Google+ WTN Haiti Partnership: 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

St. Vincent's Year-End Report 2013 from Fr. Leon Sadoni

What follows below is a year end report on the life of the school, including its great successes and its massive challenges. Please read all the way through to get a fuller picture of St. Vincent's in 2013.

Dear Friends in the US,

On behalf of the children of St Vincent, I present to you my greeting. It is an honor for me to give you some news regarding St Vincent from July to December 2013.

We ended the school year 2012-2013 with 230 children. We had a great school year. Certainly we did have some difficulties, but with the donations and expertise of our partners, our experiences, and our dedication, we overcame these situations.

As usual at the end of the school year in July, St Vincent’s students took part in the official exams organized by the government. All the 17 students succeeded in these exams! Apart from the blindness and physical challenges that will always be present at these exams, this year 6 deaf children  took part in these exams for the first time. We accomplished this goal through the training that our Canadian and American friends gave to our teachers this year.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Donor Challenge to raise money for Food

We have an offer from a very generous donor to match contributions of money for food, up to $6090.   That is the cost of feeding the resident children and staff of St Vincents School for one month

Please take this opportunity to go to our website at and DONATE to take advantage of this tremendous offer.  All donations go directly to Pere Sadoni, the priest in charge of the school. There are no administrative costs. Thank you in advance for your support

Susan Nelson

Saturday, November 23, 2013

John's Reflection-"Baby Margaret"

​I had one of those ‘ah ha’ moments while on our last trip to Haiti that is bothering me. I can’t get it out of my mind and I would like to share it with you. During this trip I took several members of our group upstairs in the school to see ‘Drew’s kids’. These are the children at St. Vincent’s who are most severely handicapped. Most of the children had actually gone to class, but baby Marguerite Vincent was there. Marguerite is now close to 4 years old, so she is really no longer a baby, but for those of us who were there when she first came to the orphanage about 3 years ago, she will always be ‘baby Marguerite’. Baby Marguerite was baptized during that trip by Ollie Rencher and Father Sadoni with Allie Russo and John Robert serving as Godparents. Marguerite was born with hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and came to the orphanage just before the earthquake. We all think of the earthquake as a terrible thing and it was, but with the extra medical help that was available after the quake, Marguerite was able to have surgery to get 2 shunts to help control the spinal fluid and relieve some of the pressure on her brain.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The LandfillHarmonic Orchestra, Music at St. Vincent's

In a slum built on a landfill in Cateura, Paraguay, a community came together to build a "Recycled Orchestra" out of so-called "trash" from the landfill. Teenagers from the community have come together to play these instruments, and the sound is pretty incredible. Watch the video below, or follow ths link to listen to the LandfillHarmonic Orchestra. Beauty and music can be made anywhere!

We may be distracted by many things when we consider our children at St. Vincent's and the people of Port-au-Prince. Visual cues, such as tent cities and unpaved roads, may lead us to negative thoughts, like clouds on a rainy day.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Thank you to our donors

Our recent trip was supported by many donors. One donor answered my appeal to help pay for plane tickets for two team members who could not afford plane/room/board for two people which would have totalled $2000.  Another donor reached into his pocket (we were at church) and handed me $40 on the Sunday before I left for Haiti.  I used this money to pay for checking a computer as an extra bag on our trip to Haiti Oct12, and delivered the computer to Dr Beauvoir, the pediatric orthopedist who works year round at St Vincents
Many folks give donations large and small to help us serve the children at St Vincents.  I hope some of you who enjoyed reading our recent posts about our October trip will consider making a donation by clicking here:

Susan Nelson

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Reflections from the October 2013 team

Yesterday while we were waiting at the airport in Port au Prince, I asked the team members (after they managed to find a sufficient supply of french fries from the airport restaurant) to write down the answer to 3 questions:

What is your worst memory of the trip?
What is your best memory of the trip?
Name one person you met in Haiti who made an impact on you.

I will share their responses below, (with minimal editing).


Happy to return home to the arms of our families and loved ones last night.  Retrieving jars of picliz from various suitcases to take home for me and John Mutin. Unfortunately, as my husband observed, picliz "does not travel well". The smell of vinegar and pepper wafted through the Memphis airport baggage area. My apologies to Edie, whose suitcase contents appeared to be soaked in picliz. I am not sure her family will appreciate that smell on every item she brought back from Haiti!

This morning my thoughts are of the contrasts facing us as we wake up in Memphis (or Sienna in New Orleans). The glory of a hot shower. The shock of a cold floor on bare feet. Morning without bug spray. Morning without fresh sweet mango and Haitian coffee. Brushing my teeth in tap water. Wanting to turn on the heater in my bathroom.  Driving on wide open streets with traffic lights and marked lanes.   Missing the smiles and hugs of the children at St Vincents.

To my team members if you are reading this, thank you all for your warm hearts and hard working hands (and feet!) this week.  I miss Bailey's laugh and James' quiet smile.  I told you all that re-entry would be difficult, and I hope you find a way to process your experience somehow over the next few weeks. Know that you have made friends with special children in a place that will always welcome you back.

Bon Jour!

Susan Nelson

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Last day at St Vincent's

After our restful day at the beach, we were all happy to see the kids again. Emily B worked with me again in clinic. Her French skills were invaluable, although by this time my Kreyol is fairly functional, at least for basic exams.   Sherye has also taught us signs to use. Every morning on the bus, she stands at the front clutching a pole and demonstrates how to say "What is your name?  My name is... Do you have pain.  Show me where ..."  St Vincent's has about 50 or more deaf students, so we all got lots of practice.  One of the deaf teachers came to me and I was able to ask him "Are you a teacher?" as well as elicit his complaints of eye problems and back pain, all without Sherye's help. I was so proud of myself! After spending a week surrounded by people who speak a different language, between Kreyol, French and Sign, it is SO gratifying to be able to communicate. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The team takes a break

Today in Haiti is a national holiday, commemorating the death of Jean Jacques Dessalines.  He and Touissant L'Overture together led the slave rebellion against the French, and declared independence on Jan 1, 1804.  Haiti is the only country in the western hemisphere to ever have successfully staged a slave rebellion.

With the national holiday, there was no school, so we hired our favorite driver Jonas and went to Kaliko Beach Resort.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Handbell Choir and Soccer Balls

This morning's clinic was remarkable because several of our team have learned to communicate simple words with the deaf kids and are learning basic Kreyol as well.  Bailey worked with me this morning, and by the end of clinic was doing basic exams, in either Kreyol or sign.  ("Take a deep breath, open your mouth, I am going to look in your ear, etc.)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Double Rainbow

Edie just told me she is amused to look at the broken streets of Port au Prince, with concrete rubble in piles on the sidewalk and scattered debris in the gutters, and then hear me and Sienna and John Mutin say "Wow, this place looks great, they've really cleaned up the streets!"  It's true that the gutters are free of trash and the streets are mostly in good repair, especially the main roads.  We even saw police directing traffic at a busy intersection, a first that I have seen. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

First clinic day at St Vincent's

A typical clinic day at St Vincent's:  plenty of smiling kids in uniform, coming for a "checkup".  Edie,Sienna, Sherye and James visited Holy Trinity School, run by Reverend Fernan (the only ordained female priest in Haiti); James was impressed by the music school, with music theory written on the walls in blackboard style.  Sienna loved the 4th graders.  Each class stood up and demonstrated what they were learning to the visitors.  Sienna says the 4th graders were learning names of body parts in english, and shouted, "ARM, LEG, BODY" at full volume. 

The best way I can tell you about today is to summarize what the team said as we had our group discussion this evening after we said Compline together (led by James Gruber).

Bailey said her low point of her day was seeing all the smiling,happy kindergartners and then having to stick their finger for their hemoglobin test.

James said his low point was not being able to say good bye to each 4th grader as they left Holy Trinity School. 
Vicky said her high point was feeling like she made a contribution today. Her job was to organize the "cards" (each kid gets a card with their name and age and the date, and as they are weighed and measured and tested the information is written on the card.)  This  job is very important and not just anyone can do it.  Ashley attested to the fact that her mom was very organized and kept everyone in line and remembering which kid went with which card.  I knew Vicky would  be the most organized person on our team, which is why I put her in charge of that!

Linda's high point was getting to know Clauricianne, who is a graduate of St Vincent's but still lives there.  She speaks english, french and kreyol fluently and is a terrific interpreter for us, especially since she knows all the kids.  She helped calm down one terrified young girl who would not even leave her chair to come into my exam room!  I guess the fingerstick test makes them afraid of what else might be coming next. 

James said his high point was getting to know Jean Robert and see the gentle way he helps us and helps the children.  He truly is an amazing person and has earned the admiration of all of us.

James also observed that Jo Jo was having hot wings for lunch, fed to him by a beautiful young woman who turns out to be his daughter.  The rest of us had our granola bars and peanuts for lunch, but Jo Jo had hot wings!

The heat got to everyone today so we did not have afternoon clinic.  We toured the new brace shop and then boarded the bus early for the guest house and the POOL. 
I got everyone to promise they can stick it out for the whole day tomorrow, now that they got a taste of what to expect.  The heat really does sap your strength here, and I dont want to push people beyond their tolerance.  I was happy that the "low points" mentioned had nothing to do with being hot or tired. 

Had an interesting and INTENSE discussion with the owner of the guest house about what our purpose is in Haiti and why we come here.  I think she was trying to provoke me, but to no avail.  I realize that our work in Haiti can be interpreted on many levels.  But I have to believe that my friendship with Marie Carmelle and with Mackenson and Frenel has value, even if I dont change their lives  in any material sense. I believe that we offer what we have, and God blesses it and magnifies it beyond what we can ask or imagine. 

I think the owner sees lots of "Christian groups" who come to "save souls" in Haiti. As my son Adam once said, "God is everywhere in Haiti."  If you come to Haiti to bring Jesus, you will find him already here and well known.   The only soul I save by coming here is mine.
Susan Nelson

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Day 2 Holy Trinity Cathedral, the Plaza Hotel and Reunion with the kids

This morning we had the joy of attending services at Holy Trinity Cathedral.  It was all in French, but the service is familiar in any language.  As promised, the service lasted about 2 hours.  At the end of the service, Sienna turned and said, "Congratulations, everyone, you MADE IT!"  One of the hymns was Just a Closer Walk with Thee, so I could hum the tune and sort of fake the french words. I turned to James Gruber and said, "Drew would know all the words in English if he were here."

We visited the Foyer Notre Dame after church, this is a rest home for older folks, run by the Sisters of St Margaret.  I brought the altar linen from St Mary's Cathedral, in hopes the Sisters could embroider designs on to it.  Having emailed the Sisters ahead of time, I expected to see them at church, but when they weren't there I asked Jean Robert, our guide and translator, to take us to see them at the Foyer Notre Dame.  Arriving there, we were told the Sisters were in Leogane!  ( a city about 2 hours away).  SIGH.  Leaving the linen with written instructions in the hands of a competent appearing woman named Gertrude, by that time we were hot and hungry so we visited the Plaza Hotel for lunch.   

Ordering from a menu in Kreyol was an adventure for everyone,  but they had DIET COKE (something I always miss when I come to Haiti) and with Sienna's help and Jean Robert's assistance , we managed to order food everyone enjoyed, including a plantain sandwich with picliz (the spicy Haitian cole slaw that John and I fight over) and other delights.  

By now it was early afternoon, and we got back on the bus to drive to St Vincent's. The children were much surprised when we arrived!  Sweaty smiles and hugs all around.  Marie Carmelle was in her usual place, which is the breeziest place in the compound.  Most of the team went upstairs to see "Drew's kids" and of course attracted a big crowd.  It was touching to see our team, especially the first timers, experience the love and joy of meeting these children for the first time.  Diana Vincent managed to get my sunglasses from me, then quickly convinced Edie to pick her up out of her wheelchair.  Not bad for a girl with cerebral palsy who cant speak or stand or control her arms.  Vicky and Ashley met many kids who remembered Robby Skinner from his last two visits.  The deaf teenage girls were thrilled to see Sherye again, and a lively conversation ensued (in sign language of course) about who these new people were, especially WHO IS THAT TALL BOY OVER THERE?  (Gordon Johnson).  Sienna had to explain that he already HAS a girlfriend.  
Speaking of Gordon, one of the blind kids grabbed Gordon and held on for several minutes, soaking up the hug.  Brittany has a large plastic pink watch that fascinated several.   Margaret Vincent was sitting up in her chair, looking well cared for  although not able to respond very well to any stimulation by voice or touch.  

After about 45 minutes we said goodbye. We returned to the guest house and the wonderful pool, happy to drop our body temperatures by several degrees.  
Evening spent making labels for the pharmacy (take one pill twice a day = pran yon grenn de fwa pa jou), and so on.  Sherye blindfolded all of us to teach us about how to lead blind people from one place to another. She has made us all STAR SPARKLY name tags for tomorrow, which the boys (Gordon, James, John) are taking in stride as good sports

Remember those AC units I was so excited about?  They work REALLY WELL.  So well in fact that folks were too cold last night!  I guess one never knows what to expect in Haiti,  I told Gordon that I have learned not to have any expectations when I come here.  It is a lesson that I have to learn over and over, humility at letting God work and not trying to control the outcome.  

Thank you all for reading this very long post; I know some of you are family members and want to know that your loved ones are safe and sound.  For the others who have made it this far, thank you for your prayers and support.  Tomorrow we will have clinic and all are excited about that. I told the team that today was a vacation day, tomorrow we work. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Arrival in Haiti (Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013)

Travel day was the easiest ever!  Delta Airlines now flies from Atlanta to Port au Prince, which eliminates the craziness of flying to Chicago or St Paul in order to fly to Miami to catch the plane to Port au Prince.

Our team is 14 members; 4 are "old timers" and the rest are first time visitors to this experience.  I am sure they tired of the "old folks" who kept saying, "This is great, you don't know how easy this is."  Going through security only once in Memphis; going through customs in Haiti was a breeze.  The Haitian customs agent asked us if we were carrying vitamins, and wanted to check the expiration dates on the bottles.  We were happy to comply.

We are bringing a computer to Dr Beauvoir, the pediatric orthopedist who works at St VIncent's weekly and who operated with Dr Khumalo in late August on several St Vincent's children. Apparently Dr Khumalo observed that Dr Beauvoir's computer was , shall we say, faulty?  So he sent another one down.  We had the most trouble with that computer, since the TSA officials had to tear open the package (which had been carefully packed to protect the fragile computer) and the Haitian customs agent had to tear the package open AGAIN to make sure it was exactly what I told him it was.   

I told the team that I am happy to see the Haitian customs agents actually checking our bags.  They never did this before 2013, so I see this as a sign of progress.

Our new guest house is only a 15 minute ride from the airport and 15 minutes from the school, I am told.  What a relief.  Again, the old timers keep telling war stories about riding for an hour and a half in the back of a pick up truck on top of all the suitcases. 

We checked in to our rooms, which are tiny BUT THEY ALL HAVE AN AC UNIT!
Not sweating while we sleep will be a gift from heaven. 

Prestige beers by the pool then spaghetti dinner, and all are tired and content. 

Edie plans to lead Compline service at 8 PM (if she can stay awake that long) and then off to bed.  Dark comes at 6:30 and there are no street lights, so the city shuts down early. Except for the roosters and the dogs, of course.  I heard my first rooster crow about an hour ago so then I KNEW I was in Port au Prince, in the middle of a city with a million people and hearing the rooster.

Tomorrow we will go to services at Holy Trinity Cathedral.  I warned everyone that the service is at least 2 hours long and all in French!  But worshiping with the Haitians in their open air pavilion next to their destroyed cathedral, is always a moving experience for me. 
We hope to walk over to St Vincent's after church and see the kids.  I cant wait to see their smiling faces when we walk through the gate. 

Now if I can just sort out what is in all those bags of medical supplies piled outside my bedroom door??
Susan Nelson

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Reflections on Haiti by a First - Timer

editor's note:  Judith travelled to St Vincents School with a team this summer, and brought sewing machines to teach some of the older girls how to use them.  

Reflections on My Trip to Haiti and St. Vincent's School

I tried not to have expectations but of course I did anyway.  I expected it to be hot, expected to see a lot of poverty, expected to see rubble, expected to not have the conveniences I was used to, and tried not to expect violence or illness.   It was hot, very hot, and without electricity and water sometimes, a little uncomfortable, but there were  not really any hardships.  It didn't take long to get used to having only cold water, and having no electricity or not enough electricity to run air conditioners.  Not knowing whether or not there would be water or electricity made for a little drama and excitement.  Of course we (our small group of 4 from Friends of St. Vincent's) were only there one week.  

Riding through the city from our hotel to St. Vincent's  was an adventure, however.  The traffic was amazing: dented and dusty cars and trucks, brightly painted tap-taps (also dusty and dented), motor cycles, bicycle riders, but mostly pedestrians everywhere walking in the road, on the sidewalks, crossing the streets, weaving in and out of traffic and all moving, moving, moving, constantly.  Looking past all the traffic to the vendors, lining the sidewalks in downtown Port-au-Prince we saw people selling all kinds of things from pineapples to prom dresses.  Their “stores” ranged from tiny rickety structures jammed next to each other to just goods laying on the sidewalks or items hanging on fences or on the walls that fronted all the homes and businesses.   The walls were brightly painted with slogans or drawings or advertisements or graffiti.  Then there were sounds to go with all this.  Horns honking,      gunning engines, music playing, people talking, people hawking goods.  Visual and aural over stimulation for someone from a relatively quiet college town.

St. Vincent's was a wonderful surprise.  We were greeted enthusiastically each day by a delegation of adults in wheelchairs under the trees in the hot and dusty courtyard.  Several days there were also dozens of families waiting to be seen at the medical clinic that uses space at St. Vincent's.  Then there were the children.  We spent most of the time with the teens showing them how to use the electric  sewing machines that were donated.   Trying to use a sewing machine when you have cerebral palsy or are missing most of your hands or have no arms or hands at all is a challenge, but a challenge these children were up for with grace, humor, and amazing abilities to adapt and change so they could use the machines effectively.   There was also love, acceptance, and kindness that the teens showed each other and to us volunteering that moved me to tears on several occasions.  There was also some power playing going on, but what was very notiecable was how self-confident and resourceful these teens are and how much they want to live their lives as fully as possible.

We did not get to spend much time with the younger children, but the time we had was also very moving and enriching.   Several of the children were not very animated or able to move much on their own so time was spent touching and holding and encouraging them to do what they could.   Several of the children were confined to wheelchairs but very lively and enthusiastic and engaged happily in singing and play.  It was a delight to be with them.

I was asked why I thought these children were able to be so confident.  I think it is because of Father Sadoni, the director of the school, and all that staff that teach and take care of the children.  The children are surrounded with love and encouragement to grow and develop to the best of their abilities, to be able to be full participants in their society and culture.  They are blessed, and we are blessed who are able to spend time with them.

sent in by Judith Straub

Saturday, October 5, 2013

final days at St Vincent/CBU Nurses

Wednesday, October 2nd.
During my quiet time - one devotion this week related to “do not worry about tomorrow - tomorrow has worries enough” So I did not... good thing. First the bus was late, he went to St Vincent’s instead of the coop as planned, the coop was closed for inventory,there were no new children to be seen and a lot of confusion with the starting of school. Okay - big breath, stay focused and go with the flow. The bus driver had 2 suggestions another artisan shop and to go to the Haitian National Museum.  We did just that and had lunch out. We all really enjoyed and appreciated the museum and visual tour of the Haitian history. I especially enjoyed seeing the anchor from the Santa Maria, one of the 3 ships of Christopher Columbus. Now how many Americans can say that - actually we all appreciated that experience.

We had a lovely day, not want was on the agenda but never-the-less this awesome team took it all in stride. On top of that each person has a personal treasure or 6 to take home with them.

Thursday, October 3rd

Today’s message for me related to staying positive and not letting disorder and confusion with your plans cause a downward spiral into negativism - pretty timely and right for the week. The bus came a half hour early!! Some were not quite ready - but got there pretty quickly. After a stop at the National Market, where the bus driver almost wiped out the security guard’s motorcycle, we purchased our ice cream and cookies for the children and staff. There is a disconnect about where ice cream is to be stored. Jean  Robert’ put all 4 tubs in the refrigerator not the freezer! Thank goodness it was decided to serve the ice cream at 10:00. We did and  it was a huge hit. As is expected there were lots of “extra staff” today. I have to say, it was darn good ice cream.

In total we have seen 100 person, mostly adults but they are important too. If the adults are in good health and care, so are the children. We had some special moments when we sang for the children and again when we sang and had the teachers sign our songs.

The nurses played with the children and distributed the red “CBU Nursing” bags. I was not there when this occurred but Belinda came to find me and gave me a huge hug. All the older girls were so excited to get the red bags - all the women wanted them. The women and girls all were excited with the nail polish, little wrist bands, and other goodies. They did not want us around as they began to bond from being gone for a few weeks.

Likewise the boys were excited about the ping-pong paddles, balls, and other goodies for them. Terry and Lisa got the few of them (mostly the deaf boys) engaged in soccer and football. There were some sharing issues but Terry got that changed without sign language.

I met with Pere Sadoni and gave a brief report about 5 children. I will share this later. We left about 150 hygiene kits and  twice that many socks for the children.  All of the school supplies, crayons and coloring books were gone from his office today and been distributed somewhere.

After dinner the CBU nurses presented my sister-in-law, Linda with a white cap, trimmed in a bright pink (no red pens) and made her an honorary CBU nurse. She was very touched.

Each nurse shared a special moment from today and/or this week. Each of us reflected on the value of our Haitian experience, the bonding with classmates, the connection to children and adults from another county, and the ability to look beyond the disability and love each person for who they are - not for what they are not.

This has been a fantastic week.

sent in by Dr Sue Trzynka

Monday, September 30, 2013

CBU nurses at St Vincent's, Day 2

Monday, September 30 - First let me say it was an awesome day. Second, it was not a day we would have planned; however, all went well beyond my expectation. There are only resident children there; Yoline, August, Margaret, and Diana of course and a few others. The Education Ministry decided no schools would start until October 1st. Students will hopefully begin to come in tomorrow. The nurses had ample time to spend seeing St. V, visiting with JoJo, who is investing a great deal of energy to sell his paintings, and many others. Jojo is going to NYC and needs the money for a plane ticket for himself and his nephew. His daughter, Joanna came today to be seen - lovely girl and glad to be with her father.

Zachary has another large decubis on his buttocks - stage 4 but will heal. We do not have any silvedene cream or anything to treat this with in the pharmacy. In fact, the pharmacy is quite empty and we are making a list of things we need. Zachary’s main problem is a 5 cm, stage 4 + ulcer on his heel and it is tunneled. Dr. B thinks his best chance is to have the foot amputated. This was confirmed by Pere Sadoni. Terry did a terrific job of working with him and we did a great wet to dry dressing change.

Madame Leon had a BS of 340 but claims she did not take her medication today. I will recheck her tomorrow. Marie Carmel is great -very happy to see us and lots of hugs for me. Her BP is good but she needs refills on her medications. She really enjoyed visiting with the new nurses.

There were some very important people at St V today. So much so that there were 2 policemen there for security. Pere is very encouraged that there may be another source of funding. The NGO visitors were from Louisville. They and the government/church officials came to the special needs room when the nurses were assessing the children and spoke to our group about what we are doing. The nurses were very excited to talk up WTHP and CBU.

After I took Marie Carmel’s BP the flood gates opened and all the adults wanted to be seen for anemia, headache, back pain, pain here and pain there, tuss (cough) - all the usual; Including the children 29 seen today.

Dieumene is my new best friend! She asked me to contact Tom and be the nurse for Camp Jake in July. I was very touched, almost to tears. She wanted me to promise I would come to camp. She has a HB of 8.7 and will not take “the pill” it makes her vomit. We had some liquid Vit B complex but other than Cod Liver Oil we do not have anything to give her. What would you wise women recommend? She also worked translating today - have you ever seen anyone “sign with their feet”????

 My sister-in-law works for a prosthetics company and visited the shop today. They were asking for technical support and training. Linda is going to make some asks at work. She was quite impressed.

This is an unbelievable team. Actually, I have told them they are the best ever, fun, engaged, work well with one another, share everything they have and step right up to do    what ever I express a need for at the moment. Lashelle has not felt very well Saturday and Sunday but was better today and stepped up. Stephanie Scott has been a “rock star” - taking the leadership role very seriously. LInda Barnes is terrific. Yolanda and Michelle have come out of their quite place and are really fun and chatty.

I did see Andy (the architect who stayed at Helping Hands and is doing the work for St. V) today and he was excited a brought him a jar of Jiff extra crunchy peanut butter. He says their guest house will be done in December. Gail is in the states but is well.

And finally, I would like to say I miss the mosquito net - I do not.
sent in by Dr Sue Trzynka

Sunday, September 29, 2013

CBU Nurses travel to St Vincent's

Editor's note:  Dr Sue Trzynka and a dozen or so nurses from CBU's (Christian Brothers University) graduate nursing program are in Haiti this week, to do wellness assessments on all the children at St Vincent's.  They also bring toys, toothbrushes, and other goodies from many American friends.  Below is Sue's log entry for her first day:

Haiti October 2013

Sunday - first full day. The church service was lovely with a special peace blessing; however, two and a half hours long. We visited the gift shop at Holy Trinity School where several students made purchases. From there we spent a hour with the ladies at the Foyer. Sister Margaret received the hygiene kids, lap blankets, and bath towels. She will also distribute them. They have stopped there building project due to lack of funds. They also need repairs to doors that have panels rotting away and plumbing issues. That said, they have made significant progress from a year ago.

All of the suitcases are unpacked, sorted, counted, and labeled for daily distribution of hygiene kits, coloring books and crayon, games, toys, and bags of food.  The school supplies have been set aside to give to Pere Sadoni.  All are excited to see St. Vincent and meet the children. We learned from Jean Robert after church today only permanent resident children will be at St. Vincent tomorrow. This may make it an extra challenge to get all kids completed by Thursday afternoon. We will sure give it a go. He tells me the orthopedic clinic has been moved to the new facility and the large physical therapy area is now a “secondary classroom”. Ah - sweet change is often the same as progress.

Sleeping was a challenge last night. There was a lot of partying outside the compound until about 4:00 - Boom, boom, boom and enough to rock you out of your bed; some after the sunrise services started and competed with the roosters and dogs. We should sleep well tonight. Given my foggy state, I began to wonder where the food came from since I could not locate a kitchen by dining area. I was thinking there must be Haitian Keebler elves!! These elves can cook too.

Students are settling in very nicely, mixing and mingling outside their usual groups and really doing well - lots of good laughter and a infectious smiles.

Wifi is extremly spotting and staying connected is a challenge. I will check only emails that I can impact from here unless the service improves.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

October Mission Team plans

It has been many months since my last post, but we are getting ready for our next trip to St Vincents Oct 12-19. We have a great team as always, including a pediatric nurse practitioner, a pharmacist, two paramedics, a nurse, a sign language interpreter, a medical student, and several non medical but willing 20-somethings!  I have just been looking at the Red Thread Promise blog, and I encourage you to check them out at  They have great video about the new water purification system at the school, digital hearing aids for many of the deaf children, and Camp Jake which is a summer beach camp for some of the permanent residents of St Vincents. Reading all the things happening at the school reminds me that many partners are working hard to help rebuild the school since the earthquake of 2010. Whenever I feel inadequate about what I can do to help these children, I remember that many others are helping, too and that God is magnifying all of our efforts.

Please pray for our team as we prepare for our trip.

                                                                                    Susan Nelson

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Two Rocks Too Many

Our travel days back and forth to Haiti are definitely the hardest days of any of our trips.  The trip down carries worries of making connections, all the BAGS making the connections, getting through customs, meeting Pere Sadoni at the airport, and finally arriving at the guest house for the first decent meal of the day.  Most of us can't manage breakfast before leaving for the airport at 4:30 AM, and the airlines don't feed us anymore.
Coming home is slightly less worrisome, no valuable medical supplies to worry about; and once we are in the States I dont worry so much about connecting flights.  However we still start the day at 5 AM and usually travel all day to get to Memphis by 10:30 PM or sometimes midnight.  Then there are the inevitable curiosities of airport security.  Port au Prince airport has been completely rebuilt since the earthquake, and is now a comfortable, clean, air-conditioned building, with gift shops and a few small restaurants, even a Duty Free liquor store!  This trip we had our bags sniffed by police dogs at the first security checkpoint.  We were feeling sorry for the dogs having to smell all of our week-old unwashed clothing!

Wade in the Water

Today is Easter Sunday, and I am back in my comfortable Memphis home, with a refrigerator full of food, internet 24/7, and clean water right out of the tap.  A hot shower is available,  anytime I choose.     I have been quite fatigued this week, returning to work after spending last week in Haiti.  I finally unpacked my suitcases yesterday, with paintings and earrings made by Haitians, many memories of our trip.   I was inclined to stay home and rest last evening, but I remembered that  Easter Vigil is my favorite liturgy of the entire church year, so I went.  One of the hymns we sang was "Wade in the Water", which reminded me of an amazing experience I had on our last day in Haiti.  We saw a baptism, right in the ocean!

We had hired a driver to take us to Jacmel for the day. If you look at a map of Haiti, Jacmel is due south of Port au Prince, on the southern coast of Haiti.  It is a beautiful seaside town, with buildings that remind me of New Orleans architecture.  We had lunch at the Hotel Florita, and met an expatriate American named Joe, who was drinking rum sours and scowling into his laptop at the back of the hotel lobby.  I felt like I was in the movie set of Casa Blanca, and had found Rick at Cafe Americain (with apologies to Humphrey Bogart).  Joe gave us a tour of his lovely house-turned-hotel since the earthquake, and Sherye and I found our suite on the third floor.  Lovely old wooden furniture, plenty of Haitian voodoo art on the walls, wild hibiscus and clematis growing on the balcony, and 2 wooden rocking chairs waiting just for us. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Michele's photos (fixed link)

My apologies to our dedicated readers who tried to view Michele's photos from the post yesterday. I left you stranded without the proper authorization for Google to let you in. The link is fixed today, so give it a go!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

First Round of Photos March 2013

Michele Miller has posted our first round of photos from the trip. For the time being, you can see them here: View Michele Miller's photos online. (Link updated and fixed)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Last Day at St. Vincents

Today we went to the school but did not have clinic.  In the morning Drew, Dr Sue Trzynka and I met with Pere Sadoni for about 2 hours, discussing our partnership.  It was an informative meeting and he expressed very graciously his appreciation for our work with the children.  We congratulated him on the beautiful new brace shop which we all toured yesterday.  We are leaving behind about $6000 worth of medications and supplies, for the Haitian pediatrician to use for the St Vincent's children.  Also there is medication for high blood pressure and diabetes, for the adult staff to get refills on the meds we gave them in clinic. We discussed with  Pere Sadoni our concerns that many of the adult staff don't seem to continue taking their medications, for various reasons.  He explained that the "Haitian mentality" is that you don't take medicine unless you are sick, and being sick means you feel bad and cant get out of bed.  Once a Haitian feels better, s/he does not think s/he needs the medication anymore.  We told them that is not just  Haitian mentality, it is human nature apparently. 

Day 5, Dancing with the deaf

Yesterday, Sherye tells me the older teenagers had a dance party in one of the classrooms upstairs.  She joined in with a line of kids, watching another kid count and demonstrate a new line dance.  Lots of hand movements, the rhythm set to a song playing on one of their phones, hooked up to a small set of speakers. All the desks and chairs pushed to the side of the room. About 2 dozen kids, with 20 more watching and clapping.  

A typical teenage dance party, except that all these kids are deaf. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Day 4, Vitamins and Plaster

6 AM in Haiti, everyone asleep at the guest house except the cooks who already have coffee ready for us.  Wonderful strong Haitian coffee, with brown sugar and a little milk, or straight black as John Mutin likes it. Our first morning, the first pot was gone before John got up, much to his dismay.  The second morning, I woke up early and found John in the dining room at 5:30 already drinking his first cup.  They have little dainty cups for drinking, so John and Drew have to refill theirs three or four times just to get started....

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Day 3 Inadequacy and Mercy

On the bus this morning, Sherye taught us some basic signs including colors and numbers.  There are about 80 deaf kids at St Vincent's, and Sherye helps us communicate with them in clinic.  Being a teacher, she always looks for an opportunity to teach the students new vocabulary.  Not to mention 17 team members from the United States!  Picture Drew Woodruff trying to make the sign for "yellow", "green", "red", "purple" and getting them all mixed up. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 2 Hunting for a Local Pharmacy

Today was our first day at St Vincent's.  We arrived early enough to see the school opening ceremony, when the Haitian flag is raised and the children sing their national anthem. Blind, deaf, missing limbs, does not matter.  Everyone sings. The deaf sing with their hands. 
We used to see this every morning when we stayed at the school guest house, before the earthquake.  We would sip Haitian coffee on the balcony and watch the gathering down below.  I look forward to being able to do that again someday when the entire school is rebuilt.  Until then we stay at a different guest house, which is comfortable and has great food, but its not the same as staying with the kids in their own community.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Day 1 Smooth Sailing

We had the smoothest trip I can remember, with no weather delays, no missed connections, and all 11 team members and 20 suitcases arrived intact.  Sienna joined us in Miami, having  flown from New Orleans early this morning.  She arrived at 9 AM and found a place to sleep on the floor until we arrived at 1:00 PM. The 6 nurses from CBU leave Memphis tonight, to spend the night in LaGuardia airport and arrive in Port au Prince  early  tomorrow morning.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pre trip hopes and fears

Up at the computer at 6 AM, the day before our team leaves for Haiti.  This will be trip #11 for me.  We have 17 team members (YIKES!).  I realized last night that all are veterans, except 2 medical students and 4 of the CBU nurses.  Something about Haiti keeps us all coming back for more.  Of course it is the children at St Vincent's, with their unconditional love and ability to face and embrace life despite their handicaps and extreme poverty.
Some of you already read my recent email, but for others, here is our team:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Woodley 1&2. Making Beds" - Shruti's Reflection pt. 4

So. I have both been extremely busy and extremely lazy since I came back from Port au Prince two weeks ago. I've been traveling a lot for interviews and when I'm not traveling, I'm watching A LOT of TV or reading Count of Monte Cristo (it's massive and a great read!). Carmen SanDiego meets the Sloth equals Shruti.

Hope you enjoy my last installment!


I'll risk being cliche with this statement, but my last day was bittersweet. On the one hand, I was ready for hot showers, being able to brush my teeth with tap water, personal space and to see my family. On the other hand, I felt like I was just getting to know the children and the people on the trip I had befriended.

"A lot to process" - Shruti's Reflection pt. 3


Before I start, I just wanted to thank you all for the amazing emails I received about your reactions to reading about the kids. There is a lot more I want to say about working with the underserved, but I'll save that for my next message. This message is going to be about another side of Haiti, a side that highlights the country's potential and the people that are coming to help push it towards realizing that potential.

"Treatable and Not Treatable" - Shruti Reflection pt. 2

So, when I asked Dr. Nelson if I could join the trip, the only questions I asked her were 1. Will my being a vegetarian be a problem? 2. May I wear scrubs? 3. Will I be able to do laundry? (Yes, be proud, I packed for 6 days with a messenger bag...and I wore Chacos...on a plane.)

"So. I'm in Port au Prince" - Shruti's Reflection pt. 1

So. I'm in Port au Prince, Haiti.

Two weeks ago UTCOM's Dean of Students sent an email about a clinical opportunity in Haiti. I typically delete any email I receive through my UT account, but for some reason I decided to open this one. A UT faculty member, Dr. Susan Nelson, runs an organization known as the West Tennessee Haiti Partnership. A trip leaving after Thanksgiving had two people drop out, so Dr. Nelson had an email sent out among the med students to see if anyone could join the trip last minute. The dates of the trip were November 28th-December 4th. The last interview of my November tour was November 26th. My next trip wasn't until December 6th. I immediately emailed Dr. Nelson and after a phone conversation with her (and my anxious mum in India), my trip to Haiti was set.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Most Courageous Boy I Know

On Monday we were there for only a few minutes when I saw my buddy Jasper. He scoots past everyone and comes straight to me. This brought tears to my eyes because I have been praying for him since we first met a year ago. I think he is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met.

He is now six and has the biggest eyelashes I have ever seen on a person. They look like someone has put two sets of fake lashes on him with these big brown eyes that just beam happiness. He is all boy, very smart and quick on his feet. The biggest thing you first notice is he has only one partial non-functioning miniature arm. I picked him up and gave him a long hug. He was all smiles and after a while I put him down and he just stayed looking up at me.

Later on, we are all sitting down and ready for the church service at the school celebrating the holiday for the handicapped children. I look down and there stands my buddy Jasper again, so up he climbs onto my lap. I introduce him to Shruti and to my embarrassment I find out my buddy's name is Branson and he only lives at the school Monday through Friday. He goes home with his mom for the weekends, a mom who obviously loves and cares for him since he is dressed from head to toes in clean pressed clothes and his face and hair are clean.

That's when it hits me--the faith this mom has in the school to allow this young boy to stay with St. Vincent's School during the week. She does it in hopes that he can learn to care for himself with no arms. They have done this before with other children. The difference between St. Vincent's and any other school in Haiti is their ability to teach these children to overcome there handicaps. This child has the intelligence, we just have to teach him.

I look down and this time see big tears streaming down his face. When I ask what's wrong he says, in perfect English, "I want my mommy." At this, I can only hug him closer and wipe away the tears with a tissue I just happen to have in my pocket from a package Sherye had given me just that morning. I can only say she knows me well since we have been to Haiti together before.

At this point, it's time for communion. I feel blessed that Branson will get to receive Communion as I carry him in my arms up to the stage. As we walk back to our seat I feel all things are possible with God's help. We have to do all we can to make Saint Vincent the best we can.
That includes helping those who don't know how to help themselves, learn they can, with Gods help! Branson and his mother must share a lot of faith being separated for a week at a time. Can we answer their prayers? I am praying we will succeed with your help and God's grace. I never thought I would believe that one of the most courageous people I know is a six year old boy with no arms, crying for his mommy.

-John Mutin