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Friday, March 10th, 2017… the last post before re-entry
One final story to leave you all with…one of hundreds of encounters here…one of those heart felt moments that make you smile in its simplicity…
There is a young lad…he’s about 4 ½ years old and coming to our school attending the kindergarden class for the first time this year…he’s just a wee, bitty, little thing, living somewhere in the community…you can tell the “school community kids” from our “orphan kids” who live at Fodivha, because our kids are so much healthier, cleaner and well behaved. Everyone on the team noticed him yesterday. He was wearing the shirt of the school uniform, with a ripped undershirt underneath, but he didn’t have the matching shorts. He was trying to wear pink, high top running shoes. They were girls’ shoes, probably handed down from a sister or 2. However we all noticed that they were untied. He was struggling to walk in them as little kids often do. I watched, as many of the teachers and team members tried to tie his shoelaces up and gave up. He was wearing oversized tan socks (no one wears socks in Haiti) and trying to stuff his feet into shoes that were too small. “Someone” had tried to modify his shoes so that he could squeeze his feet into them, by cutting the sides open. It might have worked for a time, but he was obviously growing (a good thing!). He eventually gave up and was walking around in his oversized socks…they were getting dirtier by the minute. I began wondering how he was going to walk the long journey home, that most of our kids have to make from school to home. Then Mamasan, Bertony’s mom, was heard bellowing in creole. The child was marched over where she had a selection of shoes in a pile that had been donated from you. She chose the blue crocs that looked like race cars on the side. They had eyes and a smily face on the front of them. They looked like they would fit…she has obviously done this before. Soon he was off running and joining his wee pals, proudly wearing his new shoes. He was taught to say, “thank you” and shake hands in gratitude. I’m sure his parent(s?), who are very poor, will wonder where the Shoe God came from, who dropped a brand new pair of shoes from the sky. Such small gifts that mean the world to those here. Thanks for your giving.
We are at the airport, sitting together and playing in the World Tournament of the Phase 10 card game to pass the time before boarding the plane home. It’s been an awesome trip and an awesome team. I feel very blessed. They left the kids yesterday; always a hard thing to do. Much of the work has begun but not completely finished. The local tradesmen will continue work for another few weeks. This is the way it should be. They are taking great responsibility for the project. We are there to partner, teach and then “hand it over”. It is their country.
During a team debrief last evening I reminded the team of what they have accomplished. Although they are the ones physically here, it is only with your monetary support that the work can be accomplished. If you are reading this Blog, you have a great interest in what we do. Thank you for your continued support. It is a good work. Here is what we have all completed together on this trip:
1. Cemented the floor of the outdoor pavilion. This is used for shade during the day. It is where the children often are found playing blocks and puzzles and chatting together. They sprawl on the picnic table that was constructed on a previous visit.
2. The plumbing has been replaced. Much of it was destroyed in the last hurricane, so we sourced better stronger pipe to bring water from the well to the washroom toilets and provide taps around the perimeter of the property for ease of watering trees, etc. New taps were installed, where the rest of the community comes for water. We are the only water well for miles. 2 new toilets will be installed as well as 2 stainless steel sinks for hand washing. The kitchen sink will have running water to it. The plumber has another few days of work to complete his contract.
3. A fresh coat of bright coloured paint was put on the fence separating the orphanage from the school. The exterior of the school and kitchen was painted. The exterior of the library also received a freshening. Ask our team…you’ve never had a true experience of painting, until you’ve had to use Haitian paint!
4. JoJo performed dental screenings on all of our kids attending the orphanage. She identified one girl who requires immediate dental extractions. These will be performed by a local dentist later next week. Your support will pay for this. Dental hygiene instruction and new tooth brushes were given to the 200 school children. Two nurses from the community also attended. Knowledge was passed along.
5. New roofs for 4 classrooms, involved the construction of 35 roof trusses. Ask Simon and Nicole how many board feet of 2×4 that was!!!
6. Construction of 2 additional classrooms to fulfill the Ministry of Education requirements for the school. The Mason and his crew continue the work. They are 60% complete as we left yesterday. Looking beautiful!
7. Wide sidewalks and sitting areas are being constructed outside the school classrooms. The sidewalks will prevent water from entering the classrooms during torrential rains. The sitting areas are for the children in the shade.
8. New desks for the classrooms were constructed. Thanks team!!!
9. Construction of 2 kitchen tables (thanks Simon!) and 8 benches for 30 kids to eat at (Thanks Deb and Dani) were constructed and painted the bright colours in the kitchen. New thick vinyl tablecloths adorn the tables. It is a wonderful sight seeing all of our kids eating in community. They are so thankful.
10. The teachers’ salaries were paid. There was an outstanding bill from 2016 and they were paid for the first 3 months of 2017. The government has not paid teachers wages in several years. Unfortunately, the money we send in support each month is not usually enough to cover the teachers’ salaries. Many leave as they are not consistently paid. Bertony works 3 nights per week through the night (after being at the orphanage all day playing “Principal” and “orphanage director”) in order to pay them some money. Life is hard here. Teachers get paid $100 per month. We have 6 of them.
11. Construction jobs were provided for 11 Haitian men (and their families) for 4 weeks!
12. The children were fed… Again! This is our most important job that we do consistently each month. Thank you. As the truck arrives with much of the month’s supply of food, the children each carry an item. They see the food being unloaded and this calms them. They are assured that they will eat for another month.
13. School supplies, clothes, shoes, educational toys and medicines were brought by the team as aid. Valuable items.
14. We provided urgent medical care for Dieusilhomme and treatment for a child who was deathly ill. He has a chance now. Saved life.
15. A year’s worth of hearing batteries were bought. Dieusilhomme will hear…something we take for granted.
16. 13 new mattresses with vinyl covers (the smaller children still wet the bed) were purchased for the dormitory. Clean beds for our children to sleep in.
17. A clothes line was installed…even with one of those “pulley things”!!!
18. I’m so excited about this last item…After speaking with a knowledgeable chicken farmer here in Haiti, we have purchased 20 laying hens and a pen will be constructed on site for them to live in. The purchase of proper chicken food and medicine will be provided on a monthly basis by Let’s Talk Guelph Inc. These chickens will provide at least one egg per day for each of our kids to eat! This boost in daily protein will make a world of difference to the health of our children.
Most of all, the team has brought renewed hope to Bertony. He works so hard to love and care for each of his children…there are 5 new ones arriving from a poor mountain village in the next 2 weeks…love grows.
Thanks for following the adventure.
This is Haiti and these were our days.
P.S. Hi Mom! See you Monday!!!! xxx
Wednesday, March 8th, 2017
Good morning friends,
We are setting a World Record here in Haiti, this trip. It’s very exciting (sort of). You see each day, and I mean EVERY DAY, the Tap-Tap we have been driving in, breaks down by the side of the road. We have had full melt downs, where the vehicle won’t even turn over (those are worth more points). Some days it is just a blown tire, not very exciting and not worth many points (if you’re wondering), but still count, as everyone must get out of the vehicle and stand in the dust. I figure we waste about an hour a day of work. We might start a betting pool as to “where” and “when” we will break down. Last night coming home was the best. There was oil and smoke spewing from the front compartment and oil dripping down the road from the back. It’s common here to be carrying several jugs of water for the radiator, which has no cap. I’m amazed each time, when I truly think, that “THIS TIME” the truck is toast, that Pastor (our driver) jiggles, cuts, uses broom handles (?), throws water on the engine and brakes because they are so hot, tinkers some more, probably prays a lot (!) and maybe says bad words under his breath (although I’ve never heard one) and the thing turns over (sort of) and we ramble down the road. Yesterday we drove from Thomaseau to Croix des Bouquet in first gear…it took 1 hour and 50 min to get “home”. Hmm. Pastor insists that he will “make arrangements” for another vehicle for today. But I’m of two minds…you see we’re so close to the World Record.
It is like the movie Ground Hog Day. We will all eat 2 eggs, fried until they are dead, for breakfast, because DaDa is on as chef. He’s a huge Haitian man (I mean huge!) that has worked here since I’ve been coming to the villa. He used to snarl a lot, but we are now friends. He likes to make sure that eggs are really “dead” when he cooks them. I figure 20 min a side will do it. We are always late in leaving when he is on shift…Haitian time. We all look the same as we did yesterday, as we wear the same clothes…black stretch shorts for me, tank top and bandana on my head…stunningly beautiful! We will saw wood until our arms drop off…others will hammer 4 inch nails (same effect on the arms). The wood will make more desks, benches for the kitchen tables and of course, those dreaded roof trusses. It is coming along but we are running out of time. It’s a race. No world records on the job site will be broken this time. The Haitians will wear woollen touques on their heads for the sun. Mamasan wears a black one, because it matches her skirt (it has the name of Kilo Ren on the front…stylish…I wonder if she knows he’s the Bad Guy in Star Wars?). We will sweat buckets. Nicole will get very dirty (no one has actually seen her roll in the dirt, but we suspect it). We will sing on the way home. The Tap Tap will be loaded with 16 friends. We will have a Coke (the only time I drink pop is in Haiti, because it’s COLD from the fridge at the villa…I DREAM of this one Coke a day from about 3pm onwards). We will have a cold shower (there is no hot water at the villa; Nicole will be clean). We will eat. We will play Phase 10 (World Tournament) and tumble into bed. JoJo and I put a wrench into everything late last night when we sang Abba Songs at full blast in the GoGo Gilrls’ bedroom window.
This is Haiti and these are our days.
P.S. Hi Mom! xxx
Tuesday, March 7th, 2017
Good morning Friends,
It’s early, but it’s quiet here at the villa, before anyone arises. The staff are cleaning the tables of dust that has settled over the past 24 hours. There is always dust here, but I don’t know why they call it that…it’s dirt. I mean the kind that you find settled on an old abandoned house after years of no one but brave school children who have entered. The chef “Dada” is preparing in the kitchen…it’s always the same though…we get “eggs” or “eggs” or sometimes, “eggs”. I’d like a Greek salad.
The “Mountain Boys”, as we affectionately call them are settling into their new home. They are the 5 new children who arrived last week. They are no longer huddled together all day long like frail birds, but beginning to play and interact with the other children. I watched one help push a wheelbarrow, with a friend inside along for the ride, yesterday. Another was kicking a soccer ball. They are talking and even sometimes smiling. They are inquisitive, huddled around us now as we work. A few are trying to insert themselves in the inevitable pecking order that exists at the orphanage. It is good.
We had the children draw pictures yesterday in the afternoon with “new pencil crayons” that were donated. These boys, although between the ages of 7 and 10, do not know how to write their name. Until now, they have never been to school. They desperately want to learn and eagerly tried to copy their names. Dieusilhomme, patiently sat with one boy, teaching him numbers and letters. The older take care of the younger…as they remember well what it was like to come to the orphanage. The caring amongst them is beautiful.
Dieusilhomme looked a bit better yesterday after being 24 hours on the meds…I’m hopeful. Perhaps he is feeling hope too. We’ll see if his motor control comes back over time…
Yesterday was spent building roof trusses…and more roof trusses…I have hired a carpenter and a “helper” who should arrive today. We will not finish these in time. We will get the local labourers to help and we will show them how to do it…the teaching and the learning continues throughout all the ages of peoples here. Dani and I spent the day constructing benches for the kitchen tables. The metal chairs are wearing and need to be replaced. Wood withstands the test of time. And so we build…Simon has “stylized and designed” them beautifully. Today we will build more. The sounds of saws and hammering fill the work site.
The walls for the 2 classrooms are complete. It’s looking like a new space. The vega and forms around the rebar columns will be poured today. Children will soon be learning in them. There are already 5 new desks that have been constructed.
The days are moving quickly now. I am reminded that time is running out. The work will continue while we are gone. There are dreams of the future.
I wish you all a good day. Think of all you have and be grateful. And someone. please have a Greek Salad for me.
P.S. Hi Mom! xxx
Saturday, March 4th, 2017
A Normal Day in Haiti…Requesting a Healing…
Waiting for pastor to pick us up. We are taking Dieusilhomme to an excellent hospital.7:46am
The tap-tap blew a motor. She’s done. Waiting for another vehicle by the side of the road. This experience is getting “old”…we’ve had vehicle troubles every day…this is Haiti.9:49am
We left the villa at 7am, fought through traffic to arrive at the hospital Bertrand Mevs downtown Port au Prince, by 8:45. Bertony and I have met with a triage doc named Depak, who is down for a one week volunteer stint from North Carolina. Oh how good it was to speak in English! We have paid the admin fee (more standing in line) so that Dieusilhomme can be seen. You actually drive your vehicle right into triage. One doesn’t leave their vehicle on the street in this area of Port au Prince. It would be stripped clean.Dieusilhome has been rapidly losing weight over the past 3 months. Several of the children, including D, were ill with fever and gastrointestinal symptoms in January following the hurricane. It seems he has never recovered. However I’m not convinced these are totally related to the symptoms we are seeing now. Everything in this country is always diagnosed and treated first as malaria. Then when they don’t recover, you start looking at other things. I’ve have many close friends who are docs…I am a speech path with another graduate degree in neurology. My friends say, “I have enough med knowledge to be dangerous!”….or at least to be able to advocate and ask the right questions. I hope I can help him today.10:21am..
We have stood in line yet again to pay for the tests now ordered…blood work, stool, urinalysis, malaria, HIV and a CT scan of brain ($322.00…where does the $22 come from?). You see, I have noticed quite severe ataxia when D tries to walk (in lay man’s terms…”he walks like a drunk”) and has difficulties planning /controlling motor movements. His left foot is dropping slightly. It is reported that his stools are black..therefore, blood loss from G.I. He has a slight cough (doesn’t everyone here with the dust and diesel?). And so, we wait some more, outside in triage in the hot sun. D clutches a small bag of clothes and a water bottle in case he needs to stay the night.
While Bertony and I are here, the rest of the team is buying 2 sinks for the bathrooms, 2 drills required for attaching the tin roofing and 2 shovels at the hardware store. Work will be delayed and/or postponed today. It’s a 90 min ride to the orphanage in the hills from here. With the daily truck breakdowns we have endured and today’s potential loss of work, we are 3 days behind where we need to be. Another problem to solve. However a sick child trumps everything. Our team is learning patience. They are experiencing first hand how difficult life is here and how much time it takes to get anything done. No matter how organized we are before they get here, I have learned on these trips, that you can count on nothing. We try to prioritize and fix one problem at a time. “Fall down seven times, stand up eight!”. My mom drilled that into me.
We are holding up a wall outside one of the multiple buildings in triage. The sun has moved around the building and there is shade. We wait and we wait. Bertony and I are having philosophical conversations about the difficulties that life offers (way too much in this country, for these people to endure each day, in my opinion)…”The Life, is the teacher”, says Bertony wisely. We end sharing silence, still holding up the wall.
We are back holding up the wall, chasing the shade. I’m losing the game. We are becoming expert “waiters”. But at least some good news….no tumour! We had a CT of his head. Medishare donated a portable CT scanner. It lives in an air-conditioned metal transport container. I was allowed to view the results as the pictures were taken. From my “enough medical knowledge to be dangerous”, it looked very clear to me. Almost beautiful! We wait for the neurologist…holding up the wall.
The team have finished their shopping experience and has decided to make the drive to Thomasseau to unload the vehicle and get a few hours of work in. Traffic in the city is a nightmare. We decided as a team that it is best if I stay here with Bertony at the hospital. We rarely, if ever, split up as a team…like Navy Seals, “no one left behind”. Today is an exception to the rule. One of the administrators told me that we’re waiting to see neurology doc. So Dieusilhomme and I share trail mix. Bertony has gone “walk about” beyond the “forbidden metal gates” of the hospital compound, seeing if he can source out hearing aid batteries for Dieusilhome. We wait, holding up the wall, chasing the shade. I have one water bottle left.
Should have brought cards…and toilet paper!
Doc Depak and Doc Raj have confirmed that the CT was normal. He also said blood work is normal too…this is becoming a greater mystery. That only leaves stool sample and urinalysis. He is most concerned with the weight loss and the neurological symptoms, at this point, are secondary. He is calling a Haitian doc to come talk with us who is the expert in internal medicine at this hospital. Perhaps he will have ideas of further exploration, I’m concerned that we won’t be any closer to getting any answers today. We have to wait for 30 min or so”…which in Haitian time, could mean 2 hours. The water is gone. I found a bathroom. Bertony is now sitting against the wall.
So, they found a parasite in the stool sample! Hallelujah! And, he’s mildly anemic and a bit dehydrated (isn’t everyone in this country?). The end diagnosis was probably a perfect storm:
Gosh I’d love a large Greek salad!
I could eat it while I wait!
Friday, March 3rd, 2017
Good evening friends,
It has been a long day and we are just home to the villa…we are showered and fed. Our friends do take good care of us here. I’m not sure why we shower, because it is so hot today that one sweats through one’s clothes within 5 min after taking one. Most of the team has gone to bed…all worked a little too much today.
(I think the rooster is truly dead.)
The projects at the orphanage are moving along well. All the local trades people have excellent crews and they are eager for the work.
The Mason and his crew are beginning to build the walls for the 2 new classrooms, after digging and pouring the foundations for the past few days. They also poured a cement base under the outdoor pavilion. Can you imagine digging the foundation for a school with hand shovels, filling the foundation with rock by the wheelbarrow loads, mixing all the concrete by hand (usually in flip flops…pink is a popular colour for the men!) and then carrying the cement mix in buckets to the foundation hole…all in 40 degree heat. They are machines! The head rebar guy is wearing a hot pink wool tuque over his head and ears, with pom poms that swing as he walks. He says, “it’ keeps the sun off my head”. How he doesn’t die in the heat, I do not know. Although on the way home this evening, our driver asked that the windows be rolled up slightly, as he was shivering????
The plumber was also on site today, arriving in a old beaten up half truck – like vehicle. The pipes were tied somewhat to the roof with rope…they hung out front blocking the driver’s sight. He rolled into the orphanage property with his head sticking our the driver’s side window so that he could see. I imagine he had been driving like that for the whole trip from the city into the country side. Typical Haitian way. They will be replacing a lot of the pipe throughout the property that was destroyed in the hurricane. Water is the most important gift we can give. It cleanses; it takes away thirst; it’s used for cooking; it makes cement! He will fix the taps where the rest of the neighbours in the community come to retrieve water from our well (we share!), as it is the only well for miles. He will dig up 2 toilets and replace the pipe for better drainage (and then fix my tile!!!). He will install 2 sinks, so that the children can now wash their hands after toileting (they have been using buckets). He will ensure that water is coming into the kitchen sink for food preparation. He will also add additional taps to water the mango and papaya trees we have planted, that will give small crops of fruit.
The “Go Go Girls” (Nicole and Dani) spent the first part of the morning putting a second coat of paint on the exterior of the kitchen and school. You can give them anything to do and they remain eager. They then joined Chris on constructing the benches for the school classrooms. It’s picky work, requiring great patience to make sure all the pieces are square. I ran away from that job and sawed hundreds of feet of wood today. JoJo thinks I should go into competition. I must say, I can saw straight and fast and cut angles too! Simon has bestowed “Carpentry Level II Advanced” on me. The three of us spent the day constructing roof trusses…only 31 more to go! Nicole joined us for the afternoon and is developing quite the hammer swing! 4 inch nails are no problem for that gal!
Dieusilhomme remains very ill. I took him to a Cuban hospital last evening, where he stayed overnight, but I did not get the results and care that I was happy with. I have arranged to take him to another hospital at 7am tomorrow morning. It was on chance meeting, while waiting for the team at the airport, that I ran into the administrator of this hospital. They often have American Docs flying in and are well equipped with all the lab tests necessary, along with ultrasound and a CT! Go figure. They are a little further away, but I hope will be worth the travel. I will let you know. Thank you for your continued prayers and positive thoughts.
Tomorrow morning at 7am, Bertony and I will take Dieusilhomme to the hospital while the team goes to the job site. We will travel up to the orphanage a bit later in the day. Getting this kid well, is the primary concern for everyone.
P.S. Hi Mom!
Thursday, March 2nd, 2017
The internet has been spotty. I found this morning, that it was up and running so I will quickly write an update before leaving on the tap-tap.
The rooster has been quiet for 2 mornings now…we had a “chicken like dish” for dinner on Tuesday night, so I’m wondering if I really DID eat him?
The rest of the “team” arrived late Thursday afternoon…Jo (affectionately called “JoJo” or “JoJo with the MoJo”), Chris (“Crisco”) and Nicole and Dani (2 sisters that we can’t resist calling the “Go Go Girls”). It is good to share the adventure. Yesterday was their first day working at the orphanage, meeting the kids. As with all people with good hearts, they assimilated themselves as best they could in this new culture and encircled the kids with love. When I asked them what they were most “struck” with after the first day, this was their replies:
- “There is so much unemployment. It would be so hard to live under that constant stress.” (The country average is 41%, although much higher in rural areas.)
- “There is so much rock and gravel everywhere!”
- “The children are so beautiful!”.
- “The HEAT!”
- The driving is CRAZY”.
Yes, all the normal reactions.
Yesterday was the first day of work in the sun for the team. We are still waiting for our large delivery of wood and supplies from the hardware store. “Carnival” is over so we are hoping that it will arrive today…it must. Yesterday the team spent the day repainting the facade of the school and the long fence that separates the orphanage from the school on property.
The “Go Go Girls” came home wearing lovely shades of yellow and hot pink all over their bodies. It is wonderful to have their freshness and energy. II should mention that they are about 3+ decades younger than me! It’s infectious. Nicole (Go Go Girl #1) views everything and then deeply comes up with a one sentence synopsis. Dani sees the good in everything. She is a great maker of “lemonade”. Children crowd around them as work. They beam if they get the chance to paint a board. After all this is their home. They want to share in making it beautiful. The older girls hang around them…seeking a Big Sister of sorts. After all, the older girls are responsible for taking care of the younger children. It is nice for them to have someone closer to their age.
Chris is on his 5th or 6th tour with us? He is our friend from Cleveland…the USA connection. I tell him affectionately that he’s like “an old piece of furniture”. I wouldn’t know what to if he wasn’t on the trip. He’s calm and funny. Another Brother. Chris is notorious for bringing “the bag”. If you are in need of something, Chris probably has it. I think this “bag” is bottomless. Yesterday the truck broke down (again!) and we had to change vehicles. Of course Chris had the only piece of rope required to tack all of our gear to the roof.
Simon followed me to Haiti the first time and now we partner this project together. Simon can fix anything. Yesterday he spent the majority of time supervising the cement work but also fixing the kitchen tables. They were missing 3 legs..tables don’t stand well when they are missing legs. Instead of just fabricating “something” functional, Simon carved 3 table legs by hand to match the others. They are beautiful. The wooden table was painted and now proudly display the heavy vinyl tablecloths that Jo brought.
Jo brought her expertise with her. Our kids have never seen a dentist. Jo, having been a dental hygienist for +25 years, was able to check the state of all the children’s teeth and identify any of them that require immediate dental care. She will give formal instruction to the kids today on dental hygiene and proper tooth brushing. There were 2 nurses joining her for the day. They were given a great day of “continuing education”. What a gift to bring to Haiti. Surprisingly, most of the children’s teeth are in reasonable shape. However one girl requires immediate attention, having severe decay on 2 molars that must be pulled and identifying infection. When asked if she has “pain”, the child said “yes”. However she had not told anyone, but suffered in silence until today. Pain is just a part of living here.
Today will be negotiating with the plumber, sawing and SAWING AND MORE SAWING of wood (I honestly love sawing wood!), building of desks, constructing of roof trusses and anything else that comes up. We are hoping that Dieusilhomme will get to the hospital today.
Time to get on the truck…the horn will be honking for us.
Thanks for following us. Your support is felt.
Monday, February 27th, 2017
The rooster began “talking” early this morning…before 5am…how do you catch a rooster anyway? I often watch a lair of spotted cats that walk on top the villa walls catching mice and rats…(that way you only see the odd rat running past)… Perhaps they can plot together to catch the rooster?…I’ll help them roast him.
I love driving my Jeep at home…she’s cherry red and boxy and powerful. And, I need her here, for this rock infested cow path, that we drive for an hour each way, to and from the orphanage. It’s the kind of road that makes tires blow, swallows whole vehicles in the massive holes and buries them unrecognizable in the dust baths. I kid with Bertony every day…kind of a ritual at the start of our morning…and tell him that “this road is my favourite part of coming to Haiti”. Yesterday was only ONE blown tire in the tap-tap. Today, the tap-tap DIED with 15Km to go…perhaps it was caused by some unsecured wires or the radiator that doesn’t have a cap on it and drinks water 2-3 times per trip…anyway, she was “dead as a door nail”. We were going no where in 90 degree heat, sitting in the middle of the “road”. I thought of all the construction work that was waiting for us to accomplish. I thought of the 7 children (all of them being Pastor’s, our driver’s!) that were crammed on our laps, hitching a ride to see their friends at the orphanage. But then a friend/relative of Bertony’s drove past (it seems everyone knows everyone here). We hopped in, leaving Pastor (and just a few of his children) to be a magician and fix the tap-tap. As we rode away, he was pulling out more plastic bags to tie around hoses and things. I wondered if I should offer some money to our new “friends” for gas? After all, no one has the funds here to drive anyone out of their way, especially to an orphanage up in the hills. Bertony’s eyes pleaded with me…one of those familiar looks that sometimes says, “Deb, don’t do that” (usually when I’m about to make some big cultural boo boo). I caught on quick that the offer would embarrass his friends. The vehicle suddenly stopped to pick up some cement blocks (oh where were we going to put that?). I jumped out to help carry the cement block with the men…(Bertony cringed slightly, although he’s used to me now, as women would never do such a thing in Haiti…but, “we’re Canadian”, I say…and “we’re crazy”). His friend turned to me, touched my hand gently and said, “See, you help me when I need it and I help you when you needed it. That’s the way friends should always be together”. There was no need to pay, no need to say a thousand thankyous. There was only the need to be shared and fixed together as friends. That’s how everything works in Haiti. You always help your friend in need, even when it is an inconvenience and at a personal cost, because you do not know when you will next need help…You just know, that living in this difficult land, you most probably will.
Many people are asking about Dieusilhomme…he is the young man who is very ill. We tried getting him to a private hospital very early this morning, but all the hospitals are “closed” and not accepting new appointments., It is “Carnival” you know. Carnival is a 4 day dance party in the streets at night, where the entire country is closed down. The docs of the hospitals apparently “volunteer” their time to treat the “drunk and disorderly” patients that occur nightly and don’t see patients during the day. We are hoping to get Dieusilhomme in for an appointment on Thursday. He was with us today up at the orphanage where I can keep an eye on him. I have promised him that we will do all we can. I will keep you posted.
Today Simon and I made the 2 prototypes for the new school desks. We also made the first of 35, 27 foot roof trusses that will adorn the new roofs of the 2 classrooms being constructed. In the midst of sawing and hammering, the children crowd around and spend the day with us. A few of the older boys stay very close watching every move for hours. They proudly smile, taking a turn, if you offer them a hammer to bang a few nails in, use the square to mark boards or let them saw the last bits….teaching moments. Sharing moments. The ground was prepped and final measurements were made for the Mason and his crew coming in (hopefully in good shape after Carnival!). The work continues…
P.S. Hi Mom!
P.S.S. Pastor arrived at the orphanage several hours later, with a working tap-tap and all the rest of his children in tow, safe and sound.
Sunday, February 26th, 2017
There is a rooster who likes to parade past my window at the villa. He is an ugly sod and he has a time problem. He crows continually beginning at 5:00am every morning. If I catch him, I will eat him for breakfast.
Today is Sunday. It’s a day off of sorts; from work anyhow. We were invited to “Pastor’s” church. “Pastor” as we call him, is also our daily driver of the “tap tap”. A “tap tap” is an old truck with 2 wooden benches in the back and it’s all covered with metal tin. We ride miles in it every day (my bottom is intimate with the hardness of the benches!). He’s an excellent driver. The roads are chaos here…driving 5 abreast, no lines and no traffic lights to organize anything. The rule of the road is this: if you are bigger, driving faster straight at one or honking the horn the loudest, then you have right of way. So, we were picked up at 7:30am (church in Canada would never start at 7:30am…but then we don’t have roosters outside our windows either!). I was told last evening that I would be the guest speaker…no pressure. “Church” is a small room on top of a one room house, where a lively community of people come to celebrate and support each other in this difficult world. It was good to be amongst old friends again. Children have grown, babies have been born. Church continued for 3 hours. There are no movie theatres, no TV nor organized sports to play. It’s the social part of the week for everyone here, so church goes long. Life moves along.
We also visited our artist friends down the metal workers’ lane. Many of you have asked if we will be bringing metal art home with us…yes! These incredible artists take old abandoned oil drums, draw the patterns with chalk, cut and carve them and create beautiful sculptures. They do this all, with little electricity. When we arrive we are recognized now and many came out with big smiles…we are friends now. It is good to continue to support their efforts. It feeds their families. So that life can move along.
We visited Dieusilhomme after church. He is 18 years old now. He is the young man who received hearing aids, with your support, on our last trip. Small miracles for a young man who had never heard before. He is currently very, very ill. He became ill with gastrointestinal symptoms of diarrhea and stomach pain several months ago after the last hurricane. He has never recovered. Now his small frame has lost over 50 pounds. His legs are like sticks. His eyes are large and he is fearful. He looks like a lost bird. Honestly, he will not last long. I was shocked. He has been to several “public hospitals”…those hospitals where people do not have to pay for services…those caregivers have said that, “we cannot do anything for you” and sent him away. There have been few tests administered and there has been no formal diagnosis given. Good medical knowledge is rare here. Doctors told me on our last trip, that the reason Dieusilhomme was deaf, was because “he was playing soccer as a child and he was hit in the head with a soccer ball”. Tales are believed here, but unfortunately they are not based on science. Tomorrow morning Simon and I will take this beautiful boy to another hospital…one that we will pay for the services, tests and medicines …all because of your monetary support. There are Cuban docs at a hospital not too far away (probably only a 45 min ride on those hard benches). Cuban docs are great and serve this country well. I know your thoughts and prayers go with us. We will do everything we can. We pray that life can move along.
I finish this note listening to the owner of the villa playing Spanish songs on his guitar. Beautiful. Hope. Life moves along.
P.S. HI MOM xxx
Saturday, February 25th, 2017
You know you’re in Haiti when, you’re sweating through your clothes at 8am.
You know you’re in Haiti when, it takes you 4 1/2 hours in one store, to order the wood you need.
You know you’re in Haiti, when the owners of the villa bring out their guitar and sing to you all night, because they are glad to see you again.
You know you’re in Haiti, when you see workers at the hardware store, herding a cow and goat out of the parking lot.
You know you’re in Haiti, when it’s common to see a family of 4 or 5 (once there was 3 with 2 sheep!) riding home on a motorcycle.
You now you’re in Haiti, when you see 30 people riding on top of a dump truck in their best clothes, hitching a ride to church.
You know you’re in Haiti, when you know you’ll be eating rice for dinner.
You know you’re in Haiti, when your shower has only cold water.
You know you’re in Haiti, when you hear a “bang”, “pop” on the tin roof of your room and get excited, because it’s a fresh mango falling.
Today we climbed onto the truck at 7:30am and proceeded to go “shopping”. Here in Haiti, one must go to differing stores for just about everything you require on the job site. It takes forever. There is much waiting. The mantra “hurry up and wait” is spoken often. There is the hardware store for paint, nails and roofing screws. We have found a fabulous store for wood and tin roofing. We have worked with them before…kind of “friends” now, and they give us a good discount because of the work we are doing. Then we travel 1 hour to the cement depot to buy 1000 cement block to be delivered. It’s also the same place where you can drop off your clothes for cleaning…an obvious business combination! Then back into the truck to travel the dirt roads to the rebar shack. There we purchase all the rebar to hold up our cement block walls for the additional classrooms we will be building. With only one flat tire in the whole day’s travel, it went pretty smoothly.
The most difficult thing I have to do here, is prioritize what needs to be done. EVERYTHING needs to be done. It’s ALL necessary. The list is endless, but the money to pay for it all, is not. Here is what we hope to accomplish on this trip. Thank you to everyone for your support. It is with you, that these projects become reality. The rest will have to wait until next time.
1. Build 2 additional classrooms. The ministry of education is demanding that our class sizes become smaller. We need to comply. This will include digging and pouring a cement foundation, forming the cement block walls, building the wooden roof trusses (Simon’s designs!), hoisting the roof trusses and lastly, attaching tin for the roof.
2. Digging a latrine for the school children. The school children require their own latrine, as they are consistently throwing rocks down the flush toilets that are connected to the orphanage. Never a good thing.
3. Repairs to the dormitory roof.
4. Painting of the school exterior, library and fence (that’s a really short sentence, but it sure is a LOT of paint!).
5. Construction of 10 large school desks that will seat 5-6 children each.
6. Construction of 6 benches for the kitchen tables.
7. Construction of 2 new roofs for 2 existing school classrooms.
8. Repairs in the washroom. Replacement of one toilet and its piping into the septic system.
9. Building of 35 roof trusses that are 25 feet long…I get to saw each board by hand.
10. We are hoping to fund the start of a micro business here at the school/orphanage property. A infirmary/drugstore is required to serve the community. If there is any money left following the repairs, we will stock the first shelves. The profits of sales will go directly to supporting the daily needs of the orphanage.
Life is full of hope. Until tomorrow…
P.S. Hi Mom xxx
Friday, February 24th, 2017
I don’t have a biological brother.
I don’t have a biological sister.
I’m an only child.
But, I DO know what it is LIKE to have a Brother. My brother is Bertony and it is he who carries the vision for Fodivha orphanage and school here in Haiti. He loves his children. He loves the work. He is “Big Brother” to so many dozens of children…and because he is younger, he is “Little Brother” to me.
With the world so large, I’m sure many of you have brothers or sisters in different countries from where you live. Reunions with siblings are magical moments. It has been too long since I have seen Bertony…19 months since we have been able to safely travel to Haiti. Communication on email, in differing languages, is not the same. Relationships can become strained. But then in that moment of reunion, when your Brother lifts you off the ground into his arms, when you hug and squeeze each other until you can’t breathe, kiss misty tears away and look deeply into eyes, you know that you are home with family.
As with all siblings, we play, we fight and we sometimes have the “hard conversations”. I boss him around, because I’m older. He teases me and gets away with it, because he is younger. But, we are bound together in this crazy family of raising 35 orphan kids together. Go figure. They say, you can’t pick your Family. Well, however this works, I’m thankful that they picked me.
Simon and I returned to the orphanage today to make plans for the work that must be done. There is much to do after the last hurricane. Many of the older children who turned 18 years of age in this past year, have now been forced by government rules to leave. I didn’t get to say goodbye. There is a new batch of young children arriving in only a few days, from a very poor area up in the mountains…more children joining our family. I’m not sure what the proper protocol is to welcoming children into their new “home”, where they will live for the next decade or more. Many of them will leave what family members they have, up in the mountains. Most are given away. Many more families are begging for us to take them. They know that at the orphanage, they might have a chance at a future. They know that they will be fed and educated. Horrible decisions…ones that most families in our world have never had to make. In Canada, there would be transitional visits. There would be psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers involved, helping the children and the new family members transition. Here in Haiti, they trust that all these children will “find their own way”. They will arrive in a tap-tap truck with only the clothes on their back. Many will hope that what they have heard is true…that there will be dinner.