It’s disruptive to the life cycle of these kids. It’s emotionally charged. And unfortunately, it’s strategic to the people that are bringing you on these mission trips. They know, “If I can get you to feel good about this week with this child, you’re going be a life-long supporter.” I get it, we’ve played that game, and we’ve gotten people to come. But I’ve also realized that it’s not appropriate and it’s really harmful to the kids. Come with the intentions to help families thrive.
CCM: So, what is the main message of Ikondo?
MS: We need you to come to be an advocate for Haiti, to help it thrive again. Not to just love-on babies for a week, but to end the orphan crisis through job creation. We need you here to create jobs and create economy, so that we can keep families together.
It’s hard for people to hear that because they’ve been immersed in this “mission trip culture” for 30-40 years—since the ’70’s—that says, “What you’re going to do for that week is actually going to be impactful. And on some small levels it can be, but for the most part it’s created a lot of issues. Mainly for Haiti, it’s helped kill their tourism industry. Resorts have shut down due to our perception of Haiti. “You don’t go to Haiti unless you’re going there to be ‘heroic’ or trying to save it.” Again, it’s not complicated, but we know there’s a risk involved—we’re going to step on some toes with this shift in culture.
CCM: In a lot of ways, Ikondo serves as a symbol…
MS: It’s a flag in the ground. Yeah…
CCM: …almost like it’s begging us to want to come and see for ourselves, saying, ‘Here’s this beautiful resort—in Haiti, of all places—come down here and have some fun.”
MS: Yeah. And you’re conflicted, too. Most people are. When we first started doing orphan care, it was hard for us to realize that our business should actually be to put ourselves out of business as orphan care providers. The goal isn’t to keep building children’s villages. We shouldn’t celebrate when a kid comes to our children’s village, but that’s our American mentality. For instance, we will applaud when, to put a name on it, our new orphan Jean Marc is welcomed—we gather around him, take pictures, and celebrate him as another new orphan.
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