Hello everyone!! I came back from Haiti Friday Morning and after a weekend of lots of sleep and unpacking I am back and ready to hit the ground running. This is going to be a pretty long post so please bear with me.
Day 1--Travel to Haiti
I left San Francisco on a Red Eye flight to New York to head to Haiti. I love to fly so spending a long time in an airplane was no big deal. When I arrived at Haiti I was amazed to be guided to a bus that took us to a warehouse kind of thing for customs. I was scheduled to arrive about an hour before Katherine+, Sif and Jane; so I went to the customs area and asked one of the luggage assistants if I could sit at the little desk they had while I waited for my companions. They said yes and the next thing I know I was talking away with people as well as helping to guide people through the process!
Fr. Deravil arrived and we went on the 2 hour drive to Montrious (Moe-wee). The drive was already very eye opening, I was witnessing people still living in tents as well as the large amount of garbage that was around us. I remember vividly the rancid smell of burning garbage. We finally arrived at the rectory and as I looked bast the house I could see the ocean right infront of me!! It was clear blue and you could see the coral right through the water.
Day 2--St. Paul's School
We woke up to breakfast and the sound of the waves crashing against the beach. We drove the short distance to the school and when we arrive we were greeted by the principal and the director of education. We were allowed to go from class to class observing the class rooms. When we arrived in the first class room (kindergarten) they all stood up and sang us a song about welcome friends! I was so moved. We then went the the other class rooms where i was able to read the children a story about snow; something that they more than likely have never seen before. After the story we handed out sheets to the kids asking them to fill out information about themselves so we can take it back to our children back in Minnesota. As we were going through this process I noticed a young boy sitting there and through the interpreter I asked him why he was not doing the activity. He told me that he could not read; so I said no problem and the interpreter and I were able to write the sheet for him as well as having him draw a picture of himself. It was so wonderful.
We then were able to watch the meals that are being prepared for the students. We were able to help serve and get the meals ready and when it was time we watched each of the classrooms come to the cafeteria area and have lunch. After lunch the children had a little bit of play time and while I was standing around a young boy pulled on my hand and invited me to a wonderful game of Breadfruit Ball Soccer. The next thing I knew I was on a basketball court playing with about 15 kids this game. It was so much fun!!
Day 3--We went to the local market to see where the food for the lunch program is purchased. It was no supermarket that we are used to here in the US. Local merchants just set up on the ground or on some of the booths that are established in the area. I was amazed to see that there was everything that one could imagine.
Day 4--It was Sunday and we arrived at St. Pauls (same building for the church and the school) and I saw how everyone was dressed to the nines for Church. Since the service was in French I did not know much of what was going on but I was able to follow along because they used the same Book of Common Prayer that we use here. As I was standing there just absorbing the service around me a man handed me his hymnal for me to use. I was amazed to see how similar it was so Spanish and he let me use it for the entire service. We got to hear a sermon from my Rector Katherine Sedwick and it was translated by the priest. After the service we then were taken to a few hotels in the area. This city was the where Club Med used to be located but even though Club Med was no longer there the hotels still were. As we were driving to the hotels I see beat up houses and people selling what ever they could on the street. Then we turned into a driveway and the world changed. We noticed that the lawns were manicured and there were really nice cars in the parking lot. As we walked up to the hotel we found out that it is over $250 a night to stay there. While we were also there we noticed that there was an aid organization that had booked up two of these hotels for a long period of time. This was very aggravating; I kept asking is this where the donation dollars that people have given have gone?
Day 4--We interviewed two children who eat the lunches that we help provide and then headed to Port Au Prince. During the drive to Port Au Prince to the Episcopal Diocese Center where we got in another car (thankfully air conditioned) to go to the orphanage where we were staying. We arrived at the Orphanage and we were all beat.
Day 5--One of the things that St. Luke's does is it purchases Haitian art and brings it back to Minnesota to sell to raise money for the lunch program. We had a wonderful tour guide Loull (Lul) who drove us around to make the purchase. Our first stop was a local artist co-op where we made many purchases. After that we went to some of the street vendors where I learned that I have a knack for negotiating prices. We also were able to visit a community of Episcopal Sisters. These sisters had their convent destroyed in the earthquake but still were able to continue the ministry of providing care and housing for senior women.
Day 6--We quickly had to find a new place to stay for our last night in Port Au Prince. After an angel came to our rescue we continued our mission to find art. I was able to continue my negotiations with the street vendors to purchase art for the program. Finally we spent the time together as a group in prayer and just spending some time decompressing and packing.
Day 7--Headed back to the US after 7 very fast and confusing security checks I made it to the plane and I came home tired.
This journey was wonderful beyond words, I know that it would be hard to put it all here in this blog post. It was transformative for me; I came home honestly having a very difficult time with the reentry. It was hard to see some of the things I witnessed in Port Au Price. This led me to give a pretty powerful sermon on March 25 at my field ed parish. I will post it as soon as it is posted on the parish website.
Thank you so much for your prayers while I was there and also to those who donated the money to help me get to Haiti.