From Shallowford Presbyterian: Wayne Anderson, Tom Bougher, John Jernigan, Bridges Smith and Kay Stewart
From Trinity Presbyterian: Peter and Mackenzie Barratt, Senior Associate Pastor Craig Goodrich, Julie Hope and Kurt Swensson
A year ago, a group from Trinity, joined by Chris Henry and John Jernigan from Shallowford, set off on a joint exploration trip to Saint Francois. That trip began with a full day spent at the Atlanta Airport with one flight after another cancelled, a missed connection to Port-au-Prince, a late night flight to Miami where we spent the night at an airport hotel, and an unused reservation at Wahoo Bay.
What a difference a year makes! On November 9th, a group that was equal parts Trinity and Shallowford had smooth sailing all the way to Port-au-Prince. Tom Bougher and Bridges Smith from Shallowford spent the first night at the Le Plaza hotel in Port au Prince so they could pick up supplies the following morning for a small solar power system they planned to install at Saint Francois. The rest of the group traveled on to Wahoo Bay for the night.
The next day we all traveled together by ferry to begin what would be an amazing five days at Saint Francois and elsewhere on La Gonave.
Some particular highlights of the trip:
At Pere Vil’s invitation, Trinity Senior Associate Pastor Craig Goodrich preached the sermon during worship at Saint Francois Church. Craig was ably assisted by Noel who served as translator. Pere Vil also asked Craig to bless the children in the congregation during the time for communion. So, two lines formed as Pere Vil and Craig stood side-by-side, Pere Vil serving communion and Craig giving a blessing to the children from toddlers to teenagers, all dressed in their Sunday finest. The line grew as many adults in the congregation also came forward for a blessing. There was not a dry eye among our group.
Physicians Peter Barratt (Trinity) and John Jernigan (Shallowford), assisted by Peter’s daughter Mackenzie, saw patients at the Bill Rice Clinic on Friday. Peter also spent most of Monday at the Clinic seeing additional patients.
On Saturday, Peter performed a surgery at the Wesleyan Hospital (scheduled in advance in coordination with staff at the hospital). He also assisted with a second surgery and led a training session for hospital doctors, nurses and staff. This is a good sign of the growing relationship and collaboration between the Bill Rice Clinic, the LaGonave Haiti Partnership and the Wesleyan Hospital. Our entire group visited the Wesleyan compound for a tour of their new hospital and recently completed dormitory. These facilities will have a very positive impact on the medical services available to the community.
Bridges Smith and Tom Bougher from Shallowford successfully installed a new supplemental solar power system at Saint Francois. The new 300 watt system provides a dependable source of power to Pere Vil’s office (previously served only by the generator and city power). The hope is that this project can serve as a pilot for similar solar projects in other communities on LaGonave that are currently without electricity
Wayne Anderson and Kay Stewart (both career educators from Shallowford), and Julie Hope (Trinity) visited every classroom at the school, and in each class were treated to a welcome message or a song in either English or French. It was a joy to be in the midst of recreation time, watching the children run, play games, laugh, and sing songs. The One World Futbol soccer balls brought by the Shallowford group were a huge hit! We met teachers and administrators and spent time with Pere Vil discussing his hopes and vision for the school, in the near and longer term.
A group of us took height and weight measurements and administered fluoride treatments for all the students in pre-kindergarten through grade 6.
Those in our group who were visiting LaGonave for the first time had the opportunity to visit the Bill Rice Clinic, the goat project, Nan Mango, Trou Jacques, and Nouvelle Cite.
All the while, there was constant activity at Saint Francois as a team of workers completed repairs to the exterior wall around the school courtyard and installation of a beautiful new iron gate (both funded by Shallowford and Trinity) at the entrance to the school. The new wall and gate provide a fresh face for Saint Francois to the community. Several of us assisted in painting the wall and gate alongside members of the Saint Francois vestry and parish, in colors chosen by Pere Vil that mirror the new school uniforms at Saint Francois! The work also included the addition of several trees to the courtyard to provide shade and a more pleasant environment for the students in the years to come.
Finally — our visit was topped off on our last night with an unforgettable celebration including a feast enjoyed under a star-filled sky and bright moon with members of the vestry, school administrators, Boss Trelange and members of his construction team, and Noel and his son and daughter, with entertainment provided by the wonderfully talented school band. It was a gathering none of us will ever forget. We departed with hearts full to overflowing and are already making plans for the future and looking forward to our next visit and continuing partnership with the Saint Francois community.
Prepared by Julie Hope, Trinity Presbyterian Church and John Jernigan, Shallowford Presbyterian Church