Sunday, February 28, 2010

Keep praying for Haiti

So the rainy season has apparently started.  And it's already taking its toll.  See article below.
Les Cayes is not near Port-Au-Prince, but I'm concerned this may be foreshadowing. God heard our prayers for Haiti after the earthquake and the people that we are closest to were all saved.  

 Flooding triggered by heavy rain killed at least 11 people in Les Cayes, Haiti's third most populous city and an area unscathed by the devastating January 12 earthquake that flattened much of the country's capital.

Heavy rains washed more than 1.5 meters (60 inches) of water into Les Cayes, flooding the city's hospital and prison, Haiti's civil emergencies service said.

Witnesses said homes collapsed and people were fleeing for safer areas.

"The situation is grave.... Whole areas are completely flooded. People have climbed on to the roofs of their homes," a local senator, Francky Exius, told AFP by telephone.

UN peacekeepers and Haitian police evacuated 500 inmates from the local prison, officials said, while hospital staff moved patients to the safety of higher floors.

Exius said five people were killed in Les Cayes's Gelee district when rising waters flipped their vehicles.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quake aftershock of 4.7 magnitude hits Haiti

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A mild 4.7 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti early on Tuesday 20 miles west southwest of Port-au-Prince, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.


The quake struck at 1:26 a.m./0626 GMT at a depth of 6.2 miles, the USGS said.

There were no immediate reports of damage.

A 4.7 magnitude quake hit Haiti on Monday, one of series of aftershocks since a catastrophic magnitude 7 quake hit the island on January 12.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Upcoming trip

Hi all,

Less than 2 weeks till the next trip, and plenty to do!!     If any of you have folks who could translate some documents into Kreyol, I'd greatly appreciate the help!   These are documents for the folks that I'll be training.

Quite exciting news!    Jen will be going down to Haiti on this trip!!    This is wonderful on so many levels.   She'll get to see the kids (Nakeysha, Anderson, Nelson) and visit Pestel (which will be her first time).  She's been realizing the need to go down again to Haiti.   We're going to surprise Anderson!  He doesn't know yet.  But I spoke to Sister Fidelis this morning, and she's very excited!

Anderson is sounding better.  I talked with him this morning.  He's looking forward to the upcoming trip.
I'm including two images which are telling.  The images compare Haiti's earthquake toll with other recent natural disasters.

The Vitamin A arrived yesterday....heavy.  About 65 pounds.   And the anti-parasitic medication is going to be shipped directly into Port-Au-Prince by Fed Ex.  These are both exciting answers to prayer.  

There are many things to pray about--safety, our kids, logistics, our own hearts (and minds).   I realize how important these trips really are...not because of the 'great work' being done but because of the great work God does in us and in them.  There is a need to see these images again, as hard as some of them are to take in.  There is a need to tell the stories to folks like yourself, to share the photos and the videos, to carry forward the message.  There is a need for us to be affected by suffering, but also by joy.  

Suffering and joy....they say "Not yet, but soon!"   


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Father Rick and his hospital

Two things here:    First, an email from Father Rick Frechette.  He is a priest and pediatrician who has been working/laboring/living in Haiti for many years.  In the past I have sent photos of the wonderful hospital (read: beacon-of-light) in PAP.  The hospital was for the poorest children.  I've edited down the email a bit.
The second:   I just learned that Father Rick has published a book.  It will soon be released:

About the Author

Richard Frechette is a medical doctor and Catholic priest who directs the Haiti programs of Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos International, and of his religious community, The Passionists. These programs include orphanages, schools, a children's hospital, and mobile clinics in and around Port-au-Prince . He did similar work previously in Mexico and Honduras .

Father Frechette is in Haiti right now! Click here for updates on his efforts at his pediatric hospital in Haiti after the earthquake. See him interviewed on NBC's Nightly News and onABC's 20/20.

A portion of the sales of this book will be donated to the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and the American Red Cross.

February 12, 2010
Thirty Days Later

It is traditional in the Catholic faith to celebrate mass in remembrance of the dead after one month has passed. Today throughout Haiti, at 7 am, in what is left of the parishes of Port au Prince, this mass will be celebrated for the estimated 200,000 dead from the earthquake. In addition to these masses, President Preval has declared today to be a day of national fast, and the beginning of three days of national mourning. We are participating in this act of solidarity by offering mass at 7 am at Titayin, together with Bishop Dumas, at the burial place of the indigent and unknown dead from the earthquake. We ourselves have buried about 2,500 people there in the last 30 days.

After weeks of frenetic activity, we are returning to a state of equilibrium. Our hospital had become a trauma MASH unit, as had all other medical centers in Port au Prince that are still standing. We were able to offer about 30 surgeries a day at four sites (two in our hospital, one on our hospital grounds in a tent, and one at the St. Camillus Hospital, which we staffed for the emergency.) Many of these, sadly, were amputations – sometimes two for the same adult or child. 

To give an idea of the size of the problem, it is likely there are about 20,000 people now who have been amputated or who have orthopedic hardware screwed through their skin to the bone. Port au Prince has about 20 Haitian orthopedic surgeons, and visiting teams to Haiti will soon leave. All 20,000 need to be followed closely for removal of hardware, control of infection, reevaluation of the amputation, and of course for artificial limbs and rehabilitation. Obviously 20 surgeones will not be able to handle this load. We have worked closely with the St. Camillus Hospital so as to return our St. Damien Hospital to a pediatric center and to have a growing center for adults at St. Camillus. We hope tobgether to be able to keep good tabs on the patients we have operated on, and hoep to be able to provide well for them in the future. 

In collaboration with the Papal Nuncio, the president of the Haitian bishops conference, the local CARITAS office and the Italian Protezione Civile, we are setting up seven positions in the provinces, (especially since about 30% of the population has abandoned the capital) to be able to help enable access for these people to a medical system. We can do our best to follow a certain number patients from these sites, return them to Port au Prince for needed attention- by helicopter or land,- and use these points as well for large distributions of food and educational materials for schools. We hope to continue to partner with St. Camillus and the Haitian bishops to strengthen a similar response within Port au Prince as well.

At Francisville, we are making a center for production of artificial limbs. Gena Hergaty hosted a meeting two days ago of 30 non-governmental organizations at our St. Germaine program, to determine the best collaboration for all those eager to invest in rehabilitation and physical therapy.

The Fr. Wasson Center is being cleared by heavy government equipment, and we will rebuild a central administration center on the site, with a metal instead of cement framework, which are fast becoming popular here. We will also make an artistic monument to stand prominently on the corner, by a famous Haitian artist, dedicating the new center to Ryan and Molly and honoring all the victims of the earthquake.

In Tabarre our three areas of destruction were the perimeter walls, the tower, and the chapel. The Italian Protezzione Civile is clearing the debris, reinforcing the tower, rebuilding the chapel and rebuilding the walls. Additional internal, non-structural damage to the hospital is being repaired by the Italian companies that made the initial installations (especially the central oxygen supply). The new maternity and neonatal program, born of necessity during the traumatic days following the quake, is following a good and logical course, and the rest of the hospital is returning to normal. 

Our surgical capacity will still be challenged as we tend to many postoperative children and new traumas. The cancer center got quite a boost, thanks to Sister Judy, as it is now a partner with the Danny Thomas Children's Cancer Hospital in the USA. This will bring quite a help for development, diagnostic, training, material and medicines.

The St. Helene orphanage in Kenscoff was largely spared, but we were glad to see so much charitable activity on the part of the children, coming to the hospital to visit injured children and distributing food and supplies in the tent cities.

The Family Services team has been very attentive to vulnerable children in the tent cities and has elaborated a good plan for continued involvement. Future reports will be given on all these points I mention in this summary by the people involved.

We are still gathering the names of those who have died or disappeared in the rubble. We hope soon that Daniela, our temporary home correspondent, will be able to make a memorial page on the NPH website. We are very much struck with sorrow by the deaths of our colleagues or deaths in their families.

The St. Luke program has been valiant and tireless, and we suffered the loss of some staff and directors. We also suffered the loss of one third of our 18 street schools. We will resume school in tents, as soon as we have enough, and thanks to Artists for Peace and Justice, we are studying all aspects of rebuilding.

Everywhere around us there are huge social problems: woundedness, homlessness and hunger. There are wounded, homeless and hungry among our 800 employees (all programs combined, including St. Luke). This is made more dreadful by the advance of the rainy season. We had our first rain yesterday.

In a separate letter over the next few days, I will outline the investment we hope to make in addressing these three social problems and the rebuilding and advance of our own programs.

For today, please join us in mourning. Join us in prayers for the dead, for the living, for the future.

Thank you and God bless you.
Fr. Rick Frechette

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A few praises!!

Just saw this from the Wall St. Journal:
American Airlines will resume flights into Haiti's capital city on Friday, marking the first commercial passenger flight into the country since an earthquake that devastated the Caribbean nation Jan. 12.
I had purchased my ticket the afternoon of the earthquake...literally, 4 hours before the earthquake.  I wasn't sure until just now whether I was going to make it into Haiti 'the old fashioned way' or have to come up with some other last minute approach.  I have so many other "last minute" pressures on me right now that THIS news is a huge answer to prayer for me!

The total from the calendar sales is now at $3000!   That's pretty awesome!

I'll be able to charter a plane out of PAP to Jeremie using MAF.   That too is a logistical answer to prayer because it wasn't clear how I would get out to Pestel;  the small airlines are not flying out to Jeremie yet.   

My sister Erika met an engineer today from her church who, as it turns out, was the same engineer that assessed Wings of Hope (and deemed it too unsafe to live in).   That's amazing!   I remember reading about the assessment which I believe occurred within the first couple of weeks.  It's such a great gift to Wings that this man used his skills to benefit them in this way.  If you were running an orphanage, you would want to know whether to move all the kids (no easy feat, because many of these kids are in wheelchairs).


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Good news!

I just received an email from one of the (many) medical students who has been helping with preparations for the upcoming trip that an organization called Vitamin Angels has agreed to give us 50,000 doses of Vitamin A for free!!   That's the entire amount that we need for one year!     We may also be able to get the same amount of Albendazole (anti-parasitic) if we can work out the logistics.

That's wonderful news because it allows us to 'stretch' the dollars from Variety International in greater ways.  

God is providing!  Over and over again He provides.

Please consider praying about the albendazole...and also about the upcoming trip.  There are several unanswered questions related to this trip.


Connecting dots...

I may have mentioned all of this before....not sure.

A couple of years ago when my paternal grandparents were still living I had a chance to spend some time with them in Florida.  I had already taken my first trip to Haiti.  That's when they mentioned to me that they had long been supporting an organization in Haiti (of all places in the world!).  I thought that was a remarkable connection.  Something (Someone) had moved in their hearts to give, not once based an appeal, but many times, and Someone had also moved in my heart regarding Haiti as well.  Now, they did not give much money at all because they did not have much money.  But they gave out of willing hearts, moved with compassion.

As you know, recently volunteers from Hershey have been going down to help after the Haiti earthquake.  They set up camp and a surgical center in Fond Parisien, at a complex run by Love A Child:

This is the same organization that my grandparents supported!   

Of all places in the world...and in all places in Haiti.   I find this to be truly remarkable.   There is something important in all this.  And frankly, I am not sure I can articulate it just yet.

I do pray that for some of you this comes as an encouragement.


Volunteers from Hershey--photos

Hi all,

This is a really great blog post from the team that recently went down to Haiti.
NOTE:  At the very bottom of the blog are some gruesome photos, but there is a good warning that shows up before them....

Friday, February 12, 2010

Emails from St. Joseph's...

Hi all, Here are two really neat emails from folks related to ST. Joseph's and Wings of Hope.  The first is from Michael who has been the 'architect' behind these orphanages.  Trinity House is down in Jacmel and is another orphanage/school.

The 2nd email is from Alec who is in Haiti and has been working at Wings of Hope with his sister, KC (who works there full-time).  

Dear family----
                              I spoke with Melchi this morning.  He told me they are doing great at Trinity House.  Our Trinity House dancers are the hit of the Canadian military.  Our dancers have performed already three times for the Canadian military and relief workers.  Last night they had a performance at Trinity House for over 20 Canadian doctors.  The other two performances were , one at the wharf and one at the airport.  This is helping keep the spirits of the Canadians up as well as the spirit of our dancers.
     The Canadians have given our guys five huge tents that they set up for them on the soccer field.  Each of the five tents holds 10 people.  Melchi and the guys love the new tents.  Melchi said they are also receiving food assistance.
     This is all wonderful news coming one month after the horrors of the earthquake.  It is encouraging to know our guys at Trinity are not sulking but are still lifting others up with their dancing, doing the best they can with what they have.
Keeping the thoughts positive ----Michael

Dear family----
                              Here is a beautiful message from Alec Bersch, the brother of KC. It comes one month after the Jan. 12th earthquake. -----Michael

           A month ago, this evening, I was at St. Joseph's, with Christopher Henry's brother, Patrick. Pat was a visiting guest at wings, and we had gone down because the Resurrection Dance theater, made entirely of St. Joseph Family members, was performing that night on the fifth floor of the building, which is their space for performances and rehearsals. Looking back, I remember doing my normal night routine, which is relaxing on the roof, taking in the sheer beauty of the area-- a view of most of petionville, and all of port-au-prince, going all the way to the coast. It was such a haven from the chaos of Port au Prince. I slept on a balcony of the sixth story, the chapel floor, and woke up very early the morning of the 12th, as I always did at St. Joseph's, to watch the sun rise. I have seen some incredible sunrises at Michael's house, and this one was no exception to the rule. If there is one thing that I am happy about, it is that I can say for sure that I never took that building for granted-- I always loved every moment that I was in the St. Joseph's building. Little did I know that the was the last time I would see that chapel, and on that very day my life would change forever.
             A month later, life moves on. The St. Joseph's Boys have moved to Jacmel, and are living at Trinity House. At Wings, we have two adjacent rental homes now, that are connected by a side gate. One of the homes is for the kids to sleep in, and for school space, and the other has tons of space for the kids to play outside, and in the house we have space for offices, storage, and rooms for adult staff and volunteers. Michael has purchased the home that is directly next to the St. Joseph's Art Center. This building is actually the home that St. Joseph's was housed in before it built the current home-- so for Michael and many longtime supporters, it is somewhat of a homecoming. The collapsed St. Joseph's will eventually be torn down and rebuilt, and so will Wings of Hope. God only knows when St. Joseph's and Wings of Hope will be resurrected to their former glory, but in the meantime, we are all safe, happy and in great shelter.
           The past few weeks at Wings have been very busy, as we are in the transition to a new home. A team of engineers surveyed the Wings building, and ruled that while it is nowhere near livable, we can go in to retrieve belongings and other needed things-- which is certainly a blessing. My main project has been the beautification of the new wings, specifically in gardening. I have retrieved plants from Wings, bought others, and was even given plants from St. Joseph's by Michael. There is a huge front yard of the Wings house for adults that will make a fantastic garden and play area. Currently, it is a huge pile of dirt and weeds, but with the hard work of the staff, and even the kids, we can make into a great space. (I even received a tremendous amount of help from two wonderful ladies, Sisters Joe and Fidelius. They are Franciscan nuns who live in the southwest tip of Haiti, but are close friends of the St. Joseph's family. Srs. Joe and Fidelius spent a week at Wings, and it was fun to have them around, doing gardening work and providing great company!). My hope is that I can cover both of these rental homes with flowers, trees and other greenery. For those who had the privilege of seeing the beauty of St. Joseph's, I want reclaim that beauty and bestow it to the new wings of housing. 
           Haiti in general has not had much of a chance to move on from this disaster. A month ago I wrote that is Haiti was in shambles, and port au prince is destroyed. This is still true, nothing has changed. There is some work happening to tear down rubble, and recover the bodies of people who were lost in collapsed buildings, but there is so much work that this is not something that can be finished immediately. This is not just an issue of recovery-- this country has to rebuild itself from the ground up. And to add to the sadness, Carnival has been canceled! The carnival celebration in Haiti is one of the biggest parties of the year for the country, and is a massive cultural event. People dance in costumes, build parade floats, and musicians premiere new songs for a nationwide carnival competition. But most of the floats are destroyed, the areas where people would have parties are refugee camps, and most of the big Haitian musicians died in the quake. Supposedly, this is the first time in the history of Haiti's carnival celebrations that it has been is a huge blow to the morale of people, but is necessary, I suppose.
          However, in the wake of this cancellation, there is something amazing that will take its place. Apparently, a prominent Haitian pastor received a "vision from God", as she says, that on the month anniversary of the quake, Haitians need to fast for the next three days. President Preval supports the idea so much that he has encouraged all Haitians to fast. Starting tomorrow, Febuary 12th, nearly the entire population of Haiti will not eat until monday morning.However, this is not to preserve food, or to conserve supplies. For some people, this fasting is akin to giving thanks for what they already have. For some, it is to pray to God that Haiti does not receive another earthquake. Hopefully, it will raise the morale of Haitians, and give strength to very weary people. It is so admirable that in the midst of all of this devastation, the citizens of this country want to come together as one people to fast.

Please continue to pray for the future of our St. Joseph's Family, and for the future of Haiti. If you feel compelled to donate to the rebuilding of Wings of Hope, you can do so at


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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Pestel in March

Hi All,

A few really neat (and hopefully, short!) notes:

I spoke with folks from the children's charity, Variety International, this past week and had a really wonderful conversation.  It's great to see that we're all on the same page, and quite energized by it.  During the conversation one of the individuals asked me about a revised proposal that I had submitted a couple of weeks ago.  I had eliminated the distribution of iodine as part of the program.   Why had I done that?
I explained that
1.  we had raised about $2500 through the calendar sales, and that money would go to buy the medications
2.  I realized that we could potentially reach 25,000 kids (instead of 12,000) if I took the money from the calendar sales AND the money from the purchase of iodine and split those funds up to purchase the Vitamin A and Albendazole.   

They were appreciative of this, and then offered to add extra funds ($8000) to purchase the iodine as well!!

They want me to come out to do a lunch talk at their annual meeting in May.   This could be a really neat opportunity to help the people of Pestel.  Their annual meeting will be held in Hollywood.
Hey Mom!  I'm going to Hollywood!

Shortly I'll be meeting with a district leader for the Kiwanis to talk about applying for a Kiwanis International Grant.

Also, the medical students have been doing a fantastic job of finding supplies!!    They've been able to obtain scales and tape measures for free, really (really!) nice backpacks for free [the backpacks will be given to the workers so that they can carry their items up into the mountains and stay organized), geometry sets (which was one of Father Parnell's requests!) for free, and so forth.
And they've been working hard on developing forms (for the project manager).   It's coming together nicely.  

A few other thoughts (not news...just thoughts):

The earthquake reminds me that the best of our work is not in the buildings and construction projects and economic schemes, as important as those are to our lives and theirs.  The best of our work comes in following God's will, wherever that may take us.  There is a mystery in all of this.  
One example:   God says that those who are generous (liberally so!) to those in need will see the work of their hands prosper.  Those who build the house with God will succeed, and those who do not will labor in vain.  
The leadership of the orphanage, St. Joseph's Home for Boys, lived this way and built this way.  Those who gave and supported St. Joseph's did so as well.  And God prospered the work of their hands, multiplying their efforts (10-fold, a 100-fold etc), producing a "harvest of righteousness" (think:  big, broad fields of goodness and right-ness!).  Yet, their building fell.  It's crumpled...gone...demolished.
The building, as it turns out, was temporarily important.  And by temporary, I mean 25 years worth of temporary  :)  They celebrated their 25th anniversary last Sunday, despite not having the building.
Do you see?  
All of the boys living in the orphanage survived the earthquake.  They got out alive.  
Same for Wings of Hope.  All orphans alive and well.
The buildings have been leveled.  But God's will was not thwarted because His people followed along after Him.   Praise God for His protection and His wisdom!

Second thought:  I have been conflicted about the situation in Haiti.  There is great suffering and need in Port-au-Prince, so how can I be joyful about the donation of a backpack or a tape measure?
However, I've encountered these difficulties many many times now.  Every time I return from Haiti it is hard to reconcile what I saw there with what I see here.  It is a very hard tension.  And it causes me to throw up my hands again and pray.  That's the truth.  [I wish I could say that I don't throw up my hands anymore and that I just pray.  But the truth is that I still try to 'make sense' of it, and when I can't, up go the hands].
I know that I am called to help the people of Pestel, Haiti.  
I have long avoided using phrases like that because I haven't really known what it meant for most of my life, and I was leery that it comes across as "Christian-speak".  
Yet, I have never felt a call/leading/pointing/driving/compulsion so great as this--something I am absolutely convinced of, and not even because it 'makes sense'.  In fact, it doesn't 'make sense'.
As I pray about Haiti I learn again that I am, at this point in my life, called to labor on behalf of the people of Pestel.  
The need there have only increased, you see.  The volume of people in Pestel has gone up by another 30% since the earthquake.

There is much to pray about.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Reconstruction document

This document is well-done. It includes a nice summary of Haiti's improvements prior to the earthquake, the challenges Haiti has always faced that will continue to be part of its future (earthquake-potential, hurricanes, drug thorough-fare), and summarizes a number of important points that I think make a lot of sense in considering Haiti's rebuilding.

The article has perhaps the greatest understatement (in italics below) I've ever seen regarding Haiti.
However, Haiti's vulnerability also stems from its failure to overcome two centuries of bad governments, inequitable and centralized political and economic power structures in Port au Prince, and not-always-benign foreign interventions.

Nevertheless, the article is worth a read.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Haiti updates

Hi all,

No particular updates from folks we know.   Just wanted to pass along the current 'status report' from the UN assessment (these are excerpts):

Shelter assistance remains an urgent priority. Plastic sheeting is preferred over tents due to the lack of
physical space and because it allows people to remain close to their homes. Four sites have been identified
as official planned settlements for over 5,000 people but more suitable sites are needed. An additional 56
assessed sites could, pending available resources and Government approval, host at least 65,000 people,
according to IOM. Sanitation is becoming a major concern at many of the temporary sites.

The removal of rubble from affected areas will help to expand the available land to accommodate displaced.
According to USAID/DART, preliminary estimates indicate the presence of up to 20 million cubic yards of
rubble to be removed from Port-au-Prince. Some 32,000 people have been hired through the UNDP cash-forwork
programme to help clear rubble and remove waste in tented settlements and communal washing areas.

Food prices are reportedly still rising and people are having difficulty
in the North and North-East departments in meeting their basic food needs, according to MINUSTAH offices
in those areas. There is a concern that, due to lack of rain, the harvest in February/March will yield less than
normal in the Gonaives area, which is considered the bread basket of the region.

Health Cluster partners have recorded over 1,000 amputations in Port-au-Prince. There are also reports that
some 50 people have been paralyzed from spinal cord injuries. Amputees and patients with severe injuries
need follow-up care after surgery to avoid complications or permanently disabling after-effects. Discharged
patients are currently being sent back to their community or temporary settlements without the necessary
essential basic care to avoid complications. Therapists are needed to provide post-surgery care.

Repairs to the Port-au-Prince port continue.  [the port had to be closed again due to structural issues]

As of 2 February, a total of 978,128 people have been reached with food

Pests, insects and especially flies and mosquitoes, in health care settings (including operating rooms) are
becoming a problem.

The assessments suggest that poor families with little resilience are migrating away from earthquake-affected
urban and rural areas, often abandoning crops, and are being hosted by poor, vulnerable and food insecure
households in rural areas.


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