Super Fast Post

We’re a few days into a Vision Trip, and time is a bit limited so I’m going to do a bullet point post of randomness, just for you!

  • Picked everyone up on Saturday. The day involved two airport pick ups, a visit to a police station to retrieve one of our motorcycles that resulted in a whole other interesting experience, a grocery shopping trip, a lot of driving and sweat.
  • We have three guests this week, and we’re enjoying all of them. One woman is Haitian and visiting Haiti for the first time since she was a baby. It’s been really fun showing her the country of her family’s roots and talking to her about all sorts of things. Each Vision Trip is unique and that’s what makes it fun for us!
  • It’s always like Christmas when we have Vision Trippers come because they can bring in bags full of supplies for the mission and our family. I spent a little time yesterday sweating like a marathon runner in Hawaii while trying to put our new couch cover on, and am especially enjoying my new reading glasses. I’m pretty sure the ones I was using weren’t really the strength they claimed to be because my eyes are much happier now.
  • Alex has been trying all sorts of new vocab and most days sounds like a little parrot. He’s also putting words together into little sentences, which is really fun. He’s not going to be a quiet, shy child, that’s for sure. God blessed us with two social butterflies.
  • Ryan took one visitor up the mountain to Fon Baptiste today to go deliver some bucket filters and follow-up on some filters we delivered a few months ago.
  • On Wednesday Chris will take everyone on a repair day so they can see different parts of the installation and maintenance process for the filters and have an opportunity to be in the communities where the filters go. Repair days are a bit different than delivery days because we visit fewer homes, but they’re often more spread out so our guests will have the chance to see a lot of different things during the trip.
  • Our missionary friends that have been away for the summer start to arrive back this week. I always love it when everyone is back. It makes me feel a bit more “complete” here :)

I won’t leave you hanging without telling you about my interesting experience. In a nutshell, I dropped Thony off at a police station on the way to town on Saturday so he could get one of our motorcycles that had been seized because the registration had expired. We thought the police would ask for “storage” fees, and had been advised not to pay. They did, I initially refused, but because we couldn’t get a hold of our contact within the police department for advice we decided to pay, but to take badge numbers in the event that anything needed to reported. In the process of writing down the “chief’s” badge number he got angry that I was doing so, and forcefully grabbed my arm so I couldn’t write it down. I had already finished, and very loudly informed him that I was a resident with all my papers and that I knew I had the right to take badge numbers whenever I felt anything was “off”. After a stare down he let me go and I went back outside. Thony, as well as 6 or 7 other officers had seen and heard the whole things (I was actually intentional about being loud for this reason) so the officer knew that he had made a big mistake. He was later trying to be appologetic, but mostly because he knew he had made a big mistake. I hadn’t been rude or pushy at any point and there was no reason for him to treat me that way, especially not as an official that is there to supposedly serve and protect the population.

We’re going to be following up through the right channels, but not because I want heads to roll or anything like that. We know the corruption that’s within a lot of government offices here, and we try to push against that when we can. Aside from that though, we’re also aware of how regular Haitian citizens are often treated by the police. Let’s just say they aren’t served and protected in most cases. I am a white woman, which sadly brings with it certain advantages. For this to happen to me as a white woman in this country is almost unheard of and would be frowned upon from many sources. BUT, what about all the other people here that don’t have that advantage. How much worse would they have been treated? If following up on this means that officer has to even think really hard about how he conducts himself, then the effort was worth it. If it sets an example that can maybe do a little something about fighting corruption within offices that are supposed to be serving the public, then it will be worth it.

Happy Monday!

~leslie

Vision Trips: Why We Like Them

We really enjoy having visitors here at the mission, but we’ve learned a few things over the years about how we need to do those visits so they’re the most effective and most enjoyable for everyone involved.

A lot of organizations host groups, and go through this extensive process of setting up a lot of work projects and things for the teams to do while in country. We deliberately choose to not  do things that way for a few reasons.

First, as a development organization, it’s our goal to do as much here in Haiti, with Haitian labor, and with materials purchased here as possible. The work we do is technical in the sense that our guys spend months working on doing installations the right way, and there are always things we need to be tweaking and watching, whether it’s the mix on the concrete going into the filters so we don’t get cracked and wasted units, or finding out that one of our technicians needs to brush up on his installations and user education a bit to be better at what he does. This stuff is an ongoing process.

While we love to share the ins and outs of how we do what we do every day, it’s really not possible for a visitor to come in on a Saturday, start building filters on Monday and be effectively installing them on Friday. They may understand parts of the process and be able to assist during a delivery day, but they will miss steps.

Another thing that’s vital to what we do is that we believe in having Haitians working with and serving their own people whenever possible. Our program is much more effective when our Haitian staff are the ones going out with the truck to deliver and install filters, or going out on the motorcycles to do follow up. They speak the Creole of the people and pick up nuances in language that a foreigner might miss. They understand culture and know what type of education to be giving to our filter recipients based on what people understand and what they don’t. I might miss that and just do a blanket teaching assuming certain things. We’ve come to learn, too, that every time a foreigner is on the delivery truck for the day it makes work harder for our staff. The focus isn’t on the filters, but rather on the foreigner and the dynamics that come with that. We try to limit those trips to Vision Trip weeks, and occasional times where one of us might need to go along because we have an efficiency problem with our delivery system. The rest of the time the guys do it themselves. And they’re good at what they do!

So, we take a different approach when we have guests at the mission.

This post has been cross-posted from the Clean Water for Haiti blog

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We invite them to be as involved in the process as possible. We give them time to work in the work yard with our staff to see the whole process of building the filters. They can be as hands on, or as hands off, as they want. Some visitors like to get right in there and mix concrete and sift sand, while others are happy to sit on a chair in the shade and paint filters all day. The value in the experience is that our guests step back and see how hard our staff work. They see that they are very capable of doing the job. They get a chance to ask questions. They experience the discomfort of not being able to fully communicate and having to stutter through things, which gives them more understanding of what we go through while learning to live here. All of these things help them to better see how they can support the work we do, without feeling like they have to come in and save the day and do it themselves.

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We choose to keep our Vision Trips small for a reason. Limiting them to 6 people means we can spend a lot of time visiting and getting to know our guests. We can sit around our kitchen table after a meal and talk about the things they’re seeing and experiencing, and answer questions. It’s harder to do that with bigger groups. Big groups put the host into management mode where the focus is on moving people from point A to point B and keeping everyone busy.

In smaller groups people have the opportunity to get to know our family and any other volunteers more intimately. This is encouraging to us because we get beyond the surface questions of why  we’re here and we get to talk about things like raising kids in another culture and how we live and work in the same place.

We also get a chance to go out and do things, I think, more easily that we would with a large group. We can have our visitors come with us to do the every day things of life here, like going to get groceries or picking our daughter up from school. You can’t do that with a large group, and choosing a few people means someone else is missing that experience. When large groups come in, the activities tend to be more planned. We like being able to say, “Hey, I have to go to St. Marc to run some errand, anyone want to come?”

With our Vision Trips we also recognize that people are typically using their vacation time from work or school to be with us, so we try to make the experience not only educational, but also restful. We finish our work day at 3 pm, so the rest of our afternoon is personal time on a daily basis. That means our guests get time to swim, read, nap or visit with each other and us. We want our Vision Trips to be a good balance of activity and relaxation.

It’s important to us to also expose our guests to different aspects of Haiti. Haiti isn’t just one thing. It’s isn’t just poverty. We take our visitors to do various things, giving them a wide variety of experiences so they can see for themselves what is really here. Some of those experiences might be challenging, and some might be fun. Some might be work focused while others might be more touristic. But, all of it is Haiti.

We would love for you to join us on a Vision Trip! We still have two trips scheduled for this year:

August 17-24 ~ October 19-26

The cost is $500 per person for the week, and that includes all your in country transportation, food and accommodation in our on site dorms. We meet you at the airport and take care of everything until we drop you off at the end of your visit.

As I said, we cap our groups at 6 people, and do registrations on a first come, first served basis, so if you’re interested you want to get your registration in as soon as possible to hold your place. All Vision Trippers need to be 18 or older (for liability reasons and safety issues). If you have a full group of six, but the above dates don’t work for you please let us know. We’re willing to add dates for FULL groups.

To register, or get more information about Vision Trips contact me at office@cleanwaterforhaiti.org. I’ll send you the registration form and answer any questions you might have.

Can’t come this year, but would be interested in visiting during 2014? Let me know and I can tell you what our dates are for 2014 trips.

~Leslie

Spreading the Vision

We are in fact still alive. My mother in law sent me an email a couple days ago to see if we were still around and if everything was okay. I love that no activity on the blog gets people worried. It’s just nice to be missed, you know what I mean?

We do have a very good excuse this time. Last week was a Vision Trip week. We had one visitor, and because it was ONE visitor we had all sorts of fun. Naomi is Haitian-America (her parents immigrated to the US 30+ years ago) but on all her previous visits she had gone right from the airport to her family’s home in Petionville and usually spent her holidays here visiting family. She had never been out in our area before so we had a lot of fun to showing her Haiti in a totally new way. She had fun soaking it all up. 

Naomi is also a nurse and is going to be starting her Master’s in the fall to become a nurse practitioner and her future plans are to return to Haiti and start a women’s clinic which is so needed here. Part of our week was spent connecting her with people that are already working in the health aspect of things here and providing opportunities for her to see what they’re doing first hand and learn all she could. 

Sunday we went to visit our friends at Kaliko and spent a nice leisurely afternoon with them. Monday Chris took Naomi into St. Marc to visit Barb, Bev and Al and be there to help Barb feed some of the kids in her community. 

On Tuesday I got to be the guide and Naomi and I went up to Canaan in Montrouis to help our friends Bobi and Elsie in the clinic there for the day. I personally had a great day and loved getting out to do something completely different from what I normally do. It was great to be directly in contact with people. I find that because Chris and I know that our workers are more effective if we’re not there we’ve put ourselves in the role of facilitators and just make sure they have what they need to get the work done well. We don’t have that much direct contact with people, which has it’s advantages and disadvantages. I liked that I was able to be reminded of why the work that we and so many others do here is so life changing for people. 

Naomi spent the morning working with Elsie, who is also a nurse, and the other two Haitian nurses that work at the Canaan clinic seeing patients. I could tell that she was loving all of it. I spent the morning working with Bobi and seeing the first Medika Mamba patients of the day. Medika Mamba is a vitamin pumped peanut butter supplement designed to help kids recover from malnutrition. Kids 6-59 months (just under 5 years old) can have the damage that malnutrition causes to their development almost completely reversed if it’s attacked full force. The peanut butter is a combination of peanut butter, sugar, oil and lots and lots of vitamins. 

How does the program work? It’s so simple that even someone without any medical training can administer it. It’s very user friendly. Before a child is officially entered into the program they have measurements taken. Those measurements are compared with a chart. If they fall in the red range they are “severe” and are admitted. If they fall in the yellow they’re borderline and are admitted. If they fall in the green they are not malnourished and the parent will be consulted about good nutrition etc. The measurements used are height and the MUAC – middle upper arm circumference. Apparently the arm circumference in this particular spot will always be a good determiner of malnutrition, even if the child has Kwashiorkor, a swelling that happens with severe malnourishment. The starting weight is recorded and each week the child should gain a certain amount of weight.

Once a child is in the program the parents are counseled about how the program works, that they need to only feed the peanut butter to the child in the program, not others in the house, and they need to commit to coming to the clinic every week for the check up. If they agree to those things they have to sign a contract. When the children come for their weekly check ups they’re weighed. If the child hasn’t gained enough the parents are spoken to again, and the foundational information is reinforced. If a child loses weight or isn’t gaining properly over the long term, like three weeks or so, they can be kicked out of the program. In those cases it’s generally that the parent is giving the peanut butter to others in the house and not enough is going to the child that needs it most. Each week the parent is told how many spoons of peanut butter the child needs to eat each day and they’re given enough peanut butter for the week. 

The afternoon on Tuesday was all Medika Mamba patients and it was pretty busy. Bobi, Elsie and Miss Elise, another nurse, were all seeing patients. I got to be the organizer and make sure things went in an orderly fashion, which is like giving me crack. If I knew what that was like I mean. :) I came home that night after 8 hours on my feet and felt very tired, but had a great day.
Naomi watching as Elsie does a consult with a Medika Mamba family.

Wednesday Naomi and I went back to Barb’s community so we could walk around a bit and Naomi could get a better feel for what most people live in. I felt like the pied piper as we walked and the kids hung off my hands. 

Thursday Naomi and I had plans that fell through so we did some quick calling around and made new plans to go into Port to see Beth, Sheila, Lisa and Brittany at Heartline Ministries Women’s Program. It was pre-natal day and there were about 20 ladies in all stages of pregnancy there. I love this program and Naomi was ecstatic to be there because it’s exactly what she’s thinking for down the road. 
Agathe translates for Beth.

The ladies come each week and have a short, about 45 minute, lecture on various things. Last week it was about what people eat around the world, nutrition and family planning from the perspective of planning your family size so you know that you’ll be able to feed all of your children well. Each of the ladies in the program are given a baggie with prenatal vitamins for the week, and milk and eggs to drink and eat during the class. Each week several women are given a check-up to make sure everything is going well. Beth is training to be a fully certified mid-wife so she can eventually deliver the babies for the ladies. Before each woman is done her check-up one of the ladies prays with her. It was great to be able to see this fabulous program in action. 
The ladies in the sewing school working on their projects. The sewing school is another part of the Heartline programs. The ladies are sewing up the bags mentioned in a previous post.

Friday was a bit of a lay low day finished off with dinner out at Moulin Sur Mer with Elsie and Bobi, and Saturday it was off to the airport, with a stop to look at a roof top garden on the way. Chris and I are starting to get our ideas and plans together for our little space and we’re getting excited about it. I have to say that once again Chris has surprised me with what’s in his head. We’ve talked about the roof being a great space to go to get away where no one will be able to see us. We’ve had a railing built around the whole thing so no one falls off, and because we had to raise up our water tanks we decided to build a little building instead of doing it with steel and use it as a storage room. There’s electricity and water. Chris had mentioned having chairs etc up there but his plans are much more involved than even I had thought. He really wants to turn it into an outdoor lounge area, which is so very cool. It’ll be fun to see it all come together over the coming months. 

So, another week gone. Another visitor come and gone. Each week is so different because of the people that we have coming in. That’s one thing I love about the Vision Trips. And, the more we do them, the less work they are for us. Now we’re finding they’re more about just letting people into our lives than they are about arranging everything and making sure all the details are taken care of. We would love to encourage you to come on a Vision Trip. If you want more info about them you can click on the “Vision Trip” link on the left or email me at office@cleanwaterforhaiti.org.