Traveling to Outreach to Haiti
August 2-8, 2016
Welcome to the Haiti 2016 e-Journal.
This page chronicles the story and reflections of our Haiti missionaries from their journey.
The five ambassadors from our parish were up early this morning (Tuesday) to catch our flights to Port au Prince. Our plane was late leaving Milwaukee so that led to a tight connection in Chicago, but we ran and made the next flight with a couple minutes to spare. The rest of the flights were pretty uneventful and we arrived on time in Port au Prince. We were met at the airport by Fr. Frank and our driver, Rudy, who drove us back to the house. For three of us it was nice to see familiar sights and faces and the other two watched in wide-eyed wonder at the Haitian community passing by our vehicle’s window on the way to the house. There will be a lot more for them to see in the coming week. We got settled in our rooms and had a lovely dinner prepared by the cook, Milo. We are making plans for tomorrow and just relaxing the rest of the evening after a long day of travel. Many thanks to our community at OLOL for your prayers and support!
Did you know that Haiti does not observe day light savings like we do? This morning the day started off pretty early because Cate’s phone was still set in the Florida time so we woke up a whole hour early. No worries though, she fixed it for tomorrow morning.
We started the day off with Mass that Fr. Frank gave. When Mass was over we had breakfast that was prepared by Milo. After breakfast we made our way to Sisters of Charity (Mother Teresa’s order of nuns) Nutrition Center. There we fed, played, and held the children. When it was time to leave for lunch, I had to put this one little boy down in his bed and when I did so, he just started crying and crying and grabbing my arms and wouldn’t let me go. This made me sad because I just wanted to go back and pick him up and stop him from crying.
For lunch we went to Fior di Latte, most of us had pizza and gelato.
After lunch we went to Papillon which is an organization that employs Haitian artists to disrupt the cycle of perpetual poverty amongst orphan children and their families. We did some shopping and enjoyed the views of the beautiful country of Haiti.
Our last stop was the Eagle Market where we bought coffee and vanilla to bring back to OLOL. Now we are enjoying the sounds of Haiti; music, car horns, and people talking and the gentle breeze on the porch.
Today we started the day meeting with vendors who came up to the house from Cite Soleil (an area of extreme poverty near downtown Port au Prince). It has been said the Cite Soleil is the poorest place in the world. We made sure that we purchased items from each of them. Many of them told us that they were working on putting together the school fees that they needed for their children. Joshua told me that he has an 11 year old daughter and it his responsibility to make sure that she has an education, because she is his most precious gift from God. One of the vendors, Patrick, has been coming to the house for 20 years, he and Ralph catch up each time they see one another. There is no such thing as public education in Haiti and only 40 percent of the children are able to attend school because of the cost of tuition. Outreach to Haiti provides scholarships to 250 children so that they can attend school. Thank you again for your support in providing back packs for all of these children and young people.
We continued our day winding (no really we were winding!) up the mountain to visit Arc en Ciel, an orphanage for children impacted by HIV. If you remember we collected money during Lent to help build a wall around the orphanage to protect the children from squatters who were tying to claim the land as their own. We went on a hike along the wall to see the progress. Ralph was very brave and went all the way to the bottom of the hill, but then had to hike back up. We, the women, figured out half way down that we were going to have to hike back up if we kept on going. So, we stopped and tried to do yoga poses on the hill, and visited with a couple of cows. The highlight of the day for all of us was a short visit with the children. Most of the children are on holiday visiting family or their home village. Arc en Ciel cares for and supports the children for as long as needed. I was fortunate to see Maxie, who I met while on my first trip to Haiti in 2007. He has grown into a young man and is now employed by the orphanage.
It is difficult to convey how traveling to Haiti impacts me as a person. I guess it brings me back down to earth and reminds me of what is truly important in my life. After greeting me and giving me a huge hug each of my Haitian friends ask me and how is your family? My family is not only my husband and children, but all of you my church family! I have brought my 3 daughters to visit Haiti, I hope that more of you, my church family, will come down some day as well.
Today was a packed day! Our day began early with a trip to Outreach to Haiti in the Kris-wa neighborhood. There we met Joel, the director for this organization in Haiti, and he told us they focus in 3 areas – education (through their scholarship fund where we delivered 270 backpacks thanks to all of you parishioners and through tutoring), medical/nutrition (through their clinic where they have 2 pediatricians, a general practitioner, and an OB/GYN doctor and teach health and nutrition classes) and their twinning program (where they match parishes in the USA with parishes in Haiti – or in our case with the organization itself).
My favorite part of the day was pulling a matchbox car out of my purse and handing it to a little boy waiting with his mom for an appointment at the clinic. It brought a smile to my face to watch the mom and her son play with that little car together. There was laughter and smiles on their faces too! I remember someone telling me once that Haitian parents don’t get to do much playing with their children. They are too busy working and trying to meet their children’s basic needs. They don’t generally have time for play. Today I saw hope in that little boy who had a sad face when he walked in and a smile on his face as he went to his appointment. There is so much hope in Haiti, but sometimes I feel like we have to seek it out or be overwhelmed by some of what we see.
We also went to Paula Thybulle’s orphanage. The pictures will tell the story, we sang with them, we danced, with them, we blew bubbles with them, we let them play beauty salon with Cate and Grace’s hair. It wouldn’t be a Haiti trip without visiting Paula and her girls. And now, we get to see Paulette too! A young woman who grew up in Paula’s orphanage and is now helping Paula to run it. She was so grateful for the dresses that a woman from my parent’s parish made with her sister. Ask me the story about that some time! It’s an awesome story about the ripple effect of our twinning relationship with Haiti. Many of the girls aren’t used to getting new clothes so this will be a fun experience for them!
Lastly we headed to the Artisan Co-Op where we purchased a lot of items to sell at our Oktoberfest booth and at the Haiti Craft Sale in the beginning of Advent. We also did a little bit of gift shopping, and shopping for ourselves of course! Spending money in Haiti helps their economy! The gourde (pronounced guud) is losing it’s value here. When I started coming to Haiti the conversion was around 40 gourdes to $1 (2009). Today, it is 64 gourdes to $1.
We continue to pray for our family at Our Lady of Lourdes and are so grateful for all of your support. The staff here at the mission house also continues to tell us they are grateful for this relationship and our constant support in sending people down. Bondye Bon (God is good!).
Greetings from Haiti!
I am currently sitting out on the porch of the house; I can hear dogs barking, car horns honking and music playing in the distance; the many sounds of Haiti that I will miss.
Today was an amazing day! We took the staff from the house to the beach; an experience very special to them and to us as well. Like many Haitians, getting to the beach is not an everyday trip even though Port-au-Prince is literally right on the ocean. The staff was so excited about going to the beach. They thanked us at least 3,000 times, I lost track after a while.
We take them to the beach every summer to show our appreciation for all their hard work, not only taking very good care of us during the week, but also for all that they do for Outreach to Haiti. Every morning Jean Jaque greets us with a smile, a hug, and a kiss. Jean Marie is right there after asking us how we slept, most times we tell him “Dorme la wouch,” which translates to “like a rock.” Every morning and evening, Milo prepares us a wonderful meal.
But what I witnessed at the beach today was so much more than people coming to work, collecting their pay, and going home. The staff at the house is so cheerful, so joyful, so kind, and welcoming. Even though we only understand a little Creol and they only understand a little English, there is something beautiful about the friendships the staff at the house makes with visitors from OLOL. It is even more beautiful to see the staff interact with each other; they take care of each other, they lookout for each other, and they are always laughing with each other.
After a buffet lunch at the beach, we swam a little more and then the staff all took turns thanking us. They spoke Creol to Fr. Frank and he translated for us. There was a common theme, they were all so grateful for the day at the beach, extremely happy that people from OLOL continue to visit them, they wished blessings upon us and they told us not to forget about them.
That last request will stick with me for along time. Of all the things in the world that they could wish or want, they want us not to forget about them. That is very telling of the types of people the staff is, but also the beauty of the Haitian people. This country is filled with such beauty that God created: in the language, in the mountains, in the people, and the relationship our parish has created with Outreach to Haiti. We cannot forget about our Haitian brothers and sisters.
I was very hesitant about visiting Haiti. My mom and sister, Marty, have gone many times and I never quite understood why they kept coming back to a country that was stricken by poverty, torn from unstable government, and seemed hopeless after the earthquake. But sitting and listening to the staff laugh this afternoon, letting the girls play with my hair yesterday at Paula’s, scaling the mountain at Arc-en-Ciel, and driving down the windy, hilly streets of Port-au-Prince, I too, see why they keep coming back. I too have fallen in love with a country and have a new understanding of what it means to serve God’s people.
So I ask you to pray for our group, but more importantly, please pray for our Haitian brothers and sisters. After you say your prayers, then act and do something so our Haitian family is not forgotten about.
Jean Marie, Jean Jaque, Milo, Jean Baptiste, Roland, Fr. Frank, Tom, and all those I have met or seen this week. I promise I will never forget you. Your story will live in my heart and I take that joy for life that you shared with us back home and to share with others.
Our last full day in Haiti was good.
The Our Lady of Lourdes, Milwaukee group woke up early and left the house at 5:30 am in order to attend 6:15 am Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes, Cite Militaire. We have visited there several times before and once again, it was a welcoming and engaging experience. The Haitian people are so kind, open, and welcoming. We were even called up to the front of church during announcements to be introduced to the community. There are so many similarities and differences between the OLOL parishes. For instance, they had all people with an August birthday come forward for a blessing. Mass time seems to vary a little bit, 6:15 am Mass was over about 8:50 am. Even with the language difference, people made it a point to make us feel welcome.
After Mass, we drove around downtown and looked at the shell of the Cathedral that remains after the earthquake in 2010. It is still hard to imagine all that the Haitians have been through following that event that claimed well over 200,000 lives. Yesterday, we drove past the memorial site that contains the mass grave for most of those victims. There is truly nobody in Haiti that has not been impacted by that event. Haitians often feel forgotten by the world, which is why our parish’s relationship with Haiti is so important. We need to remember them, walk in solidarity with them, and keep sharing their story with all.
While downtown, we stopped at the Hotel Olafson for brunch. It is a quaint hotel with a long history in Haiti. It has survived a lot in its long presence in the Haitian community. Many political meetings (involving dictators, presidents, and people of power) impacting the Haitian people have taken place on the porch over a meal at that hotel. Not too much was decided this morning except that we need to continue to pray for and support Haiti in all her struggles.
After brunch we traveled to the metal workers village to do some more shopping for the parish craft sale. It really is quite an amazing place! Many artisan metal workers have come together in one place to make and sell their art. It is very hopeful to see this organized effort working. They could still use a lot more buyers, but there does seem to be a steady stream of people coming to purchase the beautiful art work. OLOL, Milwaukee will have the opportunity to help these people out by buying some of their art at Oktoberfest and the Haiti craft sale at the parish.
We finished the day packing. It is an interesting process getting all our bags packed and ready to go. We always have mixed feelings leaving our friends in Haiti but we all are looking forward to seeing our friends and loved ones back home.
This immersion experience is amazing and we would all recommend it to any parish member. Please feel free to talk to Colleen, Cate, Grace, Ralph, Tanya, or anybody else that has made the trip in the past. There is a Haitian proverb that says “If you go to Haiti, it will break your heart. And when you leave, you won’t take all the pieces.” Perhaps you could leave a piece of your heart in Haiti too!
Thank you to OLOL, Milwaukee for all of your support for this relationship with Outreach to Haiti.
Mesi Ampil (Thank you very much)
If these stories and pictures have touched your heart and you wish to help our Haitian brothers and sisters with financial support, please click the button below.
Reflection on Haiti
“Is this the manner of fasting I wish, that a person bow their head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? “
The people of Haiti are fasting – the impoverished, the poor, the victimized of Haiti fast seemingly without end.
– They know, they live, they experience the emptiness, the longing, the yearning which accompanies an authentic fast.
– They fast longing for that day when their cries will be heard by the rich and the powerful in their land.
– They fast yearning for that day when their voices will be listened to in the chambers of their government.
– They fast hoping for that day when the emptiness and desperation of their lives will be given consideration among nations.
The people of Haiti are clothed in sackcloth – the impoverished, the poor, the victimized of Haiti wear the sackcloth castoffs and surplus clothes from other lands.
– The sackcloth which rubs away at their own dignity and worth.
– The castoffs which remind them that they too are as castoffs.
– The surplus clothes which mark them as little more than surplus on the face of God’s earth.
The people of Haiti are signed with the ashes – the impoverished, the poor, the victimized of Haiti wear the dust of their land as ashes upon their lives.
– The dust of Haiti settling upon them still branding them as slaves.
– The dust of Haiti in their eyes blinding them to their own value and worth.
– The dust of Haiti in their mouths leaving an after-taste of despair and desperation.
– The dust of Haiti continually signing them as a people whose lives are little more than ashes.
What baptismal bath will wash away the dust and ashes? What cleansing water will restore their vision? What baptismal robe will replace their sackcloth? Is their only baptism to be found in the treacherous water passage to an unwelcoming land? Must they be buried in the waters of the sea in order to be free?
And is all of this acceptable to the Lord? Is this the kind of fasting the Lord desires? Do sackcloth and ashes become an acceptable offering to our God?
This, rather, is the fasting God wishes:
– Releasing those bound unjustly – setting free the oppressed.
– Sharing bread with the hungry – clothing the naked.
– Sheltering the oppressed and thre homeless.
This is the baptismal bath in which God wants people immersed.
– The life giving water in which God wants people bathed.
– The robe of salvation in which God wants people clothed.
But the people of Haiti – the impoverished, the poor, the victimized people of Haiti are fasting. But their fasting is not of their own choosing.
– They are clothed in sackcloth – but their sackcloth is not what they desire
– They are signed with ashes – but the imposition of ashes is not of their own volition
– Their fasting, their sackclothes, their ashes are but the signs of their need
– A need that cries out for the baptismal ministry of God’s people
– A need that cries out for the fulfillment of our baptismal ministry
– A need that becomes the cry of the poor – and is heard by the Lord in our hearing – cared for by the Lord in our caring – ministered to by the Lord in our ministry.
The fasting, the sackcloth, the ashes of the Haitian people become the Lord’s call to us.
– A call to loose the bonds of the oppressed and break the chains of injustice
– A call for a day acceptable to the Lord.