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Hurricane Matthew

October 8, 2016

My trip to Haiti occurred in 2010.

If you wish to help Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, I recommend donating to New Life Children’s Home.

Read through the blog to see why I was so impressed with them during my time there and in their activities since I met them.

Now what?

December 31, 2010

As we approach the one year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, there is still much to be done.

The most moving part of this experience was getting to know a few of the children at the New Life Children’s Home. You can have the opportunity to get to know these children, too! You don’t even need to leave home. Visit the New Life Children’s Home Program Page and sponsor a child.

Read through their stories and pick out one that speaks to you. For just $25/month, you can help make their dreams come true. You’ll receive photos and can write letters. You can even go visit your child. It’s an amazing program from an amazing place that is saving lives every day.

Thank you all for supporting me. Your generosity is mind boggling. I wish you all the best in the year ahead and urge you not to forget the children of Haiti.

What you should have heard about this weekend

December 14, 2010

I’m sure by now you heard about a certain celebrity/politician visit to Haiti this weekend.

It got a lot of attention. I had some small hope that this would bring much-needed focus to what is going on there, but that didn’t happen.

While the major media was covering that visit, my twitter feed was blowing up with violence and illness.
Over 2000 people have died of cholera and it’s still spreading.
Innocent peolpe are dying in the streets including the wife of the fixer Ivan Watson of CNN has been working with. She was shot in the back while going to the grocery store.
Even more horrifying, I was sent video of a man being shot point blank in the head.

There was some hopeful news as well. Cuba sending medical teams. A new school opening.

This is Haiti. Good and bad mixed together. So very little progress being made.

This was more of a vent than an update, so I want to close with something positive.

Pediatrician Jennifer Halverson is heading back to Haiti. She is collecting donations of supplies and funds to purchase medicine. She gives me hope that there are still many Americans who haven’t forgotten Haiti. Support her if you can.

Thinking of Haiti and Tomas.

November 4, 2010

It’s raining right now in Haiti.

Millions living in tents have been told to seek shelter from Tomas which can’t decide if he’s a tropical stom or a hurricane.

Regardless, it’s a lot of wind and rain, and sherlter is hard to find. You leave your possessions in your prized tent and hope a friend can spare some room.

I know the people I was with in Haiti will be fine in their concreate buildings. But all I can think about are those tents.

Tents outside my hotel. Tents outside the airport. Tents on the hillsides. Tents filled with people. Strong people. Sick people. Old people. Children.

Latest storm track shows that the eye won’t hit Haiti, but the storm will.

Please keep them in your thoughts.

I’m currently gathering warm weather clothing, children’s underwear and school supplies. Please leave a comment for more details of where you can send money and other donations.

Red tape ruin

October 28, 2010

Heartbreaking piece by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on AC360 last night.

Aid sits untouched as people die.

Watch the video.

As he points out, this is not expensive supplies. These people don’t need heart transplants. They need saline. Inexpensive, easy-to-ship saline.

Day 5

October 28, 2010

My final full day in Haiti.
I was pretty used to the drill now. I got breakfast, found a comfortable chair to sit with a book and waited for my ride.
They scooped me up and we went straight to the New Life Children’s Home.
Fran was thrilled to have me back and I went straight to work unpacking more barrels of clothing. She told Waner that to thank them for bringing me, she would see if they had any food to spare for Pastor Moise’s orphanage.
I had a new plan this day as I already had huge piles of plus-sized women’s clothing, but very little for anyone else. In particular, very little for the kids who actually lived at this orphanage.
So I would open a barrel with a piece of plastic that I had Macgyvered into a screwdriver and sort the women’s clothing into an empty barrel, pulling out the few items that might have another use. I would practically cheer whenever I found a onesie or a women’s size Small.
It was still bakingly hot, but with the ipod turned up and the new system, I was making good progress.
I had one morning visitor, a little black goat that came into to try to nibble at the bags of beans. No beans to spare for goats though, so I sent the cute little guy on his way.
When I finally had opened all the barrels, the piles of clothing were massive. I expressed my concerns to Fran about the large amount of women’s clothing, but she said that some of the women who worked at the orphanage would be thrilled and that they could certainly give stuff away in the neighborhood or have a rummage sale. She mentioned one grandmother in the neighborhood that they often provided clothing to for her to sell. Her three grandchildren depended on her for care as their father had been long gone and their mother died in the earthquake. The grandmother had actually brought the three kids to the orphanage to give them up, but the folks at the New Life Children’s Home offered to give her a small amount of assistance if she wanted to keep them. It really touched my heart to hear how she cried with gratitude.
Since I was done with the barrels of clothes and my ride was coming soon, Fran took me on a tour of the property. They have several guest rooms that are available to rent. Since they are so close to the airport, a few pilots keep apartments there. But most of the rooms were dorm style and would be housing a new crew of volunteers in just a few days. Fran and her husband were staying in an apartment that had been donated to them for the time being as they helped to run the orphanage. The director also had an office there, but she had just left to spend a few days in Florida.
Past the guest houses was the building they used for a classroom, the open pavilion dining area and the dorms for the kids.
Most interesting to me were the vegetables and animals. The boys were all being taught to care for them in a sustainable manner. A man came every Friday to teach them and he set up his own little camp next to the vegetable garden.
They had a aviary for parrots and other exotic birds. They had one of those moveable chicken coops with laying hens that produced 25 eggs a day. Across the property, I thought they had more birds, but it was actually rabbits. Lots of rabbits. Fran explained that in the large concrete tanks, they raised tilapia. Since tilapia are bottom feeders, they were able to put the rabbit cages above the fish and that meant no rabbit droppings to clean up and well-fed fish. Genius.
We even got to spend some time pushing one of the girls on the swing set. I loved her smile as she got to sail higher and higher.
We got some reports of a traffic jam nearby so I knew it would be awhile before I got picked up. This ended up being nice because I got to talk to some other people who helped out at New Life. One gentleman was there from Florida. He spent the day adding netting to all the buildings to keep out mosquitoes and was busy planning to host his college-aged daughter and group from her school who were coming to help at their Christmas break.
It was interesting to chat with them about the challenges of running the orphanage and getting the kids educated – the boys who didn’t have the right type of shoes, the little girl who couldn’t attend school until they found her white barrettes for her hair. While we sat there, a nurse came over to Fran and they tried to work out vacation times for nurses and teachers and coverage in general. It was a bizarrely typical work struggle where “management” had a grand idea of keeping the focus on the kids and the workers were making sure they had time to visit with family in the United States and, in general, just make sure they got all the time owed to them.
I’ve seen people write about how if every Haitian just picked up one rock each day, things would be dramatically improved there. This is clearly the writing of someone who hasn’t been there. Pick up one rock and take it where? Donate time to the country, when? Each day, they are doing the basic things that any person would do to keep their family together. Find water, find food, get to work, get the kids to school. When, in the midst of all that, are you supposed to find time to do volunteer work?
Volunteer work is the luxury of people with time. When you are struggling to make ends meet and working multiple jobs, there’s no time for volunteer work. There are people who do it, definitely, but those people are saints.
Later, we were joined by another pastor. He ran a church in the mountains that was not accessible by roads. You drove to the area, crossed a river in a boat and then followed paths into the woods. People had asked him to start a parish there because there were no churches nearby. You had to hand carry in supplies for the church and the attached school. I had heard about him earlier in the day. I was told that his three children were currently in the United States attending school and his youngest missed him so much that when he first arrived, he cried every time he saw a black man.
The day of the earthquake, his niece hadn’t seen that little one for awhile, so she went upstairs to look for him. Finding him, she decided to take the outside stairs to bring him down where she had been hanging out. As they walked down the stairs, the house collapsed behind him. The pastor tells people that although he misses his children, God saved his child, so he will remain in Haiti to save God’s children. Beautiful.
As we drove home from the orphanage, Waner asked Pastor Moise to show me Haiti’s largest Catholic Church. It was clearly once a beautiful building, but now it is in ruins.
My last night in Haiti, I spent in the hotel dining room with Guillaume. He was heading to DC in a few days, and I was returning to New York in the morning. He teased me for my still appalling French and tried to teach me what rum I should buy before I left. It took me several tries to get the name of the Haitian rum down – much to the amusement of the listening waitstaff.

Day 4

October 28, 2010

In what seemed to be a miracle, on Thursday morning, Pastor Moise appeared a mere 10 minutes after our designated time. He was alone and we drove up into Petitionville to pick up Waner. After yesterday’s side trip, I had no expectations about where we might end up today.

We went the long way around Port-au-Prince to the airport and ended up back at the New Life Children’s Home. They arranged to return at 3:30pm and left me with Fran.

I was led to a large building that is meant to be a church, but right now, it is serving as a storage facility. Huge barrels of supplies were piled up. Fran suggested that I separate them on to the benches in the building. One bench for little boys, one for bigger boys, one for little girls, one for bigger girls, then adult woman and adult men. In particular, I was to keep an eye out for underwear which was always needed.

I started work. After a little while, working alone, I pulled out my ipod and separated clothing with bopping along to Ben Folds and Dan Bern. The metal roof made the room baking hot and I was soon sweating despite the fans.

After several hours, Fran came into check on me and insisted I take a break. She told me a little about how they ended up there and their plans. They had kids going to school and so many special needs children and adults. Until the election everything was on hold, but they were hoping adoptions would open up again. At least they would then be able to hopefully find homes for the younger kids.

Then she said she’d send along a few girls to work with me when they finished their homework.

For the last hour of the day, three teenagers joined me. They spoke English but were very shy about it. When I tried to talk in French, they just giggled at me, so I gave up and went with English. Anytime I spoke, they repeated my words, trying to get the pronunciation just right. Fran had warned me that they would spend a lot of time trying on the clothes, but they didn’t. They were such great kids. They made quick work of each barrel and then would call me to open a new one. It struggled not to cry as I thought about how sweet these kids were. Already teenagers, adoption was unlikely for them and I just wanted to sweep them away to Philadelphia where they would have a chance at a real education and college.

Instead we continued to separate the clothes until Fran said we were done for the day. Each girl got to take one item. I’m pretty sure they all chose shoes.

My crew arrived soon after to take me home. We went the long way again and picked a woman up along the way. Night fell quickly and it was a little unnerving to be driving the pitch black streets. They were jammed with traffic and my eyes burned from the exhaust and the smoke from cooking fires along the roads.

I arrived home late enough that I didn’t have too long to wait until dinner at the hotel restaurant. I was starving from the long workday and went with the salad bar with a fantastic carrot soup. I went with salad because I literally couldn’t imagine waiting another 10 minutes to eat. A bottle of Prestige was the perfect ending to my day.