Saturday, July 26, 2014


I can hear the children of Cite Soleil crying for attention, “Hey You!” I turn and their arms are raised up for me to pull them up into an embrace. They so long to be held and gently loved, even if just for a moment before I have to release them back to their impoverished life. Their eyes wide with hope and despair as I have no choice but to turn and leave them behind. They have followed me home however, as they fill my dreams as I sleep. I can hear their voices, feel their hands in mine, and I can see their eyes as they speak of horrors I don’t want to hear. I can feel their ground of dirt, rocks, garbage and mushed in human waste underneath my feet as I walk with them clinging to me, and I myself cling to them. If only I could blink my eyes shut to their poverty and open them again to some sort of affluence. The best I can do, which is not nearly enough, but for the moment maybe it is, is to hold them close, give them a sense of love, security, and safety, and just for a moment, may they know that somebody cares.
My streets back home are filled with BMWs, Mercedes, Mustang Convertibles and the like, as they rev up their engines waiting for the light to turn green and waiting for those who run the red lights to finish up their hurried and risky ways. I had a hot shower this morning. I wanted to turn the water off. So I did. I ran it cooler after that. The restaurants and bars are filled with laughter as people mingle about with jolly conversations, none of which relate to the poverty of Haiti. I cannot converse. I go home early.
I went to work Monday. On the way to work I wandered through my knotted stomach and tear stained cheeks wishing I were back in Haiti, wishing I had a young child in my arms and another holding my hand, wishing I could be there to give them another moment of very needed love. Instead, I was dressed for work and preparing to teach young college students. I taught them about poverty, humanity, and the value of water. The rest of the week I have kept to myself for the most part. I’m looking ahead. What can I do? How can I do more than 4 suitcases? There has to be more I can do. 
Tracy Oliver

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Safe Haven

The morning was Haitian-bright as we ate our routinely delicious breakfast and donned our bright blue Reiser Relief t-shirts. We filled our water bottles and climbed into the back of the tap-tap, which was beginning to feel like a second home. The road was as bumpy as ever on the way to the water truck filling station, and we welcomed the break we were allowed while we waited for the Reiser truck to take its turn under the spigot. Cows, goats, and chickens picked their ways around the compound, and we laughed and chatted under the shade of a small garden of delicately pink-flowered trees. The sky was a vibrant, caribbean blue, and the mountains in the distance were shrouded in a pale mist that kissed the tops of the looming rocks. The beauty of the island couldn't be overpowered by the dust rising around us or even by the horn of the Reiser truck, that blared loudly at us to signal that it was ready to leave. We jostled along behind it, singing songs and laughing wildly.
Our second entrance into Cité Soleil was no less powerful than the first. My eyes raked the homes packed in closely on either side of me, and while I waved at the children running excitedly alongside us, I was completely speechless. Before we even touched the ground in Soleil #17, children were climbing into our arms and grabbing for our hands. A chorus of "HEY, YOU! HEY, YOU!" rang out around us, almost deafening. Even as water began to gush from the truck, the children stayed wrapped around our entire bodies, trying to communicate with us in any way they possible could (usually by shouting "HEY, YOU!" as loudly as humanly possible.).
I began to notice a kind of protective bubble around the truck. It was as though inside the radius the invisible force field the water provided, the desperation of Cité Soleil melted away. There was hope inside the bubble: smiles, laughter, hands being held. Kids sang, danced, and played in the water. They were completely unafraid of the "blancs", the foreigners. They weren't afraid to ask for help setting buckets atop their heads or transporting the sloshing water down the alley. They were not only nourished physically by the liquid life we were providing by the gallon; they were nourished spiritually.
After the rush of Soleil #17, we travelled just a bit farther to Juno's Orphanage. Luckner, one of our wonderful guides, vivaciously honked the horn of the tap-tap at a dusty gate set into a pale wall, and we were admitted in. Inside the walls was a completely different world than the one we had just experienced. A large tree sat in the middle of a well-kept courtyard, its bright leaves offering shade to seventeen beautiful kids who immediately welcomed us into their home with hugs and smiles. They were gracious beyond their few years, playing nicely and sharing the toys and games we had brought for them. Their laughs reverberated off of the stone walls as they made farms from play-doh, played soccer and catch, painted their nails, and tied ribbons into their gorgeous hair.
Almost as soon as my feet first touched the ground, I felt it again. The bubble. The hope. Desperation stopped at the gate, but it did not come from a truck full of water: it came from the children. The building. Juno himself. They all powered the force field with their endless love, and it was strong. Inside it, there was no hardship, no memory of sadness, or of loss. It was beautiful, and I felt so incredibly lucky to be a part of it.
As we made our way back to the guesthouse over the characteristically bumpy roads, I realized that this was the magic of Haiti: safe haven despite tragedy. While the protective bubbles may be invisible, the beauty and endless love are not. This is Haiti.

-Meg Maurer

Friday, July 11, 2014


Yesterday we went up to Reiser Heights, a school that Reiser Relief continues to support. We had planned on giving them an American style carnival experience, but they surprised us with a full-fledged variety show including singing, acting, dancing, and even a spelling bee! It was incredible to watch!!

The spelling bee highlighted the fact that Haitians have a different style to teaching than we are used to. When one of the little girls misspelled a word (or didn't spell it with French pronunciation), the head teacher immediately yelled out "Éliminer!!!!" with a VERY loud sound system, and directs the student to get to the back of the line.

Of course we felt sorry for the poor students (some of whom looked like they wanted to cry), and we shuddered at the corporal response from the head teacher. But then after contemplation I realized that the only reason I had a negative response is because it was different than I was used to. When you go to a place like Haiti that has such a different culture, it's best to leave all your biases behind. With an open mind we can accept a different way of doing things as different, but not inferior or wrong.

It's next to impossible for Haitians to finish high school and go to college, due to how expensive it is and how hard the standardized tests are. After 6th grade, if a student doesn't pass the test, they're done. And that's it. The teachers know this, so they need to be very hard on their students to get them ready. And that's where "Éliminer!!!!" changes from a harsh word into potentially a student's saving grace.

Bill Munson


This week I held many hands. Some reached out to hold mine, others I reached out to hold. Together, for a moment or more, we held hands together as we walked through a moment in time. These moments held buckets of water, hopes, dreams, hugs, tears, pain, comfort, security, trust, and love.

At General Hospital this morning I held the hand of a premature baby. The hand of a premature baby is about the size of the tip of my thumb. It is soft, fragile, and vulnerable. It has yet to experience the life that lay before it. My eyes filled with tears as I thought of what might possibly lie ahead for this sweet innocent baby here in the throes of poverty in Haiti. The mother sat close by with worry and hope in her eyes. Next to her in the next bed was another baby, and next to her was another baby, and then another and another, until finally two full rooms were filled with tiny little hands.

At Reiser Heights School, Cite Soleil, and Gertrude's, I held the hands of young children. They held on tight with fear wrapped in hope that just maybe, just maybe for a moment, they would feel visible, loved and safe. I held their hand in mine giving them all the love and comfort I could for that moment in time. Their fingers held on tight as it was time to let go.

At the Aube Center, I shook the hands of young adults going to school to educate themselves for a better a better life. They each want to make a difference. Their hands were strong and animated when they talked and sang. They shared their dreams and hopes, their hands raised to the sky.

The hand of an elderly woman in her 90s is thin, frail, rough, weathered, and vulnerable. It has experienced the life that lays behind it. It has held a baby, nursed a baby, raised a child, married, taken care of chores, carried baskets on her head, and, it has aged over time. Today, that hand rested in mine.

Today, I walked one moment at a time through a lifetime of hands.
Tracy Oliver


There's a little thing in Haiti called "Tap Tap Time" that is truly magical.  A team of random people, each called to Haiti by a different voice, spend hours together bumping along in a vehicle unique to Haiti called a tap tap.  It's essentially a truck with a cage on the back with benches along each side.  We sit in a row across from our teammates with no cell phones, no responsibilities in the moment, and nothing but pure human interaction.

We laugh a lot.  We sing. We doze. We bump our heads on t
he metal behind us and above us.  We grip the overhead handrails during frequent pot holes, sudden stops and crazy intersections.  We inhale diesel fuel, chat with our Haitian interpreters, look at an array of amazing scenery, look at each other, try to drink from water bottles without shooting water up our noses or on our neighbors.  We chat.  We sweat. We be.

This week we have an extra team member named floppy.   Floppy has been the focus of hours of discussion.  We weigh the benefits and drawbacks of floppy.  We compose songs about floppy.  We hide floppy.  Laugh about floppy.  Shake, fill and spill floppy.  We connect as a team over floppy.

Floppy is a water bottle of unique size, proportion and material.

More importantly, floppy is a metaphor for building relationships.  When we separate ourselves from our family, friends and culture we become utterly dependent on God and our team for love, encouragement, and companionship.    And it is through these relationships that we feed our souls and transform our hearts.

I am so grateful to the beautiful team this week.  And I'm incredibly grateful to floppy for the hours of belly laughs.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Dollar

A Dollar

In the states we have stores called, "The Dollar Store." It is a great place to shop for a paper towel roll for only a dollar, or a kitchen cleaning supply for only a dollar. One can even buy a couple of candy bars for a dollar and a birthday card too. What a bargain!

Here in Haiti, one can buy a child for a dollar. Do you find this shocking? I did. Permit me if you will to tell you my story.

Today we visited a school up in the mountains of Haiti. There are many families who live scattered amongst the mountain side. Their homes are made of tarps, some of broken concrete, some of corrugated tin, their roofs held down by heavy rocks to keep them in tact when it is windy. The children are forced to live in these conditions and it becomes all they know.  They sleep in the dirt, play in the dirt, eat their meals in the dirt, and carry their water in buckets. When it rains, their dirt floors turn into floors made of mud. Their clothes are tattered, worn, and dirty. Shoes are on the wrong feet, and few of them even fit. Parents do the best they can for their children. They hold them, wipe their tears, laugh with them, send them to school if they can, but it is not always enough, not here in Haiti where poverty is the way of life. They want more for their children than a life made of poverty on dirt floors with tarps for walls and no doors to close and lock to protect them. They become desperate to make sure their children have a better life than they can provide for them. They will do anything to help make sure that happens. This is where my story begins.

I held an infant in my arms today. Her big sister handed her to me to hold. This adorable baby stayed still in my arms as she kept her eyes fixated on mine. I became mesmerized by her as she continued to look me in the eye. My heart began to melt and I held her closer. Then her mother walked up to me, but she did not attempt to take her baby back. Instead she offered me her baby girl for a dollar. I looked at her in disbelief, and again, she offered me her baby girl for just a dollar. I told her I could not do that. I tried to give her baby back to her, but she refused to take her and walked away shaking her head and waving her hands. Her big sister still stood close by, so I gave the baby back to her. She looked displeased, but I gave her no choice. I had to give the baby back, her eyes still fixed on mine and mine on hers. Walking away was one of the hardest things I have had to do while here.

One might wonder why a mother would be willing to sell her child for a dollar? I will tell you this; the love she has for her child is selfless. She wants more for her than a lifetime of poverty in Haiti. She knows what goes on in Haiti and how difficult life will be for her baby girl. She did not know me, yet knew I would be able to provide for her daughter what she could not.

I wish I could have said yes. I wish I could say yes to all of the children here. But the best I can do is what I did today. I came to Haiti. I brought my heartfelt desire to love these children and the people of Haiti as best as I could. I came with bags filled with goods to help provide for their needs. I came with others who have the same heart for the children and the people of all ages here in Haiti. I came to do what I could and pray I make a difference, even if just for a moment...even if just for the moment I held that sweet baby girl as we looked into each other's eyes. I shall never forget those eyes.
Tracy Oliver

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


I firmly know and believe with every ounce of my being, that we are not meant to do life alone. It does not matter our race, culture, age, gender, religion, color, size, or language...we are meant to do life together! Today is the best example of this wonderful gift called, Together.

Today we delivered water to the people of Cite Soleil. As each of us poured out of the Tap Tap, we were immediately surrounded by children welcoming us. They jumped up into our arms, slapped us high-fives, held our hands, and reached out to us in unconditional love and gratitude. We returned the same to them. And so the day began...together.

Next came the water. As the water gushed out of the hose, children and adults came running to get in line to fill their buckets with water. Filling a large bucket with water takes team other words we needed to do it together. We took turns together holding the heavy hose as we filled the buckets the children placed in front of us. Together we helped the children fill their buckets. They were heavy and they needed help carrying them. So we carried them together.
We had the drivers and our guides helping us to keep order to the chaos, and we did that together as well. Together we worked to make sure every bucket was filled to the brim, small buckets held by small children as well. When the last drop of water dripped from the hose, every bucket that was brought to us was filled, and we all did it together.

What a wonderful gift.

Tracy Oliver

God Help Me

God help me.  God help me.  God help me.

I said this prayer over and over today.  It was my frightened mantra.  My cry for strength.  My whimper and my plea.

It took me 6 trips to Haiti to gather the courage to serve at the wound clinic.  Run by Catholic nuns, the clinic provides free medical care to the poor of Haiti.

When we arrived 30-40 patients were waiting outside with dirty bandages covering wounds on various body parts.  Some bandages had visible yellow pus staining the outside.  I was terrified to see what was behind the bandages.

After opening prayer we had a 1 minute training session.  Spray wounds with saline.  Clean with cotton.  Only use iodine if they are fresh wounds.  Cover with antibiotic.  Wrap. Here's your apron and 1 pair of surgical gloves that you are not to change between patients.

My first patient unwrapped his wound.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked in his eyes and then at his wound that he had obviously been living with for years.  I could see gangrenous tissue in it's deepest recesses. It was a wound that will never heal and that I suppose could eventually lead to the amputation of his leg.  I had no idea how vigorously or how gently to clean it.  I was afraid of causing pain.  I was afraid of not cleaning it properly.  I was afraid and horrified by the situation.  How could my rudimentary treatment be this man's only option?  How had the wound gotten to this deplorable state?  What agony had this man already endured and what more would he endure?

My patient guided me and showed with hand gestures how to care for him.  I completed his care and moved on to the next. And the next. And the next.  As did 4 Reiser Relief teammates who also humbled themselves to serve the sick today.

Haiti provides more questions than answers.  It puts me in touch with my limitations, my dependence, my humanity.   Thank you God for giving me the strength I lacked today.  Thank you Haiti for your lesson in humility.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

People are People

Haiti people are the most amazing and resilient people I have ever known and had the honor of being in the presence of. One will not see them driving down the street in BMWs, nor will you see nice dresses and stiletto's on the women and the latest fashion on the men. There are no red, yellow, or green lights at the intersections, and you most certainly won't find a Macy's or a Nordstrom's here. What you will find is a street full of heavy traffic, old beat up trucks, small and large. You will see all kinds of vehicles carrying several Haitians at one time to get from here to there. The intersections are crazy at best as each driver nudges his way in and around, eventually making it to the other side. The horn is greatly relied on to let those crossing the street or other drivers that they are coming up behind them. The sidewalks are filled with these wonderful resourceful people bartering foods, clothing, and a variety of items. The side streets are so thick with people there is not room to drive a car, let alone barely walk.

When I look past the main busy streets, I see the homes of these people. They are made of tarps, corrugated tin, maybe a cement wall, and maybe a door.  They wash their laundry in buckets and hang them on walls to dry.

It is a very humbling experience to be here in Port au Prince. People are people no matter where we go. We all need to give and receive love. We all need our basic needs met. We all need to feel visible, vital, and important. Whether we drive a BMW down a nice suburban street or a beat up truck down a bumpy road here in Port au Prince, our inner most needs as human beings does not change.

Lessons in humility and humanity are here to be learned and taught.

Tracy Oliver


Last week, I was going to bed comfortably in a temperature-controlled bedroom with fifty pounds of food in a big blue suitcase at my bedside.
Yesterday, I touched down in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, prepared to come home fifty pounds lighter.
Today, July 8th, was our team's first day of mission work. After waking up to an incredibly delicious breakfast, featuring island fruits and fresh, hand pressed juice, we hopped up into our tap-tap and headed out over the dusty roads for our first destination: a home for sick and dying adults. As soon as we entered, a swarm of Haitian boys ran up to introduce themselves and show off their ear-to-ear smiles. The nuns greeted us with a little more reservation, and sent the women and men to their gender-respective sections of the home. As soon as we cleared the last step leading to the spacious upper level, several young girls in pale lavender gowns ran past us giggling and beckoning to a room at the end of the hallway.
When we passed through the doorway, they descended like a flock of birds: nesting in our arms, picking at my long, straight blonde hair, and chattering loudly enough that they woke the twin babies sound asleep in the corner. Each of us found a niche in that room: the moms quickly and subconsciously moved to comfort the unhappy babies, and the teenagers assumed the familiar roles of best friends and sisters. The room rang with songs, gasps, giggles, and tickle fights-- just like any other sleepover anywhere in the world. In that room, there were no Americans or Haitians. There was no English or Creole. There were no healthy or sick; no straight blonde or curly dark hair; I was not sixteen, and the young, smiling girl in my lap was not "twa"-- three years old. We were nothing but girls, sharing in the lightness of laughter and song that connects girls everywhere.
The walls of the next room were lined with cots that supported the frames of resting women, and although the air was more serious, it was by no means any darker. The women, eyes bright, motioned for us to sit by their bedsides and rub their skin with lotion. The third woman whose skin I massaged told me, after I asked her in dreadful Haitian Creole, that her name was Juli. She asked me for mine in return, and when I told her that my name is Meg, she gasped and put her hand over her heart. She replied in Creole, "Oh, that is so good. Very very good." This kind of appreciation, this trust; I had never experienced anything like it. While I massaged her back, I thought to myself: how would I act in this situation, if the roles were reversed? Would I really be so willing to let a complete stranger's hands massage my body? Would I really appreciate something as small as that person's name enough to have that kind of reaction?
How can I learn to live with that level of compassion?
I got a glimpse later that day, when we jumped back into the tap-tap and headed out for Notre Maison, which translates to "our home". It is exactly that: a home for orphaned and disabled children. There, the unwanted became so much more than that: they become fiercely loved. We connected with incredible kids and staff through feeding, chatting, holding hands, pushing wheelchairs, doing puzzles, and just being together.
Today, I am thankful for Juli, the girls, and the kids at Notre Maison for needing me, wanting me, and trusting me more than people I've known for significantly longer than just an hour.
The rest of this week, I will be so thankful for Reiser Relief, the staff here, and my team for giving me the amazing opportunity to reciprocate the love I've been shown.
The rest of my life, I will be so deeply and completely thankful to Haiti and its people  for showing me the amazing extent of the human soul to love with the heart and not the eyes.

Meg Maurer

Monday, July 7, 2014

Travel Day pictures

Here are are gathered at the Minneapolis airport before embarking.
It was 5:45 a.m. but we are very excited!!

And here we are gathered at the Healing Haiti guest house in Port-au-Prince.
We are looking forward to a wonderful week serving the beautiful people of Haiti!!