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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. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

March Break Awareness Trip Day 5 & 6

This morning we had to say goodbye to our wonderful hosts Mike and Nancy at Deep River Mission house. We graciously thanked them for the hospitality shown to our group! 
We boarded the Tap Tap and let our luggage ride in another truck. Our first stop was the Sacred Heart Centre where we were greeted by Andre and his team of volunteers (centre staff who volunteered on the weekend for us). From here we split into three groups and were led by an interpreter and a few of the Haitians.  Volunteers took us on a walking tour through town.  We had the opportunity to visit the local hospital, the main public square, the Basilica where mass was underway and the market area.  I am sure this walk about will be a highlight for all of our group members when they look back on their trip to Haiti. This was another great opportunity for us to be introduced to part of Haitian society. After our walking tours we reconvened and headed out for lunch at a Haitian restaurant. Our volunteers and translators joined us. The food was great and all seemed to have a good time. 
Our time came to leave Cap Haitian so we boarded a very small plane for a quick flight to Port Au Prince. We were met at the airport by representatives from St. Joseph's Boys home. We took a very scenic and cozy bus ride to the Boy's Home which will be our accommodations for the next few days. This space is beautiful and we are thankful to Bill and his staff for having us here. 
As part of tonight's reflection we heard from Walnes, one of the gentlemen who had been raised by the Boy's home from a young age and now works here. He shared with us a bit about his life and the trials and tribulations he faced. We are thankful that he had the courage to share with us. 
Each night on our trip we have met for group reflection at the end of the day. Each member has been assigned a different virtue to present/discuss one night. Tonight's was courage and at trip leader Joanna's request here is part of what was presented tonight:
"Courage is an important thing and it's available to seeing many places for those who look and listen for it.
Courage is an openness and response to vulnerability. Courage is a choice to risk and accept potential discomfort and to face fear and uncertainty. 
  Courage happens on many levels whether it's asking a question, turning out a night light or trying something new. Courage is accepting the call to go an awareness trip, meeting and agreeing to travel with strangers, getting on a bus in Haiti, hiking mountains, trying to speak Creole, offering stickers in a crowd (see "mob") of school children, communicating through a translator and admitting that you don't know what you don't know. 
 Courage is speaking an unpopular point of view, questioning the status quo, working for equality, accepting foreigners who don't speak the language into your learning environment, asking for and accepting help, singing songs acapella  and working to better yourself and your situation at any age. 
 Courage is a big theme in our trip to Haiti but courage will be with us when we return to Canada."

Tomorrow we will attend mass then hike to a waterfall that is commonly used as a voodoo site.

Day 6 
Today was our first full day in Port au Prince. We were greeted by a wonderful breakfast and broke out our Sunday best to venture to the Sisters of Charity home for Sunday mass. We celebrated mass with a many children from the school there as they led the worship service for us. A highlight was the music and singing the children provided. Despite mass being in French many of us felt the significance of the service. 
After mass we made a pitstop at a grocery story, which our host Bill explained to us would be a store utilized by foreign delegates and some of the more wealthy Haitians. We noticed many familiar items that we would typically find in our stores back home. Honourable mention goes to the Kirkland brand Maple Syrup that was "Made in Canada". 
From there we took a road trip to Saut D'Eau Falls. We were greeted by many Haitian young men who happily assisted us during our time at the Falls.  After enjoying a picnic lunch, many of us took the opportunity to climb up the Falls. Our Haitian helpers fulfilled their role by ensuring our safety and level footing through this adventure. Their balance impressed all of us and we extended our thanks to them. Our bus ride back was full of Haitian-bus Karaoke, and to clarify these weren't Haitian songs, just "interesting selections" sang by Canadians IN Haiti. 
As part of our evening reflection we had the opportunity to hear from our host Bill, another gentleman who was involved with St Joseph's Family Home as a young boy and has gone on to give back to his community in many ways. After hearing a bit of his life story and how he became a part of St Joseph's house he and another gentleman of the community, Woodward, shared their musical talent with us through song and drumming. For many of us, this by far was the highlight of our day! 
Tomorrow we will be visiting the Apparent project and doing some shopping at Croix des Bouquets. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Day 4 March Break Awareness Trip to Haiti

Hi Heather. 

Please post this for us on Day 4 of our Awareness trip. Thanks!! 

Today was our first full day in Cap Hatian. We got an early start awaited those who would drive us. After sitting and wondering when they would arrive we eventually clued in that the Tap Tap Truck and other truck parked on the property were waiting patiently for us and had been for some time. Some miscommunication played a part in this and some lessons were certainly learned. Some of us got to experience the ride in the back of the Tap Tap Truck on our way into town.  We were to spend the day at the Sacred Heart Centre with Andre, Rayjon's field director in Haiti. Those who had never met Andre instantly fell in love and those who knew him from previous trips were reconnected. We met some of the staff working in the office and split into three groups to take a tour of the facility.   Our tour included spending time with the children in the Nutrition program who were identified as malnourished, children in the Nursery School and adults partaking in a Life Skills program focussing on sewing.  Our group found all three of these experiences fulfilling and allowed us to have more interactions with the Haitian people. 

After lunch with the staff of the centre we had some down time and were able to engage in a Question and Answer period with some of the staff and our translator. What we quickly learned is that they all share a passion for their country and a hope for progression for the Haitian people. It was a very enlightening experience and allowed us to gain a further understanding into some of the daily challenges. 
In the afternoon we visited two of the Alpha Literacy classrooms that take place at the centre. Both groups were lively and welcomed our presence. Some group members were able to engage in the learning process as well. 
We said our goodbyes until tomorrow and made our way back to Deep River Mission. Once back we enjoyed some downtime and a swim with some extra reflection and bonding among our group. 

We are excited for a walk-about tomorrow in the Cap Hatian markets and learning a little more about their daily life. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Day 3 March Break Awareness Trip to Haiti 2017

Just So You Know - Day 3
After a long physical day on day 2 we had a much different day today. We awoke to eat breakfast, get packed and move on from Hope's Nest. Our stay at Hope's Nest was incredible from the great food and beautiful property to the incredible hospitality of Paul and the staff. 
From there we boarded the bus and headed to a nearby museum built on an old sugar cane plantation. We were met by our English speaking tour guide (a man named Lindsay) who provided us as much Haitian history as he could fit into one hour. This was an incredible and enlightening experience for our group. Lindsay offered us a great experience that enhanced and tremendously added to the learning of Haiti's history that we did before starting our trip. 

Our next biggest challenge of our time in Haiti was the bus ride up to Cap Hatian. We were told this trip would be 5hrs at best but we could expect it to be longer. During this bus ride we did everything from "Haitian Bus Ride Karaoke" to creating group nicknames. Throughout the challenge there was also a lot of laughing and bonding.  We are all happy to report that after a 7hr trek including a stop for lunch we have made it safely to Deep River Mission House where we met our hosts Michael and Nancy and had a delicious dinner. 

In clarifying the name of this blog it stems from the many times today that trip leader Joanna started a sentence by saying "just so you know...". These sentences often ended with things like "'s never taken us this long before" and "the roads were much better last year".  The term "peachy fine" was also coined on our trip when it was the response to someone asking Joanna how she was doing at a time when daylight was fading, the road remained bumpy /full of puddles and the bus windshield was fogging to the point that it was very hard to see out of. 

Tomorrow we meet Rayjon partner Andre here in Cap Haitian who will show us to a nutrition centre and another Alpha Literacy program. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Day 2 March Break Awareness Trip to Haiti 2017

(By Trip member Ian): Today our group split in two and headed to different schools. I was with the group that went to Pinson. It took about two hours for us to hike to the school. The hike was equal parts beautiful and challenging as I suppose walking up mountains tends to be. 

Upon our arrival at Pinson our group was introduced to staff and students in waves. We got to see the classrooms and provide the students with letters written in French by some Sarnia students as well as a poster created by a Sarnia kindergarten class. The Haitian students took time to return the favour by writing their response letters and creating their own poster. Once those projects were out of the way it was time for a little more informal interaction so we headed to the school yard with balloons, stickers and soccer balls. After some mutual play the newly stickered children (who appeared very happy to put as many stickers on themselves as they could) showed us some songs and dances. 
We had a ton of fun at Pinson and were given an interesting peak into life at the school. There were many things to take away but one of my deeper realizations was that hitting a balloon in the air with friends is fun no matter where you do it. Our time to go came quickly and we headed out on the next leg of our hike to meet the other group at Gilbert. 

(Trip member Amanda who was at Gilbert) The group that had spent the day with the students in Gilbert had much of the same experience. Our hike to the school was not as long, but we were met by students who were at first a little apprehensive about us. Nothing some crayons and stickers couldn't fix as we also engaged in an activity of sharing letters from a grade 2 class from Sarnia and inviting them to write notes back. The stickers used in this activity were definitely the highlight. The students were also happy to find out that the skipping ropes and soccer balls they had asked for would be arriving with our group!  After some time of visiting we waited for the Pinson group to travel to us. 
Once the group was all back together we shared lunch with the staff at Gilbert. Following lunch we got to peek into two Alpha Literacy programs. The adults there were working on their literacy, but took a break to sing us a song, answer some of our questions about the program and their involvement in it and share with us what they had learned. This was a good chance to be both proud of the participants and the ongoing impact Rayjon has had in Haiti. Once we got back to the bus Jobest who was the translator who accompanied the group to Pinson asked us to stop in to meet students at a school he teaches at which is focussed on teaching language (French, English, and Spanish). During our time together Jobest also made a point to note to one of the group members how appreciative he is of the way Rayjon carries out partnerships in Haiti with long term goals. He used the analogy that feeding someone once will fill them up but supporting them in improving their own situation can lead them to not be hungry long term. 

In closing it has been a very long day and we were all happy to get back to the accommodations for another delicious dinner and a good night's sleep. 

Tomorrow we will start by visiting a Museum then travel to Cap Haitian. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March Break Awareness Team Lands 2017

The Journey Begins...Haiti 2017.                                                       (submitted by Ian Mayo)

This trip is the first trip to Haiti for many of us though there are a few seasoned travellers among us. The trip started at 2am Tuesday morning when we met at Tim Hortons and headed to the Detroit airport were we ran into our first challenge. Our group had a microscope donated by Blue Water Health to bring to our Haitian partners. Upon arriving at the airport we found out we could not check it in the box it was in and would have to transfer it to a suitcase. After moving some things around it was padded in a suitcase. It was at this point that we discovered it weighed too much and we would be kept to the 50 pound limit. Additional reps king took place and Marlo, Lindsey and Joanna got it under 50.
Our flights both went smoothly including a layover in Ft. Lauderdale.

We got our first taste of Haiti when we arrived at the airport and experienced what seemed like chaos to us with a lot of people offering us rides and help with our baggage. Our drive to our first stop seemed equally chaotic though in reflecting we realized that what we saw was a way of doing things that we were not accustomed to but that appears to work all the same.

We have now settled at "Hopes Nest" after a delicious dinner and reflection time. Our host Paul spoke to us briefly and shared of the many projects he is involved with to help his fellow Haitians. Our group was shocked at the volume of work he is involved in.

Wednesday brings our first full day in Haiti which will involve splitting into two groups to hike to two different schools. We are told it will be our most tiring day!