Monday, May 30, 2011

Travel Day?

Today was supposed to be a travel day, but it ended up being so much more than that.

Up at 5:30am to finish packing up the work room. Typed a Waiver of Liability and Release Form for the families to sign after we met with Michaelle and she hinted at needing it.

Said goodbye to the family, then the crazy guy and Sienna (housekeeper) decided they wanted to come see the site today. There was a big miscommunication - they thought they should get a shelter. Aye. When we got to the site later, this was cleared up as they decided they were above it. Ok, fine.

To the gas station to pick up Johnbern's friend, Danny, through the puddle we've been driving through everyday for the last month.  Danny will be riding back to the DR with us and also speaks good english. Then on to the land.

The Daily Commute.
Yesterday we told the President of the old camp he could bring out 5 more families to be interviewed... he brought 6.  Kendra and I had a team meeting with Xiomara, Johnbern, and Danny, then the President and Pastor. We decided to divide and conquer - she worked through Danny with the President and Pastor to move the back row of houses while Johnbern and I interviewed the 6 new families.

Watching them try to move the house made me tired. The UN security showed up at the right time to help. Only 1 was moved over 1-2 hours, so we called the Paraguayans in hopes they would rescue damsels in distress. They are going to try to come out this week sometime. Whew. We need the houses to be moved so that ACTED can work on the better temporary shelters or plywood homes.

Johnbern and I interviewed the 6 new families. I was only unsure about 1. It is interesting to hear what people were doing before the earthquake and how they've been living the last year. One woman started to cry as she told us about how she lost her husband 8 years ago and how alone she feels. In addition, she has a serious skin condition. She told Johnbern how sad she is and while I held her hand I told her she had come to the right place. He added a few words of encouragement and we had Dr. Xiomara check her.

Aristil from Water International showed up when Kendra was talking with Bony about he and Jodicleor's shelter. Today has been like all the rest - extremely hectic and on the fly!

I saw Kevnas again today (boy with the hurt foot) and guess what - more dirt in the wound!  He tried to run away from me, but I hunted him down with Johnbern.  I made him look in my eyes and Johnbern translated what I was saying.  He could tell I was mad.  It makes me crazy that his mother wouldn't take him to HELP (right next to his "home") to get treatment, but when we do it all the time or drive him to a clinic, the next day it is exposed again. I know he is only 12, but I'm frustrated that I made Kendra take the time to check on him or drive him to a clinic and no one is even taking care of it.

Johnbern had to leave so I drove him to the main road. He shared about his mom and 8 sisters and how he doesn't want them to live with her anymore. I can't imagine the burden he must feel wanting to help them, but instead helping us for "free".  While I was gone, Pierre (the reason we stayed) from ACTED showed up and left. For staying late for him, he was 2 hours late and the meeting was less than 15 minutes.

Distribution of items to the new families, final instructions, then the Pastor prayed for our trip. He began to sing "Bind us Together" and other people came around. We all held hands and prayed. It was beautiful after our crazy day... getting things together and making sure they felt good until our next trip.

To the border...that is mostly under water. It's crazy they are still letting people pass at this border crossing of Jimani. Also, it's market day! Driving toward the border about 4pm, we really didn't know what to expect. Lots of water and semi-trucks.

People walking back after Market Day.

At the Haitian building, they have added a "bridge" of sorts to walk over the rising water. 

With the road mostly under water, there wasn't exactly a place to park. I took the wheel to get out of the way of passing buses, but had to drive through a massive pool of water. To get to us, Kendra rode on the side of a semi and jumped into the passagenger side of Floyd - I wish I had my camera out!

Through all checkpoints in record time -market day or not. On Dominican side by 5:10pm. Stopped in Jimani to get fried chicken and plantains to go.

The drive was long and mostly in the dark.  Danny told us more about him, then watched his personal DVD player. Kendra and Xiomara rehashed some things from the week in Spanish while I updated my notes and took a short nap.

Kendra got tired a little over halfway through the drive, so I took over.  We dropped Danny off in Santo Domingo and I listened to music the rest of the drive home.  Xiomara decided to take a taxi from Jarabacoa.  We pulled into the driveway about 1:15am and I scraped Floyd on their cement security wall.  Nooo!  After driving the whole way in the dark with no street lamps up the mountain, something happens in the driveway!  It didn't look pretty.  Shoot!

To bed in shock.

Morning Update of Floyd:  Floyd is fixable for cheap in the DR.  Thank you, Lord!  I told Kendra I would pay for it, so this morning she took it in for an estimate and told me it would cost a little over $5,000...pesos!  WHEW pesos, not dollars!  Only $130 US.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


As the days grow on, my updates get shorter and my grammar gets worse.  Bare with me!

Three girls to the Paraguayan base at 8am for church... a Catholic Mass completely in Spanish (my first one). Breakfast with the guys followed. Back to Juju's to pick up Johnbern and to drop off Xiomara, then out to the land.

Today was a day of distractions.  Instead of doing most of our plans, we ended up putting out mini-fires. Last night heavy winds and rain knocked off one of the beams from the pavilion.  We are so grateful that no one was injured.  This could have been a very serious situation if someone had gotten hurt.

Picked up the tools we let the families borrow. Decided to personally visit Sandra and Marie's homes to see if they still needed a temporary shelter. Saw Kevnas Alexandre (boy with hurt foot) on the way. The cut was not bandaged and infected yet again. We told him to go home and we would pick him up on the way back through.

Spoke with Sandra to clear the air about HELP families getting temporary shelters. Picked up Kevnas and his sister Gina to take them to the Cuban Haitian Clinic. Lucky for us, the clinic is free. We also stopped back at the land because one of the babies had a fever.

Stopped with them at the clinic, then back to Juju's. Kendra cleaned the car while I wrote her emails and Xiomara sorted medical supplies. Johnbern left to play a Mother's Day concert because  today is Mother's Day in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. After awhile, the girls (Karina and Georgina) did Xiomara and I's hair. Lots of random braids.

Packed up everything in the workroom except our beds. Left house to go to pizza with the Paraguayans as we are leaving and some of them have a break now. To Domino's Pizza once again with the Commander, Major Rodriguez, Captain Florentin, Captain Torres, and Captain Rofel. It is always neat for us to see them away from the base and work because thry are a fun group. Practiced my terrible spanish. Lucky for me that 2.5 of them spoke some English!

Home by 10:30pm and straight to bed.

Sent from my iPod

Saturday, May 28, 2011

In the beginning...

Had a hard time sleeping last night thinking of the families out there.  This is definitely a new beginning for them and puts additional pressure on us to make sure at least their basic needs are met or can be met in some fashion.

The people were very excited to make themselves more at home and wanted to put up a tarp on the beams for church tomorrow.

They also made benches out of scraps from making the beds into doors.

Barbwire around new garbage pit, distrubuted a kitchen kit from USAID to each family.

Had our first community meeting.  Mostly about sanitation, we explained the water filters and rain barrels as well and discussed a name. Dr. Xiomara started meeting while Carter translated. They did amazing! One guy asked aggressive questions. We almost had our first eviction, but after the Pastor and President spoke with him, we reread him the contract and all is well. A misunderstanding of sorts.

To town to meet Michaelle from the Pierre Payan Food For The Poor Village. On our way in dropped off Carter. We met Michaelle across from the US Embassy (which is one of the bigger buildings in Haiti). I've been meaning to take a picture every time I pass by, but the security wall and traffic are always factors.

The meeting with Michaelle was perfect. She explained her philosophies -what has worked and what has taken time. Hearing her experiences were encouarging and we appreciated knowing that having that type of community in Haiti is possible. She uses food as a reward so families can use their money for more business/micro-enterprise opportunities. Not to create dependency, but to help them get started.  Michaelle is a very educated, involved Haitian woman. I love that she is working to better her own people and has been patient in doing so.

The mosquitos at the land have been extra terrible, so we headed toward Delmas 2 to pick up two fumigators to help with this problem. We also called IOM to see if mosquito nets were an option.

Johnbern and Kendra drove them back to the camp and dropped Xiomara and I off at the house on the way. They were gone from 6:30pm to 10:30pm. Xiomara made Mac and Cheese while I did computer work for Kendra, then the power went off, so I laid down for bed at 8pm.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Moving Day

Kendra woke me up at 5:30am to organize our spreadsheet and to create an information sheet for each family. She knows chaos drives me nuts and we need to be as organized as possible for moving day. Created a document for each family, scanned info into the computer while the group got supplies ready for the day.

Worked for 2 hours, changed into nice clothes and had pear juice for breakfast.  Left the house at 8:30am and they took Carter and I to a training on the moving of IDPs (Internally Displaced People). The documents emailed to us before the meeting were in English and French, but the meeting was only in French and I was the only "blan" person there.  The topic was more about knowing your camp and what the health status is of each person.

Kendra picked us up as she, Xiomara, and Johnbern had already went to the IOM warehouse and MSC (the big hardware store by the UN Camp Charlie). To the land by 1:30pm. Then we called the families who were moving and told them to head over!

Put all the rain barrels, water jugs, and buckets in the shelters after marking the shelter number on each.

At 2:30pm, a crew of 8 UN security came out to the site. We asked them to come out...just in case. They will begin patrolling the area now that we have families. It's amazing how much help we can find as foreigners, and we realize a Haitian person could not get this type of support - even if their goals were similar to ours. Usually, we are even given a hard time when we visit the UN Log Base and Johnbern or Carter are in the car with us. At any rate, they all came from different countries, speaking different languages. There was one American officer from Florida who just finished a tour in Iraq. He is the first American police/military I've seen in all my trips here.

The families arrived at the village about 3pm - what a sight to see - a box truck with 14 families and all of their belongings. Out if the truck they came, singing a praise song in creole.

The 14 families arriving in one truck with all of their belongings.
Lifting their hands up, they all sang, then the Pastor read Psalms 133 and reminded the people that we were giving of our time to help them so they shouldn't fight or cause problems. Wow! The Pastor prayed, then Kendra gave a welcome, and I gave a tour of the site. It was exciting! We let people walk around and pick where they wanted to be, but before they even went they ALL gave Kendra and I a handshake or a hug - even the kids.

People got settled and began unpacking supplies from the truck. A few beds, "stoves", buckets, clothes. Kendra commented that even the families at her camp in Delmas had more than that.

Would all your stuff fit in this?

I stationed myself at the van for paperwork while Kendra and Carter signed the protocol with each family and Xiomara took pictures. It took some time to visit the families, but i'm glad we left we things organized in some fashion.

Back to the house to crash after another long but joyous day.

Sent from my iPod

Thursday, May 26

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Up at 5:30am to work in Floyd (van). Morning worship with Victory Compassion of songs and prayer time. Pastor Rod came over to pray for Kendra and I. We cried. Then Xiomara came over at the end and cried with us too. We've been through a lot and these people have no idea how harsh Haiti truly is. Hot breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, then Dr. Xiomara took out Laurel's stitches.

On our way to the village, the UN trucks were blocking the entrance. Stopped to talk with them then ended up in a caravan with a large machine, UN semi truck, Japanese security, security truck from Jordan, Floyd, then more Japanese security and a truck full of Victory Compassion (VC) volunteers.

VC started welding on the pavilion and the Japanese started garbage pits behind the land (behind the tree line) as Dr said he had spoke with the land owners.

Beginning of the work on the garbage pit.  Check out the cows in the center of the photo.

The "watchers" of the land told the land owner that the trees were being knocked down. Right as we were leaving for a meeting with the Mayor of Croix-des-Bouquets, the land owner's husband - Gilbert - came out to say a few strong words that turned into a 45 minute conversation about a "misunderstanding" through the doctor.

Land ownership is a very serious thing here, so serious that we've learned people kill over it. Kendra handled herself beautifully and the guy warmed up to us. At first they said we had to fill in the hole, then the wife said she would call the co-owner and see if we could use it. We shall see.

A few times the little boy who hurt his foot has shown up.  Only one time have I seen him with that wound covered.  Dr. Xiomara got our her medical kit and cleaned the cut once again.  At this rate, it will take forever to heal unless he takes care of it.

To Croix-des-Bouquets to pick Johnbern and Carter but we got majorly lost in the downtown area. Through the market to a dead end, turned around, stuck in traffic, and a dump truck driver got out, moves the small items 2 ladies were selling on the street. The driver then proceeded to have us run over the shoes one lady was selling and the potatoes of another. Crazy!

Picked up Johnbern and Carter, dropped them off at a restuarant to get lunch for everyone really quickly. Girls went to UN Log Base to fill out a petition for supplies and to pick up Ali from IOM to go to a camp with us to interview families. Because of traffic and other craziness in the streets, this 30 minute drop off for food turned into a 2 1/2 hour trip. Wow!

To camp in Croix-des-Bouquets that was very far north from town. President of the camp had already selected 10 families that we decided to interview.  Kendra and Carter interviewed half while Johnbern and I did the others and Xiomara was in charge of copying National ID cards.

Ali from IOM, President of the Camp, Johnbern and Kendra
When we interviewed them, we asked how many people, how they contributed to the camp, what they do for their livelihood, and what their situation was like before the earthquake.  These families were willing to come based on the President of the camp's and the teacher's opinion and explanation of our village.

While interviewing, some of the women really shared their experience - one woman losing a child during the earthquake and others close family members.

Can you imagine living here for 18 months?

On a not so serious note, one son of a woman I interviewed was wearing a Relay shirt. I've seen quite a few, but got very excited. Johnbern translated to let him know that's where I used to work. The guy even let me take a picture with him.

The attitude of these people is much different than the attitude of people from other refugee camps we've visited and talked with. After all the interviews, we got the group together to read to them the contract or "protocol" before we help them move. Arranged to have a truck come at noon tomorrow to move them. Got Ali back to the UN Log Base by 6pm, then headed "home". On the way we had a "team meeting" - Kendra, Carter, Xiomara, Johnbern, and I - ending with a prayer when we got "home".

At the house, I immediately began sorting all the interview notes, ID card copies, and photos on each family. Xiomara made spaghetti for dinner in the dark.  Called Dad to sing HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Slept with socks on. I'm trying it out because the Mosquitos still eat through my net and love my ankles/feet. I have so many bites it is getting a little riduclous.

Sent from my iPod

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wednesday, May 25

HELP families stayed the night last night and we told them we would be out there by 5:30am.  Kendra woke me up at 5:15am, so we were, of course, late! Ran out to site - there by 6am (we made amazing time).

Put on doors we made from Samaritain's Purse beds - HELP families helped. Jodicleur, Max, Sandra, Marie, Bony, Dieusal. Got families ready for the Food For The Poor site visit.  I even taught Johnbern how to use a power tool!

Some of the Japanese UN even helped with the doors.
Johnbern using a power tool for the first time.
Johnbern and I went out for more hinges, nails, ice, and paint thinner in Croix-DES-Bouquets. I drove and we had to make a lot of stops. No Meijer or Walmart available.  He bought food off the street for lunch and was sure to let be know he bought me 2 hotdogs. I politely declined, but I think he was a little offended.

The UN Japanese were working on the road again today. I'm glad they can see how difficult it us to drive on after a good rain.

The Food For The Poor site visit was much quicker than we wanted. He literally only wanted to take photos and measure the perimeter. They will send a proposal to Florida for approval, this is a little different than what they originally said/offered but we are still feeling optimistic.

We thanked the HELP families for their time and asked them to make a decision one way or the other on whether or not they wanted to live there. This is because we got a call from Alain from IOM and they have 60 families who want to move to our village. The meeting ended in a little bit of a chaotic disaster but the families said they would let us know.

As soon as the meeting ended, Victory Compassion brought out a big group to work on the pavilion.

At the same time, a camp coordinator came to see us and said he has a list of 10 families ready to move today! Kendra told him she was only going to work through IOM. We called Alain and he assured us that they were one of the camps his team visited and it was ok.  A plan was made to visit them tomorrow with Ali from IOM. These are the families we've been praying for.

Meeting with 5 IOM guys to go to another camp in Noialles, but they realized it was the camp we had already been to and we have no interest in going back to see those families.

Back to land where we saw Pastor Rod's group leaving. He invited us to stay with him for the rest of our trips and tonight for dinner.  To the IOM warehouse for random supplies, then home for shower stuff.

Arrived at Pastor Rod's Victory Compassion after 6pm. Usually when we go the groups are small, but under the pavilion there were 80 people - 10 from Oral Roberts University, 14 staff of the team and their translators, and a giant Conneticut group.

We had an Italian dinner of spaghetti and meatballs. While we were in line I was near Mary, Laurel, and an Oral Roberts student, Hannah. We weren't even talking and I just started to cry. I couldn't control it. I was so tired, I hadn't eaten anything all day - not because we didn't have anything in Floyd, but because we were so busy. In that moment I was overwhelmed that this group would take us in and expect nothing in return. The last 4 days have been extremely emotional and I was just so grateful to have a hot meal, a bed with no bugs and cool air, and a cold shower with running water. Wow! The simplicity of those comforts that I all too often take for granted.

After dinner, we worked on the laptop in the van for an hour, then to bed. Thank you Lord for the blessing of our friendship with Victory Compassion.

Sent from my iPod

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuesday, May 24

This morning Kendra left at 5:15am to take Xiomara and Johnbern out to the land very early so they could work on constructing doors on the shelters out of the beds. The HELP families said this was their preference.

Kendra and I met with Alain - the boss in Camp Management at IOM at the UN Log Base (Log = Logistics) at 8am. We spoke with him about finding more families and he put a team together to do preliminary screenings for us.

The Protection Cluster meeting for protecting vulnerable people was across the base at 8:30am. Walked in and everything was in French even though Amandine from Handicap International invited us and knows that we don't speak French. Oops.  Sat through the 1.5 hour meeting, then asked Armony from shelter protection for a small update - she gave us a few people to contact, so we felt good about spending our time there even though we were completely lost.

Stopped by OCHA for a meeting schedule and visited Carlos about the possible solar light donation. He has known Kendra for some time and gave us "off the record" information.

We saw Captain Florentin (our Paraguayan friend) there, but only had enough time to say hello.  To Eko Depot the two of us went and we accidentally turned one road too soon. One road too soon in this case meant driving into the Haitian National Police evicting a tent camp with force by demolishing everything with a bulldozer. Wow! It was an intense few moments as we saw people breaking down their homes and carrying what they could away before the bulldozer got to it. There were lots of Haitian National Police with big guns just waiting in case there was trouble on this small side street.

To Eko Depot for more screws for the pavilion and extra paint for the latrines. After you pay, you walk 5 feet to have someone check your cart. The cashier missed a screw box and the cart checker threw a fit and accused us of stealing. Ugh. Took forever to pay for the 6th box.

Finally, in the early afternoon we headed out to the land.  When we arrived the UN Japanese Commander was waiting for us. They have been working on the 2k of access road since Monday, May 16th and received our most recent JOTC request for fencing and preparing the new land. They received it instead of our Paraguayan friends.

Took Johnbern and Xiomara with us to HELP to have a meeting with the doctor with the HELP families who will be moving in and/or are helping us with the Food For the Poor meeting tomorrow. Meeting concluded with them agreeing to move in and us paying for dinner for the group.

Back to land to make a sample door as that was one of their requests. Cut all the wood we could with a saw and the generator.
Xiomara, Kendra, and Eduardo ("Security")
Doctor kept trying to convince us to stay out there, but thank you Lord we had dinner plans with Nicole from IOM. She is the one who helped us get all the gravel donated.

Kendra and I cleaned up and washed our hair in the well. It was WAY better than using the bucket shower approach to wash my hair. It actually felt clean and that is weird.  As soon as we finished, it started to POUR.

As we were leaving, Nicole called to cancel. This is actually a relief because it was 7pm by this time and we had a long day anyways. Stopped at the restuarant by the airport for their chicken, rice, and fried plantains so we didn't have to cook. Bed as soon as we got home.

Sent from my iPod

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Monday, May 23

Most days, the group drives back and forth to the site and around town in what seems like a small parade. When I was in middle school, my family was choosen to be the Grand Marshals of Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom Parade. As we rode along the route, families would stop to take pictures, wave and stare. Riding from the main road back and forth to the site can often times feel like that. They know this vehicle as it has driven this access road many, many days since we began building the shelters in January.  But still, they stare and the kids wave - the gringo circus has come to town.

Today started, as these adventures often do, with a trip to the UN Log Base to speak with JOTC about our request for UN military help to clear the new land.

Afterwards, Kendra, Xiomara, Johnbern, and I headed out to the site for our meeting with Amandine from Handicap International. Kendra and I have been looking forward to this meeting for some time and afterwards we felt a little deflated. Basically, Handicap International only works in Delmas and Petionville of Port-au-Prince, so even though we have some amazing opportunities and possibilities for them, the families would rather stay in town (which I can totally understand based on needs they may have).

Giving a tour.
Amandine did offer up some great ideas and contacts to help us move forward. Even though it wasn't exactly what we wanted Amandine to say, we did appreciate an answer of some kind to know whether or not we needed to save spaces for these families.

Upon Amandine's departure, the four of us decided a prayer time was needed to make sure our focus was still on the Lord's will for this project. I lead in English, followed by Kendra and Xiomara in Spanish, then Johnbern followed in English. Even though I couldn't understand the prayer in it's entirity, it was beautiful, emotional, and exactly what we needed in that moment.

Down to HELP we ventured to have a meeting with the doctor regarding the land. Kendra had been trying to determine how to approach it all yesterday and most of today. After our prayers for serious wisdom, Kendra felt like she got the answers she was looking for in terms of the new land donation.

For the second time, Dr. Brutus brought up the point about his staff moving in and if we decided to stay out at the site to show them it was safe. At first, I thought this was a ridiculous idea because I wondered where we would sleep and what about a shower and we wouldn't have electricity to work and how would we cook? Then I felt I should eat a little slice of humble pie because that is exactly what they are saying - we built it, but we wouldn't actually live there. Ouch. Shame on me for my thoughts and for not being more sympathetic either.

A storm interrupted our conversation with the Doctor, so we headed to the white house at our site, unloaded the fencing and went back into town to head "home".

Xiomara decided to make dinner. She is an excellent cook and LIKES to cook, so I really appreciate her for that!

Sent from my iPod

Monday, May 23, 2011

Travel Day: Electricity or Running Water?

Do you ever wonder sometimes how you function on limited to no rest?  After finally falling asleep by 1am, we got up at 4am to finish packing the food and to head out.

To Haiti in record time. Out by 5:45am,  across the border by 2pm. Stopped at Victory Compassion to drop off produce we bought for them in the DR.  Mary talked about what Pastor Rod said about me and it was very encouraging.

To new land by HELP and the corner posts were not in the right place.  We had spent a good portion of our Sunday drive back during the last trip going by the Doctor's instructions on what would be ours.  The Victory Compassion group came out and put our nice posts in the ground with cement and apparently the Doctor changed his mind or there was some sort of miscommunication.  Kendra was not pleased.

To village to see Edouard ("security") and the few families of HELP employees that have moved in.

Eduoard, our security.  He doesn't know English.
Drove to Juju's to set up our supply room. Since we made good time we were looking forward to a somewhat relaxing evening.  Unfortunately, it is a full house so the girls are in the supply room on cots for the week. When Xiomara heard this room would be where we were staying she said "give me a broom" to us in Spanish. She didn't stop - sweeping the ceiling, wiping the walls, bleaching and re-bleaching the floors. Kendra was sure to highlight the difference between Dominicans and Haitians in this case. Dominicans tend to be more "clean" overall - appearance, household, etc.

If you had to choose between running water (for showers, drinking, and cooking) or electricity (for fans in the heat and to have some sort of light in Haiti), which would you choose?  Un-lucky for us, both were out when we arrived, but the electricity did come back on late at night so our fans would work - YES!  For the record, I would choose electricity at this moment, but that answer could change in a few days.

Short nap, showers, and to Paraguayan base for dinner. Tonight Kendra, Xiomara, and I ate with Captain Florentin, Captain Torres, and Major Rodriguez. They set up our table outside the mess hall, under the stars.  I think it is fun for them to have visitors since they are here for the year, usually without anyone new around.

Back to the house by 11pm, said hello to Johnbern, then Kendra and I helped him pitch a tent because all the rooms in this 6 bedroom home are taken...may I remind you that the kids only sleep in 1 room and the rest are usually empty. They have had visitors from around Haiti and from the States the last few weeks.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Prayer Requests

Please pray for Kendra and Emily as they travel back to Haiti.  Please pray:
  • for the hearts of the families who will be moving in.
  • that Emily doesn't get eaten by mosquitos
  • God's will be done and that he show favor with our three important meetings this week
  • for all the Haitian and international people we come into contact with - that they see the love of Christ through us.
  • that we accomplish what is needed!
  • this trip will deepen the relationship each team member has with the Lord -Xiomara, Kendra, Emily, Johnbern, and Carter.
  • that the Lord would bless those who help us.
  • for the Luna boys and Samuel while Kendra is away.

My Time in the Dominican Republic

One thing I haven't told you is that there were two mini earthquakes in Santiago, Dominican Republic last week. Not enough for most people to feel it, but enough to freak Kendra and I out while we were away. Since then, I've been a little unsure about sleeping on the ground floor of their 2 story cement home.

Up by 7am as I couldn't sleep any longer most days.  We spent the week doing quite a bit of office work to get caught up - emails, budget, and meeting  prep. Next week we have a meeting with a group with the possibility of funding beyond our permanent housing request to Food For The Poor. I've prepared a concept paper and now we are trying to expand in case they ask us for a more detailed budget and plan. Office work isn't exactly easy in Port-au-Prince.

Wednesday, Kendra and I drove to Santiago to do some shopping and to run a few errands.  Hardware store, groceries, Kendra got her hair done, and we picked up items for Landon's birthday this weekend.

I've enjoyed some "down time" while spending time in Jarabacoa with the boys. They are so active and each has a very unique personality. It's fun to watch them interact, flipping back and forth between English and Spanish.

Spent some time going through Kendra and Samuel's library of books. I'm trying to be a better reader... and when I say that what I mean is that I want to like to read. I choose a few to read and printed off a new Bible study online about Jeremiah.

Josue has spent a lot of time at the Luna household again this trip. He has been accepted and will attend Spring Arbor University in the fall. I didn't realize how amazing this truly is as his parents can not read or write. Josue has worked extremely hard to overcome odds to pursue higher education. I am so excited for him! It was fun too when one night at dinner he realized I was Rachel and David's older sister. Josue had come to the US in 2006 with the Dulous Discovery School's soccer team and my Gramma and family went to a big buffet dinner with them. I remember it being quite the experience.

One highlight has been interacting with Dona Elva and Milargos, two of Kendra's home helpers. They are amazing cooks! What I have loved about them is their servants hearts and how we could have meaningful conversations with what little Spanish I know. On Thursday, Dona Elva had an interview at the US embassy for her VISA application. She hopes to spend three and a half months in the States to meet her 10 year old granddaughter and to see the birth of her daughter's second child. After being denied a VISA last summer, we were all a bit nervous but were overwhelmed with joy when she came home and the answer was YES! Joyful is joyful no matter what the language barrier when we danced in the kitchen together.

I loved talking to my family online this week as well and emailing Gramma Ecker and Grandma Cook. I miss them all so much and enjoy being with them. After all I've seen in Haiti of what family life is like there, I feel so blessed to have mine and to have the relationships with them that I do.

With Samuel as the founder and President of NET (Nacion En Transformacion), he has a variety of engagements at all times. Friday was no exception when Kendra, the three boys and I ventured down the mountain to Santiago to see an art show NET was hosting. Part of their mission in breaking the cycle of physical and spiritual poverty is through 7 spheres of influence: business, art, education, government, media, family, and church.

Saturday was the day of packing and the day in which we celebrated Landon's 13th birthday. He, of course, had a party with about 8 of his friends. I could not understand most of the conversation at dinner because they talk so fast in Spanish, but Landon seemed to have a fun time.

When it was time for cake, Kendra started to light the candles and per tradition, Landon had to take a picture with all the guests. If you've ever celebrated a birthday with my family, you know we are serious about our traditions too, so I was happy to oblige. First a photo of the parents and Landon, then the siblings, then the friends, cousins, one with Josue and his brother, then Pastor Alan, Josue's parents, and then me. His friends were sure to tease him during our picture. By the time he was halfway through the photo taking, the candles were almost completely melted into the cake! I also found out that they don't sing the Happy Birthday song like I was taught in Spanish class, so that was a major letdown.

To bed late (oops!). Getting up to leave by 4:30 or 5am.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Brief Summary: May 10 to May 15

May 10
Stayed at Victory Compassion’s compound last night.  Left at 6am to meet the Paraguayan UN by 7am at the site.  Spread gravel, put up new fencing.

Captain Florentin and Kendra Luna

Kendra went to court with Dr. B regarding the land dispute.  UN Japanese company came by at 2pm to discuss access road project and garbage pit.  Told us their 2 weeks of work would begin Monday, May 16.  Emily went with Dr. B to the hospital to take some pictures of the bandits who broke his fence because he bailed them out of jail to fix it.  Meeting with Kendra, Emily, and Dr. B in the foam core house to discuss micro-enterprise possibilities.

There have been 4 main issues when trying to help people move in to our camp...

1. Does the land belong to me?  The answer is no. Here there is a law of "squatters rights" so if you set up somewhere for 10 years and no one asks you to move, you now own the land. We also learned that by law you have to be Haitian to own land, though this is not confirmed. So our contract with Dr. B is 9 years and 363 days, renewable if things go well. The doctor did say he would sell land to any individual who has the money.

2.  How will I make money or look for a job this far away from town and the main road?  We have been telling people that this is up to them.  We realize we do need to have suggestions since these people are essentially picking up from majorly populated areas and moving into the countryside.  Our reason for meeting with Jean Frances today and having a whole list of others to contact with experience in microenterprise and micro loans is to find a few solutions and suggestions for this.

3. What about security? I understand why they are asking this question, but I don't like it. They are asking because this area is new and completely foreign to them; however, where are they living now? In crowded camps, in tents less secure than our structures. Our priority is IDPs (displaced persons), so these people have been living in close quarters, some in tents with other families, some in tarps wrapped as a tent like structure and having nothing of their own. We always ask them "who does security in the camps now"?The response is always that the people do and that is what we expect here after families get to know one another better.

4. National Identification Number. Oh, this one is a mess. To receive better temporary housing, we have to have copies of the head of the families' ID card. Some people lost theirs in the earthquake, others simply don't have it. Most people (almost everyone actually) has told us that they will not give us a copy of their card because they heard the US Embassy gets a copy of the list and anyone who receives help of any kind post-earthquake will not be permitted to get a VISA. Even Pastors are preaching this in churches and everyone heard it from a friend of a friend, so we can never identify a source. We aren't sure if it is true or not, but it seems to be another big reason people won't move in. Even though they have no money and have been living in a tent for almost 16 months, they would rather stay in that situation than possibly jeopardize a chance in the distant future (if ever) to be granted a visa for the US.

Ok, back to micro enterprise. Jean Frances (or FanFan) runs a small store in our area of Croix-des-Bouquets. He gave us a few ideas for enterprise opportunities.  FanFan took us to see a home Food For The Poor build in the area as well as his mini-mart store.  By the time we left Vaudreuil it was 6:30pm and we had spent 11 hours at the site with limited sleep last night. Home to make chicken broccoli noodles and to bed by 8:30pm.

May 11
Paid for well this a.m. and Kendra talked to John from ARI about working with other organizations for about 2 hours, to Croix-des-Bouquets for 11am meeting with the mayor about his original promise of land. Pastor Rod from Victory Compassion attended with his translator, Stevenson also. Mayor said the final step is a land survey, then it is ours!  Met FanFan in town and took him back toward the land in Vaudreuil (pronounced vood-way) so he could help us hire a worker to re-dig the holes for our pavilion. Unfortunately, the rain filled in 3 of the 6 holes Danny, Alonda, JohnBern and I dug.

Handicap International stopped by to discuss NET, what they have done in Haiti and then we were able to ask better questions about their program. Made lots of phone calls, then Dr B stopped by to help us extend the "security" contract with Edward. 

Left the land about 5:15pm and went straight to the FM Church in Delmas to pick up Pastor Gilot and his new wife (they were just married Saturday and are adorably in love!) Dinner with the 5 of us was fun - the Miami/Boston basketball game was on TV and Kendra was so tired she fell asleep at the table.  Home with no electricity, right when I laid down it cane back on and so did my fans. Thank you, Lord!

May 12
JohnBern and Kendra left at 5:15am this morning to go pick up FanFan for our Food For The Poor Meeting at 9am. Emily stayed back to print emails and prepare our food and water for the day.  Met with Jozeth from FFTP who is in charge of Food Distribution.  She referred us to Beth Carroll who we already had a meeting with at 4pm today. 

Picked up medicine from FOHO, took FanFan halfway back to Croix-des-Bouquets, back to house to prepare concept paper for 4pm meeting with Beth Carroll. Conversation started about fish project.  We brought up FanFan and I showed her a picture of our foam core home. Beth says, "Oh, well we can provide permanent housing for you." Instead of forging ahead in that conversation, Kendra decided to ask more about the darn fish. I elbowed her to zip it. They will do a site visit on Wednesday, May 25! This is very exciting news as we have been thinking of what our funding options would be and here is a very realistic, excellent option. A final yes will not happen until after the site visit, but we love that we didn't even ask them to build, they offered it up with all the funding and contractors to construct them for each of our families.  Praise the Lord! 

Back to the National gas station for another sandwich (it counted as lunch and dinner) with a candy bar to celebrate, then home to make a few calls, send a few emails, talk to the family at the house and head to bed by 8pm.

May 13
Up at the crack of dawn to be at the land by 6:30am (remember this is after a 45 min drive - at least) in order to get ready for Pastor Rod's group of students from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We welcome and love the help of these 35 students as they painted the latrines, planted the rest of our trees/plants, and began the cement work on the pavilion foundation. 

Dr B was, of course, around to meet with us beforehand. He said he had 15 minutes and a variety of topics to discuss. Kendra and the doctor both like to talk... a lot, so he deemed Emily the time keeper - then they didn't listen to her. Paid Edward for security over the last month.  Then Dr B told us about a land dispute, we told him about our possible permanent housing grant and he stretched his time from the 15 minutes to two hours to show her 3 other options of land he would outright donate. Today is an important day for him because he is writing speeches for the new President's engagements over this weekend, but he was so excited he took the time to show us what else he could donate!

Emily gave college group a tour of the site before they began work. 

A small boy had a major cut on his foot that reopened after 8 days.  A pre-med student cleaned it as best she could and bandaged it.  Drove/carried him home and will check on him later.

After lunch, half of the group went down to the hospital to play with the kids. Besides constructing orphanges and homes for single mothers or widows, Victory Compassion is also actively engaged in children's ministry and outreach. In Oklahoma, they have a number of vans with stages and games to do inter-city outreach. They even brought one to Haiti, but today they are doing a short time of games since this is their 1st day out. The kids loved it! The team played limbo and did a skit without words that made the kids really laugh.

Meeting in town with Handicap International. Kendra really wants to create a community with a sense of affinity to one another and when they called us last week after hearing about our project, we've been more excited about this possibility. Instead of getting a modge podge of people from a variety of IDP camps - the HELP employee families and families recommended by Handicap International might be our answer. The hospital is right down the road and the school is being built now - it could really be an amazing thing for these people. Originally, Amandine said she couldn't meet today, then she was going to come out to our site, then she asked us to meet her at the UN Log Base. We told Victory Compassion (VC) about the new meeting time and snuck out. Unfortunately, we were in traffic for 1.5 hours on the way there so we missed her - then the drive back took an hour and we didn't even make it all the way to the UN Log Base!

Arrived back at the site and the team was wrapping up. Went over to see the land Dr. B offered to Kendra - right next to his hospital and the new school! This land must be a prized possession!

Stopped back to see the boy before we headed home – he has been so good resting and staying off his foot.  Home for a mac and cheese dinner, showers, and BED.

May 14
Up by 6am - Kendra packed up the workroom while I wrote and sent her emails for her. Out to land to stake out new area near HELP hospital (125 ft by 225 ft). Hired someone to dig 3 holes for perimeter as the 4th corner is a beautiful mango tree, also checked on Edward.

Checked on boy. Took him and his older sister to Cuban Haitian clinic to get the wound cleaned and for antibiotics. During our ride to the clinic, we listened to the Presidential address on the radio. Johnbern liked what the President was saying and would translate the general ideas for us.

Home to get ready for Paraguayan party – they invited us to their 200th Anniversary of their Independence. All the men were in their uniforms.  They had a short ceremony (sat us in the front row) and then a reception followed. Started at 7pm sharp, home by 11:30pm.  Traveling to the DR tomorrow!
Captain Florentin, Kendra Luna, Emily Hendershot, Major Rodriguez
May 15
Travel day....sorta.  Woke up before 5am to finish last minute packing.

Drove up the coast to Pierre Payan to see a model community built by Food For The Poor and managed by a lady named Michaelle – eager to see their design and community philosophies.  They showed us the area - the fishing dock, trade school, community center, church, gardens and houses. Each house comes with 2 rooms, a small "kitchen", a latrine toilet, place for a bucket shower, a porch, rain barrel drainage system, and a solar light.

Drove back towards Port-au-Prince, but stopped by Johnbern's English school.  He was proud to show us what he helped build as he and his sister were some of the first students.

Got back to Clercines in Port-au-Prince to drop off Johnbern and make a final stop at the land. Dr. B has given us about 25 more feet than we originally measured. So we fixed the markings and drove by our other place to make sure that Edward was on watch.

Stopped by Pastor Vitales to drop off paperwork and then at Victory Compassion to drop off 4 watermelons, update them on the boy, and the news about the land. They are an amazingly loving group. We always enjoy even a few minutes with them.

To the border by 3pm. Wow, where has the day gone? The Jimani border crossing is flooded. It is right next to a lake and the water keeps creeping higher!

Kendra drove the whole way. As soon as we crossed the border I changed my airplane ticket to stay until June 1st. We stopped for to go fried chicken for lunch and kept going. Listened to lots of music, listened to an audio book, and did lots of talking - that's what girls do!

I napped. Woke up in time to stop for a fudge ice cream bar. It's Kendra's staple when she gets tired on the road. I was going to drive but then we thought that since I wasn't familiar with the route that we should think of another plan. Got to Santo Domingo after 10pm and decide to stay at Doris and Raul's (we stayed there during my last trip). To sleep about 10:45pm.

Up at 4:15am to finish the drive home to Jarabacoa.