Haiti Mission Trip – Day 9

January 12, 2018


The Wesleyan Center operates on solar panels for electricity during the day and at night switches over to traditional electricity.  My last evening in Haiti the electricity went out multiple times, so I didn’t sleep well since I require electricity run to my CPAP machine.  Fortunately, I was able to get some sleep that night.

Frankie arranged for Greg, another team leader leaving the same day, to take over some of our bags on their plane to Port Au Prince since we were only taking back one plane on the return trip.  I’m thankful Frankie worked out this important detail since the weight on the plan is very important.  We still had to weigh our remaining bags to make sure we only have 32 pounds of carry on.

We spent the morning dividing up the clothes for the teachers at the school, bags for Pastor Agones, and what we were leaving for the Wesleyan Center.

It was hard to say goodbye to everyone, but it was a glorious trip.  I learned so much about the Haitian culture, the details of organizing a team,  and effective teaching methods for classrooms without technology or electricity.  It was humbling experience.  I hope to go back again in the future..

Haiti Mission Trip – Day 8

January 11, 2018

Site of the original church and school.

Today will be our last day at the school and it will be a busy day.  Linda will finish up the knitting projects with the Women of Works as well as making the humus with the children.

Before leaving for the school I interviewed Pastor Agones and he gave the story of how he was taken in by the missionaries at 12 years old and put through primary, secondary school and seminary.  He also explained about starting the school and church.  Very touching.  It made me cry!  These videos clips would work well as promotional advertisements for Flat Stanley.

Pastor Agones – Ralph Tuthill School
Pastor Agones – Ralph Tuthill School – history of the school
How Flat Stanley has made a difference at the Ralph Tuthill School
How scholarships assist students at the Ralph Tuthill School

Joan entertaining the children.

Made it to the school a little later than we had the other days.  We started in right away working with organizing the supplies for the Women in Action.  I (attempted) to watch over the Kindergarten class  so Mona and Judice could work with the ladies.  One little boy had a small injury on his arm that came open and Dr. Steve had to bandage him up.  The kids were all over me, touching me and yelling ‘Blanc, blanc’, which means ‘White, white’.  Children are the same the world over!

Frankie is bringing back beads, purses and other items from the Women in Action to sell on their behalf.  Their items are so well done.  I purchased a beautiful gum wrapper purse.

Joselle and Judice preparing the bowls to feed the children.

Joselle fed the children rice, beans, with hummus on topped with veggies.  Our team helped serve the children.  The children enjoyed the meal.

I interviewed Olivia outside the school.  She is a scholarship mother.  her son is in the 7th grade.  She speaks English and lived in the United States for 10 years., had 10 children born in the United States, but was deported back to Haiti.  Her former husband told the children she died.  Very sad!  From my understanding she has eight children here in Haiti.

Olivia – Scholarship mother from Ralph Tuthill School

Our team came back to the center late and missed lunch, but I wasn’t really hungry.  Took a short walk to see Simon’s garden at WISH and the set up for his agricultural school.  The garden was lovely.

Tonight we go to Fifi’s for a special dinner for the teachers.  We all got showered, dressed up and walked over to Fifi’s place to meet up with the teachers.  A team from New York that had arrived that day and they joined us for the meal.  Fifi had an authentic Creole Haitian buffet.  It was magnificent!  So very delicious and filling.  So many different dishes of food!

We had to be back at the Wesleyan Center by 9 pm before the doors were locked.  Fifi gave us a cake to take back and Linda and Frankie tried it.  They liked the spices, which are very different than typically used in the United States.  Frankie and Linda explored the kitchen that night to see if the cooks at the Wesyleyan Center used similar spices.  They determined that it was a Haitian version of cinnamon and ginger.

Haiti Mission Trip – Day 7

January 10, 2018

LaGonave Market

Today we went to the market to purchase the veggies needed for the humus that Linda will be making.  The sights and smells were very strong.  Each little vendor has their wares displayed along with clothes and household items.

Church garden
Bagged water from the water treatment plant.

We stopped by the new church and got a tour.  Also, go to view the water treatment plant and the garden. An amazing operation they are running for their community.  The water treatment is very complicated and sophisticated.  They have the only potable water on the island.

The new church building.

We didn’t make it to the school till late and Joselle had not given the children their snack because she was running behind.  Joselle uses an outdoor kitchen to cook and prepare the snacks for the 125 children.  She does a great job!

Linda and Joselle.

We helped organize the Women in Action supplies while Linda taught knitting.  Their library is the store room and it seems very disorganized, but the teachers and bead ladies are aware of where to find everything.

Linda also taught Joselle how to make the hummus and had the children try it.  Tomorrow they will be making the hummus for the entire school.

I interviewed Mona twice.  Once with Monel and once with T-Fritz interpreting.  Hopefully, I will have some good footage to complete my assignment.  I was really hoping to not be in the frame, but unfortunately I was.

Video interview with Mona

Video interview with scholarship mother, Olivia

That evening after dinner the other group was interested in meeting together to discuss what each team had been working on.  Pastor Agones showed up just as Frankie was about to speak.  Great timing!  She gave the story about how the church started as well as the school.  Of course, I forgot to video it!  The other team lead spoke and explained they are from Ohio and they have been doing construction on renovating a dental clinic as well as some work around the Wesleyan Center.  They were instrumental in getting an ultrasound machine down to the island earlier this year.

Haiti Mission Trip – Day 6

January 9, 2018

Women of Works working on their projects.

We did the last four classes for the wellness exams and it ran very smooth.  We perfect our process and that made all the difference.

Monel has been coming with us as a translator.  Monel is very serious and today I noticed he kept looking at his phone.  He finally shared with Frankie that his wife was at the hospital about to deliver their second child.  Frankie set him to the hospital to deliver lunch to the lady with the hand infection and be with his wife during the delivery of the baby.

We finished the wellness exams and did not meet with the teachers.  I guess I will do my flash cards tomorrow. Come back to the center for lunch and went back to the church by 1:30 pm.  Over back at the church where Linda continued working on the knitting with the Women in Action. I showed two ladies how to make the braided crocheted dog toys.  Well . . . we didn’t tell them they were dog toys!  On the way back we stopped at Fritz’s home and worked with his wife to help her with crochet and and how to make the dog toys.  She was interested in making the plastic mats from trash bags.

Ms. Pierre with her 1st grade students.

We came back to the center and ate dinner and had a video chat with my husband.  Yea!  I miss him so very much!  We are not used to being away from each other.

Talked with Mona (T-Fritz interpreted) and she shared her vision with me regarding the Bead Ladies.  She’s interested in having a crafter’s school to teach other ladies to have their own business; she’s also interested in being on television to advertise their skills and talents internationally.  Tomorrow I will be doing a video of her asking what this business has helped her, her family and community and what wants for the future.

Haiti Mission Trip – Day 5

January 8, 2018

2nd grade classroom

Today was our first full day at the school.  I was awake by 6:30 am.  Showered, ate, dressed, packed a bag for the day and we were  picked up by 8:30 am to drive to the school in Batoti (in English it means Turtle Bay).  The school is in the same location as the church we visited yesterday.  I can tell our presence caused quite a stir in the children when we arrived because they got louder and louder and LOUDER!

The Kindergarten class is in the small room on the right as you enter the church, the 1st and 2nd grade occupy the sanctuary, 3rd – 6th grade is on the second floor.  The second floor does not have a roof.  I actually never went upstairs the entire time I was there, my back was in such a mess from the trip up the mountain, I didn’t want to risk going up the stairs.

When we walked up to the school the children are reciting their numbers orally.  It’s really loud in the room.  The children are very curious and coming over to touch us.  They like to get in your personal space.

We set up for the dental clinic.  I weighed the children, Linda measured their height and Dr. Steve performed a dental exam.  We completed the exams on three of the classes and left by noon to go back to the Wesleyan Center for lunch.  By 2:00 pm we returned to the school after having our lunch and a short rest.  Linda worked with the Women in Action teaching them how to knit.  I helped organize the school library and keep the children under control (sort of!).  We handed out coloring pages o the children with crayons.  Frankie was excellent at getting them to listen.

Dr. Steve performing a dental exam on one of the children.

We had dinner back at the Wesleyan Center.  Took dinner to the hospital for the lady with the infected hand.  I finished up my flash cards before going to bed.

Frankie takes every opportunity during her free time at the Wesleyan Center to make connections and network with others in order to advance the purpose of the mission!  I admire her ability and drive at this skill.  We talked a long time about the IDD program at the university.  I really enjoyed talking with her.  I believe we connected very well.  I let her know I wasn’t sure where I wanted to focus my efforts in IDD and she had the same experience until her internship with the Navy.

Video of a drive through town.

Haiti Mission Trip – Day 4

January 7, 2018

The meal the ladies from the church prepared.

Up for the day by 6am.  Showered, ate breakfast and we left church by 8:30 am.  Church was wonderful!  The singing was so beautiful.  There was probably 150 people there, with at least 100 of them children.  Pastor Agones introduced Frankie and she introduced the team.

After the service we served the congregation lunch that the church ladies had made.  Frankie explained it was a tradition for the team members to serve this Sunday afternoon meal during each trip.  It was an honor to participate.  Afterwards we went back to the Wesleyan Center to eat our lunch and relax before leaving for the orphanage by 2:00 pm.

I was experiencing additional aches and pains from the trip up the mountain to Nan LaBron yesterday so I stayed behind at the Wesleyan Center while the rest of the team members visited the orphanage.  This afforded me the opportunity to catch on my journal, work on my flash cards and try to call my husband.

The lady from Nan LaBron with the infection in her hand was taken down the mountain and arrived at the hospital for treatment.  The hospital does not provide food or hospital gowns for patients, the families were expected to do this.  Therefore, our team would take over food and clothes for her.

Haiti Mission Trip – Day 3

January 6, 2018

Traveling to Nan LaBron

Today went to Nan La Bron.  This community was devastated by Hurricane Matthew back in October 2016.  The people in the community are extremely poor.  They don’t have access to clean water because they do not have a well.

We left by 7:30 am with our our supplies and people loaded in the truck.  Our driver, Wilson, and Steve sat in the front of the truck, while the rest of the team, interpreters and supplies rode in the back.  I sat backwards against the cab of the truck bouncing on a small plank of wood.  The roads are very rough in the town but once you head into the mountains, they actually get rougher.  It’s hard to believe a truck can make it up this treacherous road!  To be honest, now that I look back Frankie didn’t give much information about this part of the trip and now I know why.

Classroom at the Nan LaBron school.

Frankie and I played games (Hoakie Poakie, London Bridge, Simons Says, Duck Duck Goose) with the children.  It was a blast!  One of the teachers, Madam Marie Nicole did a fantastic job playing with the children.  She had a song that used colors and numbers that I enjoyed watching.  Despite the language barrier it is obvious the teachers care deeply for the children.

I gave my flash card lesson to the teachers and it went very well.  It was awkward without a table and speaking through an interpreter, but I got through it.  The main classroom was very basic with dirt floors, open window without glass, wooden benches, and a large supply cabinet packed with supplies that Frankie had brought on previous trips.  The children used small individualized chalkboard slates to write on or use as a hard surface for coloring/writing on paper at the benches.

Student from the Nan LaBron School showing off the photo she received of herself.

Most children of the children were dressed in their best clothes or school uniforms when they came out to meet us.  Many of the little girls were in very frilly church dresses with big sweet smiles.

Dr. Steve performed dental wellness exams on about 120 children.  Joan and Linda assisted Dr. Steve.  Joan and Linda gave the children the purple rubber glove to play with.  The children enjoyed blowing them up and playing with them.

Dr. Steve had a lady with an infection in her hand approach him.  They arranged she be brought down the mountain the next day (Sunday, January 7th) to be taken to the hospital.  There were three children with ear infections, but that was not as severe as the ladies infection.  Dr. Steve is getting antibiotics and sending them back to the village.  Antibiotics can be purchased over the counter in Haiti.

Me with the children in Nan LaBron.

Frankie, she is incredibly organized and is always busy with lists and thinking of ways to help the people.  She is not bother by the cold showers or lack of restroom facilities. These people have her heart!  She mentioned looking into coming to retire here with the Wesleyans.  After speaking with a friend they let her know she would do more good staying in the United States and getting the word out to get help for the people.  I can tell Frankie has peace with that decision.

There is no trash pick up here in LaGonave in Haiti so therefore trash is everywhere.  Such a beautiful country with liter everywhere.  The roads are rocky and unpaved.  I wish we could turn the liter into pavement!

I believe we only traveled about 20 – 25 miles, but it took 3 hours (to view a video traveling in the truck down the mountain).  It was a tough day, but equally wonderful.  No bathroom for the whole day till we returned.  No food either.  A rough ride.  The team was kind enough to allow me to ride in the front cab of the truck on the way back.  My achey back appreciated it (although, I didn’t realize how achey it would be until the next day).

Haiti Mission Trip – Day 2

January 5, 2018

Linda, Joan, Dr. Steve and myself on our flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Port Au Prince.

Got my shower, dressed, packed and were were ready for the shuttle to the airport by 4:00 am.  It was very cold (41 degrees)!  Our team had eight large duffle bags to check in at the airport.  A JetBlue employee, Vincent was kind enough to check us and our bags in at the airport.

Our plane from Ft. Lauderdale to Port Au Prince took off a little late and the flight went well.  The lady sitting next to me was going to her grandmothers funeral.  She was Haitian and lived in Florida.

We arrived in Port Au Prince by 8:30 am.  I was a little nervous going through customs, but it went very smoothly.  We had our picture taken with the band when we arrived in the airport.  Our driver was there to meet us at the Port Au Prince airport and drove us to the smaller airport where we would fly onto LaGonave Island.

The smaller airport was filled with people in long lines and I was told that most were Haitians leaving for Chili in hopes of a better life.  In addition, while we were there a camera crew arrived to film the opening up of a new airport terminal.  The other team members met a missionary family traveling on to another location in Haiti. Pastor Agones joined us at the small airport to escort us back to LaGonave.

One of the two planes we took from Port Au Prince to LaGonave.

Frankie had reserved two planes to fly us to LaGonave.  One plane carried most of the luggage, pilot and Linda.  The second plane carried the rest of the team, pilot and luggage.  I got to sit up front with the pilot!  It was a beautiful flight!  I enjoyed every second!!!  We landed on a tiny gravely air strip (that was unexpected) right next to the beach.  Select this link to view a video of our plane landing on LaGonave.

Pastor Agones

We had a sweet greeting from the locals and rode inside a Jeep to the Wesleyan Center.  At first sight, it is a very impoverished city.  Huge rocky roads with large speed bumps.  Most people riding around on motorcycles.  From my perspective, there was constant noise and chaos.

We made it to the Wesleyan Center and unpacked our bags.  Frankie is exceptionally organized.  Our dorm room is very ice with six beds and our own bathroom.  Not bad at all in my opinion.

We at dinner at the center and met Simon from Canada.  He works with the agricultural school across the street and come about four times a year.  He’s very interesting and personable.

We prepared for the next day.  Tomorrow we will be going to Nan La Bron in the mountains.

Haiti Mission Trip – Day 1

January 4, 2018

Beep, beep, beep . . . . ! This was my rude awakening about midnight on Thursday, January 4th.  My daughter, Elizabeth, had forgotten to turn off the timer when she heated up her late night dinner in the oven.  I laid there for a while hoping she would turn it off, but she didn’t, so I got up.  My mind was already racing and it was impossible to go back to sleep.  I am so excited, nervous and asking myself – What do I have to offer on this mission trip to Haiti?

John, my husband, dropped me off at the airport on his way to work and my flight to Ft. Lauderdale is scheduled for 9am.  The Mobile airport was fairly empty since it was so early in the morning.  Unfortunately, TSA decided to take my razor and my large tube of hand lotion I forgotten was in my purse.  Needless to say I am going to have hairy dry legs in Haiti!

I am not an experienced solo traveler, so I was a bit nervous.  I was especially nervous since I knew I would only have 45 minutes to changes planes in Atlanta, but to my surprise it arrived 30 minutes early.  I arrived in Ft. Lauderdale and caught the shuttle to the hotel.  I waited in the hotel lobby until the rest of the team arrived.

I finally got to meet Frankie (Dr. J) in the person.  I have been corresponding with her for about a year.  She started out as my instructor for Educational Research and during a group project we interviewed her regarding her experience working with poverty in Haiti.  I was very impressed with the way she conducted her class.  She was genuine and very approachable.  After I finished her class in the Spring 2017 I asked if she would be interested in having an intern.  She was and we put together a proposal, the proposal was approved and here we are!

My teammates are Dr. Frankie Bratton-Jeffery (our team leader and my internship supervisor), Dr. Steve Boger (he’s a retired dentist that will be doing dental well-check exams), Joan Boger (wife of Dr. Boger, former teacher and will be assisting her husband with the wellness exams), and Linda Craig (former teacher and will be teaching the Women in Action group to knit as well as the cook Joselle how to make hummus).  My role will be to assist with two teacher trainings regarding flashcards (one in NLB and one in Batoti).

That first night I met my teammates in Ft. Lauderdale was very busy and fun.  Dr. Steve stayed at the hotel while the ladies and myself went out to eat and finished up some shopping for the trip.  All of the ladies were so nice and easy to get to know.  We went to KMart in search of seeds to take back to with us for Pastor Agones and his garden.  We found seeds in the very back corner of KMart.  The seeds were expired and Joan talked the manager who agreed to sell us the seeds for 1/2 price.  We bought $250 worth of seeds for $125.  Great deal!

We made it back to the hotel by 11pm after our dinner, shopping, returning the rental car and catching the shuttle back to the hotel.  It was a busy and productive night.  We had to be up by 3am to catch the 4am shuttle to the airport.  Not much sleep for the 2nd night in a row!

Note to self: when flying with a CPAP machine don’t bury it in your carry on baggage!  TSA makes you remove it during their inspections.  Evidently, when they ask if you have any electronic devices they typically mention laptops, tablet computers, cameras, etc, but no mention of a CPAP machine.  It took me multiple times of going through TSA and being stopped again and again before I realized the CPAP was an electronic device!  Really!

Second note to self:  Purchase a small rolling suitcase to use as a carry on.  Most airports have you walk a long way to meet your next plane.  My 30 pound backpack and purse got ridiculously heavy and burdensome.

IDD and Me

Long Road

My path towards Instructional Design and Development has been a long road.  When I was in college in the late 1980’s my career choices were all over the place.  My mother was a nurse so I thought I would follow in her footsteps, but since I am squeamish at the sight of blood that wasn’t going to be a possibility.  I had loved accounting in high school, but after taking economics my freshman year I realized that wasn’t for me either.  Crazy as it sounded (especially to my family) my true desire was to be an artist.  I had had an amazing art teacher in high school who had opened my eyes up to the world of art and I fell in love with it.  My only problem was I had no idea what I was going to do with my art degree.

In my sophomore year I began taking art courses in hopes that it would help me decide how I would use my degree.  I enjoyed each class and learned so much, but I was no closer to finding out what I wanted to do.  It wasn’t until my senior year, realizing graduation was looming, I took an educational foundations course and for the first time I felt at home.  Art education seemed like the place for me.  Of course there was a catch, this would mean I would have to go to school for another year to complete the required education courses.  I just wasn’t willing to put off finishing school for another year.

I graduated in May of 1989 with a Bachelor of Science in Art from Huntingdon College.  My family was very proud of me for completing my degree, but I was terrified!  I know it doesn’t sound like much money nowadays, but I believe I owed around $8,000 in student loans.  Therefore, I completely abandoned any notion of using my degree and went to work.  I had bills to pay!

After working in various support role positions for many years in civil service, private business, and two different higher educational institutions I was introduced to Instructional Design at the University of South Alabama (USA).  I was also working in Career Services at USA and with my personal struggle to discover a career path I realized I had a passion for college students as they navigated through the maze of career choices.  I also have a desire to assist students in finding real world work experience through internships and cooperative education opportunities.  I realized that by getting my master’s in IDD I could delve deeper into the Career Services field and be a greater help to students who are going through the same struggles I encountered.  With my work schedule and personal commitments I take one class each semester and ISD 581 is my fifth course.  The IDD program has been a perfect choice for me and I am excited to be a part of it.