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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Adult Awareness Trip November 2016 (30th Year!)

(The following trip summary is by Brian & Bev Murphy)
It was very successful – a small group with good chemistry.  We had a very busy agenda with long days.  We saw all of the Rayjon operations in Haiti and were very impressed with the staff and the effectiveness of the programs.  We also visited several initiatives not managed by Rayjon and we were very impressed with those operations as well.  The accommodations were very good; Amy Fletcher’s guest house was a very pleasant surprise.  We were pleased to be able to get Brian access to almost everything the rest of us saw.  Finally, we were fortunate enough to meet with several prominent personalities in Haiti:
  • Bill Nathan, who manages the St. Joseph’s Boys’ Home
  • Richard Morse, a noted musician who manages the Oloffson Hotel
  • Father Rick Frechette, a very impressive priest who has been working in Haiti for over thirty years.
Front row: Brian Rea, John Barnfield   Back row: Fr. Dan Vere, Bev Nottley-Murphy, Jim Leliveld, Brian Murphy, Terry DeMarco.

(Trip impressions from Brian Rea as follows)

I'd like to add that wheelchair travel has never been easier for me personally, with the hands-on support of our fabulous group and many of our hosts and new friends we met in Haiti! I don't know if any of you have a picture of the flying emperor or other versions of His Majesty, but it was an exciting and royal experience.  

My personal highlights are many, but at the top was meeting members of the Rayjon team in Haiti, putting faces and personalities to names I have heard and seen in reports while volunteering with Rayjon in Sarnia. Everyone was enthusiastic about their work and extremely diligent in their roles supporting the various projects in Haut de St. Marc and in Cap. 

We had fun learning a little Kreyol along with the Adult literacy classes, and came away with great respect for the class participants and professors.  At he Gilbert clinic, Dr. Bayard’s description of the post huricane mobile clinics and dramatic lowering of cholera incidents, was satisfying and reassuring.  Of course the school kids were inspirational. They were boisterous, but also dedicated to their learning. Another generation of hope!

As Brian M. Noted, our itinerary and agenda was packed – some trips are long and feel short; others are short but feel long – this was one of those. Each day felt like another trip, another full experience.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Eyeglass Trip May 2016

It was a cooperative effort between the eyeglass group, the RSCH St. Marc team and The Apostolic Faith Church of Lagarenne that made our eyeglass clinic successful. It was held on May 5th to May 10th, 2016 in a church located at the base of the mountain at the dead end road of Lagarenne where the vehicles stop and where those going up to Gilbert start walking. Just getting to the church was a task because the road from St. Marc to the church is unpaved, rough and often muddy.

A total of 367 patients were tested. Most were given prescription glasses and Alcon eye drops, while some were given sunglasses.

Support from the Haitian RSCH team was excellent.
Wesner and Luckner arranged with Pastor Auril Louis Cenor to have the church available for the 5 days of the clinic. Together, the three of them enrolled our clients and scheduled them evenly throughout the days of the clinic. They also made sure that the necessary equipment was available: generator, back-up generator which we used when the first generator did not work, tables, chairs and even an electric fan for us Canadians who could not tolerate the heat.
After a little training, the Haitian team manned the first three stations of the clinic and allowed the Canadians to run the other stations. They also helped in translating and directing the patients around from station to station.

Our translators, Ezekiel and Manley, worked tirelessly throughout the entire clinic jumping around all stations as required. They explained to the clients how to look after their glasses, how bifocals work, and sometimes even had to tell a client that he or she has cataracts and there was little we can do to improve their sight.
Our driver, Luc, was punctual and with him driving we felt safe even when going up the muddy rocky unpaved roads. More importantly, it was a comfort knowing that Luc and Wesner were with us in certain precarious situations such as being stuck in the mud on Saturday or driving home late at night through St Marc. on Monday.

On Saturday, there was a boy with a growth in one of his eyes. Coincidentally, Dr. Bayard was there and offered to get the boy in to see a specialist.

What a successful trip! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Eyeglass Team Update

The May 2016 Eyeglass Team to St. Marc, Haiti is on their way home.
342 Haitians can now see better!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Busy Month

It has been a very busy month for both our Canadian volunteers and our Haitian partners.
The Haiti team has hosted back-to-back teams from Canada.
Groups from Fanshawe College & St. Peter's Seminary, and 2 groups from Lambton College.
This group of BScN students from Lambton held teaching sessions at the Sacred Heart Centre. 

Field Director Andre Jean Pierre reports:

The set up was perfect, having the beneficiaries all stay at the same stations and rotating around those that did the training was a great idea. This allowed us to keep control over the beneficiaries and not having confusion of people moving around and not being able to get a handle on what was going on. This also made it easier for us when serving lunch and or giving out out the gift packages that was handed out. This also gave a chance for the beneficiaries to see different trainers throughout the day.
 I personally floated around in the three work stations yesterday (the 2 trainings, and the assessment of the nutrition kids), and I must say the trainings were very interesting to the beneficiaries. They were all into it and had a lot of questions. Even some of the men (parents of the nutrition kids) were into the cervical cancer and sexual violence training. My only regret is that we did not get a chance to do one more training. Some of the parents spoke with me afterwards and they said that they were very satisfied and learned a lot from the training's yesterday. I think that visuals helped the trainings out a lot also, it gave the parents a chance to see it in action. This is one area that we (the SHC) have to improve in the training's we give we lack in visuals at times. But overall I think this was a very good experience for our beneficiaries. 

An Eyeglass Team is in the Haut de St. Marc area this week, providing the gift of sight to rural beneficiaries.

Den reports that after a long a very long bumpy, for the equipment, ride to our clinic site 50 clients had their vision requirements  evaluated on Day 1. On clinic day 2 they reached patient #128! The group problem solved to overcome computer problems. One more clinic day to go!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Fanshawe/St. Peter's Seminary Trip to Haiti

ROBERT'S BLOG- Monday, May 2nd

Monday, May 2nd
Our Group!

A phrase that was repeated throughout the week was "When you think you have experienced the height of the trip, something else comes along that is even greater." This was true even on our last morning. We visited St. Damiens Childrens’ hospital where we first attended a funeral service, showing our support for the four families who had lost their children. After the service, Fr. Rick Frechette greeted us over espressos and cappuccinos but could not stay as he needed to go out into the streets to help treat a cholera outbreak. We went for a tour throughout the hospital, which was inspiring in general, it was beautiful to see how much they care about their community and all the services they provide.

Finally, we ended our tour of Haiti at a nearby restaurant with a final cool drink and some French Fries!!  Then it was off to the airport and the long trek home to Canada.  Thank you Haiti.

ROBERT'S BLOG- Sunday, May 1st

Sunday, May 1st
The scenery around Port-au-Prince can be difficult to take in, especially amidst the shanty towns where the poorest of its citizens dwell. In the midst of one of these areas lives a group of nuns who live a life of poverty and service, the Missionaries of Charity started by Mother Teresa. We spent Sunday morning with them, and they quickly put us to work caring for the malnourished children they take in. Half of our group was assigned to sort medication while the others fed the children. While working, another tour group saw us working away, a local Church group led by seminarians from the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. Jocelyn said it best about this experience; "Things seem so hopeless at times in Haiti, but everywhere we have been we have found someone who proves that there is hope".

St. Joseph's Home for Boys

Later that day we returned to St. Joseph's Home for Boys, and after dinner we heard the testimony of the home's manager, Bill Nathan. Bill was a slave, a rekovac, who was adopted to a family after being orphaned at a young age. He was rescued by guards from the Sisters of Charity mission in Port-au-Prince and was raised at St. Joes. While a slave, Bill found his musical talent, playing drums on the bucket which he carried water in every day. Since his liberation, he has travelled the world sharing his stories and his drumming ability. He and another young Haitian, named Joly Wootrod played music for us that evening.

This was our last full day in Haiti for our 2016 Fanshawe and St. Peter's Seminary Haiti Awareness trip. We spent the rest of the evening debriefing then packing for our flight home.

ROBERT'S BLOG- Saturday, April 30
Lush farms on the way from Port au Prince to Jacmel

We woke up at Wings of Hope to bucket showers, then breakfast which included fresh fruit. The pineapples and mangos tasted unlike any we have had back home.  We drove to a market and got to experience the rush of Saturday shopping in Haiti. Imagine thousands of people crammed in a small street selling their wares, while motorcycles, cars and trucks are driving through. There is organized commerce happening in the midst of it all.
We then got to visit some art stores in Jacmel, which is a city famous around the world for its arts and crafts. At the nearby beach, Danny competed with a young Haitian man in handstand walking. We returned to Wings of Hope for lunch, as the first ever guests at a restaurant they opened up that day.

Meghan with some of the residents at Wings of Hope

After saying our goodbyes, we then journeyed back over the mountain to Port au Prince, to a gem in the suburbs called St. Joseph's home for boys. St. Joseph's takes in boys who grew up on the street and provides a roof over their head while educating and teaching them to be leaders, community minded citizens and gentlemen.  St. Joseph’s was destroyed in the 2010 Earthquake, but has been rebuilt.  We were greeted by Bill Nathan, the home’s manager, and shown to our guest apartments where we stayed for our last two nights in Haiti.  This place was amazing.  Danny, Jacob and Rob played basketball with Elmerson for a while before dinner.  After dinner we held our reflection on the rooftop patio and spent some time getting to know some of the boys.  Elmerson is planning to become an artist, and through the support of St. Joseph’s, he has been able to train under one of the greatest artists in Haiti.  This young man exemplifies both the hope and the determination of the people of Haiti. 

ROBERT'S BLOG- Friday April 29th

We woke to another early morning on Friday, ready for our travels south to Wing of Hope in the town of Jacmel. To get there, we drove through winding mountain roads through the peaks of Haitian mountains. We were grateful for the guard rails on this well-maintained road. We saw the fortitude of the rural communities to make good use of the rich, red soil, as proven by the terraced farms which adorned the mountain cliffs.

When we got to Wings of Hope, we got a guided tour of the guest house and explanation of the organizations mission. We learned that persons with disabilities have had a difficult history in Haiti, but Wings of Hope provides a safe, happy, loving, caring, and hopeful family environment for children and young adults with physical and mental challenges. At Wings of Hope, each child receives a combination of occupational therapy, physical therapy, recreational therapy, and classroom time. After the tour we went to visit the kids in the residence area, where we were greeted with song and dance and excitement. They truly were fostered to live life to the fullest. A young man, named Vilner drew pictures for Dawn, and although he could not speak he communicated in English through writing. Another resident, Steve treated us with his musical abilities on the bongos. Danny and Meghan shared their cameras and took pictures. While Rob and Jacob both alternated taking walks with Gessner, a resident who loved giving tours.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Fanshawe/St. Peter's Seminary Trip to Haiti

ROBERT'S BLOG- Day 4 April 28, 2016

After a restful night at Le Xaragua, we began today’s journey with a trip to Ogier-Fombrun Museum just outside of St. Marc. Here we learned about the history of the Haitian people and their liberation. The grounds were previously a sugar mill and rum distillery; and the first place where freed slaves were employed. What caused the most awe for us, at this location, was a statue of “the call to revolution”, which depicted a black slave breaking from his chains and trumpeting a conch shell to rally his fellow men to fight for freedom.

Croix des Bouquet was our next stop, a metal art village run by Haitian artisans, who re-used the tin metal from barrels to make beautiful artwork. Here we had the opportunity to observe how this art is skillfully made, and learn the art form of bartering. Most of us left with a work of metal art, which most captured our interests. We then travelled to the Apparent Project, which featured a restaurant called the Clay Cafe and store called Papillon. At Clay Cafe, we were treated to cheeseburgers in paradise and a cold beverage, with a view overseeing Port-au-Prince.

After lunch, we toured the Apparent Project in Port-au-Prince, which is a program started by Shelly Clay. Shelly came to Haiti to adopt a child, but learned that the mother very much wanted to keep her child but was unable to as she could not support her. So, rather than adopt, Shelly began an organization which taps into the Haitian creativity by teaching parents how to create pottery, jewellery, clothing and more. With these new skills, and their involvement at the Apparent Project, parents are then able to support their families and maintain a good standard of living. There is also a free daycare at the Apparent Project, which cares for children while their parents are at work. A standard for us, yet much needed for Haitian families. To learn more about what they do, and support their cause through their online store, visit Apparent Project’s website at

After our visit we then travelled back, through busy traffic, to Wall’s Guest House. We wrapped up our day with a discussion question on some of the “why’s” that have been running through our minds about things we have seen or heard in Haiti. We ended the day early, to rest before tomorrow’s drive to Wings of Hope in Jacmel.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fanshawe/St. Peter's Seminary Trip to Haiti

ROBERT'S BLOG- Day 2 April 26, 2016

Today did not go as planned. In fact, it didn’t go anywhere. Our drivers got caught in a rainstorm this morning, and needed to find another route around flooded roads. Thankfully, Luc and Wesner are now safe with us at Wall’s Guest House. During the day, we played cards and engaged in good conversation. We also took an excursion to the local supermarket, where the Haitian people were kind and patient with us. Rob did well translating our order of cold cuts and cheese into French, however as the worker at the store spoke Creole, they were slightly lost in translation. Thankfully, we got help from a local who was fluent in English, French and Creole. We are departing tomorrow at 5:00 AM for St. Marc. Bon Voyage!

Day 3  April 27, 2016

This morning we arrived in St. Marc early in the morning. Our first stop was to our resort called Le Xaragua, where we are currently enjoying a beautiful view of the Caribbean ocean. We then jumped in a van and our driver, Luc, brought us to St. Patrick’s High School in St. Marc. At St. Patrick’s we had a stimulating conversation with the senior class. They were suggesting ways that their education might improve, they were quite good at advocating for their needs.

From there, we switched into a flatbed truck, with railings and benches. We then travelled as far as the road would take us towards Gilbert. We hiked roughly five kilometres on rough terrain up a Haitian mountain to visit an elementary school and health clinic. The kids were happy to see us, in a great mood and welcomed us with songs they had been practicing. We learned that the school is in the process of expanding their program to include grades seven, eight and nine.

Next is our adventure back down the mountain by our truck, expertly driven by Luc. He had to drop off medical supplies at another small town further up so we hiked a bit further up the mountain to meet him. What a ride! We definitely appreciate guard rails on roads, as there were none on this drive. A high point was that we also drove up a steep incline, at least 70 degrees,up a rocky road at one point. We were somewhat nervous, however the nurse and other staff that came along with us back to St. Marc were calm as could be. Luc got us back to town safely, where we switched back to our van, a more comfortable ride.

We then visited an adult literacy program in the town of Venotte. Here, like our previous experience, we were greeted with songs and smiles. We learned that one of the most important milestones in their education was to be able to write their names. So that they could go to the bank, and complete other important transactions. We met a woman who was 66 years old, and very proud of her progress in school. Another woman was so grateful for our visit, and the work of RayJon in supporting the literacy program, and told us “I cannot pay you back, but God can pay you back”. It was an inspiring visit.

We had quite a jam-packed day to make up for lost time, so we visited another adult literacy program in Charette with the same reception. They showed us the skills that they had learned, including writing their names on the blackboard, speaking words in Creole and solving mathematical equations. After a long, warm, adventurous, humbling and inspirational day we returned back to the resort for dinner and a sharing session.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Fanshawe/St. Peter's Seminary Trip to Haiti


Our first day went well.  We are adjusting to the warm and humid, but beautiful climate of Haiti. Our journey began from London, Ontario around 1:00 AM, and after a layover in Fort Lauderdale in Florida, we arrived in Port-au-Prince mid-afternoon. As we were flying overhead we noticed the landscape, including the developing agriculture. For example, small patchwork farms scattered up the mountainside. In contrast, the mountains were covered in fog. After going through customs in Haiti, we travelled by bus to Walls Guest House where we are staying the night. The traffic was somewhat chaotic, given the lack of stop signs and traffic lights. However, despite this the Haitian people drive impressively well.

Tomorrow we are travelling to Le Xaragua, which is by the seaside. As for right now, we are getting some shut eye before the journey continues.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Rayjon Awareness Trip to Haiti
March Break 2016

More pictures from our trip!

Here is Maddy supervising the card making activity with the kids at Gilbert school.

Our guide at St. Damien's Pediatric Hospital in Tabarre, Haiti

Artisans at the Apparent Program making beaded necklaces and bracelets that are sold all over the world!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rayjon Awareness Trip to Haiti
March Break 2016

Margaret's Blog- Day 7

Today we started with a visit to St. Damien's Pediatric Hospital.  First we took a look at the school and therapy centre for special needs children.  School was out but Collin gave us a very thorough tour and described what the centre does for the children.  The centre also provides therapy for adult stroke victims and we did see some of the children and adults that were receiving treatment. It is the only centre in all of Haiti that provides therapy for special needs children.  They also have a focus on training as none of the therapists have formal training since there are only a handful of physio therapists in all of Haiti and none have the training to work with these children.  So the centre trains and sends therapists away for training as well. Then we toured the pediatric hospital with a very enthusiastic and informative guide about the real challenges of parents of sick children.  He told us how care is free but parents are expected to contribute to care.  He also talked about how the hospital has limited facilities and has to triage the children to determine who they will treat but they also have to tell parents to take their children elsewhere when there is no more room.  We were struck by our guide's candor.  Mothers have to fight for healthcare for their children. Our guide also talked about how the hospital has to be careful about where they buy their medication and they have a lab to test medication to determine if it is fake if it is not working.

After St. Damien's we lightened things up by going to Croix des Bouquets to buy artifacts made out of oil drums for Rayjon's Women Helping Women event.  We all had a lot of fun bartering for the artifacts on our list.  We learned that Chelsea is the queen of bartering.  We finished off our shopping at the Apparent Project and Papillon Industries.  The project trains and employs Haitians to make jewelry out of clay beads and beads made out of recycled cereal boxes.  The project takes a holistic approach by employing caregivers in a day care for the workers' children as well as providing fair wages and good working conditions.  The philosophy of the project is to provide good employment so parents can provide for and keep their children rather than having to take them to the orphanage because they don't have the means to care for them.  In addition to jewelry, they also made pottery, stuffed toys and handbags.  We were able to tour the facility that was making the products and had a chance to purchase items in the boutique across the road.

This is the end of the blog for this trip. We are packing up ready to go home. We are all richer for having had this learning experience and are thankful to Rayjon and our trip leaders Joanna  and Lyndsey for making our trip truly memorable.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Rayjon Awareness Trip to Haiti
March Break 2016

Margaret's Blog- Day 6

Today we started our day with mass at the Missionaries of Charity nutrition centre in Port Au Prince.  The nutrition centre provides daily care to malnourished infants whose mothers either are too young or too poor to properly feed them and nurse them back to health. At the beginning of mass there were many school children in their school uniforms that lead a procession with their palms along the street to the chapel.  Their singing during mass was beautiful.  Somehow, most of us ended up with babies from the nutrition centre to hold during mass.  It was incredibly touching as I walked into the nursery to pick up a baby and saw so many malnourished infants.  I picked up a baby boy that was crying and as soon as I picked him up he stopped and put his head on my shoulder.  We brought the children into church and held them during mass.  Luckily there was another group in the church from the United States that were staying a little longer so we could hand the children over to them after mass. It made leaving them so much easier. 

We then headed to a supermarket in Petionville to buy supplies for lunch.  This was where we realized there are very wealthy people in Haiti as well and we saw some very nice houses on our way to an orphanage near Kenscoff.  None of us were prepared for how large the orphanage was.  It was like a campus with many dormitiories and school buildings.  

There are more than 400 children and all the services are provided with only charitable donations.  Most of the children do have family but the family is too poor or otherwise unable to care for them.  We brought some toys in order to play with the children.  The soccer balls were very popular and it gave the teenagers in the group a chance to interact with Haitian children their own age one on one.  With some broken English and broken French, they were able to communicate fairly well.  It had been an emotional day but that was offset by the cooler air in the mountains.  The view from the orphanage was beautiful and we also stopped at a lookout on our way back down for a group photo.  This part of the country was much greener and very scenic.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Rayjon Awareness Trip to Haiti
March Break 2016

Margaret's Blog- Day 5

Today we visited Saut d'Eau Falls. It is believed that the virgin Mary of Mount Carmel appeared there in the late 18th century. The place is also associated with voodoo and is a place where women pray for fertility.  Joanna did see what we think was a voodoo priestess in a trance.  The falls were beautiful and there were many boys to help us walk up the falls.  Everyone found the boys were very friendly, helpful yet not overbearing and very attentive to make sure no one slipped or fell.  The ride in the Range Rover (2 benches in the back seated 9) was 2 1/2 hours each way and although it was very cramped, it actually was a bonding experience.  Everyone was extremely considerate of each other.
Rayjon Awareness Trip to Haiti
March Break 2016

Margaret's Blog- Day 4

Best laid plans.  Today Joanna had plenty planned for us but it was not to be.  We visited a history museum in St. Marc to learn about Haitian history. The slaves in Haiti revolted and defeated the French.  It was a slave from Jamaica that had been sold in Haiti that encouraged and led the initial revolt.  We also learned about voo doo in Haiti and that it incorporates symbols from Catholicism because the slave masters wanted them to be Catholic.  So the slave fooled their masters by using Catholic symbols but having them represent voodoo spirits. We got back on the bus for the hour ride to Port Au Prince  and that's when plans fell apart.  A bridge was out that created a huge traffic jam and the trip took about 5 hours.  It did give us plenty of time to observe the people on the street.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Rayjon Awareness Trip to Haiti
March Break 2016

Margaret's Blog- Day 3

Today we visited the elementary school in Gilbert.  We rode in the back (except me, I rode in the cab) of a truck to the outskirts of the village of Gilbert and then we all walked about an hour to reach the school and medical clinic.  Up until today, we had really only seen the land from the road which looked very dry and barren but on the walk we were able to see the variety of food that is grown in Haiti.  We saw cultiviated tomatoes, yam, sugar cane and rice.  The walk was very pretty but it was a good climb and although the locals were almost running up, it was a bit of a struggle for us.  When we reached Gilbert, we took a tour of the clinic and then we had a chance to engage with the children as we brought crayons and paper with us for them to make cards.  Joanna had given a talk about Haiti to her grandaughter's class and they had made cards for the children in Gilbert.  So in return, she asked that they make cards for the children in Sarnia. The children were so easy to interact with despite the language barrier.  All we had to do was smile and admire their art work and they beamed.  The teenagers in the group were really engaged with the children. After lunch some of the girls played a bit of soccer and volleyball with some of the children.

Then we were able to visit another adult literacy class since the school is used for adult literacy later in the day.  Once again we were impressed by the enthusiasm of the adult students.

At the end of our visit we ended up riding back in the truck rather than walking back down as everyone was very tired.  However, the ride in the truck was very rough and very very low. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Rayjon Awareness Trip to Haiti
March Break 2016

Margaret's Blog- Day 2

After an excellent breakfast that included fresh mango and porridge, we visited St. Patrick's high school in St Marc and shared questions and answers with the students.  Bella made a special connection with one of the students who sent her a kind note.  Several of the students had individual interactions with the students and Chelsea was especially touched that one of the girls thanked her for visiting.  The St. Patrick's students from St. Marc told us that things they would like to have include a cafeteria and sports.  At the end of our visit, we just had to say the word photo and all the students swarmed to get into the picture.

Next we stopped for a lunch of goat soup (including parts of the goat some preferred not to eat) and rice and headed off to explore the market.  The market was an assault on the senses with the smells, crowds, narrow paths and all the yelling to catch our attention.

Next we visited a literacy centre for adults.  Maddy was especially impressed at the eagerness some of the adult students had to show how they could do the math and spell their names.On the drive back to our hotel, some of the girls saw some of the students they had met earlier in the day from our bus and waved to them. We all noticed how warmly people responded when we wave to them from the bus.  The day was real eye-opener for us all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rayjon Awareness Trip to Haiti
March Break 2016

Margaret's Blog- Day 1

And we're off.  We had a very good travel day. Everyone was excited as we met up at Tim Horton's to begin our journey.  Travel was relatively incident free although we were a little surprised by the kerfuffle at the airport at Port Au Prince over handling our luggage.  The group was impressed how Joanna stayed calm through it all. We have only see Haiti in the dark from the airport to the hotel but we're are starting to experience some culture shock with just the difference between the airports we visited on the way.