Haiti Trip Journal - May 3-10, 2013

Invited to “Come and See,” fourteen women journeyed to Haiti. In a one week stay, they experienced the sights, sounds, smells, and confusion of a poor, but vibrant country. They visited with mission partners: Pastor Leon and Superintendent Jacky Dorleans, agricultural missionary Mark Hare, leaders Daniel and Walnes of the St Joseph Family, and folks at Medica Mamba factory that creates peanut butter paste. The group came to recognize the tension between the poverty and lack of infrastructure with the beauty of the land, pride of self, rich artistic expression, and hope of the Haitian people.

Here is a journal documenting their experiences along, with a photo scrapbook.

Day 1 - May 3

Bonswa Ya'll!

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1020771.JPGArrived safely although we missed our connecting flight due to late departure from RDU. Dropped off health kits at Blanchard thanks to the WONDERFUL men who unloaded the huge duffle bags and suitcases from the TOP of a huge 21 passenger bus! A bus of this type is rare in Haiti, and it had AC. We had an amazing bus driver who could maneuver the narrow and rough unpaved roads with ease.

We had a wonderful dinner at Matthew 25 House followed by devotions on the roof.

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1020774.JPGWe are all exhausted and ready for bed at 8:30!!!

We've had a great day thanks to our wonderfully patient, kind and fearless leaders!

Good night,
Rebecca, Lillian & the group

Day 2 - May 4

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1020785.JPGEarly this morning we started our day with a great breakfast of French Toast, Papaya, peanut butter and excellent coffee served by the staff of Matthew 25 House, where we are staying for the next 3 nights. After devotions, Mark Hare, Presbyterian missionary in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, joined us to share about his work with hunger, primarily helping people start yard gardens.

We then loaded on our wonderful air conditioned bus, with our great driver and our tour guide for the http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1020797.JPGday, Jacqui Labron. Jacqui has been in Haiti for 19 years, 4 as a missionary, the last 15 as a tour guide. It is obvious that she is passionate about Haiti. She led us on an incredible day seeing Haiti.

The streets were filled with vendors selling everything you can imagine, beautiful street art, goats, chickens, pigs, cows, dogs and cats! At one point we heard Jacqui tell the driver to turn left by the cow!

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1020807.JPGOur first stop was at CAH, an artisan co-op. The art was varied and of excellent quality. We were given 30 minutes to shop but finally left 1 1/2 hour later. Yes, the art was that good!

We went to an area of Haiti called Croix des Bouquets (Bouquet of Crosses). The village of artisans all create metalwork from cast-off oil drums. It was an amazing process to see.

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1020917.JPGWe had lunch at a former sugarcane plantation which is now a restaurant and special venue for other functions. It is located right across the street from the U.S Embassy. Several of us had a new drink, watermelon juice, which was very refreshing. We will try to duplicate this when we return home!

After a wonderful dinner of fried plantain, rice, and a dish of beef, corn and peas, we had a wonderful reflection time upon what we had seen and learned today, closing with the hymn This is my Father's World.

Good night, more to come tomorrow.

Day 3 - May 5 

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1020971.JPGAll fourteen of us women were dressed and ready to go at 5:45 A.M. to go to our first worship service at Blanchard. The church was packed, approximately 1,000 people dressed in their Sunday best. We listened to beautiful prayers and music in Creole, including The Old Rugged Cross, and stayed through communion and the offering.

We then left for our second service at Cite Soleil, which can seat up to 2,000 people. We listened to beautiful prayers and music in Creole, and stayed through communion and the offering. http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1020943.JPG

We then left for our third service of worship at the Christian Church of Menelasse, also called Repatriote. This church meets under a big, big tent because the church was destroyed in the earthquake. We again listened to beautiful prayers and music in Creole, and stayed through communion and the offering.

After a lunch on the bus of peanut butter sandwiches, we had a full afternoon, http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1030016.JPGvisiting 3 incredible homes for children: House of Hope where 11 orphaned girls under the age of 12 live, some who lost both parents in the earthquake; Wings of Hope, a loving home for 36 mentally and physically challenged children and young adults; and St. Joseph's Home for Boys, which was destroyed in the earthquake and has been rebuilt into a beautiful 5 story building that include guest accommodations.

In our time with these children and young adults, we saw God's love and grace apparent in so many ways.

It has been an awesome day!

Love, Lillian and Rebecca and Group

Day 4 - May 6

Hi friends and families,

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1030108.JPGWe started another wonderful day, and we were on the road by 6:30 A.M. We are not having any trouble getting up, as most of us are already up, listening to roosters crowing and dogs barking!

We arrived at Blanchard School in time to watch the morning assembly and got to hear singing, prayers and witnessed the raising of the Haiti flag to a position just under the cross on the main building. It was a powerful experience for us all.

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1030111.JPGNext we divided up into our 2 person teams, received our classroom assignments, and presented two story time sessions of the book Tap Tap, which we brought from Raleigh to share with the children. The children were incredibly well behaved and respectful, as well as adorable in their school uniforms, many of which were provided by White Memorial members.

Our group was able to have a conversation with Jackie Dorleans, the Superintendent of the four schools supported by HOM (Haiti Outreach http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1030113.JPGMinistries), and she shared the phrase that is her motto for the school, "Bondye ap travay", Creole for "God is continuously working".

We presented the same reading sessions with classes at Cite Soleil and Repatriote schools. We had wonderful interpreters who helped bring the story alive for the children.

After lunch, we headed to our fourth school, Ebo Beach, about a 30 minute drive from Blanchard, and the poorest by far of all the schools. The church, located above the school, lost its roof in a tropical storm last August and is in dire need of a new roof as well as all musical equipment ruined in the storm.

One of the highlights of the school visits for us was giving a health care gift to every student and teacher in all four schools, about 1,300 total, which were all packed, and brought with us in our checked bags!

Our last stop of the afternoon was at the memorial for the over 100,000 people who died in the earthquake. The memorial plaque reads, "We will never forget".

Another awesome day in Haiti.

Love, Lillian, Rebecca and the Group

We haven't had wifi for a couple of days, but we have now where we are eating lunch, at the Meds and Food For Kids factory, where we have just had a tour, but more about that on Day 7.

Day 5 - May 7 

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1030149.JPGWell, we left the earliest yet, at 5:00 A.M.!!! We checked out of Matthew 25 and dropped off most of our luggage at Blanchard School then headed to the airport where we eventually took a small plane to Cap Haitian where we had lunch on the beautiful veranda of Lakoa LaKay restaurant overlooking "Mountains Beyond Mountains".

We then took vans to a loading place where we all saddled up on horses, Hee Haw, ride 'em, cowgirls! We rode at least half a mile up the narrow, rocky, http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1030178.JPGmountain road to the Citadelle Laferriere where we enjoyed a guided tour. We learned that over 20,000 slaves died building this magnificent structure, which was never used (Google it for more information).

We then rode back down the mountain on the same narrow, rocky, mountain road, and were glad to dismount, give our guides $2.00 each and take a seat in the vans. Our next stop was at Sans Souci Palace for a tour (Google it for more information).
We drove through the city of Cap Haitian on our way to Coco Plage to get to our boat taxi which took us to Norm's Place, Labadie, where we are spending 2 nights. We are in paradise! This part of Haiti is incredibly lush and beautiful, a reminder of what Haiti was like when it was the leading producer of coffee and sugar cane. Our dinner was a bountiful feast of steak, lobster, an assortment of fish, vegetables, rice, salad and avocados.

It's been a day of waiting, learning, growing and even being uncomfortable as people who have so much. We shared in a prayer with our tour guides at the top of the Citadelle, thanking God for sending many people to help the Haitians, helping them to help themselves provide the basic necessities of life, giving them hope of a better life.

Tomorrow is a day of rest and reflection. We have much to think about and pray about.

Love Lillian, Rebecca and the Group

Day 6 - May 8

Still catching up from our wifi difficulties...

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1030264.JPGToday was a day of rest, renewal, and reflection. We had no schedule except for a 9 am breakfast (omelets and toast), 1 pm lunch (tuna or cheese sandwiches) and 5:30 pm dinner at Cormier Plage (by boat and van), which overlooked the beach.

Many of us took the short walk to a nearby village, called Labadie. We saw women cleaning fish, washing clothes, bathing children and selling fruit. Men were repairing fishing nets, boats and motor bikes. We saw children at recess, in open classrooms, playing on the dirt roads or helping their moms http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1030291.JPGwith the smaller children. It was easy to spot the children who go to school because they all wear well-cared for uniforms, in colors that represent their school.

Some of us waded in the beautiful, clear, warm water, accessed by steps right in front of Norm's Place. Others swung on hammocks, journaled, or read, and all enjoyed the beauty of our surroundings. The owner of Norm's Place, Angelique, a native Haitian, was available for wonderful conversation. http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1030368.JPG

And our dinner? Quite memorable! We had a fantastic dinner with our outstanding tour guide, Jacky Labrom, who has made so many excellent preparations for us, not to mention our incredible group leaders, Diane Payne and Gwen Whiteman, as well as Jessi Stitt, a former youth intern at White Memorial, who is volunteering at Blanchard School for a year. Jessi is teaching English to all students there. Just imagine 16 women ordering dinner!! Well, what happens in Haiti stays in Haiti...

After dinner, we reloaded our vans that delivered us to the boat dock for a late night ride back under cloudy skies, very few lights on the shore and no lights on the boat.

A GREAT day!!

Love, Rebecca, Lillian and the Group

Day 7 - May 9

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1030398.JPGWe slept in until 6:00 a.m., then gathered around the table at Norm's Place for a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bread, peanut butter and Guava jam, yum, yum.  We were on the boats by 7:15 and on our way to Cap Haitian to tour the Medika Mamba factory where peanut butter medicine is  made for malnourished children.  The website is www.mfkhaiti.org.  They are doing impressive work there. 

A young man who grew up in the Presbytery of New Hope, Jamie Rhoades, has been instrumental in getting this project up and running.  The difference a daily packet of http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1030402.JPGthis peanut butter makes in the life of a malnourished child is nothing short of miraculous.  We were shown before and after pictures of a few children receiving the medicine.  After six weeks, a child barely living was transformed into a vibrant, thriving, smiling child.

We ate lunch on the premises and headed off in our vans to do a little last minute shopping at a local grocery store. Prices seem to be greatly inflated; for example, a http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1030437.JPGtube of toothpaste cost $5.00, and that same size toothpaste (the ones used in the health kits) cost $1.00 in Raleigh (at the Dollar Store).

From there we headed to the Cap Haitian airport for the short flight back to Port au Prince.  This time we had a magnificent aerial view of The Citadelle.  Once again, we loaded on to our air conditioned bus and went to Blanchard School to get our additional luggage stored there.  The school has a nice little gift shop and most of us purchased something.
We spent our last night in Haiti at the Plaza hotel, one of the best hotels in Haiti.  The best thing about this hotel... HOT WATER!  We shared a great meal around one big table, and were joined by Andy Whiteman, Mike Payne and Art Mulligan, who had been hiking in Haiti.

At 10:30 some of us night owls joined our tour guide and went to the historic Oloffson Hotel to hear RAM, Haiti's top band.  The place was packed with young people and us (young at heart), but we had a reserved table so we didn't have to stand the whole night.  We left at intermission and were in bed by 1:00 A.M.

More to come for day 8.

Love, Lillian and Rebecca and the Group

Day 8 - May 10

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1030446.JPGWe started the day with a wake up call by the hotel, instead of a roommate's alarm clock going off. A buffet breakfast was prepared for 6:30, and we headed to the bus at 6:45 where we met our incredible driver, Jean Claude, who helped us load our luggage for the last time.  We were extremely grateful for his help and care.

At the Port au Prince airport we proceeded through customs, had our passports stamped and after a short wait, headed for Miami where we had lunch and are now waiting for our 5:25 p.m. flight to RDU.

http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1030458.JPGIt has been a memorable trip, one we won't ever forget; yet we are looking forward to getting home.

Gwen and Diane have given us a few questions to reflect on as we conclude our "Come and See" mission trip to Haiti:
1.  What was the most important gift you shared with the people you met?
2.  What was the most important gift you received from the people you met?
3.  What lasting impact has this experience had on your life as a disciple of Jesus Christ?
4.  How will you share your experience with others?http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/P1030462.JPG

Please ask us how we would answer these questions as we continue to reflect upon our experiences in Haiti. Thanks for sharing our journey with us.

Ke lape Jeti Cris ok ou (Creole for "May the peace of Christ be with you").

Love, Diane Payne, Gwen Whiteman, Beth Everly, Carolyn Elliott, Cathy Johnson, Dot Ling, Gloria Johnson, Jan Ross, Lillian Poole, Lindsay Jordan, Louise Eaglesfield, Martha Stevenson, Rebecca Turner and Travis Tracy