Thursday, May 20, 2010

Belated Closure

Belated. By almost two months. Please forgive me... I actually wrote most of what you see below, in late May. But a series of unrelated events (i.e. unemployment, MRSA, vacation, the oil companies) kept me away and "unawares." So here's some closure.
Well, Brett arrived home safe and sound... tired, filled with gratitude, and having gained much perspective. Here are some pictures that he, and the team he was with, took throughout their stay...

Here's Brett, realizing that he wouldn't see his beautiful and delightful wife, for two whole weeks.


There's a slim chance he was thinking about something that didn't revolve around me. And was wondering how people drive in Haiti, and live to tell about it! And this is Toulise; the team's driver.

And these are the famous "tap-taps" that serve as public transportation, equivalent to a taxi. But like a taxi from Beetlejuice, with Tim Burton as the driver.

Brett says that right away, you notice the smell. It's very dirty in Haiti. Not just by American- anti-bacterial-obsessed standards. But by health and wellbeing standards.

There's the obvious rubble-debris to contend with... that kind of dirty. Which is expected.

And then there's the trash kind of dirty. A result of a sanitation system that is broken... more so now, after the earthquake. But broken before it, as well.

And then there's the kind of dirty, that makes children sick with the trots for weeks at a time , and young mothers die from infection. It's the kind of dirty that lives in the waterways...with the feces and the household debris and the hogs... and it's where locals wash their clothes and their dishes and their hands...


Local residence. I prefer the blue one.

More local residence. The ones below, are built on the median, in the road. Yeah. You read that right... smack dab, in the middle of the road!!!


Brett and the team's translator, Frenaud (Frey-n0). This kid's special... like adoptable, kind of special. He's 19, speaks four languages, is finishing his last year of high school and plans/wants to become a doctor or a minister. He studies medical books written in French and English in his spare time! Seriously, someone sign me up to take credit for him!!!

The schools themselves, aren't bad. I trust the intentions of the teachers, the accredidation of the schools, and the religious organizations that run them... fully.

But...when you're child misses a few days of school from dehydration because they've spent the week on the toilet, they're gonna fall behind. But chances are, within a few days, they'll make up the work and carry on... healthy, healed, and mentally ready to learn. But if that happens three times a month, your child is gonna fall behind, get discouraged, and fail to learn the items necessary to move on.

Mix illness, with some children's need to provide income for the family, as well as a family system much different from our own... and you have an illiteracy rate of almost 50%.

BUT, one of the first institutions to be "up and running" following the quake, were the schools. I think this is indicitive of hope. And these children... they're the present AND the future of Haiti.

This is a group of school children at CONASPEH... the ministry and organization which partners with the Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ... and oversees 6700 churches in Haiti while providing education and medical care for the locals. It's nice to know, that even in Haiti, the children are much more interested in what's going on in the playground, than what might be going on in the classroom! We have an elementary school near our house... and I swear, all they do is play outside. It's like, my good tax dollars are apparently paying for recess. Sheeze.

That's Karen (from Brett's church) in the middle, with the leaders of CONASPEH (mostly clergy who serve as the board of sorts) and the pastors wives. There are VERY few female clergy in Haiti... but you know, I figure, lets get over one hurdle at a time right?!

That grey rock you see behind the two girls? And that rubble on which, the other children are playing? Yeah, that's their old school. Imagine being reminded every day...

Ahh... finally, children pretending to learn. Or deciding which Jonas brother is the cutest. Oh wait.... scratch that. They're deciding which member of the Fugees is the coolest: Wyclef Jean or Pras. (I vote for Wyclef.) Or maybe their not old like me... and are squealing over Kompa. Whatev's.
And then there are the orphanages.

Before you start singing tunes from Annie, let me make it clear, that the word orphanage does not mean what we imagine it to be.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of these "orphanages" which are little more than, the local pastor, opening his doors. In many cases, these pastors can't even feed their own children, yet take on the care of other children whose parent(s) may or may not be alive. It's not unusual for a parent (usually a mother... some things sounds familiar) to drop their child off at these homes or churches, with nothing more than a cursory "I'll be back in a few weeks... I gotta take care of some things." Or I can't afford them right now. Or I have to care for another child right now. And it's not because they don't love their children. But becuase there is no other way.

And so, that's why, when the missionary group from Kansas took those "orphans" and were going to bring them to the United States... it was SUCH a big deal! These kids had parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters! I trust those missionaries had good intentions... I really do. But it's sort of a case of "America knows best... we're big and powerful and surely, we have all the answers." I mean, no child in America ever goes parentless or hungry or fails to graduate. Nope. Not one.

The team had the opportunity to visit some of these orphanages... and give them dolls made by some of the ladies in the church where I served at the time.

This is one of the pastors and his family. It's kind of hard to notice, but the baby on the far right, has orange hair. This is a sign of malnutrition. Studies show that one in every three children in Haiti, is malnourished.

Local clinics provide medical grade peanut butter... but women and their babies can sit all day at a clinic, waiting to see a physician.

And most of the folks are there because of STD's. Unprotected sex is a real problem in Haiti... in part, due to the Catholic influence, but also just an overall lack of cause and effect understanding/education. And maybe some "bad intentions." Maybe.

I believe the exact words that Brett used when describing this doctor, were "slicker than snot on a salesman." Though I hate the imagery of "snot," I sort of get it. He's a fundraiser first. And a doctor second. With braces. He's the "maybe," the bad vibe. But where there were one or two "bad vibes," there were many more good and faithful people, trying to save the country that they love.

A look inside one of the clinics.


The local market. Where everything and anything is sold.

That's a wheelbarrow full of "spent" rebar that is headed to market. When I say "anything and everything," I mean it!
As you head up the mountain, and the air gets cooler and cleaner, you find the folks with "the money." Not like Hollywood/Brad Pitt money, but maybe more like Ozark, Missouri money. The mission team spent one day "up the mountain" visiting orphanages and finding reprieve from the suffocating heat.

From this vantage point... removed, safe, well cared for... Port au Prince looks gracefull, peaceful, hopeful. I pray they feel those things today. I pray their children know those things, deep in their souls. And I pray that we might be changed.

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