Thursday, October 28, 2010

Home from Vacation

I step out of the airport terminal into the bright sunlight and am immediately enveloped by a sticky humid heat. A mixture of coal smoke and diesel fumes fills my lungs and people all around call out to me.

Pulling my suitcase behind me, I take hold of Jayden’s hand and begin to follow Jason and Dieucon to the Land Cruiser. It’s 9:00 a.m. and we landed about 30 minutes ago.

"Too hot. Too hot. I got owie eyes. Hold me Mom. Hold me.” A very upset Jayden is not impressed.

Still chilled from the airplane AC I enjoy the warmth and all the familiar sights, smells and sounds. Jayden however does not.

“You’re a big boy now Jayden,” I tell him. “Mommy can’t carry you and pull the suitcase, so you will have to walk. It’s not that far.” I try to comfort him but he continues to cry and complain, dragging his heels. I stop for a moment and bend down till I am at eye level with him. “You’re three now Jayden. You can do it.” He tearfully nods and then bravely walks beside me, now only letting out an occasional sniff.

Several minutes later we’re at the vehicle and we load in our bags. As soon as we’re all strapped in and we’re on our way, Jayden closes his eyes and falls asleep. Not having him to distract me, I simply stare out the window. After a busy few weeks of organizing the building project, housing the team and planning the feeding program and clothing distribution it was nice to get away and spend some time with just the three of us. Memories of our time together fill my thoughts and as we drive I spend some time reminiscing.

Some of my favorite memories include:

Watching sunsets,

cuddling with Jayden after getting caught in a rainstorm,

holding the sea turtles,

swimming in the pool,

having monkeys sit on our shoulders,

digging our toes into the white sand,

and playing and snorkeling in the turquoise ocean.
Lost in thought I barely notice that we are getting closer and closer to home till Diecon honks at our gate. A minute later a grinning Anoud pushes open the gate.

Oh, it’s nice to be home again too!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thank You Team!

On behalf of all the people whose lives you touched, whose homes you built, whose hands you held, whose stomachs you fed, whose bodies you clothed, those you preached to, prayed with, listened to and sang with, thank you.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

When Words Aren't Enough

Time and time again I've been told by the team that although I write my blogs well and always have pictures to share, Haiti is impossible to describe and you really have to see it with your own eyes.
How can mere words or snapshots really affect all five of your senses like Haiti does?
Haiti is a country of extremes. Extreme heat, extreme dust, extreme rain and lightning storms, extreme mud, extreme number of people and extreme poverty. Words can't really describe what it's like to work in the baking Caribbean sun at noon, or the extreme power of the rain storms that pound the city each night, or the dust or mud that covers everything and everybody, or the masses of people in the markets and on the streets, or the dismal conditions of millions living in tents, or the hungry children so desperate for one small glass of clean drinking water or a small plate of food to quiet their demanding stomachs. One of the team members said, and I quote "All I can say is that you have to be here to understand what is really going on."

Does that mean I stop writing and sharing pictures? Of course not. I will still do my best to help you see the Haiti I love so much.

The job site.

The feeding program.
Word has spread about our feeding program and each day more and more kids gather around the gate hoping they might be let in so they can have a glass of water and a plate of rice and beans. Since we can only feed a 100 children at a time and tickets are handed out in the poorest tent cities beforehand, we have to turn many children who don't have tickets away empty. This is really heart-breaking.
Those who have tickets and therefore permission to enter are greeted with a handshake and a smile by our team members.
Many of our team members have said that the most rewarding, and most difficult part of the day is when we run the feeding program. To give food is very rewarding, but to see so many children desperate for a cup of water and a plate of rice and beans is really difficult.

And so, if my meager words can't really explain, try to imagine what it is like to not be able to feed or clothe your children, to not even have a cup of water to give them, and to have powerful rains and wind soak and destroy the few things that you have each night. Imagine how you would feel if strangers came to work with you and build you a home. A home that you could lock at night, a home that could keep out the rain and wind, a home that would keep your children safe and dry.
When they wave their hands in the air and say "Mesi Bondye na siel la"(Thank you God in heaven), they mean it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

A typical day starts around 6:00 a.m. After a quick breakfast, the team is driven over bumpy roads to the Apparent Project. Since the roads are too rough by the tent city they are working in they walk the rest of the way.

This is what they see on their walk to the tent city.

Inside the tent city the living conditions are very poor. In this "shelter" a single women sleeps with her baby.

The guys have been getting a lot of work done and are surrounded by a crowd of Haitians who curiously watch them.

At 11:00 a.m. each morning the team walks back to the Apparent Project to eat their lunch. Once lunch is over they return to the tent city and spend 20 minutes in the small church building, reading God's Word, praying and singing with the Haitian people.

Then while the Caribbean sun burns they get back to work, framing, nailing and building homes, for those who have none.

At 3:00 they walk back to the Apparent Project to help feed street children.

Once a 100 children have been given food and water, Sherilyn and I sort through suitcases of donated clothing to find each child something to wear.
At 4:30 we are finished and an exhausted team heads back to our home, to eat and rest so they can do it all over again the next day.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Over Prepare Then Go With The Flow

That is my motto and it has always worked well for me!
So the news? The work team made it here safely and are now, as I write, just arriving at the job site!
For those of you who didn't know, we have a work team of 8 people from our hometown/church, staying in our house for one week to build houses for Haitians living in tents. They just arrived yesterday and things have been going really well so far!
Pre-instructed on what forms to fill out and how to mark suitcases for easy identification it only took 20 minutes from landing to driving out of the airport and that is record timing! After what they considered a shocking? crazy? mind boggling? drive over some of the worst roads, which we considered actually some of the better ones, they arrived at our home. By that time everyone was thirsty and actually pretty tired and a little hungry too, but we got busy right away. After getting re-hydrated and unpacking any perishable food items, we all piled up in two vehicles and made our way up to the Baptist Mission. It was our one chance to visit the Mission since the rest of the week, other then Sunday of course, everyone would be too busy building houses. On the drive they saw more bad roads, breathed in a lot of exhaust fumes and polluted air, saw the most people they've ever seen in one place at one time on the streets, and really couldn't believe how Jason or I actually drove through the masses of people and vehicles, especially since there appeared to be no traffic rules whatsoever. Kids with dirty rags wipes down the vehicle multiple times, motorcycles squeezed through traffic and everybody honked about everything. At the Baptist Mission we had cheese burgers minus the cheese since they had run out, and on sub-like sandwiches, they didn't have hamburger buns either, but the food was still good and it did hit the spot. Souvenir shopping was, well interesting! Sellers hounded, and tugged, we bartered and people gawked, but we did manage to purchase some nice souvenirs for pretty good prices. It was starting to get dark on the way back home which made seeing the potholes a little more difficult, especially since my headlights weren't working either. People still wandered all over the streets even in the dark between the traffic so that was interesting as well. I think the team was a little relieved when we finally got back to our gate since the maze of rutted streets all started to look the same and they were starting to wonder if we'd ever find our way back. Home again we did house orientation, explained where everything was and how houses in Haiti work. The guys then had a meeting and sang while Wouter played on Jason's guitar. Sher and I decided we really didn't need to be part of the meeting so we just spent time catching up, looking at pictures and enjoying our time together. How cool is that, that one of your best friends happens to be your sister-in-law and married to your cousin? We joke that that can only happen if you are Dutch. On top of that her daughter Kaelie, and my Jayden are 1 day apart! She's here to help me with cooking for the team so I get to hang out with her all week!! So exciting! Anyway, I haven't taken pictures, but I promise I will today. Tomorrow there will be a new post. Maybe I can include some first-impressions of Haiti from the team as well. Until then..

Friday, October 1, 2010

Beautiful bags!

The last sewing class for the summer is over and all five girls completed their purses!

Posing from left to right are Chedline, Katiana, Isguerda, Cherlye and Renise.

And for a closeup of the purses...

Good job girls and thanks Christine for helping out!