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Haiti Part I

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A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to partner with the organization Children of the Nations and travel to Haiti to work with kids in the city of Bellevue just outside Port-Au-Prince. We stayed in the next village over Léogâne which was the epicenter of the nasty 2010 January earthquake that devastated Haiti.

If you did not know, Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. They were not too well off already before the earthquake and you can imagine how bad things are there right now.

Day One involved us arriving and getting to know the culture, the church, and the neighborhood next to the church that we would be involved with. I had a lot more questions that I realized partly due to the fact that I had no idea what to expect prior to our arrival. The UN definitely still has a huge presence in Haiti to the dislike of many Haitians but at the same time, there are many that support the help that they are providing.

Evidence of the earthquake is still everywhere. Building ruins are near every corner, basic sanitation is not a reality for the majority of the population, and there are large areas of “slum”-like living near the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. If you have ever seen the movie District 9, you’ll know what kind of housing I am referring to. A lot of people ride in things called top-tops which is basically a pickup truck with a camper that acts as their taxi/bus service.

We stayed in a housing unit provided by COTN. It functioned as their office as well as just the basic needs for flown in volunteers…bed, shower, bathroom and kitchen area…but it was obviously way nicer than most of the people in the surrounding area.

Here are some shots from day one:

Here are some pictures driving through the city.

We arrived in the morning but waited around the airport for another group that was flying in that afternoon. Once we had everybody, we drove to where we were staying and had dinner.

For lunch and dinner we had rice, beans, chicken and fried plantains. So delicious! It made me think back to my Puerto Rico trip a couple years ago.


Delicious

When we went to sleep that night, I realized my shower was only cold water, which was fine for me. Because of how hot it was the shower was refreshing…except for the fact that the guys shower was a dribble of water and the girls had a nice full on hose.

Mosquitoes were not really a problem for me but there was a rooster there that started his morning duties of waking up the world… at 10PM. And we heard this thing call out every five to ten minutes. The entire night. The entire friggin’ night! I usually travel with earplugs but there was no hope drowning out this stupid bird. Every single morning during breakfast time, our team had nice discussions of the lack of sleep we got on account of that retarded bird.

Day Two was to get to know the kids slowly, meeting our translators, and visiting their villages and homes to take pictures of their living situations. The purpose of our trip was to update the sponsorship profiles of all of the children in the program. Because they are so young, they change so much year to year so it is a good idea to keep the sponsors updated as well. We also had a long list of items that they needed pictures of including specific items that we needed to find. My role on the team was to take pictures of the kids and find as many items as I could on that list. Since I had a nice camera and loved taking pictures, I did not mind. Here are some of the shots from the second day.


The church in Bellevue. It was destroyed in the earthquake and they built a smaller church on the side. They are currently trying to take down the ruins and reusing the materials to build classrooms for children.


We followed Woodmy and his friend to their homes and village nearby


Woodmy with his goat


Woodmy and his family


The Haitian shire


Lucent shows us his kindergarten diploma and stands with my friend AK who was also our team leader. She works for COTN.


A destroyed home

This is how the children prayed:

And this is how the children played:

And I did not like the following game:

You don’t really see a game happening do you? But you do see an incredibly large amount of children massing all around me…which is never a good thing.

Those are the last two pictures I took before I got chased unknowingly by 50 Haitian kids up and down and all around the church property. They thought it was funny but I disagree. I was the photographer. Not the play-with-kids-er.

But because of my superior athletic abilities, I was able to maintain a safe distance for a while. And thank goodness for my shoes too as I was able to make ankle-breaking cuts and juke half of these little tireless pursuers over and over again. In the end, my conditioning caught up with me as my lungs were not accustomed to the 100 degree heat and 100% humidity.

Once caught, they do the worst things to you which includes the following:

– Dog pile the crap out of you
– Tickle the crap out of you (this was miserable!!)
– Steal your hat
– Pull your beard
– Attempt to braid your hair
– Clasp onto your limbs tightly with their arms and legs
– Laugh

Haitian kids are ruthless. This happened about five times. Maybe I had a little fun. Maybe not. But you will never know because I have no pictures to prove it.


Snack time!

After snack time, we went back to the house where another group of kids were going to meet us around lunch time. These were kids who lived closer to Port-au-Prince and were all significantly injured during the 2010 quake.


Mikerlyn lost her left arm during the quake


Louis-Maxon and the boys


Daniel and Marc Antoine with the kids. You can see Jordani on the left who lost his right arm


They were really good at soccer


Ghandi is a coke model…I think that’s a different kind of sponsorship


Working with a translator to update their profiles


This is how they got here driving for over an hour on dirt road

That was the end of the second day. It was completely exhausting yet very fun and exciting. It gave us a glimpse of the task ahead of us but we were all looking forward to the challenge. Updating the profiles took a very long time because we needed a translator and half of these kids were between three and seven years old so they were really shy in providing answers.

But it was a good day and we went to sleep that night to the sound of a rooster that we all wanted to kill.

RANDOM NOTES:

– At this point I knew how to say good morning, thank you, please, and toilet!??

– This place reminded me of the countryside in Taiwan near where my dad grew up near Nantou. Taiwan obviously is not as poor a country as Haiti, but there are areas where people literally do whatever they can to find something to eat or make something to live in.

– Half of the plane ride in was full of white people (obviously working with relief organizations). There is nothing wrong with it but I just thought it was a little funny that all the groups would wear the same bright colored shirts

Stay tuned for part II…

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Written by jonewantsm3

July 23, 2013 at 1:00 am

Posted in Adventures, Church, Travel

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