Today was a very hard day for me emotionally. After some time on the roof as a group on Monday morning most of the team began painting the orphanage. When we were there in May we painted the girls rooms and the Gaspard's room, so the goal of this trip was to paint the outside of the orphanage, the front porch and the dining room. The rest of the women worked all morning diving up shoes and organizing care packages. One of the things I wanted to do on this trip was to visit Odette and the other girl's school rooms. We had a chance to go in each of the rooms during the school day. Here is a picture of Odette in her classroom. From what we understand, Odette just started school last February when she came to the orphanage. This is the youngest level in the school and has the most wide age-range of kids from 3 year olds and up. As we walked through the school Eddy was picking out the kids whose shoes were in the worst shape & sent them to the church for a new pair of shoes. This was not something we were completely prepared for so not everyone got a new pair of shoes. For the May trip we are taking a new pair of tennis shoes for each of the 330 school children (if you are interested wanting to know how you can help you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
We had lunch on the roof that day and as we were finishing one of the girls yelled at Odette and she went running to the edge of the roof. I looked over and recognized her mom from Andy's pictures of her. I knew we would be walking to their house later so I brought the picture album with me to give to her family. I grabbed that & my camera and nervously made my way over. She said "Mama Odette" & gave me a big hug. I was very thankful at that moment that I had the photo album with me because it gave us something to look at & "talk" about. My creole is very limited at this point but I think even if I knew more it would have left me at that moment. In the photo album I had pictures of us & the girls, pictures of Odette with both Andy and I on other trips, and the pictures of Odette's family from the December trip. Odette's mama (Marie Claire) loved the pictures and thanked me for them. After sitting there a little while, Kevin came over and explained to her that we would be walking to her house later to visit. She thanked us, gave me another hug and then headed back to her house.
Later that afternoon we took the walk to her house (about 10-15 min.) Eddy that had taken Andy and Kevin there last time was not around so Kevin asked Odette if she knew the way and she took off quickly leading the group. I kept having her slow down because she was walking much better over the stony path than the rest of us. I spent the entire walk trying not to cry. I was so overwhelmed by the unknown of what I was going to see and experience when I got there. The pictures that Andy had in December were taken in the dark so it was very hard to tell what everything looked like. As we got close an elderly lady ran out & called for Odette. From what I understand she is her godmother & she was very happy to see Odette. Odette's house is directly down the hill. When we got to the bottom of the hill we were met by Odette's mama.
We took a few pictures and then I walked over to her papa & he said "Mama Odette" and gave me a hug. The whole thing was too much to take in. Odette ran inside the house for a few minutes and then came back out. Just watching her there was very strange, she seemed so out of place. Maybe it was the purple gown with bright green frogs that made her stand out or the fact that her skin and hair look so much healthier than the day she left there. I don't know what it was or how to explain it but it was very obvious to me. Odette's papa (Roger) immediately got chairs out of the house so some people could sit down. They seemed very pleased that we came to visit.
We took family pictures and then my meltdown happened. As hard as I was trying not to I lost it. I was so overwhelmed with not only being at the place when Odette grew up but meeting these sweet unselfish people that made the greatest sacrifice they could to give their daughter a better life. Not only did they let her go to an orphanage where they knew she would go to school and be able to eat everyday but now they have allowed her to be adopted into another family knowing they will not have a chance to see her again for a long time. I will be forever grateful for their unselfish decision to give Odette the best life possible. I was very thankful that day that Andy was the one that sat down and talked to the parents and asked their permission to adopt because just visiting them was hard enough on me. I look forward to the day I can sit down with them and ask more about Odette and what she was like growing up. Was she a happy baby, did she cry alot, when did she start walking, what was her first word, what was her favorite thing to play with her siblings... I want to know all those things I missed out on. I know now after meeting her parents that she was loved and that her parents took the best care of her that they could. They seem very sweet and loving. We said our good-byes and headed out to visit another family. I stayed back in the back of the line and let Odette walk ahead with the other girls. I just needed a few minutes by myself. At that moment I wanted nothing more to be curled up in a bed by myself having a good cry but at the time I just couldn't. That was one of those moments that I would have loved to have Andy there with me.