Saturday, October 11, 2014

La Boulangerie

Saturday, Oct 11, 2014

Our day started at Grace Village where we spent the morning with just the boys, baking cookies and bread, playing soccer, drawing with sidewalk chalk, and singing.  Even though the baking activity looked chaotic, with flour flying everywhere, and butter sliding on the tables, all the boys participated.  The highlight for me was watching the woman who operated the wood oven.  She filled the oven with wood and let it burn until the internal temperature was 900 degrees.  Then, she removed the wood and put in the bread and cookies.  The boys gathered around the oven waiting for the cookies and bread to come out of the oven.  When they were cool enough to eat, they dove in.  Most had a couple, but some where seen to have taken at least 6.  Well, so much for lunch.

After Grace Village, we stopped at the mass grave site where there are an estimated 300,000 people buried. We were touched by the personal stories of our interpreters who shared their stories of what happened that horrible day on Jan 12, 2010.  

We then stopped at Juno’s, an orphanage, and played checkers and put together puzzles. I love the word for puzzles in French “Jeu de patience” (Game of patience) and isn’t that the truth. Steve brought out the guitar and sang French songs with the kids and everyone, including the staff, were clapping and singing along.  The team is doing a great job learning French songs. Just ask one of us how to say “branch” in French.  

Just when we thought we didn’t have any energy left, we rallied and took the neighborhood boys to the soccer field for a game.  Thank goodness we divided us up into two teams.  It was a close game, 1-0.

After our full day, we thought we were ready for a bit of relaxation, when Jean came over and showed us how to salsa. It was a beautiful night to dance on the rooftop.


Friday, October 10, 2014

A Day To Be Grateful

Ever since we arrived in Haiti, we have heard that you never know what might happen, so you should be flexible about your expectations.  Well, today we officially got to experience it!

Our schedule called for a second water truck day, but last night we had a downpour of rain.  When it rains, the residents of Cite Soleil bring their water buckets outside, so we were told that they wouldn’t need water today as their buckets would already be full.  Our team leaders met with Jean and quickly came up with a new schedule with several stops.

Our first visit was to Elder’s School in Cite Soleil.  When we got there, a few classes were having a lunch break and we were able to go up to their top floor terrace to hang out with them.  The kids were very excited to see us and quickly found someone to attach to.  Many of the boys chose to talk with the men in the group, while the girls stayed close to the women.  There was lots of joking and smiles, and it was impressive to see how many children are able to go to school at their location.

Next, we dropped off some supplies at an orphanage that is newly connected with Healing Haiti.  None of the teams have visited before, so we were given a tour.   One of the women that runs the orphanage talked with us and seemed very excited about future teams coming to do activities with the kids.  We found that there are 35 children that currently live there with ages ranging from 4 to 14.

After a short siesta at the house, we went to LaPhere, an orphanage and school.  They pulled out some wooden bleachers and Steve taught us all a few kids songs in French.  The kids here were really responsive and there were lots of smiles and laughter.  One older boy enjoyed surprising us with tickles from behind, and several of us experienced being prayed for by the youngest little girl, probably under 2 years old, complete with her hand on our heads.  

Our last visit was to Gertrude’s Orphanage.  She originally began her orphanage because she kept seeing children with special needs that had been abandoned when she visited the hospitals in Port au Prince.  Two thirds of the children at the orphanage have some sort of special need.  The kids were especially interested in putting on lotion, and we formed a circular track of sorts where we had wheelchair races.

For me, the highlight of the day was watching our team work together.  There were both easy, natural moments and uncomfortable moments, but in both cases we each found our niche and were able to serve together, drawing strength from the others if need be.  It is pretty incredible to be at this stage of our trip and see the fruit of our team having gelled.

It was a day of many new memories, snapshots that will be remembered forever.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thursday in Haiti

A passage pulled from our morning devotional states: “Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”  The course of the day seemed to be summed up in that short passage. Today provided a day of much needed hope for the group as we explored the progressive steps Healing Haiti has taken to expand and enhance Grace Village.  The day also provided some humbling experiences, as all days seem to do, with our elderly visits around Titanyan.  Following that, we visited a school filled with inspirational children at the Shalom school.  

Our visit to Grace Village restored in all of our hearts that in a dark world, a powerful light can shine through when done so with compassion and love.  Funded by donations and prayers, the Grace Village has continued its expansion to create a beautiful, and breathtaking, learning environment for hundreds of children in Haiti.  Sturdy concrete buildings contrast the desolate mountainside with brilliant colors.  Classrooms range from kindergarten to 12th grade and brief moments of passing them provide you with bright, ebullient smiles of eager children.  Casting waves and smiles at the passing missionaries may not have been in the teachers initial teaching plans, but they seem to send a few smiles our way as well.  The village continues to impress with a lively playground, resourceful plant and fish system, as well as a medical clinic overlooking the mountainside.  I never imagined in a world so overwhelmed with poverty I would  experience such a beautiful view.  

Departing the mountainside the team was filled with a sense of hope and pride in the opportunities Healing Haiti has provided, and continued to provide in a world with so much need.  Something the teams intend to do during the week is visit the elderly of the Healing Haiti program.  Blessed with the opportunity to do so today, the group showed as much love as we could through song, prayer, and heartfelt interaction.  The response from the elders was deeply moving.  They were very receptive and appreciative, often swaying with the music, smiling, and affectionately reaching out to team members.  An elder woman greeted us at the gate and welcomed us in.  While I was still busy, trying to figure out who the elder was, the lively woman greeted everyone with a lively spirit.  When it dawned on me the elderly woman was also the “greeter” I was stunned.  Fighting through muscle pain seemed to be irrelevant for this woman as she danced and sang along to the music.  It never ceases to impress me the resilience these elder show with the lives they have been given.  To think the life expectancy in Haiti is 52, the elders ranging from 22-103 prove over and over again that God is good.  Another memorable visit came from the 22 year old boy who was graced into the elderly program because of his epilepsy.  As the group sang Amazing Grace in the background, my heart broke for this boy and his loving mother.  The tears seemed inevitable.  There I was, facing a boy equivalent in age to me that lay almost motionless, body distorted with only his eyes shifting from one group member to another.  I like to believe that was his way of giving us thanks, but he will never realize the thanks should have been blessed upon him.  In those few short minutes with him, he was able to teach us an appreciation for life that can never be repaid.  In all we were blessed to visit six elders, all teaching us in invaluable ways.

The last stop at the Shalom house was a perfect way to complete another enlightening day.  The children and team enjoyed the creation of sock puppets accompanied with some french singing.  All in all it was another amazing day in Haiti with more to come.  The initial devotion came full circle this evening as we had time to reflect on our day in Haiti.  The day was a great reminder that our great moments lead to great learning opportunities.  However, the lessons learned in our trials and hardships teach us a great deal more.  Whether it be babies or elders, healthy or ill, rich or poor, in our hometown or across the world, we are all equal and we all deserve a life that feels that way.  And if, even for a brief moment, we can provide that feeling to others, I truly believe that is God’s highest wishes of us.


Wednesday In Haiti

Today was hard. I know we all expected it to be this way, yet I think the helplessness we all felt at times surprised even the strongest of us. Here we were present and strong with willing hands and open heart ready to serve. But yet we felt unprepared for knowing the best way to serve at times well as what kind of impact we could all make surrounded by just a fraction of the broken and sick babies that we visited today. 

"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” - Mother Teresa

Our day started with time at the Home For Sick and Dying Babies. We arrived to a line outside the gate filled with mother’s and sick babies in their arms. The sun was so hot at only 9am while these mother’s held their babies with no protection from the heat as they waited. We were ushered inside and the courtyards and rooms were filled with families. It was visiting hours, so many parents and grandparents were there to visit, hold, and comfort their children. It felt good to see so many children attended to. But yet there were still many alone in their cribs - some on IV drips, some crying and needing to be changed, and all wanting some love. 


This was our job here. To love on these children. We rocked, and sang, and fed, and changed, and  talked to and comforted these sweet babies. As a mother, and remembering my children as babies - the natural instincts of the most basic needs kicked in..and the first of these is to love. And I've never held babies before who were so willing to receive anything we could give them. There are no strangers in their short, tiny, meaningful, beautiful lives. This gave comfort to all. 

And their tears and cries were for us when we had to leave. Those babies imprinted on my soul forever. 

Based upon the name of where we were visiting - I expected to see so much sadness. Instead I saw hope. I saw a full staff of beautiful people, a facility that was clean and welcoming, a playground and a place for parents to visit, food, clean diapers, warm water, milk, ...and love. So much hope surrounded us and the babies here. There are so many good things and beautiful children here. 

Yet we still rode to our next stop mainly in silence - as we prayed and thought about the little ones we left behind. Will they go home soon? Will their parents visit tomorrow? Will they at least sleep well for tonight in this safe and loving place for them. And will the mother's at the gate tomorrow also get the help they need for their babies?

At this point most of us were still unaware of the juxtaposition of circumstance in front of us.

I'm not sure I can even fully talk about our visit to General Hospital at this point. Maybe not ever. It was hard. So many of us felt hopeless. Confused. Useless. Taking up space. Not praying for the right things. So many children in the emergency room. Sick. Dying. Gone already too soon. Beds everywhere with very little space between and mother's changing diapers on their laps, cribs surrounded by family, grandmother's singing to tiny, feverish babies. We did what we felt moved to - a broken conversation, a song, holding a hand, smiling at a baby. We handed out care packages to everyone - soap, a washcloth, brush, toothbrush and paste, applesauce, and diapers. And we watched so many children enjoying the snack and getting a 'bath' with the cloth. A simple gesture. But they need so much more. So much that none of us can give. Expensive medicines, money, food, more diapers, a cure, some hope, a better place, a way to heal. I felt broken leaving there. Wishing for so much more. 

I think we all have to come to the point that we don't have all of the answers to the 'whys' in the world. But we do things through simple steps that can become big strides when many come together on a mission to serve, learn, spread the word, and teach. That even comforting one child today who needed our love. One child that snuggled into our chests, closed their eyes, and took a nap in our arms. We have to know that is a touch that counts and will last for more than just an afternoon. 

We have to know that. 

We ended our day by getting schooled in soccer by the boys in the neighborhood. They were kind and let me actually kick the ball twice or so before stealing it from us each time. What amazing and talented young men. I think we've challenged them to a rematch on Saturday. We better practice a bit before then. 

"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop." - Mother Teresa

With Blessings,

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Cite Soleil.

Friends, family, supporters, & our prayer teams back home in the US-

Leann here tonight, thanks for following our trip through what is sure to be an incredible week down here in Haiti.

Today we went ahead and jumped right off into the deep end and headed out to Cite Soleil. If you’re unfamiliar, Cite Soleil is an extremely impoverished and densely populated area in Port au Prince, estimated potentially greater than 400,000 people.   The area is generally regarded as the poorest and most dangerous slum in the Western Hemisphere. The area virtually has no sewer system, leaving those who live here no access to clean or safe drinking water. Its difficult to take in the surroundings of such a devastating place, witnessing the way thousands live, including so many children, orphans and restavec (slave) children.

The desperation for clean water in Cite Soleil is one of the most apparent things stepping out of the tap-tap on water truck day. Something so many of us don’t even think about on a daily basis. Over 800 million people in the world currently lack access to clean and safe water and an estimated 3.5 million people die each year due to water related disease. Almost 2 in 3 people who need safe drinking water survive on less than $2 each day. In Cite Soleil, girls and women will line the street with hundreds of five gallon buckets for us to fill and (impressively) carry them on their heads for blocks. In developing countries, it is estimated women and girls walk an average of 3.5 miles each day to fetch water and spend more than 20 hours per week walking to get water.  Seeing these little kids dump a small bucket of water over their head, most using as a way to bathe, makes me wish I could take every bucket of water from the ice bucket challenge and bring it to these sweet kids (as a side note- the ALS ice bucket challenge was amazing and raised so much money for a great organization, but after seeing something like Cite Soleil its just hard to get the images out of your head)
We were able to take out 3 trucks of water to 4 water stops in Cite Soleil, get thousands of gallons of clean water to the people who live there, and love on a whole lot of kids. Before leaving, we were able to stop by Haitian Initiative. HI is an amazing organization, that helps send kids to school through sponsorship, allows them to come to the field and play soccer between one and four, and then serves them a hot meal (Feed My Starving Children manna packs) every day mon-sat. The goal of HI is to help keep kids in school, focus on their education, stay out of violence in Cite Soleil, and develop their skills on the soccer field as well. We met some incredible staff at HI, who are doing amazing things for the kids of Cite Soleil. It was inspiring to see such a positive light in a place that feels so broken. It is truly the presence of God at work in Cite Soleil. We were also able to see the site for the church and school being built in CS by Healing Haiti. Ground breaks next week, lift this place up in prayer in the coming months.

Thankful for this day and to God for lifting up this team in strength and hope.
Glory to God.
Glwa pou Bondye.

Monday, October 6, 2014

We've Arrived Safely in Haiti!

Hello back home to our families and friends who have supported our team and raised us up in prayer as we traveled today. There was some concern over our connection time in Miami, but all went smoothly and our last two teammates, Pat from Atlanta and Mike from Green Bay, joined up with us and we were all able to land in Port-au-Prince together. After the wrestle over luggage and only some minor mishaps we loaded the tap-tap and headed to the guesthouse. There is nothing quite like arriving at your home for the week to the smell of dinner ready, and the welcome arms of our Hatian family passing out huge hugs of greeting!
We are so thankful for God's protection on our day of travel and so excited to rest up tonight so we're ready be His hands and feet tomorrow in Cite Soleil!
Ke Bondye Beni'ou

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Beach Day

Today was beach day! After another delicious breakfast, we stopped at an orphanage in Titanyen
to pick up 13 children to take to the beach.  As we walked inside the orphanage, the team and I were all pleased to see what an inviting, organized space the children live in. They came running to greet us, jumped in our arms, and were beyond excited to get on the Tap-tap.They all looked well-fed, well taken care of, and it was obvious right away that "Mama", as the children called her, took very good care of them.

It was about a 45 minute drive to the beach, called Wahoo Bay Beach Club. This is my first trip to Haiti, and it was amazing to see a completely different side of Haiti. A Haiti that is green and beautiful with a gorgeous white sand beach and crystal clear blue waters.

We swam with the kids, played in the water, and jumped on a really fun water trampoline. My heart swelled upon seeing the huge ear-to-ear grins and hearing joyful giggles from all the children. Even "Mama" was smiling, laughing and enjoying the water!  What a blessing it was to be able to take these children to the beach -- they have only been to the beach a few times in their lives.

The day passed quickly and soon it was time to pack up and leave. We had about a 45 minute drive back to the orphanage, and several of the children fell asleep on our laps in the Tap-tap. It was a bittersweet goodbye when we dropped them off. The kids were tired, full of sandwiches and snacks, and happy. As we waved goodbye, I was already thinking about the next time I will be able to see them.

On our way home, we took a few minutes to stop and see the mass grave site where 350,000 to 400,000 people were buried after the earthquake. As we drove up, the local children ran to greet us and open the gate for us. We stepped inside and took a moment to reflect and pray for these souls and their families. Several of the Healing Haiti staff have friends and family who are buried there. We were able to see the plans for the site when it is fully finished; right now there is a a simple memorial with the date of the earthquake.

It was a long, refreshing day for the team. We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to relax and enjoy the children.  I'm off to bed now; tomorrow is a fun day of church and shopping!

In God's Love,

Bridgett F.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Water Truck Day 2 & Orphanage Visitis

Some of our teammates started their morning at 6 a.m and went to the local Haitian church. It was an amazing experience to witness how the Haitians pray to God. It is an experience that makes you appreciate their faith.

After breakfast, we were blessed to begin our day with another water truck day. We originally only had one water truck day scheduled but I was delighted when our team voted to do another day. The first water truck day is always a very hectic day and hard to be able to see what is really happening because you are trying to just figure out what you are suppose to be doing. There are so many people waiting in line with buckets that are very desperate for water, so it was an honor to be able to deliver clean water to other areas in Cite Soliel. We were able to make two more water truck stops which was a total of 5,000 gallons of water. It is true blessing to know that our team was part of such a great cause today. It was great to see the children in Haiti bathing in the clean water with smiles on their faces and laughter in the air. It is also very heart breaking to see so many people in line with their 5 gallon buckets waiting and hoping the water does not run out before their buckets are filled. As one of our team members said it, it was a very "conflicting" day. You have so many emotions that hit you all in a very short period of time. It is difficult to process that these beautiful people do not have an option of having clean water every day. But we had to remind ourselves that it is amazing to be a part of an organization that makes it
possible to deliver clean water.

We also visited a few different orphanages today. First, we went to visit Lapherre's where there are about 22 kids. The conditions were not what you would expect but I was so happy to see the great changes that have been made since my last trip which was in December 2013. Their school house/church was rebuilt with new concrete walls and a new roof. It was wonderful to see they now had a well lit and safe place to teach their children and have an area to worship. We played parachute and soccer with the kids which they just loved. The kids sang several songs for us and there was a little girl who was about 3 years old that came up and put her hands on me and said a prayer for me. It was an honor to have this sweet child hold my hand and say a prayer for ME! I am always in awe when I come to Haiti and they are saying prayers for us. I also said several prayers for this sweet child, asking God keep her healthy, provide good schooling and to always have someone in her life that will show her love.

After Lapherre's we visited Gertrude's orphanage which is for children with special needs. It is a tough place to visit because of the special needs of the children but also because of the conditions. So, for some of our team members it was difficult to get past the conditions and for other's that have been there before it was easier to focus on the needs of the children and not just the condition. Amber said that even though the conditions were tough to witness, it was nice to know that someone was caring for them. She said she felt that if they were not there they may not be alive or being treated fairly.

After our long day, we took about a 30 minute drive to a pizza parlor. It was the perfect way to end the day. We are all very tired and looking forward to an amazing day we have planned tomorrow. We will be taking an orphanage to the beach tomorrow. We are all very excited for a nice fun in the sun kind of day. This team has worked so hard this week,  not only physically but emotionally and they deserve to just soak in the beauty of Haiti tomorrow.




Thursday, October 2, 2014

Grace Village & Elderly Visits

What an amazing day we had today!  Our first stop was at Grace Village in Titanyen, Haiti.  Grace Village is located at the top of a mountain with a beautiful view and great ocean breeze (which saved us from the heat today). Hearing from others who have visited last year, a lot has been accomplished in just a small amount of time.  Grace Village is home to many wonderful things. A newer development is incorporating family style living for the orphaned children. What an amazing thing for children who would otherwise know no different! The medical clinic is another newer development.  The clinic is able to provide care to the people of Titanyen at a much lower cost than other clinics in the area.  To see the doctor it costs about the same as $1 in the U.S. which is the equivalent of about a $100 co-pay in the U.S. It was incredible to see how much Healing Haiti has been able to provide since their inception and how much more of a vision they have for the future. This visit definitely pulled on a lot of our heart strings and you could feel God's presence everywhere.

Another great thing that Healing Haiti does is provide care for the elderly. We spent all afternoon visiting elderly in Titanyen.  That was personally the most joyous thing I've have done on the trip yet. We were able to provide hot meals and a cold drink from a local restaurant. This is a big step up as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were on the menu previously. It turns out the Healing Haiti workers who accompany us on our daily trips are very talented and they brought along a guitar and keyboard to sing songs for the elderly as well.

The first visit was to a woman named Merolen. She is 70 years old.  I felt drawn to her instantly. She was so serene and beautiful sitting on her front porch. I held her hand as the songs were being sang and it made me weep to think about how much loss and suffering she has seen in her lifetime.  At the same time it made me feel so joyous that God gave her the strength she needed to survive this long in the conditions she was living in.  That was the case with all of the 8 elderly we visited today - they had so much joy and love to spread despite what they were up against on a daily basis. Vertilla was a particularly spunky 73 year old who greeted us all with hugs and kept pulling us into the shade to avoid the sun.  She was dancing around with a huge smile on her face the whole time. All of them were just so grateful that we came to visit and spread the love God gave us. Edmond was another who was just so incredible. He is 69 and blind. He loves prayer, singing, touch and also when people visit him. He is a kind and gentle soul.

Seeing all of my team members today was such a blessing. Everyone did such a wonderful job with the elderly as well as the children who came over to see us at the stops.  To share a quick story, at one of the stops I was pleasantly surprised when a young girl barreled down the road at me and gave me a huge hug. It turns out she was the same girl I met at Grace Village and held while I was there.  She remembered me and was so happy to see me.  It brought a huge smile to my face!  I witnessed each of my team members having special moments themselves today also. We all touched the hearts of at least someone we encountered today.  After yesterday, I think we all needed a loving and joyous day.

God Bless,

P.S. Pictures to come when our wifi starts working.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Small Things

Today was a long and emotional day.  We started our day at Apparent Project.  What an absolutely amazing organization.  I was completely in awe and inspired by this visit.  The woman who started this had a vision that she wanted to help women by providing them with a job so they could care for their children.  The staff makes rolled paper beads, jewelry, metal art and other crafts. She began this  this journey with 4 employees six years ago and is now up to 300!  She not only provides them with a job but pays them several times the minimum wage so that they can adequately provide for their children.  She also offers free onsite daycare where the kids are given love and nutritious meals while their parents work.  One of the best things about the way she runs her business is the way she holds her employees accountable.  The items the artisans make are held to a high standard which provides them with responsibility for their work. Below is statement from Apparent Project's website.

"Our name reflects our passion: We want to see Haitian families stay together. Skill development and employment addresses the needs of families before they are at the point of desperation, driven to give their children to an orphanage because of extreme poverty. After all, the vast majority of Haiti's "orphans" have not been orphaned by parental deaths, earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods, but are children of living parents who gave them up simply because they knew that an orphanage could feed their child. Lagging adoptions, overcrowding, and lack of accountability has made many orphanages less than adequate homes for children, who often develop severe emotional problems such as reactive attachment disorder. This is why we think of our artisans' guild as an "un-orphanage." We are finding creative ways for Haitians to be self-employed so that they can take care of their own children with dignity and joy. To read more about our mission click here, or explore our artisan program here."

General Hospital wasn't at all what I expected.  It was a tent-type building, which housed two rooms. There were around a dozen small babies in the first room we visited.  Their cribs were crowded into the room with just enough room in between the cribs for the mothers to sit.  Some of them were extremely thin and small for their age.  One little girl who was eight months old felt no heavier than a newborn.  We held some of those babies for a while and then moved onto the next room where there were small babies and also older children.  I asked an interpreter to help me share the gospel with one  14 year-old girl with the sweetest smile you ever saw.  As it turned out, she already knows Jesus.  We gave gift bags and water to most of the kids and parents in the room.  Please pray for all of them, but mostly for a two-day old infant we saw with an extremely large head and a very severe cleft palate, who is in a hospital that probably won't be able to treat either of her abnormalities. 

We visited the Home for the Sick and Dying, where there were 60+ babies with only one young lady taking care of them.  We immediately began changing diapers.  Then, when their food was ready, we fed the hungry little ones. Since many hands make light work, it didn't take long.  Then we had the joy of holding some of them.  They loved being clutched tightly to the chest when being held.  They loved it so much that they hardly moved at all; they just soaked up the love.  Some of the men in our group played with the toddlers, who were stationed in a different room. It seemed as though what we did at the home was just a drop in the bucket compared to the need, but because it was done in Jesus's name and because the children were prayed for, great things may be accomplished. 

If there was one thing we have learned so far, it is that God can accomplish great things that start small.  

Do small things with great love,
Colleen and Bridget