Packing for Haiti: Supplies provided by OSLC and Open Arms families filled 21 donated suitcases, each weighing 49 pounds. The team carried their own personal items for the week in their carry-on!
Departure Day! Early, early morning at BWI–a few checked pieces of luggage had to be rearranged to meet the 50 pound requirement but all ended up well. Thanks to a Thrivent Action Grant which covered 6 of the 2nd checked bags. Another OSLC member covered the rest of the bags. (1st checked bag is free to Haiti.)
Day: 2 at Village of Hope
We are up early with breakfast at 6:00 am. We were told if you want breakfast you will make it yourself. It was a basic breakfast until Rob, VOH Director, appeared. A large container of hot oatmeal was ready with brown sugar, apple pieces and raisins in the mix.
The OSLC troop all had breakfast. We left at 7:30 am in the van for the VOH school and clinic. The school and clinic are 11 miles from where we are staying. The village is currently at two locations with the hope it will all be on one property in the future.
The road of travel and traffic were notorious; I cannot describe it any other way. But we did arrive at our destination in time to witness the opening of school with the primary grades raising their voices joyfully. They had a second opening for us with individual students leading the group in more singing. It was inspiring.
The OSLC troops then attended the first grade class while it was in session. Nancy Olson had the troops distribute a small work project for the students with cutouts, stickers, and crayons to use on a picture to color. All pitched in to help where needed.
We toured the medical clinic with Rob describing the clinics currently in use and plans for expanding it as funds become available. We were introduced to the medical director and several members of his staff. The clinic was in use while we were there.
The day continued with lunch in the school cafeteria. The lunch was basic, kidney beans mixed with rice. It was good since most went for a second helping.
Then we visited a second grade class. Both classes, the first and second, each had 40 students. They all behaved nicely and were eager to learn. It was a learning experience for all of us. Afterwards, seven of the troops led by Rob hiked nearly a mile up a high hill to view the countryside which included a sight of the Dominican Republic, a neighbor to Haiti.
We returned to home base with a side visit to a large food store for some goodies. The roads we travelled on in the morning had not improved. We are home. While I am writing this the others are clearing a store room to begin painting and building more storage shelves.
Liz DeMik who has been at VOH seven times prior to this visit has been able to attend most activities although moving slowly with a cane. She suffered a hip injury before leaving.
Day 3 – Haiti
The day starts at 7:30 am with breakfast. We are in the van and truck, too many going for all to fit in the van, to the medical clinic at VOH to have one of the doctors go with us to a nearby village to meet with more children, students in a nearby school.
I had hoped the roads would be repaired prior to our visit but nope, they weren’t. The real challenge was the gravel road back to the village but trying his best Rob, driving again today, couldn’t miss all the bumps.
We met in the village, the walled-in portion, in the large community center. The children came, again a well behaved group, led by one of the assigned translators who is a wonderful leader of children in song and message. Several parents of the students were in attendance.
The OSLC Players performed their version of the Good Samaritan to the pleasure of the children. Pete Walsh read the story in English while one of the translators repeated it in Haitian. The Players performed their parts in pantomime at the appropriate time in the reading. It was well received.
Several children were then selected to play the Good Samaritan, again in pantomime, while a translator directing them, read the story in Haitian, the language of the children. It was fun and instructional to all.
A Lollipop (Dum-Dum) was given to each child (113 plus several parents with small children who were present.) Activity time followed. The boys were taken outside for games while the girls remained inside for crafts. The OSLC Players/troops assisted when/where needed. It was then snack time which included a peanut butter sandwich and a small drink of cool-aid (prepared the evening before) for everyone. The program concluded with a small gift bag given to each child as they exited the community center.
We returned to our home base, a few to relax, others to go to a hardware store to buy paint and other supplies. Painting of the storage room was begun yesterday afternoon but was not completed. It should be completed tomorrow with the new supply of paint. The construction of new shelving continues in the room with the hope to complete before we return.
The OSLC Players/troops send their love. We have received a lot of love from “the kids.”
Village of Hope – Haiti – Day 4 (Saturday)
We slept in late this morning, 7:00 am, with breakfast an hour and a half later. We left at 9:30 am for MISSIONARIES FOR THE POOR, (MFTP) a Catholic organization staffed by a priest, nine brothers and 30 support employees. The facility houses 84 residents who cannot speak (they make noises), many cannot walk (deformed legs and feet), some are blind and others cannot hear. Communication with them is through an expression of Love and Touch.
The OSLC Troops responded to this opportunity in exemplary fashion. The residents warmed to their visitors by walking up to us, touching hands and in many instances receiving hugs that were offered. Several of the very severe cases were being bathed in a room next to one where a Brother had introduced us to the facility. The plan included helping to clean that room, the floor, walls, and wipe down the bed frames in that room. Roger Harrison helped carry some children to their beds after aides bathed them. They had the appearance and size of children due to birth defect but were older. One them was 18, I did not learn the ages of others.
Soccer is very big in Haiti. Pete Walsh was a valuable assist in this area with the older male residents. Again, the older boys who Pete played with could not speak, but he directed them with hand motions or taking them by the hand and placing them in position. You could plainly see the satisfaction in their facial expression when they made a good kick.
Missionaries for the Poor will certainly hold a place in the memories of the OSLC troops for a very long time. If you have a definition for an angel you can certainly put the priest, brothers, and support staff at the facility in that category.
We left to return to home base for lunch. The ride back for some reason didn’t seem to be/feel as bumpy. Did they fix the roads? I don’t think so. I think the experience of the few hours we just had at MFTP put a softening in our hearts to ignore any minor discomfort we had while driving back.
Sandwiches, ham and cheese, and egg/tuna salad combination, were lunch for the day including a few left-overs from the previous night.
We left for the Metal Artisan Village after eating. This was another experience however vastly different from the morning’s events. The shop proprietors, artists who work in metal, are sellers of their wares, creations in metal. They want to sell, inviting you into their shop, sometimes three or four at a time urging you to see their work, but of course you can only do one at a time. I suspect they were fairly successful with us since many returned back to base with packages in hand.
The men on our return went to the storage room to continue painting and building the storage racks they began working on the previous day. They returned to it after dinner and devotions* in an effort to get it completed. The ladies helped package medication in smaller amounts from larger boxes for the VOH Clinic to distribute to patients when appropriate.
*Devotions are held each day after dinner.
Haiti – Village of Hope – Day Five – Sunday
Church, number one on today’s agenda. Destination was Port-au-Prince Fellowship, a non-denominational church, up a hill in the city located twenty plus miles or more from home base. It is English speaking with a high percentage of bilingual Haitians as well as other English speaking persons in the congregation. It is a large church. We attended the second service, 11:00 am to 12:30 pm, which was filled.
A school, not associated with the church, is located on the grounds. They have ground level class rooms, one story high, surrounding a very large athletic field grounded with artificial turf, presumably for football (soccer in Haiti). A very attractive setting.
We loaded into the van following the service to drive to a restaurant for dinner. It was a drive up a mountain road to a very high point which had a beautiful view of the city of Port-au-Prince and port below. Everyone had their cameras out ready to shoot a photo. The restaurant is listed as Observatoire Bar & Restaurant on Google as #2 of 47 Restaurants in nearby Petionville. The troops generally selected from the specials posted on a board on an outdoor wall of the restaurant, nothing exotic, just good food. We ate outside on the veranda.
We exited the restaurant, passing several shops operated by woodcraft artists, to board the van. We were invited into the shops for a sales presentation. Many of the troops weakened purchasing numerous items but enjoyed using their negotiating techniques learned the day before with the metal shop artisans. More items to pack.
The day concluded with completion of work on the storage room, making snacks (peanut butter sandwiches) and drinks, as well as packing crafts and small gifts for the children, for a visit on Monday to a local village to present a VBS (Haiti style) to the community children.
The pics below are from VBS in the Villages