Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Last full day in Haiti

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!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Apostolique Art

Sunday—church day! I have never been in a more Spirit filled place in my life! Early morning saw us all up, freshened up, breakfasted, and ready for church (I was even up before people were hollering that breakfast was on the table). My sleep was not restful in that I have been having weird dreams about kids that need help and a world that is ending, but this makes sense given the piles of rubble and starving children that we have been around lately. For every children's home that exists where the children have nothing, there are 30 we have never heard of. Don’t get discouraged, right? God sees all of these children who are in need, even if we do not. (Picture on the right = people going to church...I think)

We got going for church pretty early in the morning because if you don’t get to church early, you do not have a seat. It seems that all of Port au Prince had turned out for church as there were hundreds of impeccably dressed individuals making their way down the street headed to one church or another. This meant traffic was slightly more snarled and impatient, but traffic is always that way in this country—at least in Port au Prince. Note: Chops was actually wearing a shirt with sleeves!! Keeping in mind that this man (whose real name, by the way, is Ryan—he goes by Chops because of impressive mutton chops growing out of his face) is usually in shorts and a tank top, this was a unique thing. “This is church” he said in justification for the anomaly. J

Luckily we got to Port au Prince Fellowship in enough time to claim the seats necessary for our group. We filed in and sat down, and then a bunch of us girls needed to find a restroom. Pat got up to show us where it was, and we four gals formed a little chain to get to the bathroom—Pat making sure that all her “little chicks” were following along right behind her. The bathroom was a ways away and consisted of one toilet in a stall…one toilet that didn’t flush. Oh well, we are tough chicas, right? A cockroach displayed the holes in that argument (a rather big one actually) as there was some jumping to get away from the critter. Oh bugs…who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

Upon rejoining the congregation, I saw some familiar faces. Nurses and administrators from Real Hope For Haiti were there, as well as the Livesays. There were also a couple familiar faces that I was not expecting—Andy from Luther Seminary admissions, and Peter, a guy who I go to discipleship group with, were also in attendance! Of all the places—I don’t even see these two men around town in St. Paul! Small world indeed!

Service was in English, hence why our team goes there, and consisted of worship, then the message, then a song again—much like the church I currently attend, Mercy Vineyard in Minneapolis. Familiar songs in an unfamiliar place. Same God in a different place—this was probably what struck me the most. Yes, I know that God is the same God no matter where someone is located. Yes, I know that God is the same today, yesterday, and forever…but it wasn’t until today that I really truly lived the “God is the same everywhere” reality. God met me in that church in Haiti in the same kinds of ways he meets me in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Alaska. In a time in my personal life filled with uncertainty and unfamiliarity, the one and only thing that has remained constant throughout my entire life met me in a familiar way in an unfamiliar place. PRAISE THE LORD!!

I was moved to tears by a song titled “Stronger”, a song proclaiming the victory of God over the sins and evils of the world. All I could see were the faces of those kids in the second children's home who are living with practically nothing in an unsafe structure that could collapse on them at any moment. God is stronger than that situation. He is stronger than the social mores that justify these conditions. He is stronger than the injustices in this country that make parents have to choose between placing their beloved child in an children's home where at least they will have food (hopefully) and keeping their starved child home. I see him shining in the face of almost every person I pass—though destruction surrounds the Haitian people, hope and strength shines from their face. These are an amazing people that I have absolutely fallen in love with. Right now I’m trying to find the delicate balance between brokenness that prompts action and brokenness that is debilitating. I do not want to become hard to suffering, but I need to toughen up a little bit so that children's home like the one the other day do not paralyze me in sorrow. Prayers would be appreciated. To use an analogy from the message this morning (which was all about the Potter and the clay, how we are all molded through difficulty into the pot that God has in mind), I need to figure out how God wants my pot to pour out his love to those He brings me near.

Anyhoo, after church we went to the Kinam Hotel in Petionville, which is right next to Port au Prince. The Kinam was filled with media who are in the country to document upcoming memorials and commemorations surrounding the one-year anniversary of the earthquake last year. I wish I were in the country for just a few days longer so that I might see these as well, but I return to the States on the 11th. Petionville is a slightly higher economic status than Port au Prince and the difference was evident pretty quick. The roads are a bit better and fewer people are sitting on the side of the road looking listless. At the same time, however, there are still tents with people living in them everywhere. Randy and Pat talked about how the park across the street from the Kinam was a really nice park before the earthquake—now it is a tent city. Apparently, right after the earthquake there were so many displaced persons scrabbling for a place to stay that tents were appearing on medians of the highways. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Now most of those tents have moved to the tent cities outside Port au Prince, though in some places you can still see tents plunked on the roofs of structures and in a few medians.

The Kinam is a ritzier hotel in the area…they even have a pool! Not sure I would go swimming in that pool, but still. We had lunch in their restaurant—there was some surprise that lettuce was back in sandwiches as many restaurants are avoiding serving lettuce due to cholera concerns. Food was good. We piled into transportation and trucked on over to the Palace…or what used to be the Palace. The Palace suffered a lot of destruction in the earthquake. Most of it is collapsed. They have been clearing out the center of the structure and apparently one side settled more recently (i.e. collapsed further). Almost as soon as we piled out of the cars, street side vendors came up and were peddling their wares. Some of them sit by the Palace knowing that sightseers like us will buy their goods.

Pat, Randy, and I headed over to visit the card ladies. World Wide Village helps finance a microenterprise venture where six ladies currently work making absolutely gorgeous handcrafted greeting cards. They make birthday cards, Christmas cards, butterflies, flowers, Valentine’s day cards, sailboats, lighthouses, angels, crosses, dancers, etc. WWV provides the supplies and pay for the women. They are paid $150 USD every six weeks. (I know, I know—this seems like a small amount, but pause for a moment and consider that the average Haitian makes ~$300 USD per year and most Haitians do not even have a job.) The cards are brought back to America, where I am in charge of their sale (shameless plug—if you want cards, let me know!! The more cards we sell, the more women we can support). I have been working with these cards since October or November of last year, and today the ladies and I finally got to meet! Note: the name of their venture is Apostolique Art and if you would like cards, email me at

We arrived on time, but our interpreter was late. The ladies and I were introduced and we got to talk for a little while. When asked what they needed from me, Franciana responded that I need to sell more cards so she can work more. My promise—I will do my best! I love these cards, and now I have faces to put with the needlework. They also now know me, and can now put the pressure on if I am not living up to my end of the deal. J

The rest of the team headed over to deliver materials to the second children's home from two days ago. Considering my role in the office with the cards, it was more crucial that I go to meet the card ladies…and in complete and total honesty, I’m not sure my heart would have survived another trip to that children's home until I toughen up just a little bit. From what I have been told, however, the other organization that has come in was building triple-decker bunk beds for the kids. The team brought clothes and teeth care materials to the kids and truly lived out the “I was naked and you clothed me” verse.


· Hungry street children washing cars in the road in the hopes that they will receive money for their efforts.

· A downtown that looked like a warzone because of collapsed buildings.

· A man carrying a chicken that had a sock over its head (I’m assuming to keep it calm).

· A tent city across the street from one of the fanciest hotels in Haiti.

· A tent city across the street from the collapsed Palace.

· UN troops.

· Women chatting and laughing just like Paula and I do—not a novel thing, I know, but it is nice to see that girl friends like Paula and I exist elsewhere too. We are not the only ones attached at the metaphorical hip with someone else.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Organizing and airport runs

I am exhausted, so this post is going to be short--but that is okay. :) We did not go anywhere outside of Port au Prince today. Rather, the day was spent with four trips to the airport to pick up various individuals and team members who came in. Last night, Janael and Heather Owens and their four kids came to spend the night at the guesthouse on their way to their non-profit in Northwestern Haiti. They discussed some of the things they do, philosophies with which they go about helping the Haitian people and empowering them, and difficult things they have faced.

Today, after we welcomed two new team
members (woot Jill and Peggy) we trucked on over to the warehouse to do some organizing. There has been a big pile of walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs that are now neatly stacked on pallets along the wall. Stacks of medical supplies have been neatly organized onto freshly painted shelves. Now we actually know what we have so that we might be able to find things easier. The warehouse looks 100% better--thanks guys!!

On the way to the warehouse, I surprised myself with how much I've learned about Haiti by playing introductory tour guide to our two new team members. Though they had just arrived in Haiti after a long day of travel, they jumped right into the mix (they were actually doing most of the figuring out what all the medical supplies were given that they both work in the medical field).

Anyways, after the warehouse we went back to the guesthouse. I went to the grocery store with Randy and Pat to get some supplies. I was amazed at the prices! One jar of Jiffy peanut butter = almost $10 USD. A small cart of groceries cost almost $200 USD! Yish, the prices reminded me of some prices I'd see in remote Alaska! I guess that is what happens when most of the goods are imported. Randy said most grocery stores in Haiti are owned and operated by Arabian and Iranian people. Not sure what the grocery store draw here is, but okay. The exorbitantly high prices also are indicative of why many people go hungry--I certainly could not afford to pay that high a price for groceries on a consistent basis.

I met Chris Buresh this afternoon--he is here with a team. Chris co-directs the Community Health Initiative that is under World Wide Village's umbrella and is one of those names that I see everywhere but had not met until today. There is another gal here at the guest house who is here for a week but may come back to live for six months to work on community health stuff. Good stuff.

Tomorrow we are going back to the second children's home from yesterday. While I ran financial reports for the organization, team members sorted clothes that were made by sewers in the States. The girls at the children's home are going to receive dresses and the boys are going to get some other clothes that were available. We are going to church in the morning and the children's home in the afternoon. God bless those children!

--People buying little pillows of fresh water from streetside vendors.
--Piles of trash lining the road.
--A power blink while we were in the grocery store and NO reaction from the people in the store. If that happened in the U.S., there would have been an immediate clamor as people tried to figure out what had just happened.
--A dead and gutted baby pig for sale on the side of the will be someone's dinner tonight.
--A teensy tiny little lizard thing that was just absolutely too cute for words!
--People who care about the kids at the children's home so much that they were figuring out what out of their own suitcases would fit the children.
--The joy of the Lord on team member's and Haitians faces.

Friday, January 7, 2011

"It's okay to cry."

We spent today in two children's homes that are right next to each other. One of them is run by a Pastor Leslie and World Wide Village has been providing that children's home with Feed My Starving Children food for awhile. We arrived mid-morning and immediately all of us had bumps on our legs that looked an awful lot like little kids. It is market day in town, so many of the vendors had fresh fruit and veggies as we drove past, not to mention the thousands of other goods that were being peddled. Someone commented that it looked like an entirely different street; that is very true. I only recognized it as the same street when we went over the bridge that crosses a river with trash piles all over the place. Anyways, as soon as we got inside the gate and outside of the tap-tap, the kids were all over us. They recognize white people as being persons who usually bring things to them, and besides—we were new adults to play with and who might just pick them up. Ali had three kids on her, I was carrying one and another was latched around my waist. These kids did the same thing as the kids up in Cazale—once they were picked up, it was a trick trying to set them back down.

It is a school day and Pastor Leslie brings in neighborhood children for lesson time. The kids wear different colored shirts for a quick glance of where they belong—blue for the neighborhood kids and green for the children's home kids. There are approximately 70 kids at the children's home, and thanks to the Feed My Starving Children food, they look pretty good compared to many other kids seen throughout the country (particularly than those seen in Cazale yesterday). These kids are the lucky ones. They receive schooling, food three times a day, have clothes to wear, and have grownups who care about them. By our standards they still have significant needs to fill, but at least many of the basics are covered, even if they are not covered to our American ideal standards.

Some of the children in the children's home are true orphans, but many have family somewhere in Haiti. Many parents send them to the children's home so they may have a better life than they have at home—at least here they have food.

After arriving, we passed out coloring pages, blank pages, crayons, and puzzles. The kids immediately set to their tasks, coloring with an ernesty that would make any kindergarten teacher proud. I sat at the end of a bench with some children and had to rescue a puzzle from a baby who just wanted to teethe on the pieces. The baby sat in my lap, several young children crowded around me, and we just goofed off for a little bit. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again—kids are kids everywhere. They loved my camera, and loved to have their picture taken and seeing themselves immediately afterwards when the camera was flipped around. I kept ahold of the strap but would let the kids take pictures. They got a kick out of posing and then laughing at each other. Quite frankly, those kids took better pictures of each other than they would allow me to take!

After awhile it was meal time for the neighborhood kids before they left for the day. They lined up to take turns at washing their hands, found their places, sang grace, ate their meal, sang a thank you song to the Lord, and then went about their business. The kids are designated to various groups and there is a leader for each group. While it appeared that all kids helped out with chores, the group leaders helped set the plates and wipe down the tables. Official decision of the day: the most beautiful sound in the world is seventy spoons clanking against plates as seventy children eat a meal they would not have if it were not for the children's home where they live.

During this entire time, there were two children who had attached themselves to my side (if I knew their stories a little better and could have adopted them, I would have!) and would not leave. They directed me all over the compound, and it was with great reluctance that they left when it was their turn to eat. I have some video of the kids singing and eating, but probably won’t be able to post them until arriving back in the States.

The kids are fascinated by white people (one little girl kept pinching the inside of my elbow just to watch my skin change colors—hers doesn’t do that when she is pinched), and we were told they do not make it out of the compound very often. They sleep in big tents along with fifteen to twenty other kids—they don’t seem to mind. After all, many of them either don’t know any different or they know far worse conditions. One very sweet little boy obviously has some pretty severe developmental delays, and while he received no special treatment and was largely ignored by many of the other children, I could not help but acknowledge that he is better off at the children's home than anywhere else. Special facilities and aid for persons with psychological disabilities are nonexistent in Haiti, especially considering this is a country where many fully functioning individuals are struggling to survive.

Part of World Wide Village’s mission in the country is to do what we can to help stem the spread of the cholera epidemic. A major factor in stemming this tide is proper education about hygiene and good hand-washing techniques. Before we left, all of the kids gathered together and we taught them a song about handwashing while two of the kids from our group demonstrated how to properly wash hands.

Pastor Leslie had told us about an children's home just down the road where the pastor, other adults, and kids there have nothing. We went to that children's home, and this is where my heart was cracked in two. Upon driving into the courtyard, we were surrounded by walls that had crumbled in last year’s earthquake. At least twenty kids crowded around the back of the tap-tap before we got out and were pushing and shoving for a look at these pale strangers. I was almost knocked over by the kids as they grabbed onto me when I stepped out of the vehicle. They didn’t mean any harm and were not trying to knock me over, that just happens sometimes when so many little bodies press against a person at once. Anyhow, when I looked up, the walls surrounding part of the courtyard shocked me. There is no more than two square feet anywhere that doesn't have a crack from the earthquake. Piles of rubble litter the courtyard, twisted rebar juts out of the walls at unnatural angles, the intact-ish overhanging on a porch stuck onto the aforementioned structure is being held up with cement pillars that are trying to crumple. Shortly after the quake, the Haitian government inspected every house in the area and wrote a series of codes on each building in one of three colors: red, yellow, and green. Green means the building is just fine for human habitation and use. Yellow means the building is unstable but workable. Red means the building is completely unusable. There was a big long series of code on the side of a structure at the far end of the courtyard--code prominently sprayed in bright red paint. By all rights, there should be no human being setting foot in that structure until it is torn down and rebuilt. Yet this is assuming insurance as we know it exists in Haiti. Earthquake insurance does not exist in this country. The Pastor was telling us that he owned the land (at least an acre). On one end there had been a church (now a pile of twisted rubble) and on the other end the aforementioned structure was standing. After the earthquake, the church was no more, the other structure was severely damaged, and the pastor had lost his wife. “Some days, it is the children who give me strength” he said. One who did have a lot suddenly had nothing.

The pastor, whose name I cannot remember, showed us around the land devoted to his kids. There is an open courtyard for playing, a room where cooking is done on an open charcoal fire (the smoke from this is extremely unhealthy. and it goes right into where the children sleep), several rooms for sleeping, and a row of classrooms that are separated out by grade. The children are lacking enough clothing and proper latrine facilities, but none of them had the little starvation pouches or were scary holocaust skinny—it is obvious that this pastor devotes what little resources he has to feeding these kids. Indeed, he told us at one point that he tries to make sure the children have at least one full meal per day—some days they have more, but times are hard. The children's home received its first donation three weeks ago, and while we were there, people from that organization pulled up. Apparently, they are coming in to build bunk beds for the children.

We had not warned this pastor that we were coming, so our appearance was a complete and total surprise to him, though a welcome blessing. We came bearing prayers, toys for children who had none and a little food for kids who have little food. One of the boys stood up and told his story about how he came to live in the children's home. Now, keep in mind that this boy was probably in his early to mid teens. He was walking along the street one day when a bunch of older boys grabbed him, shoved a high-powered gun in his hands, and told him to go shoot anyone who was white and/or UN officers. When he refused and ran away, he tried to hide in a local motel, but the motel owner hit him with a stick and knocked him down. He was then shot. Obviously he lived, but I saw an old man looking out of that young boy’s eyes. NO ONE, particularly not a child, should have to live through this kind of trauma. NO ONE should subject a child to this kind of trauma.

I mentioned that along with the toys, we also gave out a little food. Though the pastor works with what he has, he does not have much. The kids were fighting over the boxes of raisins and cracker snacks that we had. For every one item of food that we had, four hands were stretched out for it. One little boy kept asking for some for the younger child standing in front of him, but I could tell that he would just snarf it down himself. Food has never disappeared faster. Just like the kids at the first children's home who did not leave a scrap of food left after their meal, these kids made food disappear as though they would never seen an edible scrap again. For them, however, this is a very real possibility. When we piled back into the tap-tap when it was time to go, one team member was sitting next to me and handing crackers one by one to children who were shoving their hands through spaces between the slats in the tap-tap. I have never seen anyone so desperate for a cracker before! These kids were the epitome of hungry, despite that they do not look like they are completely starving. They shoved their hands out and were hollering for food and kept insisting that we had more even when they were shown the empty bag. My dad warned me that this sight would break me, and he was right.

People, I have never felt so helpless in my entire life. Here are little children that God loves desperately and they are on the brink of starvation. Many of them lost relatives in the earthquake. All of them are hungry. I think of all the times a Compassion International or Save the Children commercial has been on and shown faces of starving children from all over the world—there are some affluent people who honestly do not care. Every individual who thinks they are hard off but have three full meals a day (or at least access to such) and transportation that works and clean air to breathe and fresh water to drink should come to Haiti for a week. You can look at all the pictures in the world, watch every documentary ever made, but you do not truly “get it” until you have seen it first-hand. I desperately wanted to run back to the guesthouse and gather up every item of food within sight and bring it back to these kids, but that would not solve the problem. That children's home needs sustainable help, something that will last through years—not a one-time solution that will fill their tummies for just one night.

I had been on the verge of tears almost all day, but was trying not to cry in front of the children. Despite the difficulty they face, they have the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen. Despite their hunger and pain at recently lost relatives and lack of privacy and clean conditions, those children have a joy in their faces that is hard to miss—a realistic joy, they make do with what they have and hold no delusions of “maybe I’ll win the lottery” or “oh it will all be better tomorrow”. From what I could tell, they take each day at a time and consider it a blessing. The boy who was shot that I mentioned earlier? He said life at the children's home was hard, but he could be living in much worse conditions and thanked God for where he is currently living. My heart shattered at the thought that there are countries out there where children face those worse conditions every day. So what are we doing about it? The kids did not need to see someone bawling at their condition, they needed someone to look at it realistically and figure out what to do. Yes, tears show compassion, but they need to indicate action as well. It is just so easy to be so completely overwhelmed at the vastness of the need that exists. It is important to keep in mind that you are not an individual attempting to tackle the world’s problems—God calls many people because this is a task that will only be accomplished with many hand.

In the car on the way back to the guesthouse, I was trying to listen to what was going on but could only think about those kids and their faces. If only you could have seen the happiness that something as simple as basic toys brought to them!! Pat looked at me and said “it’s okay to cry” and I lost it. These kids need caring individuals to help them, and I was and am devastated for them. It is also devastating to think that kids in similar situations can be found in the US!! For the biggest superpower in the world, the US isn’t even developed to the point where every child is guaranteed a warm bed and full meals every day. AAAAUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! There is a reason God says to care for the widows and the orphans. They need care. We need to acknowledge that we are one tragedy away from being in similar situations. We need to truly be God’s hands and feet in this world.

Hebrews 13:3, James 1:27


· Children’s beds made from a piece of plywood balanced on top of stacks of bricks pulled out of rubble piles.

· Kids with hunger pouring off of them.

· A man carrying a chicken while riding a moto.

· A bazaar called “Victory of God Bazaar”

· A little Haitian boy wearing a “This is why I’m Canadian” shirt (they can’t read the English words).

· Haitian children in the children's home who have all the same problems with each other as American kids: two young girls who didn’t like each other and kept pinching each other, pushing and shoving, yelling at each other, etc

· Children running around naked simply because they have no clothes (thank God they live in a warm place).

· Two monstrous holes dug behind the second children's home that a company dug intending to install septic systems—it is VITAL that promises be followed up on. Right now those holes are just plunked in the ground and nothing is happening with them other than they are operating as trash pits and hazards that little children could fall into and get mortally injured.

· Pigs digging around in the same trash pile where humans were also digging.

· The biggest genuine smiles in the world.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


If anyone knows a good way to set down a starving child who just wants hugs, let me know. Like the earlier post says, we went into the mountain village of Cazale today. A bunch of us rode in a tap-tap that belongs to Peter, though it was not nearly as crowded as many that you see going about Port au Prince all the time. Definitely more than one more person would have fit (hint should come down here!). Patrick is an amazing driver--I certainly could not have gotten the tap-tap up the side of that mountain! When it rained awhile back, they (Randy, Pat, and Peter) very nearly did not make it all the way up because dusty mountain roads and rain do not get along well--kind of gets slicker than a greased pig. Randy said they do not send teams up there when it has been raining for that very reason. Pat noted the possibility existed that we would have to get out of the tap-tap if it started having difficulty. Well, that didn't happen and approximately an hour and a half and lots of dust and bumps later (Charis and I both clocked our heads on rails in the roof and got good brain dusters), we arrived at the Real Hope for Haiti rescue center. Lori and Letia--the people who run the center--are both American women who might as well be Haitian--they have lived here for a number of years, have Haitian husbands and children, and have a heart here. Anyways, Lori gave us a tour of the place and talked about many things:

· The cracks in the walls of the clinic are from the earthquake and have not been totally plastered over yet—the structure itself is safe and sound.

· An organization that provides water systems to rural communities donated a large water purification system to the clinic, and it can produce 10,000 gallons of purified water per day (while a blessing to the clinic, it is massive and non-portable).

· People line up to get into the clinic and then they wait in an area where people talk about the Gospel with them while they wait. Sometimes people will sleep outside the gate so they do not lose their place in line.

· They have seen 160,000+ unique individuals—people come for miles around to visit this clinic as the people who run it are becoming more and more trusted in the community.

· The number of people in the clinic fluctuates on a daily basis and with local crises, just like clinics in the U.S., but here they fluctuate with differing numbers of cholera and malnutrition patients. STD and prenatal care are also in high demand. Lori would like to train Haitian women as midwives and send them into some of these remote villages, but the logistics on that are just not quite working.

· They see people who have cholera, malaria, malnutrition, tetanus, dehydration, colds, flus, broken bones (one woman who came in had a metal and plastic contraption sticking out of her arm that was holding broken bones stable so they could heal), etc.

We walked all over the clinic and looked at basically everything. There is a women’s health room where they have private discussions with women regarding sexual and reproductive issues. They have a pharmacy area and receive about 60% of their medications from a group of Mennonites in the States. This is in addition to a massive water treatment system, exam rooms, recovery areas, etc. As we were walking around, a group of Haitian men were applying spackling to a wall. We saw a little girl who has cholera, another little girl who is “simply” malnourished, and another young girl whose entire body is wrapped in bandages because her clothes caught fire while she was trying to light an oil lamp--thirty to forty percent of her body is covered in third degree burns.

After visiting the rescue center, the team split up and went different places. Ben and Candice were called over to do medical work with people in the cholera house that was just up the hill. Ali and I sat with the children for just a little while longer—they were awfully hard to leave (described in a minute). Mariley, Corben, Carter, Charis, and Sharon worked on putting together hygiene packets to hand out to people (a key to preventing the spread of cholera is proper hygiene practices—even if it is just washing hands). Then Ali, Dessy, Cindy, and I went into the back pharmacy area with Pat and Sharon, who were packaging pills. Dessy and I put together packets of chlorine (so concentrated that it was granulated) in varying weights depending on what the packets were designated for decontaminating (varying chlorine concentrations are used for various things—you would not drink water treated with a chlorine solution that is strong enough to decontaminate the medical equipment). I was working with a bucket that was basically slop because it had gotten wet via a crack in the bottom of the bucket—it wasn’t supposed to get wet. Chlorine is chlorine though, so it will still work. Dessy and I probably had the cleanest hands of the place given that we were working directly with the chlorine! J My poor paws were feeling a little raw after while from handling the raw chlorine, but I can’t complain—every patient there is suffering from much, much worse.

The rescue center is a place where people bring children who are malnourished, ill, or simply not wanted (a young girl was simply left at the gate recently, and this was not the first time this has happened). Medika Mamba (Haitian for “medical peanut butter”) is a highly fortified peanut butter substance that was formulated by a group here in the States. The peanuts are grown in Haiti, thereby supporting local farmers. The peanuts are ground up and mixed with vitamins and other physical fortifications and then fed to the children. The kids love it and it is extremely good for them (win win all around). Children have literally been brought back from the brink of death with this mamba.

Upon entering the rescue center, immediately to the left you can see a long table with lots of little kid chairs in it—this is where they seat kids during meal time. We had not even made it all of the way into the rescue center before we were mobbed by lots of little children who wanted to be picked up. They love being held! Cindy had one little boy who would not let go of her legs--I picked him up as she was already holding another child. Turns out he is five years old and just started walking recently. On those scrawny little legs he has, I’m surprised he was walking at all. People, you do not understand hunger until you have seen these children. Ten-year-olds who look like they are three simply because they have not had enough food to eat during their short lives. A six-year-old who I thought was only two for the same reason. They are so unbelievably little for their age! We walked into the area where the children were and were immediately completely overwhelmed with little ones looking for some attention. I think lifted arms must be the universal “pick me up” sign. I already had one little boy in my arms, but wanted to be right with the kids and so I sat down on the floor. Within a few minutes, there were four children in my lap and one behind me playing peek-a-boo behind my shoulders. I kind of felt like a lap tap-tap—how many kids could fit in my lap? One more.

I just sat with the kids for awhile. Anyone who knows me at all knows that kids and their welfare are my heart and the call on my life. To protect my heart, I didn’t even go into the back room with other people where the sickest of the sickest children were. Maybe that made me a bit of a coward, but my heart would not have survived…not just yet. And besides, the kids in the room where I was needed love too. At one point the staff had the children singing in Creole and I recognized the song. “Jesus Loves the Little Children”. I only recognized one word, “blanc” or “white”. To hear these children, to whom life has dealt an unbelievably unfair hand, singing about the love of Jesus Christ—then and there they officially stole my heart away. I may go back to the United States to live out my life, but a piece of my heart will always remain with those singing children.

One of the children sitting in my lap just looked sad and would start crying instantly if something did not go his way. Another was all smiles and giggled a lot. Another just stared at me. Eventually it dawned that he was not staring at me, he was staring at my glasses—he kept trying to take them off. I guess that makes sense, the only other person I saw wearing glasses was another American. Several kids came up behind me and kept playing with my hair, which I had left down. Little fingers rearranged the tiny clips holding my top pony in place, and at one point I was using my hair as a shield to play peek-a-boo with one of the kiddos (okay, so super long hair has its advantages).

It was obvious that some of these kids were just not feeling well. Rather than being smiley, trundly little kids, they just laid where they were and stared around with sad little faces. They have seen too much, been through too much for how young they are. I saw several old little people, if that makes sense. At the same time, however, these kids are the future of Haiti. Though they have seen a lot, you can just tell in several of them that they are going to grab life by the tail and make it work. “Degaje” – “make it work”.

When it came time for me to go into the backroom and help out, I had to wiggle my way out of this pile of kids. They did not want to let me go, they did not want to let any of us go—when we tried to set a child down, we were met with resistance in the form of an arched back that would not let you set them down without fear of breaking their neck or arms, hands, and legs clinging to our clothing. All they want and need for now is love and food. Thank the Lord that they receive both in that place.

Someone just asked me, as I sit typing this post in the guesthouse back in Port au Prince, if I was okay because apparently I seem “off”. The kids hurt. Seeing legs barely bigger around than my thumb hurt. Seeing utter despair in the eyes of several children too young to remember these years hurt. At the same time, I saw hope in their eyes and in the eyes of those caring for the children. I saw a strength that many woosified Americans can only dream of. There may be hunger, but there is also a future for this great nation. As long as the people are empowered to do for themselves, there is a bright future ahead of this people.

Side note before I forget: Lori also showed us a birthing kit they put together for women to take home with them. In the States, we picture this grand elaborate thing that would fill a backpack at least. In Haiti, this birthing kit fills a sandwich bag and contains string to tie off the umbilical cord, a clean razor to cut the cord (many women and babies were contracting and dying of tetanus from using dirty can lids and shards of glass to cut their umbilical cords), some gauze, cotton balls, and some antiseptic. We were also told that Haitian women are not told to go to the hospital--many births are perfectly safe happening at home, so long as the women do not try to yank the placenta out of themselves before they birth it naturally...that causes life endangering hemorraging.


· School children walking home in their uniforms.

· Four people riding a moto.

· A woman walking with a full-sized cooler balanced on her head.

· A young boy who was flying a kite made of a plastic bags and some sticks.

· A boy named Denny who has a condition where his head is huge, but he does not let that prevent him from being a little boy.

· Trash fires on the side of the road.

· People living in garbage piles alongside a river, picking through the trash to find something, anything, that they might be able to sell on the street.

· Kids laughing with hands interlocked as they walked back home.

And we're off!

We are off this morning to the mountain town of Cazale to spend time at the Real Hope for Haiti clinic where the Medika Mamba substance is administered to starving children. Medika Mamba, or "peanut butter medicine" when translated into English, is an extremely fortified peanut butter substance used to treat malnourished children. Peanuts that are grown in Haiti are ground, combined with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, and then fed to starving kids. The kids love the stuff (it kind of tastes like the inside of a Reese's piece). $100 is all that is needed to provide enough Medika Mamba to bring one child back to health.

I am not certain what all we will be doing while there, but Pat and Randy promise that it will be a life-changing day. This morning dozing Americans were awakened by the smell of a wonderful breakfast being cooked downstairs (nothing like French toast to start a day) and it was bustlier in the guesthouse than it has been--five extra people will do that. : )

Well, time to go!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kids, Port au Prince, and an unfortunate goat

I am officially in love with Haitian food…well, that which I’ve eaten so far. Surret is an amazing cook, but from what I hear she cooks much like my mother does—a pinch of this and a dash of that, pinches and dashes only measurable with lots of experience. An amazing cooking style but one hard to teach. J For dinner last night there was beet salad (which, and this will surprise some, I actually really liked—traditionally I hate, no—abhor, beets), fried chicken, fried goat meat, fried plaintains, fried okra dough stuff (can’t remember what it was called), rice and beans, and picallys (a spicy cabbage dish). I tried and loved everything but the chicken—I have chicken all of the time in the States and wanted to eat anything but that which I have all the time. Goat is awesome—I loved it! Surret then gave us a banana bread/cake that she had made—also very delicious. Group discussion followed, then Bible study and sleep. I was asleep pretty quickly. Lack of sleep from the night before and the comforting sound of the generator knocked me out (I grew up with a generator running, so I like that sound). The dog that sounded like it kept getting stuck in a trap near the house, however, was not as comforting—apparently it barks by yelping. Oh well.

I know many people in MN who would be surprised at how much animals are a part of the daily life of Haitians. It isn’t like our tendency to have a few pets and hide them in our abodes, being shocked at seeing a deer in town. In Haiti there are goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, and cows running all over the place--every single one of which has an owner. Goats return to their homes at night, and there are quite severe penalties for goat/cattle theft. There appears to be one kind of dog, a general mutt that runs around all over Port au Prince. Oh, and the pigeons and MN state bird—the mosquito. I hate mosquitoes. Oh, and bugs that look like leafs--those are pretty nifty -->

After breakfast, most of the vision team currently in Haiti went to the clinic where they were working yesterday. Fleura, the woman mentioned yesterday, was seen by the doctors—she appears to have made a miraculous recovery. Suspicion exists that her ailments are caused by dehydration. Next time you are a little thirsty, think about the Haitian people whose only water option is potentially filled with cholera bacteria. The choice is don’t drink and therefore die, or drink and risk getting an illness that may kill you anyways. What hard decisions have you made today?

A team of builders from “Engineers Without Borders”, a group from the University of Minnesota made up of civil engineers, arrived early this morning to build a bio-digester. From what I understand, they are going to spend the next week constructing a “concrete stomach” that human waste will go into (they are also constructing an outhouse) for the initial stages of decomposition. The waste, or "effluent" will then be moved into a cooker that will heat the material enough to make it release naturally occurring methane gas, gas which can then be harnessed to power the cookstoves in the Luly school. This is certainly a much better option for cooking food over charcoal. Don't get me wrong, charcoal cooks well, but the smoke from charcoal fires does horrendous things to peoples' lungs, and the coal is made from cut-down trees. Cutting down trees least to looser soil integrity, a definite problem in this country. Looser soil leads to aggravated soil erosion, less land that is available for farmers, and more devastating damage when those darned hurricanes and/or monsoon rains sweep through the area. But I digress....Once the methane from the effluent has been harnessed, the remaining material will be spread out of the cooker onto a concrete platform where it can dry. At that point, it is sterile due to having been heated, and can be used as fertilizer in a community garden. This is a sustainable project that has a very promising future!

Shortly after the engineers arrived, it was off to downtown Port au Prince to the World Wide Village warehouse. There was not enough room inside the cab of the pickup to hold all six of us (Peter, Pat, Ali, Dan, Bob, Nate, and I), so Dan, Bob, and I opted to ride in the bed of the pickup. Always one up for adventure, I loved the ride—though people were nervous the way I was bouncing around taking pictures. Yesterday I was really shy about taking pictures and was convinced the people would be offended by my action and it was culturally looked down upon…and I didn’t want to look like another dumb tourist. Pat assured me that if the people objected to their pictures being taken, they would indicate such and it is perfectly fine to take pictures of anything. Well, today I took over 250. J

It is a totally different experience riding in the back of a truck as opposed to being in the cab. The sounds of the city can really reach you. I mentioned this yesterday but will mention it again—traffic here is crazy! People walk across the street so close to cars you wouldn’t even have to reach out to shake hands. Cars are continually cutting people off. Traffic lights, what few exist, are a suggestion. Tap-taps, very brightly colored vehicles that serve as one form of public transportation, are everywhere. People are constantly shouting, and honking at other drivers (though I have been told that honking in Haiti has developed into a kind of language, where so many taps mean something, while a different number of taps means something else, while a blaring, obnoxious horn may mean the same thing as it means in the US). If a car breaks down in the middle of the road, people start working on it right then and there. We saw more than a few cars having their engines tweaked in the middle of the commotion or just plain being shoved out of the way. When stopped in traffic, it is common for street kids to come up, clean the car, and expect monetary compensation. Two such street kids came up and were wiping off our pickup—one team member handed them some granola bars.

Anyways, we made it to the warehouse, where Pat skillfully installed a phone and the engineers examined some kind of wall making materials that are being stored in the warehouse. Apparently it is just what they need in the size they need it, so that is good. They just need to get some tools from someone here they know and will be good to go! In fact, I can hear them discussing the plan of action with Randy right now. Then it was off to “the Haitian version of Home Depot”, which we were unable to see because it was closed. We picked up a rental car, kept an eye on one of our guests as he drove it (record: Bob drove a car through downtown Port au Prince on his first day here!) through the gnarled mess of traffic, and got back to our abode.

After we got back to the guesthouse, we had enough time to refill on water, go buy bread from the breadshop that is across from the Livesay’s house, and pack back into a car to head to Luly. Along the way Randy told us statistics. There were very few displaced Haitians before the earthquake—now 15% of the nation’s population is displaced and living in tent cities. We drove by hills where no tent city existed at this time last year—now the hillsides are peppered with thousands of tents. Wires are strung between tents and hold up very clean laundry (I am very impressed at how clean most of the clothing is here compared to how dusty and dirty everything seems to be).

Something like 300,000 people are living in thousands of tent cities scattered across the country side but mostly located around PaP. Slash and burn agriculture is still practiced (note: this does NOT help contain the soil erosion problem) and we saw several fields burning. Fire makes me nervous…especially when it causes a plume of smoke that goes across the road and is so thick that we cannot see through it to the other side. Haitians do not mind their side of the road at all times, so it was a little nerve wracking going through that plume, but Randy knows what he is doing and all was well.

Luly is a small mountain village on the edge of the ocean. Approximately 3,000 people live there, many of them young children. We parked the car and walked up to the school where Pastor Lyons officiates. Ali and I were very popular amongst the children and spent time with them while the engineers went with Randy to examine the land where the bio digester will go (don’t worry—they were only a few hundred yards away from us). Ali had some hair clips and other d0o-dads for the kids. One little boy broke my heart—he just seemed so sad. While the rest of the kids were energetic and excited, he was just standing there looking up at me with sad little eyes that would make a hardened criminal’s heart break. Of course I don’t speak Creole (though Peter was happy with the progress on a phrase I have made), and could not ask what was wrong. More frustrating for me, however, was that I could not even offer words of encouragement in his own language. AARGH!!

The kids got a huge kick out of seeing their pictures. I’m borrowing a camera from my friend Paula, and was taking pictures of the kids. They definitely understood what I was trying to do, and would cluster together, pulling each other in closer so that all of them might be photographed. After each photo was taken, I would lower the camera and put it in review mode so the kids could see themselves. They laughed with hilarity that displayed the hope in their eyes and the overwhelming strength of the Haitian people, and would poke each other and point when they saw their friend in a picture.

One little girl in a pink dress came over and leaned on my shoulder, eventually making her way to sitting in my lap. An adult who I think is one of the teachers at Luly school set another child right next to me, who also sat down in my lap. Kids are kids everywhere—they all like positive attention from an adult and the kids settled right in as if they had been sitting there their entire lives. When Randy came over and said it was time to go, I hesitated. These kids were adorable and seemed to be having a grand laugh at the American who was horribly mispronouncing their names. We had only been there for what seemed like just a few minutes…not nearly long enough.

I was, however, horrified by the signs of malnutrition evident all over some of these kids. Not only were all of them thin, some of them were frighteningly thin and had the little pouched bellies that indicate lack of proper nutrition. I just wanted to plant a garden right there, train the people in the neighborhood how to tend it, and watch these kids’ muscles fill in. Good news: there are plans to use the material produced from the biodigester as fertilizer for a community garden.

There was a starving man sitting on the side of the road today. I’ve only ever seen people that thin in pictures of Holocaust victims and anorexia patients—this man just simply did not have enough to eat and it was not by his choice. Talk about feeling guilty about every cheeseburger I’ve ever eaten. Yet guilt is not the answer here. Action is, but action that empowers the Haitian people to work for themselves. I’ve heard of the “gimme gimme gimme” mentality that is so prevalent in this country—largely resulting from the huge amount of foreign aid that has flooded the country, money that was just doled out in a way that did little more than to foster an overwhelming sense of dependency. Everywhere you hear "dollar, dollar". Yesterday, several boys were hollering at us "hey you, give me my money." They were only kids and thought they were being absolutely hilarious, but it really showed how dependent many people are on aid, and how entitled they feel to that aid. Good intentions and aid must be handled carefully in order to not worsen the problem. The people must be taught how to fish, so that they might fish for themselves and see the worth in their own work and brains.

My prayer for this trip is that every foreigner in Haiti right now, especially those here to “help”, have eyes that see as God sees, ears that hear as God hears, and hearts that love as God loves. The Haitian people have a rough life, there is no getting around this fact. Yet it is just as much of a fact that the Haitian people are the strongest people I have ever met—constitutionally and physically. I have been examining the faces of people we pass by and only one or two have seemed completely hopeless. Keeping in mind the trauma the country has experienced in the past year and the many people we have seen, this is a miracle. Difficulty exists, but so does hope. Devastation exists (there are still piles of rubble everywhere), but the people have not allowed that to cease their lives or their hope for the future. Can we as Americans truthfully say we are that resilient? I think not.

Among the things I saw today:

--culverts full of water with children bathing in them

--a tap-tap so full of people and things balanced on top of it that I was worried it might just tip over


--men and women carrying HUGE loads of stuff on their heads (I’ve seen two women so far carrying full five-gallon buckets of water balanced on their noggins)

--police driving by with automatic weapons sticking out of their cars and gate guards with rifles

--a live goat hanging upside down by its feet from the back of a truck; after all, there is no point in buying a dead animal in Haiti, the more alive it is upon purchase the more fresh it is upon consumption

--people not blinking twice when the power goes out…it goes out all of the time

--people sitting in their living spaces on the side of a river that floods during rainy season

--one of the fields where mass graves for earthquake victims are located (just like the site at Wounded Knee, that area is painful to be near)

--chickens with their brood of chicks (DON’T LAUGH, I’ve never seen a mother chicken with her chicks before—it is always momma hen in one place and baby chicks/eggs in another)

--children in Luly wearing the dresses that Carol Harwood and her ladies sewed for them