Friday, November 27, 2009

Moving to Haiti

So as many of you have already heard, Nick and I have decided to move to Haiti for a year (with the option to stay longer) to work in a baby orphanage! About two weeks before we got engaged, Nick promised me that once I graduated college we would move to Africa for a year to volunteer. Nick never thought that he would actually have to follow through with this promise, but I continually brought it up and was constantly looking at different organizations and countries we could go to! When I had the opportunity to go to Kenya last summer, Nick highly encouraged me to go, hoping I would get it out of my system and that he could get out of his commitment. However, he soon realized that this just lite the fire and I wanted to go even more! After touring the UN building in NYC where we heard horrible stories and saw pictures of children dieing from preventable diseases, Nick realized that he could make a difference in someones life and finally was eager to move abroad!

At first we looked into joining the Peace Corp, but after filling out the application and going in for the 3 hour interview, we realized that this wasn't what we were looking for! This is when Nick found Children of the Promise (COTP) in Haiti, and after a month of emailing the volunteer coordinator, we decided this is where we were being called. It's not in Africa, but the Caribbean will work just fine!!

Here's our plan,I graduate June 12, and that weekend we will pack up our apartment and move in with one of our parents for 2-3 weeks. In the beginning of July (probably July 6th, but that's subject to change) we will hop on a plane to Florida, and then take a small plane from there to Cap Haitien Haiti. Our first three weeks will be in a neighboring village called Milot where we will be taking language classes at a local mission. Haiti's main language is Creole, which is French with around 10 African languages mixed in. We have already been studying and have quite a large vocab!

After this we will move on to the COTP compound and begin playing with babies!! COTP takes in sick babies who's parents have either died during child birth, abandoned them, or decided that they can't afford to feed the baby at this time. Many of these babies are malnourished and holding on to life by mere threads. A few are HIV +. COTP's first goal is to get these babies healthy and return them to their biological families, assuming they can care for them. If the families decide that they can not, then the child will be adopted to the US or Canada. COTP has an average of at least 50 babies and sometimes even 60 or more, most of which are under the age of two, but up to age 6! Some of these babies have Cabral Palsy, hydrocephalus, or other medical issues that we will work with to help them develop appropriately. I have already started researching a few of these to find the best way to interact with children who have these.

Although we won't know exactly what we will be doing until we are there, at this point it looks like Nick will be the maintenance man and I may be working in the preschool teaching the older children. Our days will also include taking care of the basic needs of these children as well as simply loving them and giving them one on one attention. If a baby is really sick and need extra care, he/she will sleep in our room with us at nights for about two weeks or until they starts to gain weight! We also hope to work with the community as much as possible!

A little info on Haiti for you: It's 600 miles south of Florida, near Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. Many citizens practice voodoo, and in fact the country has been dedicated to the Devil twice. It is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, 80% of the population lives in absolute poverty (under $1USD per day), and 52% is illiterate. Hundred of thousands of men, women, and children die yearly of preventable diseases, many of which come from poor drinking water and malnutrition. This is unacceptable to me. Many pregnant women and children are forced to eat dirt because they can't afford food. This causes them to have horrible chest and stomach pains and leads to many diseases and even death from parasites that are in the dirt. Watch this video to learn more...

We are extremely excited and are counting down the days until we get to go! We are accepting donations to help fund our trip which is going to cost just shy of $20,000 for the year. This includes all flights, health insurance, and room/board for the two of us. Although some of this money goes towards us, a large portion of it goes directly to the orphanage to help pay for formula, diapers, and every day expenses they need in order to survive. It cost the orphanage over $14,000 a month to provide for the needs of these children and our money will help cover part of this. All donations are tax deductible!

We have already begun doing fundraisers ourselves to help pay for this. Everything that I have make from my job will go towards our trip as well as the extra money Nick just received from his latest raise. We will also be cashing in all Nicks sick/vacation time when he quits. However, this trip will not be possible with out the help of our family, friends, and community. If you are interested in helping us help others, checks can be sent to "Children of the Promise-Box 97 Prinsburg, MN 56281 USA." Also, donations can be made at their website Our name should not be on the check any where, including the memo line because the IRS doesn't like that. Instead please attach a note saying that you are donating towards our trip! This is very important so that you can be assured the money goes to us. Donations can be made in one lump sum or over the course of the next several months.

Nick and I would love to come talk to any group or church and explain more in depth what we are planning! We really appreciate every ones help and encourage you all to pray for the two of us as well as the babies, nannies, and long term volunteers who are there currently. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us and we would love to answer them for you!!

Merci (thanks)

Nick and Nikki Stolberg

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