Friday, August 27, 2010

Starting a Business!

I concentrate hard, doing my best to keep up with the rapid conversation. We're at the home base of an organization called the Apparent Project and Denise and I have just picked out another weeks worth of supplies for jewelry making.

A friend of mine, Shelley Clay, and her husband, run this non-profit organization, and it's all about empowering the Haitian people by teaching them different skills and making them self sufficient. One of their main projects is teaching Haitian women, and some men as well, how to make jewelry. Many of the women in the picture above live in a nearby tent city and jewelry making has given them an employment opportunity that allows them to support their families in a really amazing way.
To keep costs down Shelley has taught them how to make their own durable beads using magazine paper, scrapbook paper, or cornflake box cardboard and a glue like substance called Modge Podge and the results are beautiful.

The completed necklaces are sold for between $15-18USD and the bracelets for $5. Although the beads are time consuming to make, with the costs relatively low, the women (and men) can make a profit of $12-14USD per necklace and $3.50-$4 per bracelet. That is really incredible in a country where the average person makes less then $3USD per day. The necklaces and bracelets are then sold in stores in Haiti or mailed to the United States and Canada to be sold, each with a tag that includes a picture and a brief description of the life circumstances of the person who made it.
When I heard about this organization, I became very excited. For quite a while now I have been researching ideas for new skills that Denise could learn that would empower her. Coming from a family of 11 children, Denise only went to school when her parents could afford it, and that wasn't very often at all. Because of this she is barely literate, but she is really bright and diligent. Every day she helps me in the house and whatever she does, she always goes the extra mile. But the truth is, there isn't that much for her to do in my house and for quite some time now I've been on the lookout for a new opportunity for her. When I told Denise about the jewelry making program she became very excited and said she would definitely be interested in joining it! So a few days later, after contacting Shelley, we headed over to the Apparent Project's home base. When we arrived, Shelley showed us around and then assigned another Haitian women also named Denise to teach us how to make the beads. Although it took some trying to make a perfect bead, it didn't take that long for both Denise and I to catch on.

Since Shelley had all the supplies, I loaned Denise $20 USD to buy a starter kit.

Well a week later, working together with Denise we had completed five sets of jewelry.

Now, it's just a matter of selling them! Would you help Denise, by purchasing one of these beautiful, handmade necklace/bracelet sets? The cost for each set is $20 ($15 for the necklace and $5 for the bracelet). The price includes shipping and handling. All you need to do is email us your address at and we will contact you on how to make the payment.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blessed Cargo

Sweat poured down my face as I loaded the aircraft in the hot summer sun. My shirt was already drenched with sweat, and I was 30 minutes behind schedule! As I looked at the boxes we were loading into the airplane, I began to wonder how many lives might be touched by this precious cargo - 800 lbs of Haitian Creole Bibles! Shortly after the earthquake Bibles became increasingly expensive and difficult to find as the demand for them soared, and the damaged factory was unable to produce. I smiled as I began to think of the joy hundreds of Haitians would receive from these Bibles.

Once I was loaded, I made the 45 minute flight up to Port de Paix, where these Bibles would be distributed through an organization called Crossroads. I glanced down at the beautiful coastline below as I descended towards the airstrip, and was once again reminded how exciting it is to be an MAF pilot!

Your continued prayer and support made this flight possible!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Village Boy's Visit To The Big City

Once upon a time, in a village far away..

where the trees grew tall and sugar cane brushed their fluffy plumes against a brilliant sky..

and giant tarantulas, hid under rocks..

there lived a boy named Djempsky.

Although life was always interesting, since he lived close to the river, and he enjoyed the animals...

and spending time with friends...

He always wondered what life was like in the big city.

His Dad lived in the big city, his Mom spent time there as well, and an MAF airplane, carrying a pilot he had become friends with, would come and go and tell him stories, but all that still couldn't compare to seeing it for himself.

So one day he called his Dad, said goodbye to his Mom, and with a backpack full of his worldly possessions, set out on an hour an half trek to the airport.

The airplane came, with his pilot friend, but he wasn't able to go on the flight, so dejectedly he walked home again.

The next day however, there was an empty seat, and an excited Djempsky thought he must be dreaming when his pilot friend invited him to take the spot.

As the plane lifted off, he sported the biggest grin you could ever see...

Looking down he watched in amazement as the village and everything familiar grew smaller and smaller...

I bet he was a little nervous about the big city, once everything he had ever known disappeared from view, but he tried his best not to let his nervousness show.

Well the big city was a thing to behold and his eyes got real big as the airplane slowly made its descent...

Lots of houses, pavement, cars, he wasn't sure what to look at first.

He was happy to see his Dad, who had come to the airport, especially considering he hadn't seen his Dad in three years! But since Djempsky's father's house had been damaged in the earthquake, and he lived in a tent city at the edge of Port au Prince, Djempsky's mother called to ask if he could spend a few nights with us.

We knew Djempsky well, from the time we lived in the village studying Creole and Jason had formed a friendship with him, so we had no problem with him staying with us.

However, it didn't take long for us to realize we had some explaining to do...
How the lights turned on and off, how the ceiling fan worked, how to turn on the tap, flush the toilet, use the shower... He absorbed all the information in speechless wide eyed wonder, until we showed him the water bed he could sleep on. "Wait till I tell my friends this!" He exclaimed, "Water in a bed? That's incredible!"

After showing him around he shyly approached Jason with all his savings. "I was hoping to buy a soccer ball with this," he said, "Do you know where I could buy one?" So we drove him to Eagle Market where they sold soccer balls. He had never seen a store before and was quite impressed. However when he found out the soccer balls cost 800 Goudes instead of the 250 Goudes he had so diligently saved he was disappointed.

Later while video skyping with Jason's family, also something quite mind boggling for him,

we mentioned his soccer ball dilemma. Oma Krul, after hearing his story, offered to pay the difference and Djempsky of course was thrilled.

"Take a picture with me holding the ball", he said, after we came back from the store a second time.

Well, his visit included a lot of firsts for him and here are some of the pictures..

First time learning English, in a preschool setting!

First time swimming in a pool, although he had had a lot of practice in the river and was an excellent swimmer!

and first time to ever eat in a restaurant!

I forgot the Creole word for smile, and I think he thought taking pictures was quite serious business, therefore the look on his face!

This morning, after an early breakfast of pancakes and tea, it was time to head to the airport and fly back home to the village..

I'm sure now that he is back home safe and sound, he has many a story to tell.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


It’s 9:00 a.m., Monday morning and it’s the first day of class. A very excited Jayden opens the kitchen door and calls his friends. “Likka, Sabboule, come, vini.” Within a minute all three are inside and I assign them to their seats. Nicholas gets a stool, and Jayden and Sabboule get two small chairs. With Sabboule, the quietest of the three, in the middle, we are ready to begin.

Flash cards, books, songs, puzzles and games, I’m well stocked on preschool supplies and all three kids are excited. Nicholas just finished school on Friday so now he’s home for the holidays and his main goal is learning English. Sabboule is there to learn to participate in a classroom setting and get over his shyness. Jayden who already know most of the material, is there to learn to sit still and follow directions. After teaching them to say “Good Morning,” I get the flash cards out to practice colours, shapes and numbers. Once we’ve gone through all the cards, I go on to teach them the ABC song. Songs are a real hit, so I teach them Happy Birthday as well. Jayden already knows his shapes, numbers and colours, but sitting still and following directions are skills he has not completely mastered yet. As class goes on we move to the floor and read books, look at pictures and then do an ABC puzzle game.

Nicholas is bright and catches on quickly. A shy Sabboule only participates with a lot of encouragement, but I am impressed with his English pronunciation. Nicholas has no problems with puzzles, but Sabboule can’t seem to figure out how two pieces fit together. Jayden knows the answers, but fidgets and blurts out the answers out of turn. An hour later class is done and it’s time to go play outside. I get my bubble blowing supplies and show the kids how it’s done.

Again, Nicholas catches on right away, but it takes a long time for Sabboule to figure it out. When he finally blows a bubble the smile on his face is priceless.

I sure love all these kids and am excited about teaching them for an hour each day! If both Nicholas and Sabboule can learn to speak English well, they will have so many more job opportunities when they are older and Anoud and Denise are very thrilled about this opportunity!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Library!

"Are you ready Jayden?" I ask, grabbing my keys from the counter. "I'm ready!" He replies grinning. I smile back when I see him standing in the middle of the playroom holding his Pooh backpack.

"Let me help you with your backpack and shoes," I tell him, and he nods. I slip his arms through the straps and then help him put on his crocks. We are going to help out at the library this afternoon and I'm excited.
It wasn't until recently that I even knew we had a library and now I'm looking forward to spending the afternoon there. A few minutes later we are out the door and bouncing along in the truck. Although it is a short drive, the last stretch of road right before the school, where the library is located, is terrible. The street is very narrow and it takes awhile for traffic to get through as big trucks push past us, forcing me to ease the truck as close to a nearby wall as I dare. Driving this stretch reminds me of the obstacle courses we would practice at school on our bikes, and if I remember correctly, completing obstacle courses was never one of my strengths. I frown in concentration as I fight to maneuver the truck over a deep chasm and then straight through a trash heap. At one point the crevasse in the road on my left is so deep, it feels like I might roll the truck. Sweating in the heat, since the A/C is broken, I crank my wheel to the right and slowly accelerate till I'm upright once again. It's a relief to finally see the school gate and a minute or so after I honk, the gate is rolled open by one of the guards. After helping Jayden out of his car seat and locking the truck up, we walk over to the library. It's a warm day and the skies are blue. I love the palm trees and flowering bushes and take a moment to soak it all in. Excited, as usual, Jayden runs ahead.

Since the library is on the second story of the building, we have to take the stairs. I hold Jayden's hand as we make our way up, since the steps slope downward and they're a little slippery too. Once we reach the top, I crack open the door and we slip inside. Air conditioning! I quickly close the door behind me, leaving the heat outside, and greet the other MAF wives who are helping out too. Julie White, a MAF wife as well, is the librarian, and since the earthquake had left the library completely disorganized and dusty she's asked for our help to dust and sort out books. As I work, I'm excited to find many of my favorite authors in the adult section. Julie assures me, that once school starts in a couple of weeks, I can get a library card and check out books! Jayden meanwhile has made his way over to the children section and is soon looking at books.

Jayden inherited his love for books from his mom, and he's excited about the library too!

I keep working in the adult section, one that everyone has been working on for quite awhile and am excited about all the books there.

Later on, once the adult section is mostly completed I head over to work in the children section.
As I wipe layers of dust off the books and help rearrange the shelves, I smile.

I love books, and I'm happy to see there is lots of books here for Jayden to chose from as well.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Books, Wonderful Books!

I love to read. I always have and I’m pretty sure I always will.

I even considered myself a bit of a bookworm, that is, until I actually met one. Before this I didn’t even know actual bookworms existed. Wasn’t “bookworm” just a nickname for an avid reader? Apparently not! Last December, B.E. (Before Earthquake, which has become a new way we measure time around here) a friend of mine who knew I loved to read loaned me a whole stack of books. We had visitors, and it was dinner time by the time I got the books, but even while the spaghetti was cooking on the stove I couldn’t help but take a peek at the books and read a few pages. The first book I picked up was called Nebraska Legacy. It was interesting and captured my attention right away, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that there was something quite wrong with the book. The pages looked like this.

Who would do something like this to a book, I wondered? It looked like someone had taken a knife and made deep cuts into the book. On closer examination, I saw small holes in the pages as well. I picked the book up and shook it, but nothing happened. Then I began to turn the pages to the middle of the book and this is what I discovered.

Bookworms! “This can’t be real,” I exclaimed, as I watched not one, or two, but a whole family slowly emerge out of their hiding place. Wow, I guess bookworms are real! I quickly scanned the rest of the stack of books, but none of the others seemed to be affected. I called up my friend and told her what I had found and for her to check her bookshelf where she took the books from, but thankfully she couldn’t find any more. Having already started to read the book, I hated the thought of just throwing it in the garbage, so I came up with a brilliant plan. I searched my cupboards till I found a large leftover zip-lock taco shell bag that I could place the book inside. Before I put the book inside however, I went outside and sprayed the bag full of cockroach poison. I know it is powerful stuff, and if the fumes alone could kill a cockroach, it should have no problem getting rid of these pesky bookworms, I thought. I placed the book inside and sealed the bag. Then I placed the bag in my outside laundry room.

7 months later, having returned home to Haiti after the earthquake, I decided it was high time to clean out the laundry room. As I cleaned, I came across the book still nicely sealed in the bag. I opened the bag, wiped the whole book down with a damp cloth and carefully examined it to see if there were any worms left. Since I couldn’t find any, I soon began to read the book again, although I was careful to wash my hands every time I finished touching the book, just in case any remnant of poison was left behind. It wasn’t until I was half way finished the book that I was in for a surprise! A bookworm, and then another and another and another! I couldn’t believe it! Seriously, how could they possibly still be alive, after seven months with no oxygen, breathing in poisonous gases!

Shaking my head in wonder, I carefully placed the book in a shopping bag and threw it in the outside bin. Seeing how resilient the little worms were I just didn’t have the heart to try exterminate them a second time. I guess I will never know what happened to scout Painted Hands or Sarah Jane Benson, but oh well.