Before the debris had settled, broadcasters were streaming images of Haiti's devastating earthquake around the globe, the glow of news update after update displayed across billions of blank faces caught off guard. On a campus where humanitarian reach is the norm, CCU students quickly turned their reactions from What happened?
to What can we do to help?
For staff member Sarah Larsen, who is serving as a leader on the CCU2theWorld mission trip to Haiti this May, her questions took shape when she and Cooper Pasque, a student and trip co-leader, met a week later with their 14 other team members.
The team had been planning to travel to Montrouis, located along the Cotes de Arcadins on Haiti's western coast. Approximately 50 miles north of Port-au-Prince and home to a breathtaking stretch of white-sand beaches, it's a popular tourism, fishing, and sailing destination. On a nearby hillside overlooking the Caribbean sits Canaan Orphanage. Inside it, a small staff caring for 100 abandoned children. Up till then, the team was expecting to tutor and spend time with Canaan's children and do work projects on the property. But on January 12, a magnitude 7.0 -- the country's strongest in a century -- went off about 10 miles southwest of the capitol city, changing everything.Haiti has been hit
. Viewers worldwide reeled at the heartbreaking, frankly unfair blow to the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation. For the CCU team, the reality was much the same, numbing and a bit disorienting. But also urgent, in a slightly new direction.
Some statistics estimate that the quake left a wake of more than one million new orphans. Now, more than ever in their histories, the local orphanages are critical centers of care. Near enough to the catastrophe yet outside of the disaster zone, Canaan is strategically poised to respond.
With the situation in mind, the team began mapping out ways to merge their original trip plans with helping the orphanage play its role in the overall relief effort.
It was less a scene of strangers mounting a rescue than of family (in Christ) rallying around far-off siblings. Haiti entered CCU2theWorld's missions lineup this past fall in response to a very positive experience had by students traveling there during the summer prior. This year there are 15 student-led missionary teams headed to communities spanning six continents, where team members will be challenged to embrace their faith globally and practice love-in-action. For those desiring to minister on a local level, the University also sponsors a variety of annual outreach ministries throughout the Denver area, ranging from mentoring inner-city youth to helping the elderly and homeless.
"It doesn't take an earthquake for CCU to go out and make a difference," Larsen said. "We don't just respond to tragedies; we're responding to needs, wherever they are, on a daily basis."
Canaan Orphanage's stated mission is to be "an oasis of hope and safety," and that couldn't be more apt than in the following months as scores of children, and even needy locals, flock to orphanages around the country for food and shelter and to know they are not alone. So far, CCU students have shown support by canvassing Lakewood neighborhoods for donations of clothing, blankets, shoes, bedding, and hygiene items to fill 30 suitcases traveling with the missionary team this spring. The team has also raised nearly $2,000 to help the orphanage install a clean-water cistern -- before, staff members hauled in and purified all drinking water -- and to donate to immediate Samaritan's Purse operations in Haiti.
But getting to Canaan requires a flight into Port-au-Prince, and current travel alerts issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have led University officials to take a closer look at the trip's feasibility. Hopes still run high for CCU to be on-site in May, but for now students and staff have banded together in doing what they can from afar.