January 10, 2011
Yes, I realize this post should have been up the day before yesterday—given that Monday was my last day to be in Haiti I decided against stashing away for an hour to write the post in favor of staying up to interact with people I won’t see for a very long time. Yesterday was taken up with travelling home (ah airports—nothing quite like standing in a 3-hr line to rebook a ticket because the originally scheduled flight was cancelled due to weather).
On Monday we bounced all over the place, but in the same general area. First, the crew went to the Williamson school that WWV is in the initial stages of supporting. What does that mean? Well, when WWV supports a school, the children are guaranteed food while they are in school. They receive a Christian education, school supplies that would otherwise most likely be unavailable, checkups from medial teams that reach the country (overall health assessments and further action if necessary, de-worming medication, etc), and a chance at a brighter future that might otherwise be unavailable. A well-known cure for poverty is education. Education provides people with the tools necessary to make life better for themselves and others who are in need. After all, it was education, and the grace of God, that brought me out of a life of poverty in Alaska to a life where I have resources necessary to help bring the Gospel to those who desperately need to experience God’s love.
Anyways, the Haitian government late Sunday evening announced that school should be closed all this week in memorial to the earthquake that rattled the country one year ago. Some schools followed this advice, some did not. Of the over 100 students at Williamson, 19 were present yesterday. We were unaware that so few students would be present when we left the guesthouse, but such is Haiti (and life). Plans are made in the morning that may very well change drastically by 1:00pm. When we first walked into the school courtyard, we could hear the children repeating something. I asked Jamiel what they were saying—“Jesus is our hope”, “Jesus is Haiti’s hope”. Very true words.
Nurses and a doctor (Chris Buresh) were present and went over the children. I took pictures of them for World Wide Village’s student sponsorship program and Ali measured all of their feet for the shoes that will eventually make it out of customs (progress is being made on this—prayers are being answered, but KEEP PRAYING!!). I really wish sometimes that everyone spoke the same language—trying to direct children around to where they needed to be, or give them directions for getting the picture I needed for our website, was really difficult. Luckily sign language can accomplish a lot and several interpreters were present, so everything all was well. Afterwards, while Randy spoke with the pastor who runs the school the rest of us got to play with the children for a little while. Just like the kids everywhere else, these kids loved posing for the camera and then busting out in gales of laughter at each other when they were shown the picture. Ali got them dancing for a little bit. I started playing patty-cake, trying to take turns with playing with each child. My goodness kids shove each other sometimes!! After saying “how are you” to one child, all of them repeated me and we went back and forth for a little bit. Then I said “I am fine”, they repeated me, and we did the same thing—going back and forth for a minute. Jameil came over and told the children to say “I am fine” after I said “how are you” and then we went back and forth with that for a bit—it was so much fun!! The kids were laughing at how each of them said the words, and laughing at me trying to say a couple of words in Creole…it was all around just a good time. J One little boy looked almost exactly like a tiny tot I used to nanny, just a darker version, so the connection between Haiti and back home was pretty strong for me.
After Williamson, we piled back into the tap-tap and trucked along a back road (actually, it looked more like a footpath) to get to the school at Luly. More kids were present at this school—probably around 50, and we did all of the same exams and measurements with them. We couldn’t take pictures because we have done so recently and there were a decent number of kids missing. Apparently the de-worming chewable medication that the nurses gave the children tastes bad—a few kids spit the pill out when no one was looking. That was disheartening, but at least we learned a lesson about how to administer the medication better the next time. News travels fast in Haitian towns, and it wasn’t too long before there were women outside the school trying to get their children in to be seen by the nurses. It was a trick for our interpreters to explain that we were not running a clinic; it was just for the kids who were in the school. Luckily, there is a clinic right in the village of Luly.
Ever since the earthquake, I have been hearing in the office about the damage to the Luly school. A church was, and currently is, being used for a school because no other building was present. The earthquake severely damaged the building, so for awhile the kids were meeting in a structure made out of banana leaves that were woven together. Well, this kind of building material does not hold up to elements well. Subsequent rainy and hurricane seasons have meant that this banana leaf structure has basically fallen completely apart. Now the kids are back meeting in that very unsafe church. Six classrooms are separated by massive chalkboards—they are all open air and range from first to sixth grade. World Wide Village is in the process right now of raising funds to build a new school building for these children. You cannot understand how desperately the kids need this building until you see the condition of the church where they currently meet. A stiff breeze might blow this thing over! Okay, so now I’m using hyperbole, but I think you get the point. A friend of mine is organizing a team of women who are going to be running the Warrior Dash in MN later this summer to raise funds for the school—I’ll be running with them…keep your eyes peeled for our team!!
We got to check on the group of civil engineers who have been in Luly for the past week constructing the bio-digester that I mentioned earlier. I was impressed at how much progress they had made—way to go guys!! A latrine now stands behind the Luly church where school is being held. This latrine is designed such that it separates urine from fecal matter. Someone will be employed to move the fecal matter into a cooking apparatus thingamadeal that will heat it up so that methane gas that is produced naturally can be harnessed to supply the cooking stoves with fuel. After the matter has had the gas cooked out, it will be spread out on a platform where it will dry out and can then be used as fertilizer. The cooking process heats the matter up enough that any germs and/or pathogens will be killed, so there is no worry about disease transmission. It is an experimental design, but if it works that way the engineers say it will, it can be constructed in a number of locations and help out a number of people. Awesome!!
After leaving the kids, pastor, and guys at Luly, the group went to Wahoo Bay for lunc. Talk about a difference like night and day! Upon walking onto the pavilion at Wahoo, there is no dust and pollution that can be found in Port au Prince. It is quiet, peaceful, serene, and beautiful. Walking across the pavilion brings one into range of the ocean, indeed said ocean is right there! After working in the hot sun for a decent amount of the day (many of us, myself included, ended the day with decent sunburns), we just jumped in the ocean. Only one of our party had an actual swimsuit on—the rest of us went in fully clothed. Oh that water felt good! Time and time again I am amazed at how salty the ocean is…but I don’t get to swim in it very often. Given that I’ve been swimming in a pool a lot lately, I could actually swim and jump off the dock into this water! Okay okay, minor accomplishment I know—but at this time last year I was terrified to be in water without goggles, so this is a major personal improvement. It was nice to just float in the water for a little bit—mosquito bites do not itch when one is surrounded by salt water. J I’m also sure that people thought this chica was being a tad silly because I was just standing in the water, staring at my feet, and giggling occasionally. Don’t worry people—I have not officially lost my rocker—there were little fish in the water that were schooling around my feet. Occasionally, one of them would nibble at my leg and I thought it was funny. Gotta take pleasure in the simple things of life or then the true craziness would start. Almost as soon as we reached the restaurant area at Wahoo, souvenier vendors came out and were peddling their wares. As Randy said these men were good guys and they deserved the money, most of us bought something from them. I got these cute little pots and a candle holder. The artistry present in their works was gorgeous!
Anyways, after a delicious lunch at Wahoo Bay we went back into the community of Luly. Randy and Pat led us through a house that WWV is considering renting—it is pretty nice and in a good location. We saw a natural spring that is separated into three sections by natural barriers. The furthest upstream section is where the local people get drinking water. The next section down is where people bathe, and the section closest to the ocean is where they do laundry. As has been stated before—it never ceases to amaze me now clean the people’s clothes are! After seeing some of them doing laundry by hand and how merciless they are towards dirt, it makes sense.
The beach right by Luly, which is separate from the beautiful sand and pebbles found at Wahoo Bay, is littered with huge conch shells! There are a few little shells as well, but there were just as many conch shells as there were pebbles. I had never seen that many big shells in one place before, and they were neat. Haiti may be a poor country, but it is absolutely beautiful!!
Home was the next destination. I learned a valuable lesson—riding a tap-tap with one’s arm stuck out the side is a great way to get a beautiful sunburn. Ouch!