As you know, Colleen is visiting Haiti and the Dominican republic. Her travel group has been sending daily updates. I hope you enjoy these as much as I have. Looks like Colleen will have more than a few stories to share when she returns to us
Day one: We woke up to a beautifully sunny day – the sky was blue and the clouds were light and fluffy. We were rested from our travel day and ready to begin the day. Breakfast was eggs, croissants, Haitian peanut butter (little spicy), and Haitian coffee (smooth and delicious). After breakfast we enjoyed a 3-hour lecture with Rev. Joloki, who is an ordained interfaith minister and voodoo priest. We learned about cultural perspectives, language, and the importance of relationships. We learned about the history and culture of Haiti as well as the religions of the area. After lunch we shopped at a village where the people supported themselves through the manufacture and selling of metallic sculptures. Our family will LOVE what we bring home. After shopping we returned to Villa MaMika where we debriefed and reflected on the lecture and the activities of the day. Supper was fish and vegetables. All the food is good and the people are hospitable and nice.
Jan 7, 2012
Today was a day of contrast, almost as if we visited three different countries. We were humbled and inspired by the faith and hope exemplified by the Haitian people. The day was packed full of experiences. To start, we visited a tent city. Approximately 50,000 people live on the grounds of what was once an 18 hole golf course. The conditions were beyond words. Nonetheless we were given a tour in small groups. Don’t worry, we have blessed with incredible interpreters. The response to our presence provoked a myriad of responses. The children were the most welcoming. In fact, those of us with blond hair were quite the entertainment for the girls. The second adventure of the day was visiting KOFAVIV. This organization is led by a group of young Haitian women who reach out to women and girls who have been raped providing safe reporting, medical needs, assistance in legal efforts and continued support. Their strength and will brought most of us to tears. They are victims who help victims. The increase in sex crimes has increased since the earthquake, due to tent city living and the trauma caused by disaster. These phenomenal women also provide education, counseling and support to young girls, teenagers and women who are forced to turn to prostitution. Part of this education is training women to make jewelry and other goods for sale. We had the pleasure of purchasing some of their beautiful work. Our third transition was a late lunch at a super swanky Haitian restaurant/guesthouse. Minutes from the tent city was a lush estate owned by wealthy Haitians. We lounged on furniture from all over the world, ate delicious food and attempted to process the dichotomy. It was a pleasant experience, but certainly strange after witnessing such suffering. We concluded our day with a drive through the surrounding country area. The UN and American Embassy seem to live pretty comfortably. They also are privileged to have access to Wal-Mart and RadioShack. The drive was disconcerting and confusing. We debriefed during dinner. We have concluded that the thread uniting the different economic classes of this beautiful country is the commitment to building relationships and pride in this beautiful country. We will have plenty stories and experiences to share. Since I am the class nurse I feel it necessary to report on the welfare of the group. Despite the challenges of the terrain and cultural differences, we are well. A few bumps and bruises, minor sunburns and GI upset…..we are doing just fine. We love and miss you all,
Jan 8, 2012
“Grab your Dutch Blitz and let’s play!” exclaimed Dr. Soto to me after we wrapped up another night of thoughtful debriefing and were still looking for more fun. It was a day full of play though and new experiences. We began the day early with a Mennonite Church Service across town under a larger tent with a roof of tarps and plastic chairs and wooden benches. The roads were dusty but the people were dressed in their best. Their’s was authentic praise and song lifted. We were received warmly and shared a song we’d learned in Creole and English. It was an honor to worship with our Haitian brothers and sisters. I even recognized the tune to some of the chorus songs we sang as ones I know from my church. I definitely felt at home with the people of this church. After church we were able to visit the school the church is building for the local children. Very near was the boys orphanage at the home of the pastor, Bishop Lesy Bertrand. We enjoyed the famous pumpkin soup or “Soup of Freedom” that is annually enjoyed in celebrate of the Haitian Independence. After lunch we talked and played with the children and the people of the orphanage. This orphanage had 12 boys. The second orphanage we visited held 92, quite a contrast seen back to back. These children at the Global Orphan Project were just as friendly, though these programs are run and funded in different ways. In all of these places we spent time in conversations with the people and fellow visitors. Sometimes for just a moment while we practiced our 3 key phrases encouraged by our guides and translator to say a proper hello and asking how they were and what their name was. They’ve certainly been right about connecting with people – Haiti is about relationships and a beautiful greeting opens the door to real communication. I’m finding that this is not true just of Haiti but of our group as well. We are a diverse group getting to know each other much better. Our own developing relationships as we work through differences in opinions and understandings mirror that which we see unfolding in Haiti. Our guides in Haiti have spoken of themselves as bridge builders and indeed their instructions are helping us understand Haiti as we understand ourselves better in this strange but ever beautiful place.
Jan 9, 2012
Today was a very exhausting day, we have been on the move from the time we woke up until late evening. However, it has been an extremely educational experience. We started the morning off meeting with a married couple from Mennonite Central Committee, Kurt and Wilda. We actually met with them last semester when they were in Lancaster. Today they led us into Cite Soleil, considered the most crime and gang infested area of the region. They took us the Pax Christie site in the area, whose ministry focuses on peace and social Justice. The program primary concentration is on troubled youth in gang infested areas. They are doing great and encouraging work with creating educational, agricultural, athletic and opportunities for disabled people. After leaving Cite Soleil we had a fabulous lunch at a Haitian Pizzeria. The food was good but there is nothing like an good old fashion American hamburger. Some us went to a gift shop and purchased some great gifts in downtown Port au Prince. The organization actually sells to 10,000 villages. We returned around 6:30 and had a delicious dinner of Haitian Lasagna, garlic bread, and fresh local produce. Around 7:30 we met in the conference room to meet with Pastor Jean Valerie who gave us an interesting perspective on Haitian Family, church, political and social theology from a Christian perspective. We had great dialog and was able to get question answer about our experience thus far from Haiti. Good night and we all send you are love.
Jan 10. 2012
Today was a day of learning about the culture of Ayiti (the name of Haiti in Kreyol). We spent much of the day with Carla, a woman originally from Philadelphia who has been living in Haiti for over 20 years. We met her at her house up in the mountains, in a town called Gwo Jan, where she lives with a small community of Haitians. We were blessed to experience pieces of traditional Ayiti culture. We helped roast, grind, and make coffee in the tradition way. We also helped with a new project they are working on making briket, a charcoal alternative made from saw dust, paper and cardboard pulp, and charcoal dust. The ingredients are mixed, measured, placed in a mold to squeeze out the water and placed in the sun to dry for a couple of days. It was exciting to hear about because the project is so new for them but it has a lot of potential to generate income, employ people in the community, and lessen Haiti’s dependence on charcoal (which the people here use to cook every meal). The amount of brikets that are needed to cook a meal is half the cost of the charcoal that would be needed. It was great for us to see how excited the locals were about this. One man who was there explaining the process to us told us that the brikets are going to change the country. Carla told us that he was so excited about it that he doesn’t sleep at night! It was great to see such positive energy looking toward the future of this country. Then we ate a great lunch of chicken, beans and rice that we helped prepare…We even had donuts! Next, we returned to the villa where we are staying for a small amount of relax time. After dinner, Carla and the young Haitian men she works with came to us to give us an authentic presentation on the history of Ayiti and how it reflects the mindset of the Ayiti people. Their presentation was called “Na sonje,” We will remember. What they showed us allowed us to fell the history in a way we never have before.
Jan 11, 2012
Today was our first official Sabbath day. After all of the powerful and transforming experiences this week, it was a real blessing to de-compress, and to just hang out and have fun with each other. Fourteen of us took a trip to Obama Beach…yes, that’s right it is really called Obama Beach. The beach was absolutely breath taking…we spent the afternoon swimming, playing, and relaxing. A few folks spent time relaxing by the pool at the guest house. We came together for our final delicious dinner prepared by the amazing staff at the guest house. We ended our night by sharing our individual responses to our time in Haiti, and then we walked the grounds of the guest house and spent time praying and giving Haiti a blessing. We will be packing tonight, and heading to the Dominican Republic in the morning! Many Blessings.