What Do You Do With a Lost Pearl?

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PearlsThe harvesting of pearls is an age old tradition, steeped in legend, surrounded by stories of love, life, and loss. From the tiniest treasures worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, to the largest pearl (registered at 14 pounds!), pearls have been an ever-present part of our human history. Their worth has been calculated according to the societal demand, the trading options, and of course, their true physical beauty. A pearl’s humble beginnings happen when an oyster or mussel has something harmful introduced into its living space. It produces something called nacre, which is what begins the pearl-forming process. A pearl is a beautiful result of something that wasn’t meant to happen to that oyster or mussel – it is the result of pain. Although they are traditionally harvested largely in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, there are many valuable pearls that have been found in the most unlikely of places. They have shown up all over the world, hidden in dark places, on street corners, and even in remote mountain villages. We have found some of those pearls in Haiti.Busy StreetTrying to describe a place like Port-Au-Prince to someone in our culture is often a challenge. How do you convey the level of human hurt, the deafening silence of poverty in the darkness, or even the simple realization that comes with being able to experience life at that level? Streets filled with the full gamut of human life, passion, desperation, and misery. Listening to the sounds of commerce happening at street level while you are stuck in traffic: toilet paper being sold by the square at a street stall, wood being sold for cooking, water that is promising to be clean, cell phone rentals, rice for sale, chickens hanging from clotheslines above stalls, children and adults begging for money, food, help. It is a lifetime of sensory overload in one afternoon! Yet, if you could see past that initial shock, you would see something else at work: you would see the quiet cry in children’s eyes that are enslaved behind those places, peeking out from doorways, quickly running errands for their owners, trying to avoid harassment and danger, always fearful. These are the faces of restaveks, and they are slaves.FirlOfficial estimates would say that there are between 250,000 to 300,000 child slaves in Haiti. They are enslaved in homes, some as young as 3, forced to provide everything from meals to sex for their “owners”. Their owners are generally not rich; in fact, they are often desperately poor themselves. They have taken the children on a false promise to parents, stolen them off the streets, or found them in remote villages far away from the city.  Modern day slavery has changed from what we have known it as, but it is slavery nonetheless. A restavek is a piece of property, and therefore, there are no rules. They are beaten, abused, abandoned when they get sick, and have virtually no hope of a future or education.However, there is a puzzling and eternal law that is always at work throughout the world: when the light is shone in the darkness, the darkness is the entity that recedes – it is never the other way round. We have seen that eternal law at work even in the dark places in Haiti. Though it may seem small and sometimes dim, the light refuses to go out: as long as there is human kindness and compassion, it will survive. As other lights are added to it, it can even begin to thrive. David is one of those lights.KidsWe met David through a Haitian friend in Dominican Republic. We came to Haiti to see him and to begin to plan how LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) can partner with him and his ever-growing “family”. At last count, they were numbered at around 70, but as they are able or as the need arises, they continue to somehow always find room for one more. Their family consists of escaped restaveks, former street children, orphaned siblings, and children that have been abandoned due to medical needs that could not be met. They are a part of a growing presence in Haiti, and what they do is desperately needed. They are providing these forgotten children with shelter, food, education, and most of all hope that is rooted in love. They are leaving an imprint on history because of their dedication and compassion. How could we not want to partner with them?Girls in their new swim wearAs one of our staff members met with David on a recent visit, they sat at a laptop looking over the photos of the children that they had captured through the camera lens that week. David has never had a laptop, as he currently has no power in any of his houses. They have one cell phone, and it is powered by a solar battery. They cook on an open stove, transport each meal by public transit to each home, and in true form, the workers and volunteers often go without to ensure that the children get all that is possible on such a limited amount. They have a heart of compassion like none other. For David, this moment to see photos of his kids was a rare luxury that he savored with pure joy. As they sat and looked at those pictures, laughing and pointing out the beautiful faces, David said something so profound…”They’re beautiful, aren’t they? They were lost pearls, but I found them, I cleaned them up, and now they are my treasures.”This simple statement has managed to completely capture what it is inside of each of us that aspires to do something sKids in roomignificant in history: to capture a treasure and allow its worth to shine and be acknowledged for what it is meant to be. Yes, David, they are treasures. They are a treasure that will be remembered throughout eternity, and they are the reason why we believe in you and want to join you in the pursuit of that treasure. Each one of us has a gift we can offer to the world around us. Whether it is our abilities, our compassion, or even our resources and finances. We all play a part, because we are all in this together.Hatian BoyHero Holiday endeavors to not only educate the Western World with experience and opportunity, but also with the life-altering gift of being a part of something that brings hope and opens the way to a better future. Because of normal people like you and I, we are able to partner with heroes like David and others like him. We can all play a part in being able to empower freed slaves, educate street children, and provide shelter and security for many more like them.

And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it ~ John, First Century Christian Apostle

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 19th, 2009