Saturday, May 31, 2014

May 30, 2014 - Todd & Jerry

Today was another eventful day at HATS. A few of us gathered at the security tower at 6am as the sun was rising. It overlooks the canal and provides an excellent vantage point to appreciate the reality of how many Haitians begin their day. Women can be seen walking with items such as sacks of rice, vegetables, wooden tables, water, etc on their heads as they go to market to sell items. Men can be seen walking towards the nearby bridge with a hoe over their shoulders and a machete in their hand. They wait by the bridge hoping someone will pick them up and give them a days work on the rice fields. Sadly most are seen returning by 7am indicating today wasn't a day they will be working.

Returning home. No work means no money today.

Occasionally you will also see children heading to the nearby corner where they get a bun of bread and coffee which can be the morning sustenance for the child's whole family as they start their day.

Little girl next door having picked up a bread & coffee for family

From the tower one can appreciate the positive impact HATS is making as one sees what life is like outside the compound and after being here just a few days we know the quality of life the children experience inside is so much better.

Inside HATS. Outside HATS.

Before breakfast we had devotions. The kids had no classes today and the three older ones took a trip to the beach with the HATS  school. The younger ones hung out with us.

Jenny, Alycia, Joanne, Lacee, and Emma organized a fun morning with all the kids. It was Spa Day at HATS and the kids loved it! The ladies had 3 stations with different activities; Jenny and Alycia cut, filed, and then applied polish to their nails. Jerry wanted his feet done also but was declined! He will have to wait until he gets back home. Joanne and Lacee helped the kids make bracelets which was a hit! Emma was busy overseeing kids putting individual designs on their t-shirts by themselves.

A special day was held for the children

Making bracelets

Individual designing of t-shirts

We were most impressed with Ti Luc's t-shirt. For those of you who haven't met Ti Luc, he is an 8 year boy who lives with Karen in her home and is a very bright, cheerful, humorous, intelligent young boy. T-Luc has cerebral palsy and when just an infant Karen was told he would never see, never hear, never walk, never talk and his quality of life would be extremely poor. Our visit has shown us they were wrong! T-Luc ambulates without assistance, loves to play soccer and has quite the kick especially when playing with Gerry. He attends school and does very well, and is a very social young boy. He doesn't have full function of his hands but has developed the skills necessary to use his feet for many things including writing and using his toys. Today he put a design on his t shirt by using the marker between his toes. He is a remarkable boy! He is evidence how hard work and lots of love can really make a child have opportunities others thought were impossible.

Ti Luc putting a design on his shirt

As many of you know, our team worked hard and many of you supported us as we raised funds for a new generator at HATS. It is definitely needed to help with the daily operation of the orphanage. Jerry, Don, and Todd were busy assessing the daily need for power by itemizing lights, appliances, etc. This will help Karen decide which generator to purchase. She is targeting this fall to have the generator on site.

Don & Jerry working on electricity things

In the afternoon all hands committed to painting Karen’s gallery/front porch. Fortunately she already had all the needed supplies. After a few coats it looked great and we had lots of fun!

Energizer Bunny & Lacee

Joanne also went to the roof and swept off the concrete where it was 40C.  Joanne also helped Karen in the office today as she finalized her payroll.

Payroll time

Emma helped Ti Luc with his homework.

Speech Therapy time again

We (Todd and Gerry) are becoming quite concerned that blog viewers might be having great expectations of us when we return home when seeing all the hard work we are capable of but let it be known, we will need a rest when we return! Ha

The ladies in the group also presented the house mothers with flowers today to show thanks for their hard work. The children here live in 2 buildings... One for boys and another for girls. Each is staffed with house mothers who are hired people from the community who cook and care for them but Karen is there real mama and will always be!

The afternoon ended with everyone playing games with the kids on the roof of the main HATS building. The kids had so much fun!

London Bridge on the roof top

Sadly, the team are now also starting to realize that we will soon be leaving. We all wish we were staying longer. This experience has been one of friendship, love, an appreciation for those less fortunate, and most of all for the precious work being done at HATS! We are so gracious for the opportunity to be here and help Karen, an amazing soul, and we are eager to share our experiences with you when we return home.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Hi everyone,

Can you believe it is Day 5 already- that means we, Emma and Joanne, are up again as your bloggers.

Our Wednesday evening was spent with a lovely walk along the canal. We enjoyed the local sights including a cock fight, stray cows and bathers in the canal. We were also the entertainment of some local youth who followed us along the path calling " Blanc,Blanc,Blanc" I guess they don't see a precession such as ours often. We said our good nights to all the children when we returned. I love to see how the children connect more each day to the team. They love to be silly, play and just want to spend time with everyone. Although we do not speak the language we are connecting.

Adult only early evening walk

The team gathered in the parlor to listen to Karen tell stories of her life in Haiti. How God has guided her. Everyone sat silently in awe- hanging on every word until it was time to say good night. Bedtime proved to be an adventure. There was a few visitors in the girls dressing room from the arachnoid family. When yelling and screaming at them did not make them go away we called in the big guns....the boys with bug spray!! Emma then found a visitor on her pillow and as her screams echoes into the darkness, she realized this guy was from the Plastic family. "JERRY!!!!!!" When the team settled in our tents we were treated to a beautiful light show- compliments of mother nature. The rest of the nights entertainment came from sounds of creatures and a creole rendition of Auld Lang Syne .

Morning came early with a 5:30 am rise (except for Joanne and Lacee who need a wake up call) The team that were awake walked down to the security tower to watch men, women and children gather at the bridge hoping to find a days work. A little boy walked by with a piece of bread in his hand. Very sad to us all with our bellies full of fresh fruit and porridge.

Today is a special day here at HATS. Today is Mama (aka Karen) and our own Todd Young's birthday!!! It is surely going to be a special one!!! A prayer was shared with all the children at the house and we all hurried off for devotions today at the school. We set up the school benches (which Karen most times does without 16 extra hands) and enjoyed devotions with all the students.  The high school grade 8 students joined in devotions as they did not have a class. Then all secondary students joined with the younger grades for the raising of the flag. (Karen began to question why grades 7 & 9 were called out of classes for the flag raising)- but because tomorrow is a school holiday she did not look into it any further).  After the flag was raised with the National Anthem being sang all the students then turned to Karen and sang Happy birthday in English with a second round of singing for Todd!!! What a way to start a birthday!

Luckner decided to allow all the students to find Karen to give her a hug and a kiss before they entered their classes. The little ones were pushing to get to her and were knocking her off her feet.

Karen being given birthday hugs by students

The team then had the opportunity to take a picture with the Generator (Delco as the locals would call it) As we walked in the room the generator sputtered but did not cut out as we said an extra prayer that nothing would go wrong on Karen's birthday. As most of you are aware we have been fundraising for a new generator system for the compound and school. This picture will show a comparison of the old and the new. An eye opener that's for sure.

The awesome generator fundraiser team

After a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit and omelets we returned to the school for recess time with the primary children- today is an extra special recess visit because Joanne, Jerry, Lacee, Todd and Jenny got to meet their sponsor children. The team was filled with such pride, meeting these beautiful children we will be providing an education and brighter future for. Meeting them in person makes it that much more special. We would like everyone at home to seriously think about sponsoring a child. It costs less then a Tim's a day.

Jenny with her sponsored student Guerrier, Milensky PS 3

Joanne with her student Turenne, Enickens PS2

Todd with sponsored student Jean Baptist, Franzley PS2

Jerry with his student St. Vil, Benadel PS 2

Alexandre, Terry Gr 3 with his sponsor Lacee

Back to the compound and to our duties. The three Musketeers worked on some electrical issues as the girls worked in and outside the house doing chores. Some of the team accompanied Karen on errands in Liancourt while others enjoyed a lovely lunch of cornmeal lasagne.

The preparations for tonight's festivities continued. Choir practice for our evening at Radio Creole, flower making and a Fleet Mac sing along accompanied by Lacee's whistling made for a fun afternoon. Emma called an important team meeting. Some could not attend as they were "tied up" at the HATS hair salon. We did have a quorum so the meeting was called to order. Todd was called to the bench as the witnesses followed. Mama Karen approached carrying a precious package wrapped in pink taffeta and ribbons. Imagine the look of surprise on Todd's face as Karen placed the package in his arms and told him that this was his birthday surprise. Arrangements had been made for Todd to sponsor Sandra  (the youngest girl in the orphanage)for school starting in September. He had asked if he could but Karen told him she was already sponsored.  Sandra had taken quite a shine to Todd since meeting him at the compound gate on the first day. (Karen says Dickie better get back
 here.) Todd is a papa to two boys in Newfoundland and now has his first little girl!!!!!

After some rest time and some speech therapy with Ti Luc we headed out for some birthday fun time with the children and the guests of honor. Singing, sweets, chalking and a game of soccer for the older boys was the order of the day. Some of the team assisted Karen in choosing new items of clothing for some of the older children who will be participating in a  school outing on Friday. Preparations for the evening meal had started, Joanne helped the kitchen staff by grinding onions and garlic with the mortar and pestle- a lot of fun, but not as easy as it looks.....I wonder if I can buy one at Walmart when I get back??

Speech therapy help for Ti Luc

Mother Nature treated us to another show of thunder, lightning and torrential rain. Because of this our trip to Radio Creole has been postponed. No one really wanted a ride in Karen's tap tap tonight!! Sorry Deschapelles you will have to wait for our debut!! Not to fear our evening did not end there. Party plans had to be changed but with some quick thinking we had the parlor decorated, party hats and noise makers were distributed. Even the kitchen ladies, Germaine and Roselene, were ready for the surprise. Alicia and Emma went to pick up the cake they had secretly made while others visited the market. (sneaky girls) Karen and Todd were called into the room and were given paper flower crowns to wear and a bouquet of paper flowers for Karen. Karen's face lit up the room brighter then the candles on the cake- Todd's face didn't look too bad either. Cake was served and enjoyed by everyone. Ti Luc went back for seconds. Cake is not a treat they have often.

The group surprised Karen & Todd with a birthday celebration

As the festivities began to wind down, we decided to start this blog- 3 hours later we are ending this- not because we had a lot to say but because we lost the first draft....it is bouncing around somewhere in cyberspace. We had to start over and most people went to bed without it being finished.  Good night all and God bless.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Day 4. Lacee & Don.

The heavy warm rain of yesterday seemed to take away a lot of the humidity and last night was very very good for a full night’s sleeping, and a number of us used our bed sleeping cover for the first time.  We know some mention  has been made about the abundance of ‘ Nature ‘ sounds before, so here we may only mention the animals seen on the way down our outside stairway : roosters, hens and their chicks, guinea fowl, pigs, donkeys, horses Technicolor geckos, crickets ….  Perhaps we shouldn’t forget the late night chanting from some neighbours over the fence.

To start our chores for the day, we sorted and wrapped pain relieving medication that came with our supplies for people in the community.

packaging pills to help with fever and pain

This is very important because the relatively new mosquito carried disease, Chikungunya, that is spreading throughout the Caribbean, has hit Haiti and more and more people right here in Deschapelles.  For example, one of Karen’s own employees showed up this morning while we were sorting the pills and his wife and child have the Chikungunya and he had to walk back to his home with these kinds of pills and walk back again to work.  And these past couple of days more students have been absent and some have had to leave for home during the day. Today a teacher is off with it and Luckner had to send six students home on motos.  They were too sick to walk home.  For our families back home, this isn’t classified as a fatal disease, but can be very uncomfortable and painful for five to seven days (Lacee says for her Mom not to worry and not to come and get her before our trip is over ).

Students ill with chikungunya sitting in our office

Students with chikungunya being sent home on motos

When the pills were sorted, Karen drove the five new members of our Team to the market about 10 Kms away in Verrettes.   We walked through the market, trailing very close to Karen, and saw many people selling anything from old used clothing to many parts of  newly killed unrefrigerated  animals, including goat, pig, beef, chickens, intestines and all …….  As we continued to the parking lot, we saw whole fried frogs ( I thought you might enjoy  a meal of them, Mom ), fried whole fish, machetes, weaved chairs and baskets.  We got to the parking lot to discover it was a gravel area with donkeys and horses tied on and not a car or truck in sight.  Apparently, some of these people may leave 2 or 3 AM and walk, with or without footwear, to the market hoping to make some sales to be able to buy some rice or food products to bring back to their families and walk back again.   It’s hard to put into words how grateful you are for the things you have, and how convenient it is to get the things you need after a Haitian market experience.

Verrettes market

At market in Verrettes

When we returned from the market it was recess time and several of us went to the school and Todd got to meet the child he is starting to sponsor.   After recess, we went back to the house to enjoy some mango cookies that Emma and Alycia had baked while we were gone to the market.

Enjoying time with students at recess

recess time at school

Early afternoon some adults and students came to pick up food packages.

Food going home to feed family members

Some students came for goats that had been donated.  A goat can be a tremendously important gift for a family for several reasons.  There had been hope of  chickens being purchased today for families too, but they were not available for purchase.

Joseph, Nashley Grade 5 from sponsor Calvin Gosse

Charles, Jolinda PS2 with donated goat

Perhaps over the years, our electricity supply has had a consistency of 99 % at least on an average.  Here, in brief, are some electrical problems of today.  The inverter and generator weren’t in sync ? or whatever ?.   Our electric supply was about nil in midday.  The batteries weren’t charged and hardly  anything was working – well, the kiddos were as highly charged as ever and didn’t miss a beat, and Ti Luc continued to beat all the visitors in gallery soccer.  We waited on an inverter technician.

However, our Team decided to use the Haitians as role models and since they had endured slavery and earthquakes and recent cholera,  our Team decided we could continue to work in the heat and continue we did.  An excellent job was done with rake and wheelbarrow to clear rocks, gravel, etc out of the back garden area of the Compound and piled conveniently out of the way for further use.  No electricity so no fans worked for our break, but we weren’t deterred.  And we knew that our Germaine and Roselene were busy cooking up another excellent supper.

Shovelling up cement and dirt in 40 + C

Hard workers lowering body temps with communal pan of cold water.

We’d like to  THANK  our HATS Director for getting us that enjoyable heavy warm rain shower and cool night last night because later today we learned that that refreshing rain and cool night didn’t happen in  Verrettes,  less than 10 kms away,  or in Borel, close by, where Luckner lives.

Until next time, Don and Lacee!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hi everyone, Jenny and Alycia here writing about day four here at HATS!

We have experienced an eventful night of trying to sleep on our cots in our tents on the rooftop here at HATS. Sleeping outside in Haiti is much different than sleeping in our own homes. Sounds of drums, animals, insects, loud bangs, local music, etc. makes for sleepless nights. The day started bright and early at 5:30AM with the voice of Don softly (as always) telling everyone to get up and get ready to go for a walk with Karen (Todd and Jerry) or to the guard house to see local villagers walking on the paths with baskets, sacs of food, etc. on their heads. We also witnessed several men standing on the road waiting for their opportunity to get a job for the day willing to do anything to provide for their families. Most of these people walk several hours each day in search of work.

After this our group met for a well prepared, nutritious breakfast consisting of boiled eggs, fresh fruit, and bread with peanut butter and jam. As we finished eating, the children surrounded us for good morning hugs and kisses and a prayer before they were off to school. So special!! We then followed the children to school and joined with them in their morning devotions. The children start every day with song, prayer, and togetherness exploding with tons of energy and laughter. Absolutely priceless! After this, they proceed to the school yard where they gather in a line showing respect to their beloved country while raising the flag and singing the national anthem. What a great way to start the school day!

Prayer time during morning devotions at the school

School devotions. Mama Karen's Karena not feeling well

After this the group returned to see what Karen and Emma had in store for us next. We have realized as a team that we MUST listen to these powerful women at ALL times - or else!!

We then finished unpacking all of the supplies that were brought here with us and organized them for Karen to give to the people in the community. There were so many important things donated that make such a difference in the lives of the people at HATS as well as in the community. We want to send the biggest thank-you for all of the donations and support. It is so appreciated, and seeing this first hand puts it all into perspective.

Karen then decided that the team should get together to portion the donated food (thanks to Emma's mom and Jerry) for 30 families in the community. These families are carefully chosen and are asked to come to the orphanage to pick up their greatly appreciated food. In each bag we portioned rice, corn meal, beans, and oil. It works out to be enough food to last each family for approximately two weeks. This was definitely a great team effort as we all made an assembly line to conquer our goal.

Huge sack of rice being moved by Don & Todd

Team members measuring food for distribution

As a welcomed surprise to Todd and Jenny, Karen decided that today she would bring them on a tour to the local hospital. Can you say excited?! This was no easy task, with one way gravel roads, oncoming traffic and detours. But after some time and Karen's crazy driving, a large stone building came into view. We had arrived at Hopital Albert Schweitzer. There were people lined up everywhere, every corridor had congestion with really sick patients on stretchers waiting for hours to be seen by a doctor. Some of these patients included children holding their own IV bags as their were no poles to hang the medicine on. There were areas just for malnourished children, so sad. We even got to see the premature baby unit. Unlike Canadian hospitals, there was no fancy high-tech equipment, no IV pumps, no emergency equipment, no chemotherapy, no radiation, no cardiac equipment, no feeding pumps. The basics seemed to be the lifeline of healthcare here. Sad. When you experience people who struggle for survival with so little, it makes what we complain about trivial. These people can only dream about the things that we take so much for granted.

Dr Todd & Nurse Jenny had a tour of Hospital Albert Schweitzer

What an eventful morning! At lunch, we all gathered for chicken baked in a cranberry sauce, salad, and whipped potatoes. The food here is authentic and SO delicious!

After lunch, the boys decided to build more drums for the church.

Drum builders. Karen's Newfie one is squish!

New drums for the church. One especially for Karen

The girls gave out food to the selected local people. By that time, the children were out of school and ready to eat the lunch that was prepared for them by the house mothers.

Meal time at Children's Home

After that, it was play time for the busy, energetic children of HATS. Alycia, Lacee, Don, and Jerry decided to play soccer with some of the bigger boys. Jenny and Joanne got some lovely new hairdos. Emma enjoyed some quiet time with Ti-Luc while Todd is super busy with two of the younger children on the swings while balancing the youngest on his shoulders! Busy man, but he loved every minute of it!

Fun for all three

At around 4PM, Karen decided she would like to drive us to Luckner's house for a coke and a chance to cool off. It was a very hot day here - 50 degrees!!

Temp in the shade

Temp in the sun

Jerry prayed for some Newfoundland easterly wind all afternoon. On the way back, Karen decided to go to a local gas bar in search of propane, but had no luck. On the way back home, Alycia, Todd, Lacee, Jerry, and Jenny who were all riding in the pan of Karen's truck were treated to a massive downpour. (Not quite easterly wind, but it did the job!) To our surprise, the rest of the team including Karen took no pity whatsoever and decided to miss the turnoff to HATS to extend our ride in the rain. But in 50 degrees, we did not mind at all! Dry Emma and Don got very wet hugs from us all upon return while Karen fearfully "napped" in her truck to avoid getting soggy hugs!

Accidently caught in the rain

We are now drying off and waiting for our meal. The smiles on our faces from these memories will last a lifetime. What a fantastic day, a fantastic experience, and we get to do it all together and with the most amazing woman on earth! Thank-you Karen, you are such an inspiration! Xo

Jenny and Alycia

Day 3 – Todd & Jerry

The two bloggers for Monday

Another fascinating day at HATS! Many adventures and lasting memories! As we rose with the sun at 6am, we gathered to plan our day. At 730am, we had devotions with Karen, staff, and our team. This is a daily gathering where scripture, song, and respect help start everyone’s day with ‘positivity’. Both Creole and English are spoken. It ended with a display of respect for one another. Everyone simply hugged others and said ‘have a good day’. Simple yet there was no better way to start our day then with a hug and a smile.  It makes us reflect on how we usually start our days; Tim’s, dealing with stress, negativity, etc…

HATS uses food supplied by ‘Kids Against Hunger’, a non-profit US company, to feed over 280 school children daily. The team was tasked with organizing the storage area for the food to allow better access for Karen but also to gather enough for the remainder of the school year.  Besides Lacee's injured toe from Emma dropping a box, no other injuries were reported. Well, except Jerry overdosing on RAID and having to run to the shower to be decontaminated! Jerry was trying to protect himself from Chikungunya, a mosquito borne disease now in Haiti. Alycia in her helpful spirit suggested he simply ‘spray on lots of this Jerry’ and after doing so we realized it wasn’t OFF but RAID!  It was hard work for all in 40C but all were sweaty and had biceps to kill after lifting all these boxes.

Add caption

The team went to the school for recess. When the bell rang, we were met by a swarm of smiling faces, all dressed in their school uniforms, and so delighted to see us. They are all very affectionate and polite to others. Alycia was thrilled to sit and talk with her sponsored child. About 80% of students at the school have outside sponsorship and there are always opportunities for anyone to sponsor a student.  The team was able to go into as few of the classrooms and meet the students. We were all welcomed but especially Lacee whom the boys took a liking too.  All classes are taught by Haitian teachers. Education is a part of daily living at HATS and recognized as a vital part of improving their lives!

Preschool students loving on Jenny

Students love the visitors

Alycia with her sponsored student Kimberly

Recess time at school

It was obvious yesterday that the Haitian people love to sing. At the church service, their strong voices sang aloud, but after a while Karen started to distribute her instruments to the children. Simple instruments such as tambourines, homemade drums, and bongo drums. Today the 3 musketeers (Jerry, Todd, and Mr. Huxter…oops I mean Don) decided to craft a drum to add to the collection. Its amazing how a drum made of 4 pieces of lumber and clear packing tape can make 3 grown men laugh so much!

The three stooges drum makers

The team was blessed with many donated items to bring to HATS. Today the girls (and Don) unpacked the containers of toys, clothing, school supplies, etc. Karen was so thankful! A few of the kids were eager to try on new clothes and are eager for Karen to distribute everything in the upcoming weeks.

Supplies donated by three churches in Lewisport area

Lots of beautiful donated things to bless the people in the area

Meanwhile we (Jerry and Todd) were busy in the toilet, bath tub, sinks, and the generator room. Of course, Jerry was the Chief plumber and Todd the humble assistant. Karen often has things needing repair and visiting team members repair things. The most impressive repair was Jerry fixing the generator exhaust with tie wire and tin.

After our repairs, we went to check on the girls (and Don) to see how they were progressing only to find Don dressed in a pair of panties, red ones at that! Oh the fun he must have had helping the others! We (Jerry and Todd) did get roped into a picture also.

Karen took us all for a ‘tap tap ride’ to the local store. Haitians are often seen piled into the back of a pickup truck and as they travel they will simply tap the truck when they want the driver to stop. So we piled into the back of Karen’s truck but didn’t have the nerve to ‘tap’ because she was driving so fast we dare not let go! As we were leaving the store, a Haitian man had a newborn in his arms. Jenny especially was excited and obviously touched when she held her as we have not seen any babies before today during our visit.

Heading for Luckner's, TapTap style, for a cold drink

 Our afternoon ended with what we all enjoy the most… playing with the kids! Lots of laughs, giggles;  lots of affection, caring, and love; the attributes that just seem to make HATS a wonderful place and has taught us all lots about others but also about ourselves.  This was followed by a short evening devotion where the children sang.

Gorgeous Jonathan

Evening devotions with solos from the children