March 3 - Haiti Fundraiser

Thanks to everyone who helped out with the Haiti fundraiser musical evening on Sunday March 3rd. Our music director Michael Mulrooney and friends entertained over 60 people with a wonderful evening of songs from musical theatre. Thanks to everyone who painted the bird houses that were sold in the silent auction, and thanks to Kathy Munn who coordinated the desserts and to everyone who baked. Donations to date amount to almost $1900. These funds will be used to support the mobile medical clinics and the gardening initiatives in Haiti.

April 5 - Pre-Haiti Dinner Meeting at Miriam's

April 5, 2013 – Planning for this mission trip has been underway for months at Tansley United Church, but Larry and I were away and have not been to any previous meetings. The Outreach team, under the energetic leadership of Janice Martin set up the contacts with Empower Global, through Cal Shultz. Larry and I had always planned to be part of the effort, but only decided to actually travel with the team about 6 weeks ago.  We need to catch up on the expectations and information that have been shared within the group. Kathy still does not have the go-ahead from her boss to take the time off, but has gotten all the necessary shots and so on [Update: Hurray – Cathy will be coming]. Her son Zachery has decided to go even if she can’t. That means there will be 8 or 9 of us: Cal, Steve, Jim, Miriam, Leon, Zack, Larry and I, and hopefully Kathy. This evening is our chance to learn what we can about what to expect, what to bring with us, and generally how to prepare ourselves for the experience. Cal and Marci have been to Haiti many times, so can offer us lots of advice and guidance. But first, we enjoyed a bountiful and delicious potluck dinner. We are United Church folk after all, and must have food!
We will be working under the umbrella of Empower Global, which is a recognized charity in Canada, and the Canadian Government supports its operation. Our main task on this trip will be to find some aspect of the work there we can adopt as a Tansley project into the future. Of course, any work we can do on this trip, we will. One need is construction at the Empower compound. Empower is offering training to Haitians, based on a successful African program that combines various skills such as gardening, agriculture, hygiene and general life skills. They work in groups of 5 on small garden plots. There are also medical clinics, both fixed and mobile, which we’ll see some of.
First, we reviewed a bit of history. Haitians are rightfully proud that Haiti was the first independent black republic, breaking free of France in 1804. However, the country got no support from other countries, lacked infrastructure and governance systems, and eventually the Spanish-dominated Dominican Republic seceded. That part of the island is much more prosperous.
We were told that Voodoo is a very real and powerful force in Haiti. We will be staying very near a voodoo centre, so need to be aware of some aspects of the religion. It has a great effect on the attitudes of people practicing the religion, making them feel helpless in the face of the forces that guide their lives and determine their fate. In contrast, the Christians recognize their ability to work on bettering their own situation. We should not take random photos – especially not of any voodoo-related buildings or rituals. We need permission to take anyone’s picture. Relationships are the most important thing to Haitians, with the result that they are very agreeable to anything (even if they have serious reservations about an idea). Cal told us that makes it a bit difficult to find out what they really think of something, and also could lead to disappointment if they cannot fulfill a commitment they make just to be agreeable.
We discussed appropriate clothing, and shared ideas about things we might be able to take to leave behind or to share with the Haitians we will meet. We also shared information about staying healthy while we’re there. Haitian children, particularly, like to be hugged and to hold hands. Cal told us we’d be touched a lot and to be prepared for that. 

April 6 - Hooray!!!

April 6, 2013 – Kathy got permission to go on the trip, so we will be 8 from Tansley plus Cal leading us! Hooray!

April 8 - Health Readiness

April 8, 2013 – Larry and I visited the Halton Travel Health Clinic and got a couple of necessary shots, then dropped off our prescriptions at the pharmacy. I’ve started to develop a list of things to pack, based on the advice from Cal and Marci and from the nurse at the clinic. The group is sharing ideas for things to take and leave, and we plan to be organized about who takes what.

April 9 - Getting Supplies

April 9, 2013 – I visited Value Village, where I picked up a suitable skirt (women are encouraged to wear long skirts, rather than pants in Haiti) and then the Dollar Store for some pencils, sharpies and skipping ropes. At the Board meeting this evening, we planned for recognition of this trip on Sunday, including the presentation of a cheque for the donations of the Tansley congregation toward the Empower Global health clinics. There has been a musical fund-raiser, an auction of bird houses, and a penny drive as well as envelopes available for donations to this cause. The total raised is over $2000. That should cover at least a day’s expenses for the travelling clinic.

April 14 - Blessings and Funds for Empower Global in Haiti

April 14, 2013 – During our regular church service this morning our mission was acknowledged and we received the thanks and blessings of the congregation. I found the exchange very moving. Sue, co-chair of the board, urged us to “Go out into the world with a daring and tender love. The world is waiting.” We replied “We go to bear witness to God’s love in our lives”. She said “Go to your chosen work with the thanks and blessings of this congregation” and we replied “Let us go to serve God as we are called, and as we are led. Amen”. There was also a formal presentation of the funds raised in the congregation for the work of Empower Global, with whom we are working in Haiti. It was amazing to realize that the children’s penny drive had garnered something like $150. That’s a heavy load of copper! That, along with direct donations, and the concert and other fund-raising, ended up totaling well over $2000. This evening at the Prayer Shawls gathering, the Haiti Mission was one of the focuses of our prayer time. I feel very well-supported by the prayers and good wishes of our congregation, family and community.

Link To Photos

20 April - New York to Santiago, Dominican Republic

April 20 - It was tough being up and ready to load the shuttle by 4am, but we were all present and accounted for. At the airport, since Cal had much necessary material that needed to get to Haiti beyond our personal needs, there was a great deal of juggling and shifting, but eventually we got everything distributed among the 9 of us. At security we discovered we hadn't done it perfectly and one more bag had to be checked.
The flight to New York City was brief and easy but upon arrival we found that the onward flight to Santiago was delayed. That gave us 5 hours to spend at JFK.

Over breakfast we shared our expectations, hopes and concerns about this mission, and Cal recommended that we all read "The Demons of Poverty".  As well as his copy we were able to download it, so some of us are well into the book.
When we finally boarded, we had a slightly rough flight to Santiago, but once there, found all our luggage and a couple of vans to move us and the stuff to the hotel.
We all felt the need to freshen up, and then met for dinner.  Cal shared the course material for the course used to train Haitians in self-sufficiency, business and life skills.  By then we were all ready to find our beds and rest up for the 4 hour bus trip to Cap Haitien tomorrow.
Photo Collection New York to Santiago, Dominican Republic

21 April - Santiago to Plaine du Nord

Sunday, April 21 – Everyone seemed to have slept restlessly, but it was nice to have the long rest anyway. At breakfast Jim negotiated his meal, I was next & just asked for a small variation – everyone else said “I’ll have what she’s having”. It turned out great and we all really enjoyed the meal and the jam – not sure if it was guava, pineapple or something else. Then it was a bit of a scramble to get all our belongings back into the suitcases – they looked like they had exploded all over the room! We crammed into 2 taxi-vans and drove through Santiago to the bus station. It’s like most areas of the Caribbean we’ve seen and lots of horn-blowing. The bus station is busy but orderly.

 Cal & Jim made all our travel arrangements and then we settled into the A/C waiting room for the 2-hour wait. We’d been warned that it’d be a 4-hour drive with only a stop at the border, so we needed to be prepared. The bus is very comfortable and we got to see the countryside. Before we pulled out of the station we were each given a bottle of water and a hot meal. After about 2 hours, the bus hostess handed back our passports, which she had collected at the bus station. We filed out of the bus at the DR exit point and she collected them again at the wicket. When we stopped at Haitian Immigration we all filed in, filled in a standard form, had our passports stamped and returned to the bus. We had heard there was a great contrast at the border, but it looks much the same – rice paddies, little houses of different types, lots of some kind of fruit trees, bananas. The road is good, but much narrower. At both border stops, kids were waiting with hands out. They were well-dressed and quite orderly, with quick smiles. Some people gave them the leftovers from their lunches. I held onto mine for later. Driving through Cap Haitien we could see the ocean to one side and the crowded busy city all around. At the terminal it was only moments before Pastor Tony Paul arrived with a large truck, fitted out with benches in the back. We heaved all our luggage on, climbed aboard and off we went, feeling like a bunch of giddy teenagers. We had a birds’-eye view of everything as we retraced our path through C.H. Suddenly, a grinning young boy hopped onto the back. We passed him our one remaining dinner. He grinned even more. After a couple of mouthfuls he gave up on the fork, tossed it overboard and dug in with his hands. When he finished he hopped down to the street again. When we turned onto Plaine de Nord street, we had to plow through a large crowd of people, but they let us through easily. We were soon spotted  by a couple of young kids who ran along beside shouting “Blancs, blancs” and waving and smiling. Pastor Paul’s guest house is quite lovely, set on large grounds. WE have spacious rooms. The young guys were quickly drawn into a basketball game. Soon the Pastor sang “All is ready…” and we joined him at the dinner table for a delicious spaghetti dinner served by his lovely wife Mary. Over dinner the Pastor shared some of his story, which Cal plans to record and share later this week. A short walk, an evening debriefing, a prayer, and we were ready to retire.

Photo Collection - Santiago to Plaine du Nord

22 April - Cap Haitien - Empower Global and Related Medical and Schooling Facilities

Monday April 22, 2013 – Today was nearly overwhelming, and my description of it won’t do it justice. There were so many small and large moments that I couldn’t begin to describe them all. I will give the outline, and hope that when the photos are all available you’ll be able to see at least some of them for yourself. First, I am blown away by the dedication of the people we’ve met here, both to God and to the people of Haiti. And Cal Shultz is definitely one of those.
By 4 am people were walking past on the road, with great loads on their heads, singing on their way to market in Cap Haitien. Then the roosters started crowing! And the birds singing! By 6:30 or so, most of us were up. At about 7:30 Pastor Paul sang us down to breakfast. Lots of eggs, coffee, fruit and bread. Then we piled into the back of the truck and went to the Empower Global compound. We saw that, under the direction of Maurice, a Newfoundland native, a huge amount of work has been done in just over the last year. There are a few buildings, it’s all cleared, and a community of kids has discovered the place. Pastor Noe Gilles is the Haitian foreman, and he was there as well. Evans, who runs the G5 program told us about that, and we’ll go back to see it in action later in the week. Kathy handed out bottles of bubbles and balloons to a small group of kids at the gate and they were thrilled. Our next stop was a convenience store to pick up lunch, and then on to Dr. Rodney’s clinic. It’s amazing what they do with limited resources – not only do they treat hundreds of patients every day, they also have a medical school to train nurses and lab techs. Just a wonderful place! Than back to the Empower Global compound to play with the gang of kids who show up every day after school. There was singing, skipping, Frisbees, and a bit of candy. The girls “did” Miriam’s hair and she gave them some elastics. The guys took many photos of the kids so they could see themselves in them. The kids all had a great time. I held a sick baby for a half hour or so, and she fell sound asleep in my arms, after being very fussy and unhappy for quite awhile. The small girl who’d been holding her until I took her was happy to go off and play with the others. We returned to Pastor Paul’s in time for another great dinner, and we are all so tired I don’t think there’ll be a problem sleeping tonight!
Click Here For Selected Photos of the Day 

 Photo Collection- Cap Haitien - Empower Global and Related Medical and Schooling Facilities

23 April - Schools, Gardens, and an Orphanage

April 23, 2013 – Tuesday – This morning Pastor Tony showed us 3 of his schools. His organization, Mission Evangelique du Nord du Haiti (MENH), has 14 of these free schools, open to any child who is brought. If a child is older, but unschooled, he or she is still welcome. Since there is no free public education, these schools are invaluable in any vision of Haitian progress. All the students looked wonderful, in uniforms of a different colour for each school – the girls even had matching hair ribbons! At one, we saw a sewing school, which is still small. They have treadle machines (good to have where electricity isn’t a given) & charcoal-heated irons. One of the schools will soon he evicted from its premises and we visited the potential new site. Pastor Tony hopes he can put together the financing to purchase the property and build the school in time. Larry trained one of the guys at the school in the care and feeding of the digital camera we brought for them. Since we were nearby, we walked past the Pool of St. Jacques, a voodoo site. It was eerie and appalling. Then back to Pastor Tony’s to meet Evans and go visit several of the G5 gardens to see the African Cooperative Action Trust (ACAT) system, out of Africa. They certainly have a lot of potential for feeding hungry people but the learning and lifestyle changes will not be quick. It seems to be a 7-year process. After leaving the last garden, we stopped for cool drinks – you wouldn’t believe the sweating we do here – then continued to Ebed Paul’s orphanage. There we found 23 well-loved children whose health and nutrition have greatly improved since they’ve been there. They go to school. They seem very happy and social. We had a good time playing with them and taking photos. They love our “stuff” so tried to convince us to give them everything from our earrings to our baggage tags. I gave up my hat, as did Larry who also willingly lost his watch. The children’s clothes were ragged, though clean, and we heard that there isn’t always food for them. It’s hard to think of these beautiful children going hungry! After dinner the group had a long, interesting and difficult conversation about what we saw today, and where we did and did not see God. We realize that we are still far from finding our particular mission here.
Click Here for Photos from the Day
Photo Collection - Schools, Gardens, and an Orphanage

24 April - Trip to Mountain Community of Laguille -New School & Church

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 – We are all tired, dusty and sore tonight. We had a wonderful day travelling into the mountains to visit Laguille, where Pastor Noe has his church and school. It is a very long drive over some terrible roads and even involves driving through a river, twice. Then we had to climb the last 15 minutes or so, wading across a creek twice. On the way we visited a chicken barn where about 3 to 4 thousand chicks are being raised by a co-op. It is the largest of 18 barns and this is a great source of income for many people – sponsored by Empower Global, of course. At Laguille we were greeted by the exuberant sound of a worship service in progress – it was just amazing! We felt uplifted, welcomed and embraced by it! It made us want to dance! We then met the nurse who is the steady presence of medical help in the area. The mobile clinic comes about every second weekend, but she’s always there. She is one of the nurse-practitioners like those trained at Dr. Rodney’s school. We handed over 2 bags of gifts for the children, and Pastor Noe immediately handed out some skipping ropes, which they knew how to use and a Frisbee that was a mystery. So Steve, Cal, Jim and Noe started tossing it around and the children quickly got into the act and mastered the idea of Frisbee throwing. Noe put away all the books, pens, pencils and other supplies, but the kids quickly polished off a big box of granola bars and one little girl claimed the empty box. The school is nearly completed, with 6 classrooms, office and storage space. Noe’s dream is to have a real church and to build a sustainable community. He came back from a very good construction job in Miami to take on this ministry and has accomplished so much! Cal did some soil testing too, to see why crop yields there are lower than they should be. There may be a way to improve them. The ride back down the mountain seemed much longer. We had about 16 people in the back of the truck – felt like a collectivo as we picked up and dropped off people. We were out of water and the sun was hot, our backs and backsides were sore from bouncing around back there and most of us are by now a bit sunburned. We passed many places where garbage was burning in the roadside ditch, which added to the constant small of smoke from charcoal production. We drove around the market in Dondon – a rather ramshackle place – and through rush hour in Cap Haitien. We were delighted to have seen Laguille, but overjoyed to get off the truck when we got home. Did I mention the crazy drivers? Hair-raising. Mary had a wonderful fish dinner for us tonight and chocolate cake for dessert. Noe stayed for dinner and we talked about his dream for the community at Laguille. Then we all went our separate ways to recharge batteries – our own and those of our cameras, tablets and readers.

25 April - Dr. Rodney Electrical, Truck Repairs, G5 and Maurice's Story

Thursday, April 25 – Breakfast was abundant yet again – omelets, fruit, bread and local peanut butter to supplement what Steve brought. A few more people have moved into other guest rooms in Pastor Thony’s house, so we’re sharing bathroom space with another couple as well as the young man who was already here. We still have no lights in our room, even when the electricity is on for 3 or so hours in the evening. And to complicate matters, the water pump didn’t pump enough water to the roof so the taps were dry this morning and nothing to flush the toilets. No biggie – though at home we’d be totally freaked. We piled into the truck to go to the Empower Global compound to meet Thomas, a young well-educated, unemployed Haitian. His story is troubling. He worked as a translator in a large hospital in his hometown of Pinon, but he developed a tumour on his back and had surgery and a long recovery. The tradition in Haiti is that if something bad happens to you, you must leave your home and move elsewhere, but if you don’t know anyone, have an “in” you can’t get a job in the new place. We couldn’t help him, but there may be some chance of something with Empower. The other bad news was that as soon as we pulled into the compound, the truck quit. Of course, the good news is that it happened on Empower Global property, not at Dondon yesterday. Fortunately, they were able to get a mechanic quite quickly and the repair was done by noon. Meanwhile, the guys changed one of the tires on the truck, that was worn down to the belt. None of us wanted to ride around on that tire, once we had seen the shape it was in! We went to Dr. Rodney’s home, stopping at a hardware store (or what passes for one here) for supplies. Steve, Jim and Larry then made some electrical repairs and modifications to enable the family to manage their lights. Then, after a quick stop at Pastor Thony’s (still no water) we sat in on a meeting of the G5 groups. It was great to interact with some of the people who have been in the gardening program and have benefitted from it. Steve, on behalf of Tansley, presented $200 to the governing body of the G5s, to buy 2 bicycles for the volunteers who will inspect the gardens and coach the gardeners in better methods. The governing body feels ready to get goats and start phase 2 of the ACAT program. There was a long discussion about goats, so all bases are covered. This whole process is not simple or straightforward. When we got home, we found that the tinkering the guys had done had finally started the rooftop tank filling. Then during dinner it actually overflowed! Maurice joined us for dinner to tell his inspiring and amazing story of how he went from being a bandit in Newfoundland and a junkie in the Caribbean to giving his entire life and self to God. He’s an amazing guy and we were very privileged to meet him this week. We all combed through our suitcases and sent him away with everything we could for the people he works with here. Like he said – there’s all kinds of junk available in Canada, but these people have nothing. I told him I’d been trying to talk myself into going home in flip-flops so he could have both pairs of running shoes, and he said, “Well, you could, but if you don’t we could use the flip-flops too”.  That’s what he got, so I won’t freeze my toes in Buffalo. Meanwhile, back in our room, the lights were suddenly working again. Who can explain the vagaries of electricity?