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was leftover from our lunch. I assisted with distributing the food to them which was a moment that left a lasting impact on my life. The look on the kids faces as they eagerly waited for it to be their turn and the fear that was present that we wouldn’t have enough for each of them. Thankfully we had enough food that day for them all. The moment we got into the van following this village my heart was heavy. My heart was wanting to do so much more than I was able to do just then, but at that moment I wasn’t sure what it would be.
That same night it was laid on my heart to start an international nutrition program to help families in the mountains of Haiti. Being 21 at the time, I had no idea what that would look like but the mission to come up with something became a high priority. Starting in August of 2017 the idea of a nutrition program became more than just a thought, but plans started to be mapped out to make it a reality for those families. A good friend of mine from the trip and I spent time talking through the idea of a nutrition program, and together we planned out some basis logistics. From there, I reached out to the nonprofit that Christ in Youth was partnered with for the trip to see if they would be interested in the idea of launching a program with them. Luke 101 (Conyers, GA) absolutely loved the idea. Fast-forward to July of 2019… Backpack Haiti. The idea that was planted after visiting the village two years before became a reality. On July 5, 2019 Backpack Haiti was officially launched to raise funds and find sponsors for families in the mountains of Haiti.
Backpack Haiti is a sponsorship program that helps provide nutritional needs to families in Trianon, Haiti. We have partnered with Luke 101, a ministry out of Georgia, and CHAMPS, a medical team that works in Haiti. CHAMPS examines the needs of their patients, and relays that information to Backpack Haiti to know where we need to provide supplemental food (mana packs) for families in need. The mana packs are purchased from Meds & Foods for Kids which is based out of Cap Haitian, Haiti. Each mana pack contains a mixture of vitamins and minerals that are often lacking in the food intake of these families. As the families are receiving food from the clinic, the doctors also track their weight, among other vitals, and relaying all information to Backpack Haiti after each clinic.
Never would I have imagined that at 23 I would be the Founder/Director of a branch of a nonprofit, but I can truly say I wouldn’t want it any other way.
For additional information on Backpack Haiti and how you can join our team to break the pattern of malnourishment in the mountains of Haiti, please go to www.backpackhaiti.com or reach out to myself (Kelsi) directly at email@example.com.