Saturday, January 30, 2010

Missionary Flights International

Thanks to Missionary Flights International (MFI) I made it back to Ft. Pierce Florida, and thanks to pilot Ric even had a place to stay for the night before my Ft. Lauderdale to Kansas City flights. The 7 hr flight on a WWII DC3 took us from the airstrip in Pignon to Cap Hatien on the north coast where we went through customs, to the Caicos Isalnds where we refueled, to Ft. Pierce FL. Ric took me to his house in West Palm Beach to stay overnight (got to bed around midnight), then his wife Beth took me to the train station in the morning to catch a train to the airport. It was wonderful to be taken in like that. My friend Rick was waiting for me at the airport (glad to see a familiar face) and he took me home where my dogs and cats were waiting for me. Everyone was happy and healthy thanks to house/pet sitter Kim. The earthquake changed everyone's plans and made my visit much richer, as I was thrust into the daily lives of not just my host family but other familes facing this crises. And 19 people accompanied me to the Pignon airport on the UCI bus!

Photos show: The 554 lbs of supplies that UCI received (along with my friend Barb the art teacher! Barb & Jim had to leave Haiti last summer due to lack of funding, but now are back). The trip to the airport. The medical mission team on the DC3 with me.

Layover on Providenciales of the Caicos Island.

Click here for videos on youtube.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nutrition centers

UCI runs nutrition centers where kids get food and Bible stories. Each has about 40 – 60 kids, and some take their food back home to share with families. Kristie said most kids didn’t have clothing before the centers began. I visited 4 during this trip (LaPleids, Caiman, Lot bo Bohoc, and Laboc) and gave an hour long presentation about the importance of birds to Haiti. Many parents also attended. JeanJean took time out of his busy schedule to translate (I started with a hired translator until the quake hit). Lot bo Bohoc invited me back to teach the adults. It’s amazing how much basic ecology people didn’t know, and how excited they were to learn more. My general outline was:
1. Why I came to Haiti –
a. To see the birds, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.
b. To teach people about the birds so they can make a difference the natural resources of Haiti and in turn their lives.
2. Game – names the parts of a bird in Creole and English.
3. Where birds live (parakeets live in the holes of woodpeckers, etc.)
4. What birds eat (hawks eat rats, hummingbirds drink nectar and pollinate flowers which produces fruit, etc.).
5. All these things that birds do are good – they’ll help spread tree seeds and gardens will have more vegetables and fruit.
6. Gardens also need water to grow – review the water cycle with a Creole poster (evaporation, condensation, precipitation).
7. Trees will help prevent water from evaporating from the soil.
8. Back to birds help the trees and visa versa, and tourists pay to see both (Dominican Republic has ecotourism).
9. End with butterfly life cycle game using a poster written in Creole.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Families from Port-au-Prince

My new friend, 7-yr old Myriam from Port au Prince (PAP), took these photos of the family and friends staying here at UCI (in the dorm and with the brother across the street). There were 34 people here the weekend after the quake. They all spent 3 nights sleeping in the streets of PAP before they made it here. Some of the 34 have moved on to families elsewhere. UCI has brought 837 out of PAP and reunited them with families in this region! Pastor JeanJean is the one hamming it up for the camera.

Friday, January 22, 2010

World Water Monitoring Day

The World Water Monitoring Day organization sent me 4 water testing kits and 50 pamphlets written in French. Louiders, his sister Soyrina, and I have tested water at 4 sites, plus the tap water from the UCI cistern. (The plan was to distribute the kits among the schools that I visited, but schools and meetings are canceled due to the earthquake). We tested the tap water here at UCI where I could more thoroughly explain the kit to Louiders, and he in turn used the kit to teach 7-year old Myriam (in yellow) about water quality. Myriam is from one of the families displaced by the earthquake. She is very smart, can read English even if she doesn't know the meaning. I have been teaching her ecology using the worksheets that I intended to distribute at the schools. I have also been sharing my other teaching resources (books, binoculars, coloring activities) with the kids who are now living here.
The photos show the river crossing north of the Bohoc market, and a well from which people get their water.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Yep, felt the 6.1 quake

Felt the quake this morning, and we're all still fine! Here's some pictures from this week. My friend Chimene in the yellow served as child control yesterday while I taught the kids and some adults how birds are good for their gardens and for spreading tree seeds. One of the UCI workers said he kept the kids away from a bird nest this year and enjoyed watching the chicks grow! It's typical for kids to destroy bird nests here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Relief efforts

I wish I wasn’t posting about the earthquake everyday but that’s our life here now. For those just tuning in, my trip blog starts with the posting of sight seeing in Port au Prince one week before the quake hit.

JeanJean & Kristie Mompremier don’t seem to be worried about the food or gas supply. JeanJean said supplies are coming in or they can go to the Dominican Republic for food (he’d rather give people money so they can buy food at the local market and keep the money in Haiti). Their main concern is accessing money from their bank account to feed the 25 or so evacuees they are hosting here in Caiman, a small community). Their bank was open yesterday but they couldn’t cash checks to access funds from their UCI account (see the how to help post). But the community is really coming together to donate food and supplies, a lot of people want give. All the missionaries in the area are coordinating relief efforts for evacuees coming into town. Those who have family somewhere JeanJean sends on their way to be with their families. The missionaries will keep a list of those who need help so that people can’t take advantage of the situation and go from missionary to missionary to receive handouts.

Most everyone here at UCI (staying in the dorm next to their house) is JeanJean’s family except for a family of 6, a coworker of his brother-in-law Jehu. Jehu and the father of this family returned to PAP. They work for and AIDS organization and their building wasn’t damaged, so they can still distribute medicines. Kristie is trying to get her 2 daughters back on their home school schedule, but all the kids here are a big distraction. Public schools in the entire country are canceled, I don’t know for how long. Students from the permanently closed ones in PAP and other destroyed communities (Petionville, Jacmel) won’t be allowed to start attending schools in other communities. Kristie is considering hiring a tutor for the kids here at UCI.

I’m still meeting with Louders to teach him ecology. My new friend Chimene has been teaching me Kreyol. She returns to Cap Haitien on the north coast tomorrow. Her and her husband were visiting family here (in Bohoc, the main small town right up the road) over the holidays. They were to return to Cap the day after the quake, but ended up staying because Cap was receiving so much rain there, and the tide was higher than normal (I might be confused on this).

To free up beds in the dorm where I was staying, I moved into a room in the Mompremier’s hosue they use as a local artist gift shop (there’s a bed in it). Since we don’t have tv and radio is in Kreyol, I’m not barraged with images from PAP so the initial shock has faded for me. Going on birds hikes I can almost forget the tragedy, until a truck drives by loaded with people and their overstuffed suitcases or garbage bags filled with their belongings, or I see a group of people crowded around a hand crank radio. Though we now eat rice and beens everyday to make the food stretch, it’s still great food. Last night we had fried breadfruit for dinner. The Haitians are a jovial people so there is still much laughter here. Louiders even gave me a present of about 4lbs of coffee this morning!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Louine's story

The memorial service for the 4 college men was this morning. It seemed to be as much a memorial service for the country as for the men.

Here is the story of Kristie's nephew, Louine, who was trapped in his school building. He is here now with his family.

My nephew Louine, that was buried under his school, still suffers from the shakes. He can't sleep through the night. But, his story is a story of grace. He was on the second story of a 3-story building. His class room faced the street. He was sitting in his desk when he felt the earthquake start. He stood up immediately. It didn't take long for the building to collapse. He fell onto his desk instead of being crushed in it like others of his classmates were. But, when the quake ended his head was resting on the folding chair and one arm was under his desk and the ceiling of the 3rd floor was less than a foot above his head. He couldn't even sit up or turn his body at all. For a long time, the students didn't even know that it was a earthquake, they thought that only their building had fallen. But, after a lot of time had passed and no one arrived to help, they believed it had to be a quake and the whole city was affected. They knew they had to help themselves. It was already dark by this time and they only had the light from their phones. They couldn't call anyone. The ones that were still living encouraged each other not to cry or loose hope. They touched hands or feet or any part of the body, if possible, and sang hymns to keep their courage up. At around 9:00 PM, their professor, who was talking up to that point, passed away. He was 'sitting' right behind Louine. Then the students nearest the door were able to move the broken chalkboard to clear a hole near the doorway. It took a lot of painstaking work with their bare hands to clear even a small space. As each person was freed, it opened a small route to reach the others. Louine was one of the last. He is a tall young man and the hole wasn't big enough for him. He had to take the rubble and make the hole larger. By this time, there were people that were helping from the outside. And he made it out. One of the things that struck me the most is when he talks about the period of time when he was waiting for the others to get out. The cement ceiling was less than a foot away but it kept descending. Louine says that he kept passing his hand over his head to see how close the ceiling was to him. When his turn came, the ceiling was resting on his forehead. When he got out, the first people he saw were his dad and our cousin. They had arrived at the same moment that Louine left the building. Praise the Lord! Louine attributes his class being saved because they prayed together. The class next to his had many who survived the initial collapse but they panicked. Louine said his class mates tried to help them to be calm and pray and not to scream but they couldn't seem to stop. After a couple of hours, these students succumbed to shock and their injuries. No one was able to leave. Louine also prays that his professor was able to turn to God in his last moments because he cursed and mocked his students efforts to pray. But, Louine emphasizes that God can change hearts, even at the last moment. When one of his fellow classmates broke down, the rest of the class was able to sing and pray for them. In this way, they were able to stay encouraged and united. Louine thinks that 12-13 students were able to walk out of the rubble and 8-9 had to carried out of the building. Three students died instantly and the professor died after several hours. In all the classes, Louine's had the most survivors. Again, he attributes it to God's grace. The earthquake was at 4:45PM and Louine left the building at 10:30PM. Others followed him until into the early morning hours. Louine didn't leave the scene right away. He knew how the shock left so many tremendously thirsty. He and others went to find water and lowered it to the trapped students below. He believes that saved many others.

Louine wants me to say this to you: I want to tell my story because I didn't know for a long time whether I would die or not. I checked the time on my phone often so as to know the time of my death. But, there came a moment when God spoke to me. He said, 'You will not die, I want to show you my greatness.' Louine says it is for this reason that he not only wants to tell his story, but is able. I can attest to that as he is sitting beside me shaking. I pray that remembering God's grace and love in the midst of all the horror will heal him as nothing else can. He pleads with you to never stop praying because God does not allow anything to happen for nothing. God gives VICTORY.

God bless you, Kristie

P.S. I just got back from youth group. The kids are going to go and pray and visit with as many families who have lost sons or daughters as they can. They are going to offer to wash clothes or clean the yard or whatever. They are also taking up an offering themselves. Many of them will be lucky to offer $.25 but it will be a beautiful and rich offering in God's sight.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

not much to update

No new news. JeanJean and UCI are starting to plan for long term housing of the evacuees. They are also having trouble paying their internet bill so I'm not sure if that will go down. Jehu and other brothers took a truck load of supplies to PAP today. His son Loune who was trapped that night is in the 3rd yr of med school. Everything has shut down, schools, jobs, etc. so he and everyone else don't know where their life will lead now. I went on a long bird hike this morning, and scheduled 'school' for MWF with Louders and his sister Soyrina.

PS - Your imagination and the media might be making you think it's chaos and destruction where I am. Not so at all. No damage, we have food and water, I'm going on bird hikes and teaching neighbor kids, testing water quality, snuggling with cats, having great food and it's finally hot here. We even watched a movie yesterday. It's just stressful for the Mompremiers to coordinate the next steps, and their family is now misplaced.

photos: Kristie & JeanJean, and their 3 dogs at their daughter's soccer game at the field they created on their property.
Me with my new friend Mme Serge and her husband Serge who is a pastor in training. She has been coming over a lot to teach me Kreyol. Women go by their husbands name, madame... I forget her 1st name! We're in the new worship center on their property (& the dogs are somewhere there too!).

Friday, January 15, 2010

The family is here

The family made it in at midnight, plus some people Kristie doesn't know. JeanJean made it to Hinche (13 miles away) and needed gas but there wasn't any so he came back with a pickup truck load of people who live in Caiman. He hired another truck to drive to PAP to bring back the family. Not sure if they are all here, but Jehu is. It's good to see him. JeanJean has a funeral today at 2p for the college men that died.

4:30 update: The funeral was canceled since they can't bring the bodies back. There might be a community-wide memorial tomorrow. The Mompremiers are sending most of their clothes to PAP, Mike and I chipped in as well.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Earthquake update and how you can help

The Mompremiers will be receiving evacuees from the capital. If you’d like to help them provide food, clothing, and other necessities, you can send a check to UCI in Iowa, and put earthquake in the memo. This will help not only the people staying with them but others who are returning to family in Caiman. They will have a lot of people to feed. JeanJean already bought two large bags of rice this morning to prepare.

JeanJean spent last night ministering to people who lost family & friends. Four young men from here who attend university in PAP were killed when the house they share collapsed. Kristie said their family sold land and made great sacrifices to send their kids to college. This morning there was much distraught wailing wafting from Bohoc (sounds carry well along the base of the mountain). I took a walk and came upon a group of people gathered around a hand crank radio. People are trying to go to PAP to bring back family. Hinche, the major town south of here on Hwy 3, is becoming an evacuation center. JeanJean left around noon with their truck to bring family back from PAP (they were just here this weekend for the holiday). HAFF, the American run school & ag training center down the road, is coordinating relief efforts with the Mompremiers to receive evacuees, both family and other people. The team who was just here from Iowa brought an electrical water purifier that can fill a large water jug in 3 minutes (compared to hours waiting for it to filter through a ceramic filter). I’m sure when they brought it they had no idea of the magnitude of a blessing it will be. A man (Collin?) from HAFF was reviewing with Kristie how many barrels and receptacles they have for water.

Life is slow paced here anyway, now it has really slowed down as there isn’t anything I can do to help and schools are canceled. Knowing the language is really empowering, I feel comfortable going for long walks and take along my binocs and bird guide to teach about the birds (people are pretty much outside all day). Family is coming tonight, and Mike and I may be sharing rooms with other evacuees later this week. Kristie said her cooks don’t have immediate family in PAP, so they continue cooking wonderful meals for us. Soon there will be many mouths to feed.

The nutrition center I was to visit today was cancelled, and this morning I had moments of feeling like there wouldn’t be any more teaching opportunities, and yet I am here for 15 more days. But a nutrition center meets in the gazebo at the end of the driveway so I’ll go give a bird schpeill there and handout stickers. In retrospect spending this past week just settling in gave me a lot of opportunities to learn Kreyol from various people and I’ll be able to talk about the birds without an interpreter. Tomorrow morning Louders will take me on a bird hike, and I’ll ask him to take me to a large cave up the mountain on Saturday. His sister Soyrina meets with us too.

Please pray that JeanJean is safe in PAP today. His brother Lamou who lives across the street ended up not being able to find his wife and kids, and said it was difficult to get through the cities, there are bodies everywhere. The media is reporting only on PAP, but surrounding towns (Jacmel, Carrefour, etc) were destroyed also.

If you want to see where I am, plug this into Google Earth. 19.296838°, -72.072775°. The aerial photo was taken before Kristie & JeanJean bought this plot of land. The own the large patch of tree you see in the photo.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Noon update Wed. 13 Jan.

The internet is incredibly slow, so this might be my last update, and I won't check email for awhile. No worries if you don't hear from me for a couple days, we are fine here. Schools are canceled, and people are having prayer vigils throughout the town. Neighbors and relatives keep coming over to see the pictures on the internet. I don't know what the runway in PAP is like. I leave the 29th, so we'll see what happens. The little MAF plane flies lands on the same runway in PAP as the international flights, and then JeanJean's brother Jehu gives me a ride for the 3 blocks it takes to get to the international airport. Jehu's son was trapped in a medical school all night. JeanJean hasn't heard from Jehu (he's in the photo on my 1st post). I think someone from JJ's family is going to PAP to try to find relatives.

I'm glad I am here so that friends in the U.S. can feel the impact of the devastation rather than it just being another news event. The atmosphere is much like that in the U.S. after 911. Half of the 8 mill. or so people live in PAP, so everyone has family there. On a positive note I will teach at another nutrition center tomorrow afternoon, and go on another bird hike Friday morning. Today I worked with Louiders to teach him more ecology. I gave up trying to explain pH (hydrogen ion concentration of pH)! Next year we'll work on that!

First week in Haiti – birds, cement floors, and earthquakes

My first week with Pastor JeanJean and Kristie Mompremier has been a great cultural immersion. I am practicing Creyole on many people and they have all been willing to spend time to teach me. Louders, my pupil from last year, and I have had 3 English and ecology lessons, one 4 hour bird tour (including a sugar press), and a 2.5 hour market trip. Last year he hardly knew any English. This year he can successfully give bird tours on his own, though the market was a little confusing – we haven’t practiced market phrases yet.

Tuesday morning I went with Mike and JeanJean to 2 houses where concrete floors were being poured. It costs about $300 per house, and improves the standard of living as people no longer have to sleep on dirt floors and the houses can be kept much cleaner (i.e. easier to clean where kids pee, floors can be swept free of pests, etc.). While Mike helped with the floors I taught a lot of kids about birds and how to use binoculars. One little girl kept calling me ‘blan,’ their term for white people.

Tuesday afternoon was my first ecology lesson at one of the UCI* nutrition centers. 40 kids and 20 adults were there. Each kid received an English/Creole birdtract and a bird or insect sticker. They had fun learning the parts of birds in English and Creole. The adults got into a discussion about birds damaging crops. Saul the Haitian ag extension agent pointed out that the birds are forced into the gardens because so many trees are gone. I am equipping each center with a pair of binoculars and a French Birds of Haiti book. I will visit 5 more centers this month.

My 1st week ended with a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that shook Haiti at 4:53pm on Tuesday 12 January 2010 while I was in the house checking email. At first I thought it was the wind picking up and shaking the roof since it was raining, but it didn’t look windy out. Then I thought it must be a plane flying low overhead, but large airplanes don’t fly low here, then I realized the whole house was shaking, and still shaking as I went outside – all this happened in maybe 8 – 10 seconds. A 5.9 aftershock occurred about 10 minutes later. Everyone was outside and excited, but now the news reports are coming in and it sounds bad in Port-au-Prince (PAP). Almost exactly 1 week ago to the hour I was in a 4 story office building buying bird books in PAP. Phone service is down so JeanJean and his brothers can’t contact their family who live in PAP. Last night I felt 4 aftershocks. It felt like someone was in the dark room with me pushing on my bed! Exciting during the day but not so much at night, especially after realizing the devastation in the city. As I finish this blog the morning after the earthquake, JeanJean is sitting in his truck listening to the radio to find out information.

Photos of my trip through in the capital on 5 Jan. 2010, one week before the earthquake:
The presidential palace decorated for Christmas;
Houses on the hillsides of Petionville;
Rivoli, a fancy hotel in Petionville;
Houses in various stages of construction –
they seem to just build on top each other.

Photos from my stay at UCI (above):
Louders my birding guide;
Sugar cane juice being boiled for rum production (the gov’t shut down the processed sugar mills so they can collect the customs fees from imported sugar);
Men mixing cement for new floors;
Kids trying out the binoculars (the then carried water from the river for the cement mixing)

*United Christians International, the Mompremier’s organization LINK

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ti Zwazo Kote W A Prale - Kreyol bird book

My 1st day in Haiti and I found bird books in Kreyol! My guide Jehu (the brother-in-law of my hosts) took me on a tour of Port au Prince the capital & Petionville, and we stopped an office building that had bird books in Kreyol & French, so I bought some of both. One was the book I used last year that I bought from the author Florence Sergile who lives in Florida. But I gave them all away last year and she didn't have anymore in the US. I visited the Musee du Pantheon, a really nice museum that tells the history of Haiti. It even has the anchor from the Santa Maria. We went to another museum at a Baptist mission that had a hodgepodge of displays. It would be a great project for one of my KU museum studies classes! Here's an interesting blog about it. The museum did have a map of the mammals of Haiti, which was a good find since there aren't many mammals & not much popular information about them. There was also a sad little zoo with a monkey, 2 goats, a crocodile in a tiny cement enclosure, doves, and lots of rabbits with 2 guinea pigs. Here's a picture of Jehu and me at Fort Jacques, as well as scenes from the drive up to the fort. The cool mountainous air felt good! My schedule is off from traveling, I think I'll try to go back to bed. In the morning my hosts here in the capital, Michael & Karen Broyles, take me to the MAF airport where Michael is a missionary pilot. I'll meet up with Mike W. and we'll fly to Pignon and stay with JeanJean & Kristie!