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Nov 2013 - St. Vincent's Trip

Monday, October 13, 2014

Notes from D.C. Conference on Future of St. Vincent's

Last weekend, a group gathered in Washington, D.C. for a conference organized by Margaret McLaughlin of the Friends of St. Vincent's. Susan, Sienna, and Sherye traveled from Memphis to participate. Pere Sadoni joined as well and gave us an update on the school. Below is a summary of Dr. Nelson's notes, with details on several critical elements of life at the school.

The Haitian government told Pere Sadoni (not sure when) that they would be taking over the school property, hereafter referred to as SITE 2, which is where the medical clinic and dorms and admin offices are currently located. The school and these services would therefore need to relocate. SITE 1 nearby remains the property of St. Vincent's School; it has the newly renovated prosthetics (brace shop) and PT facility, and for at least the next 2-3 years it is expected to contain all medical activities. This includes Dr. Beauvoir (orthopedist), Dr. Ferdinand (pediatrician), Dr. Kado (family doctor), and Dr. Marius (eyedoctor). These are the Haitian medical staff at St. Vincent's. Our medical clinics will run at SITE 1 for the foreseeable future.

Pere Sadoni was told he must vacate SITE 2 by the end of June 2014. Through some influential contacts with the government thru Tom Landry, the eviction was delayed until the end of August. Pere Sadoni met with the Prime Minister and also the Secretary of State for Financial Affairs on several occasions over the summer. Despite these meetings he was told to vacate and advised to "take out everything of value" before the bulldozers showed up. Therefore, Pere Sadoni took out every door and window and ceiling fan and hand railing, putting all of this in storage. The buildings around the school are apparently in rubble as the bulldozers have razed the surrounding buildings, including the wall that surrounded the school. Therefore security is now a concern as well. The medical clinic is no longer standing. 

Pere Sadoni looked at several places for rent, but the cost ranged from $10,000 US per year to $20,000 per month. After several meetings as noted above, and AFTER Pere Sadoni gutted the property, he was then told he could "stay thru September 2015." Meanwhile, one of the teachers reported to Pere Sadoni they could not stay in their classroom anymore. Apparently when the wall came down, people started throwing garbage behind one of the buildings. The smell was horrible and drew flies. This class of ten students is now meeting in a storage closet.

On a bright note, Sadoni reported that last spring, 100 students passed their State Exams. 16 moved onto the 6th grade and 13 moved onto 9th grade. This year school began Oct 6 with 197 children. By the end of week one they had 220 and expect 300 by the first of November. Pere Sadoni went to each classroom and had a small service and blessed each child one by one, he says to tell them they are loved by God and each one must try to do their best this year.

Pere Sadoni explained why he wants to build a secondary school for the deaf children who are doing so well and have advanced to 6th grade. They don't have a good option in Haiti to continue their education, because the only other school for the deaf in Haiti does not teach (or even allow) sign language. There was some input from others at the conference that this might be changing soon; however, the deaf kids currently have no place to finish their education and qualify for University. I thought to myself, now there's a man of faith. His current school is in rubble and he has a vision for educating the deaf students thru high school! More on that later...

One of the pipes for this system was stolen, but it has been replaced and the system is in working order. Clean water for students and staff. There is now a new concrete wall around the cistern and pipes for security (as I said the outside wall came down)

Many organizations that have supported St V in the past are either no longer doing this or have reduced their contribution to rice only. The school still has to buy beans, oil, etc. Pere Sadoni named at least six different orgs he has been in contact with. Specific figures were not discussed, however I assume they have not changed from the $6000 per month required last school year to feed the children.

Pere Sadoni lowered the dorm's age limit to 14 years. Older children can no longer board at the school (this does not apply to the orphans, about 28 total orphans). They have 23 new boarders, for a total of 51 residents.

Haiti has new minimum wage laws. 225 Gdes (approx $4 US) for one day, 8 hours. If you fire an employee, they go to the Dept of Social Affairs and report what you were paying them. You must make up the deficit for the last 4-5 years between what you were paying them and what the law requires. Then an investigator comes to make sure your institution can pay min wage for each employee. If not, they shut you down.

Currently St. V teachers make less than min wage (<$100 per month). There are 51 teachers. Each classroom has two teachers including one teacher for the deaf or blind students. Plus there are all the cooks, cleaners, other support staff. Much discussion at the conference about budgets, deficits, and how to bring St. V into compliance with the law.

There is land available in Santo, near the airport, which we hope to purchase using part of the generous donation by Dr. Mary White from Manhattan. Currently negotiations involve Bishop Duracin and the Episcopal Church Central Office in New York. This is 7-8 acres of FLAT land, with a 3500 sq ft house all on one level. Could be turned into dorms. Ideal site, per Tom Landry, who is an architect

IF this land is purchased by First Quarter 2015, construction can begin but realistically not ready for school to open in Sept 2015. Maybe the residents could be moved into the existing house?
Temporary classrooms can be built on SITE 1 for about $50,000 US. There is apparently transportation provided by Haitian gov't for other disabled kids to go to school in Montfort (the other deaf school I mentioned) so this may be option for our students as well, since the new land is near Montfort. Also discussion about shared services between the two schools.

At the end of his presentation, Pere Sadoni thanked all of us for our work to support St. Vincent's. He said we are following God's commission to "support the weak". And we are doing just that. He reminded us that Sister Joan's original goal was "no integration without education". And that 4.6% of handicapped persons in Haiti don't get regular meals

After his presentation we broke into 3 small groups including 
I. Medical/prosthetics shop/PT/OT/hearing testing/speech therapy. 
II. education III. admin/ budget.

Each small group discussed assets/needs/solutions

I. In brief, the Medical Group agreed to a goal of establishing a COMMON MEDICAL RECORD to be used by all involved with the care of the students, including PT/OT, hearing evals, other disabilities, and general medical care. There is already a National Database in Haiti for persons with disabilities, and a secretary at St. V who can access these records online and print out forms for each provider to use. We hope to expand this. Team Canada visits St. V twice/year, tests the kids for hearing and provides hearing aids. Their next trip is mid October and will overlap with the CBU nurses and Dr. Trzynka in first week of November. Next steps toward communication and collaboration can begin, and creation of a common medical record.

II. Education Group discussed teacher training (now required by Haitian gov't) and food production at the school thru technology provided by 100 Gardens. Check out their website. They farm tilapia and use the effluent to grow vegetables. Very efficient. Opportunities for curriculum development, business models, trade skills, etc. not to mention feeding the kids and possibly turning a profit.
Plans are to install two portable towers at current St. V site as a test project!

III. Admin/Budget Group discussed budget to meet all salary demands incl new min wage laws, and short term/long term plans for current St. V and new St. V. The current operating budget is approx $14,000 per month. Needs to be $18,000 per month to increase wages as discussed.

Tom Landry gave a passionate description of the NEW ST. VINCENT'S:

New St. V property has vision of sustainable farming, a guesthouse which attracts outside visitors as well as St. V visitors/volunteers. Medical center for treatment of handicapped, with training site for physical therapy and other health profession students. Brace shop serving greater Port-au-Prince area. Educational center with training site for teachers. "A MODEL FOR THE CARIBBEAN" Tom said.

Overall an intense meeting with lots of passion.

Susan Nelson
Medical Director
West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A New School Year in Haiti--Letter from Pere Ajax

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am pleased to announce that the official date for the reopening of schools in Haiti this year has come and students returned to class on Sept. 8 as planned. There is another formal assessment in the sixth year of basic or Baccalaureate I. Students will take the examinations in their respective institutions as they do for other exams.

The Haitian student from 2015 onwards will undergo two formal reviews: in the ninth year at the end of the primary school cycle and one at the end of secondary school, or after four years of high school. In addition, schools in the Episcopal Church in Haiti typically have excellent results on official exams.

Haiti has so far been spared any bad weather during the past summer and I hope it has been the same for you. In addition, I wish to inform you that for the first time, the Episcopal Church of Haiti is currently training 21 men and women aspiring to become permanent deacons. In recent years, many churches that did not have priests in charge have been fortunate enough to acquire them. Examples are: Christ-Roi de Jacmel, St. Croix Jeremiah, the Church of the Good Samaritan Acul (Gros Morne), the rise of Berauld (in Torbeck), Christ the King Church Terrier-Rouge, Holy Sacrament of Fonds-Parisien in the town of Croix-des-Bouquets, the Church of Saint-Benoit-Mombin Crochu, Saint Jean-Baptiste Petit Harpon Leogane, etc.

Given the evolution and proliferation of the Haitian Episcopal Church, it is important, even essential to seek partners to share all these new experiences, and so to build together the spiritual and social structures of our country. These are fields of experience which can be special to all who want to discover how life is organized in countries that do not have the same culture and who have not the same historical and cultural experiences.

Thank you for all your support during the past academic year. May God protect you and bless you more in the coming new school year.

Rev. Kesner Ajax
Diocese of Haiti Partnership Program Coordinator

Thursday, May 29, 2014

April Mission Team Reflections

Each trip I ask the team members to write a little about their experience.  Over the years I have found it easiest to get people thinking by asking them these questions:
What was the best part of your trip?
What was the worst part of your trip?
Name one person who influenced you or made an impact on you, and tell me why?

Here is a (partial) collection of responses from our last team.

What was the best part of your trip?
Linda (CBU Nurse):  The Bell Choir was the best part of my trip.  I did not see this last time and it was beautiful, bringing tears to my eyes.  I also loved that we came as two groups but are leaving as one united group.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

John and Clauricianne

The more that I am with the children the more they amaze me! These are not normal children, these are
children that have been blessed by the Holy Spirit, they have to be on first name basis with God and
Jesus. For us that travel to see them it is a place of wonder and amazement that puts Disney World to
shame and shows it to be just another theme park. I have heard that all things are possible when you put
your faith in God but this place has amazed me so many times that I have lost count.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sherye's reflections working with our medical team in April

Another trip finished! We are on the plane and on our way to Atlanta from the Port au Prince airport. It struck me on this trip that we focus so much on the beautiful children at St. Vincent’s that we don’t realize the changes we have made in ourselves. We are different in large and small ways—many of these we may not realize until much later.

I don’t believe I have never made a trip that I managed to give more than I got. I try to be more patient with people who are doing their best. I find I am less patient with complainers and I am trying not to be one. The Haitian people just do not complain. I spend money more carefully, and I recycle, reduce, reuse, and repair more.

This trip had 15 medical people and 3 who were not. I am the interpreter for the deaf students and adults at the school. As usual, I am completely amazed and dazzled by the medical team. The nurses from CBU are always remarkable and this time was no exception. They were so flexible and willing to do anything. It can be “interestingdealing with sporadic electricity, schedules that don’t stop changing, various backgrounds and personalities, and a really short time to get to know each other.  But because we have one focus, one goal, by the end of the day we are functioning like a family and everyone manages to keep smiling and laughing.

I hope everyone on the team is more likely to approach a handicapped person as easily as we are to approach a non-handicapped person and start a conversation. These seemingly subtle things are important.

Sherye Fairbanks
April, 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014

Judith's impressions of her trip to Haiti April 2014

Reflections on my trip to St. Vincent's, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, April 5-12, 2014

This April I have joined the medical mission of the West Tennessee Haiti Partnership (WTHP). Even though I have no medical training, they convince me that all my talents and then some will be utilized while we are at St. Vincent's. WTHP comes to St. Vincent's every 6 months to check on the growth and well being of the children, the health of the staff, and to followup on children and adults of special concern.

Port-au-Prince is as I remember it. Sun, heat, sweat. People everywhere, walking, sitting, selling wares, riding motorcycles, bicycles, riding in dented and dusty TapTaps, cars, trucks, SUV's.

Happy Easter from Haiti- Rev Kesner Ajax' message

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

I do not want to let this opportunity pass without wishing you and all of our partners and friends a most happy Easter.

During the last few months a number of huge events took place.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hopefully She Plays the Flute

One of the treasures I brought with me to Haiti on this trip was a beautiful silver flute.  The request came in an email to me about a month ago, from Moliere, a Haitian man I have known for years.  Each time I see him we are at Holy Trinity Cathedral for Sunday services, and his friendly but broken English matches my earnest but broken Kreyol.  Having met his two daughters several times, I have watched them grow every year into young girls.

So when Moliere sent me an email last month telling me his youngest daughter was learning to play the flute, and had a music teacher but needed an instrument, I decided to see what I could do.