A view from a roof in Port au Prince

12.26.2009

Serve wholeheartedly as if serving the Lord, not men

The title explains my theme for the last few days. The Lord has given me this verse to motivate me through the hard work. There is so much to update on but there is also a lot of work to be done right now, so I don't want to take too much time! Right now we are busy unpacking boxes upon boxes from a shipment of donations. On Christmas eve we spent over 10 hours getting in a massive shipment from a port city. There were 13 huge crates with about 20 moving boxes in each crate. We packed it all into a moving van ( in the HEAT of the day), traveled back through the mountains to Leogane, and then began unloading all the boxes in the dark- trying to beat the rain.  The shipment included: stove, baby chairs, clothes, storage boxes, feed my starving children food, canned meat, fruit, vegetables, baby formula, bottles, diapers, a basketball hoop, hundreds of shoes, blankets, towels, coloring books, and on and on!!! The house is packed full of kids and boxes. The driveway in front of the house is full of boxes, the staircase is lined with boxes and the entire kitchen is packed high with boxes.

The big Christmas celebration will be on Dec 28, after Chris and Emily arrive, as well as Jasmine's husband Greg. Last night we had a small celebration which included choclate pudding, Christmas songs, and presents. The kids went absolutely CRAZY when jasmine told them she'd be coming back into the room with her arms full of presents. She called each kids up individually and handed them a present to bring to another child. After everyone had a gift in their arms they were all allowed to open them. They were so very excited!! Everyone was showing off their gifts to their friends and to me. Every kid got a stuffed animal, and a big plastic bag that included socks, a shirt, a coloring book, crayons, and a couple pieces of candy. I have it on video so I'll post it as soon as I get back to the states.

On monday and Tuesday I will go to the hospital with the students from the nursing school and on Wed and or Thursday, Rigan and I will start going a community assessment of high blood pressure and diabetes and then develop a follow-up plan for how to care for them.

Everything has gone so well. The Lord has protected me in all  I have done. It was a little strange having Christmas here. In the US, everyting is so quiet, but here the market is still bustling and it's like any other day. Some people have told me that they are too poor for Christmas to be a celebration, and I think that might be a little bit true.

Hope to update again soon!

12.14.2009

I'll be HOME for Christmas :)

Well, as the title explains... I'm heading back to Haiti for the Christmas season! After prayers, arguments/discussions with the madre, thinking lots, and finally gathering support from friends and family for this trip, it was clear to me that this trip was going to happen.

5 days!!! Or is it 4? I leave in 4 days, but I will not get in to Haiti until the morning, so 5 days. Just leaving is exciting enough for me; to know that I am "on my way" and making some progress to get there.

Thoughts are swarming through my head about what the trip will be like. It will be my first time flying there on my own!!! I keep envisioning myself with my huge suitcases swatting away the friendly Haitians who want to help me with me bags ( for a nice tip of course). Then I look into the sea of black faces, frantically searching for Rigan, and I spot him right away and he comes and helps me with my bags and we leave the airport. Let's hope it goes this way. I will most likely be the only white person at the airport that day. If I'm lucky, there will be a 60-something year old white guy with greying hair, who is clearly on one trip of many. That's the profile of the other white people I see. Oh yeah, and maybe an Amish person. I've seen a few of them at the airports over the trips.

So what's this trip about? What do I hope to accomplish? What will I actually DO while I'm there? I try to think through these questions so I can give really good answers to people when they ask me, but sometimes I just don't know how to answer. I really don't know how to explain the concept that NOTHING ever goes as planned in Haiti. "Plans" do not carry the same meaning as they do in the United States. And things are always crazy there, so it makes it close to impossible to plan! But here's what I've come up with
This is my attempt to describe what this trip is about..
Relationships. Building and growing in my relationships with the Haitians. Spending time with each of the kids at the orphanage. Learning the little quirks about each little rascal there. Getting to know the students at the nursing school better, as it is my ultimate goal to open a non-profit in partnership with them in the future.
Serving
the orphanage and the community with my nursing skills. The goal is to go door-to-door around the community, visiting the families and seeing those who need medical care. Then with some of the money I have raised and saved on my own, I can provide interventions for them- whether it's food, meds, or a pair of shoes to protect their feet. Also serving within the orphanage. A goal is to at least START the kids on getting tested for HIV and Tuberculosis while I'm there. Also, to set up a plan for their immunizations. We also started medical records for each of the kids. With the addition of a new baby, David, to the orphanage who is serverely malnourished and handicapped, I will need to update some of these records on a weekly basis. Another goal is to hire a Haitian nurse for the orphanage and to establish that nurse's role within the orphanage. We will use a former nursing student from FSIL nursing school.
Learning : Learning more about Haitian culture, taking Creole lessons, learning more about healthcare and how to care for the conditions commonly seen in Haiti. I hope to follow my friend Sheila or Shirley into the hospital to work with patients and give help there. Also to learn from Jasmine ( mother at the orphanage) about how to run something like an orphanage in Haiti. The behind- the -scenes work that I haven't yet understood. Learn about adoption policies in Haiti, the education system, and programs available for HIV/AIDS/Tuberculosis patients.

So that's what I've got so far! Check in for more updates throughout my trip. I'll be there from Dec 18-Jan 5, staying in Leogane, Haiti at the orphanage. I hope to find good internet and update this every 3 or 4 days.

Thanks to everyone who was a part of making this trip possible! :) I can't wait to be there.


10.02.2009

Back on Track

video

So I've been back in the United States for just over a month now. It's really crazy how fast that much time can pass... thank the Lord for that because each day away from Haiti can tend to drag on for me! I just started up my senior year of nursing classes and things are going really well. I'm taking a mental health and a community health nursing class. The community nursing class is perfect for learning about what I can do with nursing in Haiti! I wanted to give everyone an update on things that are happening in Haiti. Tim Bristol and a small crew from Freshwater Church just returned from a quick trip to the orphanage in Haiti. The kids are doing so well!! You should see Jethroson.. remember, the little boy with the burned hand? He is beautiful now. and SO HAPPY! ! His little cheeks even plumped up a bit ;) Also, all of the kids are now moved into the new orphanage location in Leogane, Haiti. It is beautiful and perfect for them.

Right now I'm praying about when I can go back to Haiti. My heart is dying to go back for Christmas with the kids... but I'm trying to be patient and listen to what God is telling me. I've been making trip after trip to Target stores around the twin cities, loading up on clearance summer clothes and shoes. I'm going to have such cute things for the kids!


8.17.2009

on cloud 9

The weekend was good. On Friday we had a clinic for the community at Jasmine's orphanage. In one day we saw over 100 patients. Gretchen and I worked mostly on taking vital signs for the patients. It was a lonnnnngg day and really hot but it was good for the community. A lot of the people in the community have bad feelings about the orphanage so it's good for Jasmine to open her gates and invite them in, give them health care and medication. While the people were waiting to be seen, there was a local pastor preaching for them.

Yesterday a nurse from Canada came to Jasmine's orphanage. We were able to sit down beside her and go through each of the children. It felt like she was our clinical instructor. She would explain her observations and challenged us to think critically. The nurse said that the new baby that came in might never walk. She said that she crawls the way a paralyzed child does. She also confirmed a Staph infection in a handful of the children. She examined the nutrition of the children and pointed out the yellowing of the hair and emphasized that the children need more protein in their diets. Tomorrow Gretchen and I will go with Rigan to the market and buy a very large supply of beans for Jasmine to have on hand at the orphanage.

The past three days in a row we have made it to the ocean. I can't believe that on the other trips to Haiti I spent so much time away from it. There are a few beaches within walking distance and some others within a short tap tap ride.

Rigan has done such a great job of taking us around Haiti, protecting us, and showing us how the Haitians live. I've learned how to do a Haitian shower. It is much more simple than the American way and ivolves a large bucket of cold water and small cup to splash the water on yourself. I actually really like it- especially when the water is very cold.

Tomorrow we will go to the other orphanage and do an all day clinic again. We have some supplies to give to the clinic. I can't believe it is almost over.... I think this was really good for me to be here. I'm fired up for the new school year... well as much as I can be. I am really motivated to learn because I want to be able to be a really good nurse here. There are so many things I wish I knew more about so that I could help more in the orphanage.


8.13.2009

Halfway through with our adventures

I finally found good internet!! There is a lot to update since last Sunday. On Sunday I was typing as we were racing through the mountains to try to make it to the beach and back before dark. I chose not to look out the window for most of the time in an effort to keep my sanity. Jacmel was beautiful, it is one of the nicest beaches in Haiti. It was filled with people playing soccer on the beach, eating food, swimming, and relaxing. I think that there was maybe one other white person on the entire beach. It took Gretchen and I a few minutes to muster up the guts to show our white selves in our swimsuits. When we came back home, we learned that Jasmine took a new baby into the orphanage. She is 2 years old and weighs 12 pounds- approximately the weight a baby should weigh at 5-6 months of age. Her face looks dry and tired, kind of like an old lady. She cannot walk or stand or say any words. Yesterday Gretchen was working with her range of motion and trying to help her stand. Her legs naturally flop to the sides of her body and he knees lock inward.

The last few days are starting to blur together. I can't exactly remember what we did on each day. I always have intentions to journal before I sleep, but I end up being to tired at the end of the day. On Monday morning we took Rodnear, a 5 year old from Jasmine's orphanage to the eye doctor. He is almost completely blind. The visit only cost us $7 US and the doctor solved the mystery of Rodnear's poor vision- bilateral catracts. If it is left untreated, he will be permanently blind. The surgery costs about $300, so we're praying that the orphanage can fit this into their budget so that he can get the surgery in early September. It was so much fun to bring him outside of the orphanage. Even though he cannot see very well, he was eager to stick his head out the window of the car. He was BEAMING; just so excited to venture out of the walls of the orphanage. Later that afternoon, we visited another orphanage. It was completely different than the one we are staying at. It is all girls, for the exception of two boys ( poor things...). We brought crayons, paper, goldfish and a volleyball. The kids loved it. I find it funny that a bag of goldfish has 8 US sized servings, but we managed to feed over 30 kids, with some goldfish to spare. This orphanage had a lot of teenage girls, which was really fun for me. We would draw pictures and then explain them to each other in Creole and French. I'm not going to lie.. I kind of like the language barrier. There is always something to talk about! I can just sit down with anyone and start a conversation by asking them about words in Creole or teaching them some more English.

On Tuesday night we spent the night at the dean of the nursing school's house. It was quite an honor as she mentioned that no one ever stays there. We watched Diary of a Mad Black Woman. I think watching Hilda watch the movie was almost more amusing than the movie. She was a riot. Hilda also taught us a ton of things about Haitian culture. I'm learning that trust is something that is hard to establish in friendships and that often times people will pull away when they start to get too close to someone. I can see in the friendships at the school that these students need to break away from this and let people in because a lot of them are carrying burdens that are too much to hold inside.

Yesterday, Hilda took us to Port au Prince (the capital) for a meeting she had with the Bishop. It was great to see more of the city. It reminds me a lot of San Jose, Costa Rica. I was able to see how the middle class live in Haiti. It was exciting to see the businesses and to see that there is a part of Haiti that is doing pretty well. However, I don't think that I would ever want to live in the middle class area. I really love the city of Leogane, even if I still have no sense of direction.

Last night we went to Rigan's house for a homecooked Haitian meal. Gretchen and I are loving the Haitian food.It was really cool to see where he comes from- his family, his room, places where he studies, etc.

That's all for today... more later

Lisa

8.09.2009

Finding joy in unusual places

We're on day 5. The internet is not dependable so this will be short. I hope to post more soon. Right now we are in the car with Sheila and Rigan. Sheila's brother is driving us to Jacmel. These Haitians are such great hosts. This morning we left early and drove to Fort Jack, a fortress in Port au Prince. This is the first day I have felt a breeze anywhere- it was wonderful. we walked around with a tour guide and then sat on the side of the fortress and had a picnic together. The fortress was in the moutnains so we had a beautiful view.

So far we have spent most of our days working at the orphanage. The first day was really overwhelming. There are 30 kids and they all really need some attention. I am now "mama Lisa" to all the kids. Most of the kids are in the 4-8 years range, but the youngest is 3 months and the oldest is 16 years. The place is pretty sweet. Jasmine keeps it IMMACULATE. I have never seen a house with any children look as clean as this does. She has a tight reign on the behavior as well so meals, prayer, and getting ready for bed are all controlled events.
I have gotten a ton of nursing experience in the orphanage. It feels like I am a school nurse. The orphanage really needs to have a nurse there working full time. I would say that 75% of the kids have a skin condition that needs treatment, half of the babies need a nebulizer, and a handful are still suffering from malnutrition. Each night I average 3-5 hours of sleep... there are kids and babies crying off and on the entire night, no fans, and a shared bed with Gretchen. Despite these conditions, I'm loving every moment I have here. I love the kids so much. Ah, I wish I could take some of these kids back with me. They really need the attention of a mom and dad. Jasmine does a really good job of finding hard working nannies to help with the kids, but there are still children without shoes, underweight, and attention starved. I'm slowly getting to know each kid as an individual and being able to look past their medical conditions and appearance.

Gretchen and I visited the FSIL nursing school on Friday to spend some time with the dean. We helped grade some exams and then to our suprise, many of the students came to the school to see the results. We were able to spend the entire afternoon with our friends. They are so great. We went out to eat at that victoria plaza with Evens and Rigan for dinner.

well the road is quite bumpy. more later

8.04.2009

Hey everyone this is Gretchen. I am over at Lisa's house right now and we are leaving today for the airport. I cannot tell you how excited I am to go back to Haiti. It has been over year since I have been there, but have not forgotten about the need Haiti has. I am excited to see the work God will do when we are there and what passions he will put in my heart.

Things you can pray about...
*That our travels will go as smooth as possible
*That our luggage will make it there
*The flights will be on time and we will not miss a connection (especially with Spirit)
*The transportation will be safe from the airport to Leogane
*That God will be with us and guide us in all the decisions we make
*Protection from infections and illnesses that the children might have
*Safe and clean place to stay
*Peace for our mom's

Thanks for your prayers and support. We will keep you updated on our adventures!

Gretchen

8.01.2009

Starting to panic just a little





So with each big event that plan, I realize more and more that I am not gifted with planning. 3 days until departure and it seems like so many plans are up in the air. Right now I'm so frustrated with communication to my friends and contacts in Haiti. Anytime I use SKYPE to call, I burn through my money because so much time is lost with two of us trying to talk at the same time, not understanding what the other person is trying to say, dogs barking in the background (haiti) and planes hovering over my house all calls for a reicipe for disaster when trying to communicate with someone who speaks English as a second language. And then there's the internet. First of all, I'm one of the freaks who still doesn't have internet at their house so I'm always mooching off the neighbors or my brother or racing to the library to check my email. And then in Haiti their "internet cafes" (which I'm just dying to see what these look like..) are all far away and internet and electricity isn't always dependable. So needless to say, it takes a ton of persistance to get things figured out.

I'm still doing not very smart last minute errands, such as my shots that I need, finding a large enough suitcase for all of the supplies I need to bring down, figuring out the rules of customs for entering Haiti with all our meds, and well I guess that sums up some of the craziness.

Last night I was full of anxiety about the trip. I was up until 3am worrying myself silly. I tried praying for God to take it away from me, but each time I started
praying about the things that worry me, my mind would think of more things to worry about and I'd be completely distracted from my prayer...



On a brighter note, today I went to an event at my mom's church (urban refuge) and it was packing food for Haiti. It made me so excited to see all of these meals that were going to make it to the schools in Haiti. A man spoke who opened up 17 schools throughout Haiti. I had a chance to meet with him and talk about my trip. He showed me the website for his organization and gave me some contact information for a midwife and a surgeon who might be able to help connect me with more ways to volunteer in Haiti. This was a mood lifter. He also showed me some of his pictures of the kids at his schools. Did I mention yet that I love black people? AH! the kids were sooo beautiful. It was good to feel excited about the trip again. The planning parts stinks a little, but it will all be worth it once I get there. I remember my first day in Haiti when I went in July. My friend Shirley looked at me and said, "Lisa, you are so happy to be in Haiti" There is no hiding my emotions. I love this country. So although communication from USA to Haiti can make me want to rip my hair out, and even though plans change last minute, I will still make it to Haiti and I will serve God and the people of Haiti. And I'm going to LOVE it.

7.29.2009

countdown begins.. 6 days until departure!!

O.K, so in case you haven't heard yet.. I'm packin' my bags and heading to Haiti on August4th. I'm going with Gretchen, a friend from the nursing program at school. You might be asking.. "How can you afford to go back?" or "weren't you just there?" The answers are, I can't and yes, respectively.

Lately, I've been dreading going back to school for my final year. This summer has been good, I've been so blessed with nanny jobs and my healthcare jobs, but I've been so far away from friends and my sense of adventure just hasn't been fulfilled yet.

I went to Haiti in July. I was there for 6 days, and I loved every minute of it. I started picking up some more Creole, much to my delight. I can now spit out a few sentences.. ya know the basics such as "I'm hungry" "where is..." "I slept well" and well that's about it, but I swear I have potential. My friend Rigan, brought a few of us to visit an orphanage he wanted us to see. It was so cool. A big house full of little kids, anywhere from a couple months to 12 years. It was clean, homey, had toys, books, and Haitian nannies to help take care of the kids. I told Jasmine, the American who runs it, "This is what I want to do" It just kind of slipped out of my mouth. Did I just declare what i want to do with my life? Who knows, but that place was really cool. I want to help out somehow in the orphanages... whether it's playing the "mom" role, or bringing the clinic to the children.

Anyways, I've been praying for direction from God, because I know that nothing works out right when I try to do things without Him. I wanted to make sure that it was ok with the Big Guy before I made all of my plans. We sent out a couple of letters asking people for support, and we were blessed beyond belief by a donor who is sponsoring our entire trip. Since I heard this news, God has continued to open more doors, by connecting us with a clinic, a place to stay, and transportation around Haiti. He's also slowly warming up Mommapants (affectionate nickname for my mom) to the idea of Haiti. This is probably the biggest answer to prayer!

This time I'm going back and I'll be staying at a different orphanage/clinic. They are in "desperate need of nurses" from the words of Pastor Kelly who looks over the all girls orphanage and clinic. The organization is a nonprofit run from Florida. The website is http://www.fleuryfoundation.org/home.php.

Plans for this trip:

* Help at the clinic during the week- we're bringing down meds and supplies to help them out
* Bring down toys for the girls, play with them
* get to know my Haitian friends better, have more talks with them about life in Haiti, God, goals for the future. Rigan and Shirley are helping us with all of our plans, so we'll be spending almost every day with them
* Learn MORE creole!!
* See the mountains
* Visit the beach
* Possible trip to Cap Haitian to work at the hospital and to see some places of historical significance
* Learn how a non-profit operates. Talk to the people who work there and ask about how they started thier foundations

Sounds like I'll have internet access at the clinic- but what does that really mean in Haiti? We'll see I guess. I'm an amatuer at blogging so hopefully I'll pick up some wit by the middle or end of my trips and then these things will be interesting.