Saturday, February 27, 2010

An email from Haiti

I got this email today from the pastor of the church where our church delivered the food bags bought with YOUR donations. Thank you again, amazing stuff!


Thank you so much for writing. I was going to send you a report about the food bags yesterday, but I had internet problems. We were able to hand out all the food bags. We gave bags to 210 needy persons. We still have some of the stuffs your team brought for our people, and we will give them out by next week. Unfortunately, we did not take any pictures. Sorry for that. On behalf of all the recipients, Hope Baptist Church and I are very grateful for you. May God richly bless you as you continue to serve Him and His people

Saint-Ange Monstesime
Senior Pastor of Hope Baptist Church

Friday, February 26, 2010

Television.

So our friends Jennie and Miguel just moved to the US and gave us their television. I've been with out a TV here for 3.5 years and, well, things have gone along fine. I know, some think it impossible, but I have my computer and watch movies and check news, so I still feel pretty in touch.

Well, we got cable last week as there were no channels at all, and it's only $9/month, and let me tell you, life is good. I stayed up until 1:30 last night watching the girls ice skate, and I'm currently watching Oprah and drinking tea. All of the sudden, I'm that much closer to the States. As the news is set up to be local to NY, I'm hearing about the winter storm, and even enjoying a cloudy cold day here.

My favorite part of the day was when the Cadbury egg commercial just came on. I smiled, I fully smiled. All alone in the apartment and here I am smiling. It's the one where the lion and other animals are dressed like a bunny, you know. It's just that I've seen that commercial so much growing up and here it is again, little unexpected pieces of America. I haven't had an Easter at home in ages so I forget the little things.

So I'm enjoying my TV. Even the commercial. No, especially the commercials.

Time to vaccinate

Another round of vaccines and I am proud to say we nearly have all our kids fully vaccinated!!! It has been a long time coming, but worth it all. This time we vaccinated against Tetanus, Polio, Diptheria, Measles, Rubella, and Hepatitis B. We still have a few to catch up on, and the new kids who just started will continue to catch up as well, but the majority of our kids are now at CDC standard for vaccines!

Vaccine days are strangely kind of funny. The kids get so worked up about their shots, some go running to hide, others arrive to me drenched in sweat from fear, and we even had one little guy escape from the school to his house! Don't worry, I'll get him eventually. I try and tell them it's because I love them so much I don't want them to get sick, but then again, they're young and that kind of reasoning doesn't work. So we hold them and give them stickers and Tylenol and continue vaccinating!



Easter project


One thing about helping Emily with sponsorship projects is that we begin to celebrate a bit soon for the holidays. So we are in full swing of Easter, and in the last week, nearly finished all the cards to send to the home office where they'll then be sent to the sponsors. It was funny to see how each kids understands instructions and how they find their own special way to do each project. Happy Easter...a bit early!!

Mud. And a walk to school


It's been raining off and on in these days, which I love. The downside of all the lovely rain though, is the mud. To get to school, we go through the cane fields where the road is mostly dirt and rock. Of course, when the rain comes, we get mud and puddles and...a mess. The other day on the way to school, Junior-a teacher and the driver, was trying to miss a mud/water hole and went too far to the right, throwing us into the ditch where we got stuck. Alberto was still doing the food buy about 30 mins away, so we decided to walk. It was quite a distance, but we made it after crossing little rivers along the way and mud everywhere. The van did eventually get pulled out and all was well.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Back from Haiti again




The team made it home from Haiti Saturday night and had endless stories to tell. The group headed to Haiti at 3 am Sat morning, getting to the border town of Dajabon about 9 am. They ran into problems because immigration said they couldn't take the rental truck loaded with all the donations, into the country. That didn't stop them though. One of the guys hopped on a motorcycle taxi into Haiti and rented another truck. They quickly transferred the donation bags and headed out! It was incredible how it all came together so fast and they were soon on their way.

They made it to the church in Cap Haitien, where earthquake refugees are staying with families, but the families were already poor and hungry before accepting more family into their homes. The pastor was ecstatic to receive so much support and help and Ariel said he was forever smiling. They were shown the church, the construction to expand it, and the children who were in Bible classes at the time. The pastor was meant to hand out the bags to the earthquake victims yesterday after the church service, and we hope to hear about that soon.

Thank you for all your donations and support in this time. It has been such a great blessing to be able to be this link between you and the Haitian people. We don't have another trip planned at the moment, but if you are interested in continuing to donate, you can be in touch with me and we'll see if we can do another trip.

I'd just like to say that the whole trip was run off of donations. 225 food bags, 50 baby bags, items for women, and extra items to hand out along the way, along with van rental and gas...all because of YOU! Thank you. Thank you for caring about the Haitians, for donating from your hearts, and for trusting us to make it happen.



Friday, February 19, 2010

Packing it up for Haiti

Last night we packed the bags for the Haiti trip on Saturday. It was amazing to see how much was actually in the bag by the end of it all. It was a fantastic group that came together to help pack each bag and we couldn't have done it without them. Each of the 225 food bag contains: 5 lbs rice, 2 lbs sugar, 1 carton milk, 1 salt, 2 powder seasonings, 2 liquid seasonings, 5 juices, 2 corn meals, 2 packs spaghetti, 1 can beans, 3 bouillons, 1 bottle oil, 2 packs of matches, 2 packs crackers, 2 packs cookies, 1 toilet paper, 1 tomato paste, 5 bottles of water, 1 salami, 1 can of tuna, and 2 packs of powdered milk.


We were also able to prepare 50 baby bags which contain 1 can of formula, 1 pack of diapers, and 1 bottle. We have sanitary pads that will be given separately to the women, which they're really asking for.

So we are officially ready for this trip now and they should be leaving about 3 am on Sat morning. Can't wait!!



Thursday, February 18, 2010

Food buy for Haiti


With your continued donations, we are in the final preparations to send supplies over on Saturday!
A group will be leaving at 3am Saturday morning to head to Haiti to take 225 food bags and 50 baby bags to the people.
When I was in Haiti, I was able to connect with the pastor of their church, a very large and excellent church, in the northern town of Cap Haitien. We found out that the church members from the community are now receiving family members who have fled from Port au Prince to look for help. The problem is that the families were already poor, hungry, and needy...and now there are more people in their small house and more mouths to feed.
What we decided is that it would be best to support these newly arrived refugees by being able to help 225 families with these food bags! It was an amazing connection to make and we are excited to be able to help those who were hurt and touched physically by the earthquake.
We continue to finish the buy today and then start packing tonight! It is exciting and we are looking forward to this!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tents are ready

video

All the tents are ready to receive kids! After the video, the bunkbeds were made and put in place.

Kids Alive, Haiti

video

This is the Kids Alive site where we were for the week

Streets of Cap Haitien

video

Driving through the city to get to the Kids Alive site

Markets, Cap Haitien

video

Entering Haiti

video

Just across the border, this is normally where a market fills the area on market day.

Border crossing into Haiti

This video was filmed going over the bridge into Haiti. Both sides of the river were filled with women washing clothes and children bathing

video

A job well done


I don't know how to properly say thank you to these men. I learned a lot, I saw a lot. Yah, I did a lot of cooking, but that seemed so trivial to all that they were doing. I loved getting to know them, to hear their stories, to share in this week of building and learning together. I loved seeing the other side of "manly men" during their devotional sharing time in the evenings, when they were real and open and vulnerable. To hear personal stories of struggle and victory, to hear them encourage one another, to see the trust and openness...it was incredible. So, thank you. To each one of you who gave of your time, your money, your heart, your passion, your skills, your dedication. It has been an amazing week working alongside you.

Obama is Haitian?



This sign never fails to make me smile. Yes, Obama, Haiti loves you. I asked one of the Haitians about it and he said that the Haitians LOVE Obama and some feel that he is actually Haitian!

Fishing


Down on the waterfront, the men were working hard to bring in some fish. They cast their nets wide, with the help of a little boat, and then 4-5 men pull in the nets. They then bring them in closer and closer until they are able to pull out the fish and place them in a basket. As we watched from the shore, it seemed as if they caught more garbage than fish, and even the fish were quite small. It's hard to believe fish can even live in the water, and I worry for those that will be eating them.

Around town

I wish I had the words to describe what it was like to drive around town. The sights, smells, feels, it's hard to process all that I took in. There is such a contrast in Haiti, between the natrual beauty of the ocean and mountains to the mud/sewer filled streets and people packed alleys and houses. Although Cap Haitien was not harmed by the earthquake, the needs are just the same. They need food, water, adequate housing. All the needs that we see now were there before the earthquake. It is just that the earthquake amplified and brought greater attention to the poverty and needs of this country. It is poor. Poor like I have never seen before. Houses made of sticks, no water or electricity in the best of places, words do no justice to what it is.



Unamog


This is the Unamog, the dearly-loved Kids Alive Haiti transportation. This serves as school bus, team transport, and used to be the family vehicle! It was amazing, period. It had the feeling of heading off to battle, with the troops loaded in the back! I will say that it was the perfect vehicle for managing the pothole, mud-filled streets of Cap Haitien.

Kitchen Cupboards


Another little group worked on getting more cupboards into the kitchen. Receiving 50 kids means a lot more dishes and items for preparation, so cupboards were put together, sanded, stained, and hanging by the night before we left. This should be a huge help for creating space in the kitchen!

Bunk beds

With the tents in place, the group transitioned into full time bunk bed making! The day started with some welcomed sprinkles and rain, but the tents proved to be the perfect woodshops! By the end of the day, 25 bunkbeds were ready and in place! I'm still amazed at the speed these guys were able to work!



Cooking, cooking, and more cooking


I went on this trip to be a "helper" to Helen, the full time Kids Alive missionary. They had to return to Canada because their granddaughter was extremely ill and in intensive care. This meant that I became chef for the week. Mind you, I love cooking and being in the kitchen, but I had never actually been in charge of planning, preparing, and serving meals for 20-25 each day! It was a welcomed challenge though and in the end, I'm glad I was able to be there for it. Please excuse the shiny forehead in the photo, but it was taken after an hour of flipping French Toast (5 loaves worth!). Thankfully it was a team of men who weren't too picky about what they were eating, and they gave me lots of grace in both time and the meal!
I was so thankful that growing up I was often in the kitchen alongside my mom, and then in the DR I am often helping in the kitchen at Zeneida(our school cook)'s side. I was able to cook up some home favorites as well as some DR food. I had to learn that tripling a dish's quantity also made it require a lot longer cooking time, but we made it. I am thankful no one got sick or had problems due to food!!

Raising the roof, and roof, and roof

The tents went up quickly with a team that was willing and ready! They raised 6 tents on that day and were able to see immediate progress! The side roof and bathroom project continued to move along steadily as well while the tents for being raised.

First tent in place


Everyone got excited as the first tent was raised! This tent will serve as the supply and donation tent, where kids can go for clothes and shoes. It was so great to really see what they would look like and all were encouraged to see the grounds changing!

Contruction continues

The days went on and the construction was poured into! The tents arrived just in time as the platforms were being finished. It took some reading and planning and understanding to work out how to put the tents together, but they got it figured out and went to work!



Kids at school


Their program in Haiti is set up to receive both kids from the community and kids from the children's homes. Kids Alive has 3 children's homes where kids are cared for by house parents 24 hours a day. This becomes their family and their home. They also have kids from the comminity come in for schooling in the morning. The kids continued to come to school while construction went on, although I'm sure it was a bit of a distraction.
One of the things that was really hard for me was communication! Haitians speak Creole or French, of which I know about 5 words. Although where I work in Caraballo, many speak Creole, our kids are not allowed to speak it during class time because we try to help them learn Spanish well to be able to succeed in the Dominican Republic. Because of this, I never thought it would be helpful to put the effort into learning Creole because I wouldn't be able to use it with the kids. Well, I got a crash course in Creole, and left speaking about 15 words. My goal now is to work on a 3rd language, but I know it will come slowly! I wanted so badly to speak to the kids and staff, but everytime I tried my Spanish on them, I got blank stares in return! It's just such a natural response when someone doesn't understand English to revert to Spanish! Creole, here I come!

And off they go!


Construction started immediately, as there was a lot to get done! They went to work on the platforms for the tents, as well as the side roof onto the existing building, which will serve as a cafeteria for the new kids. A group also started to work on the bathrooms, which included laying block, pipes, and digging a septic. LOTS of hard work, especially in the hot sun. I, meanwhile, was busy in the kitchen making cookies and helping with lunch, and getting things set to keep these guys well fed (a chore in itself!)

Getting Started


The team wasted no time in jumping into work. First thing in the morning they were in meetings to discuss how the projects would go and dividing into groups to accomplish that. The land, before starting, consisted of the main house, a small school building, and a tool house. There was a construction project that had been started, but because of land disputes, had to be abandoned. That same project is where the team picked up to build bathrooms and showers for the kids and house parents.

Arriving into Cap Haitien

As we pulled into Cap Haitien, the things we saw are indescribable. Things that still stand out in my mind are the huge amounts of trash along the road and in the fields and waterways. There were people everywhere and lots of dust due to the dirt roads and numerous vehicles. The UN has posts throughout the city and along the road driving in. It was interesting to see such a strong UN presence, knowing what it has taken to require a permanent UN intervention.



Border crossing


As we got to the border, we saw endless amounts of rice and bananas being grown. It took about 1.5 hours to cross into Haiti. First we had to go through Dominican immigration, cross a bridge, and go through Haitian immigration. Thankfully, we were able to stay on the bus the whole time and the company handled it...very handy!
As we entered into Haiti, right next to customs, we saw multiple trailer trucks loaded with what we think are relief supplies. It still seems that the Haitian government officials are impeding the entry of relief to the people. We heard that a group was chared US$5000 to get their items in. This, clearly, goes into their own pockets. Our Kids Alive truck with supplies made it in just fine and actually got a UN escort with a vehicle in front and behind of the supply truck!!

Heading into Haiti


The night before we left for Haiti, we got news that a Dominican pastor who had returned from Haiti 8 days before, had just died of menigococcal. I knew for sure there is a vaccine for that, so we started investigating first thing in the morning. We went to the public health department, where we were blessed with an amazing contact who got us connected with the lab in Santiago where it is manufactured. So off we flew to Santiago, where we had just enough time to get 10 vaccines and make it to the bus stop on time.
I vaccinated the 2 on the trip that hadn't had the vaccine yet, and then our director, Jeff, vaccinated me! Yes, we also did that at the bus stop. When we couldn't find anyone who knew how to give a shot, Jeff offered (jokingly) that he might be able to do it because he had vaccinated lots of cattle before on the ranch. Well, that was about the best offer I could find, so I went for it. Thankfully it all worked out and we got on the bus ready and vaccinated...and I packed 7 more for the family in Haiti.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Wrapping up

We are in our final days here in Haiti and the momentum has not only continued, it has gotten stronger-if that is possible! These guys are working so heard and to see their hearts and souls into what they are doing is incredible. So far they have built platforms and raised 9 tents, almost finished bathroom plumbing and walls, dug the septic and walled it in, built cabinets for the kitchen, built an extension onto the building for more kids to be able to eat, and are now pouring the floor.

There are some projects that were hoped to be finished, but as the days have gone by, it seemed like they wouldn't be completely finished. Jeff, our director for Kids Alive, threw out the "opportunity" last night for those that were interested to stay on here in Haiti for a few more days. In the end, they decided to forgo their day of going out to lunch after church and then to the artisan market...so sorry to their wives and families, their gifts will probably come from the Atlanta airport. But that means we should have 25 bunkbeds ready to receive 50 kids!!! Dedication and heart, willingness to serve continually. It has been insipiring.

It is purely by the grace of God and my mom and Zeneida's teaching in the kitchen that I am able to keep this group fed. Somehow between loaves of bread for French toast and endless rice for lunch, they seem to be still be living. They are certainly encouraging and complimentary, although I still say a prayer each meal that it is well cooked and doesn't make anyone sick!

It has been interesing being surrounded by Creole, I feel so helpless in communication. I've certainly picked up words by need...but I am a long ways from communicating! The ladies that help around the house during the week are patient with me as I know it is hard for them too, to have this white girl trying to cook in what is normally their space! I'm going to try to be better now about studying Creole, as I'm sure this is the first of many trips across the border. As many of our kids in Caraballo are Haitian, my natural reaction is to just speak Spanish to them...but they look at me like I'm a crazy lady!

We are heading out on the one and only 8am bus to the Dominican Republic on Tuesday morning. I should be back in my home sweet home by the evening.

Friday, February 05, 2010

More to check out

You can follow some updates as well through the Kids Alive website as well as through one of the team member's blogs. If you'd like to give to the project at Kids Alive, you can do so through here

Still working in Haiti

Sorry for the lack of updates, I know people are thinking and praying for us, and I thank you for that!

It has been a busy few days, but all is going amazingly well. Helen and Tom, the directors for this site, had to head back to Canada suddenly for a family emergeny. It was amazing to see how things came together so perfectly in a way that only our God could have orchestrated. It "happened" that the mail plane was arriving in the late morning, and it had 2 seats open to take them back to Florida! After a failing internet to try and communicate the need for the home office to investigate a connecting flight to get them into Toronto, one of the team members offered the services of a private plane that he uses for work. Not only did it take them to Buffalo, NY, but he arranged for a car to then drive them to their daughter's house. We haven't heard from them yet this morning, but please keep the whole family in prayer, and little Leah who is fighting for her life.

God also brought all of us together to continue beautifully as a team. There are leaders who have taken over construction plans, I'm apparently head chef now, and all is going smoothly. The internet is up and running again and I was thankful for that to get a few of my favorite recipes for larger groups!!

The construction is going so quickly, we are excited, and these men are pouring their hearts and skills into their work. We are hoping to finish the 9 tents, bathrooms, and extending one building to make space for a cafeteria. They are also installing extra cabinets in the main house for all the additional supplies. We hope to be able to organize donations in one of the tents so that the house can return to being a home for the Froese family!!

Thank you for all the encouragement and prayers...we are doing well, thanks to your support and God's super-strength!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Haiti, Kids Alive

Well I am safe and sound in Haiti. We had a driving day yesterday, crossing the border for over an hour, getting into the country...I'm still trying to process it all. There are UN vehicles everywhere, along with so many other organizations-World Vision, Feed the Poor, Red Cross, etc. We went through the town of Cap Hatian and were covered by dust and people, I have never seen so much of the two of those together in one place at the same time.

Today the team starts building. They will hopefully get 9 semi-permanent tents, a cafeteria, bathrooms, and organizing done in the week. It is a big task ahead, but they have energy and desire which is overflowing.

I'm off to help where I can, there is a lot to be done!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Into Haiti

Over the weekend it was decided that it'd be best if I was to go along with a Kids Alive group to Haiti. A team is coming in today from the States and I will meet up with them tomorrow in Santiago. A few Kids Alive DR staff will also be in on the trip to help lead and guide the team. We will head through Dajabon, the northern Haitian/DR border to go across to the city of Cap Hatian, in Haiti.

We will be there for a week and in that time be setting up semi-permanant tents, building a cafeteria, bathrooms, etc. to be able to receive "separated" kids. I say separated because it it still unclear the scope of actual orphans in the country. Kids are being registered and photographed still and put in the hands of creditable institutions to care for. The hope and prayer is that it is truly a separation and that their families will come and find them. If the kids are truly orphans, Kids Alive Haiti is preparing for that. They will in the following months, build permanant homes and find capable staff to be house parents and care for these children. It is a big process if you can imagine.

I, of course, will not be laying block and packing concrete...it's just not my thing! I'll be working alongside the one other missionary woman that is with Kids Alive there and we're going to work on organizing, preparing meals for all the hefty men, and if there's time, I'll fit in some medical checks for the kids that are already in their current program. No, it's not changing gauze and healing wounds at a clinic...but it is where I am needed.

I have learned so much in this about setting aside my desires in wait for our God's perfect timing. I could have rushed into Haiti and started changing dressings and helping medically, but it just wasn't ever right for me. Some may wonder why I didn't, with so much need and devastation, but I truly felt that I wasn't mean to ever go with the teams that went. I am working on listening to what God really wants me to do, and I feel that that involves just waiting for the path to be clear, to not doubt the steps that you are taking, to know and feel that He has prepared the way. I feel that now there is a clear path for me to head into Haiti and be used in the way He has for me, even though it is different that what I thought I would do in all this. I am thankful to go, to be doing something physically, to be used in another way by God.

The church trip to Haiti is still on! They are making final plans with the truck and van and people that will go, but it has been so amazing to see the donations come in. We started yesterday by buying 225 cans of tuna that we knew were on sale. The rest will be bought later today at the market, we went there yesterday to get prices and make an actual list...we're so organized! They will make the delivery to the church probably by tomorrow! If you are still interested in donating to send supplies on this trip, you can! I love seeing all those that have come together to make this a reality!

Thank you.