Confession #39: Not Yet Independent

ImageHow to become independent, how to take care of ourselves, how to be a part of a family, how to have healthy relationships, and how to prepare for the future- all lessons we are supposed to learn growing up- in a home- a home with parents. All lessons the Emmaus Youth have grown up without. You can blame it on a number a variables, but the underlying truth remains in all of them: they grew up in an orphanage and not a home, with nannies and not moms and dads, roommates in place of brothers and sisters, sponsors instead of sole providers, and directors who came in and out of their lives every few years.

This is not the fault of the CHCH; they are simply the product of an institutionalized orphanage environment. Children were made for families, not for orphanages. Common knowledge. And over the past 2 ½ years of living here at the CHCH, God has opened the scales of my eyes to numerous reasons why He created the family first and foremost. This truth has caused me great grief- grief because I love the CHCH kids so dearly and I long for them to have the one thing the need the most: a family.

In 9 days (Yes, I am counting down the days!) I am moving out of the CHCH and into a little home right down the street from Emmaus House. For the first time ever, Hunter and I will be living on our own in Haiti. Even before moving to Haiti, we would we would typically stay at the CHCH. Breaking away from the one place that has always been so familiar to us is going to be a little difficult, but we are ready!

In 9 days our Emmaus Youth will be moving as well. For many of them, CHCH has been their home since they were little children. Their move is exciting and yet filled with a lot of bittersweet emotions, I’m sure. But they have a lot of work ahead of them, a lot of catching up to do. They may be young adults on paper, but look closer and that is not necessarily what you will find. Their ages range from 18-22, but they are not prepared for the real world ahead of them. Growing up in an orphanage, they were not afforded the opportunity to learn many of the skills most children are supposed to learn in their own homes. Now, as they are on the brink of adulthood, they are stunted in many common abilities that are deemed necessary to survive if they truly want to make it on their own in this world.

Recently, a collection of surveys was completed on each young adult moving into Emmaus House. Called the Individualized Transition Inventory (ITI), the survey measured the current abilities and skill sets of each young adult, their knowledge in certain topics, and it mapped their future career goals as well as six-month goals in the areas of education, spiritual life, independence, and vocation.

I’ll be honest. These surveys weren’t fun. Interesting, yes. A great research tool, absolutely! But after sitting at my table for 2-5 hours (Yes, one of them took 5 hours) with each one of them, going through a packet full of things they don’t know, and watching them realize they don’t know any of it…not so fun. For those of us giving the surveys, I think exhausting would be an accurate word. And for our teens, I think many of them walked away feeling slightly discouraged.

Here is why:

77% of our youth can’t read food labels

65% of our youth don’t understand how to make a weekly food budget and can’t go grocery shopping on their own

30% of our youth don’t know how to clean a house

42% of our youth don’t know how to wash their own clothes

65% of our youth don’t know basic first aid

77% of our youth don’t know the appropriate prices for local housing and couldn’t search for a house or apartment on their own

95% of our youth aren’t aware of the start-up cost and maintenance cost of living alone

77% of our youth don’t know how to apply for personal documents (birth certificates, ID cards, medical records, diploma)

53% of our youth don’t know the difference between wants and needs

77% of our youth don’t know how to open or manage a bank account

54% of our youth cannot care for minor illness without seeing a doctor

49% of our youth cannot follow instructions on medications

49% of our youth don’t know how to maturely handle conflict and how to manage anger

49% of our youth don’t know how to appropriately handle a situation when there is a disagreement

42% of our youth don’t understand the difference in a relationship (family, friends, professional, marital, dating, casual)

49% of our youth don’t know how to appropriately handle unhealthy relationships

42% of our youth don’t know how to try to understand someone else’s point of view if different from their own

100% of our youth don’t know how to look for employment

100% of our youth don’t know how to write a resume

100% of our youth don’t know how to fill out a job application

Now think back to when you were 20 years old. Could you do these things? Could you readImage the label on the back of your cereal box? Go grocery shopping on a weekly budget? Clean your apartment? (If you wanted to, that is.) Wash your own clothes? Handle your own rent? Go open a bank account and manage it? Take care of your headache without having to go see the doctor every time? Handle disagreements with friends without getting into a fight? Know how to maturely negotiate your point of view with someone? Look for a job, turn in a resume, and fill out an application? Independently?

Chances are, you could. I could. I did. But guess what: I didn’t grow up in an orphanage. I grew up in a home. I had parents to teach me how to do these things. Ever since I was a little girl, they prepared me for independence. Sure, I lived in America and had opportunities galore, but more importantly I had training. I was reared from childhood and nurtured from the womb to be prepared for my future. The Emmaus Youth, however, they had none of that.

And this, my friends, is why sometimes I have sleepless nights. Why sometimes I skip meals because I am too busy working. Why sometimes I can’t remember if I bathed yet or even brushed my teeth (Don’t judge). Why I don’t mind the mosquitos, the melting sun, and the inconsistent electricity. Why I am constantly asking you to donate to Emmaus House or to read my blog or to share something on Facebook. And why I love these teens so stickin’ much even when they drive me mad! Because I know they need me, because I know they need Jesus, and because I know that Jesus sent me to them.

Emmaus House formed be a transition home- a home to prepare young adults (specifically from the CHCH) for their future in the real world- kinda like a half way house, if you will.  And it is clear we have our job made out for us. Many have wondered if a home like ours is necessary. After all, these aren’t kids we are talking about. These young adults have been served all their lives- shouldn’t they be ready to move on and move out? I wish the answer were yes. I wish they were ready. But life in Haiti is different than life in America. Growing up in an orphanage is different than growing up in a home. And those realities combined have prevented all 17 of our Emmaus Youth from being ready for their futures.

And so in 9 nine days we will begin- teaching, training, and preparing the Emmaus Youth for their futures, trying to make up for lost time, filling in the gaps where we can, and praying that God will bestow infinite amounts of patience and grace along the way.

I am so excited for Emmaus House to begin. I am ready for the Emmaus Youth to get started on their futures. It’s time. Want to join us?

How you can help:

 1.    Partner with us in prayer!

 2.    We need youth sponsors. Email Jillian @ kittrellsinhaiti@gmail.com today!

 3.    Donate to Emmaus House via PayPal (on the right).

~ Jillian

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