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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Day 3. The Sacred Heart Centre

Today the group and I visited the women and children at the Sacred Heart Centre. We all split up into different groups depending on what we wanted to do.
Amy and Daniel worked with Dawn to help the nurse at the nutrition centre to better understand Excel and ended up creating an entire year's worth of medical charting templates! The nurse learned the program so quickly and was glowing with confidence by the end of the day.

Danielle, Liam, Kelsey, and Brian went to the pre school where many of the children had come to from the nutrition center less than a year ago.  They said over and over again that the level of energy the 100 children was something no one could be prepared for! It was awesome to listen to the group members talk about the interactions they had with the children.
Anita, and I spent our morning in the learning center with the women who were learning to sew. While we waited for more students of the sewing class to arrive,  our translator Benji gave us some Creole lessons. 
The women who were there with us were laughing so hard with us and trying to help us with our pronunciation. During that lesson, I sat next to a woman named Fabula. She was the most patient and comforting person to be around in an environment with a language barrier. She would give me her time in helping me to understand the meaning of a word through our body language.  We progressed into presentations where the women showed us the purses they've made.
 Fabula showed hers and I bought it immediately.  It was just so beautiful... a bright teal corduroy.  There was another women whose purse I liked, and she tried to give it to me for free!  We've noticed  here... that people just want to give you things. Even when they could benefit from having the money,  they insist that because you like it and because they like you, you deserve to have it given to you. I told the women that she had worked so hard to make it and deserved to be paid for it. So she accepted the money and hugged me.

Kelsey, Brian,  and Emily had an amazing experience when we got home from the center today. They met some local kids at 5 pm and played with them them for hours. Again, these kids offered them their belongings because they just liked Kelsey,  Emily,  and Brian so much! Brian sang to them in Korean and Kelsey came back with her hair braided in corn rows! It is such an emotional experience for the girls, especially when the kids asked when they were coming back again. It is our last day here in Cap Hatian so we won't be returning and it broke their hearts to have to tell the kids that.

Tonight's share session was quite emotional as we all had a day we will never forget. John reminded us that we're only on day 3 and that we have much more to see in the days to come. Now we get to experience the rural communities of Haiti! Tomorrow we have a 4 hour drive to St Marc where we have a chance to relax a bit before heading up to through the mountains!

Day 4

Day 4 was something entirely different even though we were still in Cap Hatian.  Yesterday I showed the women a wallet my sister in law made out of duct tape after they showed us their purses. They were blown away by the tape wallet and really wanted to know how it was made. So John arranged for me to teach a duct tape wallet work shop today! I was tickled pink to have the opportunity to do something like this with these women who I had bonded with so much over the last day and a half.  Thank goodness Dawn, Emily and Danielle offered to assist me because we ended up needing about 200 strips of tape for everyone to make their wallets. I was so greatful to have Andre as my interpreter for the work shop. He did so well with conveying my emotion- which can be difficult sometimes,  especially with me!

While I was doing that, Kelsey and Liam got a tour of an historical park in Cap Hatian and had a chance to really bond with our interpreter Benji. Amanda and Jack went with our other interpreter to a hotel filled with war antiques and ancient artwork.  Amanda said it was breathtaking. Both India and Benji are both so knowledgeable and did an amazing job of enlightening those 4 lucky group members. 

Amy and Dan continued to help the nurse better her Excel skills and had a blast as the hard stuff was already covered the day before so they just played with the program.
We wrapped up our day by spending our last while in the nutrition center with the babies we had bonded with the day before. My personal favorite was Ista. She's a beautiful yet stubborn baby who loves her rice but hates her water!  We also nicknamed a baby "pumpkin baby" because we couldn't remember her name! Shd happened to be  wearing a shirt with a pumpkin on it the day before so the nicname stuck and she will be remembered as such!  All in good fun of course!

Saying goodbye to Cap Hatian was so difficult for me. My heart goes out to Andre who helped me tell the women at the learning center how much they've impacted my life and how I am so honored to know them. Hearing that they felt the same about me brought me to tears and I received a lingering hug from every single woman.  I can still feel their arms around me...

After our goodbyes,  we drove for a good 5 hours to a hotel in St Marc. It was the resort life for us for the next 15 hours. We were greeted with welcome drinks and a view of the ocean with an optional pool.... and air conditioning! (A highlight for some of us) 

If I'm being honest, none of us expected to be treated so well by our hosts. We didn't expect to have beds every night,  or full 3 course meals at least twice a day. We didn't expect to be able to shower everyday.  This list goes on...So being at the resort did feel a little weird and we were all grateful to be there for only a short time.
Reflections that night were tough because saying  goodbye to Cap Hatian was hard on us all. What really resonated with Dawn was the empowerment of women within the adult education initiatives we witnessed. To empower women with education and entrepreneurial skills helps to change how a culture perceives women and their roles within the community.  And for Dawn,  that took her breath away to see the progress being made.

Day 5

Day 5 was the trek up to Gilbert, a very rural community in St Marc. Jack, Danielle, Kesley, Liam, Brian, Victoria,  and Teresa took the 4 hour hike option to visit a remote school before meeting the rest of the group in Gilbert. Their long hot hike was totally worth it when they were greated by 200 students who sang to them.  On their way to Gilbert, our interpreter Milfer bought fresh mangos for the group members at a little market stand. How awesome those mangos were I cannot express!!!!

The rest of the group and I took the 1 hour hike to Gilbert.  Because we had some spare time, we visited a St Marc high school called St Patricks.  Our quick visit there was a whirlwind.  We took a quick tour and discovered very quickly that teenagers are teenagers wherever they are, and they are rowdy as ever! We loved it!

Gilbert was the most authentic rural Haitian experience we could have hoped for. We all got best use of our bug nets that night as we stayed in the loft of a cement barn - like building.

 After a delicious dinner served by the cooks of Gilbert,  we had our reflections based around the "look, listen, and learn" John keeps reminding us to focus on. But we were more specific to Gilbert as we were contemplating what was present- like the solar panels atop the nurse station that makes it self sufficient,  and what was missing- like the lack of revenue generating initiatives in the community. We did this so that we could attempt to provide input in the morninng meeting with the teachers.

We all slept really well in the loft actually. And to top off our authentic experience,  our driver Luke lead us to a local fresh water spring to bathe in when we woke up in the morning. What a great way to start the day!

Once the teachers meeting ended in the morning,  the Labour Day festivities began! Oh yeah, Haiti's Labour Day is May 1st!! The festival they put on was fabulous! Groups of kids came up to perform dances and the teachers gave speeches. Finally,  they began blasting Haitian music, which reminds me of reggae, and were encouraging people to get up and dance. So naturally, I'm up and dancing while no one else was! Finally the little kids flooded around me to dance, then very quickly after the adults joined. We all danced so long and hard that I looked like I had showered! It was the absolute highlight of the day.

Then we all journeyed back down the mountain to meet the bus which drove us back to where we start this adventure of ours at Walls guest house.

In Walls Guest House.

Tonight's reflections were a bit different as we all discussed our challenges instead of highlights. The topics that came up were the garbage and pollution, the begging children and how hard it is to say no, and trying to stay objective and non- judgmental while we see things that would otherwise shock us. 

Tomorrow we head back up into the mountains to the orphanage for our craft,  sports, and music day!

More on that later!