Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Haiti 2013: Part 3

On Wednesday we were scheduled to go up to Bel Air and assist them in rebuilding their church. First we drove to the school, and waited, and waited. Then got to "work" playing with kiddos, before finding out that they weren't ready for us in Bel Air yet, so we would just stay at the school and finish up some projects. So that is exactly what we did. Our day at the school ended with an awesome game of football (soccer) between the students and the team. It was so fun watching everyone play together at the end of a busy day, and a great way to end our time at the school in Gressier. Afterwards we got to go to the beach again. Which is always awesome.

Thursday we finally made the drive up to Bel Air. It was about 30 minutes up into the mountains on a winding (but PAVED!) road. From the mountaintop we were able to see the southern side of Haiti. It was truly the first time I bore witness to the complete deforestation of the country. From what I had seen in Cap Haitien, there were still trees and forests and green areas. Up on the mountain you saw a lot of dirt. Dirt mountains, dirt fields, dirt paths. Not much green. Going up to Bel Air was my favorite day. When we got there, they were hard at work and the 20 students were in school. There were women crossing from the bottom of the hill where the church is being rebuilt to the other side of the street, filling buckets with limestone to carry up to the men.

The men were finishing up the demo of what was left of the old church building to use as filler in holes. We visited with the children. The children there were so sweet. They don't get to see blancs very often, so at first they were completely mesmerized by our presence. We made bracelets with the children before their teacher called them back for the rest of their school day.

So Medi, the pastor's son, took Stacey, Andrew, Rhona, Kirk, Bob, and I around to pray for church members at their homes. This is where Jesus was tangible. He was the words on our lips. We were His feet and hands as we walked. It was amazing being able to show up at their homes, have nothing to offer them except worshipping the same God. So we prayed. We prayed for things like health, and money, and food, and relief from pain. And, if I'm honest... my favorite was for this young lady, in the middle in the pink, who wanted a husband.

When we got back to the school, Rick had toys to pass out to the children. Oh the joy! Rick's churches children ministry collected money so Rick could purchase toys for the children. He gave them pictures of the children from Illinois with the toys, and we took pictures with the children from Bel Air with them.

And this princess stole my heart. Her hair was short, but her heart was huge. Six years of pure joy. She let all the kids play with the dinosaur she got, until the big kids ripped it's head off. Then she almost cried, which almost made me cry. Luckily, Lee was able to repair the dinosaur with his superglue. And then her smile returned again, and the dinosaur was only seen in her hands from that moment on.

One of the most humbling things about the experience was lunch. In the mountains, people have little money and few resources. But they cooked us lunch. The children sat and watched as we ate our graciously prepared meal. We ate little and prayed that the left overs would be given to the workers and the students.

We left after hugs and "thank you"s and bright white smiles on chocolate colored faces.

Back at the house we prepared for our goodbye dinner. As per my request, Blonde brought us coconuts. And we ate a feast.
Can you look at that fantastic plate??? Rice and beans, chicken, and banan pezi. YUM

We ended the night with many laughs, hugs, cuddles with some adorable kiddos. Esther, KiKi, and Yolande's ADORABLE little cousin were there. Her cousin, four years of complete adorable. Andrew and I were so close to packing him away to the states with us. TOO CUTE.

The next morning was bittersweet. We sat around waiting for the cars to pick us up to go to the airport. While we waited, we sang worship songs with Mary Lou, and I can't imagine a better way to end a week in Haiti.

Getting back was another adventure, but after what I endured last year coming back, it was nothing. Our bags made it safely, nothing exploded enough to cause damage, and we were all healthy by the time we got home.

God was with us. God is with us.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Haiti 2013: Part 2

While I was in Haiti, I was reading through the gospels. On a daily basis the themes of the days readings were "the children are important" and "the last shall be first" and "humble yourself."

What happened each day cannot be summed up in any better ways.

Monday we returned to the school for another day of teaching, scrubbing, and painting. As soon as we arrived there was a man carrying a small child, Jaye sighed and said that he was here expecting money to buy a prothesis for his son. We all piled out of the van and our two Physical Therapists and one doctor began to take a look at him. His name is Winley, he is three years old, and had his leg amputated after the 2010 earthquake. Upon investigation it was found that he was strong and healthy, and his stump was clean and healed well. His leg was also amputated below the knee cap. Colin and Rhona swiftly got to work making a crutch for him out of a stick. They spent the better part of the day measuring, hacking, measuring, stick finding, and hacking. Until finally they finished a beautiful masterpiece that was adorned with blue and purple duct tape.

First Steps

Being myself, I wandered into the medical clinic and I visited with the patients who were waiting to see the doctor. As soon as I walked in they caught my eye. This little brown baby boy with huge eyes and a curly mess of hair grinning at me from ear to ear in his grandmother's arms. Immediately the grandmother handed him over to me, while I held him and asked questions to the grandmother. I found out he was three months old, and his mother died unexpectedly a month earlier. The grandmother was raising him. I laid him down on a table and checked him out briefly. He was strong, clear eyes, attentive. I told the grandmother that he was strong. She was thrilled.

Then I heard crying from the lab room. A girl was getting blood drawn, screaming. It's amazing how quickly a blanc can quiet a child. I took her hand and told her that it was okay, and to look at me and not at her arm. She stared into my eyes, squeezed my hand, and eventually calmed down. When she was finished I took her out into the yard, gave her a balloon, and blew her some bubbles. Bubbles fix all problems.

The rest of the day was a whirlwind. Blonde brought me a cake, some children from the school sang me "Happy Birthday" in Creole, and Rhona and Dr. Ricardo fished two sea urchin spines out of my foot.

That evening I spent time with KiKi and Esther. I showed them pictures of snow. You would have thought that my phone was magical by the way it kept KiKi still. They were amazed at all the white that they had maybe heard about from a book or in a movie.

Tuesday we were back at the school. Painting and scrubbing and holding babies and playing clapping games and taking pictures and showing them off right away.

In the classrooms Gae had the students decorate quilt squares to make a school quilt. They had so much fun decorating and being creative. I helped out with the First and Second grade while they worked which was a blast because KiKi and Esther were both there that day.

After we got back we went to the beach again. I did not swim this time, I was a bit traumatized from the first beach experience. But it was awesome lounging on the beach.

"Jesus said 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" Matthew 19:14

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Haiti 2013: Part 1

Since I was unable to post while I was in Haiti, I have decided to do a series of blog updates to recap what happened.

I'll start with packing.

Through donations, I was able to contribute...

58 boxes of crayons
6 boxes of markers
8 toy cars
72 balloons
44 notebooks
19 folders
8 packs of lined paper
3 boxes of chalk
564 pencils
4 bottles of glue
60 pens
1 pack of colored pencils
9 packs of erasers
3 rules
7 boxes of band-aids
1 pack of high lighters
2 pairs of scissors
8 pencil sharpeners
4 packages of gauze
3 bottles of antacids
6 bottles of pain relievers
2 bottles of children's vitamins
21 boxes of hair clips
silly bands
and other various school supplies

I was completely over whelmed with the amount of supplies that I was able to purchase and were donated to me.

We packed all of these and many many other supplies into 24 suitcases. Which looks like this when you are piled into a 12 passenger van...

We got to the airport much later than we had wanted to which almost resulted in us missing our first flight. By God's grace we made it by 2 minutes of the gate closing. Totally crazy!!

We got into Haiti and made it through customs with only a few questions and a couple of bags looked through. We waited an hour and a half in the airport for our ride, they had gotten a flat tire on their way to pick us up.

Then on our way back we got another flat tire and had to pull over at a gas station to change it.

Port au Prince was not much different than Cap Haitien except for the fact that it is much much bigger.

And the fact that there are still flattened buildings from the earthquake in 2010. And the tent cities which looked something like this:

It was so surreal actually seeing the tent cities and the displaced people. But to me it represented the resilience of the Haitian people to never give up. Even though they no longer lived in a concrete home, their lives continued.

It took about an hour and a half to get from the airport to Pastor Desarmes home where we were staying. The ride was a typical ride through Haiti: a street that would usually be designated as two lanes was four lanes. The biggest exception: PAVED ROADS! I thought I was in heaven.

The following day was our first day at the school working. The school and church had been completely destroyed in the earthquake, so the school consisted of a long building that contained five classrooms and an office with a removable wall that was taken out for church, and 5 storage containers donated by Digicel. 

On Saturday, we spent time scrubbing the walls in the medical clinic so they could be repainted, and started scrubbing walls in the classrooms to be painted later. We also unpacked and organized the medical supplies into the pharmacy. The pharmacy here was much, much smaller than Bethesda, which made me sad because of the lack prescription medications that they had available to give out. 

Reprieve came when children from the neighborhood realized that we were there and came over to play! We blew bubbles with them and danced and sang and let them hug us and took pictures with them. It was so fun to take a break just to laugh. 

Back at the house we got to play with KiKi and Esther, a boy and a girl who were the children of two different women who cooked for us. They are both 8 years old and have such spunky personalities. KiKi can only be described as high energy, short attention span. Esther is quiet and reserved. They loved to play with bubbles and balloons with us and they were the source of much laughter in the evenings.

Sunday, we split into two groups to attend three different church services. Rick, Doug, and I went to Thomazeau with Blonde, Marceles, and Tertu. We got special seats on stage, which, if I'm honest is not my favorite at all. But the people were thrilled to have us attending their service and waited to begin until we arrived. The service was very enjoyable and of course in true Haitian style, we had to introduce ourselves. Blonde made me introduce myself in Kreyol which made the entire congregation laugh. 

Thomazeau was on the other side of Port au Prince which meant that we got to drive through the city to get there. I really enjoyed getting to see the city, we even drove past the White House which was pretty impressive, but also didn't seem to fit in with all of the poverty around it.

After church, most of us loaded up to go to the beach, which was more like a drop off into ocean water, But it was the ocean none the less.