A Trip to Gonaives

Yesterday and today are holidays in Haiti because of Karnival. Since we had the day off we decided to get out and visit some friends. We piled into the car at 7 am thinking it was going to take two hours to get to Gonaives because the roads are bad. It took us one hour. Because the roads aren’t bad anymore. The same road company that has been working on the road between Port au Prince and St. Marc has also done the road between St. Marc and Gonaives. What used to be rough gravel is now nice asphalt. It was a great trip!

We spent the morning with Beaver (yes, that’s his real name!) and Kathy visiting the Jubilee section of Gonaives. If you think you know what barren is, I can guarantee you your definition would change if you visited Jubilee. You drive through the center of Gonaives and enter into Robadeau, a poorer area where most houses are built of blocks and tin roofs, but are very close together and surrounded in dried mud and dust. Then you enter “Jubilee”. Jubilee is basically one big, flat, barren area. When I say barren I literally mean barren. There are 4 trees within sight, and they were all planted around the buildings that have been built by the ministry that Beaver and Kathy work with. And they are only about two feet tall right now. Don’t believe me? Look at these…

Looking back from the school towards the gazebo and one of the tamarind trees that has been planted.

Looking back towards town.

Looking at the new school building. One room is being used for a clinic and one is being used as a classroom.

Looking over yonder towards the ocean. The little thatch huts in the distance are salt huts.

Why is it so barren? Well, one reason is that it is next to the ocean and very low lying so the ground is full of salt. The other reason is that years ago there was a serious amount of toxic ash waste dumped and spread there. It has since been buried, but it’s obviously had some effect on things. So, pretty much it’s dirt and gravel. The piles of fill have all been brought in so Emory and Mary, the founders of the mission, could use them for building up and filling the area. They have built a little school and are expanding their buildings. I really commend them for the vision they have. If God can take “dry bones” and make something of them, then he can do something with Jubilee.

I mentioned the salt huts. This was really interesting to me. I wondered what they were because they weren’t the typical construction you see closer to major centers like Gonaives. When I asked about them a Haitian man explained that they flood the salt beds, and put sticks in them. As the water evaporates the salt starts to cling to the sticks. When the beds are dry the collect the sticks and take them into the salt huts, where they bang off the salt and dry it some more. We regularly see large Haitian boats go by our place loaded down with sacks and know that they are either charcoal or salt.

We spent a couple of hours there checking things out. There is a well on the property where people can come and get water. This means lots of kids. We were like kid magnets. I’ll be honest, it does get waring after a while. Don’t get me wrong, I love kids. But it was hot and I found myself getting worn out with being touched constantly. A couple of times I almost lost my pants because every time I walked anywhere whoever didn’t have some part of my arm was hanging on my clothes. These kids are desperate for love and attention and I was battling with myself for feeling how I was feeling and knowing that. Too, it was hard as a mom to see Olivia feeling mauled. We want her to play with kids here and establish those relationships, but when she feels overwhelmed it’s hard to step back and just let her work it out. Eventually she was running around and having a good time though. For a while we sat in the gazebo and a woman there asked about Olivia and our adoption. We ended up talking about her 4 kids and how she would never give them up. She said that she was responsible for them and couldn’t ever do it, that she made sure they got food and went to school and grew up well. It was her job to be responsible and not have any more kids than she could take care of. I told her I was encouraged to hear that because it was very important.

When we left Jubilee we went for lunch with Beaver, then headed back to his house to drop off his motorcycle and pick up his daughter Rebecca. From there we headed out to Terre Blanche, about 20 minutes more north of Gonaives. Terre Blanche is where our friends Joe and Linda Markee have their ministry – Haiti Foundation of Hope. There is a school that has about 1000 students from kindergarten through secondary, a trade school, a church and a great clinic. The clinic runs year round but 4 times a year they bring in medical teams. The one they have there now is about 15 people with all sorts of skills. Pastor Delamy is a wonderful Haitian man (one of our favorites) who is responsible for overseeing all of the activities of the mission.

Joe is a retired OBGYN so he’s set the clinic up with two portable ultra sound machines. Another OBGYN was in with the team so we got to have another ultra sound to see Junior. It was MUCH clearer than the ultra sounds we’ve had at the doctor so far. So fun! The doctor was happy to see that everything is forming perfectly and looks really good. He took measurements and Junior is still measuring a week ahead. He has long legs and I was told that I shouldn’t expect a 6lb baby because there was no way that would be happening.

During our visit we got to see HFH’s filter project! I forgot to mention that. We did training for them a few years ago and the last time we visited their project had stalled because their head technician had an accident and couldn’t work. With all the cholera patients they treated the demand for filters has gone up. We trained two more people a few weeks ago so it was fun to see that their production is happening again.

Linda Markee, Pastor Delamy, Chris and Renoir (filter technician) checking out the filters produced by HFH.

After a bit more of a visit we loaded up and headed home. It was a fun day of connecting with people and connecting people. Beaver loved visiting the clinic and knowing that there was that resource not that far away from them. Sometimes it can be frustrating to want to help people, but not know where to send them. Chris and I are big fans of getting people together that are doing some great things here so the support network grows.

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About Leslie

I'm Leslie. Wife. Mother. Missionary. In the day to day my husband and I are responsible for running Clean Water for Haiti, a humanitarian mission that builds and distributes water filters to Haitian families. Living in Haiti full time provides lots of stories, and as I tell my husband, our grandkids probably won't believe most of them. Maybe writing them down will give me some credibility.

4 thoughts on “A Trip to Gonaives

  1. It’s exciting to hear that the roads are so much better — that’s a vast improvement for Haiti and should help their ability to take products to market etc. And it’s great to see all those filters being produced in Terre Blanche as a result of your training classes!

  2. Wow, I totally agree with Gramma Rolling. And good to hear news about Terre Blanche and Pastor Delamy. That was one of my favorite parts of my visit! :)

  3. It looks like you two have done some increadable things for Haiti! Thank You! I am with an non- profet organization called Zion’s Children of Haiti, we have been sponsering children to go to school for the last 8 years. We are now looking at building a school in Gonaives and I was wondering if you would have any contacts that would be able to give us advice on how to begin the process, what the costs would be to run a school, and other information that would help us make this dream for some many children a reality.

    • You can try getting in touch with the people at Much Ministries (www.muchministries.org). They were the couple we were visiting while in Gonaives and they may have info for you, or connect you with others that do.

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