Friday, February 26, 2010

Counselors and Volunteers

      Now that we are six weeks into the relief efforts, reality is setting in more and more for everyone. This week there are 386 people in residence at the camp. The numbers vary as some people come, stay for a few days and travel on, while others settle in for longer residence. Most of the children have settled into local schools, some without complete supplies as yet, but still the rhythm of life has started again for them. This week we’ve had two separate teams here who’ve worked flawlessly together to help meet the needs. The first group was sent by FAVACA (Florida Association for Volunteer Action) who responded to Caleb’s stated need for Creole speaking counselors. They sent down the first of several trained trauma counselors to begin working with the camp refugees regarding stress counseling and how to deal with all that has happened around them. This has been especially helpful to the children and teens who have seen unspeakable things and need help to deal with everything. They’ve been doing individual and group counseling sessions throughout the week. As they leave this coming week, they will be followed by a second group of Creole speaking counselors who can continue this beginning. How grateful we are to have these folks come and volunteer their time to spend and invest in the healing of our camp residents.

Also joining us this week is the second team from Fellowship Bible Church, Memphis, TN. Their fearless leaders, Soup Campbell (really!) and Sydney Payne are showing what a difference two retirees can make when they put their minds to it. They are leading this group to build shelters for the camp residents. They’ve also spent a lot of time cleaning up the camp and helping establish more structure. The team spent one day traveling overland to visit Port au Prince and see what all of us are facing and came away even more convinced to do all they can to help. Part of the team members are leaving tomorrow and a second group is coming to continue the work. We are grateful for all the ways they are reaching out to love on the folks here. Between helping the counselors in sessions and facilitating art therapy with the kids, to picking up trash and laying building foundations, playing some great soccer and basketball; their care is very evident to all. They’ve reminded us once again you don’t have to be specially trained to serve and love others! Thanks ya’ll!
Besides the starting of school, the day to day running of the camp is keeping our staff pretty busy. Imagine having 350 (on average) for each meal. I was told this was costing right at $400 daily for three meals a day. We are also going to continue food distribution to families in the area, especially those who have taken in the homeless. Caleb made two trips to Port au Prince this week to distribute more supplies and flew to Miami this weekend for some meetings. We all know this is going to be a long haul to help folks get resettled. Caleb is currently planning on several different outreaches to help folks get on their feet again. He is developing some exciting strategies and we should have them ready by early next week! While we are facing years of rebuilding homes and lives, it is encouraging to begin to see signs of healing. We appreciate your prayers!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tents needed . . .and the level of destruction

Things continue on in our location 90 miles north of the earthquake epicenter. As we expected, the population of refugees at Hosean’s camp facility has ballooned to over 350 settled in for long term residence. We have also settled some families at the apartments available at our school facility. Please be praying for these people as they adjust to life in the countryside and continue to grieve for all the losses they’ve experienced.
     Tents continue to be a huge need throughout the country. All of the tents we had received have been distributed or set up. We’ve filled up the semi-finished structures we already had at the camp and have settled the most recent arrivals into tents as you can see. For the youngest, it is a fun thing to have a new home (see photo).

This morning Caleb spent some time with the main group leaders of the refugees discussing security and distribution issues. These folks need assistance with everything as they rebuild their lives. But as I watched the camp manager hand out laundry soap the other day and then the women head out to the river next door to do laundry, I thought the rhythms of life even in the small jobs are healing in themselves. Please be praying for Caleb and the leadership team as they seek the best ways to get people integrated into the community, all the children into schools, etc. The needs remain immense even in our relatively stable community. We have our third group of volunteers here this week from Fellowship Bible Church-Memphis, TN who are going to be helping with a variety of projects including putting up longer term shelters. As I look around our camp, I see so much need, but at least people have some mattresses, etc. It helped my perspective to read the following note from my good friend, Donna Adhemar, a Haitian-Canadian RN who’s been in Port au Prince the last week:

“The day before we left I had the chance to walk through one of the IDP (internally displaced people) camps that we had been to several time. Heart wrenching. We gave them what supplies we could. There were still so many without even tarps over them. Their 'homes' were about 2 by 3 meters. I visited one older lady's home. The floor was stony and I asked her where she slept. She pointed to a piece of cardboard - it was about 3 feet long and 1 foot wide. She said she puts that down at night to sleep on. So very many needs everywhere you turn. . .

The last night in Haiti it rained - no, it poured. I woke to the water getting into my tent, because I had left the flaps open for a breeze. My first thought, though, was not about how wet I was, but how much misery the people I had visited in that IDP camp were now going through. The next morning, I packed up and began the journey home. The next morning, they had to start cleaning up, but they had nowhere to go. I hope you will continue to pray with me that we don't forget these people in their misery that we will work and care and reach out a helping hand to lift them out of where they are and give them the chance to have hope and a future.

I received today another update from Rotary Past District Governor Dick McCombe who traveled to Port au Prince yesterday for high level meetings between Haitian government officials and members of the Haiti Task Force, including Caleb. Please understand this is a gentleman who has traveled extensively in and around Haiti prior to the earthquake. I found his descriptions and observations very telling as we try to understand what we are facing:

“After the distribution site we toured Port au Prince and Petion-Ville. I can only tell you that I felt my expectation of what I would see was based on my experience in Haiti and a very informed understanding of what the infrastructure was pre earthquake and how desperate the situation was pre earthquake. I must tell you that I was shocked beyond words at the destruction and magnitude of the disaster. While I expected to see thousands of crumbled buildings and the devastation I had no idea it could be so bad.
As we drove block after block, we saw either all or every couple of buildings imploded. It pained me to know that in most of them there could have been anywhere from 1 to 50 or 60 dead people still in the rubble never to be found, claimed or even buried. Besides the imploded buildings, fallen walls, cracked and broken structures, the entire infrastructure was also laying on the ground pushed to the side. Things like power lines, phone lines and water lines. This was amplified by the sewerage and water running down the streets carrying the garbage and loose possessions.

As a quick perspective I was told the following. 15% of the country is now homeless, additionally 10% are displaced. I was also told that they have estimated that if they take 1000 loads of rubble per day from the streets, it will take a full 2 years to remove all the destruction.”

I can only say that it is a good thing the Haitian people are used to struggles and suffering; because the work ahead for all of us is almost beyond comprehension. As a Christian, I take comfort in the fact that I serve a God who sees and knows what we are facing as well.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dates for volunteers. . .

Greetings from Haiti! Caleb and family returned back to Pignon from a long weekend in the Dominican Republic last night. It was nice to get away from the constant running and stress of decision making for a few days. The first night we all fell asleep at 8 PM and didn’t wake up until 8 AM. All in all, it was good to get away. As we anticipated though, there were a lot of demands awaiting us upon our return. Even while we were away, we heard the refugee population at the camp had more than doubled. There are now more than 350 residents living full time at the camp. Most arrived through contacts in Port au Prince. One thing we are seeing is that the later arrivals are sicker due to longer exposure to the unhealthy conditions where they were. I’m going out tomorrow (I’m an R.N. for those who don’t know) to see what assessments can be made and sending those who need further care to our local hospital.

There are two things we wanted to share with you; one was an image of the city streets on Friday as we left for our break. Friday had been designated as a day of national mourning and area pastors had chosen my brother-in-law’s church, Jerusalem Baptist to be the meeting place. Pastor Jephthe Lucien later told me there were over 5,000 in attendance. This was an encouragement to see people gathering to begin to express the tremendous grief we all feel. While walking is the usual mode of transportation in our area, I’d never seen this many out walking to church. Notice that several of the people were carrying their own chairs to make sure they could sit down. We are hoping and praying that this will be the beginning of a time of healing for the nation as a whole.

Finally, as promised, Caleb has developed a schedule of dates that are open for volunteers to come and help. See the list of suggested dates below:
March 22-March 30th
April 10th- 17th
April 19th-26th
April 27th- May 3rd
May 12th-19th
May 21st-28th
June 1st-8th
June 10th-20th
August 2nd-9th
And then the whole month of August is open

Projects that are needed range from building a new sanitary facility , finishing a computer lab at the school, renovation of the children's home( plumbing, electricity, painting, building bunk beds, & a playground in the yard), building new school desks, building a playground at the school, and finishing dorms at the camp. Other activities needed would be coordinating activities among the camp’s children (a game day, relay races, etc.) and things to encourage the adults, an English as a foreign language class is regularly requested, etc. Please be creative as you examine your team’s gifting and see how you can encourage those here. All of these projects will facilitate providing the best possible living conditions to the folks relocated from the earthquake. If a group in your community wants to come, please fill out the application forms on our website and have your leader contact our stateside office or shoot us an e-mail. ( ). Once you get scheduled with our office and with Caleb’s approval of a project best suited to your group, we’ll send you the information you need to plan.

Finally, Caleb is planning long term projects with contacts in Port au Prince including the possibility of building a low cost housing facility near Port au Prince as well as rebuilding some churches and schools that were destroyed. As these opportunities firm up, we’ll let you know.

We are energized and ready to move forward in the coming weeks and months. Please continue to pray as we step out to help those around us.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Busy days and good news . . .

Today was busy but a fun day. Started off by calling the medical director at the local hospital to ask when he could see a potential orthopedic patient. I’d discussed this case earlier with him, a 2 year old boy who had been in the earthquake in Port au Prince who was now staying at our camp. American doctors had evaluated him in Cap Haitien and sent him to our community hoping that he could get further care of malformed feet (club feet) he was born with. After spending the last few days at the camp, we were able to get him in for evaluation to find good news. He doesn’t need surgery! All little Kenson needs is to have orthopedic casts applied and re-applied weekly over the next few months.

Along with physical therapy for his weakened knees, the doctors think he should make a good recovery. This is the same situation I described earlier in the week. After spending a few days at the camp, the 25 year old single father, Roberto is no longer exhausted. He had previously been eking out a living as a metalworker making artistic designs in old metal drums. Of course, since the earthquake, his home was lost, as well as all material possessions including his trade tools. Roberto had been just wandering trying to find his son the care that he needed and in shock after the earthquake. After a quick evaluation and placement of the casts this morning, we arranged appointments for little Kenson three times a week for physical therapy and placement of new casts every Wednesday. Caleb is willing to give the father financial help to start his work here in the community. As Roberto doesn’t have any family elsewhere, he is excited to be able to start over in a place where his son can get the care he needs and he can also practice his trade. Caleb told him after six months we’ll evaluate and see what options exist. What I would encourage you to see from this is how up in the air all the refugees’ lives are right now. One other note, the local hospital ( is giving all of this care to Kenson for free. So if you’d like to help them as they care for those in need, please give. They are providing free care to all patients injured in the earthquake and need help offsetting these expenses. I would encourage you to help them.

Caleb is returning from yesterday’s trip to Port au Prince this evening. He spent the last day there distributing donated medical supplies to three clinics and two hospitals. Also, he purchased $15,000 worth of food supplies to be distributed through 10 different contacts within the city. He is working with people he already knew who are still in a position to distribute food securely. Next week, we are getting a large shipment to our community to distribute to families in need up here (especially those housing refugees). Pictured is Caleb with several solar powered portable sun ovens donated by members of Rotary International. They will be distributed in the next ten days throughout the city of Port au Prince to help folks to be able to cook. (a very practical help!)
Finally, one last image for today, we had a great friend fly in on a relief flight today, traveling eight hours round trip on a cargo plane to spend one hour on the ground to see us! Rich Leland, pastor of Summer Street Church of Nantucket, MA has been a friend and great help in recent years. After he arrived in our town at 12:45 P.M., we quickly visited our school campus across the street from the airport. As school is usually over by this time, we were barely able to catch the last busload of students leaving. However, it was a group he especially wanted to meet, the students now living at Camp de la Grace who are now attending our ministry school. While this is only a portion of the 300 kids the school has enrolled from Port au Prince, these are also the kids we’re providing with lodging and three meals every day. Rich told them he was honored to be able to meet them and that he and their church had been praying for all of them and their families. We want the folks staying with us to know that many people care for them and wanting to help. Please know how grateful we are for all of you as we seek to provide the best possible care to these folks as they begin to rebuild their lives.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Snapshots. . . .

As we try to gear down from the critical relief efforts to more long term strategies, I think our lives right now are best illustrated by snapshot views of opportunities we have to help. Caleb continues to be amazed by the sheer volume of phone calls he gets daily requesting help. He wonders, “How did they get my number?” In reality though, he is glad to hear of ways to intercede.

A day or so ago, he remembered an acquaintance who lives in Port au Prince who had given about $6,000 worth of books to the ministry school last year. He hadn’t heard anything about her and asked a friend in the capital to stop by and check on her. Caleb found out that this 65 year old woman was living under a sheet in her courtyard, her house destroyed and without any food. He quickly made arrangements to get a tent sent to her and asked his friend to take her to a market so she could get some food. Hosean Int’l purchased a food supply for several weeks and got her back home and put up the tent. This woman was touched and remarked to our delivery person, “I can’t believe he would remember me.”

Yesterday morning after working through home school lessons with my daughters, I made my way down to the cybercaf√© to try and catch up on messages. After I gotten a generator going and sat down in the dusty room, someone came in and said there was someone asking for my husband. Caleb was out of town so I told him to come in and I’d take a message. A soft spoken, tired looking 25 year old man came in and handed me a piece of paper. On it was written a medical consult for a 2 year old boy who the man said was his son. Eventually the whole story came out. The man is a single father who had been living in Port au Prince. His son had been born with club feet and been fitted with a splint but he hadn’t been able to get any other medical care for him. Then, the earthquake came and demolished their home. He and the boy escaped, but the boy had something fall on his legs injuring them further. In the days following the quake, the father made his way to the northern state capital of Cap Haitien. He found initial care for his son with some American volunteer doctors who were caring for people in a school gymnasium. The volunteer doctors were friends of Caleb’s. He had found out there were orthopedic surgeons coming in and out of our local hospital and told them if there were patients needing follow up, to send them up and we’d see what we could do to help. Thus, the man appeared asking for Caleb. His son was already admitted to the hospital and finishing evaluation for repair of his injuries and club foot repair. Ultimately, I think the outlook for the boy will be good, as he will be able to get the medical attention he needs. The father is exhausted and doesn’t really know what to do. I knew he had his immediate needs met: shelter and food. Between our ministry and the hospital, all inpatients are receiving two meals a day. I sent him several changes of clothing as he vocalized that need and he came by this morning to tell me thanks.

I don’t know what is going to happen completely yet. I told him Caleb would be back in town today and we’d come together and discuss how we can help. If the father wants to stay, I think we can provide for him at the camp. If he does not for some reason, an option exists at a close friend’s orphanage in town which often takes in children with medical needs with the plan of reuniting them with their families. Please be praying for this situation that we can find the best way to help both the father and the boy.

One final story from yesterday, as dusk was approaching; I was hanging some washed clothes on the line. I saw a man walking up the hill with the help of a walker. Since it’s quite a walk to get up the stairs in this old guesthouse, I told him to wait and I’d come down to him. Again, a fatigued young man, this time with obvious injuries to his feet. One foot was wrapped in gauze in a new dressing. The other foot showed newly healed wounds from having three toes amputated. The story was similar. He and his family had survived the earthquake and come north to receive help. He initially got to Cap Haitien where he met the same doctors who referred them to our community. He’d already been to the community hospital and had his foot redressed. He had in hand the medications (antibiotics) prescribed. He told me his wife and four children were in Cap Haitien still and he’d come to receive medical care and any help he could find. He hadn’t eaten all day after traveling 8 hours on the back of a pickup truck to arrive in our community. I got him some of our leftover lunch (rice and vegetables with goat). He immediately perked up while I made some phone calls. Eventually I found a car that was not already being used and got him a ride to our camp. I made sure he was set for the night and told him once Caleb returned the next day we could figure what more could be offered to help him. I let him borrow my phone to call his family in the city and tell them he’d safely arrived. All in all, he was happily settled for the night. Tomorrow is a new day and we’ll see what it brings and what help we can offer.

I hope this wasn’t boring to anyone, but I just wanted to give you an idea of what all of us living and working in Haiti now are seeing on a daily basis. Friends who have worked in the tsunami disasters and the like, continue to tell us in the months to come we’ll have more and more people relocating and seeking help. Many people are still clinging to existence in the capital city, not yet understanding the long term rebuilding that will be necessary. I don’t blame them, I still can’t wrap my mind around it all either. We’ll just all keep doing everything we can one day at a time.

One final note, school did reopen yesterday, our new enrollment including refugee kids is: 1,200 students. There were some enthusiastic kids on the bus yesterday. Until we get uniforms for everyone, the administration told the kids to wear regular clothing, to help the displaced kids integrate more easily. The kids all think its great fun to wear street clothes. Our administrative staff has been wonderful working out all the details. Please continue to pray for all of us!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

4 tons of supplies and medical evaluations

Greetings from Haiti! The last few days continue in the rhythm of receiving supplies, securely storing them and categorizing them: medical supplies, tents and tarps, clothing and food. Today we received an entire DC-3 load (more than 4 tons) of supplies. The flight was funded by friends in Minnesota and flown by Missionary Flights International (

Once we get them categorized, they are delivered to various points throughout the country. The medical supplies are being distributed in consultation with the Haitian national designee for medical relief. The clothing and food are also being distributed rapidly primarily to Port au Prince.

The photo above, right is of an Assembly of God pastor whose church was destroyed, he is taking clothing and shoes back to the surviving members of his congregation. What is exciting to us is that these supplies are being rapidly distributed in the ongoing efforts.

One more important outreach right now is getting displaced children back in school. Every school in our community has been closed for the past month. Caleb led the way announcing tuition free education for these students. As of today, there are 386 new students enrolled. To provide for these students it is going to cost the following: ongoing costs: Increase in salary per month for new teachers $4000 USD each month, feeding at the school is going to cost $600/day for ALL 1,300 students. Onetime costs: books for 400 students $12,000, Uniforms for 400 students (2 sets/student) $24,000.
You can tell the needs are going to be extensive in the coming months. Please be praying for us and/or let us know if you’d like to help.

Here is a view of families arriving to register their children for school on Monday:

The other thing happening right now is that we are having all of our new camp residents evaluated by a medical team volunteering from Miami. Led by a Haitian-American physician, Dr. Dorvil, this team is checking all of our current 105 residents. Once evaluated, they are being referred as needed to our local hospital to establish follow up for chronic conditions. They are also starting all the residents on some donated vitamins to build up their defenses. We really appreciate their sensitive evaluation and the time spent listening and caring. They saw 33 patients today and will see all the rest before their departure on Tuesday.

The children staying at the camp are excited about starting school soon. Today I finally had the chance to bring them some coloring books and crayons sent in by donors. The simplest things can bring great smiles and joy.

Please continue praying for all of us. Pray that we can help all within our reach.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Posturing and don't tire of doing good . . . .

     Just like the other media, I’ve been writing less but for different reasons. Most of the news crews are rapidly departing Haiti as interest dwindles while those of us that live here are getting even busier. I suppose that is as it should be. The posturing of some people and organizations has started as everyone wants to appear to be making the best use of the donation dollar they’ve received. By and large, everyone has good intentions, but most foreigners don’t want to hear that they cannot make the most efficient use of resources, and few of them really work to create equal partnerships with nationals. I’ll repeat here what I tell everyone who asks me: Don’t tire of doing good (see 2 Thess. 3: 13), but invest as wisely as possible in organizations and people you know. Ultimately, one can remember that there is a God in charge who cares and sees; He will make it all work out in the end. At least, that is what gives me peace.

What is going on here? Developing the camp to receive more and more folks as well as building structure to help all the refugees around us. Caleb also continues to coordinate receiving supplies from donors worldwide and getting them all over Haiti. (Yes, that really is Caleb pictured below, he actually was standing still long enough to photograph-smile)

Today he was facilitating the visit of a former military hospital administrator/aid worker/physician who is working to help hospital administrators nationwide determine their greatest needs for the coming year. Caleb had accompanied him to the hospitals in the north (Cap Haitien, Milot) and was getting him to Port de Paix this afternoon. This fellow Rotarian from Grand Cayman is volunteering his time as well. It is encouraging to meet so many with varied skills offering of themselves.

Today we have a total of 105 people settled in for long term residence at Camp de la Grace. Most are in family units and continue to express their gratitude for finding a refuge. This past Sunday morning, Caleb went through all the boxes of clothing & shoes we had available so that all those who wanted to would feel comfortable attending church. Everyone got a ride into the town square to attend the denomination of their choice. Caleb feels it is very important to get them integrated into the community. Another way this will happen is with the reopening of schools.

This past Sunday morning was another emotional one for all of us. Caleb shared at his Dad’s church of what he had seen thus far on the trips into Port au Prince. Then he prayed for all of us as we move forward. A full one third of attendees that morning had been in Port au Prince during the earthquake. One announcement that was met with applause was Caleb’s sharing that school would open next Monday on Feb. 8th. This date has been set by the Haitian gov’t as well. In particular, he announced city wide that any student who was displaced by the earthquake destruction would be eligible for enrollment tuition free at our ministry school. Everyone who is advising us has confirmed that this is an important step forward to provide normalcy and healing. We’ve already taken the names of all the students staying at the camp and I just heard that as of today, there are two hundred and thirty refugee children signed up to start on Monday. Please be praying for all of us as we get this going. Francesca, pictured below in her mom’s lap, is excited to be able to go back to kindergarten. Today I found a group of young boys cutting each other’s hair to prepare for school- they were glad to have some upcoming activities.

We want you to know that we continue to anticipate more and more opportunities to help in the coming months and we are preparing a schedule for volunteers/groups to come and help. The list will be available by mid-February and we will need folks who are willing to serve, especially build school desks and expand classrooms to welcome these kids. Other projects such as building long term shelters and rebuilding some schools in Port au Prince are in the planning stages. Again, please do not grow tired of praying or providing help. We are doing everything in our power to make sure it’s getting to those in need.