January 19, 2012
Pictures can be found here
The January 2012 trip to Haiti went very well. We had 5 people who traveled from either Norfolk or Manassas to Port Au Prince and then on to Cap Haitian. With the United / Continental merger the team members were able to fly from their local airports to Port Au Prince with little difficulty and at a cost savings of the traditional methods of flying to Florida and then taking a specialty flight from FLL or MIA to CAP. Once we arrived in Port Au Prince, we took a Tortug Airlines flight in to CAP. While we had to wait approximately 2 hours in the Port Au Prince domestic airport before our flight, it was a fairly painless way to get from DC/Norfolk to Cap Haitian.
Once we arrived, Patrick arranged for a car to be there waiting for us and we loaded up and headed to the Mont Joli. Our rooms were ready for us and we were able to clean up a little bit before dinner. As always, the Mont Joli provided good food and the dinner provided an opportunity for the team to get to know one another and to get reacquainted with the local Haitians who always seem to be around the hotel.
On Saturday, we went to the Empowering Haitians office and reviewed the plans for the week. It was decided that we would finish the exterior doors, install a bathroom, and make a few structural repairs to the office building. We reviewed the plans, made notes and then went to the hardware store to purchase the required pieces needed for our work.
On Sunday, one member of the team who was a medical doctor went with another mission team and Dr. Eugene Malkin to Camp Louise. The rest of the team went to Church in the morning. The Methodist service had not started yet, so we went to the Catholic service. After the service we stopped by the Methodist service as well. The team decided to go on a short outing for lunch and we went to Hotel Henri Christophe. After lunch, we had a slow day or rest and contemplation.
On Monday, Dr. Oelberg continued working with the medical team, while the rest of the team went back to the Bel Aire Office to begin work. We made significant progress on the bathrooms, exterior doors, electrical and concrete work. Pastor Ralph spent some time talking with the Catholic Priest at the Mont Joli.
On Tuesday, and Wednesday we continued with the projects and meetings with local leaders to check on the status of previous programs and to get program ideas for future efforts. By the end of Wednesday the electrical work and concrete work was finished and there was only a little bit of work left to finish in the bathroom. On Wednesday, Pastor Ralph told several bible stories to local children as they came home from school. The children also received some dress-up beads and seemed to enjoy both the present and the good storytelling. Also on Wednesday we met with some of the local school headmasters who needed books and desks. We commissioned the carpenter to build 5 desks, and a bookcase.
On Thursday we checked on the well we put in last year and also met with several of the local schools and churches. We passed out beads to all the children and Ralph told stories as well. We visited the churches that are a fair walking distance away from the hotel. These churches and schools are in dire need of food, clean water, and latrines. While we worshipped, sang songs and entertained the children we were all struck by the incredible need that those people have. While it was a physically hard hike to get up to see those places, it was even a harder emotional toll.
On Friday we began our flight home. We had about 5 hours of layover in Port Au Prince, so we used that time to visit with the EMH (Haitian United Methodist Church), United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM). We visited a large school, the UMVIM “Guest house” and the UMCOR headquarters in Haiti. Each place allowed us to meet new people and to get a better understanding of what is going on from a larger perspective in Haiti.
We were able to make our flights out of Port Au Prince without any hassels and we all made it home without any significant delays. The trip was a success on all fronts as we were able to accomplish our objectives, showed the Haitians that they are not alone and we did our best to deliver the message of Hope in a situation where all hope seems to be lost.
We are very excited about what 2012 holds for us and the future of EH in general. One of the smaller projects we worked on this past week was to start a small garden on the grounds at the hotel Beck. There is quite of bit of land there that could be used to make a fairly large farm. We planted a variety of seeds we obtained from the local agriculture school. We did not engage a local person to water the plants or to do any upkeep. The idea is to see if the plants will grow with little to no supervision. If they do not then we will make plans to employee a “farmer” to keep an eye on the farm and water the crops. We plan to go back to Haiti within the next couple of months to put more seeds in the ground and to increase the size of the farm.
We also plan to build 5 or 6 latrines for one of the communities. The current situation creates huge sanitation issues, spreads disease and has a tremendously negative impact to the morale of the people who live around bel aire. By building latrines we will make an immediate impact in the quality of life and health of the community. From basic steps we will grow to more significant efforts.
The most exciting thing to come out of the trip was the beginnings of doing a feeding program. It appears as if EH will have a significant budget to do a feed program. We will purchase rice, beans, vegetables and protein powder and make packets of food for families for the local churches. The current goal is to provide enough food to feed 250 people for 6 months. If the pilot goes well, we will continue the program and try to increase the number of people being fed. The overall effort will have significant logistical problems that will need to be overcome, but we can think of nothing more valuable to do. If we can feed people, then so many other things will become possible.
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