Saturday, August 1, 2015

Day 6: Water Truck

This is my third trip to Haiti, and water truck day continues to be my favorite day.  Although we witness some very difficult things, we also get the satisfaction of meeting the people of City Soleil's basic need for water and witnessing their welcoming hugs and smiles. We also welcomed the nice breeze today and the slightly cooler temperature. 

Our two stops were far less chaotic than our first water truck day. There was less desperation, or so it appeared. I participated in the water line at our first stop. I started out holding the hose and enjoying the vantage point. I could see everything that was going on with all of our team members and I stopped to take a deep breath and really experience the exciting energy of the moment. I witnessed kids climbing on the backs of my team members as they were working so hard to fill water as efficiently as possible. One little boy really struck me. He was about 2 years old, no clothes, a big barrel chest and a survivor mentality. I was so amused by his antics to get water and his interactions with the other kids. His little white pitcher with pink flowers on the side was his and he wasn't going to let ANYONE take it. He also wasn't about to wait in line like everyone else. Michael and Tracy became his jungle gym and they had absolutely no idea because they were completely focused on the difficult task at hand. Michael likes to guide the hose into the buckets because he has a strong realization that the water in City Soleil is gold and doesn't want to waste one drop. City Soleil has a way of making you cherish every resource that helps to keep them alive and thriving.  The boy climbed over their backs, between their legs, was pinched by the older kids, had his pitcher stolen several times, managed to take them down and get his pitcher back. After all that work, how could I not make sure his pitcher was filled? He earned that water with shear tenacity and perseverance!  That kid will go somewhere! Not only do they have their own thirst to deal with but also the compassion to help us. A little girl saw that we were working hard on the water line and approached Tracy and Alicia. She made a cup with her hand and dipped it into the water to give them a refreshing splash on the face. She wiped away their sweat and gave them both a kiss on the cheek. It was priceless. 

Before we left I had shifted locations and ended up putting many, many buckets on top of women and children's  heads for them to carry.  The kids were all so delighted to have our attention, and we are mutually delighted to have theirs. The mood changed abruptly when right in front of me a man started yelling and whipping a boy, about 8 years of age, with a bungee cord with a metal hook on the end. The boy was running and screaming, tears streaming down his face. The man whipped him from head to toe. The boy hid behind some shanties until he knew he was safe and then came out crying and rubbing his wounds. Rachel, Maddie and I ran to comfort him. My hurt still hurts deeply for him and I'll be praying for his safety and freedom. 

When we stopped to fill the water trucks, some of us had to use the restroom. As we entered the gates I noticed two young women sitting on a ledge. They were interested in us, so they followed us to the restroom. Although we had a major language barrier, we managed to find out that her mother lives in Bagley Minnesota. My husband has family in Bagley, a very small town in Northern Minnesota. What a strange coincidence and a very small world! 

Our last water truck stop was also full of life and action. The kids were hanging off us all. The team members filling the buckets continued to work like a family that we have definitely become. We carried buckets, played with children, sang songs and enjoyed the last moment we had to spend with these amazing and resilient people. They continue to amaze me and will forever have all of our hearts. As I sit here typing, I feel the muscles in every part of my body and I only lived a very brief moment of their daily lives. They are strong and have overcome and continue to overcome adversity yet genuinely smile along the way. I will take their smiles home with me and remember to appreciate things a lot more. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Day 5: Carrefour, Einstein Alberts, La Lou Orphanage, Pizza Amour

If I had to pick one word to describe the whole day for my team it would be polish. For some of our team the day began with alarms announcing "time to get ready for church" and for others the day started with a plate full of pancakes. This morning we had the chance to attend a 6:00 AM church service at a local church that is about a 10 minute walk away from our guest house. I attended this beautiful service where the church-goers would pace up and down the aisles declaring their prayers with their arms high above their heads. Although we were only able to stay for an hour, their passion was truly heart-warming. The word polish fits into this piece of the day due to the imperfections and the unpolished aspects of Haiti that our team has witnessed throughout our trip up to this point. It occured to me that while in the United States we may have ornate, polished, and extravagant churches, that this church surrounded by dust and garbage was impeccably polished.

Our first stop of the day was at Carrefour (home for sick and dying adults). While this visit was out of many of our team members' comfort zones, everyone walked in with their beautiful souls and determination to help anyone in need. The word polish ties into this experience more literally since most women wanted their nails painted with the nail polish we brought with. I think that all of our team members  who went outside of their comfort zone were comforted by the knowledge that the women now had the color of the nail polish to brighten up their days. 

Next stop was Einstein Alberts. We pulled up to this little shop full of beautiful, handcrafted bowls that several women were varnishing. We were all able to see all of the lovely wooden bowls that had been made with much effort and time. There were not many bowls ready for sale when we arrived, but even thought they were not all varnished or polished, they were still stunning and held as much value to the women/men who spent the time crafting them. Our visit was short, but we left with several bowls and lots of smiling faces.

La Lou Orphanage came next, and seemed to be bursting with laughs. We were greeted by the cutest kids who were all very eager to participate in our team member, Dawn's, art lesson. There were many colorful giraffes in the room after the excited kids finished coloring their drawings. They caught on to our singing and clapping games quickly and they all laughed when we sang and danced the TootyTa. Cassie gave them a fantastic dental lesson where they all 'polished' their teeth with the new toothbrushes we gave them. La Lou Orphanage was a joyful visit for many.

After our service work was done we were able to polish off our day with a fun grocery store visit and pizza from Pizza Amour. These trips provided us with great bonding time, tons of laughs, and stomachs full of pizza and dessert. 

Natalie (:

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Day 4: Grace Village Tour // Elderly Visits

Our morning started off with a tour of Grace Village.  Grace Village is a place created by the founders of Healing Haiti where a few children live, and hundreds of children get food and an education.  Some of the children who now live at Grace Village were once child slaves who are now being taught how to trust and love.  Before they came to Grace Village, many of those children were used to people stealing their blankets at night when they slept .  At Grace Village they are taught "what's theirs is theirs" and nobody steals.  They are taught to live like a family, so ultimately when they have a family of their own later in life, they have that life skill in place.

Also at Grace Village, they have an aquaponics system where they farm their own talapia and use hydroponics to grow their own vegetables, as the terrain is not conducive to growing plants.  They have two bread ovens, where they teach people in the community to make bread so that they can go and sell it in the community to support themselves.  They are now working on a commercial bakery to provide a needed service as well as many more jobs for the local people.  So much at Grace Village is about coming alongside the people of Haiti to help them learn how to help themselves and not just accept handouts.

In the afternoon we visited 3 women in the elderly program.  We washed their hands and feet and brought them a hot meal and cold water.  We poured our hearts into them through touch, praying for them, asking them about their experiences, and singing and dancing with the children that gathered.  We started with Marolen, who was frail and quiet.  Then Felicie, who was happy to see us and was so grateful for her house that was built by Healing Haiti, followed by Maricia, who was so joyous that she greeted all of us with hugs and hooted and hollered when we washed and dryed her feet!  Let's just say that her fingers and toes were painted by some unusual methods and persons, along with her grandchildren.  ;)

To end our day, we were given a tour and explanation of the earthquake that shattered this beautiful country when we visited the Mass Gravesite.  The multitude of souls that were lost sank into each and every one of us as we looked around and thought about what it must have been like to have lived through such a disaster...

Tracy, Cassie, and Michael

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Day 3: Orphanage for Children with Special Needs//Home for Sick and Dying babies//Apparent Project//General Hospital

                            Orphanage for Children with Special Needs
Today we had the privilege of visiting a new partner with Healing Haiti, an orphanage for children with special needs. When we arrived, the 20 children were gathered in a nice tiled room at the front of the building.  It was a good spot, as the breeze came through to keep everyone cool.  They were excited to see us, and our team all stepped in to interact and get to know the children.  One girl 'chose' me (Debbie).  She couldn't walk, but scooted over to my legs and looked up at me with her beautiful eyes and I sat down to be with her.  She really likes to have her back massaged and has a great smile  - her name is Diane.  Another boy named Bradley came up to me (Tony) and was quick to join in on a little game and continually wanted to play, he was all smiles. Many of the children were eager to have our attention and to be held and played with.  Since this was a first experience for a Healing Haiti team, we had no idea what to expect or plan for.  We sang some songs and they loved it, so we got the guitar, and Michael played and we all sang some more.  Oh, it was so much fun!  One guy, Fonz, got some wonderful loud clapping going as he joined in to the beat of the music. As Michael strummed instrumentally, one of the workers started humming a tune.  Soon it turned into a loud impromptu sing along, a Haiitian-inspired hallelujah song! This was the highlight of our time while serving these wonderful people. 
-Debbie and Tony
                                              Home for Sick and Dying Babies
  The other half of our group were blessed with the heart breaking visit to the Home for Sick and Dying Babies.  The ward that had the sickest babies was filled with about 10 children in various states of health.  We jumped in, each one of us, regardless of whatever ailed the child, picked them up, and held them.  They were thin, quiet, and when those big brown eyes opened, there was nothing to do but hold them as close to your heart as you could.  I (Tracy) picked a child named "Jeff" who happened to be next to "Elvis" and put him on my shoulder.  We hung together the entire time, ate a few times, and slept in my arms.  I could do nothing for him but hold him close, talk to him, and pray silently for this child whom no one came to visit.  Other parents came and went, but we were alone.  The emotions that I felt upon surrendering him to his crib overcame me, and the tears came quickly.  

                                              General Hospital
Today was my first ever visit to General Hospital. I've been to Haiti 2 times before, and to be honest, I've avoided this visit. It was definitely far outside of my comfort zone. We brought care packages for everyone, many donations and fresh, cold water. Although they received our gifts with so much joy, it still didn't feel like enough. The facility was lacking basic supplies, so we brought with us some formula and diapers.  So many sick, sick babies. The nurses asked us to take one of the abandoned babies. His parents coudn't care for him and so they abandoned him at the hospital. Many of the babies needed fresh diapers, more food, and physical touch. It was beyond overwhelming. I wish I could have done more but I'm so glad for what we did do. 

Water truck day, in front of Hope Church

       Water truck day, on the pier

Half the team getting ready for the Home for Sick and Dying Babies

At the orphanage for kids with special needs

Artisans at the Apparent Project, making paper beads

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

7-28-15 DAY 1 || Watertruck day ||

Day 1: Travel Day

Everybody's morning started at approximately 3 am after weeks of preparation and excitement. Then it was off to a long day at the airport for all. After a few delays, checked bags and lots of extra patience, we finally arrived at the guest house and are getting to know each other over dinner and group chats.  We are getting settled in and praying for a safe, rewarding and adventurous week ahead! We are all very excited to serve, learn and love this week. 

Now it's off to an early bed time to catch up on some rest and prepare for a big day tomorrow. 

Until tomorrow,
Je vous remercie et que Dieu bénisse

Meet our team!
               Our lovely Illinois family!

         Minnesota peeps, representing!

Day 2: Water Truck Day

Our first day serving started out strong. We woke up and had some french toast and eggs, chugged a few bottles of water, and headed on our way to Haitian Initiative in the wobbly taptap.
At H.I. we watched boys and girls practice, and picked up a game of soccer with the ladies. Suprisingly we only lost 2-0. After our visit at the soccer field, we walked them to their lunch room, danced, and handed out food from feed my starving children! Then, back to the taptap..

Our team arrived at the first stop (17) of our watertruck journey in City Soleil. It was a little bit hectic, but exciting to see smiles all around. 

Natalie: "Even though I needed to take a break from the heat in the taptap, the kids would pop their heads in smiling to make sure I was okay. Who knew a smile could make me feel so much better?"

At this stop we got to visit the new church and school that is being built. The kids were running alongside us to go dance and sing with hope and celebration for what the future has in store!

Phaylen: "This part was the most emotional part of the day for me. Seeing the kids by their new partially built church, dancing, smiling, and singing made me feel extremely happy."

After seeing the constuction on the church, we all got back on the taptap and went to watertruck stop number two. We were greeted by the typical "hey you!" from every kid on the street. This stop was much shorter than our first, but very well done by the people on the line of buckets.

We said our goodbyes and headed to the taptap.

Stop number three (stop #26) came late because the watertruck lines were long. We were very tired before this stop but our translater Emanuel got us singing "God is so good", which hyped us up. We arrived at stop three which was located ocean side. The people were very excited to see us and couldn't wait to get their water. The lack of rain water made them a little more desperate than normal. After the truck was empty, we walked to the pier with some of the kids and sat on the edge. We watched the older boys show off and do backflips off the pier. Our day came to an end as we waved goodbye to the kids as they chased the taptap until they couldnt run anymore.

-Rachel, Phaylen, and Natalie

P.S. We will add some water truck pictures later...wifi probs!  😉

Monday, February 23, 2015

Last Day

Today was an amazing day spent together as a team worshiping and winding our week down. We started out the morning driving out to Grace Church in Titanyen. We took in the turquoise blue ocean and mountain landscapes of this beautiful country. We pulled up to Grace Church and immediately heard the glorious worship music resounding within. Gathering together within the church, we felt the Holy Spirit flowing through us! Despite the diversity of language and mode of worship, there's a unity that can only come with the power of the Holy Spirit.

After our church service our team spent time together enjoying the miraculous beauty of Haiti. We took in the exquisitely deep color of the ocean, the majestic rolling mountains, and of course, the "belle" people of Haiti. We used this time of appreciation to reflect on our past week of serving and glorified God for such beauty.

After our last dinner spent as a team, everyone gave their "Word of the Day" during evening devotionals. Many of us mentioned the words united, unity, one and similar. We all experienced a sense of oneness as we praised God together. We spoke different languages and worshiped in different styles but we were all praising our God.

Later that evening Jeff Gacek, the founder of Healing Haiti,  came and shared his journey with God prompting him to come to Haiti, having him be obedient to His calling and have a broken heart for the people of Haiti. He shared about current ministries within Healing Haiti, and future projects and partnerships underway to further this ministry and job creation in Haiti.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Day 6: Discovering the Nuts and Bolts of Healing Haiti

We started our day visiting Grace Village: bread ovens, classrooms, library, aquaponics, vegetable gardens, family homes, transitional housing for boys and for the girls, the medical and dental clinics--Healing Haiti has done SO much to impact individuals and families. Painting fingernails and toes, teaching Zumba, blowing bubbles, and just good, clean fun topped off our time with the Grace Village residents. The children from 2-3-years old up to 18-years old were so well behaved and quickly joined in on welcoming us. They looked so happy, refreshed, nourished; they displayed a bright future for the next generation.

Our next stops were delivering individual lunches and water to elderly and incapacitated individuals that  are supported through Grace Village in the city of Titanyen . We had the opportunity to wash their feet and massage their feet or aching muscles with lotion. The reactions on their faces were priceless: smiles from ear to ear and deep breathes of relief said it all. We never left without giving thanks for each individual and thanking God for providing for their needs. While some attended to these individuals, the rest of our team found on-looking children--and moms--and brought color to their to nails via polish. 

To top off our trip, we visited Haiti's mass grave where innumerable individuals were buried after the earthquake on January 12, 2010. Just like many of us remember what we were doing when our New York Twin Towers were struck, so many Haitians remember the grief and loss that hit their nation so quickly (30 seconds).

Our day can be summed up by the simple, yet profound, statement of a team member: "I was honored to wash the feet of someone who had walked on dirt for so many years." (This lady was 93 years young!). 

Valerie and John

Day 5: Water Truck & Haitian Initiative Soccer program

After a refreshing downpour of rain from the night before, God blessed us with a beautiful overcast day with perfect temperatures. Today we had only 2 stops for our water truck.  I think we were all very excited to get back in the intense action that these days bring! All the smiling faces shouting "Hey you!!" as we drove up were so heartwarming. We also visited the Haitian Initiative Soccer Program, where kids that live in Cite Soleil have the opportunity to play soccer and get water and a hot meal. We also got to see Feed My Starving Children food in action, prepared in 4 big pots in the H.I. dining room.

Lisa's perspective on our 5th day:

We started our day off by going to the local church which is mostly done in Creole. It was beautiful to see the people walking up and down the aisles praising God. We had the opportunity to pray for the person next to us and lift up requests to God. We also sang several songs that would go back and forth between Creole and English that we knew well. What an amazing experience at church to connect with God and see the love that the Haitian people have for the Lord.

Our first water truck day was Tuesday and that was our first close interaction with the Haitians.  At the end of that day I had shared with the group that I felt like I "wasn't enough".  A lot had to do with the language barrier and not being able to communicate.  My mind would totally blank on the few creole phrases I had learned as soon as one of these beautiful kids started reaching up saying "Potem Potem" which means pick me up!  In that moment, I didn't even truly understand what I was suppose to be doing! I was holding and playing with the kids, but then I would want to help the women (ranging from pre-teen to elderly) carry these heavy buckets of water.  Which, by the way, they carry on their heads! I can barely lift the bucket to help them put it on their heads and without spilling the precious water.  It is so amazing how they carry everything on their heads!  I would often try to do both at the same time...Help carry a bucket while holding onto a child, while another child is holding onto my shirt.  Overall feeling like I didn't spend enough time with all the children, share enough love, carry and deliver enough water or even have enough strength.  

Going into today's water truck delivery, I feel we were all more prepared and ready to face the challenges we struggled with on Tuesday.  I myself could at least ask them their name, age and tell them they are beautiful And sing "Glory to God" all in creole.  We also sing in english with them "God is so good is so good is so good" along with a few others. 

Today we delivered to 4 coffins and 19.  My teammates on the hose said it was a little more controlled compared to Tuesday.  Although I felt I was more prepared for today, it was challenging in a different way.  The communication went a little better and I was able to even speak and count in English with a few of the kids.  I also was able to communicate with a mom that had me hold her 6 month old baby (who was dressed in a pink unsnapped onesie, pink scarf, no diaper and it was a boy). The difficult and heartbreaking part we all felt is the kids were literally "fighting" for our love and affection! I particularly had picked up one boy who was 8 and he would not let me put him down.  The "pouty face" is universal.  I would be holding onto 2 kids on my hips who would not necessarily be light, while others would try to jump on my back.  At one point I ended up falling backwards, they pulled on me so hard and some would hit each other to get to me.  But there were more sweet moments of their beautiful smiles and them trying to braid my hair and observe all our differences of our skin, etc. One even tried to rub off this tiny mole on my arm.  She even tried to lick it off.  It also breaks my heart when the older kids and some moms tell me they are hungry and there is nothing I can do for them!

Even though I am only at these water stops until the water runs out... and as soon as that happens, we have to get on our "tap tap" as quickly as we can, otherwise our driver can not get our door closed, because the kids are crowding it.  I have to be ok knowing that I will never "be enough" in this situation, but I did "something" by giving them all my love and attention that I could and will continue to pray for them all.  "God is so good is so good is so good!!"                    

Sam's perspective: HAITIAN Initiative
Everyone was so upbeat this morning and ready to conquer the long but exciting day ahead of us. Going to the Haitian Initiative Soccer Program was the highlight of my day today! We all got the opportunity to go see their dining room and watch the F.M.S.C food being cooked. Then we were brought out to a huge dirt/rock field where we saw about 20 kids practicing their soccer skills! Shortly after arriving they invited us to join in! We started warming up with some butt kicks, high knees, and a little game where we circled up and ran/shuffled to someone on the other side and shouted "Mario Balotelli" (famous soccer player) then switched spots with that person and watched them run across the circle and repeat. After doing the warm up for about 15-25 min we divided up into 2 teams and played a short field game! When we got our official teams and positions I noticed one of the kids on my team touching his cleats a lot, so I asked him if he needed help, assuming he couldn't tie his shoe or something, and at that point I noticed that he had a hole in his right cleat so big that he could stick all his toes out of it. After seeing that I looked around at all the other kids shoes and noticed most of them had holes in their shoes as well, but that didn't stop them at all from playing the game that they loved. We didn't get a "clear" winner for the day, but we definitely had a blast! Playing soccer with all the kids today really showed me just how driven and optimistic these kids really are, and also how fortunate I am. Their shoes were falling off their feet playing in a dirt/rock field with cones as their soccer goal, and yet they were all bright and full of joy to be playing a game that they clearly loved so much. It was sad to have to leave, but today really taught me to be grateful for what I have, and the life that I've been so fortunate to live.