Kristen Shirley

Kristen and her wife Caitlin have been members of Old Pine for several years and were married on our sanctuary in 2014.

I work as a counselor at Lasalle University. Part of my work is to take students on international service trips. In a few weeks I’ll be traveling to Haiti, for the second time, to spend two weeks in a primary school run by the Christian Brothers.

Haiti is both the most beautiful and the most heart-wrenching country I’ve ever visited. It has gorgeous beaches and rainforests. It also has debilitating poverty.

There is a hospital in Port-au-Prince where mothers take their children because they are so utterly poor that they cannot afford to feed them. Our La Salle students help to hold the infants and play with the toddlers so that they receive nurturing and stimuli. During my first trip to the hospital, I saw a mother visiting her infant. As she rocked him, she spoke to him in Creole. I asked someone to translate her words. They said that she was apologizing for not being able to care for him. It was the most tragic thing I’d ever seen. This image has remained with me and inspires me to do whatever I can to help.

On this trip, we will be working with students to help teach them the importance of sharing. Haiti is so poor that many kids have a mentality of scarcity: what’s mine is mine. We do crafts and play games that encourage them to be more generous.

But the school desperately lacks basic supplies. I’m currently accepting donations of the following: pens, pencils, chalk, crayons, markers, Crayola water color sets, construction paper, glue sticks, and stickers. Anything you donate will be given directly to Haitian kids to help them in their classrooms.

These trips have taught me how much privilege I have as an American. My community and family are incredibly blessed, and I don’t want to take these blessings for granted. It’s hard to describe how passionate I feel about helping kids in Haiti. Somehow, I always feel that they give me more than I give them. For our world to survive, I believe that we have to learn to lift one another up and not neglect those in need.

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