Thursday, March 12, 2009

Haiti trip 2/13 - 2/20/09

The Promise

We saw Haiti and there was change. Did we change Haiti or did Haiti change us?

Every trip has three parts: The planning: Dreaming about the trip and how it will be to discover a new place, meet new people and have experiences you’ve never had before.
The trip: Actually travelling and being in an unfamiliar place.
The reminiscing: Recalling all the good, and sometimes not so good, times; and telling wonderful stories to anyone who will listen. You can plan and reminisce for as long as you want. It’s only the actual trip that is limited by time.

We spent considerable time planning the trip to Haiti, learning about the history and culture, reading books by Haitian authors, and sharing a Haitian dinner with our group of ten. Dick Shakeshaft (our leader), Pastor Bill Hathaway, Anna Johnson, Susan Wright, Larry Fransen, Steven Hult, Gerri & Skip Smith, John McGinnis and Rebecca Snure.

The trip itself is the most difficult to describe because I know it meant different things to different people.

Because of a five-hour delay in our travel time, we arrived at night. Like sunset in that part of the world, which suddenly takes you from daylight to dark, we were thrust into a different world when we stepped off the plane. Mimi, our Haitian contact, whisked us through the pressing crowd and into the van that would take us the two-hour drive to L’Acul, our week-long home-away-from-home. A trumpeter played a welcoming rendition of “Mocking Bird Hill,” and then lapsed into the “Star Spangled Banner,” as we headed out through the dark streets of Port au Prince. Our senses were immediately assaulted with a variety of sights, smells and sounds of a teeming city that looked like a war zone – flickering candles and kerosene lamps dotted the roadside where groups huddled in the otherwise darkness. It was a relief to leave the confines of the city and get to fresher air and the rural landscape of Haiti’s coast.

Our hosts, Rick and Kathy Land, greeted us with a welcoming dinner. The guest house at the CODEP compound was comfortable, with sufficient beds and bathrooms for our group. There was a common area with living room and dining room but we shared all of our meals on a spacious deck which looks out on the sea. L’Acul is located on the Channel du Sud, bordered by the Atlantic and Caribbean. Each evening, we shared a time of observations of the day, devotions, and announcements regarding the next day’s activities.

Our introduction to the community was a visit to the bustling local market to buy fresh produce for the week. Creole, similar to French, is the language of the country and we tried out some words (but mainly relied on smiles) as we made our way amongst the vendors. All were encouraging us to buy from them, but there was no sign of begging, and they were smiling and appreciative as we moved along. That afternoon was spent travelling up into the nearby mountains, with a stop at the Farm Store (a local co-op which Kathy & Rick started) and a bit of hiking to visit a 350-square-foot CODEP house (which is earned through a program similar to Habitat), with no plumbing or electricity, that housed a family of four, and no kitchen as the cooking is all done outdoors.

We walked to Sunday church for a beautiful service in Creole and French with the scripture in English, read by Pastor Bill; and were greeted warmly afterwards by members of the congregation. Sunday afternoon is one of Kathy’s three scheduled beach ministry classes with the children of the village and some of us helped with art classes, games and puzzles with the 10-15 children who eagerly attend. Visiting Gabriel and his family, a wonderful example of how hard-working people can live in Haiti, was particularly heart-warming. They were very appreciative of the table we presented, hand crafted by Terry Morton, from wood salvaged from a First Presbyterian renovation, which means a part of our church is now in Haiti. After Gabriel and Madame greeted us, the four older children introduced themselves and we were touched by the sharing of their dreams: The three daughters want to be: a nurse, a doctor, and a priest; and the son: an engineer. We had earlier been cautioned by Rick and Kathy not to make any promises to the people we would meet in Haiti because so many promises are broken when people return home. We made an exception in this case and promised to pray for Gabriel and his family and especially for the children to be able to realize their goals. They in turn promised to pray for us and we felt a strong bond with our new prayer partners.

The week was spent visiting CODEP project sites to see the start-up of various projects and how they’re working. We visited tilapia fish ponds, seedling nurseries (for eucalyptus trees, coffee plants and fruit trees), learned about the fertilization process, and drove through the mountainous areas to see strong evidence of the reforestation of hillsides. The schools we saw were at best cinderblock walls divided into classrooms and we were told, being privately funded, they were far better than Haiti’s public schools. In spite of the conditions, the children were smiling and well-behaved in their clean and neat uniforms. Kathy and Rick (through CODEP) have implemented a school lunch program and for many children it’s the only meal they have each day. We spent some time with a young American woman, April, who is living in-country, doing research and helping qualify families for the CODEP projects. We all got hands-on experience installing cistern systems on two homes and some opted for the 5 AM departure to hike into a more remote area to install a third system. In addition to the CODEP projects, we loved spending time with Kathy on her beach ministry program: the mother/baby nutrition program, visiting the sick and grieving members of the community, reaching out to others with special needs and concerns, and teaching and playing with the local children.

Rick gave us an in-depth understanding (by word and example) of the CODEP program, which covers 45 square miles of rural, mountainous Haiti. It’s been working smoothly, since it’s conception in 1989, due not only to a well-thought-out plan, and a lot of work by many people in and outside of Haiti, but from the assumed ownership of the 650 Haitian men and women (mainly farmers and market ladies) who participate in this wonderful program. The goal is to “help Haitians help themselves.” For a history and detailed explanation of how CODEP works, please visit their very informational web site at www.haitifundinc,com.

For our trip to Haiti, our goal was: Share God’s love, bring joy, show we care, and take their story home. We did and will do all these things, but all felt that the people of Haiti did more for us than we could ever do for them. We were truly blessed by our experience there, and the reminiscing will last a lifetime.

Submitted by Rebecca Snure


The countryside is very poor
The mountains they are high
The rain is nowhere to be seen
The land is hot and dry

I wonder how they do survive
There isn’t much they have
And so I watch them work and play
And none seem to be sad.

I ask our heavenly Father
To watch over them each day
And to give me faith and courage
To last throughout my stay

For when the day has ended
And the stars appear above
I thank God for all he’s given me
And the greatest gift is love

Nancy Mills

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Camp Run-a-mok 2008

We volunteered to be "nannies for a week" for grandsons Taylor and Zach. We enjoyed watching them play hockey and baseball and had fun in the backyard pool. We spent one day starting with a planning session, then sign making and advertising and finally opened our wonderful Lemonade Stand. We actually had customers and though we didn't make our fortunes, we had a good time. We also attended a play "Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's Magic" at the Minnesota Children's Theater.

After the storm - Lake Superior

The night of June 6th and morning of the 7th brought 5 inches of rain to the boundary waters area of Minnesota, where our cabin is located. The pictures show the flooding that resulted as water flowed down and flooded all the small nearby creeks. A large beaver dam broke loose in the creek next to the cabin and it looked like a small niagra falls gushing through the culvert and down to wear it meets Lake Superior. Many smaller roads were closed and there was flooding and lots of debri on Highway 61.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Cabin on Lake Superior

We arrived at the cabin on the 2nd of June and, though a bit cool, it's beautiful. Spring is a little late getting to the North Woods, but the leaves are budding out on the trees, the birds are back (even the hummingbird) and the "lawn" is bull of dandelion flowers. There are some lovely, unidentified, yellow flowers lining the banks of the creek which flows into Superior, and there's lots of driftwood lining the beach. Not many vacationeers have ventured this far north yet (schools in Minnesota are not yet out for the summer) so it's quite peaceful. Also, the mosquitoes havenpt arrived so that adds to the tranquility.

The Mason's visit

Bill and Marilyn Mason made the trip from Lake of the Woods, Virginia to help me celebrate my (big) birthday. It had been much too long since we had gotten together and a good time was had by all.

Later, we went to watch the Blue Angels perform for the Naval Academy graduation and commissioning.

Schooner on the Bay

On a beautiful, sunny May afternoon, we set sail on a 70-foot schooner for a two-hour tour of the Chesapeake Bay.

A Day at the Zoo

One of the perks of being a volunteer at the Annapolis Visitors Bureau, is going on Fam Tours (familiarization tours) to the nearby tourist attractions. Here are some photos of my day at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. We got to see a baby camel and the new baby elephant, along with all the other animals. It's a small but very nice zoo.