Friday March 21

laughing girls

Today was a very special and completely different day for our team. It was our Compassion day – the opportunity to go a Compassion International program and to meet children that some of our team members have each sponsored.

We loaded up bright and early once again, with all thirteen of us piling into one big van  – - quite a snug fit! We headed north for our two hour drive to the town of Cabaret.

Along the way, we drove by the site of the mass grave where some 260 thousand Haitians who were killed in the earthquake are buried. They were buried all together because it was impossible to recover any of the individual bodies amidst the rubble and debris that crushed them. It is located just off the highway marked off by a concrete wall forming a very large square on the hillside. Everyone in the car spontaneously fell quiet, observing a moment of silence as we drove by. At the entrance to the site, there is a sign denoting the date of the horrific disaster – January 12, 2010.

The hillsides outside of the city were dotted with many makeshift homes. We were told that many Haitians fled Port Au Prince after the earthquake and moved out into the mountains north of the city. One community we drove by is called Canaan because they consider it their Promised Land – where they somehow feel safe and protected from the devastation of another earthquake.

As we approached Cabaret, for the first time we had the opportunity to see the living conditions of some Haitians close up. It was truly shocking. These people are really the poorest of the poor. Most live in one-room cinder block shacks with corrugated tin roofs. They have no running water and no electricity. Their village has no water so they have to walk about a total of an hour there and back to get water at a nearby village and carry it back to their homes – what a hardship.

When we arrived at the combination Methodist center/church building/Compassion center we once again were treated like rock stars! It’s just the strangest feeling to step out of a van and be greeted so excitedly by a crowd of cheering children who are just so happy to see you. It felt like God was just somehow giving each of us a great big hug.

bubbles

It was then that we met the children we are each sponsoring through Compassion. What an indescribable moment that was. To see a child that you have only known through a photograph standing there in front of you in the flesh is so incredibly special and such a wonderful opportunity.

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We were ushered into the center where the entire school had prepared a special program for us – singing us songs, reciting poems, reading from the Bible and praying. Once again we all felt so unworthy of all of this attention but also so grateful for their efforts and their kindness.

ryan

After a quick lunch with our sponsored children, we divided into groups with each of the sponsors going to the home of their sponsored child, meeting their families, talking with them through an interpreter and giving them gifts we had brought from home. They were all so very gracious to us. It was very hard to see up close the very sad living conditions they all endure but it was a special time of sharing and bonding with the families and something we will always remember.

We left with so many mixed emotions – happiness to have met the children but very heavy hearts to see the realities of their daily lives. When one of our group asked the pastor of the church what were their greatest needs at the church his answers were so basic it was shocking – they don’t have any toilets and they don’t have water. It doesn’t get more basic than that.

We returned back to Port Au Prince and to the Heart to Heart guesthouse. Part of the group then did a little shopping at a nearby market, coming back with some wonderful Haïti mementos. We shared the guesthouse tonight with a group from a Nazarene college in Ohio. Caroline, Hailey and Ryan had fun getting to know some of the kids and hear about their time in Haïti.

In our final devotions and sharing, we all agreed that this trip has been far more impactful, engaging and life changing than any of us could have imagined. We also marveled at how very close we all have become in such a short time and how wonderfully we have all meshed together as one united team.

As we are all packing and preparing to leave early in the morning and return to the reality of our daily lives, a part of each of us finds it hard to say goodbye.

It is said that once you come to Haïti you leave a piece of your heart here. I think there is no question that we all have.

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Thursday – March 20

Today was our last day in Petit Goave and what a wonderful day it was! We arrived at Brakeman school bright and early so we would be in time to witness the flag ceremony at the school.

brakemen morning

It was a special sight to see the entire school, all in pristine uniforms, gathered outdoors in the school courtyard singing, praying and saluting the Haitian flag – a ceremony they perform daily at the beginning of each school day. It was a special treat to have our Pastor Jeff lead the school in the opening day prayer – he did a wonderful job!
Next came something we’d really been looking forward to – the opportunity to be in the classroom and do some fun art projects with the children in the third and fifth grades.
We had a great time working with the children making rubber band bracelets, bookmarks, paper airplanes and paper helicopters and they loved our demonstration of how well the helicopters twirled when we dropped them off of the outdoor balcony! We all noticed how well disciplined they all were and how they clearly respected their teacher’s authority. All the projects were a big hit and we really enjoyed the time to actually be in the classrooms with the kids. We even found time to make some rubber band bracelets with two of the groundskeeper’s children who aren’t able to attend the school but live on the property. They really loved that special attention.

arts and crafts

Next it was time to get dirty one more time and finish the last of our construction project – and boy did we really “rock” this one – literally! We spent the day moving rocks by hand, by bucket and by wheelbarrow to fill a deep space between the security wall and the back of the classroom foundation. With all of us making that one last big effort we were able to get the job finished and leave feeling a true sense of completion – we truly are now part of the “foundation” of the school. How heartwarming it is to imagine the children that will learn in these classrooms for many years to come and what a privilege it is to have been a small part of it.
We said goodbye to all of the Haitian workers who had worked alongside us all week long. We had grown to get to know them a bit and to appreciate their endless hard work and good humor. One of the workers gave the ladies a beautiful painted piece of pottery he had made as a way of saying thank you to us – so sweet and so unexpected!

team

Then it was back to the Methodist guesthouse to have lunch, shower and say goodbye to Pastor Dorcley and Madame Maude for their kind hospitality.
We headed back to Port Au Prince in two tap taps and an SUV. The trip back was filled with so many sights and sounds of Haïti. One we couldn’t stop talking about was seeing two live goats strapped on top of an SUV. Now that’s certainly something you don’t see everyday back home! We also experienced the craziest traffic imaginable in Port Au Prince and were just thankful we weren’t doing the driving!
We made it back safely to the Heart to Heart guesthouse which somehow seemed much more luxurious the second time around – ahhhh the luxury of sleeping in air conditioning! We had a truly delicious goat stew for dinner, had our nightly sharing and devotions and looked forward to a cool night’s sleep.

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Wednesday, March 19

The roosters were crowing, the sun was shining and we all awoke with a few extra aches and pains, moving a bit slower perhaps, but still eager to take on our last full day of construction work at Brakeman school. After a breakfast of oatmeal, fruit and the most delicious fresh cherry juice squeezed from cherries grown right on the property, we set out to tackle another day in the intense Haïti heat.
All thoughts of that heat soon dissipated when we arrived at the school and were greeted by the most adorable little kindergarteners dressed in their school uniforms, jumping up and down excitedly, waving and shouting and just so excited to see us – we felt like superstars!
We all got to work right away with a goal of completing the concrete work on the floor of the second classroom along with the walkway outside the classrooms by the end of the day. Our “bucket brigade” was truly a well-oiled machine by now, passing the filled buckets of cement down the line to be poured on the foundation and sending the empty buckets back again to be filled once more.

work line

Some of our group, namely Jeff, Char, Scott, Stacie, John and Rudy, filled the time by singing just about any tune that came to mind to the enjoyment and sometimes chagrin of our fellow Haitian workers! One of the men loved the children’s hymn “Allelu, Allelu, Allelu Alleluia” that we were singing and joined in with us singing it in French Creole with a huge smile on his face – what a joy!
We really sensed a connection with the Haitian workers we’ve been toiling together with all week. They were happy to see us and many high fives and fist bumps were exchanged today.

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Recess time proved to be an absolute highlight again today with the young children running out and literally swarming around us wanting to play – once again making us feel so special! Several little girls were giving kisses on the cheeks as greetings and many wanted to give us treats. The ladies in the group had a ball playing Ring Around the Rosie, London Bridges and other simple playground games with the children – they are so enthusiastic and just love laughing and having fun.

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Before leaving for lunch we took a quick tour of the project that had been completed by previous COR mission teams to Haïti – a second floor on top of the school auditorium that had been destroyed in the earthquake. The floor now houses a computer lab for the children, a meeting room and administrative offices.
After a lunch break and short rest we returned to the scorching afternoon sun with renewed energy to finish the task at hand. We all worked as a true team and one united hooray went up when the last bucket of concrete was poured on the walkway.
Then it was back home for much-needed showers, rest and dinner. We had a fun evening of preparing for our activities tomorrow which will include doing art projects in the classroom with third and fifth graders. We all looked like kids ourselves testing out the rubber band bracelets, paper airplanes and whirly gigs we will be making with them.
Our team is truly bonding and feeling so much like a family in this faraway place that has had such an impact on all of us.
During our devotions this evening, we all agreed that it is the Haïti people themselves that make us love Haïti. They are so warm, gracious and joyful and we are privileged and blessed to be here.

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Tuesday March 18th

Bonswa zamni nou!

Today the team woke up at about 7 sore from yesterdays work and exited for a day full of new experiences. We started out morning with a breakfast of delicious pancakes and sausage. As we loaded into the land cruiser/truck we could predict a very hot day ahead of us. We arrived at the site and immediately began working with our Haitian partners to lay cement and start the second portion of the floor. Again, around 11am recess came, and the kids came rushing out to see us, the “blans.” Two of our team members, Hailey and Ryan, brought two soccer balls out to the cement court, and the kids immediately started running towards it and started a pick-up game.

socccer

While the boys were playing, the girls went back to their handclap games and a few members talked with some older students at the school, who were all around the age of 20. These students knew a little English, and were very curious about the lives of those on our team, as we were about their lives. After a long morning of rebar tying, cement laying, bucket passing, and great conversation, we were dog tired and ready to get out of the sun.

students

When we arrived at the guesthouse for lunch, we were refreshed with our daily glass bottles of Coca-Cola, Sprite, or the local banana soda, called “fruit champagne.” The team was exhausted, and the rest of the day’s work seemed daunting, but eventually the team hauled ourselves in the vehicles and back to the worksite. The afternoon was even hotter – the heat index reached 120 degrees! But we worked through it, and with the help of a few sing-alongs (one member began singing When the Saints Go Marching In, and the Haitian workers joined in with their creole words, and then the songs kept going) and a lot of hydration breaks, we made it through the day. After what seemed like a long time, we made our way back to the guest house for much-needed showers and relaxation before dinner. At dinner, many of the members experienced the adventure of eating a bone-in fish (served with head and tail intact), and it was absolutely delicious. To top it all off, we all got we had been secretly (or openly) wishing for – ice cream, strawberry and vanilla. We finished the night with an always-insightful devotion and interesting discussion of the day’s experiences. We are excited for another full day of work tomorrow, as we are hoping to nearly complete the project.

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Monday, March 17

char

Hello from Haïti! We had a fantastic day today with many moments to share. After 2 days of getting up a 0-dark thirty, we were able to sleep until 7am this morning. For some, the night was filled with the sounds of barking dogs and roosters while others seemed to sleep through it. Coming from winter, it was awesome to walk outside and hear all of the birds & animals full of life. We saw multiple humming birds around the rows of flowers near the guesthouse and at the school. After a breakfast of eggs, fruit and bread, we assembled and headed to Brakeman School to start our construction project of building additional classrooms. We immediately noticed it was going to be a hot day as the sun rose in the spectacular blue sky. The sky against the tropical trees & plants was a vibrant scene of many colors. We arrived and our Haitian team members were already there, working on rebar needed for the ground floor. The team immediately got to work and within 10 minutes everyone was moving on a task. Ryan, Hailey and Caroline jumped in to tying the rebar together while others began removing large rock from the side of the foundation. At about 11am, the recess began for the 3rd through 6th graders and immediately 50 students appeared on the basketball court right next to the work site. They were using water bottles to play soccer. Four or five members of the team immediately jumped in to an informal game of football (soccer). Since it is the national sport, they are very good even with a water bottle …i.e. throwing in a water bottle, heading a water bottle, etc.
At the same time as the boys were playing soccer a large group of adorable little girls in pristine yellow and grey school uniforms and bright yellow ribbons surrounded the ladies in our group and they all joined in playing fun hand clapping games. The children absolutely loved it and it was a thrill to hear their squeals of glee!

photo

As the morning went on we were mixing concrete and hauling buckets onto the foundation. By noon, we were ready for a lunch break as the sun was very intense. We would work for about 20 minutes and then take a break. With the heat index at about 102F, we were not messing with any heat related issues. Tomorrow, we hear, will be even hotter! After a light lunch in the shade of the guest house, we spent several hours back on the work site until 4pm. We ended the day dirtier than all of us had been in a very long time but with a sense of satisfaction that comes from a good, hard day’s work.

Worksite

The team returned and we went through the cycle for showers and then a delicious meal of goat stew and rice. As I sit here typing, Kevin has Pastor Dorcely’s children engaged in making bracelets & necklaces that he brought with him. Another part of the team is working on precutting material for our classroom projects on Wednesday morning at the school. We are getting ready for our team debrief and devotionals which is a nightly tradition on mission trips.

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Haïti Trip – March 2014

Saturday, March 15

Our Haïti journey began very early Saturday morning with our team meeting at the KCI airport somewhat sleep-deprived but filled with anticipation. We were fortunate to make every rather tight flight connection (KC to Chicago, Chicago to Miami, and Miami to Port au Prince) with even a few minutes to spare!
We arrived at the airport at Port-au-Prince with several members of our team who had previously been to Haïti marveling at the progress that has been made since the devastating 2010 earthquake. We were greeted by Wes our team host here in Haïti, who took us on an adventurous and very bumpy ride to the Heart to Heart headquarters, our home for the evening.
Had a wonderful dinner of lasagna, beans and rice, chicken legs and fried plantains and a terrific sharing and devotion time and then off to bed for an early morning departure time.

Sunday, March 22

Our 5 AM wake up call came rather early this morning but we all managed to get ourselves dressed, packed and ready for breakfast at 6 AM. After some delicious pancakes, fresh fruit and wonderful Haitian coffee we were off on our two hour journey to Petit Goave. It turned out to be quite an adventure as our entire team got to ride in two Tap-Taps, which are partially open-air trucks with bench seats – the Haitian version of a taxi cab – we felt like real locals! The ride was filled with bright colors, busy streets, unusual smells and some amazing sights – like seeing Tap Taps and trucks literally piled with people and possessions – with some people actually riding on the roofs of the vehicles! We also passed a voodou temple along the way, marked with colored flags and brightly painted voodoo symbols intertwined with some Christian symbolism.
Arrived safely in Petit Goave and had the privilege of attending church services at the local Methodist church. This was a highlight for us all. Our wonderful team leader Rudy gave words of greeting to the congregation from our church and introduced each one of us. The pastor actually gave part of his sermon in English for us before giving it to the congregation in French Creole! When the service ended, we were warmly greeted by so many who were eager to share a smile and a handshake with all of us. As one team member, Pastor Jeff , mentioned it’s wonderful to experience the “universal language of church”.
We got settled in our “home” for the week, the Methodist guest home in Petit Goave, and then took a long walk through the town. We visited the Brakeman school where we will be doing construction work all week, helping to build additional classrooms. Rudy was amazed at the progress that had already been made since his site visit about five weeks ago. It was heartwarming to see how warmly he and other team members who had been to Haïti before were greeted by several members of the construction crew that we met. True relationships are being built here in the church’s ongoing effort to establish a real presence here in Haïti.
The rest of our walk included stops at a medical eye clinic that has been rebuilt since the earthquake and a view of the beautiful Caribbean.
On our walk back we encountered a Catholic mass being performed in an empty lot along the street – all a reminder of the diversity of religions here in the country of Haïti.
Our evening ended with another delicious dinner which featured a traditional Haitian cole slaw called “pickliz” – tasty but very spicy!
Ended the evening with devotions and showers and early bedtimes to prepare for our first day of real work in Haïti.

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2013 November Team, Day 6

We closed out an amazing, inspiring and tiring week at the clinic, serving over 200 patients and dispensing over 800 prescriptions. We are all more than blessed for this experience to give glory to God in serving the Haitians. The smiles from the children, gratitude from the adults in forms of thank yous, smiles, hugs and kisses brightened our days. We greatly enjoyed when patients in waiting area sang again today. We all commented this evening, at what a joy it has been to be the hands and feet of Christ on this trip.

Tomorrow we head back to Port-Au-Prince to visit the Haiti National Heritage Museum and some other sites in the city. Hopefully, we will be able to post some more pictures when we have a better Internet connection.

Thank you again for keeping us in your prayers. We have continuously felt the peace and presence of God with us.

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2013 November, Day 5

For many of us, one of the best parts of our day was getting special cards and letters of encouragement from our prayer partners! You have no idea how much that meant to all of us! We are so blessed with your love and friendship. Thank you!

We treated 65 patients today! It was a challenging but rewarding day, which was brightened by so many favors from God. At one point in the morning, patients in the waiting room began singing of a beautiful hymn in unison. It was so uplifting to hear them sing and it brightened our day. The many interactions with the people at the clinic were so meaningful to us all in different ways. We are grateful for this opportunity to share God’s love and the resources that we made available to us to share with the Haitians.

Ian changed out a radio and made a tower taller to improve the signal to the Internet provider. He also had an opportunity to support us at the clinic and took some pictures of kids eager to have their photos taken by him. See blog photos.

We are also so thankful that we have Wes Comfort assisting us. He’s with Heart to Heart and a liaison to COR. What a blessing he has been in helping us stay organized, support translations and keep us all in good spirits.

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is our last day in the clinic. We hope to make it a great one; giving love, mercy and compassion to our patients.

Many thanks for all your prayers and support!

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2013 November Team, Day 4

Everything at the clinic went very well today, based on best practices we incorporated from our Monday evening debrief. We were all more relaxed with new organization strategies in place and we treated 46 patients today! Because the team is working so well together, we are able to continually improve our service to the people. Although some of the patients were very ill, they still had plenty of smiles when Mary Beth F. showered them with children’s bubbles while they waited to see the doctor. Mary Beth W. played with kids outside the clinic, enjoying the bubbles, sunglasses and other little toys as well. The registration area manned by Trey, Mary Beth F., and Wladimir set the tone for calm patients as kids made artwork for the walls. A new triage process allowed nurse Jill and/or doctor Bill the opportunity to immediately assess medicine needs so that patients didn’t have to wait so long in pain. Pharmacist Veronica and her assistant Karen quickly dispensed  medication at the clinic pharmacy. We treated a variety of illnesses from Asthma to Malaria, and other general and chronic health conditions.

We were blessed with some afternoon showers which cooled off the high temps, and made for a lovely afternoon and evening.

On the tech side, Ian and Louidgi (he is the resident Haitian geek, who works for Access Haiti) surveyed all the different sites and installed the radio at the clinic. He received a turbo bath from the showers as he rode back to the guest house on the back of Louidgi’s motorcycle.

We are all looking forward to Day 5, serving in this inspiring and gracious country.NMS_1976 DSC_2060

Ian and Louidgi installing the wireless bridge radio and mast at the Petit-Goâve clinic

Ian and Louidgi installing the wireless bridge radio and mast at the Petit-Goâve clinic

The Bay of Petit-Goâve

The Bay of Petit-Goâve

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2013 November, Day 3

It’s a late post tonight as we experienced some issues with electricity shortage during the day, and then some WiFi issues, but thanks to Ian we’re able to share our experiences from today! It was an amazing first day at the clinic. Everyone worked so well together, making sure that we were able to treat the most critical patients in order of priority, and giving the kids crayons, coloring books and small toys to occupy them while they waited to see the doctor and/or nurse. We served 36 people today, which was such a blessing. The patients were all so precious and thankful for the diagnosis and medication. While the team members had their assigned duty, the flexibility and adaptability of all was evident throughout the day. It made for a great first day.

On the tech side, we have bigger issues with the overall network than we initially thought and Ian will have to do a little more re-engineering on Tuesday.

We will post some pictures in the Tuesday evening update. Thanks again for all your prayers. We appreciate them so much!

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