Port au Prince

Port au Prince
"He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure." Psalm 40:2

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Triumphant Joy

This has been an enriching and stretching week as Tracy, Lindsay, and I have had enjoyed the privilege of training Haitian teachers. Lindsay and Tracy shared Classroom Management Skills with the teachers who teach Kindergarten through Grade 2 emphasizing the importance of building rapport with students in a positive nurturing learning environment. Among this group of teachers were young women who are training to be teachers, for whom this training will prove beneficial as they set up their own classrooms in the future.
Throughout the week, I worked with the teachers who teach students from Grade 3 and up.   After an initial discussion on “What is Learning?” and the goals of learning, we explored the topic of “Empowering Writers through Teacher Modeling and Writing Workshop.” Writing is a powerful form of communication. What a community building experience it was for these precious Haitian teachers to write of their own dreams and longings! We explored together best writing practices, the structure of a Writing Workshop, and the nonfiction genres of memoir and essay writing, in order for students to be empowered as writers as they develop effective writing skills.
The outstanding characteristic of my Haitian brothers and sisters in Christ is their joy. There were some among us who had lost family members and friends in the earthquake. Yet despite what they have suffered, joy shines in their faces as they enjoy one another. We began each training day with singing worship songs in French. Throughout the sessions, uproarious laughter erupted as we interacted and learned from one another.
Yesterday, Friday, July 29, we celebrated our week together with cooperative learning games, intentionally chosen by Tracy to promote critical thinking, perseverance, and problem solving. As we played the games together, I could not help but be struck with the reality that it is the unpretentious things in life that matter- friendship, laughter, cooperation, and engagement.
As we gathered together to present the Professional Development Certificates, I witnessed once again the joy Haitian people take in each other as they celebrated by clapping, cheering, and snapping pictures of each participant as he or she came forward to receive their certificate. Then as we embraced one another, we moved naturally into our common language, the language of prayer for one another.  As we leave Haiti tomorrow morning, we carry the Haitian people in our hearts which they have transformed with their love.
                                                                                  Charlotte Gillespie

It Just Takes One...

It just takes one plane ticket to get to Haiti.  It just takes one mosquito to make you itch like crazy.  It just takes one shower to make you feel like gold.  It just takes one glass of water to quench your thirst.  It just takes one breeze to make the day feel cool.  It just takes one book to make a child smile.  It just takes 1 translator to have a conversation.  It just takes one certificate to help get a job. It just takes one look from a child to make you want to give everything you have to give to him. It just takes one song to bring together two completely different cultures. It just takes one person to tell you CAN make a difference.

This week I took part, along with Tracy and Charlotte, in providing the Haitian teachers with tools to teach in their own classrooms.   But I think I did more of the learning than they did.  I was asked the question, "When children come to school crying and having a hard time separating from their parents, what do you do?"  My initial response was, "Have them become engaged in their favorite activity: books, trucks, coloring, etc."  The response was, "We don't have those kinds of things.  What do we do without those materials?"  I learned I had to be a bit more creative with my answers to their questions.  It's not easy here in Haiti, but the teachers and pastors have been such a welcoming and loving group of people. They have reminded me to start each day by praising and thanking God.  They have reminded me that food is precious.  They have reminded me to be thankful for what I have. They have reminded me that 80 degrees is not so hot.  They have reminded me that a smile can go a long way.  They have reminded me that we are different, but are one in Christ. They have reminded me that one person as an "encourager" is all the difference between accomplishing your goal or not.
Lindsay Shifflett

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Year Later...

Last August, I traveled with World Relief to some of the most devastated areas in and around Port-au-Prince.  I not only saw the devastation from the earthquake but had an opportunity to meet the people and hear their stories.  As I boarded the plane to head back to Boston, I felt as though I was leaving a piece of my heart in Haiti and had a feeling I would be back.
Here it is just about a year later and I am back in Port-au-Prince.  This year, along with two other colleagues from my school, Lindsay and Charlotte, I am leading a teacher training in Carrefour Feuille.   On Monday as we drove to Carrefour Feuille, a community I visited last summer, I could not wait to see if the church that had been a pile of rubble or the school that was just a slab of cement had been rebuilt.  Would this community look any different?  What if any progress would be made?  How was the 107 year old woman who had been trapped in the rubble for over eight hours?  Was she still living in a tent?
As we arrived in Carrefour Feuille, I was thrilled to see the progress and the familiar faces of Pastor Daniel, and Kenzi.  The rubble had been cleared from the street and from the church.  Both the church and the school had temporary structures – what progress!  What brought great joy was to see the 107 year old woman and learn that she was living in a new home that had been built for her.  Her faith, love for God, and heart to serve are such an encouragement.

This was the school in August 2010

 Here is the school today

A teacher training in one of the new classrooms

Today, we completed our third day of teacher training.  I must admit that each day I am both a teacher and student.   As I share information, I learn so much about the Haitian culture as the teachers ask and answers questions.  Their heart for God and the children in their country are both refreshing and encouraging.  I am amazed by their commitment to provide an education to their students with little or no materials.  Many teachers do not have books in their classroom, even small picture books for children to read – something that is hard for us to imagine. 
There is a lot in Haiti that is hard to imagine, but God is here!   I look forward to two more days with the teachers and pray that God will use us to bless and encourage their work with children.  I wonder what Haiti will look like a year from now….

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Extreme Home Makeover: Orphanage Edition

Yesterday I was exposed to the behind-the-scene view of the children’s living environment at the orphanage uphill from the hospital. Simply put, I was overcome by sadness and extreme guilt. Tears welled up while looking around their dark, filthy bathrooms, and dusty, crowded bedrooms. Paint was chipping off every wall. Cockroaches scurried across the floor. Without indulging in details, I’ll just say I will never complain about cleaning a toilet again. I thought of their reality compared to my own childhood: 20 acres to roam, a room to myself, a bed overflowing with stuffed animals, two loving parents. The younger children are so starved for love and affection that they continued to attempt to play with my hair even while scrubbing the toilets. Throughout the week, the older children initially remained distant, but are clearly longing for more, expressed in notes to our team members asking them to adopt them and take them away from Haiti.

Today was a day of hope. We left the children at the end of the day with smiles and laughter. In typical fashion, we never know what to expect each morning as we enter the hospital, and today we had a lighter patient load, which opened up the afternoon for our entire team to spend with the children at the orphanage. Our two new friends (amazing handymen from NC with huge hearts for Haiti) made the multi-hour trek to the hardware store to pick up painting supplies. All eight of us paraded into the girl’s room and got to work: bunk beds were hauled out, floors were swept, walls were cleaned, brushes started flying. The ipod came out, and so did the children. Soon little faces and hands were covered in fresh white paint as they dove in to help us transform their room. As the work continued, the children danced in the hallways—beautiful movement in a humble space; a true act of worship. The transformation of the children’s living space not only brought deep unity and bonding as a team, but also lit up the kid’s faces and hopefully helped them feel the same love they have been pouring out on us all week. I was so thankful for the opportunity to serve the Lord and his children in this way today.

Haiti continues to provoke and expose this dichotomy of emotions: despair and hope, pain and healing, abandonment and community, fear and love. Ultimately, however, as we wrestle with our purpose and calling in a broken world, we know how the story will resolve. Praise God that, in the end, He has the victory and the glory, and all His children will partake of it by His loving side.

-Malia (Medical Team)

Tuesday Triage

So today was the second day working triage at King’s hospital. I was responsible for taking patient histories with the help of our lovely friend Emanuel – he’s a good sport, interpreting everyday for us in the crowded, noisy waiting room.  I worked with Pete and Crystal (and Stephen most of the time) we’re a great team! Triage seemed much more efficient today because we got a system going for taking vitals and recording height, weight, etc. before the patients see one of the physicians.

 It’s a lot of shuffling hand-scribbled charts, sharing pens and stethoscopes, taking turns with the pulse oximeter and blood pressure cuff … converting pounds to kilograms on Steve’s phone calculator … we make do with what we have. :)

The first day of clinic was a little frustrating for me because I didn’t feel very useful. Everything seemed rather disorganized and chaotic, trying to figure out how things work at King’s, which is especially challenging with the language barrier (all of us really wish we knew more Creole). We didn’t seem to be making the Haitian nurse’s job any easier – though she was very gracious to us foreigners, I suspected we were very much in her way.
I’m narrowing down the very full day we had today to focus on this one aspect (clinic) because it was an answer to prayer.  This morning was really great because I began to feel I was more of a blessing than a bother to the people we are working with. Everything seemed to flow and I was much more comfortable and confident working with the patients in this setting.
There were many young mothers with their newborns or pregnant women coming in for a check up today – this was cool for me because of my interest in maternity nursing & midwifery. Triage has allowed me to practice what I’ve learned in nursing school thus far and I already sense my perspective has changed because of this experience.
I apologize for the disjointed nature of this post (first time writing in a blog), but mostly I want to communicate that I’m very thankful to be here – to have this opportunity to learn in a totally different clinical setting than what I’ve seen in the US. And I’m learning a lot! I’m very blessed to learn from these beautiful people.

My questions this week continue to be: What do you want to teach me Jesus? What do you have to show me in Haiti?

Answered Prayer:  The woman with a life-threatening complication of pregnancy was admitted today in good health!! Thank you Jesus.

Anna (Medical team)

Let the little children come to me...

So for the past 3 days, as both Alice & Leonie have blogged about, we have been working at the orphanage. Personally, I have been experiencing a complex array of emotions over the past few days.  I have always had a desire to work in an orphanage, and I am thankful that God is currently allowing me to do so.  Just looking at these children both breaks my heart as well as gives me hope.  It breaks my heart that the one and a half year old little girl's mother passed away during the earthquake, and she was subsequently pulled from the rubble and brought to the orphanage by her uncle because he felt that her father could no longer take care of her.  It breaks my heart when we found out exactly why one of the little boys spontaneously cries and sobs uncontrollably; he was recently dropped off at the orphanage by his mother, only 8-10 days ago and his father had previously passed away.  It breaks my heart that children so loving and affectionate with us, who just want to hold our hands or lean against us, are living without biological family members at such a young age.  However, among all of this sorrow, there is hope.  Both yesterday and today we have asked one of the older kids to pray after our lesson, and I have been both touched and moved both times.  On Tuesday, just hearing the prayers of one of the girls brought tears to my eyes.  She prayed with so much passion for us and our safe travels, she thanked God for us, she prayed for the pastor and his wife who have made these children their own, and she prayed for many other things that we incredibly powerful.  And today, the girl who prayed also moved me.  It's just something about the raw passion and love for Jesus that some of these children possess that get me.  They are without their mothers & fathers, their own rooms, their own beds, and simple comforts that we take advantage of at home, like computers and internet access in our homes.  It just blows me away that these children are so thankful, when in reality, they have so little.

Leaving on Friday is probably going to be one of the most difficult things that I will ever have to do.  I know that these children have made an impression on my life and my heart, and I know that this is what God has wanted me to feel.  I more than likely will never see any of these children again, but yet it brings me genuine happiness when I think of going back the next two days.  On the contrary, it troubles me that we only have two more days with these children.  I will miss the way they smile when you look at them and make eye contact.  I will miss how passionately they get involved in an activity as simple as coloring or drawing.  I will miss them saying "photo, photo" and then when we go to take the picture, at least 5 more kids join in and put their arms around you or jump on your lap to be in the picture with you.  I will miss all of these things, but what I will miss the most is the children themselves.  These children are the hope and future of Haiti, and I just thank God and praise Him for the Pastor and his wife, and that they provide for these children as best they can.  I will leave you with the passage that we taught the kids today, and ask you to say a little prayer for these children, the pastor and his wife, the workers at the orphanage, and the orphanage itself.
- Marie

Mark 10:13-16

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Turn left at the hole!

So we got a little lost heading back to the church after our day at the orphanage today. We were driving around the narrow & steep streets of Carrefour Feuilles for a while with all of us watching for familiar landmarks, and then we spotted it -- a huge pothole at the intersection where we're supposed to turn to the church. Only in Haiti!! Despite the piles of rubble and rough roads remaining from the earthquake last year though, life has definitely moved on. The streets are busy with folks young & old going about their daily business, rush hour traffic just like any other cities, and many houses are being rebuilt brick by brick (or in some cases tents) -- what a testament to the amazing tenacity and strength of the Haitian people!

But I'm getting ahead of myself... We started our day at the orphanage with the pastor recounting his experience of the orphanage collapsing during the earthquake, and how he & his wife & the children had to live in a "tent city" for a period of time. Thankfully before long, God provided a new home for them through various connections with international organizations and they were able to move into their current location. They were gracious to let our team walk through their bedrooms and cooking quarters, and though the rooms were modest in size and several children have to share each bed, it is clear that this home is taken care of with much love. The children again welcome us into their home with much enthusiasm and affection. We spent some time today cleaning up the courtyard which is littered with rubble, and then more time singing and playing musical chairs and Bible storytelling with the kids. The biggest hit of the day -- finger painting! 

Continue to pray for these very precious children -- they are adorable beyond words, eager to learn, creative and smart. Pray also for the pastor & wife of this home, as well as the many pastors and church leaders in the area who continue to work for community development. Pray that we will all see & obey God's mission, as one Body in  Christ.


Monday, July 25, 2011

First Day at the Orphanage...

Today was my first day working at the orphanage. In fact, this was my first time visiting an orphanage and Haiti. There were approximately 30 children run by a local Pastor and his wife who have opened up their home, sacrificed their ambitions, and laid down their finances for these children. In my opinion, they are a  clear demonstration of faithful servants yielding to the spirit of God and taking care of His little ones.

The children were beautiful in so many ways. Although initially cautious, they soon warmed up to us and showed overwhelming affection and love towards us. Within hours of our arrival they were clinging to us wanting us to teach them about our culture, asking questions and generally enjoying the interaction. The language spoken by most children was French/Creole and it was a God send that we had such enthusiastic and God centered Haitian translators to communicate more effectively. Through His power we were able to have worship time, via a two way process of teaching and leaning new songs. The children definitely enjoyed this, and it was amazing to witness such a beautiful glimpse of happiness and hope in their eyes when considering the impact of devastation in terms of the aftermath of the Earthquake, poverty,  and absence of their biological parents. We also played games with the children such as catch,  soccer and designated a Bible time focusing on the theme of forgiveness taken from the Gospel of Luke 19 vs 1-10, Zacchaeus the Tax collector. It was amazing to hear the children's recap of the story and follow up questions. It was also amusing to see the skit the older children prepared based on the story. Overall, today was a great day where I felt the Lord really moving among us, and opening our eyes to the needs of the children.

Despite the effort of the Pastor and his wife, the children were still lacking basic needs such a clean water and food, and it was fitting that God had moved us to bring more than enough clean water to share with them. Prayer is definitely valued in this area. It really touched me how little these children have in comparison to the average American or British child but despite this they showed immense gratitude and happiness. They were consistently asking us if we were coming back tomorrow and seemed joyous when we said 'yes by Gods grace'. So continued prayer that these children may grow in the grace of God and develop a peace that surpasses all understanding and that He alone would satisfy and cater to all their needs.

~ Leonie ~

Humility and the Almighty

Today was my first day working as a physician in the outpatient clinic of King’s Hospital. The last few days I’ve been very anxious about my ability to recognize and treat tropical illness. Primarily because I haven’t studied them since medical school and have never treated them. Within moments I realized my fears and anxiety had been inappropriately placed. The challenge was not the medicine (as it turns out, pretty much every fever is malaria) but much larger, more powerful enemies. I saw children that were the victims of unspeakable violence. Another women presented with a life threatening condition but left the clinic untreated, insisting that she could not be admitted because there was no one else to care for her young children.
As a pediatric oncologist, I’ve become comfortable in the face of impending tragedy, secure in my ability to provide life saving medicine. Today I was overwhelmed with the enormity of the circumstances I encountered and my complete inability to intervene. In His gentle way, I felt God remind me that it is never I who provides healing. This little revelation was both humbling and enormously comforting. I’m choosing to abandon my reliance on my skill, and instead place my hope in Him Who Is Able.

--Nadine (Medical Team)

First Impressions

The night before departing for Haiti I sat in my apartment packing and attempting to predict what the experience would be like for a first-timer.  Despite the impossible task I couldn’t seem to quiet my brain.  Having arrived and gone through a day and a half here, I find that my expectations were both right and wrong.  Yesterday, our day of arrival, I sat in the backseat of the van as we drove around Port-au-Prince feeling as if I was watching a movie through the van windows, I honestly couldn't believe what I saw - rubble on the streets, dust in the air, endless tent communities, and tons of people on the streets.  Today, as we continued our tour of the city, I started to believe it, imagining how I would feel, what I would think, what I would do if it were me.   In that moment I knew what it meant to reflect on the question “How am I living my life?”  At that moment, something changed in me, God popped a "bubble" in my life perspective.  I felt overwhelmingly humbled, becoming aware that I couldn't bring myself to the level of understanding required to fully empathize with the people of Haiti.  A teammate of mine, who is here for the second time, mentioned that there is not a lot of counseling or discussion opportunities available to process their situation, and as a result they show up at the doctor's with physical pain, trouble sleeping, etc, due entirely to fear so strong and so continuous that it causes physical ailments.  Riding in the van, I asked God where His hope was among the challenges and hardship in Haiti.

His answer came later that afternoon, when we visited the orphanage next to the hospital (where we will begin working tomorrow) and played with the kids.  After 20 minutes and a small bag of candy to break the ice, the kids were sitting in our laps, playing basketball with the guys, letting us do their hair, taking pictures and videos, and even dancing with us to Jason Delurio and Justin Bieber!  In their faces I saw joy and innocence, and in their actions I saw acceptance of our love and care.   They too are in a tough situation, many without family or a place to call home, yet the childhood love for life remained, and there I saw the hope I was desperate to find.   
That experience, combined with our visit to the local church's Sunday morning service, the hospitality and generosity of our inspirational hosts (who are the co-directors of the hospital, and in my eyes some of the heroes of Haiti), the improvements and progress in the city pointed out by our driver, and the hearts, spirits and skills of the amazing team I have the privilege to work with, I have a new outlook about what drives me here.  When I thought I would be mostly overwhelmed by sadness and helplessness, I am instead spurred by great humility and faithful hope.   Please pray that this continues and grows for my team as we begin our work in the hospital tomorrow!   

Until then!
Sophia (Medical Team)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bins, monkeys & hope

As I was thinking about how I should start out my first blog post of this trip, I thought about last years trip and the amazing experience that I had.  So far, this experience has been a little different.  For starters, we did not have to unpack 10 bins at 3am in the middle of Logan airport, and then have several of us drive back home to grab luggage to stuff everything in, and then drive back to pack the bins into suitcases, while still making our flight which was, at that time, in a little over a half an hour.  Nope, didn't do that last year!  The other difference for me is that last year was my first time in Haiti.  First time in the Port au Prince airport, first time in this kind of extreme heat, on the roads, in a foreign country, flying over an ocean...you get my drift.  But this time, however, it was different for me.  Nothing was overwhelming like it was last year.  For example, seeing the beautiful country of Haiti come into perspective from my window seat brought a large smile to my face that, although it was there last year as well, this year it was with pure joy and with no nerves behind it.  Returning, for me, has been great for another reason; progress.  The roads to our home for the next week were mostly smooth, commerce was hustling and bustling out on the streets, more than last time, and buildings that were obviously new were scattered throughout our route.  Granted, we have not been through the most devastated areas yet, but seeing the improvement gave me hope.

Our first day, as long as it was, could not have been better.  Our fantastic hosts, Nate & Cecilia, provided us with a wonderful lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches from a local favorite of their's, and we were joined at lunch by the World Relief Haiti country director, John O'Kelley.  We got the chance to hear about World Relief's commitment in Haiti, as well as their vision for the future.  In the evening we had a chance to do some team building by organizing all of the teacher supplies for the training that they are running.  My one main takeaway?  It took me a really long time to put a protractor into a bag.  Granted, this was the biggest and best protractor I have ever seen in my life, but it really did take me longer than it should have.  However, I managed to move past my adoration of the protractors and put all 50 of them into the bags.  :)

Today, we woke up bright and early to prepare for church and eat a delicious breakfast.  We then had the option to go to either a church service completely in Creole, with a large number of youths, or an English service.  Nate, Cecilia, John, Leoni & Joanne went to the English speaking service, while Janese, Tracy, Charlotte, Alice, Lindsey and myself went to the Creole service.  Just like last year, it was such an amazing experience and I was so overwhelmed by the joy of the Lord that these young people had that it brought tears to my eyes.  They sang one song in English, and a few parts of the sermon were in English, so we had an idea what was going on the majority of the time.  The pleasantly surprising thing to me is that the entire congregation was mostly youth.  And there were a lot of people there with us.  The woman who led the service asked us to come up and say a few things and our names, and everyone greeted us afterwards with hugs and handshakes.  I wish we were able to go one more time to this church, but we will be in the air next Sunday when they will be worshiping.  After church we headed up to the Black Mountain and the Baptist Mission on the mountain.  Nate & Cecilia wanted to show us the overlook which has a view of the entire city of Port au Prince, and wanted to show us where we would be working and such.  Unfortunately, the mission was closed, so we did not get to see inside.  However, being the amazing hosts that they are, Nate and Cecilia still showed us around the area and we made the best of it.  The mission also has a small wildlife sanctuary that just so happens to house Alice's new best friend; a monkey:

Before I go any further, I feel I must let everyone in on why they are best friends.  So, this wildlife sanctuary has birds, goats, rabbits, and, right in the middle of everything, a monkey all by himself.  Janese thought the monkey looked a little hungry (it was raining, no one was out, and clearly Janese is more of an animal lover than she claims to be), so she grabbed a granola bar and a stick and decided to feed the poor little monkey.

But for some reason, the monkey, although clearly tempted by the food, would not come over and grab it.  Then we noticed that it would occasionally make noises and go back and forth, and we realized that it was following someone.  It turns out that Mr. Monkey was following Alice from inside his cage.  And, the only one that he would not back up from wen they approached the cage was Alice, and the only one he would eat the granola from on the stick, was Alice.  And this is how Alice made a new best friend.

All joking and monkeys and goats aside, it has been an amazing day and a half here in Haiti, and we are looking forward to either heading to the orphanage tomorrow to run a vacation bible school for the kids, or, for our teachers, heading to a school/church to train a group of teachers.  Please keep us in your prayers as we head into our week, that God will allow us to touch the hearts of these individuals and let us show them the love that He has for them.

Marie, World Relief Team