let’s make an impact!

As a professional baseball player, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some truly incredible
people who have factored heavily in my success and helped to shape my character, both on
and off the field. Chief among them, my former teammate, Adam Wainwright has had an especially
significant impact on my life.

Not only is Adam a great example of what it means to be a good father and husband, he also demonstrates how giving back can enrich your life every bit as much as those you serve. It was in this spirit that my wife and I recently joined Adam and his wife on a mission trip to Haiti where the idea of Brace for Impact was born. We’re proud to be teaming with Pittsburgh Kids Foundation to raise money for some of the amazing kids we met there. Through this initiative, it’s my goal to be able to have as much of an impact on the lives of others as Adam’s had on mine.

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Our Impact

For me, the biggest takeaway from my time spent in Haiti was that the greatest impact can be made by investing in the people on the ground that are making a difference every day. The folks behind IDADEE Children’s Home are just the kind of people I’m talking about. IDADEE is the vision of a group of people who were themselves former orphans. Having experienced firsthand what a profound effect having a place to call home and people who care can have on the lives of children in need, they took it upon themselves to found IDADEE as a place where they’re able to do for others as was done for them. All proceeds from Brace for Impact will go directly to IDADEE to help further their mission and expand their services.

Kyle's trip diary     Your Impact   

Below is a daily accounting of the time we spent in Haiti, what we learned and how the money we raise will be spent to assist the people we met there.

Day 1

We flew into Haiti on Monday and got into a truck to take us to the EBAC orphanage where we were staying. It was about a 20 minute drive and I got my first glimpse of what Hatian’s lives are like on a daily basis. The first and most striking thing I noticed was the smell. Words cannot begin to describe it. You definitely had to be there to get the full effect.

The entire length of the drive, the roadside was packed with people buying and selling things just to get through the day. People would have to come here daily just to get food and water.

Once we got to the EBAC orphanage, we were greeted by all the kids who just wanted us to hurry up and set our things down so we could start playing with them right away. Before we could even get to our room we were all either holding kids in our arms or holding several small hands.

Once we got settled, it was on!!!! We brought some whiffle balls and bats and we were out there teaching them how to play baseball. These kids love sports and have learned how to play with practically anything and make the best of it. Almost all were barefoot, playing on a dirt field with broken glass and rocks all over the place. Not to mention the sewage water running right through first base.

After our impromptu baseball game, we moved on to basketball, soccer and just plain old talking with the kids. Our wives were busy with the girls, singing and coloring and having their hair braided.

Later that afternoon, we headed off to the second orphanage called IDADEE. The story behind this orphanage is amazing in itself: a group of kids that were raised at EBAC decided once they were old enough they wanted to start an orphanage too so they could help kids like they were helped. They purchased an amazing property and now have 25 toddlers at the facility.

By far, the image that will stick with me most from the entire trip is when we pulled up to IDADEE. Once we got off the truck, 25 toddlers came sprinting out to us. It was the most amazing welcome I have ever received. I had a little girl wrap her arms around me and next thing I knew I was holding her. As I looked up, every single person in our group was holding a child. They just couldn’t wait to show us the swings, their classrooms and their bedrooms.

After that we went to the home of the couple that runs IDADEE. The husband, Jean Claude, is a former orphan from EBAC and the visionary of the new IDADEE orphanage. He married an American missionary and they have adopted 12 kids themselves. They used to live at IDADEE but have just purchased some land because they want their kids to be raised in a good family-type environment. After talking to them and spending time with their family, we headed back to our place. Once we got back to EBAC we were all exhausted.

Each night in Haiti ended with a group meeting to discuss the day. My biggest take away from day one was how these kids didn't want anything from us except our time and attention. That was such a great/sad emotion to deal with knowing that these kids have so many needs but all they REALLY want is someone to love them.

My other take away was that the orphanage is the perfect example of how making an impact on someone can lead to so many great things. If it wasn't for EBAC and IDADEE, there would be countless kids that would be left to fend for themselves. This orphanage instills values and teaches love for others and that will make an impact on thousands over future generations.

Day 2

The entire time we were in Haiti, we were not able to drink the water because it is so unclean. The craziest thing about the whole water situation is that many people there don’t understand that the dirty water they are drinking is what is causing a lot of the sicknesses they experience.

On our second day, we had a couple with us from Water Missions International. Water Missions International developed a water filtration system that can make any water 99% clean and safe to drink. This group has installed over 300 of these systems and they took us to see two of them.

First, we went to see a new system that has been installed at a Christian school. They are now able to have clean water for their kids but they are also able to provide clean water for the entire community. People would walk over an hour to come to the clean water system and carry 40 pound buckets on their heads all the way back to their homes on a daily basis.

The kids at the school sang songs for us and gave us an amazing welcome. It’s clear that the pastor and the teachers are all so grateful for clean water. Then we went to a different location where a clean water system was installed for a community. It was disappointing to see that it wasn’t running like it was supposed to. The operator didn’t really have a good answer for why there wasn’t an entry into the log for over two weeks but you could tell that something fishy was going on there. I’m glad we experienced that because it goes to show that even when you try to do something great for people, they don’t always keep their end of the deal and can take advantage of it.

George, with Water Missions International, did an amazing job handling the issue with the second system. I know he was disappointed but he used it as an example to the people that he has in place to make sure that they learned from it and would prevent it from happening in the future. I was very impressed with his management.

This was a perfect example of how important it is to invest in the right people and that’s why I feel so good about the people that the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation has dealt with for 20 years. They have the right people in place that will take the funds raised and put them to use in the way they are intended.

My take away from day two was how important access to clean water is and how much we take it for granted.

Day 3

This was our free day and we spent it hiking four miles up a mountain. It was a beautiful hike and near the top there was a small village we passed through. We started the hike with about eight of us and eight of the older orphans from EBAC. Once we got through the village, we picked up about 60-70 people that just wanted to walk with us. I felt like I was in Forrest Gump when he had a large following while he was running.

I didn't know at first why the EBAC kids came on the hike with us but understood once we got to the top of the mountain. It was so cool how each kid found one of us and stayed close. They were with us to make sure that we were safe and that the people from the village were not hounding us too much. It was so cute to see how they cared about us and I was glad for the opportunity to get to know them better during our journey.

We ended up at the village church which was a dirt floor in a tin room. They sang worship songs for us and we spent about 10-15 minutes chatting with them before we headed back.

We were completely exhausted by the time we got back to the truck - keep in mind that the people from the village do this every day with 40 pounds of water on their heads and all their food for that day. On the way back, we stopped by IDADEE quickly to see the kids and say goodbye.

My take away from day three was how lucky these kids are at the orphanages. Witnessing how tough everyday life is for the people in the village on the mountain made me realize that if it weren’t for places like EBAC and IDADEE, these kids wouldn't have an education, maybe no clean water, food or people able to take care of them.

Overview

This trip was an altogether amazing experience. The group we went with was such a joy to be around. Their love for the Lord and their heart to help others are super-sized, to say the least.

I experienced such a mixture of emotions throughout the trip. It was so sad to see how poor these people are, but the positive emotions far outweigh the negative. God is doing amazing things in Haiti and there is no question that he has a presence in a country whose official religion is voodooism.

As I think about what I can do to make an impact on Haiti, it's overwhelming. I don't think you can come up with a dollar amount that would fix it, but what my experience on this trip taught me is that you can make the greatest impact by investing in the people that can make a difference. You could easily waste hundreds of millions of dollars by putting band aids on things. This trip showed me first hand that the people we are going to be dealing with are the people that can make real changes and have been doing so for a long time. It’s so cool to see how they have set up these orphanages to not only house, feed, and clothe these children but are also instilling the morals and skills needed to make them leaders. They are learning job skills, second and third languages, bible education and how to establish a healthy family environment. These kids know they are loved and that’s all they really want.

The money raised will go directly to IDADEE to help them with many projects. They need another level so they can take in more kids, a clean water system so they don’t have to pay a premium to have water hauled in and better kitchen accommodations to improve efficiency.

In the next year, they also have plans to build a medical clinic and treat people from the community for free: an idea from a kid that grew up at EBAC and is one year away from graduating from a seven year medical program. He could go work at Port Au Prince and make a lot of money but he said, "I have to come help my people because someone helped me." You see, that’s who you invest in.

It's not about sending a check because you think it’s a nice thing to do or you feel sorry for them or because it’s a tax write off. God has given us Americans a lot of wealth and we are to be stewards of that and take care of His people because of our love for Him and our brothers and sisters. We are going to raise a lot of money with this project and I'm strapped in and ready. Are you braced for your impact.

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