Google+ WTN Haiti Partnership: 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Message From Kesner Ajax

Dear colleagues, partners, brothers and sisters,

I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas. The holiday season is a time for us to remind one another how grateful we are for life's many blessings. I am grateful for each of you and the support you give to our many schools throughout Haiti, (pre-school, elementary, secondary, high school, music, handicap, trade, agriculture and college) our hospitals, our clinics, our projects, our church’ reconstruction, our teachers, colleagues, and congregations. Thank you for your financial support, donations, dresses, toys, and especially your prayers and spiritual support to the whole diocese of the Episcopal Church of Haiti.

Without your generosity, we could do nothing.

It is my wish that the holiday season will bring you closer to your families and to God. I pray for a happy and healthy new year for each of you.

In Peace,

Kesner Ajax

The Rev. Kesner Ajax
Executive Director, Bishop Tharp Institute (BTI)
Partnership program coordinator, Episcopal Diocese of Haiti
Priest in Charge, Ascension Church, Beraud.

Mailing address:
c/o Agape Flights acc# 2519
100 Airport Ave

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Randy's reflections on Nov trip to Haiti

Randy McCloy is a Gastroenterology physician in Memphis Tennessee. He also serves as a deacon at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion. Here is his reflection written shortly after returning from our recent trip.

December 2011: Who Are We After Haiti

The week following Thanksgiving, my son, Kellar, a fourth-year medical student, and I joined parishioners Sherye Fairbanks and her daughter, Tess, and John Mutin on a mission trip to Haiti. The group was organized by Dr. Susan Nelson and other members of the WestTennessee Haiti Partnership, including Deacon Drew Woodruff and Ruthie Lentz. The visit was to St. Vincent School for Handicapped Children, and the purpose was to offer the children and staff members as much as we could medically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our group totaled 18 people, and included another physician, aged 89, who saw patients every day; a doctor of physical therapy, who was very helpful to so many kids with physical deformities; at least two priests and one other deacon, as well as volunteers whose sole motivation was to help out wherever needed. Most of us felt we entered the country as relative strangers, but left there as very good friends. Three plane rides and a long bus trip from the airport made for a long first day of travel, and some of us likely were outside of our comfort zone, but no one complained and all adjusted to living conditions far inferior to U.S. standards.Some facts about Haiti: it is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, with 80% ofthe population living under the poverty line, and most Haitians living on under two dollars a day. There is an enormous gap between the few wealthy and the vast majority who are poor;1% of the population controls 50% of the country's wealth. Health-wise, 50% of children have received no vaccinations; only 40% of Haitians have any access to basic health care; the incidence of tuberculosis and malaria is very high, and thousands die each year from these potentially curable diseases; 75% of households do not have running water. I could go on, but you get the picture, and that is enough grief for one day. About St. Vincent school: it was founded in 1945 by Sister Joan Margaret, and prior to the earthquake of January 2010, there were over 350 students. That number has been reduced to a little over 200 now, and most are boarded at the school. Many are orphans, some having just been dropped off at the school entrance by a parent unable to care for their child, feeling that this method of abandonment was better than watching the baby starve to death. These orphaned children are adopted by the school and cared for there, and are given the name“Vincent” as their family name. In fact, while he was there two years ago, Ollie Rencher baptized such an infant. The children of St. Vincent have infirmities including blindness, but many more are deaf, and many were born with severe developmental abnormalities: some are dwarfed, or have only partially developed extremities, often with only stumps for arms or legs. Many are confined to wheelchairs, or must uses crutches and/or prosthetic limbs to get around. The blind children are frequently led around by their deaf or otherwise physically disabled peers. In spite of their deformities and their enormous disadvantage in life, the children appear happy and content with their lives, some seemingly unaware of the serious hand they have been dealt. When we arrived, the children all greeted us in the schoolcourtyard, grinning and waving to us, and wanting to “high-five” anyone near them. The deaf ones tried to impress us with their sign language abilities, or wanted to know what our individual “sign” was, so they'd know how to address us. Many were just be content to hug our legs or sit in our laps. Complete strangers to them, we were immediately welcomed and accepted, even loved...like God's love...unconditional. To look into the faces of these physically compromised but happy children is truly to see the image of Christ, and one cannot help but be overwhelmed by a multitude of emotions: sad and happy at the same time; frustrated at their plight in life, but eager to help them any way we can, for as long as we can. To have experienced the children of St. Vincent School is to have received a gift, a learning gift from God that calls us to look inward and be aware of what we have, and what values are necessary to sustain us. Seeing the innocence and joy in the eyes of these children cannot help but strengthen our own resolve to seek Christ in our own lives.
Who are we now, after visiting Haiti? Who am I, after seeing old women and children in ragged clothes, begging on the streets of Port-Au-Prince, because they are hungry?Or seeing young women walking around with baskets of fruit delicately balanced on their heads, hoping to sell enough to provide at least one meal a day for that day...and then start the survival process all over again the next day? Who am I after seeing the “tent cities”, which house a half million homeless persons, where the space in which they live has dirt floors, and may be the size of an American powder room? I personally am not the same person. I hope to be a person changed for the better, one who can love as these children love, can accept whatever changes God has in store for me, and to use them for growth and transformation. Who are you now, and who will you become when change occurs in your life?

Randy McCloy, December 12, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Joan's experience at Re-Entry

Joan Phelps is  a priest from Connecticut and sent me this email shortly after our return to the U S:

I was a bit tired yesterday so wasn't too aware of anything. Today I saw my dental hygienist who I have gone to since '83, So she said some stupid thing about did I have a good time in Haiti. Don't Haitians party alot. I don't even know what she was talking about but my buttons were pushed. I went on this thing about our friends in Haiti and how hard they work, how joyous they are even when they are also trying to get out of the mire. I told her Haitians are a joyous people and can sing even when down but we have a wrong image of who they are if we label them as party animals..............Blah, Blah, Blah !!!!!!!! You had to be there. My poor friend said she reallyu did not mean any offense......I realized I was overreacting ..........and she was the one with the picks, and whatever tools she could use on me.


It is difficult to think Christmas. However, I came back very grateful that we were not exposed to flamboyant decorations and musac blaring every where we went. Maybe our adventures will lead me to a less materialistic time and peaceful reflection of the good that we can do out of our abundance.

God's wonderful peace be with you. Have a joyous time of Christmas and Epiphany. May good things be yours in the New Year!!!

JP+

Advent Meditation

St Mary's Cathedral is sending out daily Advent Meditations, and this came from today's reading:

"There never was a more holy age than ours, and never a less. There is no less holiness at this time - as you are reading this - than there was the day Jesus said 'Maid, arise' to the centurion's daughter, or the day Peter walked on water. In any instant the sacred may wipe you with its finger. In any instant the bush may flare, your feet may rise, or you may see a bunch of souls in a tree. In any instant you may avail yourself of the power to love your enemies; to accept failure, slander, or the grief of loss, or to endure torture. 'Each and every day the Divine voice issues from Sinai', says the Talmud."


Annie Dillard from For the Time Being

It strikes me that being in Haiti is a holy time for me, a time to experience the sacred.  Drinking cool, clean water when you are sweaty and dusty from working in the clinic, is a sacred experience.  Knowing that you cant just turn on the tap and get water, you must find treated water specially bought for you and carried into your room for you by one of the school's staff.  Brushing your teeth takes on a whole new flavor, usually starting at the sink, realizing you cant use the water coming out of the tap, so you shuffle down the hall to the water cooler, there to be met by 2-3 other Americans with wet toothbrushes in their mouths, coming to fill their water bottles with clean water so they can finish what they started.  Giggling with a mouth full of toothpaste can be quite messy!

My first hot shower when I come home from Haiti is a sacred experience as well.  I like to drink from the shower spray, another habit I avoid in Haiti.  Feeling the abundant  hot water pour over me reminds me of the many things we take for granted in our American, comfortable lives.
Susan Nelson

Amazing Grace

Amazing grace, how sweet though art, to have an no armed boy of about 4 years old come up to you and want up on your lap during the church service. Up he wiggles and moves like all boys do. But there are no handles with this one. I ever realized how much I counted on a child’s arms to steady them on your lap. There is, however, a smile and a set of eyes that can pierce and touch my soul.   During the service it was time for us to cross ourselves, so I did so for him wondering in my heart had he ever had this done for him before.  Since I didn’t know his name, I turned and prayed believing that the Holy Trinity must surely know this boy already or there would be no need to ever cross myself again? Like children everywhere he wanted down, so I put him down and off he ran to be with other kids. I thanked God for the touching moment completely satisfied that this small boy with no arms had touched me.  I few minutes go by then all of a sudden I feel someone kicking the back of my folding chair and he is back and wants back up on my lap.  So up he comes and the next thing I see is he is leaning over me and sticking his tongue out at Tess who is sitting beside me.  This kid has both of us laughing during mass.  Tess whispered that she had done it to him when we were giving him his physical. Then I realized just how trusting this child is of me since just the other day I stuck him on the earlobe to get a drop of blood to check his iron level.  He not only came back to me, but wanted to get attention from me - that was just such a heartfelt, loving moment that rarely happens. It was amazing how someone so bright and small, I don’t think he weighed more than 35 pounds, could have such an impact on me. I found out later that night, from his school medical records, that he is 8 years old.  But like most children in Haiti they are much smaller than they would be at that age in the USA.  This boy was so full of happiness, love and trust that I couldn’t help but feel that he was the definition of grace.  It was truly amazing to see him so full of love and hope and trust. His faith and God’s love have already touched this child of God; it is me that is the crippled one! May God someday give me this boy’s faith? Amazing grace how sweet though art? Who put his faith in me?     
sent in by John Mutin        

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Re Entry

Yesterday was my first day to wake up in Memphis since our recent trip. I find myself thinking about putting my life back together. That sounds dramatic, but it really does feel like re -entry into another world. Tears come to my eyes at stupid things like turning on the faucet. Driving down the highway, I wonder, "where are all the people?" and notice road signs and traffic lights, things which are rare or non existent in Haiti. People actually drive on the right side of the road, rather than filling any available space (Bill Squire tells me the only traffic rule in Haiti is: If there is an open space, fill it!)

I wonder about my other team members, how are they coping with the shock. I can't stand to look at a television and see advertisements for all the things we must buy. The thought of Christmas shopping makes me nauseated.

Jennifer sent me a photo of Diana Vincent with a red foam clown nose and her beautiful smile. I shared her photo with my staff and some of my patients, trying to bridge the gap between the two worlds. Capturing the joy of her life and her learning to walk a few steps, when 2 years ago I thought she would never survive. My heart is full of those children and their smiles when I walk through the gates of the school. This was my best Christmas gift, to see the love of God in the people of Haiti.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Improvements at St. Vincents

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the children are generally much healthier than I have seen them in the past. I have included a copy of an email I sent to Pere Leon Sadoni, priest in charge of St Vincent's school since March 2009. In only 2 1/2 years, and despite the terrible destruction of the earthquake Jan 12, 2010, he has accomplished miraculous things at the school.
Dear Pere Sadoni,
I thought I would write to you about the many things I noticed during my trip to St Vincent's, things which I am thankful for. Some of the things seem silly, but I list them because they are signs of the hard work you are doing to improve the school and care for its children.

I am thankful for:
-trash cans in every room in the clinic (believe it or not, this is very helpful and important)
-a pharmacy. It used to be that whatever we brought to St Vincent's would be completely gone by the time we came again. Now the pharmacy is safe and secure, and many supplies are there for us to use.
-Madame Noel, the pharmacy tech. We did not used to have someone to help us write the labels and explain in Kreyol to the patients. Now we have someone to take care of the medicines and also to give vitamins to the children every day
-the vitamin program. The children are healthier, Pere Sadoni, than they have ever been. I only found 3 kids with anemia (low iron levels) during this trip. This is truly amazing. On previous trips we found many children with hemoglobin levels of 6 or 7 (normal is 10-12). This trip I can see that they have been getting their vitamins regularly. Thank you.
-None of the St Vincent's kids had worms. Not one. None had scabies (lice). This is stunning. Previous trips I have treated many children for scabies, which spreads in the dormitories easily. Please tell the staff I appreciate that they are keeping the children clean, their beds clean, and the children healthy.

All of these things mean that you and the staff are doing a very good job taking care of the children.

Thank you for all your hard work.

Sincerely,
Susan Nelson

Update on rebuilding

Children's Medical Mission of Haiti is the primary funding organization for St Vincent's School. Their director is Father Bill Squire. For an informative update on the status of the school and its rebuilding plans, including some nice photos, please visit their website: http://www.cmmh.org/

Sunday, December 4, 2011

LAST DAY AT ST. VINCENT'S

Today began with worship service at Holy Trinity Cathedral. The Cathedral building was nearly completely destroyed in the earthquake, so the congregation meets under a tent in the courtyard next door to the old cathedral. There were about 50 people there including a choir of angels. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing was the first hymn, in French of course. The four part harmony was so beautiful it affected all of us. The incense was powerful and a little strong for a few of our team members, but I loved it! During the offertory they had their annual gathering of pledge cards, and it was quite moving to see people bring their cards and put them into the box at the altar. People who live in tents and may have little to eat, still offering their gifts to support the work of the church. One of the Communion Hymns was in english, and a particular line was, "Fill our lives with grace". I told Pere Sadoni later that sitting in Haiti, listening to the choir sing, my life was definitely filled with grace.
After service ended we enjoyed lunch prepared especially for us by Rev. Fernan. She is the only woman priest in Haiti and is the director of Holy Trinity School. This school, she told us, was founded in 1913 and before the earthquake had 900 students. Since the entire school was destroyed in the earthquake, they now meet in temporary classrooms made of plywood. These cannot be made secure, so they cant keep computers or books or even desks inside the classrooms. She struggles to provide a meal every day for all the students, now about 750 from age 3 (preschool) to 10th grade. They are expanding, in order to graduate their first high school seniors in 2013, the 100th year since the school's founding. One would wonder why they want to expand the school when they can't feed the students they have; but the school has an excellent reputation and the parents have begged Rev Fernan to expand the grades to include middle and later high school; it formerly went only to 6th grade. Jean Robert, our translator, grew up at Holy Trinity where he learned to play the violin. He played for us while we ate delicious pumpkin soup, with mandarin oranges for dessert. Pumpkin soup is a Haitian specialty, and like other Haitian dishes, sounds exotic and strange and tastes fantastic.
After lunch we went to a Haitian arts market and did a little souvenir shopping. That was fun! Practicing my Kreyol while bargaining with the merchants.
We returned to St Vincent's to spend a final afternoon with the children. Kellar and Bob played basketball with some of the kids, using a 4 foot tall basket and a small rubber ball. There were a few balloons left from yesterday's celebration which were batted around, including the Walgreens GET YOUR FLU SHOT balloon which is still floating around! Sherye got out coloring books and crayons and Tess (Sherye's daughter) and Krystina (deaf interpreter from Connecticut) made macrame bracelets with the children. There was a cool breeze and it was absolutely delightful. I sat on the concrete steps and invited Mackenson to get his guitar and play for me, which he did. Mackenson is 16 years old and I have known him for several years. He told me he wants to be an engineer, and is studying physics and math at the Episcopal High School down the street from St Vincent's. Mackenson lives at St Vincent's because his mother, Naomi, who was a cook at the school, was killed in the earthquake, along with his 12 year old brother, Jobson. Sienna and Mackenson are good friends. He played a song which he says Sienna taught him, then we sang some songs together, each trying to think of a song the other might know. I told him one of my favorite hymns is Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, and when I hummed the tune he picked it out on the guitar, then strummed the chords and we sang it together. Actually I hummed it because I dont know all the words! But I will never hear that hymn again without the memory of being in Haiti. Frenel came to sit in my lap. He is nearly blind but showed me that he could see a little bit, as he described the colors on my bracelet. The macrame bracelet, made for me by Sherye, with colored beads. It soon came off and found its way onto Frenel's wrist.
Frenel has a beautiful voice and sang with Mackenson some Haitian songs he knew, then his friend Jean Marc joined us. Jean Marc is also blind and was happily sitting in Jennifer's lap next to me on the steps. Jennifer is a physical therapist from Memphis, and neither of us has a singing voice but it did not matter. The children are happy to have attention and to show their talents. It is one of the hardest things I have to do when it is time to get on the bus and leave the school on the last day, knowing I will not see the children for many months.

Susan Nelson

Day 5 in Haiti: coloring with the blind

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of St VIncent, which remembers the International Day of the Handicapped. Started the day with worship service at the school, Randy McCloy and Bob Hooper vested and served at the altar with Bishop Duracin and Pere Sadoni. Randy read the gospel in English (that Tennessee accent REALLY STANDS OUT if you've been listening to Kreyol and French for the remainder of the service). Bob gave communion to the kids....picture little hands reaching out all at once to receive the host. LIttle pieces of the body of Christ, everybody excited to get some!
During the service, we sat under a large tent which had been temporarily placed in the courtyard for that purpose. Balloons and streamers were tied to the poles of the tent. The balloons are interesting in themselves, since one of them was a halloween balloon with orange pumpkins on black, another was for St Patricks day with green shamrocks. I pointed out one balloon to Keisha because it said "Get your Flu Shot" and had the Walgreens logo on it! (Keisha and Asha both work at Walgreens pharmacy in Memphis.) About every 10 minutes a loud BANG would make me jump, another balloon bursting. Later I asked Bob Hooper (priest from Connecticut) if his preaching is powerful enough to pop balloons.
After church, some of our group had coloring books and sat with the kids. Joan (priest from Connecticut) was sitting with one of the blind children, happily explaining the colors to him so he could choose each different crayon and color with first one, then another.
Only at St Vincent's would you color pictures with a blind child, and think nothing was unusual.
Later, as we were waiting for our ride to come and take us back to the guest house, I heard the familiar honking of the car horn outside the gate of St Vincent's. The staff were cleaning up after the party, sweeping ribbons and discarded trash out of the courtyard. Children were running about, some talking with Sherye (signing, actually) and some sitting in Drew's lap as always.
No one responded to the car honking. I looked about and wondered, "Why doesn't someone open the gate?" Then it dawned on me. THEY'RE ALL DEAF. I spotted JoJo and asked him to get someone to open the gate, after having a good laugh at myself.

Susan Nelson

Saturday, December 3, 2011

4:30 AM SOUNDS IN HAITI

Here I am at 4:30 AM again, writing about Haiti because I am unable to sleep anymore. Must be some of those "stress hormones" in action.
The guest house is quiet with sleeping souls, a few snores coming from the rooms. Of course, the night is anything but quiet. Sitting near an open door, I hear crickets. Cars going by on the road outside the gate. Dogs barking. The ever present rooster crowing. There is a bird which makes this incredible laughing sound as it flies through the palm trees. Our guest hostess, Gail Buck, tells me they call it the "monkey bird". It is easy to see where it got its name.
This evening we had a most delicious supper, full of dishes I did not recognize that all tasted wonderful. Some sort of salad with sliced chicken, garbanzo beans, bits of pineapple and fresh tomato. Another dish with chunks of grilled fish and vegetables. The most popular item looked like black oatmeal. Honestly. We have all become adventurous in our culinary habits, and knowing how good everything else tastes at the guest house, we tried it. Many folks had second and third helpings. It has a Haitian name, but "black bean risotto" is the most apt description I could come up with. There is a shaker of seasoning on the table with the name "Habanero Harmony". I love spicy food, so that sounded like just the thing for me. The label describes it as "inspired salt". It makes everything taste fantastic, from eggs to salad to the "black bean whatever". Maybe I can find some today at the market. We hope to go to an arts/crafts market today discovered by Ruthie online.
After supper many of us sat together and shared stories of the day, stories of trips past. Margaret told me a story I had not heard before, about something that happened to her in April 2010 when we went to Montrouis shortly after the earthquake. The kids had been evacuated from St Vincent's, which was in ruins, to a village on the coast where there is an old seminary campground. The grounds are right on the beach, and in the mornings and evenings we would sit on the stone wall looking out over the ocean. One morning Margaret was there, enjoying the peace and beauty of the shore and the water, watching the fishermen work their boats. Jean Robert was playing his violin, a beautiful sound above the gentle waves. One of the St Vincent's staff was sitting with 2 of her children, talking to Margaret. She had a two year old girl in her arms. Suddenly she put the girl in Margaret's lap and said, "Take this child", meaning of course, Take this child to the States. She was crying when she said this. Margaret started crying as well and told the woman, "This child needs to grow up in Haiti, because she will become a lawyer and work in the courts to help her people".
Margaret's story reminded me of baby Margaret, who was abandoned at St Vincent's 2 years ago while we were at St Vincent's, at the school before it fell down in the earthquake. It was November, Advent. I thought then about the tears of the mother who had to leave her child in the hopes she would be cared for. What must it be like to try to raise a handicapped child in Haiti, where food is scarce, medical services expensive. Raising a child with special needs is difficult even in the States, with all the resources we have available. We saw baby Margaret today, brought to the school by her foster mom who is caring for her and another disabled child named Vincent. Vincent was abandoned at the school last year during our trip to St Vincent's, again during Advent. We were blessed to be part of the baptism of each of these children. The intense experience of being in Haiti brings to life the message of Advent, that God loves this weary world still, that he has not forsaken us. Seeing a brilliantly blooming bougainvillea with pink and white flowers growing out of a collapsed building, speaks to me of God's faithfulness, God as Emmanuel.

Susan Nelson

Friday, December 2, 2011

Day 4 in Haiti - Face painting

We have seen about 150 patients over the past 3 days. The children are healthy, gaining weight, and almost no anemia. We have a vitamin program where every child gets a multivitamin with iron every day. The West Tennessee Haiti Partnership has supplied the vitamins and St Vincent's has hired a pharmacy tech to supervise not only the school pharmacy but the daily vitamin program. The pharmacy tech, Madame Fortil Noel, goes to each classroom every day with enough vitamins for every child. We measure hemoglobin levels on every child that comes through the clinic. The hemoglobin level is a way to measure iron levels, in other words, anemia. 2 years ago it was common to find children with hemoglobin levels of 6 or 7 (normal is >12) and very rare to find hemoglobin levels of 11 or 12. This trip we found only 3 kids with low hemoglobin levels. Interestingly, they were all teenage girls. I asked the girls if they were getting their vitamin every day. Like teenage girls everywhere, they cant be bothered with taking vitamins (or anything else directed by adults). I scolded one girl, " I work very hard to bring these vitamins to Haiti, you'd BETTER start taking them every day!" I am so happy to see the children healthy and happy. John Mutin even suggested to me that we might not need to check hemoglobin levels on every kid anymore since they are all normal now. What a testament to the power of the vitamin program, the power of a small idea pursued with diligence, supported by many people bringing their bottles of vitamins for us to transport to Haiti.
After we finished clinic today, we planned time for Tess Cannito to organize face painting for the children. Not only face painting, but nail polishing and coloring. Picture Dr Randy McCloy and his son, Kellar, organizing the coloring book activity. Dr Jennifer Holbourn, Ruth Lentz, Keisha Land and Asha Cooper (the latter two are our pharmacists) painted nails on boys AND girls. The kids would get their nails painted, then go outside and scratch off the polish so they could return and have them painted again. The boys lined up to get their toes painted also!
Another fun activity was decorating aprons. Tess set up pans with acrylic paint, for the children to put their hands into. Then PRESTO handprints on the canvas aprons. They are drying tonight, so we can give them as gifts to some of the adult staff tomorrow.
Tomorrow is the Feast of St Vincent, which celebrates the International Day for Handicapped Persons. We will have a "Grand Fete" with a worship service in the morning, followed by kids singing and dancing. Tess plans to organize the kids to make macrame bracelets with beads. I am looking forward to celebrating with the kids, having a fun day without working in the clinic and "sticking their fingers" for blood tests.
There were many joyous and more sad moments today, material for later blog entries. For now I will say thank you again to all of you who make this trip possible. I wake up every morning in Haiti thinking, "I can't believe I'm in Haiti" and can go to work every day taking care of these children and staff at the school. I am starting to feel the regret of leaving, even though we are here for 2 more days.

Susan Nelson

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 2 in Haiti- WHERE ARE THE MEDICAL CARDS?

I slept wonderfully last night, which is saying something in Haiti. The temperature is a cool 70 degrees at night, with a lovely breeze. Even the constant barking dogs did not keep me awake. How wonderful to escape the world of alarm clocks and cell phones.....ummmm....what is that ringing sound!!! Everyone in my room (there are six women in one room) awakened at 5 AM to the sound of a cell phone ringing.... two of us stumbled out of bed, trying to find the ringing phone in the pitch dark. It sounded like it was coming from under the bed next to mine. Jennifer helpfully found a flashlight while I was staring at the bed where the sound was coming from. Except that the person in the bed next to mine is deaf. Why would she have a cell phone alarm ringing at 5 AM? After what seemed like 5 minutes, the ringing stopped. I climbed back into bed, blissfully covering my face with the sheet, and RING. ..... there it goes again. Now it was funny. Hope started giggling, and now I was fully awake. About every 5 minutes after that, the phone would ring briefly.
Eventually we figured out the phone was in the room NEXT to ours, so the ringing was coming from just on the other side of the wall at the head of my bed. The owner of the cell phone was, shall we say, "sufficiently disciplined".
After breakfast, we were picked up by Pere Sadoni to go to the school and set up the clinic. How grand to drive throught the gates of St Vincent's, and see familiar smiling faces. Jo Jo greeted us as always. Jean Robert had his big grin and warm welcome. Drew and I set off right away with Jean Robert to find a local pharmacy, to purchase medicine for malaria and worms. We can't really buy these in large quantities for reasonable prices in the US, so we always buy them in Haiti. We were offered a driver, but I preferred to walk. However, after walking for 45 minutes and finding 3 closed pharmacies, I was beginning to wonder if we should have driven anyway. But the ever capable Jean Robert found us a pharmacy near the University Hospital, and we found what we wanted. Jean Robert taught me a new phrase today, "mwen bra dwat" which means "my right hand". Fortunately the 4th pharmacy was only 2 blocks from the school, so the walk back was a lot shorter.
We returned to St Vincent's, expecting everything to be set up to start clinic and run the pharmacy. It was, except that John Mutin could not find the medical cards. These are 5x7 cards, specially printed for our trips, which we use as both medical record and prescription card for patients to carry to the pharmacy. The cards help us stay organized in the clinic, help identify patients and keep track of what diagnosis, what medicine was prescribed, etc. John had searched through 2 dozen suitcases, unpacking all the other medical supplies, but no cards. After much fruitless searching we decided to use notebook paper instead, which basically functions but is more fragile and does not have the pre-printed information that the cards contain. At any rate, we got through clinic without them. We saw about 30 patients today, and Dr Jennifer Holbourn (the flashlight helper from 5 AM) worked in the physical therapy clinic. She is a doctor of manual therapy, and I have been very excited to bring her to St Vincent's to work with the handicapped children. Today the most wonderful thing happened. I saw Diana Vincent walking, using the parallel bars. Diana has cerebral palsy and is an orphan, having been abandoned by her mother at the age of 2 at St Vincent's. The first time I met Diana in 2008 she was so sick with pneumonia she couldn't lift her head off the pillow. Now she is growing and getting regular physical therapy and is actually learning to walk. We called several team members to come see, and cameras flashed like she was Jennifer Lopez. Many tears of joy were shed at seeing this darling girl with the beautiful smile take a few steps. We are inspired by the hope that she will not end up like some of the other children we know, confined to a wheelchair all her life.
Back at the guesthouse, after supper and determined to find those medical cards, I looked in a suitcase which was sitting by the door. Apparently it had been overlooked when we took our baggage to the school with all our supplies. Yes, there were the cards, along with rolled gauze (which John had been looking for in the clinic earlier) and several injectable medications, boxes of gloves, soap, and a host of very useful supplies! Ah well, at least we found it before our last day in Haiti.
We are planning to have Compline soon and close the day in thanksgiving for the progress we see at St Vincent's, the joy in the faces of our Haitian friends and the sheer delight at being in a place where God's blessings are so evident.


Susan Nelson

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Arrival Nov. 29 2011

We have safely arrived in Haiti and are now at the guest house, having enjoyed a tasty Haitian meal with fried plantains, black beans and rice, and my favorite dish, piclise. Our day in Memphis began at 4:30 AM arrival at the airport. We took off on time despite the snow in Memphis and connected easily in Charlotte. The Miami airport was an adventure as always, with 3 team members having to obtain boarding passes which for some reason were not issued in Memphis. We also encountered a very intense security guard at one point who threated to call the police to arrest us for walking past a barrier. But despite the anxieties, we met up with folks from Connecticut, North Carolina and Wash DC and got safely to Haiti with all our bags! A miracle in itself. The second miracle is how we fit 16 Americans into one minivan (2 of us went in a separate vehicle). Pere Sadoni told us the van was supposed to carry 18 people. It must mean 18 Haitians, because 16 Americans could barely squeeze in. Its a good thing we like each other. Thanks to all for the many prayers that got us here safely. It is about 72 deg now, breezy, and we are all very tired but happy to be in Haiti.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Trip to Haiti Nov 29-Dec5

We are going to Haiti in less than 24 hours.  So naturally I am up at 4 AM thinking about it.  We have 19 folks traveling with us this time, from North Carolina, Connecticut, Washington DC, New Orleans and Memphis.  The love of God which is so evident at St Vincent's, draws people from all over the country.  I am even taking a set of letters from a boys' school in Canada, written to the kids and handcarried by me.  The letter exchanges started about a year ago, and I will bring letters back from the St Vincent's kids, to mail back to Royal St George's College in Alberta.  I always feel like I am transporting great treasure when I carry these letters from one set of children to another.

So the last few days have been full of excitement, early morning awakenings, and flashes of momentary panic.  Calls to John Mutin "I forgot to buy lollipops!!!"  (for the children who come to the clinic).  Do we have enough batteries?  Where is the -FILL IN NAME OF MEDICAL EQUIPMENT HERE-"
Calls to Sherye "Did you tell everyone to bring a bathing suit?  Did you get stickers for the kids?  Do the team members have everyone's phone number?  Did you tell them to take their malaria medication..."  Each of these questions was a SEPARATE phone call, mind you.

Sitting at my computer yesterday morning, I suddenly couldn't remember booking my flight to Haiti.  Of course I did this in September, but for a long 10 minutes I was searching my email for the CONFIRMATION email from Orbitz.  Couldn't remember it was from Orbitz, so it took a while to find it.  What happened to the days when they MAILED you an actual ticket!!!  My brain is not conditioned to keep up with all this digital stuff.  My kids shudder when I hand them a piece of paperwork to keep up with.  They keep everything in their phone.

I realize that my anxiety is mostly founded on the feeling that I am not prepared for this trip, that I am not bringing enough supplies, that somehow despite months of planning I will fail to use all the resources available to me to do the most possible good for the children of St Vincent's.  Of course, there is no way to meet the vast needs we will encounter.  We can only bring what little we have and offer it in love. But I still worry that I am not doing enough. 


So to all of you wonderful  Haiti supporters who pray for our safety and our work in Haiti, get your knee pads ready.  We depart early Tuesday morning and return late Monday, Dec 5.  Pray for the safety of our medical supplies (no diversions by customs agents or anyone else) and especially for the Haitian people we will see in our clinic.  Pray that my Kreyol is better than it actually is.  Pray that our team members will be able to offer all the love and gifts we have been given, to share with our Haitian friends.

I hope to send posts to the blog while we are in Haiti.  If you are not already a follower, you may want to add your email to the "Follower" list.

Thank you all for your endless support
Susan Nelson

Dieumene update

Soon after my last post regarding Dieumene, I received a call from Christina Porter, she is with Child Springs International which is an organization in Atlanta which brings Haitian children to the states for surgery. Turns out they did Dieumene’s original surgery when she was 8 years old! And they are willing to arrange for her followup surgery. If that is not a miracle, then I don’t know what is.
I  forwarded the x-rays and other information to Child Springs.  They have experience with obtaining the passport/visa and other paperwork and everything else required to arrange this type of operation.

The xrays were reviewed by Dr Carl Fackler, a scoliosis specialist who offers his services to Child Spring International.  He determined that Dieumene does NOT need emergency surgery.  They will keep in touch with Dr Beauvoir, the orthopedic doctor at St Vincent's, to monitor Dieumene's situation.  And when I get to Haiti (in 2 days) I will give Dieumene a medical checkup to see what else might be causing her shortness of breath.  Apparently it is not related to her spinal problem.
Many thanks to those of you who quickly offered your help for Dieumene. And please offer thanks to our amazing God who moved this process forward at warp speed, it seems.


Susan Nelson

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dieumene needs surgery

We have received news from Dr Georges Beauvoir, the orthopedic surgeon who is now on staff at St Vincent's School. Dieumene had surgery on her spine, for scoliosis, when she was about 8 years old. Recently she has developed pain in her upper back and some difficulty breathing at times. According to Dr Beauvoir, the Harrington rod in her spine has separated from the vertebral column and needs to be repaired. He does not think she can get this type of surgery in Haiti.

Please start praying for a way to help Dieumene find someone to do this surgery for her in the United States, or possibly Canada.
Everyone who has visited St Vincent's knows Dieumene Cloristin, she is a vibrant personality and has big plans for her future. I hope somehow our Haiti partnership network can help her. If you have any ideas or connections to recommend, please post a comment on the blog for me to review.
Susan Nelson

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Making Nutrition a Sustainable Business in Haiti - NYTimes.com

Paste this address into your browser to read about Abbott pharmaceuticals sponsoring local Haitian workers to sort peanuts and help in manufacturing of Medika Mamba, a nutritious peanut based food supplement that can save lives of severely malnourished children.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/02/giving/making-nutrition-a-sustainable-business-in-haiti.html

Monday, October 31, 2011

Partnership program- letter from Pere Kesner Ajax

From: Kesner AJAX [mailto:kesnerajax@yahoo.com]
Sent: Friday, October 28, 2011 5:31 PM

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings from Haiti from the Partnership Program of the Diocese of Haiti!

I want to begin by thanking all of you for the contributions of time and treasure that you have made to our partner churches, schools, clinics, sanitation programs, reforestation programs, feeding programs, microcredit organizations, and all of our other ministries.

School in Haiti has begun, despite financial difficulties in most districts. School was scheduled to begin in September but was pushed back until October in many places for those financial reasons. It's heartening to see the children en route to school in the mornings now.

We hope that our children will have a happy and blessed year, and thanks to you, we think that will be possible.

I am still using the Agape Flights account address listed below to receive mail, gifts and support for your Haitian partners.

I would like to especially thank Roger Bowen, who does so much from the United States to connect your schools with our schools. I would also like to thank Angela Galbreath for her continued hard work in organizing your visits and experiences inPort-Au-Prince. Mr. Sikhumbuzo Vundla, the Chief Operating Officer for the Diocese of Haiti, has been an integral part of our work as well. These people, and so many others, work tirelessly to serve the people of Haiti. Thank you.

Your gifts are in large part responsible for the successful start of many of our schools. Thanks to you, we've built new classrooms, hired experienced teachers, bought school supplies, and generally equipped these schools to provide the best service possible to their students. Again, thank you for this!

We welcome you as you plan visits with your partners in Haiti. We look forward to greeting you, learning with you, and growing in faith together.

Hoping this finds you well in all the many places where you live, work, and worship.

Please continue to offer your prayers for the strength and faith of the Diocese of Haiti.

In Christ,

The Rev. Kesner Ajax

Executive Director, Bishop Tharp Institute (BTI)
Partnership program coordinator, Episcopal Diocese of Haiti
Priest in Charge, Ascension Church, Beraud.

Mailing address:
c/o Agape Flights acc# 2519
100 Airport Ave
Venice Fl. 34285

Tels. 011-509-3445-3346
011-509-3724-8376

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sienna at the beach

Hello!! I'm so sorry I missed so many days. The beach had no internet, then when we came home the internet was busted. I meant to catch up this afternoon but instead spent a frustrating two hours completing an alcohol edu thing for school. Anyway...(just so you know this keyboard has no enter key. So one big wall of text for you guys. Enjoy) I left off at the beach. The night before we left Shelley mentioned that she would love to leave around seven, but realistically we probably couldn't get out the door until eight, just know that fifteen people and their stuff and food would have to be packed up first. The three youngest and most impatient children on the trip were sitting in the back of the pickup asking "when are we leaving?" way before the adults had finished packing, unpacking, and repacking the four coolers full of food several times. I could include many details of our long battle to get out the door, but just know that all fifteen of us, our backpacks containing 3 days' clothes, and enough food for all of us for three days all drove to Zanglais in one medium sized pickup truck. The bed of the truck had a layer of all the backpacks, then we sat on top. Nine of us, anyway. Did I mention this was a five hour drive? Every few minutes water, bread, and fried plaintains were passed back through a window. It was nice for about 90 minutes...after that I tried to pretend I didn't exist.

But man oh man was it worth the permanent damage to our tailbones. We stayed in a house at the top of a hill overlooking the shore. It was probably 20 degrees cooler than Port au Prince and gorgeous...trees and grass (grass in Haiti!) When we first walked down to the beach I was surprised to hear a BLEH-H-H-H coming from some disgruntled goats who didn't like having to share their beach with us. The sand there is darker than most beaches, but fine and soft and free of shells and rocks. I spent most of my time in Zanglais at the beach (gee, really?) On our second morning there we saw several boys pulling in a fishing net. It took them forever, I mean hours. They were reeling in more and more and more rope for the entire morning. Gradually more people came to help them pull in an endless amount of rope. It wasn't until the afternoon that they finally pulled their net in, which had 300-400 sizable fish in it, including a swordfish!

The boys' (and I mean the Tlucek boys: Dom who is eight, Ben and Joe who are ten, and a friend Jeff who is fourteen. Oh and their 12 year old sister Katie) favorite activity is bogey boarding on the waves. I was their chaperone for most of the time because the adults wanted some quiet time. So I jumped over waves, or sometimes they jumped over me.

So the beach wasn't EVENTFUL, really, but it was marvelous. I forgot to tell you how my face was black with dirt and sweat and sunscreen and bugspray after the car ride and I was STILL burned to a crisp, but I photographed it and will let the world know later.

Friday, the day after we went to the beach, I got to go to St. Vincent's at last. It was bittersweet because it was only a one day visit, and usually I get to spend several days there. But I was very grateful to be able to visit at all. Pere Sadoni (the director, and my mom and I's friend) told me that it was the last day of a camp for the deaf kids that some Americans had organized. Marvelous! I was very excited to talk to them about how it went, which activites they had planned, how they organized the program, but my lack of knowledge of sign language caught up with me again: the Americans were deaf. They read lips pretty well but I didn't pursue a lengthy conversation. I spent most of the day playing the violin for anyone who cared to listen. My friend Mackenson, who plays guitar, had an essential elements book one with a lot of easy treble clef stuff in it, so we played several songs together for a few hours; it was great. I talked to Clauricianne for an hour or so, a much needed practice session for my creole. Frenel told me that he has la grippe, something I feel like I recall him saying last time also...

Pere Sadoni took me out to lunch at the Plaza hotel, a place I've never been before, but my mom and her medical team are planning to stay there in November. It was truly luxurious: indoors, so many fans it felt like air conditioning, real paper menus instead of handwritten posterboard scrawl, and soda. With ice. To die for.

When I returned to the school in the afternoon, after a few more hours of music and catching up with Clauricianne and Mackenson, the Americans had a party for the deaf kids. It was quite a feast: every kid and parent or guest got a full meal with rice and beans, chicken, potato salad, lasagna, and noodles, and a drink of choice, and a generous slice of cake. The volunteers who had run the camp said a few words; the one American who wasn't deaf told the deaf American, in English, what he wanted her to say. She signed it to the group, then Pere Sadoni translated her sign into Creole for the non deaf guests. So english to sign to creole. It was very St. Vincent's. I was sad to leave but so grateful that I had been able to visit my friends at the school, even if just for one day.

Finally caught up to today, Saturday! Slept in again, this time until eight (I really am getting atrociously lazy). The Tluceks have a new building that they want to get ready so that some of the Haitian children that are living in their house can live in the new childrens' home instead, get some good structure, and hopefully give the Tluceks a little more peace (ha, ha). So today we cleaned. We went through bins, boxes, and duffel bags. We sorted, folded, and threw out a ton of stuff. Shelley hires a staff to help her clean and organize the house, except much of the time that staff apparently crams things into boxes and hides them in a corner to get them out of the way, hoping Shelley won't notice. That's how the Tluceks got their growing corners filled with mystery items: bags and bags of huge bolts of fabric, missing drills, rosters from camp, music books, coloring books, science books, beads, did I mention TONS of fabric?? I also went through hundreds of bathing suits today and carefully arranged them according to gender and size before cramming them back into a bin again. I also offered to make curtains for the new childrens' home, with assistance...let's hope that goes well tomorrow.

In the midst of writing this note I had to stop and kneel by the two little girls sleeping on the floor of my room and try to coax them to sleep with some hymns, which did NOT work so I uprooted myself and the borrowed computer into the foyer in the hopes that the darker lighting would get them to sleep. Of course at this point I still haven't taken my shower, so I'll have to either turn the light on in there and risk waking them up or search for my clothes and soap in the dark, which is what I'll likely do...

Last fun tidbit of the evening. I cut up mangoes for dinner tonight...MAN is that a sticky, messy job. Mango up to my elbows. The front of my shirt is still COVERED in the stringy yellow stuff. I tried to take a picture but it looked like a myspace angle shot, so just use your imagination.

When I am doing something here in Haiti I imagine ways to get various friends involved. I just want to include everyone so they can enjoy it as much as I do. I think, I could think up some prograo do with this, and get this person to help...Or, wouldn't she be good at this? This person would love playing with the baby, Onaldia. This person could pick up Creole really well. This person could cook for the whole house. May sound strange, but I miss you guys and think of you constantly!! Careful, I may try to drag you down here with me next time.

P.S. during closing prayer after dinner the baby started banging a pot on the floor, lol

sent in by Sienna Nelson

Thursday, August 11, 2011

day 2 in Haiti- Sienna

Editor's note: Sienna posted this on Facebook and I am just now getting it to the blog. Apologies. This post was from Monday night, I believe, Aug 8.


I slept in today. Until 7:30 that is. Everyone else woke up at four so I was a little behind. I made my first pitcher of powdered milk and then did dishes for two hours or so (it's amazing how long it takes with so many people). I also scrambled eggs for three of the boys. Let's just say cooking on a propane gas stove in Haiti gives meaning to the phraose slaving over a hot stove. I tried to keep my sweat from dripping into the food, although the boys did mention the eggs were a little salty, so...
The most eventful part of today was grocery shopping, which may sound trivial, but Tlucek/Haitian style makes you feel like you've just done a triathlon. We went shopping in Petionville, which is about ten miles from the house. So, a two hour drive in 5:00 traffic (yes, they have it here too). We warmed up by going to a gas station, then trekked further up the mountain to a store called Giant Supermarket. May not have been giant by our standards but it was certainly high end, looked as clean and organized as any Kroger. I learned a bit about the cost of living in Haiti: double, triple what it is in the states. Everything is imported and it's outrageously expensive. A jar of mayonnaise? Eleven dollars. (Interruption - everyone is currently frantically running around trying to deal with a bird that has gotten stuck under one of the boys' beds, ha) But ELEVEN DOLLARS? I was shocked. I couldn't believe living in Haiti could cost more than living in the US. I asked Shelley about it and she said they spend about $30 a night just keeping the generator running...and that's just at night, for fans I guess. But power, water, food, everything cost a ton. The Tluceks live entirely off donations...yikes. Being a missionary is tough.
I also learned a bit about the history of some of the teenage boys staying with the Tluceks. They all moved in after the earthquake. One boy, who is fifteen now, was injured in the earthquake, and after a week of no treatment his fracture got infected. He spent nine months in a hospital in the US and had no less than 11 surgeries. He's fifteen. I never would have known because he looks perfectly healthy. I asked him how to cut a mango today actually and he looked at me like I was joking. Perhaps it was deserved.
Oops, power is flickering.
ANYWAY. We didn't just go to the Giant Supermarket, which had products written in French, English, Spanish, and Arabic, but no Creole...we also went to two other grocery stores and a bakery. No big deal, right? Well you try it. BIG DEAL. Especially since the mountain roads are sort of terrible and my head was consistently banging against the side of the truck. That was more amusing than anything, though, and I was glad to see Petionville again. Oh, they also have a guard with a full sized rifle outside every grocery store.
Tomorrow we are going to Zanglais, the beach! I had a semi difficult time packing just two days of clothes in my little backpack, since 15 of us are going and we don't need my giant suitcase taking up all that room. Hot dogs and mangoes for dinner tonight...I might have some follow up mangoes before I go to bed. Love those things.
In case you guys are wondering when the productivity will begin, when we get back from the beach we're going to start moving into the children's home...I think the Tluceks have a new building they need to set up. So I won't just be lounging...mostly not anyway. Orevwa pou kounye a! (byebye for nooooow)Sent from my iPhone sent in by Sienna Nelson

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sienna Day 2 in Haiti

Despite much anxiety the flight(s) yesterday were completely smooth. My bag was right there at the baggage claim, and Shelley, the lady whose family I'm staying with, was right outside the airport exit to pick me up.
The Tlucek house is a little crazy. There are Shelley and Byron, the couple who run the house, and their six children. There are also two sisters, a one year old and five year old, who arrived just yesterday too. Then there are four other boys...one five year old and three teenagers. Plus the group of thirteen people that has been here for a week already, and two teenage girls who work and live in the house also. Plus at least two local friends who are visiting. Oh and I forgot two other volunteers who have been here all summer, and another girl who just arrived on Tuesday...yeah... last night we had 38 people for dinner! and apparently the week before I came it was 48. Keep in mind this house is about the size of mine.

I just missed English camp, a six week program where they had 250 kids here every day! The people here are exhausted. I wanted to find a way to be helpful so when I woke up this morning I washed dishes for what seemed like four hours. I did all the dishes from dinner the night before, and then we had lunch and I did those dishes too. But every time I walk in the kitchen the sink is still piled high!We went to a metal works village today, which is not actually a village but a gated area with about 20 shops full of handmade metal pieces. I was glad to hear we were going somewhere because I was eager to get out and see the city but I didn't think I would be too impressed by the things I saw or want to buy anything, because I'd seen a lot of this stuff before in the cathedral giftshop and street vendors' wares. But I was amazed. The first room I walked into, all four walls were completely covered in metal arkwork: trees, lizards, mermaids, suns, animals, everything. Some were purely decorative but some had hooks for hanging stuff, or mirrors, which I fell in love with. I walked into every shop looking at the different mirrors: circular, rectangular, heart shaped, with birds on the border or palm trees or sun rays. Small mirrors, HUGE mirrors (which I loved but no way I could fit in a suitcase), everything imaginable. I was really annoyed that I had only brought twenty bucks with me. But I got a wonderful chance to practice my Creole and another important Haitian skill: bargaining. I never had to make an offer; I just squinted and said Map panse, I'm thinking. The average asking price I got was about 25. I told all the shopowners I might come back later in the week. I didn't get a mirror, but on the way out I did spot a big sun with swirls for rays that I got for fifteen bucks, which the veteran hagglers congratulated me on.Tomorrow morning the group of thirteen is leaving, so it will be a little quieter around here (but not too much). The day after tomorrow we are going to the beach for three days, which I didn't even know about! I'm so excited, the only Haitian beach I've been to was fabulous. So I'm not industriously building houses or checking blood pressure...I'll just say that I'm learning more about the country. By going to the beach.

Ach I know I'm writing too much but there is so much to say! Funny story...last night I wanted to take my shower so I went into the room I'm sharing with another girl named Grace to get my clothes and soap, etc. But I walked in to find the two sisters passed out on the floor. This is the one and five year old, and because it was there first night sleeping in the Tlucek house, I had been warned not to wake them up. So I couldn't turn the light on, but it was pitch black in my room, plus the combination of fans, cords, bunk beds, and suitcases made walking really difficult. Once I finally got to the shower, the bathroom was tiny. Absolutely miniscule. The whole bathroom was not wide enough for my wingspan, and the shower itself was maybe half the size - maybe - of your average bathroom stall. And you have to climb over the toilet to get into the shower. It was a little difficult.I could tell more stories about navigating my bedroom in the dark without stepping on children but since I've already written a novella I will stop here...or not because I have to talk about how much I miss my friends and family. It didn't hit me until I got here that I'm leaving them for real.

 sent in by Sienna Nelson on Sunday, August 7, 2011 at 9:01pm

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sienna in Haiti

Thanks to all of you for your prayers for Sienna.  I talked with her on the phone this evening.  She is safely settled at the orphanage and happily practicing her Kreyol.  She told me that she and her American host family  are taking a handful of Haitian children to THE BEACH later this week.  A friend of mine commented, "I thought she was going down there to alleviate pain and suffering...."

I am so jealous.  The Haitian beaches are, of course, beautiful just like any other Caribbean beach you have ever been on.  What a wonderful way for Sienna to experience the joys and wonders of Haiti, not just the devastation.  As missioners we sometimes get tunnel vision and think everyone in Haiti is destitute or starving and needs our help.  Of course, there are treasures there that the usual missioner never gets to see.  Pere Sadoni, the priest in charge of St VIncent's School, has been telling me all along that if you only see Port au Prince, you dont know Haiti.

My dream is to one day travel in Haiti outside the big capital city.  Maybe Sienna and I will get to do that together. 
sent in by Susan Nelson

Hope Lennartz visits St VIncent's School in July

MY PERSONAL REFLECTION:

MY JOURNEY BACK

To start my story, I need to tell you who I am. My name is Hope Lennartz, the Volunteer Executive Director of the Friends of St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Fifteen years ago, I founded a non-profit 501 c 3 to provide service and support to the children and staff at the Center. St. Vincent’s Center is the only residential school for handicapped children in Haiti.

January 12

Where were you when you heard about the Haiti earthquake?

A moment of time….I was at work as a RN in a detoxification center when my partner called. I rarely received calls at work. She told me the news that Haiti had a BAD earthquake. I did not know how bad it was until I heard the National Palace had collapsed and part of The Montana, a five star hotel on the side of the mountain, had fallen and some of it slide down the side of the mountain destroying houses in its way.

So we waited to get any messages about how bad it was at the Center. It was very bad. Seven of our children and three of our staff died and most of the major structures were gone. To rubble … bright blue shiny painted pieces of cement.

I felt powerlessness over this event. I felt the pain of our friends and the earthquake stories went on for weeks and weeks.

I received messages from all over the world asking questions, requesting information and extending help.

For years I had taken groups down to Port-au-Prince to work with the children and staff at the Center. Due to my personal health and the earthquake, I had not returned to St. Vincent’s for a while. It had been 1 ½ years since the earthquake. Physicians for Peace asked me to return to see what steps were next for the Brace Shop and Physical Therapy program.

St. Vincent’s Center is a very special holy place where handicapped children and adults are celebrated and helped to be the best they can be. It is a tight family who invites you in so you can use your talents and give your love. It was time for me to return.

My first hours in Haiti included the AIRPORT experience which does not seem to change over the years. I saw and smelt the gray haze hanging over the city caused by the burning of the trash. I knew I was in Haiti again. We were taken to the center of where the national government had functioned… We looking through the green metal fence to see the National Palace toppled over and I heard myself say “Oh my God”. I had seen pictures on CNN for months. I knew it was real in my head but now it was real in my heart. I felt the sorrow in my soul upon seeing the city of tents … blocks after blocks… one and half year old tents with logos …. USAID, Republic of China, Save the Children and many others. The green parks were gone. My memory of the old Haiti was a ghost. I had trouble figuring where we were but only after seeing the tip of a historic statue over the tents did I get my bearings. Some folks estimate there are 500,000 people still in tents.

I had embarked on an incredible, wonderful journey to see old friends. I finally let go what was and turned it into what it can be. I let go of the old memories and faced the new reality that we can still make a difference. We, together in partnership, can move programs forward and help the handicapped children in Haiti.

sent in by Hope Lennartz

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sienna travels to Haiti

Many of you know that my daughter, Sienna, will travel to Haiti on Aug 6-18.  She is volunteering to work with  HeartLine Ministries, in Tabarre (suburb of Port au Prince).  Sienna has been determined to go to Haiti this summer and has relentlessly been asking me and asking me and asking me for permission to go. Despite much misgivings, I agreed to let her go.  Everyone I talked to who has been to Haiti told me I should let her go. 

She will work at a children's orphanage, helping the center get ready for the beginning of school, and perhaps taking a trip with the children to the southern part of Haiti.  She told me she is not exactly sure what her duties will be, but she doesn't care.  She just wants to be in Haiti.

I am very proud of her and Mildly Terrified, of course.  That might explain why I am awake at 3 AM writing a blog entry instead of sleeping. 

August 20 we take her to Tulane for college.  Her childhood is over in an instant, it seems.

Thank you to everyone for your prayers for her safety and in thanksgiving to God who has inspired her to love the people of Haiti.

Susan Nelson

Haiti Report from Dr. Bheki Khumalo

June 14th, 2011
I would like to begin this report by thanking all of you for your prayers and support for the mission to Haiti. The people of Haiti are grateful for all the support and love we have shown them through the years especially after the recent disastrous earthquake. Our trip was a success. We traveled to Port-au-Prince without any difficulty. Our team from Memphis was joined by two others from the Red Thread organization. We hit the ground running in Haiti. I will mainly focus my report on the days we held clinic, with occasional digression to my observations of the mood of the people, the politics of the land, and the contrast between destructions and the beauty of the land.

Our team members consisted of the following people: Dr. Susan Nelson, our fearless team leader; Drew Woodruff; John Mutin, paramedic; Sherry Fairbanks, educator and sign language interpreter; Amy, physician’s assistant, and her daughter Hanna; Sienna Nelson; Wade Shields, physician’s assistant; Wes Savage, pharmacist; Nick Pesce, physical therapist; Sonya Yencer with the Red Thread; and myself.

We traveled safely to Port-au-Prince, arrived at the makeshift airport, were greeted and picked up by our gracious host, Father Sadoni, Rector of St. Vincent School. He shuttled us "Haiti style" to the guest house where we dropped our baggage and waited for our bunks to be set up. We rested that night. Next morning we went to St. Vincent to set up the pharmacy and the clinic to be ready for the next day. Driving through the rubble and collapsed structures was, in a strange way for me and my team members, a time of reflection and a strong reminder of why we were there—to help, heal the wounds, bring comfort and hope, to share the love of God in the midst of the turmoil and destruction that has affected so many lives of the people of Haiti.

Day one: When we arrived at the temporary St. Vincent School, the children and the staff were expecting us and it was a great reunion for those of us returning and a wonderful introduction to the new team members. We toured the new clinic and brace shop. We immediately began setting up for work. We actually began to work minutes after arriving. Our arrival date coincided with the clubfoot clinic and pediatric orthopedic physical therapy day. So, my friend Nick Pesce, the physical therapist, and I went to work immediately with Madame Michelle Bazelais, the veteran physical therapist and long time supporter of St Vincent. Our work consisted of evaluations of children with developmental issues and deformities. Most of the children this day were infants ranging in age from two months to two years; a few slightly older children were also seen on this clinic day. I helped Michelle with Ponsetti casting for clubfeet. I performed minor procedures to assist in the correction of clubfoot deformity. We helped with recommendations to improve the condition of the children. Recommendations included further consult with pediatric neurologist, orthopedics, bracing, physical therapy, medications, and in some cases nutrition. This was a very important day for it helped define future projects for St. Vincent.

Susan Nelson and her team also started working this day. Their work consisted of evaluating and treating children of St. Vincent as well as staff members. They dispensed medicines and vitamins and helped continue the work already in progress to keep the children healthy and nutritionally balanced.

Our second day began with our normal routine of morning preparation and transport to St. Vincent. As I stated in previous paragraphs, this always serves as a time of reflection as we drive through Haiti’s traffic, shanty towns with dilapidated buildings, and the hustle and bustle of the Haitian people. As we drive we take pictures of people, buildings, and everything around us which tells a remarkable story of the people and the land of many hills—their resilience, their hopes and their fears, all in a endless motion picture. This work day started with our usual set up and preparation for clinic. In contrast to the day before, Nick and I were consulting older children this session. These children had advanced deformities. Some of them were beyond rehabilitation. This was a major shift from our previous day with infants. Nick and I were challenged and disturbed by this day—we realized that these children were once like the babies we consulted the previous day. Lack of resources and their birth circumstances led them to these irreversible deformities. We talked at length amongst ourselves and with Michelle about what we can do to improve the lives of these children, and more importantly what we can do to keep the smaller children from deteriorating. Nick and I were charged and ready to work harder in helping the children at St. Vincent.

Dr. Nelson and her team, the pharmacy, and Drew were all engaged in various activities in clinic and out of clinic—St. Vincent was bustling with life. We all worked hard. Our drive back and our evening rest hours were full of stories and ideas to improve the health, education, and overall well-being for the children.

Between our clinics we had an opportunity to visit the countryside and beach areas of Haiti. The beauty of the mountains and waterside was like a rainbow at the end of long hard storm. Somehow, I was inspired and actually overwhelmed with a sense of hope for fractured Haiti.

On the political side, we witnessed the return of Betrand Aristide, which somehow posed a threat to the scheduled election. He came back from exile from South Africa and nothing of significance came of his return. There was heightened security and UN troops everywhere. The elections took place peacefully. I suppose this was a major disappointment to the critics of Haiti. We were elated that we were not going to be trapped in Haiti. We did however encounter a few groups at the guest house who were under evacuation orders from their US agencies on the eve of Aristide’s return and elections.

On our last day of work we were back working with infants. This time we were more vigilant than ever, noting every possible thing we can do to keep the infants from permanent deformities. We realized then that if we intervene now we can help save a lot of steps. Overall, our recommendations were to train ancillary staff people, including the older children, to help with mobilizing, physical manipulations, and stretching the smaller children; develop braces that will afford gradual correction without any need for surgery; fit children with walkers and wheelchairs that will keep them active and mobile as much as possible on a more frequent basis; and lastly, continue with our nutrition and vitamin program. (Many thanks to GSL for the vitamin donations!) In conclusion, we are hoping to decrease physical disability through therapy and bracing, improve overall health, and improve education for the children of St. Vincent. I hope that we are creating a self-sustaining environment that will keep the school going past our tenure.

Thank you for your support of this ministry that is near and dear to my heart.

"Mayibongwe Inkosi" ( Zulu for thanks be to God)

Bheki Khumalo

Camp Jake update

The organizers of Camp Jake have had to postpone their plans.  Serious health issues among the family members of the camp leadership have forced this difficult decision.  The Red Thread Promise has a more detailed post on their blog @ redthreadpromise.org, for your information.

We continue to support the valiant efforts of the Red Thread Promise to organize this wonderful camp for St Vincent's kids.  All donations received will still be used to support the camp, but the dates have been moved to December 2011.  Please keep the organizers in your prayers.

Susan Nelson

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Camp Jake is a summer camp for St Vincent's kids

Red Thread Promise: Camp Jake is around the corner!: "We are SO thrilled about the progress being made on CAMP JAKE ! For those who may have missed this exciting news, The Red Thread Promise is..."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Red Thread Promise: Dust and grime at St. Vincent's

Red Thread Promise: Dust and grime at St. Vincent's: "The dirt was flying at St. Vincent’s (SV) today. After making the short trek from the hotel, three of our volunteers dove into a large, mess..."

Friday, May 6, 2011

john mutin's reflections

I have been asked to write to you about how things are going in Haiti.  In considering this task, I feel one of the biggest questions in my mind is - Are we making a difference?  The answer is definitely yes!  We have helped to improve the children’s lives thanks to your help.  They are showing a big improvement in their hematocrit (blood iron) levels although they are still not up to the equivalent of an American child’s level.  The multivitamins they are getting every week day are improving their general health along with the food and clean water. Their health was much improved; their weight is up slightly and all they are growing taller.  They are in a safe clean place where they are cared for and loved very much. It never ceases to astound me just how happy they are and the love they exhibit. In a place where one would expect self-pity, I see then striving to help their friends.
One of the biggest new events that came out of this trip is that there are some children that are currently in wheelchairs that could, with physical therapy and casting, be able to walk.  What an amazing gift this would be that could change a child’s life forever.  We need to develop a full time physical therapy department that can work with the foot clinic and give these children back there mobility.  Currently a child with a club foot is placed in a wheelchair to give them some mobility, but this weakens their leg muscles and contracts the tendons to the point where they will never walk again.  We can make a huge difference to these children if we can provide a properly trained staff to work with them on a regular basis. The children are coming from all over Haiti for the foot clinic, so this is chance to change their young lives.  It wouldn’t be that expensive and the impact we would have is nothing short of a Miracle.  With God’s blessings and your help, we can do this. 


Nick Pesce's photos Haiti trip March 2011

Nick with a patient in therapy clinic

Auguste

Riding in a TapTap to church on Sunday
For more of Nick's photos click here.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Photos from our March 2011 trip

Sonya Yencer of Red Thread Promise (www.redthreadpromise.org) has sent us her extensive photo library from our March 2011 trip. Thank you to Sonya for these beautiful pictures. If you click on the link to see more photos you will also have access to photos from other trips to Haiti by the Red Thread Promise volunteers. We are fortunate to be partnering with them in our efforts to support St Vincent's School for Handicapped Children.

Amy and Wes in the medical clinic


Drew with Diana in her new red wheelchair brought by Red Thread Promise


John is checking a hemoglobin with a fingerstick test.  Except this child has no arms, so John is checking his earlobe


Sonya shows kids her camera


Susan in clinic


For more photos from our March trip to St Vincent's, click here.

reflections from Sonya about children's orthopedic clinic at St. Vincent's



The Club Foot Clinic

The central hallway that runs through the clinic building was lined with
mothers holding babies, soothing crying children, nursing infants,
shushing toddlers—all waiting for their turn at the club foot clinic.
Parents came from miles around with their children, displaying an array of
leg and foot abnormalities. The lucky ones were able to walk on their own
or with limited assistance. But the majority were non-ambulatory, relying
on a parent or relative to carry them.

It was on the first day of the clinic that Dr. Bheki Khumalo, a podiatrist from Memphis (originally from South Africa) performed his first outpatient surgery of the
week on the very first patient. In a small square room with light blue
walls and a cement floor stood a single table covered in a white sheet.
Surrounding that table was a talented medical team that would change the
course of this child's life forever.

She was an infant, no more than 1 year old—the sweetest little girl with
smiles for everyone and tiny laughs. With a simple set of surgical tools
and skilled hands, the tension was released on the child's Achilles
tendon, the foot carefully set in the proper position and finally casted.
When one leg was complete, they set to work on her other leg, casting it
as well before the appointment was over. All the while, she cried little
and we were amazed by her cheerful temperament. (Author's note: I cannot
imagine how incredibly hot and itchy her little legs must be in those
plaster casts in the Haitian sun. But what a small price to pay to have
the opportunity to walk someday. I had the honor of holding her after both
casts were applied while her mother went to the pharmacy—the highlight of
my day!)

Hour after hour, infants and toddlers came to have their feet and legs
examined. The team consisted of Dr. Bheki Khumalo, Nick Pesce (a physical therapist from
Memphis) and Michele (a Haitian physical therapist).
Together, the team discussed each case in detail, determining how to best
treat the child within the means of the clinic. X-rays were studied
through the light of a single small window on the only exterior wall.
Debates ensued, weighing the pros and cons of each treatment plan (i.e.
would putting a child in a brace for the right leg cause damage to the
left hip). Many casts were applied and many referrals to hospitals and
specialists were made. Each appointment was complex and lengthy,
exhausting work in the heat.

As Dr. Eric had predicted during our trip to St. Vincent's in February,
even though the clinic had few supplies, in the hands of properly trained
people, small miracles could be performed. And that's exactly what we
witnessed day-after-day in St. Vincent's clinic. Children who may not ever
have been treated were seen by a very talented group of physicians. Each
case was handled as if they were full paying clients in the United States.
Every effort was made to do the very most for each little person, to
provide the optimum care given the circumstances.

Imagine how much more can be done for these children when the permanent
clinic and surgical center are rebuilt on St. Vincent's demolished
property.

FW: 150th Anniversary Diocese of Haiti

From: Kesner AJAX [mailto:kesnerajax@yahoo.com]
Sent: Sunday, April 10, 2011 4:01 PM
Subject: 150th Anniversary Diocese of Haiti

Dear Partners and Friends,
I would like to personally thank you for all the support you have provided to
the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti thus far; and furthermore for you continual
support of the Diocese of Haiti.  Without committed and generous partners such
as yourselves we would not be able to touch as many lives as we currently are.
Because of such help, The Diocese will be celebrating its 150th anniversary of
successful operation.  We invite all partners and friends to celebrate with us
in any manner or location you see fitting. 

The 150th anniversary of the diocese will be celebrated in the five
archdeaconries on the following dates:
               May 8th  – Central Plateau Archdeaconry at the church St. Peter
in Mirabalais
               May 22nd – South Archdeaconry at the church St. Savior in Les
Cayes
               May 26th – West Archdeaconry at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in
Port au Prince
               June 12th – North Archdeaconry at the church Holy Spirit in Cap
Haitian
               September 11th – Leogane Region and Southeast Archdeaconry at the
church Holy Cross in Leogane
The staff of the Partnership Program, myself and Angela, along with your partner
priests will be happy to help you arrange a visit to celebrate with us.

In other Diocesan news, before January 2012 there will be a suffragan bishop
elected and consecrated to serve the needs of the growing number of
Episcopalians in Haiti.    
We are also blessed by a new addition to the diocesan staff, Mr. Sikhumbuzo
Vundla, who starting in March serves as Chief Operating Officer for the Diocese
of Haiti.

Schools in Haiti have just completed their second trimester of the year and will
be have a break to celebrate Easter. 

To all of you who are supporting the reconstruction efforts as well as all who
have made plans to do so, I profoundly express my gratitude on behalf of the
Partnership Program and encourage your sustained efforts. The needs are
enormous.

I wish all of you a wonderful Easter holiday and know that you are in our
thoughts and prayers.
 
 The Rev. Kesner Ajax


Executive Director, Bishop Tharp Institute (BTI)
Partnership program coordinator, Episcopal Diocese of Haiti
Priest in Charge, Ascension Church, Beraud.

Mailing address:
c/o Agape Flights acc# 2519
100 Airport Ave
Venice Fl. 34285
Tels. 011-509-3445-3346
011-509-3724-8376