A view from a roof in Port au Prince


Week one in Haiti

I have arrived in Haiti! The new chapter of my life has begun and it's a book that I never want to stop turning the pages of. I wasn't sure how I would feel coming to Haiti without a return date. Would I be anxious or feel trapped? Would I be able to handle life in Haiti knowing that it wasn't going to change anytime soon?

  The moments leading up to this trip and even my journey here has been peaceful beyond what I can comprehend. My flights from Minnesota to Haiti kept me in great company. A gentleman I sat next to on the plane from Minneapolis to Florida offered to pay for me to go to the Admiral's Club during my 3 hour layover in Miami. It was a nice and unexpected gift.

 I am one of those annoying travelers.. I absolutley love talking to the people I sit with. I did not sleep, I only talked... for 3 hours to MIA and then another 2 hours to Haiti. I love hearing stories, destinations, how each person ended up in the seat next to me and where they are headed now.

When I arrived in Haiti it was dark. I paid a Haitian at the airport to help me with my bags. I had 3 huge suitcases weighing 70 lbs a piece. Usually I am strong-willed and independent and will not let anyone touch my bags, because that means I have to pay them( yes I'm cheap). This time I decided I would love some help and would tip generously. I can't say my Haitian helper was the greatest at locating my bags. I ended up hauling each of them to my cart, but he helped me the rest of the way out of the airport. Shirley was waiting for me right outside the airport. She had flirted her way into an area that only the travelers can enter, so she met me a lot sooner than I expected!

 We went home to Shirley's place in PAP. There were signs welcoming me into the country and a huge cake that she had bought to celebrate my arrival. It was a wonderful welcomming!

 I have been in Haiti just shy of a week now. Day 1- arrived home late and slept. Day 2- Sunday. Church, cleaning and decorated Shirley's house for Christmas. Day 3- Drove to Leogane at 5am. Spent the entire day at the orphanage while Shirley was at work. Day 4- Pediatric health fair at FSIL nursing school in Leogane. Day 5- running around like a madwoman through the Haitian markets because apparently I need to wear a red or green dress for the party they are having at the school on day 6(today!)

Ok, so that is the general summary. Now some more details. My greatest struggle so far was the pediatric  health fair. It was set up at the nursing school. Over 300 children from the community came for health care, a bath, a new hairdo, and a present for Christmas. I asked Shirley how I could help and she said I could do whatever I wanted to. I wanted to give the babies and kids their baths. I mean, I don't speak the language too much, and I love bathtime, so it seemed like a perfect fit for me. Just as I was about to start with the baths, Shirley came after me and said that the dean of the nursing school needed me to see the pediatric patients instead. Oh sheesh, I better put on my thinking cap! With the first patient I had a minor freak-out moment. There was no doctor. None of them showed up. So it was a bunch of student nurses and a few that had graduated. Here I was, with a sophomore nursing student who spoke minimal English as my translator, my colleague; the nurse who I would bounce ideas off of. I almost walked away. I felt so inadequate and un-equipped. How on earth was I supposed to evaluate and prescribe for the kids? I couldn't walk away. Maybe I was too afraid of what the Haitians would think if I, one of the only nurses, walked away and said I couldn't help. So I took a deep breath and did my best. I saw ear infections, colds, coughs, scabies, upset stomachs, gave malaria tests, treated UTIs... and the list went on. Luckily, I had a drug guide, another american nurse and a few Haitian nurses closeby to bounce ideas off of. By the middle of the day, I felt much more comfortable. I realized that most of the things I was seeing, I really did know how to help, and the things I didn't know how to help, I could tell them where to go for help. I saw patients all day. I realized at about 4pm that I hadn't eaten all day and had barely drank anything. I was exhuasted. At night I went to a restaurant with another American, Rhyan. She lives here and runs an organization called Espwa Berlancia. She has a heart for children who are HIV +. We ate dinner together and shared our Haiti stories and our passions.  She is 26 and from Minnesota. She rents a place here for her organization. She has 2 Haitian babies she is in the process of adopting. They came out to dinner with us. Gup is 2 years old and Annabelle is 5 weeks old. We ate a BIG meal. It was so good and the restaraunt was adorable! The floor was a nice, soft sand, and it was very cabana- like inside. Cute lights, all wood, and a Haitian staff. We had soup, pasta with Shrimp, and even a little fruit dessert! That night I took baby duty so that Rhyan could finally get a full night of sleep. I woke up a few times during the night with Annabelle to feed her, change her and rock her back to sleep. It was a sweet night for me :)

Okay, I have to explain my Haitian shopping experience. I must give my story some justice! The dean of the nursing school invited me to their Christmas party.. but I needed to wear a red or green dress. So... off to the market I went with some friends. First we went into actual stores. They had dresses that looked like 90's style bridesmaid dresses. The other options were slinky and had open backs or were short and tight. Neither were the look I was going for. I would try on dressesin the back of the store, and wander into the next-door beauty salon to look into the mirror. I was so embarassed! I didn't like any of my options and I felt so picky and stuck-up, but really, I was just self conscious and wanted to wear a dress that I felt confident in. The next stop was the "mache" the Haitian market. It is like a giant garage sale with used clothes from the USA. I found a really pretty dress and started trying it on (in the middle of the market!). The lady selling it was trying to shove me in. It was clearly too small. I couldn't even get it over my shoulders. But she was determined and pulling my arms and pushing my head through. It was traumatic for me! I was begging her to stop but she would not listen.She really wanted to make the sale.  Talk about clausterphobia!! Ah. A nightmare. My Haitian friends stepped in and told her she needed to stop and that I did not want the dress. A few little shacks later, I found a dress that would fit. It is one shoulder, long, and has some sparkles near the top. I'm still a little uncomfortable in it beacuse it is something I would never choose in the USA. BUT.. while in Haiti, do like the Haitians do. I'll post pictures after tonight. I have a great farmers burn to go with the red dress. I forgot to wear sunscreen yesterday and I'm burnt to a crisp on my chest, shoulders and back. Still have a pale face. Go figure.

 Am I talking too much? Just one more thing.. I LOVE the orphanage! I mean, I always knew that, but I'm realizing that it is the highlight of each of my days. My favorite room is a little wood cabin that houses the toddlers. It walk up to the door and the kids run to me, stick their arms out to me and call out "mama!" How do I choose which cute little stinker to pick up? They are all so adorable! And generally speaking, really content babies. They have "graduated" from the baby room, although many of them cannot walk yet and are just under a year old. This is the cute part, because they are treated a little bit like big kids. They go on scheduled walks during the way and toddle around on the wood walkways, stumbling and wandering in other directions along the way. Baby Ben is no longer so tiny. He stayed in my tent the summer of 2010. He was really sick with high fevers and was very small for his age. He would sleep with me and I'd take care of him in the middle of the nights. Often times I would have to give him baths in the middle of the night to cool him down. Now he is over a year old and can walk. He has a special place in my heart. He doesn't know why I love him so much, but that is okay!

Haiti is such a blessing to me. I had been anxious and obsessed with time for the past couple of years. I was depressed and angry at times. I could never put my finger on when it was I started having such anxiety. I knew it started sometime in college but I didn't know why. I could look back on my life prior to college and remember never really dealing with these issues. Well, it's gone. Maybe I'm in a honeymoon place, but this is exactly where I want to be. Every morning I wake up and say, "Thank you Jesus for bringing me here." I come home at the end of the day with my feet black with dirt, twigs stuck in my hair and I take a shower with a bucket of water that I pulled up from the well. I use the toilet and have to dump water into the toliet to flush it.  Last night I fell asleep with one baby mouse running around under my bed, and many others who were stuck to the glue trap and squealing their way to death. I guess I was programmed for Haiti. I love the simplicity of life here. I'm learning the language more. The dean, Hilda, says I am a white Haitian. :)


It mattered to this starfish

Ever heard the parable of the starfish? I'm sure most are familiar of this, but as a friendly reminder, here it goes.

One day an old man was walking along the beach. It was low tide and the sand was littered with thousands of stranded starfish. The man started to walk very carefully so as not to step on any of the beautiful creatures. Since the animals still seemed to be alive, he considered picking some of them up and putting them back in the water. The man knew the starfish would die if left on the beach’s dry sand but he reasoned that he could not possibly help them all, so he chose to do nothing and continued walking.
Soon afterward, he came upon a small child on the beach who was frantically throwing one starfish after another into the sea. The old man stopped and asked the child “what are you doing?”
The child replied “I am saving starfish.”
“Why waste your time? There are so many you can’t save them all so what does it matter” argued the old man.
Without hesitation, the child picked up another starfish and tossed the starfish back into the water. “It matters to this one…” the child explained.

Who is the starfish in your life? What challenge are you working on that you know is important, but at times you feel like laying down in the midst of all the starfish, in a surrender to the endless work? As I think of the story of the starfish, I think of one of the most beautiful example of the little starfish I helped toss back into the water... I helped save his life. His name is Jethroson. I met Jethro over two years ago. I was in Haiti with Gretchen. It was our first trip to Haiti without a group. I was 21 years old and Gretchen was 23. We were staying with Jasmine at Operation Love the Children of Haiti orphanage in Leogane. We had both recently read the book, Angels of a Lower Flight by Susan Scott Krabacher. In it she risks her life to experience the worst slum in Haiti, Cite Soleil . Although her stories terrified me, they also motivated me. How could I know Haiti without knowing Cite Soleil? Why should I be spared the horror of what thousands see as their every day life? Gretchen and I both really wanted to see Cite Soleil, but we had a problem- there was not one Haitian that was willing to risk the danger to visit this slum. That gave us an even better idea of what a horrible place we were trying to visit. Yet, it didn't deter us. Jasmine agreed to bring us, under the term that we go with the chief of police in an escorted vehicle. Fine. As long as we could go. As long as we could uncover our eyes and see the worst parts of Haiti.

Cite Soleil is a horrible place. It is hopeless. It is trash upon trash, and then children walking barefoot all over it. It is some type of feces sliding in between my bare heal and flip flops as I walked. It is filthy pigs, naked children, gangs, trash floating in the ocean next to kids taking their "bath", children and no parents, it is abuse, infection, homelessness, despair. That is cite soleil. Cite Soleil is walking down narrow rows of huts, fearful that someone may pull me in and I'll never make it out. It is adults pushing and hitting kids over a piece of candy that we were handing out. It is Jethroson with his burned hand, standing naked and alone, tear drops staining his cheeks.

Jethroson is the starfish I choose to remember today. He is a story of hope. He matters. His life matters. His baby hand matters. We found Jethroson standing in a crowd of people. My eyes were drawn to him immediately. He stood out, even in a crowd. He was very sad, and was holding out his limp, blackened hand. We trudged through the crowd to find out why this boy was naked, alone and crying. His hand was swollen and black- crusted and obviously infected. He looked scared and angry, on top of his sadness. We asked where his mother was. No one knew the answer. There was no one responsible for him. He was only 3 years old. We asked what happened to his hand. The neighbors told us that he was abused. He was misbehaving and his mother burned him. To try cover it up, or perhaps protect the wound, she poured tar over his hand. I don't fully understand the reasoning. I can add it to the list of things I don't understand in Haiti. We told his neighbors that we needed to take him to the orphange and take care of his hand. We promised to bring Jethroson back when his hand was better. No one objected. And so we traveled back to Leogane in the truck, but this time with a naked boy sprawled across me and Gretchen. He was tired and slept most of the 2 hours back to Leogane.On the way back, we stopped at a pharmacy and bought needles, a syringe, and an intramusular antibiotic. We also stopped for ice cream and Jethroson tried this sweet treat for the first time in his life. Still no smiles, but he ate every last bit.

When we arrived back to the orphanage, we bathed Jethro and put him in clean clothes. We soaked his hand and began removing some of the tar. He screamed and cried. Some of his hand had lost feeling, but there was still plenty where he has sensation. We gave him his shot of antibiotic. He was scared of us. He couldn't understand why we were causing him pain. We had to stop. Tylenol wasn't enough to cover the pain he was experiencing. And truth be told, we didn't feel qualified to be taking care of this wound. We covered it in antiobiotic ointment and bandaged it up. Jethroson calmed down and we gave him a big, hot meal for dinner. He ate and ate, and then was ready to sleep. Gretchen and I pulled a mini mattress into our room so that we could closely monitor him. I asked him if he was scared and he said yes. I asked him if he missed his mom and he said yes. I asked him if he wanted to go home, and he said no. A three year pulled away from all he has ever known, and taken by strangers and he didn't want to go home. He knew the life he had that one night- even if it included the painful wound care- was better than anything he had experienced in his short life. We said goodnight and turned off the lights. In his squeaky little voice he babbled something. He sounded very alarmed. Turned out this little 3 year old was telling us " turn on the F-ing lights." Except he was actually swearing at us. It alarmed us, and was actually pretty funny, but how terrible that a 3 year old could even know those words. It shows what environment he had grown up in.

Jethro eventually warmed up. He didn't want to go home. He explained that he wasn't listening to his mom and that is why she burned him. He also had whip marks on his legs and backs. He couldn't go home. It wasn't safe for him. We involved the Haitian police and the orphanage got custody over him. Jethroson had a hard adjustment to the orphanage. He stole and fought and was disobedient. He would take toys and hide them in his bed. He had never had toys and was afraid he would never have them again. He wanted to keep them safe. Can you blame him? His behavior was so unruly, Jasmine was not sure if he would be able to stay at the orphanage. But in due time, Jethro turned around.

Now, Jethro is one of the cutest boys I have ever seen. He is shy and sweet. When I give him a big smile or say his name, he sheepishly smiles and brings his head close to his shoulder. He is strong and healthy and is growing at an unbelievable rate. He plays well with the other boys and he is fun to be around. He still has his squeaky high-pitched voice :) Jethro is my starfish.


And so I walked.. until my path met HIS path for me in Haiti

On Wednesday night I sat in Bible study at my beloved Bethel's Rock in Minneapolis (check it out at http://www.bethelsrock.org/). Pastor James was talking about having faith in God for Him to do miracles in your own life. God has a very specific plan and purpose for each of his children. Exciting, right? I mean how many people are walking around trying to crack the code about what their purpose in this life might be. Hm, we don't even need to have anxiety about it... actually it's quite peaceful to have the responsibility of my purpose in life resting on the Lord rather on myself.

The last few years of my life have been big ones, life-changing ones, future-determining ones. As a freshman student with no major.. money-making as the goal for whatever career, and a student at the U of MN, I never would've seen myself where I am in life now, just a few years later. I actually would've probably been revolted at the idea of it all..volunteering being my passion, living with my mom my first year outta college, and finding myself still in this frigid state of Minnesota. I guess it doesn't sound that great in words, even writing it now. Good thing is- it's just my piece of pie.

Since my first trip to Haiti in March 2008, with my nursing school Crown College, I was hooked. I was determined, called, appointed... to a life in Haiti. I prayed, waited, waited,visited Haiti, waited, cried, visited Haiti, waited, dreamed, waited and waited for an opportunity to go there full-time. My constant prayer to God was, "I promise if you give me the opportunity, I will go. But I don't see an opportunity yet, so help me to live my life here to the fullest until you send me to Haiti." This wasn't always easy. It was really hard for me to focus on my life here in Minneapolis when I felt such a strong need to be in Haiti. It felt a little like I was putting my life on hold. Slowly, I surrendered. I realized I had to appreciate my blessings... because I was really blessed with family, friends, and a great job. I had a 92 year-old grandpa, my neighbor kids, friends from high school, my new church .. and it wasn't fair to be giving only half of me. I had to surrender my obsession with planning. None of my plans for the future ever turned out close to the way I had planned it. I wasted hours of worrying and scribbling down plans. I fed into my need for control and created in myself, a very anxious person. Yet there was nothing to be anxious about.. my life was stable, and I had everything I needed. It's much easier to see in hindsight. Isn't that how it always works? How horrible would it be to spend every single day of my life worrying and planning and therefore never taking the time to just live and enjoy? Scary thought.

As I surrendered fears and anxieties to the Lord, I found purpose in my life in Minnesota. I became so much happier. I stopped planning, but continued praying for Haiti. Just when I was convinced that I would probably spend years here paying off my loans before I could go to Haiti, a door swung open for me. And so I walked through it. I was apprehensive at first, because every other "open door" I had seen in Haiti had turned out to be a broken door, a closed door, a door that was being slowly built, a door that was too small for me to fit through. Finally, I found a door that opened when I wasn't even looking for one. I walked on in life in Minnesota... until the Lord showed me a new path, one for Haiti. I was wanted, in fact, needed for a position in Haiti. It utilized all of my past experiences in Haiti, including nursing, teaching English to Haitain nurses, and orienting visitors to Haiti.

On December 13, 2011 I will be moving to Haiti for one year. I will spend the first few weeks in Leogane at Operation Love the Children of Haiti and at FSIL nursing school. I will spend Christmas with my Haitian family :) On January 1, 2012 I will drive with my friend Shirley to Milot Haiti, about 8 hours North of the capital city of Port au Prince. I will be dropped off and will greet with open arms, this new opportunity for me. I will be at Hopital Sacre Coeur volunteering as the assistant to the nurse leader in the ICU and will also take on a side-role of coordinating visitors to the hospital. My ticket is bought... I gave my notice at work.. and I have started packing my many bags!
The picture above is Hopital Sacre Coeur.

I have never been this far North in the country and I have never been to this hospital. Despite this, I feel a deep peace that this is the best fit for me. I have heard great things about the hospital. My friend Evens who works in administration at FSIL nursing school in Leogane said, "Ask any student what their favorite hospital in Haiti is and they will tell you Hopital Sacre Coeur." I have been extremely impressed by the administration of the hospital and how they have worked with me and prepared me for the position by thoroughly answering my thousands of questions and concerns. Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) will be my sending organization.

I will raise $5000 through them and this will cover my ticket, health insurance, malpractice insurance, and a small monthly living stipend. On top of this, I need to raise an additional $9,500 to cover loan payments, supplies I will need to buy in the US for my year in Haiti ( camping supplies, etc), cell phone costs, one ticket to visit home, and transportation costs while I am in Haiti.

This is my request. Will you help me? You read my blog, right? I don't know if it's my stories, my writing, my information about Haiti, my transparency... or what it is.. but there is something that grabs your attention and keeps you reading. I write for free, I always raise my own funds or pay for my trips to Haiti on my own, and I do this with joy and passion. But this time is different. This decision to go for a year means I'm giving up my job as an RN in the worst economy our country has seen in a long time. It means I'm going to work for free, it means I'm not going to have "days off" "weekends" or "vacations" the same way I could have them in the USA. It means that I'm going to leave my 92 year-old grandpa in what might be some of his last days. It means that I'm going to miss seeing one of my best friends have her first baby. It means that I'm going to miss weddings, holidays, and other important events with friends and families. It means that I'm going to come back to the USA, with no extra money in my pocket.. and unemployed. I just want to put it into perspective a little bit and to ask you, yes YOU, to help me, to support me in this year. Give a dollar, give 5, give 100, or give more. No gift is too small, no excuse for not helping is a good one. With that, I love you. I love you for caring, for reading, for knowing Haiti.

Donations can be sent to: Bethel's Rock 10 West 57th St. Minneapolis, MN 55419 On the memo of the check, write "Haiti mission trip" You can also email me to ask for ways you can help. Richardslm07@gmail.com Thanks! I will be updating frequently on the status of the trip and my fundraising.

Proverbs 20:24 " A man's steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?"


a reflection on the quake of 2010

In the past week I've been doing some intense reading. It's about time, right? I think it's the first time I've picked up a book since graduating and fully understanding my new freedom to not read. Most of the time I find if difficult to really get interested in a book. I tend to give up on it before I ever get attached to it. I'm not much for fiction and prefer, instead, biographies or real stories. My past favorite books have been about the Holocaust, Haiti, or civil injustice.

Most recently, my heart was aching for Haiti, so I ventured to Barnes and Noble to look for a book to motivate me. I was hoping to get my hands on something about Haiti. I had a stack of books in hand, only to realize that I didn't have even a penny with me- I had left my wallet at home. I put down the books and hopped on the internet. Luckily Ebay knows all my billing info :) I ordered the books online, all but one. The Third Wave, by Allison Thompson, was just published in July and was not yet on ebay. This was the book I was most interested in reading, it is about a woman who volunteered in DC after 9/11 attacks, in Sri Lanka after the tsunami in 2004, and then In Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. The book is an account of her experiences. I craved to read it, and I didn't want to wait days. I went home and got my wallet and returned to a different Barnes and Noble to buy the book. I searched in a frenzy, scared it was sold out. The book was in a different section at this store and after asking for help, I found it under "new biographies." I started reading it that day. I carried it to work with me during the week and took my lunch breaks alone so that I could read uninterrupted. It was so powerful to read about 9/11. I was only 13 years old during this tragedy, so to hear about it now as an adult and a nurse, it broke my heart. My eyes welled up with tears as Allison recounted on trying to pull out bodies from underneath the buildings, and running for her own life when the attacks continued. Her experiences in Sri Lanka taught me a lot about emergency response. I was inspired by all that she accomplished with just a few friends. Even when relief efforts pulled away, she stayed for years, making jobs for the people, rebuilding schools, and advancing emergency preparedness for the city she was stationed in. The last section of the book talked about the earthquake in Haiti. This is the part I was most interested in. My body began to tremble as I relived the terror of hearing the news of the earthquake that tore about the homes of many people I love. I fought back tears and at times had to set my book down and just cry out to God. During the days after the earthquake life was a blur. There was so much that needed to be done, that there was no time to reflect on what was happening around us. In reading about the story, it was like being back in Haiti and seeing it all in slow motion. Allision saw and heard the same things in Port au Prince as I saw and heard in Leogane. The long days, the shortage of supplies, the lack of pain medicine, and patients dying for lack of simple medicines such as insulin. She also reminded me of going to sleep hearing the songs of angels throughout the tent cities. As night would fall, the voices of the Haitians would join in sweet songs of worship to their King. Songs of hope, songs of faith. Something else that struck my powerfully was that people from nations from around the world abandoned what they were doing in their own lives and came to Haiti as fast as they could to do whatever it was to help. There were people from Japan, the US, Germany, Sweeden, and other countries. All different languages, different technologies and strengths, different areas of medical expertise, and coming from very different walks of life. All joining together and giving attention to the sweet island of Haiti that for so many years had been left to suffer on it's own. The problems didn't start with the earthquake. There were many political, social and environmental problems before Dec 2010. The problem is that there wasn't much global attention on Haiti. For a few weeks after the quake, suddenly Haiti mattered. She was on the news, and everyone wanted to help however they could. Even celebrities from the US visited Haiti to do their part.

I finished the Third Wave, and just in the nick of time, my next book arrived in the mail: Haiti after the Earthquake, by Paul Farmer. This book is much different. Paul Farmer is a physician that has been going to Haiti for years and years and first started by providing Tuberculosis and AIDS treatments to a population that was quickly dying from lack of treatment. He co-founded the foundation Partners in Health and has since created a hospital and many schools throughout Haiti. His story walks me through the years leading up the earthquake and also describes the hurricanes that hit Haiti just a few years before the earthquake. It was disheartening to read about all of the work that had been done to try and get Haiti back on her feet after the hurricanes, just to see an even greater tragedy hit and cause Haiti to take steps backwards from any progress that had been made during the years leading up to the earthquake. His story is different because he was involved in Haiti before the earthquake. So when he says in his book that "everyone who knows someone in Haiti can tell you exactly what they were doing when they heard the news of the earthquake," I can relate. My mind brought me back to that tragic day. I remember babysitting at the neighbor's house and getting a call from their grandpa telling me that an earthquake hit haiti and I should turn on the news. It must have been less than an hour after the quake hit that I got the news. I frantically searched for the remote and turned on the tv only to see that the epicenter was Leogane, the place where all my friends and babies lived. I was anxious and helpless. Absolutely nothing else mattered to me in that moment, other than to know that the people I loved were okay. I searched through my phone and called every number I knew in Haiti and was unable to contact anyone. I resorted to my US contacts, most of whom hadn't heard of the earthquake yet, nonetheless heard anything from our friends. I could relate to everything Paul says as he talks about the days after the earthquake. Once again, it brought tears to my eyes. I wish I would've written more in my journal about those days. But each day drained every last drop of energy out of me, both when I was in the US and also when I finally made it to Haiti, one week after the earthquake. On a positive side, I do remember God's faithfulness during this time. I remember the miracles he did in my life to make it possible to go and help at the tent hospitals. I remember how people literally dropped money into my hands, and how a private jet appeared out of nowhere, all so that I could make it to Haiti to help. Sometimes I'm confused about why God made it possible for me to go. I mean, I was only a nursing student and there were many more qualified people for the job.

I still don't have an answer for that, but I am thankful that the Lord allowed me to go. As I read others' experiences of the earthquake, I think to myself, what would it be like to read this and not be able to relate? The earthquake will effect the lives of the Haitians for years. It is a terror that effects many of their life decisions. I understand. Even a few days ago at the Mall of America, I felt my heart skip a little as the floor was shaking from the amusement park and rides. To anyone else, it is unnoticeable, but in Haiti when something shakes, you bolt outside for immediate protection. The Haitians are always second-guessing the safety of structures and many still refuse to sleep inside a house.

What I take away most from these books, is a hope and encouragement, because there are others around the world that care for Haiti the same way I do. Even though at times it can seem I am alone in my passions and focus, it is not true. There are people doing some great things for Haiti. People who have sacrificed their careers and homes in the USA to commit themselves to bettering life for people in Haiti. So a big thanks to the heroes who are in Haiti day after day, not receiving media attention, and living on only dollars a day. I will join you soon :)


Thoughts of randoms

Here I sit, outside on the back steps of my neighbors house, stealing their internet. They are well aware of course, and allow their cheap neighbor full access. I am grateful. As the sun is setting, and a perfect Sunday in sunny Minnesota comes to an end, I am craving to dig inside my soul and figure out what I think about life these days. I came back from Haiti in a "funk" to put things lightly. I walked around in a daze, not sure how to pick up my life here for some indefinite period of time. I was anxious, moody, sad, lonely and depressed. All I wanted to do was to quit my job and pack my bags for Haiti.

Now, I'm feeling much better. The sense of impending doom that followed me for days is now gone. I am Lisa again. The Minneapolis girl at heart. I enjoy my job, love my church, love my neighbors, and have re-connected with old friends. I'm back into the rhythm of the life I knew before my Haiti trip. I can't decide if this rhythm is saving me from being irrational, or if it is hypnotizing me into setting up my life the way society tells me it should look. I find myself in a bit of a fear for my next trip to Haiti, because each time it is harder and harder for me to come back home. I look at the Facebook pages of other friends and acquaintances who are in Haiti now, and every part of me is jealous. I see pictures of the kids at the orphanage and feel convicted that I am not there. It is true that the kids are okay, happy, and well cared for. But I want to be a part of their life. I don't want to walk in and out. I want to hold, mentor, and know them for who they are.

So here I sit.. in a battle with myself. Fearful to sacrifice my job and security in order to follow my dreams, the dreams that torment me every day. The dreams that breathe life into me, and show me my identity. I'm scared of falling on my face. Scared of screwing myself over financially, scared of people saying I should have listened to their plans for my life. I just want to do life right. I want to take advantage of the blessings I've been given, a job for example, and I just can't seem to find a balance between what I want and where I want to be, and where I am now. It bothers me that my life always feels like it's in a state of crisis. Most days I am frantic, trying to think of a way to pay off loans, work 2 jobs, take a month off and go to Haiti, move to Haiti altogether, pr stay away from Haiti and keep my mind focused on work here... and nothing seems to make sense. I'm trying to practice patience and to wait for the right timing for something so big as deciding to go to Haiti, but I wonder if the time will ever seem right. I think that I will always have something in minnesota that I will sacrifice by leaving. I guess right now I'm trying to figure out what it is that I need to sacrifice. Is it time to put a hold on the travels and concentrate here? Or is it time to give up my sense of control and take a risk at following my passions?


Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

It's hard to believe that it has taken me this long to get online and give an update on the trip. It feels a little bit freeing not to be connected to the internet all the time. That being said, I have a lof of things to update on!

The first few days we were in Haiti, we stayed at Sheila's house in Karfour. On thursday we took an all day bus trip to visit an orphanage in Kenskoff. We rode the tap tap for 5 hours each way to visit the orphanage. It is home to 400 kids. The kids will never be adopted, they stay in a "family" at the orphanage until they are old enough to live. There is a nurse that works there and I talked to her about her job. She takes care of many children and manages everything from wounds to HIV treatment.

Last weekend we took a trip to Goinaives, Shirley's home town. We had be planning with the church there for a healthfair. Just minutes before we were supposed to travel to goinaives, the car broke down. We watched and waited for hours as the Haitian handy-men tried to fix the car. Hours after hours.. and we were still at Sheila's house with no hope of leaving any time soon. We were supposed to leave at 10am... and after it was dark, around 7pm, we finally found a different way to get to Goinaives. Shiela's brother volunteered to make the 3 hour drive and drop us off so that we could make it to the healthfair. We arrived in Goinaives at 10pm, ate dinner, got in our bednets, and went to sleep. At 5am the next morning we woke up, gathered our supplies, and headed to the church to set everything up. It was a great day! We did two presentations, one on Cholera and handwashing, and the other on nutrition. As I looked into the crowds, I saw a mix of children, adults and the elderly. Many people had notebooks and were taking notes from the information we had for them.

Next, Dr. Mattheiu- Shirley's husband and a pediatrition, saw the pediatric patients while Shirley educated on diabetes, breast cancer, and hypertension. Gretchen and I made an announcement that we would be in the back of the church and would be available to pray with anyone who needed prayers. We were not sure if anyone would take us up on our offer. One-by-one people came to us for prayer. Everytime I opened my eyes after praying for someone, the line of people waiting had almost doubled. We prayed for people for hours, raising up prayers for sickness, increased faith, poverty, loved ones, abandoned children, etc. It was really nice to be able to connect with the people. After that, we had a big meal for the people. Everyone had meat, rice and beans, salad and a bottle of juice. There was more than enough for all to eat.

This week we have spent our time at the orphanage and going to the hospital with the nursing students. I have spent a lot of my time with a baby in the pediatric unit who is very malnourished and is HIV positive. His mother is only 14 years old and she does not want the baby, so often times he is left alone crying and is starved. He is my little friend and today I held him for hours, fed him, bathed him, and talked to the doctors about his care. He is on a nutrition program at a local NGO, but the mother does not always go to get his food.

Today after working at the hospital we taught English class. We played a competitive game of head shoulders knees and toes. The students loved it and were extremely competitive.

Now it is time to go back to Shirley's house. We are all very tired. I hope we have electricity tonight. Leogane has been without electricity since the earthquake, over a year ago. Just a few nights ago, there was electricity for the first time. It felt like independence day! Now we have electricity for part of the night, which is helpful since it is pitch black starting around 6pm here.

Just a few more blessed days here! more stories to come...


MIA soon to be PAP

We made it safely to Miami! I woke up this morning at 3am, shuffled around the luggage to make each bag under the 50lb limit, and left the house with Gretchen and her wonderful husband Dan as our driver... at 4am! Hours later we arrived in Miami, ate lunch and called our friend Sheila in Haiti to make sure everything is in place to be picked up at the airport this afternoon. What a relief it is to make it to Haiti in one day! I have been to Haiti many times, and often do an overnight layover in Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, and let me tell you- it's better to get all the travelling done in one day! Gretchen is a great travel companion. We chatted away on the 3 1/2 hour plane ride to MIA which made time fly. Our descent into MIA was a startling one. We landed on the ground and immediately took off again. We flew higher and higher, back into the clouds. Confusion took over in our minds... the silence of the plane.. why were there no announcements about our false landing? Finally, the captain made an announcement that the landing strip looked bad so he could not land. We flew around in the sky for about 15 more minutes and then safely landed on the ground. Whew!

I coughed up the dough at the airport so that I'd have access to their wifi internet. I'm so happy that I did because I received an email from an orphanage in Kenskoff that I was hoping to be able to visit on this trip. Everything is set in place and we will hopefully visit it tomorrow. I will tell all about it after we visit. There is also a pediatric hospital, called Saint Damien that we have arrangements to tour.

I hate to admit this, but I am craving my third meal of the day and it's only 1pm! I guess that's what happens when breakfast starts at 3am. I am holding out for the mini toblerone bar, cheese spread and crackers that American Airlines gives on each flight to Haiti ;)

I want to say a big THANK YOU! to everyone who supported Gretchen and I and made this trip possible. The garage sales were a big hit and we also had many family members and friends that donated money. Bethel's rock church was also supportive both financially and in prayer. This medical mission trip would not be possible without this help from our supporters! We were able to raise all of the funds we needed. It was such an encouragement to feel the support of friends and family. Please continue to pray for us on this trip, specifically safety and health.

Our flight is now boarding!! I will update once we are in Haiti.


Heading "Home"

Daily glances at the calendar, dirty suitcases on my bedroom floor, checklists and packing lists galore, crammed study sessions of Rosetta Stone French... yes, another trip to Haiti is well on it's way :) With each return to the USA, I begin asking "How?" "What?"and "When?" How will I make it back, find the funds, have the time off of work? What will I do next time? What will the trip look like? And when do I get to go back? These answers have come together in a beautiful way. I am so excited.. SOOOO excited to go back to Haiti! In case you wonder.. the countdown is now 17 days!

Gretchen Olson and I went on our first trip to Haiti together in March, 2008. It was a powerful experience and a friendship builder to be in a different part of the world, amidst poverty, away from family, and to have our eyes opened by God to a mutual passion he was about to impress on our hearts. This first trip was with our nursing school and we helped in community health fairs and volunteering at the nursing school. Not everyone that comes to Haiti loves it. I feel like it's one extreme or the other. Either loving it or counting down the minutes until you are ready to be back on American soil. Gretchen and I loved it, the people, the language, the heat (sometimes..!), the culture, the "new" way of doing nursing without all the resources readily available in the states. Gretchen and I went to Haiti on our own in August, 2009 for 3 weeks. We stayed at Operation Love the Children of Haiti orphanage and became a part of the family there. We opened the doors of the orphanage for an all day health fair and put our nursing skills to work for the community. We also made it to Cite Soleil, the largest slum area in Haiti- which we were only able to do with a police escort. It was a place that we had read about in it in Angels of a Lower Flight. It was an inhumane place. There was not a place to walk without stepping on trash, or perhaps something worse. This trip taught us to find our own niche in Haiti. We were completely independent for the first time. And it was great. This trip gave birth to the dream of someday creating our own organization in Haiti.

Gretchen and I have felt the burden on our hearts for another trip to Haiti and are excited about the dreams God has blessed us with for this trip. Our trip is June 8-19, of 2011. The focus of this trip will be two community health fairs. The first, in the North of Haiti, in our friend Shirley’s home town of Gonaives and the second fair in Leogane, which was the epicenter of the earthquake in 2010 and has also been the home base for our past mission trips. We are planning a day that will include two seminars, one on hand washing, with a focus on Cholera, and the second seminar on nutrition. After many health fairs in the past that have been focused on providing medical care, we would like to teach the Haitian people how to take a stand against the spread of disease and the malnutrition that effect so many. After the seminars, we will have games for the kids followed by prayer and worship. We will conclude the day with a large meal for all, music, and socializing.

During the week we will accompany the Haitian nursing students to the hospitals in the morning and in the afternoon we will go to Operation Love the Children of Haiti, and play with the kids.

We hope to update this blog as often as possible. We are excited to have our readers follow our travels and pray for our needs while we are abroad!

Current prayer requests:

-Pray for the rest of the funds for our trip to come in. We need about $1500 more before we can leave
- Pray for safety from sickness, specifically cholera and malaria
- Pray for big turnouts to our community health fairs, open ears and hearts and understanding to come from our teaching
- Pray that God would continue to reveal his plans for our future in Haiti. That we could continue to make connections, meet the right people, that there would be divine interactions.

Thanks! And more soon :)