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Thursday, March 29, 2018

March Break Awareness Trip to Haiti- last day in Port au Prince

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There’s nothing like hearing the wail of a rooster to start one’s day off on the right foot. It felt almost second nature, after hearing this natural alarm clock, that we would all be opening our eyes expecting to see the beauty of the Haitian sunrise and that we would feel well rested heading into our Sunday festivities; however, upon groggily coming to our senses, it did not take long to realize that it was 2AM and the neighbourhood roosters decided to host a singing contest in the middle of night. This was the beginning of our Sunday of the 2018 Rayjon Haiti Awareness Trip in Port Au Prince.
This reality of Haitian city life did not hold back our good spirits as we headed into our first full day in the Port Au Prince region. The theme of our day was the virtue of caring. This was one of the days of our trips where many had particular expectations for. Many on the trip as well did not know that it would become arguably the most impactful day of our experience.
We began the day with a mass at the Missions of Charities Headquarters in Port Au Prince. The Missionaries of Charity is one of the most well-known religious orders in the world for poverty alleviation. The surroundings at mass were simple- a picnic shelter, altered into a chapel, equipped with blankets acting as walls against the harsh Haitian morning sun. There were benches acting as pews on top of concrete slabs and ceiling fans that worked overtime to make sure its patrons felt as comfortable and at home as they could. As we were in close quarters with hundreds of young and old Haitians, sisters and brothers to the Catholic Church and visitors like us who were in awe of this beautiful and vital location for Haitians, the mass was a humbling reminder to us of the beauty of community gatherings, no matter the location and the people we were with.
We were only meant to stay at the Mission for mass; however, fate had a different plan for us. We found our way back into the nursery behind and, for many of us, had a life changing experience. The mission of the sisters, at this location, was focused on childhood malnutrition. We were given bowls from the sisters, soon after entering the nursery, and found ourselves, for about forty minutes, taking part in the unexpected task of feeding malnourished infants, some of whom were not expected to survive outside of the mission. Never has severe poverty been so tragically apparent to us and yet never had many of us been so drawn in to help where we could. By the end of our time we all experienced moments that were both communal and personal. The love and care of those who helped the infants in need, no matter what illness or level of health they were in, was a style of love and caring that is hard to explain, and even harder to discuss amongst other people. It was pure.
As we made our way from the mission towards the mountain areas outside of Port Au Prince, we found ourselves in a completely different environment and situation. The 35 degree heat radiating from the city dissipated as we ascended into the clouds and into the 10-15 degree afternoon weather found in the mountain town Kenscoff. We all felt an odd sense of being back in Canada as we saw spruce-like trees, along with more greenery than we had seen most of the trip. The climate felt welcoming and we knew we were about to enter into another special experience.
We found ourselves at St. Helen’s Home at the end of the windy roads up in Kenscoff. In Haiti it is said that 1 in 10 children are orphans. St. Helen’s Home houses around 500 of these children who are raised and educated on site. This orphanage was not just a single building but an entire property, the size of a small town! Leaving our cameras and phones in the car, our entire time in Kenscoff was unscripted and left up to the children to create. Some of us got involved in playing sports while others braided hair and painted nails. Drums were brought out to put on a show for all to enjoy and colouring books were being enriched with new colours each second. At the same time, some of us met particular individuals who felt open enough to personally share a bit of their stories and the lives they live. We were all surprised by the beauty of the location and the festivities taking place; however, we all knew these children were dealt raw deal in life’s natural lottery and that life is wasn’t always sunny. It was tough to leave that afternoon but those children’s smiles and laughter will always remind us all of time so well spent with younger kids who dream of a brighter tomorrow.
We were all exhausted by the time we made it back to St. Joseph’s Home for Boys that evening and were as well hoping that all the neighbourghood roosters were just as tired; however, the impact of the day had not escaped us. Throughout the day we saw the virtue of caring in many different forms, some in the most tragic of circumstances and others in the lightheartedness of friendship and fun. But each act of caring made a difference in a life, whether it was in one that we felt we knew for a lifetime, for a week or for even just a few moments. This day transformed all of our trips heading into our last full day in Haiti.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

March Break Awareness Team to Haiti 2018 is heading home!


Do Your Best With What You Have

For our last morning in Cap we toured the market. Odette welcomed us in to her home and we were able to meet her family.  We had lunch with our hosts from the Sacred Heart Centre.  They made us feel so welcome the entire time.  In our time here we’ve seen how many challenges Haitian people battle daily.  They are incredibly strong people.  

We had a quick entrance to the airport with a short flight to Port Au Prince.  We were greeted by our new hosts at the air port and brought to St. Joseph’s Boys Home.  We learned the amazing work that has touched many lives in this tiny part of Port Au Prince.  Bill shared how this work came to be and his love of God.  Bill played his Djembe (drum) and Wootrod sang and played his guitar.  We were blessed to hear their incredible talents. 

- Sally Parkinson

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Day 4 March Break Awareness Trip to Haiti 2018

Friday- Cap Haitian

On Friday we went to Sacred Heart Centre where they have a nutrition clinic, nursery, life skills class and alpha literacy classes. We met Andre and Denise who run the centre. We got split up into three groups to go to the nutrition clinic, nursery and life skills class. Unfortunately there was a huge rain storm the night before and that made it hard for families to get to the clinic so there wasn’t as many people there as we hoped for. It was amazing to see all the woman learning in the alpha classes and how happy they were to be getting education. It was great to see them be so happy when they finally understood or got the right answer. We played with the children and fed them twice in the morning and then worked with the adults in the afternoon. It was hard to see how much the rain took a toll on the community as we drove through town that morning. Everyone’s yards were flooded and they were scooping water out of their homes. But neighbours and friends came together to make the work lighter and get done faster for all. Overall it was a great day and an unforgettable experience. 
- Maggie Parkinson

Friday, March 16, 2018

Day 3 March Break Awareness Trip to Haiti 2018

Luc- Our Hero

I asked Meghan to share a pic that was a highlight of our day and she sends me this pic....
To you it may say...’yes, that is a picture of Luc....’
For our group....Luc was our hero!!
So many times we forget to highlight the unsung hero’s of our lives....
Those who work behind the scenes who work tirelessly and with great love and commitment to the tasks they have been called to perform!!!
Luc was an incredible driver for us yesterday and today...
The road yesterday to Pinson was frankly not fit even for a donkey....
And today we timed our drive to 8 hours on a road that was not paved for almost half of our journey....
And then said goodbye and drove back to St. Marc....
Who amongst us could do that...NOT I!! 
In the many years I have known Luc I know him as a dedicated driver for Rayjon....but he is more than that....
Yesterday and Today I trusted him with the safety for all the members of my group and all of us are extremely grateful for how he took care of us these last couple of days...
It was another incredible day and difficult to put into words all that was learned today...
BUT most of all...a profound thank you from all of us to Luc!!!
He holds a special place in my heart!!

- Joanna

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Day 2 March Break Awareness Trip to Haiti 2018

The day started with another early morning to get a head start on our hike up to Pinson. 

There are close to no words to describe our experience. For those who decided to climb the 2 hours and a half hours, the hike was challenging and hot but absolutely breath taking. 

Upon arriving to Pisnon we were welcomed by an assembly of singing, dancing, and plays. Sheets were hung from the rafters as curtains and music was blasting from the speakers we had brought up on the truck. For almost all of us, the highlight of our day was how engaged the students became when the teacher started to sing and dance. By the end of our visit we found ourselves all dancing together. 

It was decided due to lack of time and water, we had to all take the truck down the mountain in order to make it in time to the alpha program.

The bumpy ride down had all flying out of our seats, but with our trusty driver Luc, we had nothing to worry about. 

When we got to the alpha program, we were disappointed to hear we were too late to see a program in session. Although we were lucky enough to have 4 women in the program wait around just in case to share some words about their experience and their appreciation. 

We finished our day back at our accommodations (Hopes nest) with a delicious meal provided by the staff. The days virtue to discuss at reflection was curiosity and all of us were definitely curious. 

How do all the children at the school make it up that mountain every day? 

How can you convince parents to keep their kids in school?

How can you provide enough water to a school that’s in the mountain? 

With today being such a eventful first day, we wonder what’s in store for tomorrow with a trip up to Cap Haitian. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Day 1 March Break Awareness Trip to Haiti 2018

Oh The Places You’ll Go

What started off as an early brisk morning turned into a hot, humid drive  from Port Au Prince to our accommodations at Hopes Nest. As a team we all agreed that the day was full of challenges from problems with our baggage to more problems with baggage. Our chosen virtue for today was collaboration, which was put into good use throughout the journey, as noted by working together to meet baggage weight limits, shuffling supplies between bags, eating lunch together, and reminders to stay hydrated. 

The drive out of the city to our accommodation was an experience in and of itself! From the interesting traffic laws, to the different infrastructure, and even a game of guess how many people fit on a motorcycle... we saw four! 

After arriving at Hopes Nest we met our host Paul and had a delicious meal prepared for us by our accommodation. We look forward to what the next steps in our journey will bring and we prepare ourselves for our morning hike

Michaela Cromwell 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Final Day March Break Awareness Trip to Haiti,2017

Haiti March Break Awareness Trip 2017 - Day 7

We have found ourselves on the final day of our trip. This day started out with a bit of a later breakfast. As has been the theme St. Joseph's, staff provided us with a great meal. Following breakfast we boarded a bus and visited the Apparent Project not very far from our accommodations. We met our tour guide Tricky who provided us some background information and took us through the various workshops that would create goods.  The Apparent Project is the location where many different goods are handmade for sale in the shop. We saw different types of beads for jewellry, some of which are made from recycled cardboard. We also saw pottery and t-shirts being made among other things. We learned that this project was created to provide jobs for parents so they can afford to support their children and avoid situations where they may end up having to bring their children to orphanages due to poverty. We visited the shop where finished projects are sold after our tour. It was hard to pick just one thing so most of us picked many! It felt nice to support the program, but many of us agreed that the things we purchased would have been worth buying on merit alone in a store anywhere. 
Our time at the project was capped off with a delicious lunch at the rooftop Papillon Clay Cafe. 
From there we took the bus to Croix Des Bouquets, also known as "tin town".  This is an outdoor market that sells hand crafted metal works made out of the recycled oil drums. Our group split into pairs and went on a shopping excursion to buy items to be used in Rayjon fundraisers. Some of us even bought a few keepsakes for ourselves!  Overall this was a good experience and there was lots to see. The amount of creativity involved was at times overwhelming. 
On our way back to St Joseph's house there was a very important pit stop to buy some Haitian vanilla. It is said that this vanilla stands apart from the rest in its aroma and essence. On our way we drove through City du Soleil, which was perhaps our most jarring experience of seeing the abject poverty that exists for many Haitians. For lack of a better word this is a slum made up of many small dwellings packed in together. We also made a brief stop at the Cathedral in Port Au Prince. The Cathedral was significantly damaged in the 2010 Earthquake. There has been limited repair since. Group members who viewed the Cathedral pre 2010 spoke of what it looked like before which put the damage into perspective. Nearby we also got to see the famous statue of the "Unnamed Slave" which we had learned about days earlier at our museum tour in St. Marc. This powerful image celebrates the revolution. 
When We returned to Our accommodations we enjoyed a delicious dinner provided by our hosts and spent some time reflecting on our trip. Our reflection tonight was about the true purpose of Rayjon Awareness trips.  Each of us shared how we used "Look, Listen and Learn" during our journey and what stood out to us. We also discussed ways we can share our experience when we return to Canada (so if you're reading this there is a good chance one of us will be looking to tell you some more in depth stories than this blog can provide at some point). 
We (bloggers Ian and Amanda) think it is safe to say that this trip proved to be an enlightening experience in many ways, some of which we might not have seen coming. This has been a great group of people to travel with and we met and listened to some truly inspiring and insightful people; people that are passionate about their country, their people and the issues that are present. If you're thinking about an awareness trip we would all encourage you to attend an info session for a future trip. 
That's a wrap on the 2017 Awareness Trip.