Feb 24, 2013

...So when can I go back?

Once again I've found myself reflecting on yet another successful trip. Over the three weeks worth of time I spent at the mission...

  • Spam was eaten (and will never be eaten again)
  • a realization sunk in that there was no avoiding stepping in goat poop
  • Edvens (Haitian translator) was hit in the head with a basketball and baseball within a span of 5 minutes of each other (when I say I'm not good at a sport I mean it, that doesn't mean throw me a ball and expect things to go over smoothly)
  • dance parties with the kitchen staff occurred on a more frequent basis than they would normally have approved of
  • baby goats were obsessed over
But seriously...
  • 500+ eye glasses were distributed
  • preschoolers learned their colors in English
  • 100's of villagers were seen during mobile clinics
  • children learned the fundamentals of baseball
  • Bright Morning Star English Club had some guest instructors
  • a computer lab was set up
  • 12th grade students participated in chemistry labs
  • soccer was played
  • art classes were taught
  • scarfs were painted (to be sold in the US to fund the artists education fund)
  • a new school for the town of Paul was drawn up and construction started on
  • animals were bought for sponsored children
  • rice was distributed to expectant mothers
  • remote villages were visited for post clinic checkups and vitamin distribution
  • nutrition classes were taught in the school
  • maintenance work for the mission itself was completed
  • church services had guest speakers (and singers)
  • a conference for teachers and pastors was held
  • patients in the clinic were attended to
  • well water was tested
  • cookies for the school children were made by the owner of Bethel Bakery along side the Haitian baker in a solar oven
  • solar panels were mounted
  • most importantly-friendships were made and expanded upon 
I have now taken four trips to Haiti in the past 20 months. Technically speaking I should go back in five months or so. Unfortunately I don't think I'll be able to return until next January and that's even up in the air. Knowing that before I left made saying goodbye terribly hard. I am extremely thankful for the relationships I have created and for now can only pray that I will be able to return. Thank you for those of you who have supported me over the years and provided your prayers for me, the teams I have traveled with and the people of Haiti.

Feb 15, 2013

Friday February 15

I’ve reached that time once more-my last day here. Before I’ve been able to handle it decently well solely because I have known the exact month in which I would return. Since I will be in college next year I’m not sure when I will be able to come back. These three weeks have been incredible and each day got better and better.

Yesterday, Meghan, Susan, Shelly were back at the clinic seeing patients and taking blood pressure. Things were winding down for the day when a woman came in with a very obviously malnourished baby. We soon found out that the woman was this baby’s aunt and had brought him in because the mother was mentally ill and was neglecting to feed him. His name was Riccardo and was 3 months old, weighed 3kg and was the size of a newborn. We began to re-hydrate him and within an hour he was more alert and active. Riccardo’s aunt promised that when she returned home that she would care for this child for the rest of his life. The aunt had watched her sister do the same thing to three other babies who are all deceased because of her actions. I was overjoyed when the aunt said she would be Riccardos guardian and happy to see her leave with confidence knowing that she had done the right thing to bring the child to the clinic.

We all have had a busy week and I think it’s safe to say we all feel like this pig at this point and can pass out wherever is convenient. 

Feb 12, 2013

Tuesday, 2/12/13

One of my favorite parts about my time in Haiti is that every day is different. This week is Ra Ra, aka Carnival, a nationwide celebration of Mardi Gras. Because of this the clinic was supposed to be closed and only one staff member was to be there. They doctors didn’t expect any patients to show up but when Dr. Abel showed up this morning there were 60+ people. Nurse Shelly was quickly summoned by Pastor Pierre to go down and lend a hand and she pulled me along with her. Upon arrival I was immediately seated in the waiting room and instructed to take and record every patient’s vitals. Shelly taught me how to take blood pressure four months ago and at first I was nervous sitting in front of people of all ages as they watched me take the first patient’s blood pressure. But I survived and took everyone’s blood pressure and recorded their weight--including a couple of adorable babies! Tomorrow I will be heading back to do the same thing and am beyond excited. I am more than grateful for this experience in the clinic and it reassures me that nursing is the right path for my future.
baby goats!
Back at the mission much was going on.  Part of the group worked in the high school installing the computers for the computer lab. Reeny was a busy beaver as she bounced from leading a seminar with teachers (without a translator!) and observing Edvens while he taught his English club. The conference with the teachers was complimented with a lunch so some of our group was busy preparing lunch for over 70 people this morning. I returned from the clinic just in time to have lunch with all of the teachers. I enjoyed being in a room with all of the teachers at once and I think the members of the team enjoyed getting to know the teachers a little better since we don’t find ourselves interacting with them that frequently. In the afternoon Sandy and my mom helped the scarf painting girls. They are starting to find themselves more and more comfortable with leaving this team of girls to work and make scarves even after we leave so there will be a constant supply of them. The most adventurous activity that took place today was a trip to the market to buy 18 goats and one cow. The Americans who tagged along were thoroughly awed at the pure chaotic atmosphere of the market and the very tight quarters. They successfully returned with all of the livestock which will be distributed tomorrow.
I am ready for a new day to commence! Thank you for your continued prayers for our safety, good health and ability to work hard.

Feb 11, 2013

Monday, 2/11/13

Tonight I have a guest post from Meghan Allwes:

So far my experience in Haiti has been incredible. What I love the most here are the Hatian's. Their spirits are unbelievable considering all the hardships they indure on a daily basis. One of my favorite experiences so far was going to church on Sunday.  Even though we and Haitians have bipolar cultures and lifestyles, we are all brought together to serve God. Their undeniable faith in God is something we should take note of. Before I came I was obsessively worrying about a D I got on my bio test, but now it seems so silly to be concerned about something that minor in my life. Haiti changes perspectives. Here are a few things I learned so far for anyone who has never traveled to Haiti:The drivers are crazy and use their horns instead of a turn signal. Do not get on a Tap-Tap (Haitian taxi) because you are not  guaranteed a seat where you are hanging off the edge of the vehicle clinging on for your life. Haitian women have a special talent where they can balance baskets and jugs that are full on their heads while walking. Also, Haitians can survive this 90 degree weather with flying colors in long pants and long sleeve shirts while we Americans are dying in our short sleeve shirts and shorts. The goats look like dogs because they are so little. I feel like most Haitians I talk to think I'm crazy since my Kreyol is so bad, but they always have a smile on their face. Haitians are very friendly and always saying bonjou unlike in America how we just walk past some people without a simple hello. The children are so sweet, and I love the interactions with them because they are so lively. Although my Kreyol is very limited,  I can still interact with them and we have somewhat of a mutual understanding. Haitian children LOVE having their picture taken, and they all laugh after they see it. Today while traveling to Katia, I took a picture of some village boys who ran up to me, and they followed me around the entire time we walked. They were hysterical! 

This is a new friend of mine who I met during church on Sunday

I defiantly underestimated the difficulty of nurse Shelly's one of many responsibilities to deliver vitamins and medications to Haitians. It is a hard to walk in the heat, and the fact there is no plumbing in these remote villages is very inconvenient when you gotta go. The hardest part is witnessing the poverty and how much help these people need. As we stopped to treat the families we planned to visit, children and adults crowded around asking for medical assistance as well.  I wish I had vitamins to distribute to every Haitian, or at least a piece of candy for every Haitian child who asked me for one. I admire the work Shelly does because the conditions she has to work in along with the limitations she has to serve. However, any little thing brightens a Haitian's day, something as little as a piece of candy. 

I am happy my brother Mark decided to tag along because this is a life changing experience, and it makes it that much more special that we are doing it together. He has built great relationships with a few Haitian guys our age, and he is even helping them with their English. In Haiti everyone finds his/her place to do God's work, and there are so many opportunities to do so. If given the opportunity, everyone should take the time to do any type of mission work, because it is such a humbling experience, and its even better if you get to do it with your twin brother. 

Feb 8, 2013

Thursday, 2/7/13

I don't think this post will even begin to describe how unbelievable happy I am about today. Granted, I personally didn't do that much-BUT it was just an all around good day. 

morning hike 
We started our morning nice and early and walked up the mountain with Pastor Pierre to watch the sunrise. Walking up the mountain during the day is one thing but to do it in the morning is a completely different story. The sun rises over the mountain line and you can watch the light touch the other mountains and slowly bring the valleys into a golden light as the fog drifts from village to village through the fields of banana trees and rice patties. Afterwards I found myself in the kitchen making pancakes for the group and getting crafty with our resources throwing trail mix into some for a little added ump.

nutrition class with Shelly and Betsy
I spent my morning watching Shelly and Betsy (a nutritionist) go to a few classrooms and educate the kids about their nutrition and proper hygiene. The lesson was complete with a drawing of what their plate should look like during a meal. It was fun watching the two of them get the kids to interact so much because children are usually in seats in a more traditional learning setting.

Afterwards I was back in the kitchen making lunch. I always enjoying getting to spend time in there because the kitchen staff is absolutely delightful. Although I may not speak their language I feel as if we can still joke around. 

Ray, Carolyn, Betsy and I set off to see a local students art work in his house. His name is Jimmy and this week he has been helping Sandy with her art class and he approached her about buying some of his pieces. She bought one and he returned the next day with more and the team quickly snatched them up. I am proud to say I am the lucky owner of one! Anyway, back to us going to his house. Carolyn is documenting our trip and turning the footage into a short film and appreciated the opportunity to see Jimmy's house and entire collection. We walked into his one room 9 x 18 ft. house and soon realized that each wall was lined with his work. It took my breath away. This student, 22 years old, has an unbelievable talent which will hopefully provide a living for him here in Haiti
On our way home we stopped at the Community of Hope and played with the kids who are absolutely delightful.  While they were busy dancing and coloring with markers and paper Shelly and I brought, I tried to obtain my a petit cabri (a baby goat). I quickly found out that trying to catch a goat is nearly impossible, even if you have a hand of trail mix to offer it! 

the way to New Perisse
Before dinner Pastor Pierre asked if some of us wanted to go see the construction on houses in New Perrise. I jumped in the car not giving why we were going a second thought. I'd been to New Perrise in November and there were a few very well made houses. Upon arrival today I was blown away. Where maybe 6 houses stood three months ago were now more than 15. Old Perrise was in the flood plane which was constantly a problem. The families were trying to relocate to a higher area and relocate they did! 
new construction in New Perisse
And then we came back to the mission (I accidentally wrote "we came home" and then realized that this isn't my home, even as much as I'd like it to be) and there was breadfruit for dinner! I can't describe it for those of you who have never had it except that it is heavenly. 

After dinner we always share the events of the day and there is so much more that happened. Such as a lot of sponsors getting to interact with their sponsored children. I wish I could write about this, but I'm going to have to defer you to the rest of the team to get the stores from them when they return home. I've had a blast with this group and will be sad to see some of them go on Saturday. 

Feb 6, 2013

Tuesday, 2/5/13 and Wednesday, 2/6/13

flag raising ceremony before school

On Tuesday after the school children arrived and got settled in their classes for the day a small group of us headed to the market to buy some animals for sponsored children's families. We went to the market in L'astire which is about five miles down the road from the mission in La Croix. Upon arrival we were immediately in a swarm of thousands of people. Opposed to other outdoor markets, this market was spread out throughout the town and took quite some effort to reach each part. 
market day
The cows were in a huge open area and there were about 75 of them. Because of the tight quarters the blancs (white people) stood away as Pastor Evens and a few others went to go barter for four cows. They came back successful and we moved on to the pigs. 
pigs for sale!
Here, we weren't as successful. A group of "hoodlums" (as one of my trip-mates Juan called them) were persistently asking the Haitians we were with for money for alcohol and drugs. Not wanting to make the situation worse we shuffled our way out and went home. The cows were delivered when we got home. 

In the afternoon the women worked with a group of young ladies to dye scarfs that are sold in the United States to benefit their education.  
Bobbie (in the back) helped start this scarf painting program several years ago.
It's exciting that the Haitians now run it and we are the assistants!
For the first time art lessons were led for aspiring artists by Sandy. It was fun watching the kids train of thought as they attempted to draw an egg with the shadow. 
Sandy in her inaugural art class for children that have artist gifts.
The goal is that they will be able to earn a living as an artist as an adult.
The class will eventually be taught by a Haitian.
Also on Tuesday a group did food distribution and continued the distribution in Paul today. 

Today I had the privilege of assisting nurse Shelly who is in Haiti for six months. She is from Vermont. We worked in the clinic with Haitian doctors Georges and Abel. We saw a handful of pregnant women and I learned how to measure how far along in the pregnancy they are and how to use a Doppler to find the heartbeat. 

Last week's team left me with a bunch of paper and coloring supplies and I am hoping to go to the Community of Hope, next to the mission, later today to color with the kids. Ray and I will also be venturing over to the field soon to play baseball with the kids. As you can see this was another busy couple of days and I think I've only described some of what has happened with this team in Haiti!

Feb 4, 2013

Monday, 2/4/13

I think this week will be just as exciting as last! The group from Westminster arrived safely Saturday afternoon and I could immediately tell that we would all be able to work together efficiently as a team. We attended church yesterday and took Communion.  A woman gave a testimony about how she had drifted away from the church for a couple of years and there was a family who was blessed and welcomed into the church. That's quite exciting!
Pastor Josh with Pastor Pierre translating
Today everyone went off to attend to their own tasks--chemistry class, the clinic, the solar oven, baseball, scarf dying, art class, and some maintenance work. 
a busy chemistry class
We ended the night bagging rice for a distribution that will take place a couple of days this week.
prepping for food distribution
We have discussed what the rest of the week will look like and I am eager for each day with this group.