Wings of Hope Neighborhood Christmas Party 2016

Wings of Hope Neighborhood Christmas Party 2016

For many years the Wings of Hope residents have held a Christmas give-away for children in the neighborhood, first in Fermathe and now in Jacmel. The event consisted of designated children (a day before the event the Wings kids and staff walked around the neighborhood giving out tickets) coming to Wings and receiving a couple of cookies that the Wings kids had made and a couple of small toys. It was an outreach to the neighborhood kids from the Wings kids and we hoped it would give the neighborhood kids a positive experience with people with disabilities. This year the Wings kids and staff did something different. And it was AMAZING!

On Dec. 16, 2016, the Wings kids opened their home to 150 kids, and their parents. Again, you needed a special ticket to enter. But this was no simple cookie give-away. Instead the Wings kids and staff planned a Christmas party to top all Christmas parties. The kids and their parents started to arrive before the 10 am start time. They knew they were in for something special, as they were wearing the best clothes they had. They were greeted at the front door by Josephine, and at the entrance to the building by Vilner.

At 10 am, the staff started giving their guests tours of Wings, showing them the classrooms, bedrooms, and the living room/dining room. In each place the tour included an explanation about what the room is used for and the importance of the place being beautiful and welcoming because the Wings kids deserve the best. After the tours, the celebration started with songs, led by Gary.

Then Gephte spoke to the crowd about the Wings residents, and what it means to have a disability. He talked about people with disabilities being the same as everyone else, and that they need to be treated with dignity. At one point he hugged Teddy and told them, you can touch them, you can hug them, you can play with them, they are just like you. Then Teddy made the sign for “love” and told the crowd that the Wings kids love them. The neighborhood kids and their parents were all very accepting of these messages. It was wonderful.

Then the Wings staff and kids presented the Christmas pageant. It was INCREDIBLE! They always add something new each year. This year it was Reginald acting out the part of the star that the kings follow to Bethlehem. Of course, it also included the slaughter of the innocents and the death of Herod. The crowd loved it. There were lots of cheers. After that there were a few games while the Wings staff set up the gift table.

There was a huge selection of gifts – most of which came from the kids and staff. The Wings kids gave up some of their own toys and the staff pooled their money to buy toys for the neighborhood kids. It was so incredible to see. The Wings kids happily helped hand out presents and never asked for anything for themselves.

After they got their toys, the neighborhood kids then went to the dining room where they each got at bag of popcorn, a bag of Cheecos, a sandwich, crackers and candy. There were also coolers of Kool-Aid for people to drink with their lunch. The Wings kids were great hosts; they even picked up all the trash after the event was over – without being asked!

It was an incredibly amazing CELEBRATION A profound experience of community, acceptance, generosity, and love. The Wings kids and the Wings staff made so many people happy and I’m sure changed the way that people with handicaps are perceived. It was a perfect way to celebrate the season of love and light.

More photos available on the St. Joseph Family facebook page!

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2016 Wings of Hope Christmas Tree Decorating

2016 Wings of Hope Christmas Tree Decorating

The Wings of Hope family has kicked off the Christmas season with their annual tree decorating ceremony. There were reflections on what the Christmas tree symbolizes, singing of Christmas carols, and the decorating the Christmas tree. It’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas!

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Update on Jonas!

Update on Jonas!

In November we posted about a new member of the Wings of Hope family, Jonas. Shortly after we introduced Jonas it because clear that there was more to his story then we knew. His mother and father had two boys, Jonas and his brother. The mother apparently didn’t want to care for a child with special needs and abandoned him at the Missionaries of Charity home in Jacmel, then left town with her other son. Jonas’ father, however, very much wanted his son. He searched for days at all the orphanages looking for him. Finally he went to the authorities to file a missing child report. They knew about the little boy who had been abandoned and came to Wings to pick Jonas up and return him to his father. All of this happened on Thanksgiving Day in the US, which became a Homecoming Day for little Jonas. We are sure his father is glad to have him home, given all he did to find him. We are thankful for the short time that Jonas was in our lives and we wish him and his father well on their journey together.

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Delome – Small in Size, Big in Spirit

Delome – Small in Size, Big in Spirit

One of life’s greatest rewards for anyone who has spent time at Wings of Hope was to make Delome smile. His elusive smile was hard-earned, but when granted, it lit up the world. He was small in size, but he had a mighty heart and a powerful spirit.

Unfortunately for the world, on August 22. 2016, that smile faded away. Delome passed away that morning. He had been sick for several weeks. Despite medical care and the best efforts of the staff, his little body just had enough. The prayers that had been lifted by hundreds for his healing led not to his earthly healing, but allowed him to escape the pain and suffering on earth to become whole and happy in heaven.

Delome became a member of the Wings of Hope family in 2001. The staff didn’t know much about him, including his age. From his size and look they guessed he was about a year old. Over the years, Delome grew older, but didn’t grow much bigger. By the time he passed away, he was at least 16-years-old, but was the size of a typical-developing 18-month-old. He also suffered from other physical and mental challenges — mental retardation, physical disabilities, developmental delay, and vision and hearing difficulties. He was non-verbal, but expressed his feelings by grunting, making noises and crying.

Delome loved the sunshine and to sit in the sun. He loved to dance and play, and he loved to swing. Delome also loved the annual Wings of Hope beach trips. He became so relaxed as he drifted in the waves that he often fell asleep as he floated. Because of his size, Delome was often chosen to play Jesus in the annual nativity play that the Wings of Hope family puts on.

photo of delome as baby jesus in christmas pageant
What Delome loved the most was the one-on-one attention he received from his care-givers, visitors, and his fellow Wings family members. Delome loved to be held. Because of his size, people were drawn to him and to pick him up and cuddle with him. There are multitudes of visitors who have their own pictures of them holding Delome. Many have said his quiet presence deeply impacted their lives. Delome often rewarded this special attention with one of his elusive but award-winning smiles. For times when he was especially happy that smile was combined with a deep belly laugh.

photo of kc holding delome
While we will miss Delome’s smile and presence in our lives, we know he now joins the legion of Wings of Hope angels that watch over their brothers and sisters on earth.

photo collage of delome

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Exercise Fun!

Exercise Fun!

One of the women in our group brought a large aerobics / games mat with her to Wings of Hope, and it was put to use immediately! The idea is for each player to take a turn rolling two big foam dice. The number on the dice corresponds to a “station” on that mat, such as: push-ups, sit-ups, raising your arms or legs, etc.

Emmanuel, the teacher doing physical therapy, made it a point to include every child, regardless of their physical limitations. His patience and enthusiasm made this class not only beneficial for their health but so much fun.

Wheelchair, verbal or not, every child was able to participate and they loved it!

— Kim

Frank Ely doing situps

Josephine does situps

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Esther’s Smile

Esther’s Smile

Esther had the biggest and most enthusiastic smile you have ever seen. Her mouth wide open, the gap in her top teeth front-and-center, light shining from her eyes. She exuded pure joy from every pore. While she could not talk and her ability to move was severely limited, with her expressive face, captivating eyes, and especially that bright smile, Esther was able to connect with everyone she came in contact with.

13975281_10154459201376967_2893351396402283407_oThe world at Wings of Hope is a little less bright now because on August 11, 2016, we lost Esther, her joy and her bright smile. After 22 years of being such an important part of the Wings of Hope family, Esther went to her heavenly home. She had not been sick and her passing was unexpected. She simply just did not wake up that morning. She passed peacefully in her sleep.

Esther was an original member of the Wings of Hope family. She was part of the group at the orphanage that was taken over by the St. Joseph Family in 1994, which eventually became Wings of Hope. We never knew her history, or her exact age. The staff at Wings of Hope guessed she was about 8-years-old when Wings of Hope started, but she could have been older. Esther had decreased mental abilities. She also was severely physically disabled. She used a wheelchair because of deformities in her legs and feet, and had limited use of her arms and hands. She was unable to speak, but made noises to communicate. Esther also had some difficulties eating, so anyone who fed her had to have a lot of patience; but that patience was rewarded at every meal with extra time with Esther as she was fed each meal every day at Wings of Hope.

Despite her physical and mental limitations, Esther was a very happy person. She thrived on attention. Esther loved to laugh. and when she really got going she had a loud snort-laugh. She loved to be
13958174_10154459203391967_7558630163940832752_oinvolved in all the activities and life at Wings of Hope. She loved the Wings beach trips. One of the people who had been her beach trip partner on one trip shared the memory of her laughing so much as she floated in the ocean one hear that she repeatedly lost her breath. The weekly Wings water fights this summer quickly became one of her favorite activities. She loved being sprayed with water and playing and splashing with all the other kids and the staff and visitors. Her favorite toys were dolls and stuffed animals. She would cradle them in her arm, hugging them against her body with much joy.

While the Wings of Hope family is saddened and heart-broken with Esther‘s passing, we rejoice in the belief that Esther is now in a place that matches her unending joy. She is whole and laughing, swimming, and dancing, as she watches over her Wings of Hope family.

photo collage of Esther

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New teachers at Wings!

New teachers at Wings!

The move to Jacmel has been such a long wait, and such a beautiful ending! Moving the facility to a location hours away meant having to leave some of the staff behind, but now there are many, many new teachers for the Wings of Hope students! These teachers are clearly excited and very eager to learn how to better serve their students with such a variety of mental and physical exceptionalities. Having received training from visiting teacher groups, they’re armed with a plethora of new information and pounds and pounds of school supplies! Seeing how deeply the new teachers already care is a wonderful testament to the community that the Wings of Hope residents have created for themselves.

— Kim

photo of new staff at wings

new wings staff

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Ice, ice, baby

Ice, ice, baby

Staying cool during the hot summer days in Haiti can be a challenge, but not at Wings of Hope! Throughout the summer, visitors have been bringing various water toys and implements, for use in the (now tradition!) Wings water fights.

Hearts with Haiti board member, Julie Wade, was no exception. For her trip, she brought along an inflatable POOL! Now, anyone who has been to Haiti knows that water is collected from the rain in big cisterns… that sit in the hot sun all day long. So, the water isn’t exactly cold. That’s great if you’re taking a shower, but if the point is to cool off… not so refreshing.

Not to worry! Julie and the Wings Family know how to degage! Julie purchased a bag of ice, and voila! the water was, well… less warm.

The pool (and the ice) were a wonderful gift to all who have enjoyed these blessings! Thank you, Julie!

Photo collage of the inflatable pool at Wings

Photo credits: Renee Dietrich, Copyright 2016

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Welcome home, Sarafina!

Welcome home, Sarafina!

Sarafina has attended classes as a day student at Wings of Hope for several years. She lived in an orphanage near Wings of Hope when Wings was in Fermathe. That orphanage did not have any programs for kids with disabilities and Sarafina flourished with the opportunities she received at Wings of Hope. When Wings moved to Jacmel the other orphanage recognized that Sarafina would have many more opportunities living at Wings of Hope, so they transferred her to Wings.

Sarafina is now a full-time member of the Wings of Hope family. Sarafina has a physical disability and uses a wheelchair, she also has a speech problem and cannot speak clearly. Sarafina is a sweet girl who loves to laugh. She loves to pray and often leads prayers at Wings; even though her prayers can’t be understood by others, we know God speaks her language.

Welcome home, Sarafina! We are blessed to have you in our family!

Photo credit: Renee Dietrich, Copyright 2016 

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Wings is COOL!

Wings is COOL!

How do you stay cool when daytime temperatures soar into the 90’s and electricity, much less air conditioning, is a rare treat? Head to Wings of Hope! The Wings staff, visitors, and residents have created a new summer tradition … water fights!

Visitors each week bring their own supply – and their own flair. Whether it’s water balloons, water guns, super soakers, or an inflatable pool, each group has brought and shared their own style of play with the Wings family.

Check out some of the photos below… and be sure to stay posted by “liking” the SJF and Hearts with Haiti facebook pages!

Collage of photos from water fights at wings

Photo credits: Renee Dietrich, Copyright 2016

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