|Matteo's Mission Youth group |
Following are excerpts from the testimony about a Haiti mission
trip in early 2014, written by Matteo Tessaro from Guelph,
Ontario, a master’s student in chemistry at Ontario’s McMaster University.
(Click here to listen to the song “I Saw
a Blue Butterfly,” written by Matteo following this experience.)
an inspirational poster on the wall at my school with
a picture of a blue butterfly that I think about
often. It reads: “Change is the essence of life; you
must be willing to surrender what you are to make
room for what you can become.”
I wonder if I’ll
see any blue butterflies in Haiti.
It is not often
that I see the sunrise or that I fly. Take-off
is something special. This February morning in Toronto, there is
a rainbow sky on the left, and city lights on
My first glimpse of real poverty is framed by
the Haitian mountains and illuminated by the hot evening sun.
On the drive from the airport to our residence, it
is like nothing I’ve ever seen. We drive in the
back of a white pick-up truck, through rugged roads, past
rows of huts made of recycled garbage. The slums are
referred to as tent cities and are home to 147,
Children, seemingly as amused by us as we are
by them, run at the side of the littered streets
in their bare feet. I wave to a man sitting
on his rooftop and feel surprisingly welcome in this foreign
Today we are heading to an orphanage. I feel a
buzz in the morning air, as my fellow missionaries are
getting ready to face the day. The orphanage is run
by the Missionaries of Charity. The grounds for the orphanage,
surrounded by ten-foot stone walls topped with barbed wire, are
fully sustainable. They consist of gardens, pens for rabbits and
birds, a chapel, a home for the nuns, a kitchen,
an outdoor furnace for burning garbage, large rooms for the
orphans who are separated based on their health and age,
and a play ground and a large sheltered classroom. It
is a sanctuary in the city, a light amidst the
We walk into a nursery room, where the children are
first accepted into the orphanage. It is here that the
children are most sick. Many of them come in on
the verge of death because of severe malnourishment or illness.
In their cribs, most of them are crying and reaching
out to be held. I stay in this room holding
one girl on each leg for most of the morning.
One is a seven-year-old named Mauri, only recently taken in.
Malnutrition renders her hair white, and she is no bigger
than a three-year-old. Sitting on my right leg is a
girl named Remi, who is skin and bones. Neither child
makes a sound the entire time I hold them. It
is when I look into their big, black eyes that
they speak to my soul.
At lunch I go out of
the complex into the Haitian streets. To the left are
rolling hills of tropical trees and simple concrete houses, and
to my right is the stone wall of the orphanage.
I walk only to the end of the street, talking
to people lined up along the wall, and sit down.
I observe the busy street in action, with people selling
coal or fruit, school children walking by in colored uniforms,
an old man pushing a wheel barrel, young women leaning
against the walls, drivers honking their horns as they come
to the locked intersection, and the smell of diesel fuel,
rotten fruit and garbage. A boy wearing his green school
uniform winks at me as he walks by and runs
off with his friend over the hill and out of
In the afternoon, I spend most of the time with
the older children on the top floor of the orphanage.
I meet Samantha, a bright young girl who is helping
with the younger children. I play with Olivier and his
three friends up on the rooftop.
The children did not want
us to leave that day, and they made this clear
by crying and holding on to us tightly. I cannot
help but wonder what will become of these children I
This morning we drive in the back of an
army green vehicle as we head to the ‘home of
For 50 minutes, our missionary group watches the streets
of Port au Prince -- a city in ruins. Yet
it is packed with people everywhere on the side of
the streets. The diesel vehicles spew black smoke and the
air is saturated with pollution. Driving on these roads is
chaotic. Everywhere people are honking to pass, driving on the
wrong side. Pedestrians are trying to cross the road everywhere
or trying to sell things to us by coming to
the back of the truck.
The image that sticks with
me the most is the garbage. Plastics are accumulated everywhere
in the streets and in the rivers and streams. We
pass an organized mess of a market where thousands of
people are gathered to trade fruit, coal, and clothing. Again
the smell of diesel fuel and rotten fruit dominates.
drive into the Missionaries of Charity grounds, I see a
man with a tumor the size of two legs covering
his entire right leg, trying to walk with the help
of others supporting him in the ditch. His countenance is
At the hospital, there is a pavilion and a
school room where young women are learning how to sew.
Across a rocky field there stands a sky-blue concrete structure,
bordering a chapel in the center. On the first floor
are men sectioned according to their illness. A group of
us visit the men with tuberculosis. One by one, we
rub lotion and massage their arms, legs, backs, and chests,
and we sing and dance with them. Fr. Thomas (Murphy
LC), Nick and I sing and play the ukulele in
the open hallways. The men sit on the benches, all
coming out to watch, clapping and smiling and some dancing.
|I Saw a Blue Butterfly|