My name is Heidi Gatliff and I served in Haiti as a CIT for one month this summer of 2015. I feel led to share, in my opinion, a very valuable story of my time in Haiti. While I have
countless touching, inspirational and shocking stories to share with everyone, I feel it especially necessary to share one particular story.
Right next to the CPR-3 compound where I stayed for the month is a family with a young boy named Kiki. Kiki is around the age of 5 and truthfully, is not like most of the kids I interacted with in Haiti. He does not run up to you with a big smile on his face, he does not crawl all over you or hold your hand no matter where you go and follow you for the rest of the day, that is not Kiki.
Most kids are overjoyed to see us, for whatever reason it may be, and love to be around us even though there may be a language barrier. Kiki always seems to keep his distance around new people which is something I got used to, but refused to accept. Whenever walking by where he lives, I would continuously come up to him and say hello or make a silly face, thus embarrassing myself to try and make him smile which worked well… never. It always bothered me how I could never make him smile and left me running out of ideas. Day after day and week after week I would relentlessly try to make Kiki simply just smile but, that turned out to be a harder task than I ever expected.
Most days he would not even look at me and just run away, I thought it was maybe because I had not yet showered but after a couple times, and several showers, I ruled that out. My one month stay in Haiti was quickly coming to an end and it was exactly two days until I was leaving to go back to America and the most unexpected thing occurred. While a few of the other CIT girls and I were visiting with Kiki’s mother on our way to go see other neighbors, Kiki came up and stood by me and was staring at me. Now this may seem like a strange thing to point out but as I said, most days he refused to even look in my direction. As he was looking at me, I smiled at him and showed him the picture on my phone of him that I took last year when I went with my team for a week. At this point, I was shocked he was still even with me so I was getting a bit flustered on what to do next so that he would want to stay with me and even maybe, just maybe…smile.
As we finished up visiting with his mom, I invited him to come with us to the next house and this is when he did the most unexpected thing, he actually came up and held my hand. I tried to remain cool and not freak him out by jumping up and down with excitement but I was just so happy! The other CIT’s were as stunned as I was about this sudden sign of affection from Kiki that I had been seeking out my whole stay. He followed me, hand in hand to the next house and even began clasping on to my leg and holding me tight. Saying that I was overjoyed at that moment would be a huge understatement. Although, I was also struck with a sadness that he is finally beginning to like me just two days before I have to leave.
This leads me to my point of sharing this story, while it takes most kids only mere seconds to warm up and adjust to us being around, it took Kiki almost 4 weeks to do so. He is a child that is much more guarded and does not let everyone into his life. In my opinion, that is because once he lets them into his life, he is afraid they will leave him, and that breaks my heart. That realization made a huge impact on me and I hope that it will for whomever is reading this. Put yourself in the Haitians position, new people are coming week after week, creating relationships and bonds, and then leaving. Now, I by no means want to minimize how wonderful it is that people are willing to come to Haiti and serve here but, I think that we need to understand and realize that not everyone will drop everything and jump in our arms and necessarily be happy that we are here. Relationships take time and perhaps intense persistence in showing that you truly care and love the individual. It took a 5 year old boy named Kiki to make me realize the real meaning of relationships and how truly important they are. Never give up on trying to make someone smile or showing them that you love and care for them.
This post is contributed by our Compassion Intensive Training participant, Heidi. If you’d like to find out more about the CIT program and spending time in Haiti as a student, check out our Compassion Corp page.