Ageless Hero

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Haitian ChildWhen you work with the poor, you are offered the privilege to meet many incredible people. Words often seem insufficient to capture the character values or the depth of passion and commitment that we have seen in people whom we now count among our friends around the world. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not naïve – I am well aware that not all poor people are virtuous, and not all virtuous are poor. But, there is something that is different about so many of the people that we work with through Mr. GuillaumeHero Holiday; there is a certain quality that somehow always seems to set them apart. Although they are just as prone to character flaws as myself, I so often feel humbled by what they choose to focus on, their amazing dignity and resilience, and their willingness to do whatever it takes to see something happen. Mr. Guillaume is one of those individuals.We don’t even know his first name, as he has only ever been introduced as David’s Dad, Mr. Guillaume. David is our Haitian friend in Port-Au-Prince and he and his wife, Danny, oversee a group of children’s homes that are barely living above the survival line. When we came to them last summer, we were shocked to realize that they were without food and support for their efforts. Their efforts involved over 65 children that have been saved off the streets, out of slavery, and from abandonment. David and Danny have nothing: no vehicle, no home of their own, barely more than the clothes on their back. They have a small “boutique” (translation: a stall that sells a few cans of soda, a few meager food items, and small bags of water), and every possible resource goes in to making sure that these children that they have been entrusted with survive.They do this because they don’t see any other option. When asked why they started it, they simply said, “How can we not do something?” So, together with a few other adults, they have given their lives to do whatever it takes to see these kids through, to provide a home for them, to try to feed them, and to provide them with an education. Mr. Guillaume is one of the people who tirelessly gives of his time, energy, and unconditional love for children who would otherwise be forgotten.Orphanage BedsTogether, the extended family rents three different homes to house all the children, and Mr. Guillaume oversees one of these homes. There are 20 boys in a 2 bedroom, unfinished cinder block house. There are no doors, no washroom, no kitchen, and Mr. Guillaume and the boys sleep on wooden mats on the dirt and cement floor. During the day, in order to survive, Mr. Guillaume also works stocking shelves, to help bring in money to care for the boys. Mr. Guillaume is 70 years old. Due to the lack of a kitchen, as long as there is money for food, all the meals are cooked at the one home across the city and brought by public transport to his home each day. There are no extras. There are no mid-morning or late evening snacks; no early morning coffee to kick-start his day or pain relief medication for aching joints fighting with a tired body at nighttime. Yet there is a constant cognizance of the gift and fragility of life: that all we really have to give is our love and willingness.Haitian GirlEvery day is a struggle to survive, not just for him, but for the health and survival of the boys in that home. Why would he do this? After an entire lifetime of hard labor, constant hunger and struggle, with a tired body that probably daily cries out for a retirement that is not possible, what would compel him to continue to push on day after day? I think he would say that it is because of his faith. A faith that believes there can be a better future for these children, and the greatest legacy of a life is to invest in that possibility. His understanding that these children need him is what gives him the ability to rise each day, work until past sundown, and to continue to believe that tomorrow it will always be worth it. Because it is always worth it to love.Mr. Guillaume is a face on our wall of heroes. He is a life that we are humbled to know of, a man of deep character, and he is one more compelling reason to recognize that it is never too late to give, it is never too late to believe that you are a part of the answer to the question.This year, LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) has committed to renovate Mr. Guillaume’s facility to bring it up to a livable standard for the children. They are in need of proper sanitation, a workable kitchen, and bunk beds for the children. We cannot do this alone, and ask you to please consider partnering with us to help ensure their survival and success.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: February 1st, 2009