Wednesday, December 3, 2008

school collapse survivors

Miquette and a little boy from the school
Me with Danilove and her mother

A few weeks ago a school collapsed in Haiti, killing 90 and injuring a hundred more. I had the incredible opportunity to visit L'hopital General in Port-au-Prince with Miquette Denie and Denise Blesh, coworkers and friends of mine at QCS. Together we were able to bring bottles of water, stuffed animals, cookies, crackers and candy to the kids recovering from the collapse. We saw nearly 20 kids spread in 4 different rooms. Many of the children lost friends, teachers, and siblings in the collapse. Miquette was able to organize over a thousand dollars in donations for the families of the victims to help with hospital bills and, if necessary, funeral costs. We had the families come two weeks after our visit to the QCS campus. Here they received $500 HTD each (roughly $65 US). Many of the children were still recovering in the hospital. The families were thrilled to have help in the midst of such an awful tragedy. 

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Aftermath Part III

Better late than never...

When we were leaving Cabaret there was a young woman in the back of one of the trucks. One of the other missionaries asked why she was there and he was told that she needed a place to recuperate and eat good food.  He said the orphanage was full so Pam and I offered our house.  We found out that the night Cabaret flooded, she woke up and ran for her 3 month old baby. As she was trying to get to higher ground, the flood waters came. A banana tree washed by and knocked the baby out of her arms. She was swept down the raging waters and into a tree where she fought through the night. She was found the next morning in the tree, alive, but her baby was not. 

She was 17 years old.

We brought her home and got her some soup. She had no energy and was bandaged from the many cuts on her body. We set up a bed and table for her in the living room. Later, however, we discovered she didn't just need a place to recuperate from the trauma, and it wasn't only food she needed. When we felt her forehead, we discovered that she was burning up. After fighting with her to let us take her temperature, we discovered she had a fever of 104.3.  We immediately tried to get the sheets off of her and put a cold rag on her head. She refused. We tried giving her tylenol, but she refused. After nearly an hour of trying to calm her fears of foreign medicine and wet rags, she finally let us get her temperature down. Little did we know that the next few days of our lives would look just like this!

The poor girl was very, very sick. On top of losing her baby and getting stuck in a tree during a flood in the middle of the night, she was daily fighting a nasty cough and an even nastier fever. We took her to a clinic that diagnosed her with pneumonia and prescribed anibiotics among other things. Of course, more pills. From day 1 she refused to take any pills, so Pam and I had to smash the pills and put them in various beverages. One day it would be sprite, another day coke, and still others, just water.  She was very, very picky and changed her mind constantly. We decided it was a combination of her age (teenage girl!), recent trauma (losing a baby), high fevers (delirious) and the foreign environment (different house with 2 foreigners taking care of her). After 4 days of battling with her to have her take her meds, eat healthy food, and bathe, we decided it was best for her to return to her family. We were able to get her back to her village where her sister took over nurse duties.  

I am happy to report that a week after staying with us she was regaining her strength and doing much better. I am waiting to find out the most recent update as to her mental, emotional, and physical condition. 

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Aftermath Part II

On Saturday, nearly a week after Ike churned past Haiti, I was able to join some other QCS teachers on a trip to Cabaret, Haiti. Cabaret is a town not too far from us that flooded very quickly in a very short amount of time. Built next to a small river, the town was overtaken by a rush of water from the tree-stripped mountains. The house in the picture serves as an eerie reminder of the destructive forces of nature.  On either side of what's left of this house were more houses and shops that were carved out of the earth by the raging waters. 

Our team of 3 trucks full of volunteers, doctors, food, water, medicines, and clothing passed through many areas of flooding on the way to Cabaret. Very few places in the country were left untouched by the back-to-back storms this month. On our way out we had a UN escort. Once we got to their base--a few miles from our destination--we were surprised to see our small UN jeep escort upgrade to two large armored personnel carriers. 

Along the way, one of the vehicles in our caravan had a flat tire and overheated. That's usually par for the course when going anywhere in Haiti. Soon after we all got out to stretch our legs, Pam and I became instant celebrities to the Jordanian peacekeepers escorting us. We had to pose with different soldiers in the group as they took turns taking pictures. As strange as the experience was, it still helped to lighten the mood before experiencing difficult sights ahead. Plus, we got to hold a big gun. 

When we arrived in Desca, a small village just north of Cabaret, we were amazed by how much water was still rushing through. A stream that is easily crossed had cut a huge path through the middle of the village. Even more difficult is the fact that the waters started to rise at 2am-- without any warning. 

We arrived at a point where our tank escorts could not squeeze through. After our nice upgrade, they were forced to back up and turn around to find smaller vehicles to take us the rest of the way. We weren't allowed to begin food distribution until all of the caravan made it safely to the distribution point.  

Finally we were able to organize the families of victims to hand out food, water, and clothing.  We also had a clinic with two doctors examining those wounded or sick from the storms. Lastly, Pam and I were documenting the many school children who would now need sponsorship.  

Sadly, about 20% of the children from the school were killed in the flood. 

When we left that day we were all stunned by the gravity of the situation. At the same time, however, it was so amazing to be able to contribute in some small way to help a community get back on its feet. A lot of media attention is focused on Gonaives, and rightly so. But the smaller communities affected are sometimes forgotten by the rest of the world.  I have been so encouraged by the number of people who heard about the devastation here and were ready and willing to help. Haiti is a very small country, but there are a lot of very needy people here. The poorest are always the most affected by disasters such as these.  
The story doesn't end here...check back soon for part III!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The aftermath Part I

Here in Port-au-Prince, we were largely spared the worst of all of the storms. In my neighborhood, we sustained some strong winds and rain, but no major damage.  The rest of the country was not as lucky. Most of the reports I've received are terrible.  Here is a recap of the aftermath of the storms:
Hanna flooded Gonaives, an area that was also badly flooded in 2004. Over 3,000 people died then, and the city still was not ready for another heavy storm. This year less people died but thousands were still left homeless.  Two weeks ago we got word that 12 orphans and their caregivers were rescued off a roof and brought here to Delmas.  At midnight the water came rushing into their orphanage, leaving them only enough time to get to the roof with a day and a half's worth of food. They were there 3 days before a pastor from Port-au-Prince was able to get to them. Once rescued, they weren't able to bring anything but the clothes on their backs, which, for most, were soiled pajamas that barely protected them from the wind and rain. Several teachers from QCS and I were able to meet the kids and find out their specific needs. We went to the market to buy basic groceries, arranged for a doctor to see the sick, and brought over some much-needed clothing. We have also brought the children to the soccer field on our school campus to play games with the students. What an incredible experience to see two worlds--the wealthy students of QCS and the poor orphans of Gonaives--come together in such a difficult time.

May the Lord bless these relationships to brighten Haiti's future!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The worst flood

I got a text message this morning from a fellow teacher informing me the Gonaives was flooding. Hurricane Jean drenched Gonaives in 2004, killing thousands unable to escape the rising waters. Now it is happening again, and what's worse is that no one expected it! Hanna was projected to pass far north of us and head for Florida. Eerily enough it stopped north of Haiti and started heading directly south towards us. The outer bands have been drenching Haiti all day.  The storm is still projected to head north, but it hasn't changed directions yet.  My area is still safe--we've had rain and strong winds on and off all day.  
Please pray for Haiti...this has been the hardest hurricane season yet! In three weeks we've had Fay, Gustav, and now Hanna. There are 2 more storms forming in the Atlantic as well--Ike and Josephine--and they are likely to pass close enough to Haiti to continue the pattern of flooding. 

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tropical Storm Gustav

Well it has only been a week since Fay hit Haiti, and already there is the threat of another tropical storm.  Just south of Haiti is Gustav, the ugly younger brother of Fay, who has targeted Haiti's southern peninsula. Like the typical younger brother vying for attention, Gustav is following closely to Fay's path. That means we are under a hurricane warning until Wednesday.  
For those of us up the hill from Port-au-Prince, the risk is only that we will see some strong winds and thunderstorms. But for the southern part of Haiti the risk is much greater. They haven't even recovered completely from last year's hurricanes and storms, let alone from Fay's damage last week. 

If that wasn't enough, food prices are going up again and there are threats of protesting. Some of our students weren't at school today because the overall security situation is not that great. 

Please keep Haiti in your prayers as we get ready for more storms and protesting. 

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tropical Storm Fay

I just received this email from a family that works in Deye Mon, Haiti in the south. Their area is usually the hardest hit during hurricane season. Please pray for the people affected by the storm's damage, which long outlasts the storm's passing:

Friday afternoon David realized that Storm Fay was heading to Haiti.  He called Dinel (assistant mission director)  to tell him to warn everyone.  Dinel had not heard anything about the storm.  Dinel and his wife just returned from harvesting their corn.  After Dinel heard from David he went back to continue his garden work,  storms destroy gardens.
Sunday morning it was still raining on the mountain.  Madam Dinel reported to David that gardens and animals were lost.  A large cargo truck from Jeremie was washed down the Ice River,  killing 37 people.  The river is a 45 minute drive from our mission.  When we are out of water David goes there to fill out water barrels.
You may remember that last year the hunger was worse than ever due to gardens and animals being destroyed,  by storms,  in October and December.
From January to May we added 100 severely malnourished children to the nutritional program.  When gardens are lost hunger increases. Starvation multiplies. 
We will be returning to Haiti on August 28.  Please pray that God will give us wisdom as we return to this situation.
Partners for Haiti,
David and RaeLeen

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My trip to Nigeria (photos coming soon!)

I first found about the trip to Nigeria last year. I was so excited to have the opportunity to not only visit another country and culture but to also meet people who had the same heart and vision for Nigeria that I have for Haiti. I wasn't sure how I was going to raise enough support to continue my ministry in Haiti AND travel to Nigeria, but I knew that God would provide. I started working at an American school in Port-au-Prince earning a small monthly stipend to help supplement my support. Earlier this summer I found out that my trip was going to be paid for, and I was amazed at how God did indeed provide the means for me to travel! I could only imagine what He would teach me while I was there.

When I arrived in Nigeria, I was surprised at how similar to Haiti it was. Once we left Abuja the similarities became more evident. As we drove through the villages, I loved seeing the people smiling and waving at us to welcome us to their country. When we arrived at the orphanage, I was struck by how excited the kids were to see the families that had visited them in the past.

I had the opportunity to play, dance, and sing with the kids while I was there. One night a little girl named Oma (Igala for 'glory') fell asleep in my lap. It was so heartbreaking to know that most children have laps to fall asleep on whenever they want. The children at MOM don't have that comfort available to them, so they take advantage of it when it's there. When I was holding her that night I was reminded of the call that God has given all of us: to love the orphans and widows in their time of need. It also reminded me of why I am in Haiti. I want to be a source of comfort and security for the orphaned, abandoned, and neglected children of Haiti. I want to direct them to the ultimate source of comfort and security found only in the arms of Christ.

Over the course of the week I served in the pharmacy, an experience that both encouraged and humbled me. I was encouraged because I felt like even though I have little medical training I was able to be used in the clinic. The other team members and I filled prescription after prescription after prescription, and learned more about milligrams and bad handwriting than we ever thought possible! It humbled me to serve behind the scenes like that. Our pharmacy team worked really hard for the hundreds of people waiting for their medications, knowing we probably wouldn't be seen or thanked by most of them!

Finally, I am so thankful for the opportunity to meet with Chrystal and Daniel. I loved learning from Daniel and swapping missionary stories with Chrystal. Hearing from sisters in Christ is wonderful, especially sisters on the mission field! I know the Lord will honor those relationships and use them to better my ministry in Haiti.

Visiting Nigeria made me miss Haiti. I miss the people, the language, even the traffic! What better confirmation than missing even the most difficult aspects of the mission field! As my furlough draws to a close, I am more than ready to head back to Haiti. I thank Zoya for the incredible opportunity to travel to Nigeria and reach another people group for Christ. It's amazing how God works things out for his Oma (glory)!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My new blog!

After many months, I have finally given in to the world of the blog. I will be updating this very soon so check back then!