Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Post Trip

I describe this trip as a "life focusing event".  Many of us remain committed to following trips and sustained activity.  In the good news department, I am told Liz and Larry now have Sterling with them, legally back in Virginia!

I have discoverd a grass roots site which may interest this blog's readers.  Visit

If you, gentle reader, want to become involved, drop me a line at or join the newhaitiproject.

This closes out my activities on this blog.  Thank you all for your comments and interest.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

From our Good Dr Friend in Haiti

Dear Pastor Ralph,

Good night to you! I do hope that you had a good trip to USA, thanks to God.

Well, I wanted to thank you again for all your help to my fellow haitians. You save so many lives!!! We do not know what we would do without your help! We owe you a great debt of gratitude for all you do for our country. I sent an e-mail to Lynnhaven UMC to thank everyone for their contributions. But I do not know if the church received it (my e-mail). If not, please give them my thanks. We love them!!!

The injured People keep coming to Cap and we make our best to keep helping them by feeding them, cover the prescriptions for them, trying to find supplies for surgery for them...etc.

Blessings to all involved!!!

Eugene Maklin MD
P.S I wanted to tell you that we helped the burn baby and his mother to go to USA yesterday so that the baby could receive a better care!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday - Reprise of Perspectives

Pastor Ralph and I sat with Dr. Macklin, our Haitian doctor friend who worked with us at the local hospital. He said, “You know you have saved the lives of hundreds?” “If you had not been here to pay for the drugs this week, we could not have coped. Lives would have been lost, legs would not have been saved, infections would have maimed.” Your love has helped these people, your food and drink for the medical staff has helped sustain them through overwhelming hours of work, especially for the interns who have little reserve for themselves. It was a perspective that had been lost on us as we struggled to move from place to place changing money, buying drugs, delivering food and drink. It is so easy to be overtaken by the detail and miss the design. Ralph and Adrianne will accompany him for this last day. Keith goes back to the house building project way up the hill from one of the church projects.

Mike Hertz’ team arrange for many thousands of meals this week. We are beginning to see refugees from PaP. These add pressure to an already stressed community system. MaryLou was passing out cards to those who said they could not afford meals for themselves or their family. Of course there were many hands reaching for cards. Pastor Ralph noticed a group of five or so men, only one of whom had a card. He asked “Wouldn’t the rest of you like a card?” “No Pastor, they said. We have a little money and we can feed our families tonight.” Not everyone has a hand out for help.

The Church that lies precariously on the precipice created by the USAID excavation project for a water cistern now has fresh paint throughout. The minister remains adamant that his church will continue to function and provide support to his community. He proceeds ahead with a commitment and pride that is characteristic of many in Haiti. They seem to say “I will not be daunted by the challenges around me. I will remain true to myself, focused on what must be done and plan for a better future.” These are the people we seek to resource, for even though their priorities way not be those of our system, they know their countrymen and seek to fill their needs.

Even the clinic sees its trauma patients and experiences Haiti’s drama. I was told of a mother and daughter - apparently from PaP - arrived so dehydrated that the medical staff spent almost two hours trying to get a vein in the mother. She was later transported to the hospital; the daughter remains in local care.

Yesterday we visited another of the many orphanages in the area. Originally established by a particular Christian denomination, it was sustained with outside funds for a year. Then it had to on its own. It is a fine facility, by local standards, but it is no longer supported and struggles to make ends meet, let alone provide top-notch education to the forty or so children. Facilities there were in disrepair, but the children looked well and loved. Pastor Ralph tells me Haiti is where good intentions go to die.

I earlier asked Cheron Hardy “Why so many orphanages?” “First”, she said, “You should understand that being an orphan here places you in a social strata where no one will marry you - unless it is another orphan.” “Orphans are not given the same status as other children. No one wants them. No one will train them unless we do it ourselves or pay others to do it. That is why I concentrate less on accommodation and more on education. I want these children to be more than what they think the can be. We get them the best education I can afford and we study, study, study. I want to invest in and create the best educated Haitian young adults possible so THEY can improve their country.” Cheron seeks to inculcate in them a strong work ethic and a passion for God and their country.

Haiti, if you will forgive me, often presents itself as a well coifed woman. Makeup strategically placed to hide her imperfections, always seeking to turn they best side outward, while deemphasizing the imperfection. Almost everyone you meeting is well dressed and clean. It is unusual to meet any who have my girth, but most appear whole and hearty. But at its best that “Haiti” depends on the accruements of makeup and redirection. Each day is tenuous and fragile. Any disruption of the norm strips the fa├žade of makeup away revealing a torn and battered body, like those we hear experiencing spousal abuse. Tenuous is a word that comes to mind. There are so many who give and minister here, but we contribute to Haiti’s makeup. We must also find the “abuser” and fix that problem. The good news is we see where good men can make a difference. I was braced for overwhelming smells, garbage in the streets, and the like. And I had been told that at times the garbage would be piled so high that only one car could pass at a time in a two lane street. That is not the case in much of Cap Haitien, today. “How did this transformation take place?” I asked of my doctor friend. “We have a good mayor now.” He replies. “I did not vote for him, but I will do so now.”

I am frustrated that it is so hard to push picture through or modest internet connection. I will try again today, but check back after we return (which is tomorrow - Saturday 23 January) and I will try and share some of the visuals we have collected as a group. For now I will concentrate on capturing my thoughts and impressions.

I am not a doctor, but I begin to appreciate frustrations that arise when every stitch of mending pushes problems elsewhere. As we struggle to fix the hemorrhage we can see, and perhaps we do, we need only look elsewhere to discover another crisis.

What can we do? How can Haiti be “fixed”? I am sure smarter men than I grapple with this conundrum. I think Cheron has it partially right. We can’t “graft” a western / American solution here. We must seek to develop the solutions from Haiti, not import them. The various NGOs and charities that invest here spend a tremendous amount of money. They invest even more in pure emotional capital, but often our investment brings “our solution” here. We need a stronger educated class of young adults who know their country and can help with the details of reconstruction. So good education is essential. Another component is to have people develop a pride in self that drives them to make things happen. Cheron calls this developing a work ethic. Yes many here do work, and work hard, but one can also find the hale and hearty lounging at the street corners - playing dominos or cards. How do we harness that? Yes there is little “major” industry to hire, train and sustain - but there could be. Japan imports almost everything to make its Toyota and Honda. They are geographically isolated - yet the have a major, global economic impact.

One thing I know for sure, Haiti is a world problem. Born with one country’s imperialism, broken by others. Embargoed by others, sharing an island continent grudgingly with others. History tells us many have contributed here, few though with a vision for a better Haiti, by Haitians for Haitians.

Friday - Morning Thoughts and Devotional

We began this day, as we have in the past, with a group devotional. Mike Hess, this week’s Team Leader, worked to put things into context. His reminder that we each have different gifts and an observation that we each came with different expectations and projects strove to put into context that we all work to the same end - improved life and opportunities for our Haitian brothers. He reminded us that no matter how well prepared we are, no matter how much resources we bring, we alone cannot make the “grand change” for Haiti - that power is beyond our individual human personal endeavor. We each “lay a brick”, “plumb a pipe”, “hammer a nail” as a part of the greater body of goodness and light - and this takes Haiti a step, perhaps even two steps forward.

Mike and MaryLu struggle each day to balance “save the person” from the day’s incursions with how do we make sustainable investments that continue to have impact after we leave. There is no single right answer, but often there are some who think there is.

Today we used a Cherokee meditation technique that led us through East, South, West and North compass points - each symbolizing different aspects of our collective work and dreams. The symbolism is not as important, in my mind, as the process. Look west. Examine the new day, the rising sun and its energy and the opportunities laid before us. Think about where our faith was born, how the east pains, how much there is to do. Look south to see the sun’s rays pass along the hills and valleys as people look to their day’s tasks - look south to Haiti and South America to those with need and those with accomplishments. See those who struggle and need our help. Look west. The slips beyond the horizon, giving us time to reflect upon the day and review the day’s work. To have time to rest and regroup, or to have the ultimate rest. Look north - a place often representing the darkness and unknown, the place where faith can reside - or hate and misunderstanding. We all left quietly, after receiving our lesson on the four points and then challenged to do the again thinking our own thoughts and wishes.

Visit to Cheron Hardy

The Thursday afternoon we spent visiting an orphanage run by Cheron Hardy. Cheron visited Lynehaven UMC and touched our hearts. Some ten years ago she came to Haiti to finish her graduate work as an RN and midwife with expectations of going to Africa. Over the course of two visits her heart was taken by Haiti and she has ministered ever since. Over the course of her first two years or so she worked to get fluency in Creole having her charges help with flash cards and pronunciation. She works hard not to “westernize” the children - some of whom are now in their twenties - so that each will remain cognizant of the Haitian way. While we were there I saw one child heating a charcoal iron to do some pressing. Cheron has the children go to the best schools she can afford - now three different venues - and the older tutor the younger children. Each older child has one or more children to oversee and to tutor. There is also a significant effort to grow as much of the vegetables they can use because Cheron wants them to be as self-sufficient as possible. Cheron is establishing another venue near by with about 6 acres where she is moving the older boys so that she can place the next twenty orphans she gets from PaP.

Tilt-A-World (Thursday)

Today, the playground team was in full swing. I joined them for the morning. The heat and sun was a physically abusive. Working outside of shade left us older folk moving in slow motion. Thank God for power tools and generators! The first task was to unload the lumber, sort and inventory and then break into two groups. Even the intention was to build two playgrounds; one in the local park and one in Dr Ray’s orphanage, only one will get completed this week. The Tilt-a-World team decided to do the local park. They promise t, to return in a week or so to finish the rest.

The team has some experienced builders who quickly got to task measuring where things were to be placed on the concrete pads the placed early in the week. Saw began to whirl, and hammers pound. Haitian day laborers lifted, carried and held. Soon one large 14 foot tower lifted above the grass. As soon as it was stabilized, my friend Gus had a tarp placed to give some shad for the saw horse work he was to undertake. As I left at noon, a second tower graced the park, major supports were populated with swing hangers, and we were well on our way to having a rock climbing incline completed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Tilt-A-World Playground Ministry Saga

A group of about seven folks are here to install two playgrounds. They buy US hardware and pressure treated lumber and ship to venues all around the world. They follow organizations who are feeding hungry children. They shipped early and the most important ingredient, the lumber, was stored in PaP. So of course, that became the missing ingredient.

The couple who are seeking to adopt had a local man committed to help them. While Liz and Larry fought the bureaucracy, this young man, Archibald, volunteered to go to PaP to retrieve the lumber. This began a saga of trials and challenges. First was getting a truck that could handle the load of the lumber. Then he had to drive to PaP with the truck. That is over a road filled with ruts and wholes. Not only did they have to go via a challenging road, but they had to find fuel. Arriving in PaP, the next challenge was finding the lumber and getting it loaded - a very heavy load. And then the saga began. Days passed. Communication was spotty. Trouble with the truck; a flat tire; two flat tires; tires fixed but no air to inflate; a new truck (requiring unloading and loading the lumber) … Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM the lumber arrived. We will watch a miracle happen today when a local park gets transforms into a park with a playground.