Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A story of three people and how their lives have changed.

The children at Kay Timoun are my love.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am always talking about and bragging about “my kids”.  But today I want to tell you about a few of the adults that I am with and how my ministry in Haiti has changed their lives.
Our cook, Dedet, just showed up one day.  She was there to help out.  Her little girl was in my care and she wanted to show appreciation by helping with food preparation.  Eventually, I hired her.  Dedet is the poorest of the poor.  She has several children, ages twenty something to a two year old.  She is in a committed relationship with the children’s father.  I was horrified when she showed me a photo of a beautiful girl that she had given away because she couldn’t afford to take care of her.  And I was just as horrified to see the broken down stick house that they all lived in.  The father raises a garden and some goats but apparently doesn’t make enough money to care for his large family.  So, I asked,  “Why do you keep having children?  You have no money to take care of them.”  The little boys were always naked, or wearing only a torn shirt, and had fungus skin rashes on their heads. 

Seeing that she was dedicated to doing a good job as a cook, and needing a full time cook, I hired her.  I talked to Dedet about her family and agreed to give her food every day for the children and clothes that I receive as donations, plus a small salary.  She agreed to go to the clinic for birth control shots.  That was three years ago.  Her children have grown beautifully and the older two boys attend the parish school.  She and her husband had a sturdy house built of stone and mortar, large enough for the whole family.  With a big smile, she tells me every time she goes to the clinic for her shot.  Having a steady income and food for her family has made all the difference in the world to Dedet and her family.  The kids have nourishing food every day, she saved money from her meager income to build a house, and she is taking charge of her life.   
Wonel is about 23 years old.  He had been the “crazy guy” in Bondeau.  His actions certainly did seem to be crazy.  Prior to my moving into Kay Timoun, I stayed in the guest house.  In the middle of the night he entered the guest house, got into the room where the acolyte robes were stored, put on the white robe, and ran up and down the hallway outside the room where I slept, scaring the wits out of me.  He repeatedly shouted out during church service and had to be led out by an usher.  At one time, there were so many complaints about Wonel’s behavior that his father tied him to a tree.  In contrast to his bazaar behavior in the community, Wonel would show up beside me when I took my evening walk.  I knew his reputation but always welcomed him with a smile.  One man often commented, “He’s your friend?”  At the end of our walk, I’d face Wonel, place my hands on his shoulders and in Kreyol say, “God bless you”, to which he’d respond, “Amen.”  A few days after I moved to Kay Timoun and had hired the people I needed, Wonel joined me again in my evening walk and asked if he could work for me.  I had already hired people to work and the budget for salaries was accounted for.  So, I asked Wonel if he would work for food, receive three meals a day.  He quickly replied, “Yes!”  “OK, come to Kay Timoun tomorrow morning.”  And he did, showing up bright and early.  I told him that his job would be to keep the house clean and he could begin in the kitchen.  I observed him working and was astonished at the quality of his work.  He cleaned everything thoroughly, even wiping the sink dry.  I wondered where he learned how to clean a kitchen so well.  A couple of days later, I got into conversation with Wonel.   He told me that he had lived with his grandmother who was a maid for a wealthy family in Port au Prince.  She home schooled him, taught him to cook, and housekeeping.  After the earthquake in 2010 she fled to the U.S., leaving him behind.  He was heartbroken.  (I think that’s what caused his mental breakdown.) 

At the end of the month, Wonel received money as pay, and also his meals.  As time went on, Wonel took on more and more responsibility.  He learned to drive a motorcycle and does all the errands, shopping for food, supplies, whatever we need.  He drives me and accompanies me on errands.  He now sleeps in the boys’ bedroom and is “house father” to the boys.  He works with five of the children with their school work.  He’s bright, knows how to get around on the laptop and is learning English. 
It’s been over three years since Wonel asked me for a job.  His life has changed tremendously, from being the “crazy guy” to being the “go to” person whom everyone respects.

Claudette carries a five gallon bucket of water on her head every day from the water source on the mountain to me, so that I have fresh water to bathe.  (We do not have running water in the house at Kay Timoun.)  I met Claudette over two years ago when she left her twin infant girls outside the back door at Kay Timoun, lying naked on the walkway.  My first thought was that someone left their babies for me.  “Who left these babies here?”  In a few minutes Claudette showed up and I looked closely at the infants.  Two months old, she said.  I saw that they were skinny, looking undernourished.  Claudette, too, was skinny and undernourished and didn’t have enough breast milk for the babies.  It didn’t take me but a moment to decide to feed these babies.  I bought baby formula at the store, the same kind of formula we use here, and baby cereal.  Claudette brought her twins by every morning to Kay Timoun.  I’d mix the formula and cereal and one of the children would feed the babies.  Soon, they started to fill out and gained weight.  They grew into happy healthy six month olds, sitting up, cooing and smiling.  Not long after that, they were walking, and Claudette was pregnant again!  I gave her the same talk I gave to Dedet, “Why are you having children if you can’t afford to feed them?”  But it didn’t sink in.  She had a baby boy and the formula, cereal routine began again.  Although Claudette isn’t employed at Kay Timoun, she helps out where she can, showing her thanks for the food she receives for herself and her children.  I am so grateful that she brings me clean water every day and she is grateful that I give her food for her children.  I don’t know what she would have done with the twins had we not fed the babies.  They probably would have become a Haiti statistic: two more children with malnutrition.  Her baby boy is healthy, too, thanks to the food that he is fed at Kay Timoun.  Claudette has a lot to learn about parenting.  Of course, I think as an American, not as a Haitian peasant.  But I still try to teach her basics about hygiene and preventive care for her children.
There are others, too, mostly women in the community whose lives are improved because of Kay Timoun.  There are too many, and too many stories to write at this time.  I do have a book planned for the future.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Back in touch again-being thankful

It's been so long since I have written!  Not to make excuses... I love to stay in touch...but in Bondeau, Haiti, I can't get Internet, and am without electric power most of the time.  Today I am not complaining!  Without all the distractions of Internet and the simplicity of life without electricity, I am able to find joy in the more simple things in life.  No need here for an alarm to wake up. The chickens awaken me at day break with the rooster's "call to prayer".  Everybody up!  Soon the hens begin their song, clucking in harmony.  The sound of chickens early in the morning is so sweet!  I believe (or imagine) that they are singing praise to God for another day.  The donkey across the way joins in with his honky snort, honky snort.  And then a goat, sounding very much like a human baby, cries out. Two month old puppies yap yap for their place in the animals' worship. From my bed with eyes closed, I join in their morning prayer, taking in the peace of the moment.  In a few minutes I hear a tap tap tap on my door and I'll soon be greeted with, "Bonjou, Anita" and hugs and kisses to begin my day. Fourteen hugs from fourteen beautiful children! It just doesn't get any better than that!

Kids off to school, I retreat to my favorite place, the second floor veranda overlooking the sea in one direction and the mountain in the other direction.  I go there to pray Morning Prayer but instead, I watch the hawks floating on wind currents, looking for breakfast.  How do they do that? They hardly move their wings.  A song bird flitters by and lands in the tree, singing a clear melody.  All for me?  A butterfly appears, seemingly from nowhere.  "Just passing by,"  she seems to say.  A tiny lizard scurries up the wall, blending yellow with the wall, so to hide from predators.  Are you the same little lizard that lives behind the tile in my bathroom?

Peace envelops me.  It's God's gift to me this morning.  And I can put behind inconveniences like not having Internet and not having electricity, and of course, no running water!  All quite challenging to live with...or live without.  But I know that God is here, with me, struggling right along with me...and I'm at peace.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Christmas-Here and There

As we approach another holiday season enjoying time together with family and friends, feasting on delicious and plentiful meals, opening beautifully wrapped gifts, and worshipping in a beautifully decorated church while listening to beautiful music sung by our very own choir, let’s keep in mind those of us in the Body of Christ who have so very little and yet celebrate fully the coming of Christ in their own special way.  There is just as much excitement around Christmas with the poorest of the poor who live in the poorest of country villages in Haiti, who save their pennies for weeks so that they might have a toy for their child on Christmas morning.  They plan and save so that they might have a special Christmas meal for their family.  They hope to have new shoes and clothes to wear to church on Christmas.  They hope that they can afford new shoes for their children.

The children at Kay Timoun (Children’s Home) will celebrate Christmas very much as we do in the U.S.  Last year we had a big Christmas Eve dinner with turkey and traditional rice and beans.  We invited children in the village to join us.  We sang Christmas songs and the children played games.  Keeping with our forming tradition, there will be a small Christmas tree in the living room, which will be visited by “Pere Noel” while the children are at late night mass.  The children will hurriedly unwrap their “cado” (gift) and play with it throughout most of the night, falling asleep with their toy on their pillow.  A simple toy, like a plastic doll for the girls or a plastic truck for the boys, means so much, because the kids in Bondeau, Kay Timoun kids included, rarely receive toys.

We must remember to thank God for all the blessings that He gives freely to us.  First of all, thanking Him that we have opportunity to live a decent life.  Most of us have no idea how people in developing countries live.  Thank God by sharing with those who have next to nothing.  You may do that by contributing for the Christmas Eve dinner at Kay Timoun.  The more money we receive, the more kids we can feed.  A special dinner means so much!  (Write check to South Florida Haiti Project—Kay Timoun.)  You may also contribute for Christmas gifts.  Last year one friend provided Creole bibles for all the children.  Other items on wish list are flash lights or lanterns with batteries, “church” clothes, small “match box” cars, and dolls.

I’ll be in Bondeau and Kay Timoun for Christmas and New Year, which is Independence Day in Haiti.  Wishing you all a Blessed Christmas!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Another reflection on poverty

One would think that by this time I'd be used to the poverty that surrounds me and become somewhat "hardened" to it.  But I'm not used to it and who know if I ever will be.  A typical case that I can't get accustomed to seeing...a mother who gives birth to one child after another when she can't afford to feed the ones she has.  I think to myself, "Doesn't she have any sense?  How can she be so unaware?  Doesn't she know that there are ways to prevent having children that you can't afford to feed?"  But then, I think, "I'm not in her situation.  Maybe she wants all these kids to assure that she will be cared for in her old age."  One mother, in particular named Claudette, comes here every day for food for herself and food for her 2 year old twins.  Now she has an infant boy who looks frail and tiny.  She doesn't have enough breast milk for him probably because she is so undernourished herself.  Did I get "hooked" into providing nourishment for him when I bought baby formula and a baby bottle and told her to come every day so the baby could be fed?  What would happen if I didn't take on that responsibility?  Would she and the baby's father step up to their responsibilities as parents?  I don't know the answer to that question.  I do know, however, that I'm caring for her 13 year old who has a brain problem and difficulty learning, probably due to malnourishment as a baby.  I do know, also, that her 2 year old twins were severely undernourished at two months old.  I do know, also, that Claudette just doesn't seem to "get it".  She has left her baby here on a blanket on the floor while she goes off somewhere.  She just doesn't seem to understand parenting the way we do.  But then, she isn't "us".  She is "she"!  Who am I to impose my values on her?  But then, am I responsible for "picking up the slack"?  I couldn't not "pick up the slack".  My question is, "Am I enabling dependency?"  Or am I doing what I am supposed to do as a Christian?  I know the answer for me but I'd like some feedback from anyone who reads this.  Email me deaconanita312@gmail.com.

Thanks...I'd like to hear from you.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Home again, home again!

I returned to Kay Timoun five days ago and have not stopped for a minute since I've been back.  The children have started school and are thrilled with their new school uniforms and "like new" shoes.  Cawol quickly wrote a list of all the school books that are needed and went to Miragoane on a moto taxi to purchase them.  Wonel stocked the depot with food and water, all transported on the motor cycle.  He ran into a problem on the way to the market, as there was a rock-throwing demonstration and the road was blocked.  He immediately made he way home, as not to get caught up in the melee.

The children were all smiles, hugs, and kisses when they returned to Kay Timoun.  Thank God, they are all healthy, although visibly thinner.  I know they didn't eat three meals a day when they were with their parents.  Probably only one meal.   

Claudette was one of our first visitors, along with her newborn baby boy.  The baby is tiny, so I'll keep a watchful eye and make sure that he gets enough to eat.  I'll prepare baby formula, as Claudette herself is undernourished and has very little breast milk.  Kay Timoun is also providing food for Claudette's two year old twin girls, who first came here when they were infants.

Two nights ago it poured rain at about 9:00PM.  The kids ran around in the pouring rain, shouting thank you to God for the rain, and filling up buckets, basins, and anything that holds water.  When I saw lightening flash, I put an end to their fun and made them come inside.  They walk the mountain trail every day to the water source and carry jugs home, so a downpour saves them a trip.  We will be so happy when we have a deep water well to serve the community!

I want to sincerely thank everyone who is helping with Kay Timoun.  People give us beautiful clothes, shoes, school supplies, vitamins, and anything I ask for.  I am truly thankful.  I don't know how I'd keep everything running without your help.  I am especially thankful for money donations, which I use to buy food, pay tuition, pay for school uniforms, and all those other expenses that require cash.  I was able to buy much needed new beds for the girls' bedroom.  I am also able to help out poor kids in the community with food and clothes.

Be thankful for all you have. 


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Challenges and abundant blessings

It’s so hot!  My clothes are soaked with sweat and my face is dripping.  The bugs are almost unbearable!   They swarm around the tomatoes in the bowl and the pineapples sitting on the counter.  Mosquitos threaten my health.  I’d like a good night’s sleep but I lay spread eagle on my bed trying to get catch a breeze.  I’d love to have a nice cool shower, but the best I can do is a bucket bath with water carried to my room  by Naomi.  The bucket must last the day, morning and evening bath.  I’d love to prepare a meal in a clean kitchen but I do the best I can with a few ounces of water to clean the counter and stove. There is seldom electricity, so the refrigerator sits as a sign of modernity come to Haiti, except there is not electricity to cool the refrigerator.  

Life here is difficult!  So, why do I stay?  I asked myself that question often.  I think of my nice comfortable condo in Boca and envision  all the comforts that I’m  so accustomed to.  And I know that I can return anytime I want.  So, why do I stay?  To answer that question,  “God called me to this ministry,” is not enough.  He not only called me, He gives me what I need to carry out His work in an extremely difficult environment.  His abundant blessings keep me from turning my back on it all.

God blesses me as He allows me to feel the joy of being surrounded by children.  Where else would I receive hugs and kisses every morning from loving children?  He blesses me with the patience I need to teach 12 year old Mirlande how to write and read.  He blesses me as I see 5 year old Angi navigate on a laptop.  I’m blessed when I see and hear 5 year old Odiana read and say words in English.  I’m blessed that the kids understand me when I speak in English.

As difficult as life in Bondeau is, I’ll keep accepting God’s grace and keep doing His work as long as He wants me to.  Thanks to all who pray for me.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Girl at Kay Timoun

I'll tell you about this girl, M, that I'm caring
for. The situation is so pathetic that to deal with her I
have to look at her with humor. It's not funny, it's sad, but you
know "gallow's laugh"--that's what this is. A little
background...shortly after I opened Kay Timoun I went out the back
door to find twin girl babies, almost naked, lying on the floor. My first
thought was "Oh no! somebody left me twins"...they were tiny, scrawny,
and 2 months old, I later found out. "Who left these babies here?" I
shouted, and found out that their mother would soon be back. Well, I
ended up feeding these babies for about a year. They grew into
healthy toddlers. The mother was and is still grateful for what I do
for them and brings a five gallon bucket of mountain water every day.
We still, by the way, are feeding the family. So...on to M.
One day, vacation time, I guess last summer, this girl shows up. She
is skinny, straggly, but as sweet as can be. She's hanging out and I
say she has to go. She doesn't, and mumbles something about her
mother. I ask the other kids, who is she...She is the sister of the
twins, just returned to her mother and had been a "restavec" (child
slave) with a family. She asks if she can stay. I couldn't understand
her but the kids told me. I said no, she couldn't stay. I thought
she would cry, so I said she could come in the daytime and eat here
and go home at night. As time went on, I wanted to get to know her
better...she didn't know how old she was but thought she was 12. Her
mother didn't know and didn't have any identification for her. She
said she had been to school, the first grade, but didn't pass. In the
meantime, she doesn't have clothes, shoes, nothing...I provided. So,
after about a month and school is ready to begin, I think that
M should go to school so I ask Mom for her papers to prove that
she is a "person" and can enroll in school. No papers. My house
mother, Cawol, knew what to do and arranged for a person to come here,
paid his bribe, and got identification so M could begin first
grade at the government school. Then one day at church, she went
forward at birthday time and said she was 14!

So, she is in first grade, 14 years old! She cannot read the most
simple words. She has been working on "li li, le, le, lo, lo, ma, ma,
mo, mo, pa, pa," since school began.  She carries her torn book with
her, points to these small words and guesses what they are. She
doesn't have a clue. I work with her every day and she just cannot
get it! Writing is something else...I have her writing "lo, li, etc."
and she tries really hard but has no grasp of what to do. Trying to
teach her to write her name is exhausting! She is so sweet, and tries
so hard! I met with the teacher and administrator...he said that he
thinks there is something wrong with her brain...I do too! And this
part isn't funny at all. Her mother is pregnant again and totally
undernourished. I give her prenatal vitamins every week. I'm sure
that the mother was so malnourished when she was pregnant with
M that the brain didn't develop and then add that the baby, if
anything like her twin sisters, didn't get nourishment.

So, M's story is tragic...I'm teaching her basics about life in
general..."blow your nose!" She is the first one to chip in with the
cleaning, a throw back to her life as a restavec.