Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Day 7 - Last Day in Petit-Goave

Day 7, March 1, 2011
Last Day in Petit-Goave
Today is the 7th day of our mission to Haiti and our last day here in Petit-Goave.   This morning Sandy and Vonnie stayed at Pastor Admirable’s  guest house to clean up some sand and rubble from a previous repair.  The rest of the team went to Pastor Maude’s again and discussed some additional projects for the day. 
Meeting with Pastor Maude
Bob Dixon and Bob Webster took measurements for making window screen frames for some guest house windows and helped the caretaker start a chicken coop.  Nancy helped sift sand for the plaster crew.  During our breaks and down-time throughout the week we were here we had an opportunity to play with and meet many of the local kids who came by the worksite.  It was such a joy to see their faces as we played games with them and engaged them in talking.  They are eager to meet people and crave the attention we gave them.

Working with Oragami Paper Crafts
Bruce, Mary Margaret and Steve spent the morning estimating  material and tool needs for projects for future teams.  This was Bruce’s idea and it would have been a big help to us if we had some of this kind of advance information to get started on some new projects when our work got a little slow. Reverend Tom came out to meet with Pastor Maude and he liked Bruce’s idea so much he is going to ask other returning crews to start identifying additional job needs and making tool and materials recommendations.  Some of the project ideas we came up with included repairing the rock wall and security along the frontage road of Pastor Maude’s compound, finishing off the shower and hand washing station that another group had started, improving the safety of the well house, and rebuilding the benches at Pastor Maude’s guest house.

Damaged Rock Wall

Shower and Hand Washing Building

Well House
Since work was getting a little slow we decided that seeing a little more of Petit Goave would be a good way to spend out last afternoon here.  After lunch the entire crew and our interpreters Ricardo and Jackie walked down the road until we found a good place to get to the beach.   After deciding not to pay $2 each to get to the shore,  Ricardo talked to a local girl who showed us another way.  It was also through private property, but they did not want to charge us.  The landowner operated a small open air restaurant so we all bought a soda to show our appreciation.  We sat at small tables by the shore, watched the waves and looked at the view of the shoreline and island out in the bay, just like tourists. 

Canoes Carved from Mango Tree
 Creole Pigs on the Beach

Old Rock Wall and Ferns Along Beach
After the soda we walked back along the beach until we found a new concrete road that lead back up to town.  There were very many dugout canoes all along the beach,  and of course lots and lots of trash.  There were many Haitian people walking along the beach, a few swimming and many just seeming to relax.   The pace seemed a lot slower than on the streets. We got back to the guest house just before dinner and Bruce talked Steve into writing something for the blog.  We are now sitting around relaxing and visiting and waiting for the water to come back on so we can wash up since the staff is starting to set up for dinner.
We have had a lot of experiences in our week here, and have seen a lot of things to make us ponder how our Church’s programs might be more effective in delivering aid to the people, and how all of the organizations and governments could make things work better.  The Haitian people have so many challenges to overcome and all the efforts seem to just be scratching the surface.  We have had many conversations on whether we would come back, what we might like to do and what options there are for future service, but we will all need time to process all of our experiences and thoughts.  The problems facing the people go way beyond rebuilding buildings and improving their economy.  Pastor Maude sleeps in a tent behind her house, even though the house is safe.  We have heard of schools classes being held outside safe school buildings and congregations meeting outside safe church buildings.  We learned today that our interpreter Jackie, who studied English in college, worked in a call center for a medical supply company on the eighth floor of an office building in the  Dominican Republic before the quake.  He was home in Port au Prince for Christmas when the quake happened and was afraid to go back to work in the tall building, so now he is working an interpreter for UMVIMs teams coming to Haiti.
-          Steve Meacham and Bruce Stirling

Day 7 - Last Day in Petit-Goave

Day 7, March 1, 2011
Last Day in Petit-Goave
This has been a fantastic experience.  There have been many opportunities for service – offering a cool drink of water on a hot day, interacting with eager, beautiful children as they give us a smile or teach us a song about serving the Lord in Creole, sifting sand, moving furniture, picking up garbage.  It has felt spiritual being in the moment, ready to respond when called.
 I want all of you who have supported us with time, prayers and financial support to know that we are grateful to you for being with us on this mission.  Every evening at our spiritual gathering and debriefing time we have used the journals prepared by Deb Taylor, Pastor Darryn and our prayer partners.  A number of times Darryn, what you have written was right on where we were for that day.
There will be much to consider for a long period of time.  Haiti is more complex and varied than I expected.  I have heard the stories and dreams of some Haitians.  Some live in their untouched homes, drink treated water and move on as they best can.  Others live with destruction wondering how to rebuild.  There are children and youth educations to support , churches to support, communities to rebuilt, jobs to be created, you name it.
We are eager to share our photographs and experiences and new found information with you.  See you soon.
-          Nancy Vanderpool

Eglise-Methodist De Nabosse Church

Day 5
Visit to Eglise-Methodist De Nabosse Church
Today was day five of our mission here in Haiti.  It was a memorable day because we got to see a part of Haiti that many people don’t think about when they think of Haiti.  We took a trip with Pastor Maude to visit the Eglise-Methodist De Nabosse Church up in the hills to the south east of Petit-Goave.  Our trip began early at 630AM with a breakfast at Pastor Admirable’s house.  Our two drivers arrived with Pastor Maude a little after 730AM. 

Group Picture Waiting for Past Maude
I was amazed at the amount of activity going on here for Sunday, out in front of the house at 7AM; people were everywhere.  It was exciting to be out in the town again and see the daily lives of people outside of the big City of Port-au-Prince.  Many people were dressed in their Sunday clothing and looked very nice.  Here are a couple pictures of the activity on the road outside the house and at a local market along the highway.
Activities Outside Pastor Admirable’s House

Local Sunday Market
Our drive up to De Nabosse was quite an expedition with some 4-wheel driving and several stops along the way including getting gas (like crowding around the drinking fountain in grade school), fixing a tire at a roadside auto mechanic that looked more like a homeless camp and adding oil to both vehicles that were in desperate need of engine overhauls.  The exhaust looked more black than white and seemed like each used a quart of oil each getting up to De Nabosse.
Getting Gas

Fixing the Spare Tire

Roadside Mechanic
The number of motorcycles here in Haiti is incredible but as a cheaper alternative to buying a vehicle it makes sense.  More than 99% of the riders do not wear helmets although I got a picture of one who was actually wearing a helmet. 
Motorcycle Rider
As in Port-au-Prince, the amount of roadside garbage is mind boggling.  The ditches act like garbage dumps and during heavy rains I’m sure carry the garbage to the sea.  In this particular roadside ditch there were goats, chickens and pigs looking for food.
Pigs Along Roadway

Roadside Garbage
As we made our way off of the highway and into the rural undeveloped roads that would eventually take us up to De Nabosse, the landscape was obviously tropical with banana trees and other shrubs . We saw many farm animals scattered throughout the hills.  There was much less trash and houses were built like huts with grass or tin roofs and mud and rock walls.  Once we left the main highway it looked like there was no electrical power to any of the homes.

Rural Goats

Rural Roadway

Haitian Boy and Horse

Rural Hut

Both this boy, riding his mule back from town with a load of flour, and this man, who road to church on his mule, were typical of the people who lived here and either walked or used farm animals to get to town or church.  We were told some of the families at church walked from several miles away over the steep hills to get there.  Something that is very typical for the rural churches of Haiti.

Haitian Boy and Mule

Haitian Man and Mule
Before coming here, my vision of Haiti wasn’t about how rural it would but of the poverty and squalor in the big cities but it was obvious that rural Haiti is very pretty and many of the people still live without the use of vehicles or electricity including the village at De Nabosse .
Along the road to De Nabosse, it seemed like people get there water from central water systems that may have been installed by the IMC.  Many of the Haitians were carrying large containers of water from these locations using their heads or strapped to mules or horses. 

IMC Water Supply Well

Rural Haitian Hut
As we climbed steeper into the hills we were treated with a view of Lake Le Tang de Miragoane and the coastline looking back to Petit-Goave.

Lake Le Tang de Miragoane

Lake Le Tang de Miragoane
We arrived at De Nabosse and greeted the church members.  They honored us as their guests by having us sit up in front of the congregation.  I think we were all somewhat nervous, not knowing what the typical customs were, and especially when we were each asked to introduce ourselves individually in front of the church.

Arriving at De Nabosse

De Nabosse Church
Although not knowing much if any Creole we all got a sense of what a church service was like in Haiti.  In addition to Ricardo, there was another church member who spoke very good English and was able interpret some of the sermon with us.  We sang several popular songs including Amazing Grace during the service.  I think we were all very moved by the service and the hospitality these people showed to us.  After the service we served lunch (PB&J sandwiches) and sodas to everyone and then brought out many of the crafts and games we brought for the children.  As it turned out many of the adults were just as eager to participate as the children were.  Sandy did an amazing job managing the crafts, the kids and even the adults all in a small space at the back of the church!

Sandie After Children's Crafts

Pastor Maude and De Bosse Church
After church the Vashon group posed for a photograph with Pastor Maude at the front of the church.

Vashon United Methodists and Pastor Maude

Ricardo and Bruce
We were then invited for wonderful lunch with Pastor Maude and the church trustees at one of the nearby huts near the De Nabosse.  The road getting to this spot was even more treacherous and steep then the one that we drove to get up to the church.  At one spot we all contemplated as the car started to roll over we all contemplated getting out and walking the rest of the way.  The lunch was a wonderful hone cooked local meal of fried chicken and onions in a Creole sauce, beans and rice, plantain, and bread fruit.  The house had some of the most amazing trim work Bob Dixon had ever seen so he had me take a picture of it.

Church Trustees Invite us for Lunch

Eating Lunch Together
After lunch we headed back down the mountain more cautiously than we came up.  On the way back and close to home here in Petit-Goave we stopped off to the see the new church being constructed at Fond-Doux.  It’s similar in size to the one at De Nabosse with bathrooms off of the back.  Within minutes of arriving we attracted a crowd of more than 25 children who were as curious about us as we were about them.  Nancy engaged them in conversation and took some photographs with them.  Everyone was friendly and wanted to know more about us and why we were there.

Fond-Doux Church Interior Construction


Bruce and Exterior of Fond-Doux Church

Haitian Children at Fond-Doux

Nancy at Fond-Doux
I had seen several UN vehicles here as well as Haitian police but hadn’t noticed a Haitian fire truch or ambulance until this one which I took a picture of this one.

Haitian Ambulance
This was a day of memorable sights and sounds and I’m sure one that we will all remember for quite some time.  I know I will.
-          Bruce Stirling

Monday, February 28, 2011

2nd Day Working in Petit-Goave

Day 4
2nd Day Working in Petit-Goave
Today is day four of our mission here in Haiti and the 2nd day of work at the Petit-Goave site. We did not do any work of consequence today although we spent a lot of time playing with the  kids and watching the Haitian men apply plaster to the outside of the church activity center.  They are expert at applying wet, soft mud (mortar mix) to the side of the building in a rapid and exact fashion at the right thickness.
Applying Mortar Coating Inside
We helped the masonry team by mixing mortar and concrete as they apply it to the inside of the activity center today.  Although there wasn’t enough work for the 8 of us to participate we worked as a team and took turns shoveling and sifting.  The highlight though of today was a surprise visit by four youths and other several other smaller Haitian kids who came by to see what we were doing and to see what the “blanc” (white) people were doing.  We played soccer and Frisbee in the afternoon and learned more about them as they learned more about us. 

Haitian Kids at the Work Site
As one might expect, they are all good soccer players. One young man of about 15 years, had exceptional command of English and was also well versed in the Methodist religion.  Nancy thought he could easily be trained in ministry or as a teacher.  All the people here and especially the youth and children are very friendly and affectionate.  Many of the younger children held our hands as we walked around the site and stroked our heads.  It’s something that I think is pretty common when they don’t see many people like us here.
We have all agreed we are a team of individuals that have come together to do a job in Haiti, but we are having a hard time understanding what that job looks like and how it is to be accomplished.  At about 3PM we came home and had a long discussion amongst the group regarding  how we can be more productive with our time here since it is limited; tomorrow is Sunday we only have 2 work days left.  We all wish that there wasn’t such a lack of meaningful  work . We did not make any world changing conclusions but believe we must pursue most of our questions and concerns in some official manner with the UMVIM/UMCOR non-governmental organization (NGO) that arranged most of our accommodations and partially funded our project here.  Steve and I calculated that UMVIM with the UMCOR matching fund is bringing about $1.5 million dollars a year into the Haitian economy assuming that there are at least 3 teams a week down here for most of the year.  Of the $43 million that UMCOR has been given for Haiti relief efforts, about 10% of that is being used to match UMVIM volunteer dollars for each project.  There is about $3 million more remaining in the fund which was just released for projects in October of last year.
Later that evening we had an informative discussion with Pastor Admirable about the Methodist church her e in Haiti.  He said Haiti has 13 Methodist districts which each have a district superintendent.  Pastor Maude is the Petit-Goave district superintendent.  She and Pasto Admirable have 24 churches each that they have to attend to in this district; it takes them 6 months to see each of them (one every Sunday).  There are approximately 45 lay preachers in the Petit-Goave district.  There are about 7,000 to 8,000 Methodists in Haiti and about 184 schools are sponsored by the Methodists here.
Pastor Admirable’s House

Front Yard of Pastor Admirable’s House
The weather has been warm, close to 80 degrees, but it is not too humid so we can handle the heat during the day.  Although it’s been fairly hot at night, each of our rooms has a fan.  Unfortunately, Pastor Admirable’s house is located directly adjacent to a disco which plays very loud dance, rap, reggae and Haitian music late into the night.  Most of us have been averaging 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night.  They love music here as every night a truck or van drives down the road in front of our house advertising loudly that there are more dance places in Petit-Goave.
Tomorrow we are going to attend church service with Pastor Maude outside of Fond-Doux in the mountains at the Eglis-Methodiste De Nabosse church and are going to get an early start with wake-up at 6AM, breakfast at 6:30AM and to commence our journey after 7AM.  That’s all for now.
-          Bruce Stirling and Bob Dixon                            

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day 3 - Working in Petit-Goave

Day 3 – February 25, 2011
Working in Petit-Goave
Today is Friday and after a good breakfast we walked back to the work site and were quickly assigned to several tasks that involved moving building stones, bricks and other earthquake debris out of the building.  Our project is at Pastor Maude’s complex
The Arkansas UMVIM team helped by sifting limestone rock through wire mesh which was used for mixing mortar that went on the building and helping to cut metal pieces with a chop saw for reconstructing windows. 

Sifting Limestone for Making Mortar

Some of the UMVIM Team from Arkansas; Bubba and Mike

Haitian metal workers also spot welded metal into decorate covers for the windows.  The major metal work project was a beautiful door that I understood was going on the new church being built in Fond-Doux.  I had no idea that metal fabrication down here was such an important skill. 

Fabricating Metal for Windows and Doors
Seeing this project and how the people here get by with so little, I can’t help but admire them and how resourceful they are with having so little to work with.  They try and make the most of what they have and much of the useable materials get recycled.  It makes me think why I need all the things I do when they complete essentially the same tasks with a fraction of the supplies and resources.  Like Steve commented, “when you don’t have a Home Depot or Lowes down the street, projects become a major challenge.” 
Our primary task was to clean up the inside of the church activity building while the Haitians worked on the mortar and plaster.  I think the goal is to rebuild the exterior and interior walls and replace the windows and doors and then paint everything. This was physical labor and the conditions were hot and dusty but everyone in our group was right there lending a hand and helping each other as best they could.  Everyone was smiling and happy despite how hot and dusty the conditions were.  While we worked, 2 UMCOR administrators visited our site to check on our progress at Pastor Maud’s as well as other sites in the Petit-Goave region.  Nancy, Steve, Mary Margaret and Ricardo discussed with them some of our concerns regarding funding, organization and project understanding.  Only a few children came to the work site today.  I think there will be more as they find out that we are here.  No matter where we go, it seems like we attract a lot of attention.  Almost like you are a movie star back home.
Here are a few pictures of our first day working at Petit-Goave.
Cleaning Rubble from Inside

Plastering the Walls with Mortar

Ricardo Speaks with UMCOR Representatives

 - Bruce Stirling