Saturday, December 31, 2011

HAPPY NEW YEAR.

I've heard many times at this time of the year "Out with the old - In with the new." I think I understand what was meant by that, but I do not want to put out the old. I want to embrace everything that happened in 2011, remember it, savour it and thank God for every bit of it. I want to thank Him for the difficult parts and the joyful parts. I want to thank God for walking with me in laughter and in tears, thank Him for giving me health and strength to do what I did, thank Him for friends and family who encouraged me and gave loving counsel (especially for me to slow down.)

I thank God that I am still here, still healthy, and ready to start the new year with Him. I want to be all that He wants me to be, and to do all that He wants me to do.

I thank God for the eighteen children I have in my care - each and every one special and different.

I thank Him for everyone of the HATS supporters. I thank him for your consistent love and care for myself and the children - those living here with me and those throughout the area who attend our school. I thank Him for every dollar that was donated to HATS so the work in this area could continue. I thank Him for those who came down to help, (buying your tickets and covering your expenses while here). I thank Him for your support and encouragement while here, and after you've left. I thank Him for your faithful prayer support. I thank Him for your encouraging emails and comments on the blog.

I thank Him for all the members of the Canadian Board of Directors who work diligently to help HATS grow and to be an outstanding part of this community, helping meet the needs of the people in the Artibonite Valley.

I thank God for Luckner, my HATS assistant, my jack-of-all-trades, and also director of our school. I thank Him also for our HATS employees.

I thank Him for all my family members. Without your support and understanding I would be unable to do all that I do.

I THANK GOD FOR ALL THIS

I've thanked God for all of you and now I thank you. I thank you for all the support mentioned above. Thank you for being a faithful part of the HATS team during 2011.
2 Timothy 4:7 "We have fought the good fight, we have finished the race."

I thank God today too for the all new year 2012, for all that is ahead for us on the HATS team and those we are trying to help.
Hebrews 12:1 "Let us throw off everything that hinders and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

Together we will continue to make a difference in the lives of children in this area of Haiti.

HATS motto " Orphans today, leaders tomorrow". IT IS ALL ABOUT THE CHILDREN

God bless you all in this new year.
Karen and gang

Meal preparation at Karen's

Aimee, Jon and Cherie doing ceilings

Painting by workteam and cement work by constr workers

Jessie helping Ti Luc to walk staying within the lines

Walk time

Liz (Nana Toestoes) with Sandra

Bare buff guys at birthday party

First day of school for this year for my kids

Yvette hugging Dieunel, Ismyis and Judel

Liette, Yvette & Jacques with sugarcane

Hugs & tears for Dana & Leica - time to leave

Sandra enjoying Christmas dinner

Djemima, Mirlande and Karma singing in church Christmas morning

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dana - Fantastic blogger, goat herder and photographer!!!

Can't fill her shoes.

Since I tried to teach my girls, Dana and Liette, when they were growing up, to be themselves always, I guess that relates to their mama too. Dana wins the award in blogging for 2011. I know I can't touch her and am too smart to try. I do, however, need to add my compliments and thanks to that of many others for the fantastic job of blogging she did. She kept me laughing along with the rest of you. I loved seeing life here through her eyes, and the great way she shared it all. Life in Haiti has been normal for me for many years so I do not see it as others do. It is life in Canada that I have to adjust to regularly. I, too, wish she could be here blogging regularly and keeping us all entertained.

Dana and her three precious kids, Jared, Ronel and Alexa came on December 16th with some apprehensions I think, on the part of some, about how they would fit in, be accepted, and how things would go. They fit in beautifully, they were accepted in a big way, and things went really well. They left yesterday, December 26th, and are greatly missed today.

THANK YOU for coming. Thank you, Dana, for all the hard work. Thank you for excelling at goat herding, feeding, rescuing, even milking one, as well as the blogging. Thank you Jared, Ronel and Alexa for all the time spent with my kids and for sleeping with them one night. That was important and they are still talking about it. Thank you Jared and Ronel for the help with your mom's goat herding job and for the three of you preparing 130 gift packages to bless others. Thank you Dana for a fantastic turkey dinner and lemon meringue pie - that I am still enjoying. It lived up to my expectations. An awesome break from rice and beans.

Dana the goat herder

Dana had quite the experience with creepy crawlies -I can't say she saw them all because that would take a lot more than 10 days. In fact with almost 17 years here I have not seen them all. Sandra, please don't fret about being left out we are keeping some for you for next month.

Dana and Ronel love hot food and Haitians like to cook with lots of piman pike (hot peppers). Dana told Martha she would like pikliz ('hot' cold slaw). She got pikliz and yes, it was hot. I have proof.

She wanted 'hot' she got 'hot'.

I so need to cool my mouth

Dana arrived with her three children and quickly saw we have security 24 hours a day, armed at night. A precaution. She knew I do not go far after dark and if so, not without security. Christmas Eve night, after our festivities were over and little ones in bed, we prepared some of her delicious turkey dinner to be delivered to Luckner, as he was on the air at Radio Creole. Jared and Ronel and I were going to do the delivery. I did a good job of assuring Dana everything would be fine as I would be gone around ten minutes and I was taking the security so her boys would be just fine. I told her the gate would be locked behind us and no one could get unto the compound. I talked a good talk but did not walk a good walk!!! We arrived, deposited the food and entered the radio station where a lively discussion was going on - on the air - with three people at the microphones, Luckner leading and people calling in. It was interesting and fun for me. Luckner was planning on ending the program shortly after our arrival and let me know he wanted to greet the boys and wish them Merry Christmas. The boys seemed comfortable there, I was given a set of headphones to put on so I was hearing those calling in to the radio as well as the responses, and forgot about the time. Forgot, too, that Dana was here on the compound without me or security and was not used to Haiti. My bad! I had just explained to Luckner that the program was going on too long and I could not wait for him to speak with the boys - I was going home. At that time my phone rang and I could see it was one of my house mothers, Naomie. I quickly left the studio and went unto the roof deck to answer it. Naomie it was not. Dana it was. I quickly got the idea I was indeed bad. Not a case of 'My bad' but instead a case of 'My bad, bad, bad BAD'. She sounded scared. "Where are you ?" You said ten minutes . . . . . . . " I grabbed my keys, her two boys, Jared and Ronel, and headed to truck where security was waiting for us. Off we roared for home. No problems enroute until we get outside the locked up compound. I looked at security and waited for him to jump out, unlock and push open the barrier gate. He looked at me like he just landed from space. He did not look like an alien but was acting like one. I asked him to hurry and unlock the gate. I wanted to get inside so we could get out of sight and get to the house to try and make up to, and console, Dana. He had the space cadet thing still happening on his face big time and I sharply asked what on earth was wrong with him. Nothing really - just that he had locked up the compound and then laid the security keys down inside and walked out the door in the large gate without them. "You did what?" Great. Just what we needed. I was quickly hoping everybody was at a Christmas party and not looking for us for any reason as we were now sitting ducks outside the mission compound. Now we had to try to wake up a house mother again to come and let us in and we would be even longer reaching Dana to try and make amends.

Naomie let us in and I quickly drove to the house. We could not get in the main door. Locked. Oops, perhaps Dana is really mad and gone to bed and we are outside in the mosquitoes for the night. I felt like locking her out a few times when she was young but now it was the daughter locking the mother out. I was stifling laughter as I sent Jared around to try the kitchen door. Locked too. Another Oops. I ran with Jared to the laundry room door before calling and banging. Good, she missed that one.

We came inside to see her sitting in my office, in front of her laptop, stonyfaced and working (blogging I believe). Actually she was looking scared and upset with a huge and heavy monkeywrench next to her computer. That was her weapon for protection.

Dana blogging with weapon for protection next to her

When I did not return quickly as promised she had gone looking for one of my machetes but unable to find one she took the next best thing. I was feeling badly about being gone for so long but not badly enough to not laugh. I tried my best to hide my need to laugh but I was cracking up on the inside. It was a picture I will never forget - my precious daughter, the great business woman, wonderful mother and fantastic helper sitting in my office in my house with that big and heavy wrench next to her for protection. I was a bad mama but I still laughed.

Our Christmas celebration was great as Dana mentioned on her blog. I want to thank everyone for the fantastic gifts that came down from Calgary with Liette and Yvette, one for all 18 children. The kids were thrilled with their gifts. I am unable to post a photo of each one with their gift but will attach some. Two of the kids received a gift from their sponsors as well. It was a happy gift opening time with joy on all the faces.

Happy little Karena

JJ proudly displaying a gift of his

Josie happy with her gift

Jofky with his glasses

Mr. Cool Cat Vladimy with his gift

Ti Luc loves his batman cape.

Little Mr Cool Dieunel -  thrilled with his gift

Karena - 3 and Anne 1 at our Christmas celebration.  New dresses off so they could eat as they wished.

Thank you to all who sent money donations for Christmas - which enabled us to buy extra and special foods and to purchase new clothing outfits for the children. I will be purchasing special food items and treats again for the big Haitian holiday coming up - January 1st and 2nd.

Thank you for all your support during the past year. It truly has enabled us to continue to do what we can for the children in this area of Haiti.

IT IS ALL ABOUT THE CHILDREN !!!!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Last day here at HATS!

Bugs – Okay, so those that have been here before have mentioned in comments and emails they’ve had no bug problems. You’re welcome! I’ve experience all the bug issues during my stay so you all could come down bug free before and after me. You’re invited to show your appreciation with gifts of anti-itch cream!

Today is Dec 25th and we were up early again getting ready for the church service with gifts for attendees afterwards. Church was great, even though I can't understand what they said. The singing rocks, even without instruments, and I had a great snug with baby Sandra who fell asleep after our late night of festivities last night. We had 62 attend church and everyone, adults and children, went home with a Kado (present), a pop, and 2 candies. They were SOOO happy and even the girls in their late teens were jumping up and down with excitement after peeking in their gifts!

My soft cushioning is a sleeping baby magnet

So excited about Kado after church

Heat - the heat and humidity the past few days is what I remember. You feel sticky all day, if you rest your arm on a piece of paper it sticks to you & you have a constant sheen on your face. That’s great when you’re at Tropical Beach resort and can have a dip in the pool, it’s not so great when you’re in land with no water anywhere at hand. As much as I love these children and my mom I will never come here in July and will continue to visit this time of year during Haiti’s winter! Sandra was stuck to me, both of us with a sheen of sweat by 10am!

Kann. No words start in Haiti with a c. Oops! Sugar Cane is actually Kann. My Bad!

Painting. 1 building and 6 benches complete! In addition to the colored benches below there is the handprint bench for in front of mom's house and also a plain turquoise bench.

The building we ‘repainted’ the front of.

4 of 6 benches

Goats – 46 were purchased by Dec 20th (with 3 purchased after that). My goal was to get those first 46 done. I got close. 44 have been sourced and delivered to us and so far 41 have been picked up. We’ll be sleeping to a chorus of bleating again tonight, oh joy! Our hope is that the last 3 people for these goats show up tomorrow before 10am since Mom is gone until evening in order to take me to port. The last few goats will happen when my Aunt Sandy gets here late January. I will miss my rotating group of goats!

Last Load of Goats. Can you find all 8?

This is taken of the top of the 12ft cement block walls that surround mom’s compound to keep mom and the kids safe. To me this picture sums up Haiti.

A country of contrasts.

This is my last post to publish while in Haiti. I’ve got a ~4hr wait in the airport in Port au Prince so I’ll write a blog or two there as well to put up after I get home. We don’t fly until 6:30 although will be dropped by by 1:30 or 2 since Mom, Luckner and the hired gun need to get back before it’s too dark.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Haiti Christmas

Yesterday was a lot of painting, a secret project of Christmas present for ‘mom’, tons of wrapping (well ‘bagging’), visiting in Borel, brining the turkey, getting the stuffing, potato and carrot/yam casserole prepped and of course handing out goats and emailing out goat photos. That’s just my to-do list. Mom did about 3x that, as usual!

Today I slept in. Every other morning we had to be up by 7 for 7:30 devotions and when you’re waking up multiple x in the night to listen to the chorus of goats (I will be hearing bleating in my sleep for weeks I think), roosters and the ‘gang shootout’ sound that is the neighbouring rice mill when it starts up, 7am is VERY early! I heard a new sound at 9:30 this morning as I was enjoying my sleep on the 2nd floor roof deck in my fabulously bug free tent. A slow twangy sound, which turned out to visitor from the southern US. Alexa said there was a guy here who sounded like he was talking underwater, lol. I guess she`s never heard a southern drawl before! The thing about Haiti is that sound travels! FAR!! The concrete here is quite different and instead of muffling sound it seems to amplify it! Mom talking in her bedroom a floor below you can hear on the second floor despite a thick layer of concrete in between. Mom and I talking quietly on the second floor sleep deck about the boys and how they were helpful and amazingly great with the kids (and with a fair amount of shock and awe in our voices) carried far enough for the boys sitting 50 feet away to hear….. `Mom, we can hear you, ya know!`

Today was the day that the Haitian’s celebrate Christmas, mainly this evening, Christmas eve. I scrambled to get ready and into the kitchen when I realized it was 9:30, I had a bird to cook! I cooked, mom ran to the `pharmacy‘ for paper plates for the kids, I accepted delivery of another 7 goats from Banika, mom bagged gifts, the boys played, I gave out goats & emailed recipients, I cooked some more, mom ran around doing everything, I un-tanged goats, fed goats, watered goats and finally at 4pm, the festivities started!

The children all received their annual Christmas gift from HATS, a new outfit. They all raced home to put on their clothes and came back for a photo with Mom.

Kids with mom

As we gathered in the devotion/playroom the kids presented mom with their Christmas present for her. Antoinette, one of the house mom’s, was quite concerned the kids would give away the secret since ‘secret’ isn’t a word or concept in their language. Shockingly they didn’t!

Mom getting her gift

Christmas present from the kids to mom

Then Haitian Pere Noel handed out presents from the kids and I, each girl a Barbie, each young boy a car and clothes and a game from Vladimy. By this time the kids were hungry (it takes a long time to handout presents to 18 kids) so the House Mom’s served up traditional Haitian fare of Rice, Beans, a chicken leg and they made a festive pink salad. We also gave everyone some ‘Canadian’ food of Roast Turkey, Stuffing, Mashed Baked Potato and Carrot/Yam Casserole. They gamely tried it although a few stuffed the weird Canadian food into their rice. It reminded me of my childhood and of being at friends houses and mixing in the things I didn’t like into what I did so I could choke it down as to not insult anyone. As Luckner says, a Haitian doesn’t feel they’ve eaten a meal unless they have rice, no matter how much they’ve eaten.

Haitian Pere Noel getting socked in the face

Sandra, the 8 month old, who eats canned baby food decided tonight that mom’s food looked better! Within 5 mins she took the spoon from mom and went to town!

Sandra eating mom’s food

Graduating to a spoon only 5mins later!

After supper we did the Cado (Presents) brought down from donors by Liette & Yvette when they were here last month. Each child got center stage to open their gifts one by one while all the others watched with big saucer eyes! The grins as each child opened his or her shoebox of clothes, cars or dolls, sunglasses, candy, etc were AMAZING! I was the photog with Sandra in my arms sleeping and loved it! I’ve included a few random photos of the kids opening their gifts, which the babies slept though they were so tired.

Shoebox Gift – Karena (3yrs)

Shoebox Gift - Dieunel (5yrs)

Shoebox Gift - Vladimy (16yrs)

Sandra Conked out

My largest baby is tired too!

The true meaning of Christmas is alive and well here. I have had the most relaxed (although by no means have I had more than 30minues of downtime a day, if that) lead up to Christmas ever. No stores, no hustle bustle, no endless baking/eating (well, I’ll address the eating in an upcoming blog!), no hurry scurry or stress to find the ‘it toy of the year’ or the item my child really wanted, since they didn’t make a list this year. It’s been amazing!!!! I told the kids yesterday, the same kids that were (2 of 3) bitchy and complaining about coming, that we were coming back in 2 years to do this again and one of the boys, the one who was going to bring his own knife or gun for protection said ‘do we have to wait that long, can’t we come next year or during Spring Break?’

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gifts ready, Report Card Day, Biting Ants

130 Gifts are Complete! We did ~130 gifts, we may need up to 100 although with extra’s Mom will be all set and have gifts she can give out for other occasions as needed. We’ll be handing them out on Sunday at church. Today Alexa is combing, cleaning and dressing all her Barbie’s so she can wrap them up for the kids here. Christmas is celebrated on the 24th so we're in full prep mode today! Mom had a turkey given to her by the UN for thanksgiving and she saved it for tomorrow. Gotta get that in the brine soon, Mom is SOOO excited about having a traditional Cdn feast instead of Christmas rice and beans

Our Assembly Line

Sample Gift

Report Card Day. It’s SO different than in Canada. School got out a week ago and today the kids (or parent) were to come back to pick up their report card. Many of the kids are away with their other parent so there were a lot of parents in the room. Everyone was in one room and it started with a speech by Luckner, the Director, who would be our version of the Principal. He talked to the parents about being responsible and getting their kids to school on time and talked to the kids about working hard since people are paying for their education. This part took about ½ an hour and they room was VERY quiet with little shuffling or movement. It was so amazing to watch. Then, in front of the entire room, their average is read out for everyone to hear. The process took about 2hours.

Waiting for Report Cards

Ti Luc was dressed and ready to head over to the school until Luckner showed up at the house. Luckner, as Director, was in dress slacks and a crisp white top so Ti Luc insisted on changing. He picked out his new outfit himself and insisted on being changed into it.

Ti Luc and Mom

Biting Ants: Lex has a bad case of Stomach upset and is spending much of her day in the bathroom so last night we slept in the room. Tonight we are definitely sleeping in the tents. As I awoke I discovered something had marched through my bed in the middle of the night and in their path was my right hand and face. 14 bites on my hand and 9 on my face and another half dozen random spots. Germaine inspected me and says it’s ants. She found a red ant nest in the bathroom yesterday (when cleaning up after the spider episode) although it’s not those. It’s the teeny tiny spec ants that were in my underwear drawer looking for Candy Canes (prior blog). Last night I was eating ‘can’ (Sugar Cane) and although I washed up before bed I must have had a little on my hand and face and the ants were eating me to get the ‘can’. She’s in my room spraying right now although I loved sleeping out in the tent and now have a really good excuse to get Lex to sleep out there too! A teeny bit of can must have fallen from my clothes onto the floor and that was swarming with ants when Germaine did her inspection. For perspective the red thing that looks like a hot dog is actually one of those mini advils. Lesson of the day, Sugar is evil AND it’s my own fault so suck it up princess!

For the record my Mom's house is Extremely clean, it's just that we live around bugs here and it simply can't be avoided.

Ants on Sugar Cane with a mini advil for perspective

As I was chasing a Gecko for a photo I discovered a dead rat so asked mom what to do. She yelled to Jacques I had a gift for him. When I showed him the spot he burst out laughing and said ‘Mesi pou bel kado sa’ (thanks for that nice gift) and since he has seen me taking photos of all kinds of people and wildlife he asked me if I wanted to take a photo of him with his bel kado (en francais: belle cadeau), so I did, lol

Jacques with his 'gift'

A few nights ago I was trying to get a lovely family portrait of my children with their uncle Ti Luc. They were quite the group of fools and this is the best shot I could get. It really speaks to their personalities! Ti Luc has today changed his name to Jared and Jared is Ti Luc. Jared has even mastered dressing Ti Luc! I’ll share more about Ti Luc as soon as I have more time

My kds with Uncle Ti Luk

I have 3 more benches to paint today so I best get at it. By Haiti time I’ve wasted a lot of the day cause it’s already 8:50am and I’m not moving and shaking yet!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A whole blog about sleep

2 Big Sleepovers. My kids all decided last night to stay down at the kids home. There are two kids homes, one for girls, one for the boys. It’s apparently the first time this has ever happened here and the kids here were beyond excited to have my kids sleep down there with them, so ALL the kids, minus the 2 smallest babies and one really sick girl, slept in 1 room in each home! Mom and I decided we wanted a photo so we went down for a quick visit. Not a lot of sleeping actually happened in the boys room.

Sound asleep, there are 5 in here
All 8 boys in one room
Sleeping Security. A while after we went to visit the kids mom discovered her phone wasn’t with her and she must have it at all times in case one of the house mom’s or security or Luckner need her. We couldn’t find it so wanted the security to come up to the house and dial it so we’d find it by the ringing. She went out onto the deck and waved a flashlight down toward Security so they’d come up to the house. No response from security, which was very strange since they always come right away. We waited 15 mins, looked for the phone some more, and tried again to alert security. No response to the flashlight. We grabbed the camera and decided to sneak down quietly to check it out. We found both Security sound asleep. Not even the flash woke them up! We then started plotting what to do next. Me: ‘Let’s go pull on the gate like we were trying to get in’ (they were sleeping right beside the gate). If they woke up, at least we’d know it was still safe even though they were asleep. Mom’s idea was to go out the side door (the door to the school) and sneak around to the front and bang on the outside of the gate. Mom’s idea was tossed out, the reason there are security guards is that it’s not safe to be outside here, especially after dark. We laughed about that idea and how silly it was. So I brought up my idea again! ‘Let’s go pull on the gate from the inside, it will be safer cause bad guys outside wouldn’t be able to get us’. Mom looked at me and said ‘yes, and the security guards will be jolted awake and will probably shoot you!’. OMG. What?! I started to laugh (quietly) and told mom no way would I have crept down in the dark to take a photo if I’d thought about the gun! Turns out Mom's idea was probably the safer of the two. I was fully aware of the gun since it's handed to security every evening and I took a photo of Ronel with it a few nights before. We took off back to the house and called Luckner and left it in his hands! During our escapades we found the phone had been left in the boys home when we went down to take a photo.

Sleeping Security (they are not in jail, we took the photo through a fence)
Ronel with the Security Guards Gun
After our evening of escapades it's almost midnight (everyone goes to sleep here at 10pm) and mom and I are knackered and heading off to bed. 3 minutes after going upstairs I’m back down and say to mom ‘It’s not a Tarantula but it’s WAAAAY to big to sleep with me!’ We head back up to take care of my nighttime visitor! We get some photos and I get into my PJ’s while mom goes to get what we need to kill it…. By the time she comes upstairs I’ve made myself insane, everytime my pj’s touch my skin and tickle it I am swatting and beating at myself. The mom arrives with a mallet and a Machete! We’re up there cackling like a couple of crazy people! So then mom says that we need bug spray first and runs off to get some. I go brush my teeth and feel something on my arm and see a brown spot and start beating at myself and it won’t leave (the lights are dim in there) and then I realize I’ve been trying to kill a freckle! Okay, I need to take a deep breath, I'm bigger than it! As we’re about to spray the spider (it’s at least 3 inches from end to end) and I ask mom if it’s the jumping or biting kind. It’s not, whew! She sprays it and it takes off under the bed. Oh crap! We move the bed (me jumping around like a loon) and we can’t find it! We search that whole side of the room… No spider. I am NOT sleeping in that room! I grab my pillow, shake my blanket out ALOT and head out to one of the tents on the deck, at least nothing can get in those!! As I’m leaving the room mom says ‘Well now that you’re not sleeping in here anyway… it was a jumping spider, they jump about 3 feet’. WHAT? Yes, now I’ll really trust her when I ask her a bug question! Germaine cleaned the room this morning and found it dead on it’s back under the bed. It had jumped up and was hiding on the underside of the bed while the bug spray took hold. UGH. We're not telling Alexa or she'll never be able to sleep in the room again.

My Bedroom Visitor (at least 4 inches long)
Mom brought me protection