West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

Arrival at the school, Rejoicing!

Nov. 29, 2010

Last night I asked everyone on our team here in Haiti to send emails and start a prayer chain to everyone they know to get us to St. Vincent’s today. Thank you to all of you and to God because at 9:30 AM Pere Sadoni called to tell me he was on his way to pick us up. Our listless, pouting group sprang into action and of course then had to wait another 45 minutes for Pere Sadoni to arrive. That’s Haiti, as my friend Amy would say. Hurry up and wait.

At any rate, we had a wonderful day at the school. Sienna made name tags for many of the kids. Sherye is the new star of St. Vincent’s since she can talk with the deaf kids. She told me she learned a few new signs, some of which she was not sure were proper classroom material!

We took snacks with us for lunch, including several boxes of granola bars and cheese crackers pooled from our own private stashes. Of course, we put Diane in charge of the food and after she got to the school she immediately gave all the food away to Jean Robert. So much for our lunch. So we went to a nearby restaurant and tried to order off the menu. They were out of bread, so no sandwiches. DONT EAT THE TOMATOES I told everyone, but we had beans and rice and piclise (Haitian dish, very spicy, my favorite) and wonderful mango juice. So far no ill effects on the team. Of course, after spending 20 minutes trying to figure out the menu in french and submitting our orders to Jean Robert, we were all served the same dish. I ate it and was grateful.
After lunch we visited Jean Robert’s house, where his family stays during the day. His house has been declared unsafe, so the government has told them not to sleep there. They sleep in a tent city down the street where Jean Robert is a manager. He tells us they plan to rebuild his house in March.
Then we visited the girl’s dorm, where a new front wall has been erected although no gate is built yet. Most of the original buildings have been torn down, including all the classrooms and the guest quarters. The brace shop is still standing and apparently can be used again. Also the part of the building that contained the operating room is still standing, but we did not go inside to see the conditions.
It was hard for some of our team who have not been here since before the earthquake. Lots of memories in piles of rubble and concrete. The old school bus is parked inside the courtyard as well. Several of us have particular memories about that bus breaking down in the middle of Port au Prince at night…….
At what used to be known as the boys’ dorm, there are many new classrooms, a new medical clinic that will be dedicated on December 3, and the temporary site of the brace shop. For our clinic we will be in a tent, and our pharmacy is in Pere Sadoni’s office. We brought our dozen or so suitcases full of meds and supplies and tried to set them up in shelving units. Except that these units have no shelves (you have to have been in Haiti to understand how this could be possible). Dykiesha, our pharmacist, will be assisted by Tim Geske who has appointed himself director of crowd control. He should be good at that!
It was so DELIGHTFUL to be at St. Vincent’s, to see Marie Carmel and Evie and Ronald and Madame Merita and the children, Frenel, Wichimene, Jean Marc, Rosemelaise, Judith, baby Diana, baby Margaret, and so many others. Diana is sitting up and can stand with support and take a few steps. She looks healthy and has some meat on her thin bones. Allie got to cuddle baby Margaret, who recently had to go to the hospital with anemia and pneumonia. She is apparently doing much better, although she still can’t hold her head up and only coos, no words. Dykiesha got her to smile and maybe even laugh? a little bit. Sienna remembers all the children’s names and she has taught me to learn them as well. Sienna taught me to remember the children by their names, rather than “the kid with one leg”. She is their friend and they light up when they see her. When I visited some girls in the upstairs dorm today, I said my name and then said I was Sienna’s mom. That always elicits a smile of recognition from the children. Drew sat in a chair with a coloring book next to JoJo, and soon had 5 or 6 kids in his lap as usual, and that big silly grin on his face. He becomes a different person when he is in the midst of the children
We had to tear Sienna away from St. Vincent’s when it was time to leave. She was watching Beauty and the Beast in French with the older girls and was not ready to go. I think she would have stayed at the dorm tonight if I had let her.
We all rode back to our guest house in Pere Sadoni’s truck. That’s 13 people in one truck. Got the visual on that? Its about a 30 minute ride through Port au Prince. We saw no angry riots, no demonstrations, no signs of anything other than the grinding poverty and dusty streets, women carrying huge baskets on their heads, Tap Taps honking and motorcycles zipping in and out of traffic, chickens wandering across the street…. in short, what we have come to expect from Port au Prince. I confess it is a relief to pull into the gates of our Guest House, which is in what Sienna refers to as “The Germantown of Haiti”. Germantown is where “the rich people live” in Memphis, and the houses are bigger and nicer and the lawns are well maintained. Village Theodat, which is a gated community neighborhood where our guest house is located, is amazingly beautiful and quiet just a few minutes away from the city center.
So no worries about us, despite what you hear on CNN. There are many disputes about the election but they appear to be peaceful for the most part, and certainly we were in no danger today riding in the back of a pick up truck through Port au Prince. Life goes on in Haiti, and I am so glad to be here and be a part of it.
Susan Nelson
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