Google+ WTN Haiti Partnership: August 2011

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