Sunday, June 18, 2017

Haiti - Day 7

Haiti - Day 7

By: Emilio Pilapil

Father Walin and his family

Today was our last full day in Haiti before we head back to the United States, and after going to church and meeting Father Walin's family, we went back to the resort.  On the car ride home I observed my surroundings and reflected on how this trip was my first time leaving the country.  I thought to myself that, out of all the countries in the world, I would still choose to make Haiti the first country I visit.  Even though there are places that are not in the same hard situations that the people of Haiti are in, I would still chose to go to Haiti anyway.

St. Paul's School
I think it's interesting how when most people leave the country for the first time, it's for vacation.  People choose places, usually in Europe, like England or France, because they are famous destinations for travel.  People want places, generally speaking, similar to the United States because of the industrialization and the surplus of resources, things Haiti does not have.  However, for me, I chose to go to Haiti, somewhere most people would not think of as vacation (though this was no vacation).

A lunch with the Dynamic Ladies, a women's group that started providing microloans to the community 9 years ago
This trip really opened my eyes in a way that most people will not realize because a lot of people have traveled elsewhere instead of Haiti.  I could have gone elsewhere, but I chose to go somewhere that's completely foreign to me that needs my help.  Because of my choice, I feel that the next time I travel to a different country, i will know things about the world that a lot of other people won't.  Because of this trip, every time I travel from now on, I won't see it as going on vacation, but as an opportunity to learn something new about the world in which we live and how to make it better.

Day 7 - Church Thoughts

By: David Yee

Every year that I come to Montrouis, the event I look forward to most is an event most people do not see as a highlight-reel event: church service.  In fact, it's an event that I myself don't see the same way when I am at home.  Perhaps it's because the church services I see at home don't hold dance parties mid-service.

Today's mass started out slowly, and compared to past years, I was concerned to see a room so sparsely filled.  In time, though, as the service progressed, people found their way into the pews.  By the middle of the service, when the singing really began, the volume of the voices within the room, around one hundred strong, would drown the voices during our 450 person chapel services.  I was nervous that people wouldn't come, but as I learn every time I come to Haiti, things that are meant to happen will happen when they're meant to.

And happen they did.  By the middle of the service, when we were asked to provide a sign of peace to each other, people broke their way out of the pews and greeted each other all over the church.  The musicians, using nothing but a keyboard, half a drum set, and their own voices, infused energy into the room as the children broke free of their parents and leapt into the arms of our students, students they knew they would only see for a little while longer.  Those students of St. Paul's waited in line, making sure that we left one last spot on our dance cards before taking a seat once more.  Tears marked the end of the song.

Perhaps the most touching thing I remember every year is that the members of the St. Paul's community pray for us at St. Stephen's and St. Agnes every day.  They see us in their prayers, and I know because every year, the students and community members ask how past travelers are doing.  As Father Walin said to the students, he sees a change in the school every time we come and go, and we can see and feel that change.  Though we don't know the same language and we cannot express to each other our feelings, Father Walin reminded us: "Love has no language."

He also told us that, when we leave on our plane, we will leave an empty spot that they will all feel at St. Paul's until we come again.  Because we are one in community, though, I know they will not be the only ones feeling that emptiness.  For me, that emptiness will serve as a reminder of all that I have learned, but more importantly, all that I still must strive to learn.

Haiti - Day 6

Haiti - Day 6

By: Priya Katyal and Evelyn Perfall (ed. Yee)

On the road to Cange

Today, we went to Cange to see the home of Paul Farmer (who founded Partners in Health) and the different facilities he created.  When we first reached Cange, we went to a middle school where we ate lunch with Father Walin and his friend Father Kesner.

In front of the middle school

After lunch, we met a woman who has assisted in Farmer's legacy through her art foundation on the campus of Zanmi Lasante (the name of the hospital grounds).  A few people bought some of the paintings and unique novelty stuffed dinosaurs.  She was also kind enough to show us Paul Farmer's house across the street from the hospital grounds.

Jackie Williams from Greenville, SC, whose husband came to work on the water system in 1985 and has never left
Crazy looking dinosaur

Paul Farmer's house of many colors

Paul Farmer's energetic dog named "Kado," meaning "Gift."
A teacher, the head librarian of the school on the compound named Luke, took us on a tour of the facilities.  While touring the facilities, we noticed a drastic difference from those in the US.  The rooms were much smaller and the instruments were not as advanced as those we are used to.

A view over inpatient care

At the orphanage
All of this has reinforced what we learned during the previous days and has helped us realize how much we take for granted.  We've had a long, full day today, but still look forward to attending a church service tomorrow morning.

Final selfie with our tour guide Luke

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Haiti - Day 5

Haiti - Day 5

By: Cassie Do, Faith Perez, and Margaret Kadlec

This morning, we woke up earlier than usual because we were all excited to go to the last day of camp. When we arrived, the kids were praying for us, which made us feel blessed. We taught them a bit of English today using body parts. The kids were a bit restless, so teaching didn't go exactly as planned, but it was still good.

They mayor of the town gives us our Kreyol lessons

We had our last Kreyol lesson, and after, we took out the paint. We had been eager to use the paint all week and finally we were able to use it. Once the paint came out, it became chaotic, but in a good way. We started painting kids faces, but soon they took over and painted us all over. They painted our faces, legs, arms, and backs. It's was crazy, but we loved it. Then came lunch.

We sat down for a little and ate, but soon the time to swim came. Both us and the kids were excited to get in. Each of us had about six kids piling on us as soon as we dipped our feet in the ocean. It was an extremely happy moment for all of us. When the waves became too strong for the little ones to swim in, we got out.

Cass and Faith began talking to one of the older boys named Max and the topic of strength came up, which brought us into an arm wrestling competition. Soon all the kids came around and watched the older kids arm wrestle to see who was strongest. We participated, but for the most part lost. Margaret held her weight against the many of the boys, though. It was so entertaining to watch the whole event.

The day flew by quickly. When 4:00pm came around, we were called to gather to say goodbye for not only the day, but the week as well. Father Walin spoke to the kids for a little, just as he did all week, and then addressed the people from Saint Stephens. He told us thank you for coming to the camp and the kids all said, "mesi ____" and filled in the blank with each of our names, one after the other. It was so heartwarming to experience that.

Right after they had said, "thank you" and Father Walin had dismissed everyone, the kids showered us with hugs. Kids took pictures with us and told us they loved us. Then papers flew in front of us from each kid, left and right. Most of them wanted to keep in contact with us, so we wrote our numbers along with our names down on pieces of paper. We suspect that the little ones did not really want our numbers, but just a piece of writing from all of us. When we said goodbye to Titi and Gerald, two men who are in close contact with Saint Paul's, they both said they would pray for us and asked for prayers as well. It was an emotional moment and made us tear up a bit. We said thank you and goodbye to the teachers and Father Walin, and hopped in the van.

We thought today was extremely successful, but also heartbreaking. We feel blessed to have come to this camp in the first place and hope to see many of the kids and teachers from Saint Paul's in church on Sunday. We are extremely excited just because there is them possibility to see them again before we leave. Hopefully, we will.

The lovely people who cooked for us all week

Friday, June 16, 2017

Haiti - Day 4

Reflections on Day 4
By: Caroline Kaufman
Today was our third day with the kids and I can't believe we only have one day left. For today's English lesson, we taught our groups colors, using white boards, a homemade color wheel, bracelet making and the game of twister. Everything went smoothly and the kids loved the activities we did. They remembered almost everything we had previously taught them such as directions and numbers. 
Each day, I'm more and more impressed by how eager the kids are to learn and how quickly they catch on to new things. Most of the kids already knew the colors before we even taught them.

In my opinion, the activity most loved by the kids was the bracelet making. This started as a morning activity but continued into the afternoon. The kids loved making bracelets for themselves, but mostly enjoyed making them for us. I had children that I hadn't met yet asking me which colors I wanted for the bracelet they were about to make me. 

It's amazing how much the kids want to give to other people especially when they don't have much to give. I think that says a lot about their character and and shows just how special they really are. When the bracelet making died down, the kids continued to entertain themselves with soccer balls or other games such as tic-tac-toe. 

We had another Kreyol lesson today with the mayor where we learned about the different types of fruits and how to say we loved them or hated them, or liked one fruit more than another fruit. The Kreyol lessons are very helpful in softening the language barrier between us and the kids.

When the day came to an end and it was time to say goodbye, many of the kids ran up to us hugging us and saying "a demen" which is creole for "see you tomorrow!" Children that I hadn't had the chance to spend much time with still gave me big hugs and remembered me by name. One girl in particular whom I have spent a lot of time with ran to me and jumped in my arms, trying to get me to take her with me. 

One thing I find so amazing is how even despite the differences in language, we have made very strong bonds with the kids. They remember us all so easily and they even remember saints students from past Haiti trips. I know they won't forget us, and I know I will never forget them, and I can't wait to get to see them all tomorrow!

Reflections on Day 4
By: Libby Davis

Tonight for our discussion, we focused on NGOs, specifically the Red Cross's effectiveness or ineffectiveness in Haiti's relief post-earthquake. The Red Cross raised nearly half a billion dollars for Haiti and the majority of the money got "lost" before it could be of use. While NGOs attempt to keep overhead costs at 10% of total budget, in the Red Cross's case, 25% went to overhead while only 75% went to direct relief. Unfortunately, even those numbers appeared skewed regarding the evidence of the Red Cross's relief in Haiti. An NPR/ProPublica report states that only six permanent homes were built and Non-Haitian people were hired to build them, doing almost nothing to help Haiti or Haitian people. The numbers are not reliable enough to track where all the money went, as people who worked for the Red Cross, Haitians or even the Haitian Prime Minister could account for it.  Luckily the Red Cross did face the scrutiny it deserved. Considering the amount of money raised and the minute portion that appeared to aid Haiti, the Red Cross deserved every piece of bad credit they received.

This also begs the question as to why the Red Cross, a health-based NGO, was the primary NGO headlining Haiti's relief and making promises regarding helping Haiti they couldn't fulfill. Along with health issues, Haiti faces depleted resources, broken down infrastructure, and unclean drinking water, all things meaningfully different from the core focus of the Red Cross's mission. The thing is that the Red Cross made is so easy for people to donate and therefore feel good about themselves that people forgot to ask the question of what good the money was doing or where the money was going at all. 

NGOs almost run Haiti and its time for every single one to take responsibility and make sure that they are effectively aiding they Haitian people, infrastructure, and way of life. Now that we have been to Haiti and have faces to remember it by, we need to continue to do good and strive to make Haiti and all those who live here prosper.

(Here are the NPR/ProPublica reports referenced: and

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Haiti - Day 3

A great outdoor classroom

Reagan Brown and Sophia Silis

Today was our second day working with the kids at the camp. Our lesson focus was on directions and navigating the seminary. Overall, things went a lot smoother than the first day. For starters we were all familiar with the kids in our group and how they contributed to lessons from the previous day. We also had an idea of how easy it is for plans to "fall apart." Because of that we were able to spend more time teaching at the beginning.

Afterwards we gathered for another Kreyol lesson with the mayor of the town that went just as well as the other day. We focused on the alphabet and phrasing negative sentences.

The tables turn
Then we spent the afternoon playing with the kids which was a lot less chaotic than the previous day. There was just as much running around and question asking as before but it felt like because we already got a lot of it out of their system yesterday, things were calmer.

What surprised me the most were the farewells to the kids. When we were leaving the camp, kids who I hadn't even interacted with gave hugs and said goodbye. The gesture really meant a lot.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Haiti - Day 2

And here we are, at the end of day two.  It was the first day of the camp, and so it was the first opportunity for us to meet the St. Paul's students.  I'll let the pictures do much of the talking today.

Ready to teach!

And more groups

And more groups...

Even more groups!

Still more groups!

But now we're the students learning Kreyol!

And we tried our hand at teaching dance

A lot of people remained skeptical

Some students got the chance to use some of the computers we've donated

While others were content with other forms of entertainment

This game, as we found out, is NOT mancala

But this really is running, and we did a lot of it today
Add caption

We'll see them again tomorrow!
And at the end of the day, we went back to Moulin-Sur-Mer