Written by Alyssa Esparaz of Pickering, Ontario

The Convay family keeps returning to an island better known for natural disasters and extreme poverty than for tourism. With three trips to Haiti in the past five years, and two more planned, the northern Ontario family of four might give the impression that they have always been well-seasoned travellers. But they never expected to become frequent flyers – least of all to Haiti.

“I thought that was something that could never happen in a million years,” says 19-year-old Olivia.

Her dad, Jamie, explains that while they sponsor a Haitian child, Channedieuline, through Compassion Canada, travelling to meet her never crossed their minds. They were comfortable in the familiar setting of their small-town home.

However, some friends of the family travelled to Haiti in 2010, and upon their return encouraged the Convays to consider going, too. They took the encouragement to heart. “We knew we should take our family,” says mom Laurie. Two years later, their church planned a mission trip to Haiti, and the idea became a reality.

While making plans for that first trip, the Convays wondered if they might be able to meet Channedieuline and got in touch with Compassion. It turned out that their sponsored “daughter” lived just 10 minutes down the road from the church where they would be serving and staying. “It was really the Lord who brought it together – truly a miracle,” Jamie says.

The differences between Haiti and their home in northern Ontario are vast, to be sure. The youngest family member, Alex, now 17, remembers little from their first trip, but he says the images of poverty and stark inequality stuck with him. Each time they visit, the family is inspired to continue serving in Haiti.

“…whether built through visits or letters, the relationship between Compassion children and their sponsors is one that changes lives on both sides.”

They also value the opportunity to spend face-to-face time with Channedieuline, a privilege most sponsors and sponsored children will never experience. But whether built through visits or letters, the relationship between Compassion children and their sponsors is one that changes lives on both sides.

The way the family speaks about Channedieuline shows how their relationship with her – and with her country – has changed them. Laurie tears up when she describes how Channedieuline has become part of their family.

Olivia and Alex say that knowing her has inspired them and expanded their view of the world. “You see how much harder [Haitian students] work in school, because they don’t have a back-up plan,” Alex says. Olivia adds that being in an unfamiliar setting reminds her that the Church is so much larger than her own experience of it.

“It’s important to realize that the Church is diverse and includes people from all over the world in all different walks of life,” she says, “Everyone is welcome.”