Christina Levy, a USC Aiken freshman from Aiken, couldn't wait to get to Haiti last June – the struggling nation where her mother Dominique grew up until she was 13.
In January 2010, both had watched in horror the devastation to much of Haiti from the powerful earthquake. Christina not only wanted to visit the country, she wanted to return after college and devote herself to finding ways to assist so many adults and children in daunting need.
Dominique admits she was dismayed at Christina's determinations, that she as a mother hadn't made so many sacrifices so that Christina could suffer herself in such a deprived country. Yet she realized God was telling her to join her daughter to spend the week in Haiti through a TrueNorth Church mission trip.
Seven months later, Dominique Levy will travel to Haiti to live there in behalf of orphans and rural communities with many more children who have virtually no opportunities. Once again, God spoke to her through the book of Matthew how the 11 disciples had gone away to Galilee into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
As written in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
“Haiti was my past, but I couldn't take my heritage back,” Dominique said. “We just want to make life better. I've read the passage (from Matthew) hundreds of times, but had never personalized it. I felt this was my message.”
Christina, an Aiken High graduate, wishes she could return to Haiti immediately with her mom; She will visit when she can but won't finish college until 2016. Yet she had an extraordinary experience in just a week in Haiti. She and her boyfriend, James Redd, are now looking at publishing a magazine in March in support of Haiti. Redd took scores of poignant photographs on the trip.
Mother and daughter had become associated with Lexington-based Alex's House – an organization that is also the name of an orphanage in Haiti. Christina and Dominique learned about Bill Howard, a former pastor at Willow Ridge Church in Lexington. According to Alex's House website, Howard had visited Haiti a few months before the earthquake and had met three young men who had decided to study and become Christian ministers. One of them, Alex Alincy, died in the earthquake. From that tragedy, an orphanage emerged.
The Levy's stopped by the orphanage in Port-au-Prince when they arrived last summer. At that time, the facility, just 600 feet square, was housing as many as 27 children.
From there, Christina and Dominque and other volunteers traveled two hours to the village of Kaliko. Since then, those children have been moved to a much larger building there, but the needs throughout the community remain stark. In terms of size, Kaliko with no more than 500 people, might be similar to a small Aiken County town.
But there is no running water, and five-gallon jugs are required for drinking and brushing teeth. The stomachs of many orphans and other children are extended, because they have worms. Those outside the orphanage live in houses made with tarp. On one occasion, a woman handed Dominique her baby boy.
“He looked 2 months old, but was actually about 9 months old,” Dominique said. “He was not crying but moving his face around, looking for food. That started my passion for wanting to go back. We engaged with the children, who were actually so happy. They had nothing, not even water. We gave them beach balls and soccer balls, and that little bit made them smile.”
Christina, too, became emotional in Kaliko when she met a girl abut three and desperately hungry. Yet when the child received a peanut butter sandwich and a six-ounce container of water, the girl took a bite of the sandwich and swallow of water. Then she turned and gave both items to an even younger boy who might have been her brother or cousin.
“She didn't have anything,” Dominque said. “Young as these children are, they want to share what they have.”
Dominique intends to participate in improvements in the town of Kaliko and to help revamp the tiny orphanage in Port-au-Prince. However, she is seeking help for her own financial needs remaining in Aiken. For more information, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Christina Levy and her friend, James Redd, plan to introduce an illustrated magazine on Haiti and hope to do some again following additional visits to Haiti. The magazine is intended to provide a campaign to raise funds in behalf all the many needs there. Christina is visiting businesses to look for support.
SUBMITTED PHOTO by JAMES REDD Volunters Dominique Levy and her daughter, Christina Levy, provided food and water for this hungry orphan in the rural village of Kalico. The child, about 3, immediately shared her prize with a younger boy.×
SUBMITTTED PHOTO by JAMES REDD A volunteer in the HAITI city of Port-au-Prince cares for a child at an orphanage that is sponsored by the Lexington-based program Alex's House. Aiken residents Dominique Levy and her daughter Christina met this volunteer last summer. Levy is moving to Haiti permanently this month; her daughter will join her after graduating from USC Aiken.×
PHOTO SUBMITTED by JAMES REDD Volunteers Christina Levy, 18, and her mother Dominique Levy, worked with these children in the Haiti village of Kalico. Dominique Levy plans to move to her native Haiti in January and will be joined by Christina when she graduates from college.×
PHOTO by ROB NOVIT Dominique Levy, left, is leaving Aiken this month to return permanently to her native Haiti to improve the lives of orphans in Port-au-Prince and the village of Kaliko. Her daughter Christina, a USC Aiken freshman, hopes to join her mother to live in Haiti and work for similar goals.×