Monday, April 1, 2013

Haiti in my Heart

Its been a while since I posted anything on the blog, mostly because I was out of the country and internet access was sporadic at best. But I'd like to tell you about my adventures in March when I was part of a 7 person team to visit Hope Home - a residence for children and young adults with disabilities in Port au Prince, Haiti.

This is Gylsme learning to use a communication device

Its actually my second trip down, my husband and I went two years ago and for hubby, it was his 5th trip. Our team leader, Judith has not only adopted two girls from Haiti many years ago, but also visits Hope Home at least twice a year. In fact this trip marked her 42nd time to travel and come alongside all the wonderful young people at Hope Home.

 Here's our team after Chapel on Palm Sunday

Many people are curious about the conditions in Haiti since the earthquake just over three years ago. They may have heard that millions of dollars had flowed into the country in aid, but little had changed or improved. They might have heard that people still lived in tent cities, water was not fit to drink or people are going without food. That part and more is true, BUT I've also noticed huge changes from my visit in 2011, both positive and negative. One person I spoke to who have lived in Haiti for 14 years was optimistic about the future for the country and said most emphatically that "progress is being made"!!!
There are still people living in tents or temporary accommodations built by aid agencies, often they are people who were homeless before the quake. The huge areas with acres and acres of tents are gone, often these tents and small buildings have been moved back to small properties and incorporated into the overall city landscape.
Clean water is being delivered to homes and areas, you can't drink from the taps, but that is true in many Caribbean countries, not just Haiti.

The traffic around Port au Prince is congested and chaotic, mostly because of the large numbers of construction/dump trucks moving about. Buildings are going up everywhere, work crews are busy, roads are being improved and business is moving along. Improvements do not happen quickly, work is hot and dusty. It seems that workers will often begin early in the morning, take a long break in the afternoon because of the heat and then work into the evening til dusk while it is cooler. I'm not sure that building codes are strictly adhered to and safety equipment is rare, but I did see some hard hats being worn!
Here in Canada we are used to see rapid progress and change with  government levels responding (fairly) quickly to problems and issues that people have. In Haiti, everything moves much slower, bureaucracy is difficult to understand, corruption is still an issue and change takes time with an enormous effort.
 Each afternoon we took the children outside onto a special swing, they loved the breeze in their faces and the motion of moving back and forth. My husband did most of the "pushing"!

In the small slice of Haitian life that I was part of, there are plans to move the high school to a new and better location, three physiotherapists have been hired, a chicken and rabbit run have been built, small steps to be sure but steps in the right direction. BUT, the needs are still great; medical assessments for some of the children would be helpful, better quality of food would be awesome, equipment upgrades are needed. Teams often come and help but ongoing sponsorship would benefit enormously.
 Some of the children in the shade of the patio

I've heard it said the largest needs for Haiti right now are free education for all children and employment. That is definitely the case, don't give up on the country, there is so much potential.
If you would like to help and want to see your donation make a difference consider giving to an organization where the money is wisely and carefully spent on the young people of Haiti.
If you are in the US, go to:  and in Canada, visit:
Visit this Youtube video to see the team I was part of (there are some flashes of me there) and the wonderfully sweet young people that touched my heart:
My small  part was mostly spent sewing for Hope Home, I came to love my hand cranked sewing machine!

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