West Tennessee Haiti Partnership


Today began with worship service at Holy Trinity Cathedral. The Cathedral building was nearly completely destroyed in the earthquake, so the congregation meets under a tent in the courtyard next door to the old cathedral. There were about 50 people there including a choir of angels. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing was the first hymn, in French of course. The four part harmony was so beautiful it affected all of us. The incense was powerful and a little strong for a few of our team members, but I loved it! During the offertory they had their annual gathering of pledge cards, and it was quite moving to see people bring their cards and put them into the box at the altar. People who live in tents and may have little to eat, still offering their gifts to support the work of the church. One of the Communion Hymns was in english, and a particular line was, “Fill our lives with grace”. I told Pere Sadoni later that sitting in Haiti, listening to the choir sing, my life was definitely filled with grace.
After service ended we enjoyed lunch prepared especially for us by Rev. Fernan. She is the only woman priest in Haiti and is the director of Holy Trinity School. This school, she told us, was founded in 1913 and before the earthquake had 900 students. Since the entire school was destroyed in the earthquake, they now meet in temporary classrooms made of plywood. These cannot be made secure, so they cant keep computers or books or even desks inside the classrooms. She struggles to provide a meal every day for all the students, now about 750 from age 3 (preschool) to 10th grade. They are expanding, in order to graduate their first high school seniors in 2013, the 100th year since the school’s founding. One would wonder why they want to expand the school when they can’t feed the students they have; but the school has an excellent reputation and the parents have begged Rev Fernan to expand the grades to include middle and later high school; it formerly went only to 6th grade. Jean Robert, our translator, grew up at Holy Trinity where he learned to play the violin. He played for us while we ate delicious pumpkin soup, with mandarin oranges for dessert. Pumpkin soup is a Haitian specialty, and like other Haitian dishes, sounds exotic and strange and tastes fantastic.
After lunch we went to a Haitian arts market and did a little souvenir shopping. That was fun! Practicing my Kreyol while bargaining with the merchants.
We returned to St Vincent’s to spend a final afternoon with the children. Kellar and Bob played basketball with some of the kids, using a 4 foot tall basket and a small rubber ball. There were a few balloons left from yesterday’s celebration which were batted around, including the Walgreens GET YOUR FLU SHOT balloon which is still floating around! Sherye got out coloring books and crayons and Tess (Sherye’s daughter) and Krystina (deaf interpreter from Connecticut) made macrame bracelets with the children. There was a cool breeze and it was absolutely delightful. I sat on the concrete steps and invited Mackenson to get his guitar and play for me, which he did. Mackenson is 16 years old and I have known him for several years. He told me he wants to be an engineer, and is studying physics and math at the Episcopal High School down the street from St Vincent’s. Mackenson lives at St Vincent’s because his mother, Naomi, who was a cook at the school, was killed in the earthquake, along with his 12 year old brother, Jobson. Sienna and Mackenson are good friends. He played a song which he says Sienna taught him, then we sang some songs together, each trying to think of a song the other might know. I told him one of my favorite hymns is Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, and when I hummed the tune he picked it out on the guitar, then strummed the chords and we sang it together. Actually I hummed it because I dont know all the words! But I will never hear that hymn again without the memory of being in Haiti. Frenel came to sit in my lap. He is nearly blind but showed me that he could see a little bit, as he described the colors on my bracelet. The macrame bracelet, made for me by Sherye, with colored beads. It soon came off and found its way onto Frenel’s wrist.
Frenel has a beautiful voice and sang with Mackenson some Haitian songs he knew, then his friend Jean Marc joined us. Jean Marc is also blind and was happily sitting in Jennifer’s lap next to me on the steps. Jennifer is a physical therapist from Memphis, and neither of us has a singing voice but it did not matter. The children are happy to have attention and to show their talents. It is one of the hardest things I have to do when it is time to get on the bus and leave the school on the last day, knowing I will not see the children for many months.

Susan Nelson

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