First Presbyterian Atlanta Haiti Trip January 2012
Friday 1/13: Travel Day –Traveling from Atlanta were, Rose Emily Bermudez, Jean Russ, Vic Cavanaugh, Laura Calk, Dushawn Andrews, Selma Ridgeway, Becky Sigmund, Nancy Ike, Steve Feagin, and Norma Feagin. Claire Berry joined us in Miami, We arrived in PAP and were met by Pere Soner, Gretchen VanEss (Emory Masters in Public Health and Masters in Divinity Graduate Student), and Michael Ritter (Emory MPH and MDiv Graduate who now lives in Haiti running the Jolivert Safe Water Purification Organization). We traveled to Wahoo Bay for dinner and an overnight stay.
Saturday 1/14: Following breakfast, our thirteen member mission team traveled by speedboat to La Gonâve. Also traveling on the boat were Pere Soner, a Haitian woman, and two boat operators plus ALL of our bags. After settling into the guest quarters at Saint Francis, we reorganized and labeled our supplies for each project.
Our yearly Childspring party began at 3:30. Following a wonderful program in our honor featuring the children and their parents, we presented gifts to each of the Childspring children in attendance. The children and parents were served dinner by our team. Rose Emily’s many years of service as the Executive Director were recognized by the families and our group that included Childspring Board Members Vic Cavanaugh, Nancy Ike, and Becky Sigmund.
Sunday 1/15: We attended Church at Saint Francis in the morning and then traveled by truck to Saint Croix where we were warmly welcomed by our Partners in Nouvelle Cité for a meaningful Communion service.
Michael Ritter addressed the church community immediately following the service concerning the importance of safe drinking water, particularly with the recent cholera outbreak. Ten families had been identified by Pere Soner to become the first participants in our point of use in-home safe water pilot project. A group including one member from each chosen family gathered in a classroom where they each received a bucket, tap, and bottle of chlorine. Michael explained the system and trained the group in the use and care of the bucket system. Ample time was given for questions.
The church community joined with us for a wonderful meal in celebration of our Partnership. We distributed sun glasses to the adults and some of the children.
Dushawn studied the roof systems of the church and school validating his impressions from his past visit and photos. He then updated his plan for a water catchment system and provided Pere Soner with a revised list of needed materials.
Monday 1/16: We traveled to Nouvelle Cité in the morning where we began organizing the health stats project at Saint Croix. Screening was partially completed with the younger students.
Claire spent time with Jean Thoney and Pere Soner discussing the goat project. She provided a supply of medicine for the goats and made plans for other needed pharmacy supplies.
Rose Emily and Steve met with the Microfinance recipients, Pere Soner, and Museau Nixère, the program’s accountant. They addressed recent, previously unseen, payment issues and discussed the future of the program. The participants were challenged to help those in arrears to honor their loan obligations so the next round of loans can promptly start.
Dushawn and Vic began organizing the water catchment project and work commenced alongside a team of Haitians led by Sonny. He and Dushawn established their own means of communication minimizing the need for the constant presence of an interpreter. Gutters (traditional metal with soldered seams and cut PVC) were to be made and attachments for these were installed for the church and school.
We had the opportunity to observe the school lunch program which now operates three days a week. The cooks prepare the food outside and use the building for serving plates and storage as well as an eating area for students.
Tuesday 1/17: The Health Screening continued. Teachers brought classes in one at a time. Cards were either found from the previous year or new cards were made. We recorded the height and weight on the cards and when possible determined the progress of each student. While we again saw progressive growth in the students, a few showed minimal signs of malnutrition prompting discussion of “de-worming” given the prevalence of infestations in the pediatric population. This aspect will be investigated.
After each card was completed, the student moved to station # 2 where individual pictures were taken. These will be attached to the cards to help identify the child in the future. Following the picture, the child moved to station #3. Once the students in the class were all present, an interpreter showed the children the proper way to brush their teeth. After cleaning their teeth with their new toothbrush and toothpaste, a fluoride treatment was administered. The students returned to their classroom.
The water catchment project continued with guttering for the long roof sections of the sanctuary and those spanning the classrooms. The downspout systems were assigned to divide the captured water between the two cisterns at the facility.
Wednesday 1/18: Part of our team traveled to the market in Palma. There they visited a Microfinance recipient in her booth and later purchased buttons, thread, and needles from another vender. Upon our return to Nouvelle Cité, the students were invited to visit a sewing station where any needed uniform repairs were made. Our group enjoyed spending time with individual children while making needed repairs.
Eye screening for reader glasses was provided at Saint Croix with fitting for appropriate strength glasses. The clinic staff and teachers were screened along with adults from the community. Upon our return to St. Francis, women participating in an embroidery group were also given the opportunity for screening. They were very grateful for glasses to help with needle threading and close work.
At the request of Pere Soner, Gretchen met with Jean Thoney to explain an idea for a future agriculture project. This project uses old tires to hold good soil for the planting of small gardens in areas where nothing has been successfully grown in the past. Pere Soner was excited about the possibility and he plans to try this at the Rectory. We hope that it eventually can be used at the school to supplement the lunch program, possibly aiding our plan to eventually serve lunch five days a week. If this project proves successful, families in the area could be taught how to build their individual gardens.
Led by Ishzunel, the water project community leader/monitor, Gretchen, Rose Emily, and Steve visited homes of three families in the new safe water project. All systems had been properly set-up and were in use. Neither the women nor their children had complaints about the taste of the water. Questions were answered which primarily centered on the duration that the treated water would be safe for consumption.
Work on the water catchment project continued until dark and plans were established for completion by the Haitian members of the team. Hopefully, the cistern between the school and lunchroom and the one below the school will be filled when the rainy season begins. A pump provided by Covenant Presbyterian will tap the upper cistern for the lunch facility.
Thursday 1/19: We returned by ferry to Port au Prince early in the morning.
We checked into Le Plaza Hotel. Vic, Steve and Dushawn visited Herbie’s home to film an interview with his mother concerning Childspring’s impact on their lives. Movie footage was obtained documenting the destruction of their home resulting from the earthquake and the subsequently constructed smaller replacement structures.
Rose Emily coordinated a guided walking tour to see the collapsed former government Palace, Holy Trinity Church, the Episcopal Cathedral, Saint Vincent School for the Handicapped, and the surrounding areas that were intensely damaged.
We enjoyed a cool rain as we gathered together at the hotel restaurant for our final evening in Haiti.
Friday 1/20: We returned home, richly blessed by our visit, bringing with us special memories of the week we spent with each other as we joyfully shared God’s love with our friends on La Gonâve.
Note: Each evening following dinner, members of our team took turns leading devotionals with scripture readings and reflections on the spirituality and meaning of our mission in Haiti.
Rose Emily Bermudez and Norma Feagin