Haiti Deaf Academy Board Member shares trip update, showing all of us how much one determined man can accomplish and how lucky we are to have him in a leadership role.
July 16, 2017
We returned last night from our trip to Haiti:
Here are a few highlights:
I went with a list and hoped that amidst the usual need to be flexible, I would be able to accomplish everything.
LIST: Take new pictures of all our children with a thank you to sponsors
Share with the children news and pictures from sponsors
Have children sponsored by DCH write letters
Meet with labor attorney in Port Au Prince
Follow up with DGI in regards to land dispute
Go to Bank and take care of some business
Look over facilities/generator etc.
Observe Interns in action
In home visit for Christelle
For those not familiar with the ministry, names mentioned in the journal:
Keith and Meredith Henderson, our wonderful new on site missionary couple
Marco- HDA accountant
Cathy Jones- HDA board member and Hearing Health expert for us
Nikki- Extraordinary HDA volunteer
Kathryn- HDA founder and Executive Director\
Deb- My wonderful wife
July 6th travel day
July 7th: Hugs at the gate!! It is always great to arrive at HDA and be met with all the hugs from the students and staff. The usual reminder that everyone remembers your sign name and shares theirs with you. I watched the interns swing into action and begin working with the children. The theme this year is geography. They use a large flat map and then bend it into a circle to show the earth is round. The staff and the children learned a lot. I think I would have too had I sat with them 🙂
I discovered the electrical in the kitchen/dining area had never been corrected since wrongly installed. As God would have it, he had me take just the right electrical tools and supplies. I had just the right things. I took all the lights and outlets out and corrected the way things were wired and reassembled everything. I followed the wire back to the panel and corrected the way they had it hooked into the panel and then for the magical/scary moment I turned the breaker back on. NO SPARKS/FLASHES/TRIPPED BREAKERS! Always a good thing. After turning on the light switch and testing all the outlets a celebration was in order!! I decided to hang a much needed fan also to move some air (it’s not air conditioning). It always pays to make the cooks happy if you know what I mean 🙂
July 8th: The plan was to treat the kids to a day at the beach. It takes a lot of planning to take all the kids and staff to the beach. Transportation, food prepared ahead of time, supervisors, etc. The staff gathered everything up and headed out with the kids, while a few of us stayed back at the HDA to take care of a few things.
A Rotary Club from Canada is giving us a grant for food storage. They are providing funds for a refrigerator, freezer, solar panels, batteries, inverter and the labor to install everything. Keith and I met with Cathy to discuss details and make sure we can do everything on our end to make sure this is a success. Keith and I climbed onto the roof and examined our current solar panels and discussed placement of the new. We now need to get performa’s from vendors and line up everything. This will be a real blessing. We will be building new shelves and getting clear food storage containers too. Progress!
Cathy’s Audiology team was at the home evaluating children and treating some of ours. Some parents traveled long distances to have their children tested, in hopes that we will accept them into our program. Children needing medicated drops, ear wax removed, etc. are tended to. The children of Haiti are so blessed to have this care. Deb & I then escorted the kids who had been held back for ear treatment to the beach to join the rest of the children. Seeing the staff stand guard in the water and watch over the kids is impressive. Melanie is a real Momma bear and protects her cubs at all times!
The water was warm and fun was had by all.
July 9th: A Day of Rest. We waited for Patrick our Tap Tap driver (he had tire trouble) then went to Leveque for Worship with our Deaf children and the Deaf community. It was so good to see our Deaf brothers and sisters in Christ again… life is so hard in Haiti for these lovely people.
One of the Pastors is getting married on the 22nd! I wish I could be there for that after witnessing the excitement of another Haitian wedding, during which the wedding party actually danced down the aisle… so cool.
It was GREAT to see Sophonie (former HDA student) & Jacques Wilson (another of our pastors) and their new baby during this visit. Sophonie is back to work as a seamstress, a skill she learned while in vocational training with us, thanks to our donor’s support for our sewing program!
This was an extra hot day of no breeze. One of our Interns became overheated and we quickly worked to get her cooled down and back to our guest house. Everyone swings into action when something like this happens and we were all happy to see her feeling better.
July 10th: This was a long day. Meredith, Marco and I headed to Port Au Prince. Our first stop was at a lawyer’s office where we followed up on some e-mail conversations about employment regulations. We are making sure our staff contracts are compliant with Haitian law. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, finding a place in PAP is the first challenge and understanding Haitian labor law is quite another. The color gray pretty much describes much of it.
After the pursuit for legal advice, we were all famished so we stopped at a local restaurant and got a bite to eat before our second adventure of the day, which was going to the DGI (land boss) department in Haiti. It is kind of like going to one of our government offices really. Kind of comical really. So upon arrival we walk through a crowd where there is a metal detector that you are funneled through (which doesn’t even work). Marco and Meredith are ahead of me and they were not even given a second look. The guard decided to have a little fun with me. He wanted to see my belt, and then my gun (which I did not have one). He wanted to look through my backpack… curious, I think! Finally, he decided a pat down was in order. By this time Meredith discovered I was no longer following so she and Marco came back. Marco (Haitian) asked him what he was doing. His reply was comical. He said “Well, when I go to America they do this to me so I just wanted to do it to him”. We all laughed, including him.
Success is defined slowly in Haiti so time will tell if our DGI visit there was successful. Pray for God’s leading in this matter. We want to grow where the Lord plants us so if not this land then wherever He wants us.
While our day was spent in PAP, our team was busy at the house teaching, sorting, discovering and formulating a plan.
July 11th: A plan with excitement! Yesterday, Keith, Nikki and Deb discovered totes and suitcases full of clothes, shoes, underwear, etc., that have been donated. It was a sad moment but a teaching moment as well. Deb & I have discovered as Foster Parents the hoarder mentality that people in distressed times develop. Life in Haiti is extremely hard to say the least and as a result of this stress, many of them have this same mentality. So sad to see. The staff were gathered and the teaching began. It was explained to them that God was providing for these children and God’s well does not run dry! When these supplies are gone God will supply more and more and more! Tears flow now as I think of the hearts of these well meaning but extremely poor people. God is good! Never doubt it! He will provide!
So an exciting plan was developed. The children were first taken to their rooms where they looked through their clothes and decided which ones were in bad shape or too small. At the next stop, Nikki asked them if she could buy their old clothes from them with pretend money. She then asked if it was OK for us to sew them and pass them down to other kids. I thought this was genius.
The teams then set up stations (tables) where the kids could come, answer geology questions and purchase new clothing/shoes with their new fake money. This was teaching them geography and money management, too. They were so excited!
I spent the day videoing and picture taking and working on my list then lastly, I had to go to the bank. I first was taken down the street where there was a whole in the wall business that took my photo for the bank documents. It is amazing to me that whatever you need in Haiti is just around some corner hidden is some shop. Crazy. Then Marco & I hopped on the back of a motorcycle taxi and raced to the bank.
July 12th: This morning Deb & I were focused on finishing our picture taking and documentation for child sponsors. Another simple task which isn’t so simple sometimes but today… Success!
I helped kitchen staff prepare and feed snacks to the children. I love jumping in and serving along side the staff while joking around with them, too. It’s noon now and time for something my heart has been longing for… A home visit to one of our kids. Christelle’s mom moved to Brazil and left her and her brother with an Aunt. Christelle wasn’t sent to summer school so she has been at home, pretty much in isolation. She is a natural leader and I have always bonded with her.
So off we head. We turn off Hwy 1 onto what could hardly be considered a road. We wind around stopping to ask villagers where “BeBe” was, the somewhat derogatory term Haitians use for deaf. We park and walk between houses and winding through alleys. Tin hut against tin hut and cement houses mixed it. We are lead by a little child and stopped in front of a cement house. We stopped and the child ran down an alley. Soon Christelle came around the corner at the end of the alley, spotted us, threw open her arms and ran up the alley and into our arms. We had a long embrace then sat down on the front step and spent a long time playing hide the rock and enjoying one another. She seemed so happy to see us. She has nobody in her village who can sign with her. We took some pictures and then had to depart. My heart was full.
LAST DAY ALREADY! I finished up shop talk with Kathryn, Marco, and the Henderson’s. Keith and I looked at our broken generator in hopes that we could perform magic. A funeral was held instead. It is definitely dead. Soon we hope to have a new one in its place. I spent the remainder of the morning hanging with the kids and the staff and helping again serve snacks, etc. Good-byes were easier this time knowing that I will be back again in October.
Off to the airport but God was not done yet. Deb & I like to wear our Haiti Deaf Academy shirts on travel days. There were two Deaf individuals who saw our shirts at the PAP airport and wanted to know more. We visited for a time. We were on the same flight to Atlanta. Samuel & Virginia were a delight. Samuel had a fast turn around in Atlanta to catch his next flight so this was our moment to visit in this chance meeting. Another lady saw our shirts and ask if we knew the Imslands. “Why, yes” I said, “We were just at their house this morning!” She was as well and had left a couple of hours before we arrived.
Another connection was made as we talked about ministries. God was not done yet! So we boarded our flight and headed home marveling at all God had allowed us to be a part of on this trip. When we landed in Atlanta who do you think was there to meet us? Samuel had gotten on-line and changed his flight to a later flight and wanted to have dinner with us. Customs was a breeze, the airport was like empty… We sailed through baggage pickup and rendezvous with Samuel for dinner. Long story shortened… this is the beginning of something good and I can’t wait to see how Virginia & Samuel are apart of it. They are real advocates for the Deaf as are we. They long to see opportunities for the Deaf children of Haiti. Skills taught and real help given. Noticing those who may have the ability to advance beyond the academic limitations of Haiti and empowering them. Again, all I can say is God is Good.