Tag Archives: Port-au-Prince

A story I didn’t write

noel

Noel (right) and another colleague at our office in Port-au-Prince.

Loyalty and perseverance.  Makings of a great story.  These are the common themes in Josette’s story, a small business owner and World Concern microcredit client in Port-au-Prince.

I’m happy to share with you the story of Josette below, thanks to the hard work of Noel, one of our colleagues.  He is one of the Microcredit Promoters, which means  he and the other promoters are in the streets, markets and squares of Port-au-Prince almost daily, engaging with clients and offering them support and encouragement.  Here’s a story from one of the clients he visits on a regular basis.

Port-au-Prince, Josette Cézair ACLAM_1

Josette Cézair (left) is one of the most loyal and honest customers of our Microcredit Program.  For more than seven years, this woman has been working in this way. Despite the many difficulties that our country knows, she has always been disciplined and faithful to her commitments.

She was a victim of the Tabarre (neighborhood of Port-au-Prince) market fire in 2012 where she lost everything, including her merchandise.  Josette had many responsibilities, especially to her family and she did not know which way to turn.  Finally, like manna from heaven, she received a loan through World Concern’s emergency refinancing program allowing her to gradually regain her regular activities.

Now she has reached her ninth loan of 200,000 gourdes (approximately $4,500 USD) and thanks to this loan has completely re-launched her regular activities.

Thank you, Noel, for sharing with us this remarkable story.  Not only is this a great story, it represents a small victory for us as we work towards more teamwork as well.

In June we shared on our blog about our desire to collaborate more with the staff in Haiti who engage with beneficiaries often.  We gave them training and resources so they can help us gather photos and stories of the people World Concern is serving.

We said that through this process we hope to (a) create a spirit of collaboration, (b) further develop the skills of our co-workers in the areas of photography and interviewing, and (c) capture more stories to show our supporters exactly what we’re doing and who we’re serving.  On all three accounts we’re seeing slow but steady progress.

 

On The Road in Haiti: A Week In Review

The first week of November Martha and I had the opportunity to host a lovely couple named Adam and Wendy from California and a colleague from Seattle named Dave.  Adam’s family has been involved with World Concern for over 30 years and although Adam had traveled with World Concern previously, this was Wendy’s first trip.

This was Martha and I’s first donor trip to help coordinate since moving to Haiti so we were excited but a bit anxious as well to see how everything turned out.  Well I’m happy to report that other than one flat tire and a little motion sickness on my end, the trip was smooth and without any hiccups.  Our colleagues are diligent and gracious, which we were reminded of constantly throughout the week.

Here is a look at our five day trip together stretching from Les Cayes to Jacmel and then back to Port-au-Prince.  As always, photos were taken by my talented wife.

Tuesday
les cayes presentation1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our day started with a presentation of all World Concern current activities in southern Haiti given by our staff in Les Cayes.

morency well1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We visited Morency, near Les Cayes where Adam’s family helped build this water well in 1998.

morency school1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just up the road from the water well in Morency is this primary school which World Concern also built in 1998.  The school is currently a partner in our Hope to Kids program which provides goats and husbandry training to students so they can generate income and pay for school.

morency goats and bernard1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here students line up with their goats so Bernard (pictured far left), the Hope to Kids project coordinator, can give vitamin and deworming shots.  Most of the goats do not like the shot at all and afterwards jump around frantically, which the kids get a kick out of.

Wednesday

farm group shot1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a good looking group!  West of Les Cayes World Concern leases a few acres of land that is used as an ‘outdoor classroom’ where our staff hold trainings for local farmers.  We had the opportunity to visit the farm and speak with staff, farmers and interns from a couple local agronomy universities.  The tractor you see above is one that is used to provide plowing services for farmers.

farm flooding1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last month southern Haiti received a lot of rain…too much rain in fact.  You can see that there was some flooding at the farm when we visited.  The staff were draining the field and focusing on their raised beds.

les cayes staff eat1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To thank the World Concern staff in Les Cayes for all their hard work and to enjoy some fellowship, we shared a delicious meal at Gelee beach.  This small restaurant is owned and run by a World Concern microcredit client which is awesome.  Rolande, the owner, has been a client since 1998.  We were happy to support her business and eat her delicious food!

Thursday

drive to jacmel1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday morning we drove from Les Cayes to Jacmel.  We took Route National 2 which is well paved and provides some spectacular views as you zigzag up and over the mountains.

group lavaneau1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once reaching Jacmel and meeting up with Marseille, World Concern’s project coordinator in south east Haiti, we drove to the community of Lavaneau just outside the city.  Here World Concern helped a local organization rebuild their irrigation canal after it was destroyed by hurricanes in 2008.  The local organization is 22 years old and works on a variety of projects in their community.  In this photo we’re speaking with the president of the organization and other members.

water fountain1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the construction of a new irrigation canal, World Concern supported the local organization in Lavaneau to build four water fountains like this one which we visited.

Friday

figue church1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday morning we drove to the village of Figue, high up in the mountains east of Jacmel. This is the inside of the church in Figue that was rebuilt following Hurricane Sandy last year. The congregation did an awesome job painting the church and making it beautiful.

figue fountain1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Concern also helped Figue build a new water system which brings water from a source in the mountains to this water fountain.  You can read more about World Concern’s work in Figue by clicking here.

kokoye1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haitians are very generous and the folks in Figue were no exception.  Here’s the remnants of the coconut that we enjoyed during our visited.  A guy will take a machete and with precision cut off the top so a small hole is exposed; perfect for drinking the cool contents.

tap tap1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday afternoon we drove back to Port-au-Prince.  This was the leg of the trip where I got pretty motion sick.  As we drove through and around and up and over the mountains from Jacmel to Port-au-Prince I was sitting in the back with the luggage.  The Dramamine I took apparently didn’t do its job.  Adam was nice enough to swap seats on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.  In the photo above you can see one of the many taptaps (the public bus in Haiti) we encountered upon reaching the capital.

Saturday

lookout1

Adam, Wendy and Dave flew out Saturday evening so we had all day to explore some of Port-au-Prince together.  Here is a panoramic shot Martha took of the city from a popular lookout.

lunch21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before heading to the airport we stopped for a late lunch.

It was a fantastic week.  Adam and Wendy were able to see firsthand how God is using World Concern to serve and equip communities in Haiti.  It was an honor to introduce them to this amazing country.

An empty downtown, crowded tap taps and sleeping police: Sights on a road trip across Haiti

The beautiful southern coast of Haiti near Aquin along Route National 2.

Four o’clock in the morning is early even for a morning person like me.  Yet last week this is precisely the time of day I found myself crawling out of bed and into our car.  Martha and I do not usually get up this early.  But on this particular day we were headed to the city of Les Cayes which is located in southern Haiti and needed to be there by 8:30am.  The trip can take over four hours, depending on the traffic or blokis, hence the 4am wake up.

World Concern has been working with small scale farmers near Les Cayes for over 15 years providing training, seeds and tractor services.  We last visited Les Cayes in June and you can read about three gentleman we met then in a previous blog post by clicking here.  Our purpose in traveling to Les Cayes on this occasion was to document an organic compost training for farmers and agronomy students from local universities.  More later in a separate post on this training specifically.

This was our fifth trip outside of Port-au-Prince for World Concern since arriving in Haiti nine months ago.  After four trips we have figured out travel essentials versus what can be left behind.  Sunscreen is always a must.  We’ve made the mistake of forgetting this precious item before only to pay for it for the next two weeks.  On a personal note, it is especially sad that I have recently needed to start applying sunscreen to the (little) bald spot on my head.  Forgetting that has proved disastrous as well.  I often opt for a hat nowadays.

A notepad but also several pens are also at the top of the list because pens seem to disappear when meetings, road trips, hotel rooms and farm visits are involved.  We used to always carry a small English-Creole dictionary but found that it was a bit impractical to pull out a book and look up a word mid-conversation.  I often feel like an 8 year old when speaking Creole but we are improving slowly so this last trip we left the dictionary at home and did fine.

I always insist on bringing my Leatherman knife which Martha doesn’t feel as attached to (shocking I know!).  Maybe it’s a guy thing but I just feel so much more prepared for whatever may happen when I bring my knife along.  Of course it is not only a knife.  It is a can opener, filer, screwdriver, pair of scissors, and saw.  And it fits in my pocket!  Definitely a must.

Lastly, pre-charged batteries.  It’s amazing how fast Martha flies through battery packs when she is using her camera for 8+ straight hours.

The night before we left was busy as we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast and iced coffee for the road.  Martha was kind enough to iron a couple things because despite often being in very rural areas when we travel, a pressed shirt is nearly always expected.  Haitians are very clean and great care is taken to look nice.  I dress nicer in Haiti than I ever did in Seattle for most occasions.  Okay, Seattle is a bad comparison because jeans and a REI button up with UV protection is considered business casual but you get the idea.  Since we would only be gone for one night we shared a small backpack and easily fit in our clothes for the next two days.  Martha’s camera bag and stand were set by the door.  Extra water was thrown in the car and the gas tank was filled.  We were ready.

As we drove through Port-au-Prince in the pre-dawn twilight the city was uncharacteristically quiet.  Streets that are usually bustling with cars, public buses or tap taps, and street vendors were almost completely vacant.  It felt like we could have been the only ones in the city at that moment.  We passed the Champs de Mars plaza and the National Palace or at least where it once proudly stood pre-quake.  It was damaged badly and eventually torn down with the help of Sean Penn’s charity in 2012.

The wind kicked up dust in front of us as we continued on which made the car’s headlights appear dimmer, only adding to the eeriness of driving through an empty downtown Port-au-Prince.

With no blokis we quickly found on our way out of downtown and onto Route National 2, heading west.  We passed the city of Léogâne which was closest to the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake.  Next came Grand Goâve and Petit-Goâve.  Interestingly, the road only gets better on Route National 2 the farther you head west from Port-au-Prince.  By the time you reach Grand Goâve the road becomes consistently smooth.  In fact, Route National 2 is one of the best stretches of road in Haiti (at least that I’ve been on).

At this point the sky was showing hints of light which we were both thankful for.  With little street lighting, especially outside Port-au-Prince, driving in the dark can be a chore.  Pot holes and speed bumps are extra hidden so we found ourselves consistently praying that we did not blow a tire.  In Creole speed bumps are called polis kouche—literally, ‘lying down police.’  It was explained to me that it’s called that because the speed bump is like a policeman sleeping in the road forcing you to slow down.  I love it!  The Creole language never ceases to amuse and amaze.  Thankfully the car did great through the entire trip and we would make it Les Cayes safely and san pwoblem.

Although the sun was still rising, Route National 2 became increasingly busier as we kept driving west.  Men and women, although mostly women, waited on the roadside for the next tap tap to pass.  If one did, you would see all hands go up and begin waving in unison signaling to the driver that they wanted a ride.  Often the passengers were carrying totes, bags, produce, or even chairs that are accompanying them on their journey.   Buses and tap taps in Haiti are often painted vibrant colors and it is not uncommon to find Justin Beiber or Lionel Messi’s face plastered on the side.  They are also notoriously filled to the brim with everything you can imagine—people, goats, charcoal, clothes, and produce to name a few.

drive to les cayes blog post2

There’s always room for more.

Not in an overwhelming way like in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, but the smaller cities and villages we passed were certainly teeming with life and activity as a new day began.  I have found Haitians to be proactive and industrious people.  I would confidently say the vast majority of Haitians I have met are not waiting for a handout despite what I hear from the occasional visitor or in the news.  They are busy and proactive, trying to make a life for themselves and provide for their families despite living in a country where ‘getting ahead’ is only possible for a privileged few.

I am always confused when someone makes a comment about the lack of work ethic or ambition of Haitians.  I completely disagree.  A few months ago we met a woman who lives near the city of Port-de-Paix in northwest Haiti who works seven days a week frying food and selling it on the street to earn enough money so her kids can eat and go to school.  She is always up before dawn and rarely takes a single day off because if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.  This woman is not waiting for a handout.  The people we passed who were obviously busy getting ready for a new day reminded me of this woman and once again I was impressed by the diligence and fortitude of many people in Haiti.

We eventually reached the port town of Miragoâne.  At this point, Route National 2 veers inland taking you south and west across what I would call “the panhandle” of Haiti.  If you are familiar with Oklahoma or Texas you will know exactly what I mean.  Leaving Miragoâne you definitely feel like you are in a rural area.  There are a series of small villages on this nearly 50 kilometer stretch from Miragoâne to the small seaside town of Aquin on the southern coast but that is about it.

The contrast between the busyness and density of Port-au-Prince and the open space and vistas nearly everywhere else outside the capital still amaze me.  I am not really a city person.  I almost always prefer smaller towns and the countryside.  Therefore getting outside of Port-au-Prince is like a breath of fresh air.  The Haitian countryside is absolutely beautiful and the area between Miragoâne and Aquin is no exception.  Soon, the sun was peeking over the mountains giving us quite the show.  This part of the country has a decent amount of tree cover remaining which only added to the beauty.  The car had to work harder as we climbed then descended the numerous hills and mountain passes.

drive to les cayes blog post1

This is where, as a driver, you get lots of experience passing and getting passed by vehicles of all shapes and sizes.  There is no real concept of leaving room between cars in Haiti.  It is one of the things about driving in Haiti that I am still trying to get used to.  In the U.S. we generally like our space when driving and expect other drivers to give that to us.  There is almost a sacredness with the small area around our rear bumpers.  You know what I mean.  In your rear view mirror you notice car closing in pretty quickly and that isn’t necessarily bad.  But then the car keeps coming.  As it gets closer and approaches that invisible sacred line of “that is way too close to my bumper man” the driver’s blood pressure quickly rises and even the nicest of people can turn into absolute tyrants.  Ever heard of a “brake check” or better yet used it?

So in Haiti I’m training myself to think not so much about what is happening behind me and instead focus on what’s ahead.  When another car is passing you they will often get right on your bumper and then move slightly into the opposite lane to see if there is room to pass.  Even the smallest gap in traffic is often enough.  As the car picks up speed and flies passed you, the driver will honk multiple times which basically means “I’m coming so get out of my way.”  Martha and I are learning quickly.  Martha learned to drive in the Philippines so she definitely uses her experience from there in Haiti.  I tend to be a more aggressive driver than Martha but together we’re a nice team, whoever is driving.

You know you are getting close to the southern coast when you descend and descend and keep descending.  As you approach Aquin, out of nowhere, the Caribbean Sea reveals itself.  It is a real surprise; and an awesome one at that.  The sun was now shining brightly which gave the sea an incredible blue hue.  I finally decided to pull out the coffee at this point.  I had resisted for the first couple hours of the drive out of fear of an 11am caffeine crash instead of the more bearable 3pm one.  Thanks to my well insulated mug, there were still a couple chunks of ice remaining which was refreshing.

From here Route National 2 hugs the coast for the most part for another 55 kilometers before reaching Les Cayes.  Although Les Cayes feels quite small compared to Port-au-Prince and has considerably less traffic, entering the bustling city reminded me that I was not on a rural mountain road anymore and I needed to pay attention.  The World Concern staff had moved offices in the couple weeks prior so Martha acted as my navigator as I dodged motorcycles and mules and street vendors.

drive to les cayes blog post3

drive to les cayes blog post4

The new office! A local artist hand painted the World Concern sign.

We eventually found the office on a well paved and charming street in the heart of “downtown.”  Only the guard, Gino, was there when we arrived.  As we waited for the others I reflected on our journey that morning.  It was only shortly after 8am but it felt like noon.  I was certainly awake and ready for the day right then.  I was excited to see the World Concern staff in Les Cayes again and also the whole idea of an organic compost training sounded fascinating.  Mostly I was thankful for an uneventful and generally pleasant drive from Port-au-Prince; our first outside the city since moving to Haiti.

I like long distance drives because there is so much to see and observe.  Haiti is a small country with a largely homogenous culture but driving the four hours from Port-au-Prince to Les Cayes reminded me that it is also a place of contrasts.  Landscape, population density, wealth, tree cover, road quality and even fruit varieties are different depending on where you are at.  One thing is for sure.  I am looking forward to my next road trip in Haiti.

drive to les cayes blog post7

A couple of our fun loving and exceptional colleagues in Les Cayes.

Reflections on prayer and a car wash

day of prayer - praying

Praying as a staff at the World Concern Haiti office.

After having spent three days in southern Haiti last week, Martha and I hurried back to Port-au-Prince for World Concern’s annual global day of prayer on Thursday.  This was our first time to participate in this day and we were glad that we got to.  In the busyness of work and life it is so refreshing to spend an entire day with colleagues praying, singing and hanging out.  The purpose of the day was to give thanksgiving for the previous fiscal year (ours ends in June), pray for the upcoming one, and also pray for the people we work with.

We began the day with a combination of scripture reading, prayer, singing, testimonies from staff about the past year, and more prayer.  When we sing together, someone almost always brings print outs of the lyrics which I’m grateful for since my French is subpar.  Oh and another interesting tidbit is that most singing in church in Haiti is in French not Creole and in most churches in Port-au-Prince French is used in the sermons as well.  Anyway, I recognize some of the tunes but there are also other songs that are completely new to me.  Haitians sing loud and proud.  Their voices together are strong and resounding. Sometimes I try and sing along but other times it is nice to just listen.  Here is a little video from our day of prayer last week while we were singing to give you an idea.

[vimeo 69688867]
See what I mean?!  It’s really incredible to be surrounded by all that powerful singing.

The second part of our day, we visited a church nearby that has a cool ministry for street kids.  This was a chance to hear about how one church is reaching out to people in their neighborhood and pray for them.  The pastor of the church was there, along with about 15 kids that he is working with.

If you have spent any time in Port-au-Prince and have driven around, you have likely had a young guy come up to your car when stopped and ‘offer’ to give it a wipe down.  By ‘offer’ I actually mean they just start doing it and if you don’t wave them off repeatedly, you better have some money nearby.  These are the kids that the pastor at this church saw frequently on the street outside his church.  Some of these kids have parents, some don’t, some have a place to stay, and some are just on their own.  Before they met the pastor, most were not attending school and they spent their days dodging traffic trying to earn some money wiping down cars at intersections.

So the pastor, wanting to know these kids situation better, decided to get to know them.  This was in 2009.  At first, they didn’t want anything to do with him because they thought he was trying to take advantage of them or something.  After three months of talking to them, a few agreed to come in the church and chat.  The pastor said it helped that he usually had some food to share with them.  Over time the pastor built a relationship with about 15 of these kids and they began to trust him more.  He gave them food when he could, talked to them and told them about the Bible.  But he also had an idea of how to get them in school and at the same time give them an opportunity to earn money—a car wash.  He pitched his idea to the kids.

“I will help you start a car wash which each of you can work at.  With the money earned together, we’ll pay for everyone’s school and whatever is left will be split among you.”

The kids agreed and the work of setting up a car wash began.  At first it was a very small thing but the pastor eventually got the local magistrate to donate a piece of land and he found funding to build a building on the property and purchase the needed materials like a power washer, soap, cloths, water, etc.  Now the car wash is a fully functioning business, all of the 15 or so kids he originally began working with are in school, and they each are paid a wage for their work.  During the school year, the kids work on the weekends in shifts.  The car wash has plenty of room for growth but right now it is meeting the needs of the kids as originally envisioned.

To hear firsthand from several of these kids about the difference they see in their lives both spiritually and economically now compared with four years ago is amazing.  After meeting them at the church and hearing their stories, some of the World Concern staff members stood up to share a bit of encouragement with the kids.  After that someone from World Concern prayed for the church and the kids, and one of the kids prayed for World Concern.  Then we all ate lunch together and afterwards walked over to the car wash to see this thing for ourselves.  It was attractive from the outside and the property was well kept after walking through the gate.  There was one concrete ramp built for cars to drive up and a couple power washers nearby.  Inside the small building on the property was a shop selling beverages and random car accessories.

day of prayer - church

At the church praying with the pastor and kids.

Ourselves and the staff made our way back to the office and gathered again in the conference room.  Then we went around in a circle and each person shared about something from the day.  It was so encouraging!  We closed the day with more prayer for the church and those kids, then some of the staff members started discussing how we as a staff we could continue to bless and encourage those kids.  Not sure what they will come up with but it was certainly an impactful day for everyone.

Personally, there were three things that I took away from this day.

  1. Both personal and collective spiritual health is so important.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in work and everything else that goes on and forget my own spiritual life.  I realize (frequently) my need for Christ however I struggle to consistently set aside time and energy to pursue my relationship with him.  A colleague here in Haiti recently said, “We work out our bodies and eat and brush our teeth and everything but we also need to take care of our soul!”  Couldn’t have said it better.  Likewise, we cannot neglect the spiritual health of the community.  I’m thankful that each morning the World Concern staff gathers for a quick prayer together.  No better way to start the day.  I think it’s powerful when a group of people are working toward the same goal and all agree that God must be at the center.  This day of prayer was a good investment in the spiritual health of the staff here.
  2. I need to be intentional with people and persistent like the pastor was in pursuit of those kids.  It took three months for the pastor to get the kids to even talk to him.  What if he had given up after one or two?  I admire his relentlessness and want to also be more intentional.
  3. Haitian led interventions are here and are working; you just have to look for them.  There is so much more to Haiti than a rough history, poorly spent aid dollars, lots of missionaries, and poverty.  But if you are not familiar with Haiti and rely on the news for your information, it is no wonder this is what you would believe.  Unfortunately these kids’ story may never make it on CNN but what is happening in the lives of those 15 young people tells a different story than what you typically hear from the media.  This is encouraging and should be celebrated.  This story shows us that even with limited resources and no outside help initially, a sustainable Haitian led ministry is possible and can succeed.  We (the church, international community, foreigners, NGOs) should do everything possible to support these types of interventions without getting in the way.  Easier said than done of course but we must have that vision and start somewhere.

Home Sweet Home

Three weeks ago we arrived in Port-au-Prince to a warm welcome by a couple of our colleagues and to our new home.  Today I wanted to share some photos with you of our home and give you a glimpse into our life here.  First of all, we are truly blessed with a wonderful place to live.  Thanks for all the prayers on our behalf leading up to our arrival in Haiti regarding housing.  We were hoping to find a place that was furnished and close to work and that’s just what we have now!  Happy reading:)

House photos4

 

 

The bathroom tile brings a lot of vibrancy to the apartment!  It is definitely that most colorful room in our home.

 

We are fortunate enough to have a small patio off the kitchen which is really nice.  This is a shot of it looking out from the doorway.  As you can see it gets lots of afternoon sun which is great for drying laundry.  Port-au-Prince is very dense, so there are plenty of other homes around us.  The background in the picture below is a little blurry but you are looking at mountains.  Straight ahead, at the top of the mountain, is Boutelliers, a well known look out point.  Plenty of beauty here in Haiti!

House photos7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

House photos3You’re looking at our mop bucket and washing machine!  It also serves as our floral decoration.  The property where we are living does have a washing machine (the real kind) but often it doesn’t work.  That means we’re left to do it by hand.  We don’t mind it too much, it is just a really good workout.  Haitian women do it almost daily!  Impressive.

House photos6Breakfast of champions!  The one cereal you can probably find anywhere in the world.  Also one of the many dried goods you can buy on the street here in Port-au-Prince.  We found little packages of granola at one store that we sprinkle on top for some added flavor.  There are dairy products in Haiti such as yogurt, milk, and cheese.  However much of this is imported and therefore quite pricey even by North American standards.  I did learn recently from a friend in Haiti that dairy cows do exist in country.  According to an Oxfam newsletter in 2009, there are an estimated 270,000 milk producing cows in Haiti, mostly owned by individual farmers who may have 1-3 cows.  That number is pre-earthquake, so it could be different now.  Anyway, a bit of random information for you.  We are learning new things all the time!  All that to say that Martha and I use dried milk because it is cheaper and isn’t too bad actually.    Corn flakes and dried milk make for a quick breakfast and also save on stove gas since we don’t need to cook anything.

House photos5
Although our apartment includes everything we need, we had to bring along a couple things of ours to make it feel homey.  This map shows places where we have each visited and reminds us of our great friends and family spread across the world.
House photos8

 

 

 

The closet!  No story for this one, just part of the little tour.

 

 

 

Language has honestly been a real challenge for us since arriving.  English is not widely spoken in Haiti, which means we have plenty to learn! Our French is coming along however needs a lot of work.  We are also trying to learn Haitian Creole.  Yes, we experience many brain freezes.  In order to help us learn vocabulary, we have taped little pieces of paper around the house with the items name in both French and Creole.  I think its working..however I’m not sure why I remember fork but always forget soap.  Maybe I need to shower more?

House photos9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

House photos1

Oh ants.  Martha grew up in Philippines, another tropical country, so she is an AMAZING resource to have around regarding things like dust, bleach, sunshine, and..ants.  These seemingly pathetic critters are actually quite fierce (Martha’s laughing right now).  They can detect any piece of edible material that I’m pretty sure humans cannot even see; and then they tell their friends about it.  The picture to the right shows you one remedy when ants get into stuff.  You put a little water in a tub, then put a plate on top of a bowl for example with whatever the ants got into on the plate (in our case, sugar).  For whatever reason, the ants come out of the bag of sugar and run off the plate into the water!  I don’t get it, but it works.

Ant pow wow..planning their attack (look close).

House photos2

 

 

 

 

 

 

House photos10

 

Rice and beans are definitely staples in Haiti.  Here are some veggies that we’ve been adding to our rice and bean concoctions lately.  The reason they are in the dish rack is because we just sanitized them with bleach water.  You don’t know where the veggies have been, so its just an extra precaution we take.  Many things you can find on the street from one of the many women selling veggies and everything else you can imagine. At least 70% of Haitians (l’ve heard its more like 90%) earn their income from the ‘informal’ economy.  The market women are part of that demographic.

Food is not cheap in Haiti; and due to Hurricane Sandy a few months ago which destroyed around 70% of the countries crops, prices have been on the rise.  The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has estimated that 2.1 million people in Haiti will face severe food insecurity in 2013.  That is around one fifth the country’s population.  Obviously this has a huge impact on Haitian family’s ability to put food on the table.  Thankful each day for the food we’re blessed with.

Well that’s the tour.  I hope you have a little better idea of what life is like for us here in Port-au-Prince.  We are still adjusting, but each day we are learning more (with the grace of God).  Haiti is an amazingly interesting and lively place.  Looking forward to sharing more with you in the coming months and years.

 

 

Reflecting on first week

Today marks one week that we have been in Haiti.  It is amazing how quickly this week has gone by!  One reason this week went fast is because each day, or even each moment is filled with new experiences.  The days themselves and life for that matter seem to go by at a slower pace but it is because they are so full of newness that it feels like yesterday we were getting off the plane at the airport.

Martha and I have been warmly welcomed by the World Concern Haiti staff.  The spirit here is very open and hospitable.  In the Port-au-Prince office, which is where we are based, there are approximately 40 employees.  I am learning that Haitian names are incredibly interesting and diverse.  Some are long, some short.  Some names reflect the French influence on the country and others, from my limited experience, sound like something deeper with an unknown Haitian meaning.  We are doing pretty well with the names so far and thankfully the staff are very forgiving.

Life here is interesting and lively.  This is probably because Haitians are interesting and lively!  Although I am not a lover of all things urban (if you know me, you know I would rather be lost in the mountains), I am learning to appreciate the things a dense urban city can offer.  The sound of women chattering as they cook, kids laughing, singing from a nearby church, are all reminders of community.  Haitians are communal.  This is of course very different from our individualistic culture in North America, but different is just fine.  I think there is plenty I can learn from those around me about community.

As you can see, our first week in Haiti has been about getting settled, becoming acquainted with those we will be serving alongside, and observing how people live.  We are eager to begin meeting the people World Concern serves and share their stories with you.  Since a picture says a thousand words, I will leave you with some photos of our first week here.

 

 

Rebuilding a country and a home

It has been nearly two and a half years since the earthquake that devastated much of the capital and surrounding areas.  Those 30 or so seconds caused so much damaged and affected so many families.  The work of healing and recovery continues, however we witnessed some of the progress in Port au Prince.  As we drove away from Toussaint Louverture International Airport, the car met smooth pavement as we turned onto one of the capital’s main roads that has been repaired.  Lining this road were solar powered street lights which show the way for drivers after sundown.

In Port au Prince, World Concern has been particularly involved the last couple years in rebuilding homes.  There has been a lot of criticism, some more valid than others, of the international community and Haitian government for failing (or not moving fast enough) to sufficiently house the estimated 1.5 million Haitians displaced by the quake.  For me, as a newcomer to the country, I was hoping on this trip to simply listen a lot and see what I could discover first hand about the challenges and successes.  The situation is far from simple and 1.5 million people is a lot of people.  It is impossible to fully understand the complexities surrounding the recovery process in one short week, however I was grateful for the time we did have to meet individuals affected by the quake and hear from our staff about World Concern’s role in providing a home for families.

We met Lucmireille, a 34 year old mother of two.  Her temporary shelter sits on top of a small nub of a hill at the end of a curvy gravel road.  Our jeep worked hard to get up the steep road and I thought of Lucmireille and her neighbors who make that hike on foot.  Although some major roads in the capital are well paved, small neighborhood streets like Lucmireille’s remain rocky.  As we approached her home, I noticed the view.  The hill provides a nice, wide view of the city below.  Port au Prince Bay seemed close and the hot sun gave its’ water a blue tint.  There were several moments during our week in Haiti, like this one outside Lucmireille’s home, where I stopped long enough to admire the beauty of the place.  I’m glad I did.

Like many others, Lucmireille and her family fled to the countryside following the earthquake.  The countryside provided safety and peace from the chaos of the capital.  Life was hard though, as resources outside the city are often more limited.  So her family returned to Port au Prince, even though they knew they could not afford to rebuild their home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the summer of 2011, the World Concern staff met Lucmireille and soon her home was rebuilt.  “We now have better security, since the shelter was built,” says Lucmireille.

 

She went on to say, “If you don’t have a house, you have to do whatever you can for yourself.”  Although Lucmireille continues to face challenges, she is thankful for the shelter and is happy that her oldest child is in school.

 

When you think about the quake and the devastation as a whole, and of the millions of Haitians affected, you get overwhelmed.  Meeting Lucmireille showed me that although life is not easy, there are small victories that deserve to be recognized and celebrated.  I hope you too can celebrate the fact that Lucmireille has a place to call home and be encouraged that although not immediate, change is happening.

Haiti Day 1 – A Place to Call Home

Today we arrived in Haiti.  According to our pilot, visibility was eight miles and I believed him.  As the plane fell closer and closer to earth you could see the sprawling city of Port-au-Prince, beginning near the sea and extending all the way up the mountains which surround it.  The first thing you notice upon stepping out of the airport is the heat.  Not simply the temperature, but how the warmth surrounds you and falls upon your skin. 

Our group is seven in total, including Martha and I.  We immediately went to the World Concern office here in Port-Au-Prince and said hello to our colleagues and friends.  Since beginning this journey with World Concern, Martha and I have felt as though we are part of a family.  This feeling was affirmed as our Haitian brothers and sisters warmly welcomed us today.  After greetings and a tour of the formidable three story office building, we headed out to meet some families in the city who have had houses rebuilt with the help of World Concern.

This was a truly humbling afternoon.

We met Elias & Louis whose house was completely destroyed by the earthquake in January 2010.  They, along with their seven children, were suddenly homeless.  This family, which numbers twelve in all, found themselves hopping around from one temporary living situation to the other.  After nearly a year and a half of being on the move, World Concern helped Elias & Louis rebuild their home on the small piece of land where their former home was.  They and their family could finally return home.  Elias explained that since receiving their new home, his family’s situation has greatly improved compared to what it was like shortly after the earthquake.

Wow.  Life is not perfect for Elias and his family but he is the first to acknowledge that God has protected his family. 

We enjoyed the few moments we had with Elias & Louis so much.  This couple, along with the World Concern Haiti staff, has already showed us the beauty and resilience of the Haitian people we have read so much about.   At the end of our first day in Haiti we are exhausted but so thankful to be here.