I'm glad you're here.

Welcome to my blog! I'm so excited to share with you! Thank you for your prayers, your support, and your encouragement. It means a lot to me, the other volunteers at Children of the Promise, and especially the dear little ones I get to work with. :)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

When it rains, it really rains.

Mid April...
"Amy, Ou renmen lapri?" Do you love the rain? Someone asked me this one rainy morning during one of my first few weeks in Haiti. I said an enthusiatic, "Yes!" Although, my enthusiasm might have been more related to the fact that someone had spoken to me in Creole and I'd been able to comprehened. I was asked this same question a few weeks later. It'd been raining for four straight days, and I was soaking wet with a baby in my arms and a blanket over our heads. This time I laughed and shook my head "no." Friends, we've definitely hit the rainy season in Northern Haiti.

Rain can be good and it can be bad. On the positive side of things rain provides water for the crops, gives the cows something to drink, allows people to wash their vehicles (see below), and sometimes provides a place to bathe. On the other hand, it becomes very difficult for people to get to work when roads are uncrossable. Business suffers on rainy days especially for those who sell merchandise on the side of the road. Also, a heavy rain can cause serious damage to homes made from unreliable materials. It's not fun to face a flooded house on a weekly basis. At any rate, rain is important.
I remember the first BIG rain storm I experienced in Haiti. I fell asleep under my mosquito net (this was when I was still using a mosquito net) to the sound of heavy rain on the tin roof above. When I say heavy, I mean the kind of rain that would flatten you if you tried to walk in it. It was fun. The following morning I went outside and to my surprise, there stood a lake. It was large enough to swim a few laps! ;) Well...maybe not quite. But I did stand in it long enough to at least let my feet get soggy. I DO love swimming.
We had a couple more big rains that week. I remember later in the week I went for a walk with a few volunteers and a handful of kids. Every few yards we’d happen upon another giant puddle. Past rainstorms have created huge craters in the roads that fill with water during consecutive rains. Maneuvering around these puddles was a precarious situation with a stroller and toddlers. In fact we probably should have brought along a lifeguard. But thankfully all stayed dry. Later we happened upon, Reekens, an employee of COTP, motoring past us in the COTP tractor. He’d been coming back from town in the white truck only to become very much “stuck in the mud.” Jamie, one of the Site Directors happened to be along on this walk. The two of them successfully dislonged the big white vehicle. Good thing we have a tractor! It really does come in handy. A volunteer named Emily captured the excitement.

A few weeks later I was going into town with Reekens, a different Emily, and Maria. We were going to get groceries for Easter dinner. We traversed some pretty big bodies of water in that little red truck.

And to think, most people have to cross the puddles by walking through them or while on a motorcycle. “Going in to town” involves driving through a few small villages, turning left at the big tree, right at the roundabout, going over the bridge, and past the fried plantain stand and then well… you’re pretty much in town. Cap Haitien.

It’s densely populated place… hard to describe. There’s a lot happening everywhere you look. Sometime, I will have to write a post purely dedicated to Cap.

Transportation in this particular region of Haiti involves motos, tap-taps, mules, or feet. I’ve also seen a few bicycles and a few horses with saddles made from sugar cane. If you need to go any distance the tap-tap is the most widely used option. The tap –taps are old trucks each painted in the same fashion. If you need to go somewhere you better remember which tap-tap drives to that particular spot. You flag down the tap-tap, pay the driver, and join the 20 people already riding in the bed of the truck.

You can also “catch a moto.” To do this you approach a group of men standing with their motorcycles on the street corner. The moto driver will take you wherever you need to go. Frequently drivers will transport three or even four passengers on the back of their motos. Unfortunately accidents are commonplace; both moto vs. tap-tap and moto passenger vs. ground. I have already treated a few victims of such accidents. Just yesterday a young guy walked (or rather limped) 5 miles in order to see if I could bandage a large burn on his leg. Of course I did and I sent him away with some advice and some Advil. They often walk to COTP because taking a Tap-Tap would cost money and treatment at a hospital or clinic would cost even more. Through word of mouth people living in the area have learned that COTP usually has a nurse or two that will perform consultations and sometimes even dispense medicine, all free of charge. This man lived a two minute walk from the hospital. Yet because money is an issue, I’m the better option. I'm just hoping he'll make the five mile hike for me to change his dressing again tomorrow.

The rain makes for a convenient car wash.

M Pale Kreyol.

I guess prior to coming to Haiti I didn’t consider that within a few weeks I’d be speaking a new language. But sure enough, after spending 6 weeks in Haiti with 4 weeks of Kreyol lessons (about 4-5 days a weeks for roughly 2 hours) I’m doing alright.
It’s been a fun journey. I remember during the first few days I would sit on the floor of the pharmacy with kids from the village that had come for one ailment or another (bandaids and cough syrup if I remember correctly) and ask them repeatedly “koman ou rele sa? “how do you call this?” while pointing to everything in sight. Hey I learned some important words in these crash course sessions, like earring and sneaker. :)

For the first four weeks that I was here, every day at around 10 AM I would meet Renel under the Mango tree and we’d head over to the Pre-Natal Building where we spend the next two hours in front of the chalkboard. He would introduce new vocabulary words and I’d translate sentences. My favorite day was the day he had me translate a sentence about some famous Italian soccer player playing for the Spanish team. I was thrilled to discover that I knew enough Kreyol to translate that sentence correctly but I must admit I’ve yet to have any of those words come up in conversation...I'm still waiting for the day.

Now that my lessons with Renel have come to an end I rely on the nannies and a little book called "Creole Made Easy" to teach me new material. There are a few nannies who really love to help expand my vocabulary. It’s so meaningful for me to be able to talk with them. I love that they can come to me when their blood pressure’s high or their own children have a fever. I love that we can work as a team to keep the kids at COTP stay healthy. I’ve been around long enough now and have proven myself trustworthy enough that they don’t have to go to Maria or Bekah or Jamie to report an illness. They come to me. This is SO crucial with regards to continuity of care. I also love that I know enough Kreyol to joke with them! We laugh A LOT. There’s a little boy that I bring pediasure to 5 or so times a day. I spend a lot of time with this baby. We’re buds. If he happens to start crying before I’ve made it over to the baby house with his bottle, Jullien, a nanny whom I know a little bit better than the others, comes looking for me. She always says the same thing. Amy, zamni ou fache avek ou. Amy your friend is angry with you. I always respond in the same way—pretending I totally forgot about him, AGAIN. We laugh.

Sometimes I have a harder time understanding what someone is trying to tell me. But usually when I’m in my element and asking questions related to a person’s health, family, living situation, symptoms, etc.. I can manage. And I’ve got baby lingo down pat.

Today was pretty rewarding in the language department. I was on a walk with Maria.

Side note: Myself and a few of the other long term staff members often go for speed walks in the afternoons when COTP is “closed.” But… walking for exercise is a foreign concept to the people we meet on the roads. It’s not the walking that gets us so many strange looks. It’s the pace. Haitiens walk on a daily basis. But if someone’s planning to walk to town or to the next village, there’s really no rush. So when we speed past in our exercise attire most don’t hesitate to state the obvious. “Nou mache vid” they exclaim with a big smile. You all walk fast!

On this particular speed walk we turned left at the bridge and headed into the village of Pomgrasia. I recognized a mom that had come to COTP the previous day with her 3 year old daughter. She had a fever of 102.5 and looked sick! I was able to help bring that fever down and send her home with some Tylenol, antibiotics, and pedialtyte. By the time we turned around, the mom had brought her little girl out to the road. She was smiling, giggling, and hugging her mom tightly around the neck. It sure was nice to see that she was feeling better. It was also nice to see how much she loved her mom. But personally it was really nice to be able to follow-up, to physically see the baby again, and to answer some of the mom’s other questions. Simply stated, I was happy to be able to ask the mom, Koman li ye? How is she doing? I hope it showed her that I care.

I feel like I rely pretty heavily on language. I’ve always liked to show people I care about them by asking personal questions. Do your ears feel better after using the ear drops I gave you? Did your brother’s stomach ache go away? Did you have a safe trip to the airport? We all do it. I’m probably stating the obvious but without language, relationships are tricky. And without relationships it’s a little tough to show people I care. With that said, I thank God for helping me learn the basics of Creole as quickly as I did. I sometimes joke that it was because Renel and I prayed before and after EVERY Creole lesson. But hey…I’m a firm believer that God does answer prayer. :) You should try it! ;)

Sunday, April 4, 2010


It is definitely about time that I post a thorough update. There’s just one slight problem! I’ve been here at Children of the Promise for 25 days now. Which means that I have quite a lot that I want to share with you all.

Oh where to start??

Well let’s talk about the kids.

The Kids
Children of the Promise exists in order to provide a loving and caring temporary home for orphaned children. Some of the children have been brought to COTP by a parent or a relative who cannot currently provide for the child but hopes to return for the child as soon as possible. In many of these cases a parent has tried desperately to keep the child fed and taken care of but the baby needs more nutrition than that parent can afford. Some children return to those family members after they become fat and healthy here at COTP and the family is in a better position. Other children leave COTP to be united with their adoptive parents. People in the US, Canada, and Great Britian have all adopted children from COTP. Still other children arrive at COTP because they have serious health concerns. Some of these babies are able to leave Haiti with medical visas to be treated in the States. When these cases arise, we look for doctors and facilities that are willing to make consultations, provide care, and perform surgeries pro bono. It sounds like a lot to ask, but quite a few kids have been helped in this way.
Before the earthquake in Port au Prince, there were about 60 -70 kids all living within these gates. Then, because of the earthquake the US offered to allow all children with pending adoptions into the states with humanitarian visas. This was HUGE!! Most adoptions from Haiti to the US take at least 2 – 3 years to finalize. For this reason, COTP primarily admits children under the age of two. A child might remain at COTP until they are 5, so doing this helps keep the age range at any giving time to about 0 – 5 years. In the weeks following the earthquake about 30 and 40 kids from COTP were able to fly to enter the States on humanitarian and medical visas.

Currently there are just 18 kids at COTP. They all get lots of love and attention! I adore them all. I can’t post pictures of the kids or discuss them by name but I’m sure I’ll have a few stories to share. I will try to describe their amazing little personalities, even without photos.

If a baby is a newborn, new to COTP, or very ill that baby will stay in volunteer house until they are healthy enough to return to the baby house. My third day in Haiti a little 4 week old baby came through the gates. She became my little girl. I made sure that she was full and happy. She slept in a crib by my bed. She’s since grown up enough to live in the baby house. That's her little head in the crib below. She's beautiful. I hope it's okay for me to post the picture below. She's conveniently covering her face to protect her identity.

While living in the volunteer house I stayed in this bunk room with various short term volunteers. In these past few short weeks I have lived with some incredible people. First it was a church group from Phoenix (we miss you!), than it was another group of 8 from Emmanuel, a church in Southern California. They painted murals in each of the baby rooms! After that, 3 "Grandmas" from Minnesota came to love on the babies for a week. Now we have an electrician and his wife and two other nurses! I've since moved out of the volunteer house into a more permanent room.
The pictures below show the volunteer house kitchen.. Not too terribly exciting but I thought I'd give you a glipse of where I live.

Living in the volunteer house was really fun. Those of you that I know through Friendship Ventures will understand me when I say that living in the volunteer house is a lot like living in the health center at Camp Friendship. When something needs to be done, you do it.. and everyone works together to keep things running smoothly. Life in the volunteer house never slows. During the night you might be awake feeding and changing babies. In the morning there might be dishes to wash or dirty clothes to take to the laundry pavilion.

There are teeth to brush, bottles to make, laundry to put away, kids to play with, things that need cleaning or organizing. I did a lot of this as I was transitioning into my nursing role. Now my time is often occupied with nursing related activities.

I'll tell you about that in my NEXT post! Thank you for your prayers! I feel God's presence in a HUGE way everyday in Haiti.