West Tennessee Haiti Partnership


Group of 4 arrived safely in Port au Prince last night and were met at the airport by Pere Fan Fan, Jennifer Wickham, and a couple of friendly faces from St Vincents.  Port au Prince looked pretty dry to us as we drove to the hotel, there was a nice breeze and I was happy to be in Haiti.  Jennifer and Alicia rode in the back of the truck with all the suitcases and we arrived tired but happy at the Hotel Montana.

This morning it was great and reassuring to walk through the school gates and see the familiar faces.  Marie Carmelle.  Jonas.  Adrien. Locson.  Jean Robert. Lots of hugs and smiles.  The school seems unchanged, unaffected by the hurricane.  Worried stories, however, from staff with families in Les Cayes and Jeremie.  School was closed all last week, but today everyone was supposed to return.  Yet there are missing folks..  Frenel and Jean Marc are still in Jeremie.  Blanda is not in school. No one knows exactly if they are OK or not because word is still difficult to get from the villages and towns that were cut off by Hurricane Matthew.  Many staff told me their family home was damaged or destroyed in these villages.

Life at St Vincent’s, however, seems to go on, so we set up eye clinic on the stage in the courtyard. Dr Groce and Dr Varney have brought 80 pairs of eyeglasses, specially made by Southern College of Optometry over the summer based on prescriptions written by the eye team that was here in May 2016. Several of the children received very strong prescription glasses, which means they will be able to see in a completely new way.  Imagine what that does to your brain, to suddenly have images to process which it has never seen before.  Arianna received tinted glasses which won’t help her see any better, since she is almost completely blind. She only sees light and dark.  But with the glasses, she won’t have to squint constantly to block out the sun.

Marie Carmelle and Jean Robert have new bifocals; and are learning to use them.  The gift of sight to the caregivers who take such good care of the children year in and year out.


Jean Robert tries out his new glasses.


Fitting glasses


Ariana and Sherye
Marie Carmelle in her new glasses.

Thank you to all the donors who handed me wads of cash this past week.  It turns out the water pump system was repaired yesterday and the children have clean water again.  Food is expensive but does not seem to be in short supply at the moment.  Aurelie, the new school administrator, is working tirelessly to bring order and structure to the school.   In fact, a group of St Vincent’s students helped pack emergency supplies for people in Les Cayes, so they are reaching out to help others in greater need than themselves at this time.

The library is still operational, with children’s books that have had braille added, or French translations taped in over the English words. Even a braille copy of Harry Potter.

The day ended with a limb crunching ride of 5 people in the cab of a truck with one front seat and a jump seat.  Every time one of the two people in the passenger seat shifted positions, she changed the gear of the car.  Those of us in the jump seat (basically big enough for an umbrella but stuffed with  4 backpacks and two adult humans) lost all the feeling in our legs during the 90 minute drive stuck in traffic.  Nothing a mango daiquiri on the patio of the Hotel Montana couldn’t fix, however!

Tomorrow hopefully a repeat of today, to hand out the rest of the eyeglasses.

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