Monday, May 31, 2010

Port-au-Prince Update

Hello Everyone!

My friend in PAP sent me a good set of photos, that she found that accurately portrays life as it is right now in Port-au-Prince:

For those of you who have not yet been to Haïti, the rubble is new but not a lot of the living conditions---viz., the lady selling wares out of her tent. That is common, common, only generally outside of a house or on the street somewhere. Same with the wares on a downtown street, that is usual life.

It is clear from just a couple weeks ago that there has been a thinning of the camps with more installations across PAP, especially at the piedmont of the mountains that surround the city It seemed as if we could start to see more temporary homes as well--some zones with what looked like tole (tin) roofs.

The story is sad, yes, and frustrating; but at the same time life goes on and progress is being made. Please do continue to pray - especially about the following:

  1. Disgruntlement with Président Préval...There are almost daily demonstrations against his government. The Haitian people feel that he has not adequately taken the reins; yet the alternative is much less good--another provisional government, which, if it should be at all like the last one (2004-2006), will mean high prices, political instability, and very possibly more crime.
  2. Rising crime...This is not unusual for us; but after a few months of respite none of us wants to return to the thefts, kidnappings, and other violent crime that seem to plague us here. Please pray that the Lord's strong hand will contain this horrible evil. Many of the escaped prisoners are still on the loose, and there is news that gangs from some of the big slum areas are reforming. So far we can still circulate in relative ease; but we really do not need this to grow again!
  3. High cost of living...Prices remain about 25-35% over what they were before the earthquake and the US Dollar has dropped 10% over what it had been against the Haitian Gourde at the close of 2009. Building materials continue to climb, so rebuilding will be difficult without at least some financial underwriting.
  4. The heavy, heavy rains...These cause very wet conditions for the tent dwellers, retard cleanup, and ruin the possessions that are caught under the rubble. They also render structures that have not fallen even more unstable. As you may remember, two schools collapsed in late 2008 from heavy rains. This kind of phenomenon could easily continue; and it's anticipated that this will be a very heavy rainy season. The US Weather Service predicts a 70% probability of 14-23 named storms, 8-14 hurricanes, and 3-7 major hurricanes.

Thanks, and God bless.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Greetings from the Artibonite Valley again

Rainy season is here. If not raining I start my night in my mosquito tent on the grass. Most nights I find I am getting wet and move it under the carport. Every morning the two mosquito tents (for Ti Luc and I) get moved into the yard so the construction work workers can move back and forth to the water tower building. The past three afternoons the rain came and we had to rush outside and move the tents under cover. That is a very very small inconvenience. Please remember, and pray for, all those living in tents in and outside of PAP. Many have tarps over their tents but I recently saw that many do not. Even with a tarp the water is going to run under and into their tents. And outside they will have mud to contend with. Whenever I move our little tents due to rain my heart breaks for all those people who can't move their tents and have no coverage at all for them. Dear God look after these people.

Presently the workers are putting the stairs to the second level of the water tower building and then the tanks can go up there. Two of the 1000 gallon tanks have been emptied and cleaned by Jacques (all by himself) and ready for moving. We need to get more plastic pipe so the water can be hooked up properly. We plan to hook up two tanks and when they are providing water we will continue with moving the others.

Last week the fridge in this house and also the one in the Kid's Home packed it in. They are not working at all. Luckner is looking for someone to come and check them out. Today I asked Martha and Germaine to take the fridge out of the kitchen as it is just taking up space. Too, I am so used to using it there that I keep putting food into it and it keeps spoiling. They pushed it into the living room.

Ti Luc came home from school and paid no attention to the fridge in the living room. He went into the kitchen after awhile and sat down. Then he saw the big empty space. He became excited and a little upset. He was quite vocal. I decided to check out what was going on. He pointed with his feet to where the fridge should have been. He said clearly, in Creole, "It was there when I went to school." Long pause. "Now it is not there." (I was thrilled with his sentences and spoken clearly.)

He then noticed it in the living room. He stood up, walked to the fridge and started trying to push it back into the kitchen. He even tried kicking it to move it. He kept saying "For kitchen, for kitchen". It was so darn cute and funny. I'm glad I grabbed my camera.
TiLuc moving the fridge

I am endeavouring to take my kids out daily for a walk along the canal. Yesterday we were rained out. Hopefully today we can get out for an hour. The kids, like me, love to go out and walk. It is a fun family time.
Family fun walk time.

Vladimy with Judel and TiLuc

Good Buddies (Ti Luc and Leica)

Kids Swinging

This morning as Luckner and I were working on another plumbing problem, which caused the school and this compound to have no water, a large group of visitors arrived at the mission gate. They were a workteam in Borel with Steve. They came in for a visit, asked questions, prayed for me and the mission work, and then when school was out loved on my kids.
Visiting Group, Karen and the kids

Thank you and love from all of us here at HATS.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Haiti - Information Update

Hello Everyone!

Here is some information on Haiti at present.  Most of this is from my friend in PAP and the info is very trustworthy. 

Health…Medical services are still to remain free through July, although some institutions have begun to charge again.  There has been one case of Diphtheria reported at one of the camps, so immunization efforts have again intensified.  To date more than 800,000 persons have benefited from vaccination.

Great strides in water and sanitation have been made at the camps.  There are much more facilities available in just the last month; and the NGOs believe that full quotas may be reached in about 3 months.  This is very good considering the heavy concentration of people in water-poor areas.

Housing…The Shelter Cluster delivered 104% of its goal of protective tarps and/or tents to over 300,000 families (1.5 million displaced persons).  Recent satellite studies of the country showed that out of the over 236,000 buildings surveyed in Port-au-Prince, about 20% were either severely damaged or destroyed.

Folks have begun to be relocated from the camps, especially those where people are at risk for flooding.  Any camp areas at risk were coded as ‘red’, and these 1,800 families were moved to the two areas outside of Port-au-Prince.  Soon those in ‘yellow’ areas will be relocated as well: families on school or small business properties that need to reopen. 

As I mentioned last time, evaluation teams from the Haitian Government are assessing houses in Port-au-Prince:  green ones mean that they are safe to return to; yellow ones will need a little work but can be lived in again; and red ones will be torn down for rebuilding.  Despite the fact that 42% of the houses (and in some areas even more) are “green”, folks are still hesitant to return, preferring to sleep outside on their property despite our now heavy rains or under tarp or tent in one of the camps.  The camps are somewhat popular because of the food, tarps/tents, and other supplies that had been distributed.  It has not been uncommon for some to be camp dwellers during the day and home dwellers (at least outside their home) at night.  No one wants to be too far away from his belongings, much of which are still under rubble; and some saw the camp like a Christmas present.

The Christmas present phenomenon would be part of any project that gave out free anything; but here in Haïti it’s a little more so.  There is a long history of free just about everything, and it’s led to a real problem with dependency.  And dependency robs people of their self respect. 

Now that the international support for the Haitian people is starting a new phase, from acute aid to re-establishment of agriculture and small business, this turn away from handouts will be very important--but also very difficult.  There have already been demonstrations against the reduction in the acute aid; but it is a necessary step.  It needs to occur as respectfully as possible, but also in a decisive manner.  Keeping this kind of help going indefinitely will hamper the natural Haitian spirit of innovation and solidarity.  We have all marveled at how well the Haitian people have arisen to help each other and find creative ways to make do. This is the key moment to promote just that.

Temporary Shelters have begun to be built.  A total of about 130,000 are planned.  Folks have been taking advantage of the tarps and some supplies they were able to recoup from the rubble to pretty much do their own, though.  Here are some examples: 

And then there are the little fancier models being given out, like the new Quonset hut style homes at one of the relocation sites in the Croix des Bouquets area (suburb of Port-au-Prince):

Then there are the ones from Habitat for Humanity International (in blue), ones made from treated wood—and even the Danish are getting involved, the pink one on the right was built right on the site of a destroyed home:

Government and Economics
…Food prices are up between 25 and 35%, which has put a strain on all of us.  Government services are sparse because it lost a third of its 60,000 employees in the earthquake (almost all government buildings were destroyed).
Too, the cost for all construction supplies has risen 35 - 40 %.  People need to rebuild but supplies are unavailable and/or too expensive to purchase. 

A recent World Bank study suggests that the money transfers from Haitians living abroad (Diaspora) will increase by 20% this year to add another $306 million in income.  They believe that this is due to the folks who have found temporary (18 months) asylum in the 
USA and who will be sending back money to their family and friends. 

The paper also commented on how the World Bank considers help from individuals to other individuals as potentially a mainstay to reconstruction.  I believe this as well.  It will be best done one to one; though there is still a role for larger institutions to offer a helping hand.

The World Bank also proposed that the Haitian Government offer bonds to the Diaspora (who also may soon be able to hold dual citizenship, if the law passes—meaning that they could both vote and hold an elected position in the government).  Following the model already set up in countries like 
India and Israel, these bonds would be administered by a respected organization and used for development work within the country.  They would offer about 5% return on investment, and would permit persons to reinvest at a comfortable rate in their birthplace.

Customs continue to be a difficult hurdle to jump, even for those of us who are residents.  The border between the 
Dominican Republic and Haïti is now particularly difficult, and about 150 trucks loaded with cargo are being held up by customs procedures.  The NGO Coordination group that is part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), has developed guidelines to help NGOs through this complex maze. 
As distributions wind down the focus is shifting to investments in jobs.  Some of these will focus on support to local markets; local procurement; cash-for-work and food-for-work programs that will increase both jobs and agricultural production.  Also, different private investors are financing international business concerns to expand the apparel industry in order to take advantage of free trade zones and favorable markets in the USA

Another interesting public-private partnership will be with our antiquated landline system, TELECO, that is planned to significantly increase access to telephone service and high speed Internet.  This will be through 
ViettelVietnam’s largest mobile phone system, and the agreement is the largest since the earthquake, roughly $100million.

…Generally speaking, things have been relatively quiet; but it does not mean totally peaceful nonetheless.  Monday night some friends had their home broken into near the Baptiste Mission in Fermathe while they slept.  Fortunately they were able to escape because the thieves were armed.  They are now staying elsewhere while their home is reinforced with ironwork to help prevent further burglaries.  Please remember them, this is very traumatic, as you can imagine.

Blessings to you all,    Karen

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Too long again between blog postings. I agree. Thank you for contacting me and reminding me you are missing the blogs.

The construction and repair work continues onsite. We have had a core group of Haitian construction workers with us since December when they did the stairs so the Canadian team could start the support missionary house. Luckner felt the workers were starting to take some things for granted and were starting to slack off in their work efforts. Thus he called a meeting - workers and the both of us. They stopped their work and we just stood together behind the Kid's Home. In a cool, calm, and collected voice and manner Luckner made it clear that he was ready to lay them all off and start with other workers the following day. Wow, that did it. We saw more accomplished that day than we had for some time. Too, things have remained moving in a much better manner ever since.

Luckner meeting with construction workers

Lots of ongoing plumbing problems onsite and they cannot always get seen to immediately. Luckner, like me, wears too many hats and some things have to wait. He took a day recently and did several plumbing repairs at the main house and at Kid' Home. There is certainly a need for a support missionary couple so work necessary to keep things running properly are not all on our shoulders.

Luckner repairing plumbing problems

The Kid's Home work has continued. In order for the cement work to be done, to make the house much stronger, the paint had to be removed. Cement will not adhere properly to cement if it is painted. Thus the workers had the painstaking job of removing the paint with hammers. The cement work is now completed there and at present screen windows are being done. This will be followed by rebar outside all windows for protection. After that we have only to do some work in the kitchen area. The kids will soon move back into their home. Painting of the house will be done later when a workteam arrives.

Work continues on Kid's Home
Paint removal by hand

Kids all doing okay. Ti Fi continues to do better every day. She is blossoming these days and trying to do what the other kids do. She likes to hug and kiss me a lot. Last week we had a hair cutting day. Someone came to the compound to cut the hair of my six boys. I told this man that if he shaved the heads of the boys he would never get back on the compound. He must have believed me because each head that he did he left the hair a little longer than the previous. JJ was last and not happy because he did not take off enough. Perhaps next time it will go better.

Ti Fi loving Mama

On the last blog you saw Drexey who had been the first one to come to HATS and do therapy with Ti Luc. This time you get to see Lauren doing some therapy with Ti Luc. Lauren, also from the US, worked with Ti Luc a year ago when she was in Haiti for awhile working with patients at the hospital. Ti Luc remembered her and enjoyed working with the ball.

Lauren giving Ti Luc therapy

High on the list of construction repair work is the compound enclosure fence. Some sections will have to be removed and new support posts added. The most dangerous area is directly behind my house as it still moves if you just stand and lean against it. We decided Ti Luc and the other kids can not play behind the kitchen area until that work is done.

At present a rebar walkway for our water pipes is being made so pipe can run from the top of my house to the top of the water tower building. When the cement roof is completely dry and this rebar work is completed the work will commence on moving the tanks from one building to another. We will move and set up two at a time so the two compounds will always have a water supply.

To make the main house really safe and give it the support it needs, when the tanks are off, we will be putting the walls up on the second level. Work will start soon too on the foundation for the Boy's Home. Lots done. Lots to do. One day at a time.

This blog is being written in Calgary.

Due to all the repair construction work onsite I knew I could not take three weeks away in June as I had hoped to do to see my daughters and grandchildren in Calgary and in Kelowna. I, however, felt I really needed a short break so decided to return to Canada for one week while the roof of the water tower building was drying.

When I walked off the plane in Calgary I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I thanked God that I was on Canadian soil and that no one would be looking for me . . . at least they would not find me for a few days. How good it felt!. It is the first time in fifteen years that I have felt that amount of stress leave my body just because I was back in Canada. When you are in the midst of the busyness and the stressfulness, are constatnly on call, and everyone needs your help, you just keep on going, going, going . . . . . I did not realize how badly I really did need to get away for a week. But I needed it!!! Being here with family is therapeutic. Liette had a surprise birthday party for me Saturday evening. How lovely it was to see people that were important to me turn up at Liette's to celebrate with me. It is good to be in the temperatures that Calgary is having. I am not sweating 24 hours a day. How sweet it is!!

Surprise Birthday Party

I saw my doctor the same day I arrived. Had x-rays the next day and am getting therapy on my hip. I will be heading home to my kids again real soon. According to Luckner and Antoinette they are missing their mama a lot. I spoke with each one of them Sunday and they all asked me to come home real soon. Hopefully their mama will be in better shape for having come out for a week.

I will blog again when I am back home with my Haitian family - perhaps on the weekend.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Busy Saturday, and Mother's Day

Saturday - An extremely busy day!!!!

Thank you, God, it finally happened. The cement roof was poured on the water tower building yesterday. Luckner got the electrical work done and we were off and running when the blocks made it here. We had thirty workers on site yesterday.
Water Tower Electrical Work
Roof Pouring on Water Tower

Also had a visit from some blan friends. Dr. Don who is returning to Canada tomorrow. Drexey from Florida who was the first therapist to work with Ti Luckner. Drexey was thrilled to see Ti Luc walking around today. Another blan, Dave Oswald from SD, who is involved with Helping Hands for Haiti, dropped by with Drexey to meet me and see what I do here. Both Don and Drexey were pleased to be able to see first hand the busy and very hard work of pouring the cement roof. Imagine, in atrocious heat and humidity, trying to stand on the rung of a ladder for five - six hours passing heavy buckets of cement up the ladder to the person in front of you. They deserved every dollar they were paid today. Now it needs to sit and dry for a couple of weeks.
Finished roof & Dr. Don

Drexey, Baby (Luckner's daughter) & Ti Luc

Work continued on the Kid's Home all week. Anyone recognize the Kid's Home in the blog photo? Kid's home on the bottom and new missionary house on top. Workers will return to Kid's Home on Monday. Lots of work to be done there yet - outside and inside.
Kid's Home - New Home

There is something special about a photo on this blog. It has some of my kids in the yard. But for the first time it shows Ti Luc standing and the other children sitting. What a wonderful change.
Big change - Ti Luc standing others sitting

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers connected to HATS in any way. May this next year be a blessed one for all of you. Thank you to those who sent me greetings.

A special thank you to my two precious daughters. Dana-Lynn and Liette for their very loving words that touched my heart in a big way and caused tears to flow. Thank you. God bless you both. You are both very precious gifts from God. Thank you for all your support and encouragement for what I do and acceptance of the small amount of time I have in Canada with you and my grandchildren. I truly wish I could have more time with both of you.  Your loving support and acceptance makes it possible for me to be a mother to needy children here. I don't know what I would do without you both behind me!!! You are special. You are precious. You are loved.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Mom. My Hero. by daughter Dana-Lynn

I originally wrote this for Epicure's facebook page where they were asking consultants to write about their Mom's. The original posting requesting mom writeups was over a week ago. After writing it for that I decided to post it on my facebook profile too. After reading it my Aunt Sandy requested that I post it here, so here it is.

My mom. My hero. It has taken me so long to write this because she simply cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs, it’s not enough to do her justice, but I’ll try… It can’t be short, but I’ll try to make it good!

This year my mom turns 65. A milestone. For most that means retirement. Maybe more golfing. Maybe driving the RV into the southern US for 6 months of sun. Maybe more lunches with friends, visits w grandkids. Not my mom. At 65 she’s running a school and children’s home in Haiti and is in the process of adopting a 5yo child who is physically handicapped. The question most often asked is… how did she get there?

Growing up we lived a very middle class small town life. We lived in the Yukon where my Dad was a mining executive & my mom worked in the bank, then as the school secretary. Never did I see my mom in anything but dress clothes, never ever jeans, even at home her slippers were high heeled and fluffy – if you lived that era you know what I’m talking about! After school the baking would be laid out and often up to a dozen of us would tromp in, all of my friends hugging her and calling her mom. She’d listen, she’d advise, she’d let us be who we were. When my friend Susan & I were goofing around and dropped a weight through the glass topped coffee table (in a room we were NOT to play in) my mom didn’t yell, she simply asked us if we’d learned a lesson & helped us clean it up. When I destroyed the plastic cover of the record player (remember those?) by using the wrong cleaner on it, she simply thanked me for trying to clean. When I was a rebellious teen she set limits and stuck to them, even when my 2 weeks of grounding (repeatedly) were as hard on her as they were on me. She taught me how to be a good person, how to be understanding (still working on that one), how to be firm when it was required. How to be a mom!

Fast forward many years. My sister and husband went on a mission trip to Haiti and while there fell in love with a little girl they ended up adopting. My mom went down to meet her first grandchild. She saw the incredible need in Haiti, came home, packed her life into boxes in people’s basements and moved down. She was the type who wore high heeled slippers and screamed blue murder when she saw a bug, had many health problems including continual neck pain from a car accident years before and regular migraines….. She also had a heart as big as they come.

In Haiti she was in the poorest country in the western hemisphere, living in filth, surrounded by bugs, no access to medicines or a therapist for her pain, without access to her family and friends (no internet or phone access those many years ago) and was there solely to bring joy to others. She’s been there now 15 years. She founded a children’s home, then a school. She still works 16 hour days making sure that the people of Haiti are clothed, have food and education. She is ‘Mama’ to all the kids in the children’s home, and especially to one little boy, Ti Luc. When the local hospital asked her to take him he was a baby in bad shape whose mom had died after childbirth. She took him to see a ‘specialist’ who told her to throw him out - he had no brain, wouldn’t ever walk or talk and that there was nothing that could be done for him. She refused, she took him into her own home and mothered him. She loved him, exercised his limbs, talked to him, carried him everywhere despite the aching pain it caused her. He is now five, talking and just last month walked for the first time. The belief is that he has Cerebral Palsy, but there is no-one to diagnose that in Haiti. My mom’s love and devotion have brought Ti Luc and many other Haitian children to the place they are today and I honor that in her! Whenever I wish I had my mom around here for my kids and I, I remind myself that she turned me into the rock that I am today and that I can handle things here in my world, while she handles things there developing more ‘rocks’ that will go on to change their world.

Since the earthquake four months ago that damaged my mom’s home, she and Ti Luc have slept outside in tents while she waits for the blocks needed to allow her back into home. She picks the bugs out of her food and craves cheese and other things we take for granted here. She’d be kidnapped for ransom if she went outside the compound unguarded. She has a bullet hole in her fridge from the day she was bought it and someone tried to kidnap her. She doesn’t complain, she doesn’t malinger. She simply picks up where she left off the day before and ‘does’. I learned my ‘bounce back’ from my mom. I learned ‘love who they are even when you can’t love what they do’ from my mom. I learned ‘be a friend to your kids & their friends, but never forget the limits’. I learned to be strong, loving, kind, giving & to have empathy for all those around me.

My mom was with me when I gave birth to my first two amazing children and she was the one who introduced me to my third child, a 6yo beautiful boy I adopted from Haiti 6.5 years ago. My mom is my angel. My mom is my rock. My mom is the Wind Beneath my Wings. Thank-you Mom! I LOVE YOU doesn’t seem like enough!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Still Getting Hotter...

Hot and hotter.  Humid and more humid.  Yikes.

It is 7:00 a.m. and my body is soaked.  My hair and clothes give the idea I showered after getting dressed.  The idea of feeling dry and comfortable for a few minutes today has gone out the window.

Our kids continue to enjoy being involved in our little Sunday morning service.  Sunday past saw Mirlande lead the service.  Ti Fi, who is enjoying being involved with things these days, decided to help Mirlande with the leading. That was beautiful to see.  Leica helped with the flannel graph for the story and some of the HATS kids sang for us.  A family affair.

TiFi helping Mirlande lead service

Leica & flannel board

HATS kids singing in church

Walking & carrying

Ti Luc has recovered from his raging fever of four days.  He is once again walking all over the house and trying to carry things as well. It is joy to my soul to see him not only walking but using his hands more as well.  He likes to walk and carry things.  If doing so he calls out to me  "Mama, gade m."   "Mama, look at me."   Typical kid, right!!!   Too, like any other kid he does not like to go to bed - never ever tired.  Yeah, right.!!   Since he has been my office assistant I think I've been allowing him to work like his mama - too late at night.
Ti Luc sound asleep

Someone asked me a few years ago if, in one sentence, I could give something about life in Haiti that stands out to me.   I responded with   "Hurry up and wait.":

Still no # 10 roof blocks for the water tower to enable us to pour the cement roof.   'Hurry up and wait.'    We, however, have been promised to have some from an area around St. Marc by Friday.  Promises were made in the past so . . . . .

In the meantime work is progressing on the Children's Home.  We have decided to give the children a lot more light and air flow.  They had been living in two much darkness for too long.   Instead of the special block windows for safety, that are used a lot here, we are putting screen with rebar outside.

Work continuing on Kid's Home

Luckner was in touch with someone in this valley awhile back who makes windows like those in this house.  The person was supposed to come and give us a quote to do the windows in the new house.  Yeah, well, . . . . . .          'Hurry up and wait.'

I started this shortly before 7:00 this morning.  It has been a very busy day so now at 6:00 p.m. I am  just finishing it.   My body, hair and clothes are even wetter than this morning.  Is that possible??  Yes, indeed!   No point in showering yet.  Guess I will go and play with my kids for awhile and get even wetter.

Shorts are too big, Judel

Be blessed.   Karen & kids