On day three in Haiti, we found out what Matt Smith, founder of the NGO Operation Shield, and the sponsor of our trip, meant when he said we’d be building chicken coops. We arrived at the Gesto Orphanage, in our work clothes, and Matt said he wanted us, Rog, me and the ten other women from Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, to build a chicken coop. Not all of us. Some would play with the kids inside. Meanwhile, Matt was to speak at a trial, beginning in a half hour, as a character witness for his friend, a young man from the United States, unjustly incarcerated in a Haitian jail.
Matt’s testimony would, he hoped, lead to his friend’s release. Matt was so preoccupied, his only instruction to us was, “Build it by the other chicken coop.” We asked for the plans. He said, “It’s a chicken coop. It’s not rocket science!” Suddenly it became clear why Rog and I felt inspired to join this trip to Haiti with Matt. He’s invited us before but we could never work it out. This was the first trip that involved building chicken coops. And my handy husband Rog grew up building cages, pens and houses for all his various pet animals – pigeons, hawks, rabbits, mice, dogs, to name a few. The rest of us did what we could to help, but Rog was the mastermind.
Photo by Katie Roberts, Lampshade Studios
So Rog and several of us women, with the help of the older children from the orphanage, cobbled together a chicken coop. The idea is that the orphanage will now add hens that can brood chicks to their operation, so they can eventually replace unproductive older hens for egg production. The older children supervise the younger ones in gathering the eggs and feeding the chickens. It provides additional income, as well as food, for the orphanage.
Matt, as it turned out, didn’t need to defend his friend who had spent the previous month in jail. The judge said he knew the man was innocent and it was just a matter of getting all the fines paid, and he would be released. Money from family in the U.S. was enroute. But Matt was shocked at the sight of his friend! He’d lost forty pounds and was despondent.
We forgave Matt for dumping the chicken coop project on us unexpectedly, and all of us joined our prayers with Matt’s for his friend’s release. His release occurred, but not for a month after we returned home from Haiti.