Committed to change: Latest trip to Haiti brings food, shoes, hope
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jeff Ledford’s most recent trip to Haiti to visit the young girl his family is adopting included unbearable heat, lack of cold, fresh water, sleeping with no air conditioning and taking showers only when there was enough rain water to rinse off with.
It was the best time ever he will tell you, because those are things that can be endured, things the people of Haiti know on a daily basis. He will remember the inconveniences, the 14 pounds he lost and the three-hour ride in the back of a truck to an orphanage in the village of Camatin.
What really matters
But feeding 1,500 hundred children thanks to the generosity of friends and strangers, handing out 100 pairs of shoes to people who’ve never owned any before and making lasting friendships — those are why he will keep going back. And then there’s Christella, the 12-year-old girl Jeff and Kyla Ledford are adopting from this land that has seen its share of hurricanes, an earthquake, unbelievable poverty, a cholera outbreak ... and the list goes on. Jeff was able to spend eight days in September visiting Christella and doing this humanitarian work in a country that has no government assistance to speak of.
“I can’t even describe it,” Ledford said. “It was unbelievable. Christella was by my side the whole time, helping to serve about 300 meals one day. I kept telling her she needed to eat but she kept telling me ‘No, I can feed one more child.’ She hadn’t eaten anything all day.”
Blount pitches in
Ledford was able to provide the meals in the villages of Camatin and Coq Chante because many right here in Blount County made donations. There was even a couple of days that Papa Murphy’s gave a portion of its proceeds to the cause. There was enough food to feed the children for several days after Ledford returned home. He said he felt blessed to be able to have a part in all of this.
The connections Ledford has made while visiting Haiti are for a lifetime, he said. One example is two Haitian police officers who he befriended. Ledford was able to bring them two bulletproof vests on this most recent trip, something neither had ever owned despite being on the force there for 17 years. Their annual salary is only $800.
“They both told me we are brothers for life,” Ledford said.
This veteran Blount County Sheriff’s Office deputy made his first trip to Haiti back in January as part of a mission trip with his church, Foothills Church. He came back a changed man forever. He and Kyla had decided they weren’t going to have any more children, but that experience in Haiti gave them a new plan — one that included increasing the Ledford family by one more.
A chance at happiness
On this September visit, Ledford was able to meet Christella’s grandmother and spend time with her parents. She is living in the orphanage because her life was threatened in the village she lived in. Ledford said Christella’s parent realize she has the best chance for a successful and happy life here in this country. Christella can’t wait for it all to begin.
There will be things that have to be done like a physical for Christella, an interview of her, an appearance at the U.S. Embassy in Haiti by Ledford and lots of paperwork before the adoption will be granted. When that happens, the family can become complete.
There have been several children adopted out of Haiti in recent months, especially after the earthquake a couple of years ago that left many homeless and parentless. A friend who went to Haiti with Ledford is now beginning the adoption process.
This most recent visit was indeed rewarding and special for Ledford, but his last day in Haiti was also one of his toughest. He had to leave Christella behind as the court system in Haiti processes the adoption. Now all each can do is wait.
The work continues
Before leaving, Ledford gave his soon-to-be daughter a T-shirt that proclaimed her as “Daddy’s Little Girl.” She told Ledford she would never take it off.
Now that he’s home, this husband and father has had time to process it all. He said he just wants to thank everyone for their support — from those offering up their prayers, to those making donations and offering encouragement through the tough times.
“I will continue to go to Haiti as often as I can to do what I can,” he said. “I love Haiti. I love the people. It’s truly a forgotten paradise.”