Tuesday, May 19, 2015

11 little moments that brought me joy in Haiti

1. Watching Fr. Talbot’s luggage come down the baggage carousel in PAP. Zipper destroyed. Contents spilling everywhere.  One sandal is still MIA in the PAP airport. 

2. Witnessing Ann shrewdly bargaining with 10 goudes for a bag of plantain chips to a vendor jogging alongside our car window

3. Pulling into a picturesque convent and orphanage and seeing Croatian nuns serving afternoon coffee and homemade cake with meringue topping to UN patrols from Brazil.

4. Speaking English to a Croatian nun who is from Bosnia and serving in Haiti.

5. Going on a hike with two Haitian nuns, an Evangelical Haitian American Pastor, a Catholic priest, an 8th grade Haitian boy, a missionary from the Jersey shore and my sister. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

6. Visiting a fully operational rum factory in remote Jeremie, Haiti, with homemade barrels, hand carved wood pipes, and a diminutive proprietor who served me a sample in a quickly emptied water bottle. Sharing said rum with Haitian nuns.

7. Speaking Spanish to a Haitian nun who used to live in Mexico

8. Dancing with Anita at the Village of Jesus. No music necessary! Anita sings and I mimic her in dreadful Creole. Frauline outfit is an added bonus

9. Catching Jean Souffrant from Reiser Heights wearing Christmas socks - in May.

10. Meeting happy pigs in Leogane who were dining on organic mangos, which were growing in great abundance on the same farm.

11.  Fantastic school shoes on a 2nd grade boy.

Peace & Joy,

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Leogane, Haiti

There never seems to be a day in Haiti that doesn’t include at least one moment that leaves me devastated or one moment that amazes me.  Today we had a whirlwind tour of some of the many ministries the Sisters of Companions of Jesus (a Haitian order of nuns) are involved in around Leogane, Haiti.  Before the day had barely begun, I had experienced of one each of those overwhelming moments.

Early in the day, after touring a beautiful large sustainable farm run by the Sisters, we visited one of their many beautiful schools, Guardian Angels, at which over 250 children are educated.  In each classroom we walked into, we were greeted by a roomful of smiling children in matching school uniforms who stood up and broke into song when Joyce, Jimmy, Father Talbot, and I walked into the room.  In one classroom, a small girl wasn’t wearing her school uniform, but rather, was wearing a pretty dress.  We inquired and discovered it was her birthday that day, so she was able to wear something other than her usual uniform.  Sister Alta promptly reached into her pocket and handed the little girl a dollar bill.  The little girl accepted with shining, excited eyes.  A couple classrooms later, after the children had finished singing us their welcome song, Joyce asked about two girls in the room who were wearing black and white uniforms versus the school’s signature blue and white ones, wondering if they were celebrating birthdays today also.  Sister Alta explained to us that students who have lost a family member wore black uniforms to school for one year in order for everyone to remember the deceased family member. 

Hearing the significance of the black uniforms broke my heart—partly because I wondered if it was difficult for those children to have the constant reminder, but more so because I was so saddened to think that TWO children in one classroom had lost a family member that year.   I had to turn away from the class for a minute to regain my composure, and then I felt the need to go hug each of them and tell them how sorry I was even though they had no idea what I was saying.   A couple classrooms later, there was another student in a black uniform, and again, it broke my heart to witness it.  I can’t help but wonder what devastating things many of the beautiful kids in Haiti have to face at an early age and how difficult it must be for them.

Later, after we’d left the school and were on to our next stop for the day, Sister Alta explained to us that, because today was the Feast day of the Ascension, all the schools in Leogane were closed for the holiday.  So of course we asked why all the classrooms at Guardian Angel School had been full.  Sister Alta simply said they’d asked the students to come to school in spite of the holiday since WE were going to be visiting.  Now, there’s no doubt the children were all grumbling behind our backs about having to do that, but I was so incredibly touched that they respected their teachers and Sister Alta enough to show up for school in their uniforms, braids, ribbons, and barrettes in the girl’s hair, and with happy and expectant smiles on a school holiday!

Thank God for the children we visited today.  They are just another of the many examples of the resiliency and faithfulness of the Haitian people.  Thank God for Haiti.



People often ask me if I’ve seen progress in Haiti since my first trip here. “Where did all that relief money go?” some ask doubtfully.

At first glance, I can understand these doubts. People still live in abject poverty. Trash is still piled high in many places. Some roads are incredibly rough. Security is often lacking.

But then I see so many signs of hope. Many tent cities have disappeared. The airport is fresh and inviting.  New roads have been built.  Buildings have been repaired or replaced. 

The sign outside Rose de Lima school showing
many benefactors who helped re-build this lovely
We spent today in Leogane, the epicenter of the devastating earthquake of 2010.  The city, mostly destroyed by that quake, has been beautifully restored.  So many have helped.  The Spanish Red Cross. The Vatican. German Benefactors. A Minnesota based non-profit….  Hospitals, schools, housing, wells, walls, sanitation blocks. People helping people. It’s a beautiful testament to human compassion and the power of God’s love and faithfulness.

Have I seen progress in Haiti.

Definitely YES!