Thursday, August 5, 2010

Events of the week

We have had a rewarding and most fulfilling week in Haiti. This week we attended a graduation ceremony for five of the orphans at Lesly's orphanage. We have worked with young and old, from orphans to the elderly at the Home for the Dying. This week has also been special as we have had the opportunity to be a part of a new mission...working with street kids. One of the best memories we all share from this week is the faces of the street boys as they learned to play donated recorders and as also when they competed in a difficult math challenge.

The love we have shared and shown to others this week has been tremendous. Truly, this has been a blessed week!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Welcome Back

My welcome back
I chuckle as I think of my first day back to Haiti. First, I really couldn't believe that I was moving back. I didn't anticipate that I would do this again, even for just a summer. But, as I was on the plane I found myself getting excited to get back and "get my hands dirty." Well, Haiti welcomed me back in all her glory. As I stepped out of the terminal into the blazing heat, I was greeted first by Jimmy. He was allowed to come past the guards to find me. We hugged and proceeded to make our way to the street. Once out of the gate, I saw Michelet and Bony. We were truly happy to see each other. To get to the street is no small feat. You have to shout at and swat all of the men that are trying to get a tip by putting their hands on your luggage cart. And then, there are large holes that you are trying to navigate you cart over and through. The temporary terminal area is directly next to the street and there is absolutely no room. Wall to wall
people and cars make it difficult to move.  I tried to suggest that instead of pushing the cart, it may easier for the 3 boys to each carry a bag to the truck. All looked at me with blank stares. It just is not done that way was the silent message. So, I trailed behind as they pushed the cart on the rocky dirt side and in between cars in the road. They pushed several hundred yards down the street to where the truck was parked. Tips were paid and greetings to Patrick were said. The luggage was loaded in the back of the truck. As I was preparing to get into the truck, Patrick explained to me that the Truck was broken down. The Alternator was falling out and loose. He showed me where a bolt had fallen out and all of the belts were loose. He said the mechanic was on the way. Well, I know what that means, so I said that I would get a tap-tap to the house. We were only able to get a Van tap-tap. (Which was always the worst!) I climbed in over the people and
sat on a small ledge with my back up against the driver staring at the van full of people.  I smiled and greeted those in front of me. Bony, Jimmy and I chatted as we caught up. My recurring thoughts were "I love this!" and "Welcome Home".

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thank you!

Dear Readers, Volunteers and Contributors,

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your generous donations to our efforts in Haiti. It has been a hectic 3 months! During the months after the earthquake I have been busy with

1st: Responding to the immediate needs of the orphanages that we serve as well as homeless youth. Then, we completed a security wall for the Infants of Jesus orphanage, delivered much needed food and supplies and are employing several of the homeless youth that we know of.

2nd: We have paid for a years rent of a "Mission House", and are in the process of buying beds and furniture so that mission groups can have a safe and comfortable place to stay while serving the people of Haiti.

Now, after a short visit back here in the States, I am leaving for Haiti for the summer. My time there will be spent giving consistant support to several orphanages. I will assess their food and supply needs and the general conditions that they are living with. In addition, I will be setting up a teaching program for our volunteers to participate in. We will be concentrating on teaching English, health issues and gardening. I am also setting up a highschool program for the group of homeless boys that are now living and working with me.

I would like to invite each and every one of you to come visit us in Haiti! We would love to have you come and participate in our Haiti efforts! Check out our trip dates. I have found that once you make a decision and commit, God opens all kinds of doors for getting the funds and the time.

Once I am in Haiti, I am going to take a few minutes to write about my experiences right after the earthquake. I hope that my experiences will inspire each of you because let me tell you, the good in people is alive and well!

Thank you again!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Security Wall is Finished!

 First, a BIG THANK YOU to the construction crew that worked so hard. You guys are so awesome!
 Here's the latest email update from Jack with some interesting details about the past week:
"Almost right up to the last moment when the U.S. workers and their local volunteers quit working at four o'clock on Saturday, we were never without the logistical nightmare of getting materials to the men so they would not be delayed in their progress. Somehow, however, we managed it with the help of many people and especially Leslie (the Director of the Orphanage) who would jump in at the last minute with some magic solution if we did not have one. Some glaring examples included the drama with the concrete blocks we purchased from one vendor in the city. He told up up front when we ordered and paid for 3000 blocks from him that they were not his best blocks and he even gave us a significant discount for the purchase. I was leery from the first about this matter but I had one of the masons with me who physically inspected the blocks and said they were good, so we went ahead with the purchase. When the first 1000 of them arrived most of them broke and were completely unsuitable for use. We had already received blocks from another vendor that were very high quality, so when I learned about the broken ones, I had to rush into action to attempt to stop the vendor from shipping the last of the bad blocks and get out money back so we could buy more from the second vendor. Well, you can imagine how that cut into our day, with your mom running around with the only vehicle we had and me scrambling to get her back so we could go to the first vendor to get our money back and order some more blocks from the other manufacturer. We managed it just as the crews were about to run out of blocks.
There were unnumbered other cases like that then we were about to run out of sand and another time when our cement was running low. Late yesterday (Saturday) when I thought we had everything covered, the men who were mixing the mortar for the blocks had been using Lemon Joy dish soap as a stabilizer for the mix (they had brought along a large container from the U.S.) when the man handling that operation announced to me that he needed some more and that nothing else but Lemon Joy in his opinion would do. So with a second car that your mom had rented so I could get around while she ran other errands, I took off down town for the needed dish soap. Three hours later after battling traffic and searching a variety of small and large grocery stores and convenience shops along with a few street vendors, I finally returned with a bottle of dish soap (not Lemon Joy), worried that it wouldn't be good enough quality, and the guy accepted it just as his supply was about to run out. It worked fine, he told me later--a new lesson for him that all dish soaps may be the same after all.
The workers continued to press on through the week with that one goal in mind of completing the wall before 4PM on Saturday, as that was the time the Director of the Orphanage announced that he wanted to start with a "Thank-you" celebration that would include all of us properly clean and dressed up. Late afternoon Friday, looking at that deadline, Matt Ray, the appointed leader of the U.S. work group announced that they were going to work until dark. They did that and by Saturday morning the project looked very positive for being complete by the four o'clock deadline. As the group wound up things at 4:30 on Saturday and passed out their give-away tools to the local workers, three sides of this massive eight foot high wall was completed and there remained what the workers claimed, was only two more hours work for the local masons to do to complete the last wall. I had only one course of blocks to lay in a section about 75 feet long. Those men really cranked those last few hours, and when we loaded into the two vehicles to get ready to return to the hotel so the men could clean up and return to the celebration, their spirits were higher than I had seen them all week.
I didn't do much real physical labor or help the men on their jobs, other than running for this or that to keep them supplied with goods, so I had a lot of time to observe the U.S. workers on the job and when they took their frequent water breaks. It was impressive alone watching them work, but more so was their interaction with the children. Not one of them would return to the water dispenser without picking up their favorite child and playing for a few moments before they went back to work. It was obvious they were loving every moment of these not so frequent breaks, and were especially slow getting into the vehicles when we returned to the hotel at night. These guys were magnificent giants as they held and loved these tiny children and played toss ball or succor with the older ones. I can say how admirable it was to watch these interactions, and to in some way be a part of the process. 
I'm sure it was good for the children too, as I heard some of the stories of their various demises, I was feeling that same compassion I believe the men were feeling as they loved and hugged these infants. I choked up myself on more than one occasion when I heard the stories of why some of these children were at the orphanage, and I am sure most of the workers felt the same at times. I was curious, for example, about one little 11 year old girl that especially bonded with me during the days I was there. So I got one of the boys who spoke English to ask her about her family. She it turned out was a new-comer to the orphanage, having been delivered there by an American who found her wandering alone in one of the Tent Cities. Both her parents had died in the quake and somehow she had gotten out or had been rescued unscathed from the rubble. I could hardly believe this story as I saw her smiling as she told her story, and the details were related to me. Her dimpled face and perfect bright teeth showed no signs of what she had gone through only a little over a month ago."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Progress on the wall and more exciting news!

Jack Williams sent this message today:

"The crew got the wall up to 7'4" today on the front 120 feet of the wall, and started more on the left side. More concrete came today, so the crew can continue tomorrow. The volunteers from the states (masons and general contractors) are a wonderful bunch of guys that are really pouring their hearts into this project.

Another part of the good news for the orphanage. This morning early, a group showed up from the Brazilian Embassy with a truck load of tents and mattresses for the children. There were about ten men with the two embassy people who were from the Brazilian Navy who spent most of the day putting up the tents (ten of them). They said they also brought a lot of food, but I didn't see what they brought.
We've had the normal logistical problems that you know well from all developing countries, but we've done marvelous considering."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rebuilding Has Begun

It has been quite awhile since we posted an update. Let's see, where to start?? The security wall. Thanks to "Poppinga Pay it Forward Fund" (Brady and Brooke Poppinga) and Jeremy Johnson and a few other donors we raised enough to build the security wall around IOJ orphanage and rent a house to open up the "Poppinga Guest Home" for our volunteers going to Haiti, as well as other relief groups. Most of the hotels and guest houses in Port-au-Prince were destroyed in the earthquake so it has been a challenge for volunteers to find safe places to stay. We are happy that we will be able to assist others in their efforts as well as our own.

Rebecca went back to Haiti about a week ago with Jack Williams. Jack has a background in engineering and extensive experience overseeing construction projects in developing countries. They were able to successfully locate and arrange for all the building materials to be delivered to the orphanage in preparation for the construction crew. The crew of 12 volunteers from Utah (and one from Seattle) arrived to Haiti yesterday morning and have already made a lot of progress.

Rebecca also enlisted the help of the U.S. military. She went over to the base the other day and asked to speak to a "higher up" (I don't know the rankings in the military :) ) She told him about our project and asked if some of the men would be interested in assisting. To her surprise he was VERY interested and a group of 4 men, including the chaplain, went to the orphanage to check things out. Once they saw the conditions they were 100% on board. Today they showed up with 25 men and heavy machinery... isn't that awesome?!

One last thing. About a week ago a little newborn baby named Schneider was dropped off at the orphanage. His story of survival is remarkable. Schneider was born an hour after the earthquake. His mother was barried in the rubble and she gave birth to him while she was trapped. Tragically she did not survive, but the father was able to dig out this new little baby boy. The new daddy tried his best to take care of Schneider for several weeks, but just couldn't do it and so he brought him to IOJ orphanage. There are several other babies that have been dropped off recently.

Thank you all so much for your support!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Videos of Children and Orphanages

Rebuild Haiti's Orphanages from Ryan H on Vimeo.

HAITI from Ryan H on Vimeo.

Thank you so much to Amber Media (Ryan Haldeman and Johnny Hall) for putting these together.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

In the weeks to come...

Rebecca will be heading back to Haiti around February 5 (by herself this time) to continue distributing needed food and supplies and to look for a house to rent for our volunteer groups going to Haiti.

Volunteers play such an important role in our success, both in Haiti and here in the U.S. We appreciate your help! Those of you interested in going to volunteer in Haiti, details (dates, cost, etc) will soon be emailed to all of you. Thanks for your patience.

We are still working on raising the $20,000 USD we will need to rebuild the security wall around Infants of Jesus Orphanage. As soon as we have the funds, we have a wonderful group of construction workers ready to go down to build.

Support disaster relief for the children of Haiti

While Rebecca was in Haiti she assisted at a medical clinic where she met James Schwartz, a trauma nurse. They became friends and after learning about FFCIN's mission to help Haiti's children (immediately and long-term) he wrote the following:

Here in Haiti the needs are endless, teams of doctors and nurses are treating patients. The UN, the US, and international programs are delivering food and water. Long term however the needs will continue and the issues will change.

As all the world knows almost every structure in Haiti as either collapsed or is unsafe. Rebuilding will be a long and difficult process both due to logistics as well as materials. Building supplies have already begun to skyrocket in price and equipment to move supplies is limited.

One of the most at risk populations in Haiti right now are the children, only the fittest survive, and grown men are not above stealing from children and mothers. The children need a safe place to receive the most basic of care... food, water, and a soft touch to comfort them and ease their pain as they deal with the trauma of one of the most horrific tragedies in human history.

Imagine surviving a deadly natural disaster only to learn your mother, father, brothers, sisters have not survived. They wander aimlessly looking for food water shelter... no one to care for them and make sure they are safe.

As we try to create areas of safety for the children, native orphanages are a critical piece to a child’s ability to heal physically and psychologically, without a roof over their heads, food and water, and a caring touch these children will either not survive or grow up into the future bandits or gangsters of Haiti.

With just the most basic of resources, not only can we heal the children of today but impact the children of Haiti for years to come. When these children have someone to set an example for them, care for them, and raise them to be good stewards of the community, they will not end up angry and full of hatred, only displaying the survival skills by tormenting the future generations of Haiti.

Please find the hope in your hearts, and the money in your wallets to help the children of Haiti become the future leaders of a resilient people. Won't you join us in leading the children to the Promised Land, rather than feeding them to the wolves of bandits and gangs on the street? Logistics and materials can be obtained and organized, but only people can mobilize to help a country.

Written by James Schwartz, R.N.
Emergency Medical Relief Team, PAP Haiti

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Thank you Carl

Carl left today. He was such a HUGE help!Thanks Carl! Rebecca, Chad, Ryan and Kevin will most likely leave on Tuesday. We are happy to report that all of the orphans we work with are doing okay. Another orphanage we were asked to assist, but never made it to, is also fine. I spoke to the adoption coordinator for that orphanage yesterday and she said they were able to get all of the children that were close to adoption to the U.S. a few days ago.

Since the earthquake we (with the help of God and all of you) have been able to assist the orphanages with food and water. Today Rebecca arranged for a port-a-potty to be delivered to Infants of Jesus Orphanage (IOJ). Right now the children are going to the bathroom in a bucket and dumping it in a nearby field.

Our plans for rebuilding are already underway. Our first priority is to build a cinder block wall around the IOJ property. This is really important for the children's safety. Our plans also include rebuilding the orphanage in the coming months. The orphanage building, which was only 2 small bedrooms to begin with, is still standing however will have to be torn down due to extensive damage.

I'm sure Rebecca will have a lot more to tell when she returns in a few days. We'll continue to keep you all updated. Thank you so much for your support and generosity!

Thursday, January 21, 2010 - Utahns working to save lives in Haiti - Utahns working to save lives in Haiti

Chad, Ryan, Kevin, the truck and the supplies made it Port-au-Prince!

They made it safely...phew! Here are emails Rebecca and Ryan Haldeman just sent:

"We are doing great. We got the guys from the border. They got lost and showed up late but it was all cool. We got back right as it was getting dark and we immediately got them busy at the makeshift hospital. They are spending the night helping with recovering patients. They are jumping right into it! I am so thankful to everyone that is helping. I wish that I could convey how important each role is. It truly does take a community"
-- Rebecca Maesato

"We took off early this morning for Haiti. Our navigation was not too great and it took us quite a while to reach the border. The truck stopped once but luckily it was the gas (the gauge doesn't work). We were able to refuel and were on our way. We finally met up with Rebecca, Carl, and Patrick on the DR side of the border. I gave them all hugs and gave Patrick a few. He lost his father in the quake and had to dig him out himself in order to avoid him being buried in a mass grave. He is my age, 26, and has gone through so much in his life. We were able to cross into Haiti without even showing our passports, they are allowing Haitians and Dominicans (and everyone for that matter) to travel both ways without any problem. I don't know how long it will last but it was nice. On the drive into Haiti towards Port Au Prince you could see the damage as it got worse and worse. I couldn't hold back my tears, especially with Patrick sitting right next to me and thinking about what he had gone through in the last few days.

We got to the house where we are staying just after sunset. It is owned by an American family and they have invited any volunteer workers who want to stay there to find a place and sleep wherever and eat whatever. There are lots of volunteer doctors here, most people (especially the Haitians) sleep outside or near the doors. I'll probably sleep on the floor in the room Carl is in or on the balcony, there are just too many people. We had a quick bite and then went to a nearby makeshift clinic only about 3 blocks away. It was dark and they needed patients moved from the beds to a nearby rest center. We carried cots with patients or some just in our arms and put them in pick up trucks to be moved. One man had his ring finger amputated, another girl about 17 years old had burns all down her back, we also learned that she had lost her mother, father, and sister in the quake. When we brought them to the rest center it was just a piece of land with sleeping pads and cots strewn about. We laid them anywhere we could and tried to make them comfortable. Most people are beyond personal space right now, going to the bathroom in front of strangers, being dressed and undressed in front of others, they just want help.

Tomorrow our tentative plan is to head to one of the orphanages we had visited with about 50 children. I have been wanting to see them since I left Haiti and cannot wait to hold them. Especially one little girl I bonded with named Deborah. We're also going to see the guest house in which we previously stayed which is now collapsed. We're also planning on going to the most destroyed part of Port Au Prince which neither Rebecca or Carl have even been to yet. Plans change so I expect these to change also. I am safe and so happy to be here and of some small service. There is still so much need here and I only hope the efforts overseas do not wane as news coverage and the shock does.

One of our goals is to secure a location for volunteer workers to come and stay at for future visits as there will be many. We are brainstorming our options right now. It may be anything from tents, to a house, we don't know what we're going to do yet.
Some doctors are arriving back now. They have been working around the clock. We may head to the clinic tonight and help with the 21 patients that they currently have."

--Ryan Haldeman (our camera guy)

Some photos of Infants of Jesus Orphanage

Our progress so far

We have been touched by all of the caring people that have contacted us with a desire to help with our relief efforts in Haiti since the earthquake. Your contributions are making miracles happen!

Up to this point Rebecca Maesato (our Director) and Carl Dempsey (past volunteer and interpreter) have been able to make it to Port-au-Prince and check on four orphanages so far. We are happy to report that the children are all okay. The buildings are a different story, however and they are desperate for food and water. Rebecca and Carl have given some food and water to the orphanages already and are making arrangements to get them more.

Chad Ferguson, Ryan Haldeman and Kevin Wright (volunteers) have been invaluable in helping arrange the purchase of supplies and a truck in the Dominican Republic. Chad and his colleagues donated the money for the truck...thanks guys! Chad, Ryan and Kevin are currently en route to PAP with food, water and supplies. Rebecca and a bunch of our Haitian friends (big strong men) are meeting them at the border and acting as security to make it to PAP safely.

Below are emails Rebecca and Carl have been sending to us from Haiti the past couple of days.

Jan 20th
“We are all doing well, and the earthquake/aftershock this morning was rather shocking. I was awoken by the howling of the dogs in the neighborhood about 5 minutes before the quake, and was actually angry they were being so loud at 5:45ish in the morning! BUT a blessing in disguise, as I was able to sprint out the door with all the others to the open front yard within seconds. It was over quickly, but it was a bit frightening to say the least.
About an hour later we got a call from Gertrude, who said she was desperate for food at her orphanage. So we got Patrick to meet us with Lesly and his car and we headed out. It took us awhile to find decent rice and when we did it was almost triple the price. Rebecca and I have found it amazing how so much has been donated by the international community, but good are just not getting out to the neighborhoods and especially not to orphanages without a means to find a potential distribution spot. We have thought of about 5 different ways things could be done differently, like utilizing organizations like FFCIN to get things directly to a location in need. However, we are seeing trucks out transporting goods for the first time since we've been here, so maybe they are getting it together. We even went to a large NGO here, known for distributing good
We were able to make it to the orphanage with the handicapped children. All are fine, but the building has some damage, and as you may remember was in great need of help before the earthquake. They were bombarded with people from the community, and ended up giving out bags and bags of rice to the hundreds that were at their door. This is another great opportunity to do some good, but will take some great resources.
We made it to the orphanage that was visited by half the group on the first day (Sarah, John, Rebecca, Dallin, were in that group). The place is in ok shape, but had part of a side wall fall over with this morning’s earthquake.
I think I can speak for both Rebecca and I in saying that there have been many miracles happening here. MANY. The kids are all alive and we keep meeting amazing people that will be involved in future activities we do. And a MASSIVE thank you to all of you for getting donations and spreading the word so other will. These donations are making everything possible, and it is so appreciated.

At the orphanage with the special needs children, the back outer wall has fallen, leaving the rear of the compound open and exposed, the small building/shed where the generator and pump were for the water system was damaged and does not function which means no water, the generator doesn't work so they are using candles at night, the sewage system is shot, and the inside is just plain dirty. I threw the comment out to Rebecca that it is probably a better idea for them to just relocate. The money to get that back to a good condition would be better used for a whole new place. Maybe that's not feasible, and if it is, probably is ways down the road, but it's just in real bad shape. The immediate need would be a generator, so electricity can power the lights and pump for them to have water.


Jan 18

“I am sitting here with Frentz and Rebecca. We want to give you an update and send you some photos, because I know you are anxious to see and hear how things are going. You have surely seen the photos on cnn and other news stations, but you can connect with these. It is shocking and leaves us speechless, almost looking at each other trying to find the words. Often we have been brought to tears as we find Gertrude, Patrick, Michelet, Jimmy, Bonny and all the orphans that are alive and well. We have been to a few of the orphanages that we were able to access, and have brought food and other supplies. As you can see we found the orphanage that was a bit out there, with all the land, all the kids are alive and well. Unfortunately, all the walls have crumbled and the standing buildings have cracked. The orphanage that part of the group went to on the first day, with all the donald duck paintings, is still standing. It is amazing, since it is right in the heart of the major damage. All those kids are alive, but have been moved to another safer location. I will leave the description of the guesthouse to the photos. I can't find the words to describe it. One incredible thing is that we found out Gertrude was sleeping in the BASEMENT!! I don't know how on earth she was left unharmed.

If anyone knows how we can easily upload video clips to youtube, like Jesse's clip, let us know! We can post them and put in a plug for the organization since we NEED FUNDING!”

Much Love,
Carl, Rebeccca, Frentz

Jan 17
"We got a flight in to PAP this morning with a few other randoms that were looking for a way also. Some journalists from South Africa and Denmark. we met up with some folks from our church that were actually at the airport treating some people. We then went around to the different spots looking for Gertrude and all the guys. We saw the guesthouse...I lack words to describe the sight. It was haunting. The neighbors to the left, 5 died of which 4 bodies were still in there, and the one across the street had about as many. I will avoid too much of the bad, but needless to say i'm speechless. We ran in to Michelet at that little food stop near the airport. Just randomly saw him there. He took us to the others who are all fine. Will update you when we can. Oh and we also found the orphanage that had all the donald duck paintings...all of the kids lived and are ok. Amazing because houses right around that orphanage are destroyed."


"Carl and I are safe here in PAP. It has been a long trip. We stood on the tarmac for a long time trying to figure what to do. Patients all around. Wounded being evacuated, UN and military all around. We were just dropped off with a "good luck". Spent all day looking for everyone. I had to rent a driver and tap-tap and spent a fortune. Everyone is out for a buck now. Anyway, gas has risen to about $13/gallon. At the end of the day I finally found Michelet. He cried and hugged me. Then we went and found Jimmy and Bony. They were so happy to see us. They took me down in some of the neighborhoods. It was so sad. So many homes destroyed. It was hard to see the guesthouse destroyed. I still can't find Frentz, Gertrude or Patrick, but I left messages for them. We will try to get in touch with Lesly tomorrow. We went to Delma 19 orphanage today. All the kids are in a tent city. They need food and water. Wall's guest house is also gone. I will try to find another tap-tap tomorrow."

Rebecca - Utahns relay firsthand accounts of rescue effort in Haiti - Utahns relay firsthand accounts of rescue effort in Haiti