Thursday, September 30, 2010

TeacHaiti School of Hope

It's almost here!
You've heard us talk about TeacHaiti before, the educational child sponsorship program run by our dear friend and hero, Miquette. For $350 a year, you can sponsor a child from the poorest families of Haiti to go to private, French school, have lunch every day, immunizations, school supplies, books, and other blessings as well. Last year Miquette had 175 kids sponsored in two cities, and now she's up to over 200.

But this year a very special new element is beginning: her very own TeacHaiti School of Hope is opening THIS MONDAY, October 4.
The hooks are hung, waiting for little backpacks! It was always Miquette's dream to one day open a school of her own, mostly because that way she can ensure the highest quality education, nutrition, programming, staff, and other elements of the schooling her sponsored kids receive. But because of the earthquake, the vast majority of Port-au-Prince's schools were damaged. Extra donations arrived. The time was right.
Miquette found a house near Quisqueya (our school, where she is also a staff member) and got to work. It has been transformed into a beautiful, bright green 4-room school house. Ladies, remember how you've seen chalkboard paint blowing up on design blogs as a hot trend? It came in handy.
Two of the classrooms. Do they look like the ones you attended, or your kids? To 60-something little Haitian kiddos, they will be an amazing treat, a luxury, a blessing, an opportunity.
Enough school supplies to start the year at the TeacHaiti School of Hope.
The reason for our visit last week was to stuff backpacks for the school supply distribution to the sponsored kiddos. Meet Katie and Jaime, our next door neighbors/housemates and dear friends. They brighten up my life here.
And, of course, one very special donated supply has come in...
One lucky kid will be awarded the donated Bratz doll. Miquette was going to make it an incentive for excellent behavior or academics.

A few days later all the TeacHaiti parents came to receive their kids' school supplies.
It was so very special. The MOST SPECIAL moment, perhaps in all my time in Haiti, came when my mom got to meet the child she sponsors, a little girl. But I'll save that for my next post :) Keep the Kleenex handy.

I cannot go any further without recognizing one special little girl in Dallas who helped this school supply distribution happen in a most beautiful way.
Her name is Emily. Her mother is my friend, a woman who loves missions with her whole heart and has shared that love with her kids. Emily learned about TeacHaiti last summer when Ben and I shared with the kids at Vacation Bible School about the earthquake, and Haiti's children, and how bringing change for the change drive could help send a Haitian child to school and give them lunches and school supplies. Emily and the other kids at that VBS raised enough change to fill two 5-gallon water jugs; enough to sponsor around 15 kids.

Recently Emily held a lemonade stand and sent the money "to Haiti", via my mom's visit. I think it was around $10.
Miquette received the sweet gift and will use it for the TeacHaiti School of Hope (grand opening this Monday).

Let's all pray for TeacHaiti, the new school, and its bright young students.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I think it is really funny the words I (think I) have learned in Kreyol, and possibly quite telling.

Here they are, in no particular order. Probably misspelled. Might be inaccurate. That might be even more telling.
  1. Vole means to steal, or thief
  2. Punez means bedbug
  3. Mange means to eat, or food
  4. Mezi means thank you, and mezi ampil means thank you very much
  5. Pa de qua means you are welcome
  6. Pa vyon means no meat, as in "please sweet lunch lady, don't put that chicken leg on my plate, I'll stick with only rice"
  7. Sava means ok. Say it like a question, and you just asked someone if they are ok. Say it as a statement, and you just told the lunch lady not to put any more spoonfuls of rice on your plate.
  8. Ale means go
  9. Pale means speak, as in "pale Onglais", meaning "do you speak English?"
  10. M or mwen means me/I
  11. U means you
  12. Li means he, she, or it
  13. La means here, as in "Ben la" means "is Ben here?"
  14. Bon means good. So does bien, I think. Not sure which is used when.
  15. Grace a Dieu means by the grace of God. When someone says "sava", you reply "bien, Grace a Dieu" - good, by the grace of God
  16. Jezi means Jesus
  17. Manifestation means a protest, which means run away
  18. Bon bagay means good things
  19. Viv means the same as viva in Spanish, as in Viv Ayiti (Ayiti is Haiti)
  20. Seigneur means Lord
  21. Fenet means window
  22. Pa gen means I don't have
  23. Madame Ben means Ben's wife (ie, my name here)
  24. Mezami means "my friend", and you say it like "oh my gosh" or "oh wow"
  25. Vyolance means violence
  26. Silance means be quiet
  27. Wi means yes
  28. Machine means car
  29. Moun means person. Tout moun means everybody, chak moun means each person, ti moun means child, gran moun means adult. Ti moun yo is plural- children.
  30. Se means are. M se Amerike means I am American.
  31. Ay u mem means and you, as in, "I am fine, and you?"
  32. Pa in front of anything makes it negative (gen is have, pa gen is don't have)
  33. Nou means us, we, and you plural
  34. Yo means them or they
  35. Bonjou means good day, bonswa means good night. You start saying bonswa after 12 noon.
  36. Lakay means home. Or maybe house.
  37. Acra is a fried vegetable kind of food
  38. Grio is a pile-of-rice kind of food
  39. Ananas means pineapple
  40. Fig means banana
  41. Citron means a tiny kind of orange
  42. Bef means cow or beef
  43. Pwason means fish
  44. Jambon ak fwomage means ham and cheese (which you say after "sandwiche")
  45. Swa son kenz means 75, as in, our school is on Delmas 75
  46. Tranche means slice, as in "un tranche pizza", what I order at Epidor bakery
  47. Dlo means water
  48. Ecole means school
  49. Legliz means church (kind of like iglesia, the Spanish for church)
  50. Kraze means broken down/fallen down, as in "the building was kraze in the earthquake"
  51. Bloque means a big chunk of concrete, as in "I got this injury from a bloque"
  52. Fini means finished
  53. Bonn Fette means happy birthday
  54. Drapo means flag
That's it folks. That's the sum total.

I don't know to want, to need, to look for, to walk, to have, to do, to make, to know, to see, to read, or any other dozens of essential verbs. I don't know because, or why, or from, or to, or so, or but, or even and. You can't make a sentence without those words. 

Now, of course, there are many more words I can read, especially if they are cognates to either English or Spanish words I know (for instance, travay means work/job in Kreyol, which is similar to trabajar, to work, in Spanish).

But I really haven't "picked up" Kreyol. So many people here say they "just learned it from being here". Mostly they are people who spent their days in orphanages or among the poor when they first came to Haiti... it is not working that way for me! I am really conflicted about it- I know my time in Haiti will be significantly impeded by not knowing Kreyol, but all day every day I work at a school that specifically doesn't allow its students to speak Kreyol, so they will improve their English skills.

Need to keep working. Need to put in more time on Kreyol. Just add that to my to-do list.



Sunday, September 26, 2010

Feeding Program

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays a family called the Manasseros runs a feeding program for neighborhood kids around their ministry (a boys and girls home called Maison de Lumiere). The kids come in, sing songs, hear a story, receive a vitamin, then get a warm meal and clean water. The Manasseros' kids go to Quisqueya, and they're just the most amazing people. We've been to the feeding program twice now and hope to go more often, although it is hard to love on the kids without good Kreyol. Susette Manassero brought over a baby who she was loving on for the day. She affectionately named her Chubba Wubba - I mean, come on, look at those cheeks. It felt great to be able to love a baby- babies are easy, no language needed.
Bearded Tony prays with the kiddos before they receive their meals.
 Praying with Susette.
One child had an infected cut, so a nurse and I cleaned it and put on a bandaid. It felt familiar, like a return to the wound care that I got to do right after the quake during those days at the clinic and Hopital Espoir. Within a minute or two, a big crowd had formed. Everybody wanted a blast of antibacterial spray and a bandaid for their (invisible) injuries.
Mom joined in the big circle. I laughed at her "Haiti purse".
Clapping along to the songs- "Deep and Wide" in Kreyol, among other things.
How old are you?
Photographer extraordinaire Ben captured some wonderful moments.
Listening to the story.
I was so glad we got to go to the feeding program with my mom. She was so moved. I wondered why she was so emotional, and then I wondered why I wasn't... have I gotten used to those kinds of hole-ridden outfits? Broken Crocs, hanging on by a plastic thread? Orange-tinted hair and bone-thin legs are no longer shocking? May it never be so.
Story time.
A team from California was in town with the Manasseros and one of their members had just painted this bright mural of Jesus.
 Eske, mange bon? Is your food good? That's as much as I could muster as I wandered from table to table, trying to make a connection without any Kreyol. Pats on the back sometimes bring a shy smile, and sometimes bring a hostile, "what are you doing?" look. Oh well. My mom was really upset about the fact that the kids' food bowls looked pretty similar to what our dog eats out of in Dallas.
This little one caught me and Ben's eye. Her shirt was a big mess, but more than that, she had really bright orange hair, a common indicator of serious malnutrition.
Look at their faces. Each one of those kids goes home to a tent, in the worst kinds of poverty.
Susette taking a photo with her friends Tara and Brittany and baby Asher. Heidi was trying to get Asher to look at the camera, so these helpful boys made faces and silly sounds to get his attention.
Some slightly less professional, yet more touching, murals. I love that little handwriting on the "love you" under the Haiti flag.

Many of my mom's friends donated money before her trip. The money went to purchase children's and prenatal vitamins, and a whole bag full of those vitamins are going to the Manasseros for their feeding program. So if you gave, thank you! These little faces will be eating little Flintstones vitamins in a few days because of you. Mesi, mesi ampil!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Sky is Crying

Last night

It was the end of the school day. A student stayed after class to talk about her grade. 3:05 I notice it's raining. Shoot- no soccer scrimmage today. It's really raining hard- dang it, I guess we won't be walking to the bakery for my birthday ice cream.

3:10 kids in the hallway start screaming.

9th grade boys. Oh man. I can't even describe. Before I even get into the hall, in the 10 minutes they've been out of class, they have decided to run out into this flash flood- style rain storm. They are soaked to the bone. They are dripping and running in the tile hallway, which is now a muddy slip 'n' slide. They are screaming. They are kicking a soccer ball around.
The rain is torrential, out of nowhere. Then the winds pick up- the strongest winds I have ever seen. The kids are running from the doorway of the high school building to the classrooms to look out the window. They're running in the girls' bathroom to look out the second-story window that looks over the school wall- out onto the street. The Haitians on the crowded streets are huddling together under street vendor umbrellas. It occurs to me- the tent cities. The people in them...
 I clear out the girls' bathroom and just then the wind rips the metal bars off the outside of the window. More yelling. A few seconds later a giant tree outside our building split in half, with the biggest branch crunching down on a middle school teacher's car, shattering glass.
While I am moving kids out of the classroom overlooking the smashed car, I hear Ben in the hallway, yelling at the top of his lungs over the squealing students. He gets them all to stop yelling. He gets them all to stop running. He gets them all inside and says sit down, stay put.

Then the lights go out.

I pray with some 9th grade girls who are upset. One says she still feels really traumatized from the earthquake. Where were you? In a bank. Ben runs across the street to our apartment and gets a rain slicker and flashlight, then charges out the door to go see what's happening in the admin building and the elementary building. Some kids come up from downstairs and report that a bunch of middle schoolers are crying. Two elementary kids are on the high school floor, and they are both upset, but being comforted by older siblings. Every single kid has out a Blackberry- I am not exaggerating (Blackberry is very dominant here. iPhones don't really work here and aren't common). Some start playing music. BBM (Blackberry messaging - practically like air to my high schoolers) is down, someone yells.

Ben returns and yells that all students are to get their belongings and walk together over to the elementary building. Other teachers take the first group of kids, but Ben and I wait for one last kid to get her things. She's an elementary girl, and she is upset. Ben holds her hand and I walked behind them, through the crazy downpour. All the way over to the elementary building I can hear him talking to her- "what is your favorite subject? I teach history, do you like history? Who's your best friend?" I fell in love a little bit more.

A handful of teachers and the 30 or 40 students still on campus stand on the elementary building porch and watch the lightning and rain. The ground is completely covered in palm branches, mud, and sticks. The mahogany trees all over campus had been full of seed pods- apple-sized wooden seed pods that have now fallen, sounding like gunshots when they smack on tin roofs. The ground is covered with them, like golf balls on a driving range. The rain lets up a bit, and now it is cold. The Hendricks boys play in the puddles.
 Cars pull in the gate, chauffeurs emerge (yes, chauffeurs- it is very common here), and we release kids off the porch to get home. Word trickles in that roads are blocked, tents are blowing around, and traffic is hellish. The sun sets. It reminds us all of January 12th- the sense of emergency, the fear, the phones aren't working, the parents unable to get to school. I remember all the things I said I would do after January 12th that I have not yet done- the first aid kid, the "go bag", the extra phone cards and flashlights and water.

At 5:30 or so it's just me and Ben and 10 or so kids. I had a long talk with two of my students- 9th and 10th grade girls who are cousins- about their "what I want my life to look like at age 25" essays. One confesses her family is still not sleeping in their bedrooms. For fear of earthquakes, they're in the foyer every night. Mr. Dekoter brings out 3 hot garlic rolls, and we all stood in a circle and got a big pinch. It feels kind of like a Lord's supper. We laugh at the fact that a "campus beautification day" is scheduled for the next day, we talk about Twilight, we talk about summer camp and tattoos. Somebody gets some chairs from an elementary classroom, so finally we all sit down. We promise that anybody left at 6:30 gets to come to our apartment for spaghetti. We make mohawks with wet hair.
At 6:30 there are just 3 kids left. It's completely dark, so the school closes the lower gate, the one parents usually come in. We go sit on the Hendricks' porch, near the front gate. The Hendricks bring out some vanilla crackers and their 4 little boys entertain us all, throwing mahogany seed pods, kicking soccer balls, climbing on the porch rails, and trying to teach their 2-year-old to say "sil vous plait".

6:45, parents arrive for the last kids. Our pilot friends say the winds were 60 mph. Ben and I walk home in the dark. Fat full moon. The street is wet and very busy. Every lady has a plastic bag on her head. We make mac and cheese and check our electricity- working, praise God. Dry clothes.

Breathe out.

Today, "beautification day" went on as planned, just with a slightly larger workload.
You can see Ben in the purple shirt, trying to pull a limb. There were chainsaws involved in this project, so he was delighted. What is under these downed limbs, you ask?
Look closely on the left side, under the giant limb on which our auto mechanics teacher/ plant manager Wilner is sitting. Yes, that is/was a large blue SUV. Did I mention there is no car insurance here? What a huge loss and headache for the family who owns it.

Whew, what a day.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Quarter Life

 A new Dominican grocery store opened and it has the whole town atwitter. It dwarfs our little Eagle Market, but it is too far away for us to walk. I will always jump in the back of a truck when others are going, though.
 Tap-taps are everywhere!
Students hanging out at a soccer game. I love how cozy they are here- I hope they love each other really, really well.

So here's the latest. I turned 25 today.


25, the quarter century. John Mayer refers to "the quarter life crisis" you face in your 20's. I'm feeling weirded out, personally. Isn't 25 supposed to be a grownup age?

My mom had me at 25. And she was here this past weekend, here in Haiti! I can't wait to show you the photos and tell the stories.

25. Wow. I had all my students write a little essay titled "what I want my life to be like at age 25 and how I will get there". I can't wait to read them. I wish I could read today an essay I had written at 15- what a hysterical laugh that would be. At 15, I would probably have said that by 25 I would be living in New York, in grad school at Columbia. Ha!

The first thing I did this morning was read a card my mother had left. Then I ate shortbread cookies for breakfast. Then I dealt with a rat trapped in a garbage can in the girls' bathroom during homeroom. Ahh, the contrasts of life in Haiti :)

My first period 9th graders drew me a card and they all signed it. A handful of 11th grade boys sang to me, and so did my teacher friends tonight at our on-campus Chili Night/ worship time. A very, very sweet 12th grade girl made me a dish called "mange blanc", or, literally, "white food". It's a Haitian dessert, sort of acustard-y, jello-y flan with fruit. I was so honored.

Then I wrote a test on Puritan and Revolutionary War literature and a study guide on Julius Caesar. At 15, I never would have thought you went to work on your birthday. 

We're going out for a little cup of ice cream tomorrow at Epi d'Or (the neighborhood bakery), just Ben and I. Saturday we're having friends over in the evening. Facebook is blowing up my inbox. I couldn't feel more loved.



God is so good,
He's so good

Thank you, Jesus. Help me know what I'm supposed to do with these next 25 crazy, mixed-up years (do I even get 25 more years? You never know. Maybe what I think is my quarter-life is actually the last chapter.).

Oh yeah! You already did:

And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly, and love mercy,
and walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

Quarter Life Katie

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guest Post: Mom in Haiti

A guest post by my mother, Susan! So glad she is here right now. -Katie

I'm learning lots of things thus far on my Haitian adventure. In no particular order, here are a few that come to mind:

1.  It is not a given that you can wash your hair every day. Or take a shower.....or wear clean clothes.  For a woman who prides herself on being "fixed" when I go out, this is a bit of a humbling experience.  I haven't gone to church without makeup since the 7th grade. But I did this morning.

2.  People look at you differently when you are not wearing your "regular costume". This is a continuation of #1 above....but when I traveled to Haiti on Thursday, I wanted to make sure I didn't draw attention to myself.  So I wore really plain clothes, no jewelry, no nice purse, etc....and I noticed that people treated me with a little less respect.  Perhaps I imagined some of it....but I feel like I'm taken a little more seriously when I wear my normal costume.

3.  It is astounding how much less some people have. I have been to lots of places with really poor people, but I have never seen anything like Haiti.  When I lived in Tehran as a little girl, I remember there being a man who lived in a tin lean-to in the empty lot next to our compound.  It struck me as odd...and unfortunate...but it was the only instance I saw of someone living that way.  Since Thursday, I have seen a dozen tent cities, ranging from just a few tents to over a hundred.  One in particular sprang up in a former city park in Port au Prince and is across the street from a beautiful, thriving restaurant. I can't quite wrap my brain around the disparity.

 4. What Katie and Ben are doing is legit. Honestly, when they decided to move, sight unseen, to the poorest country in the western hemisphere AND work for a school that they had just researched online and only corresponded with the school director via email....I was a little skeptical.  I'm happy to report that Quisqueya is a wonderful school, run by and staffed with a terrific community of folks who just feel strongly about serving God.

5.  It's probably a good idea for me to step outside my comfort zone every once in a while.  I am NOT a risk taker. At. All.  I seldom undertake a new venture unless I am pretty sure I will succeed at it.  How I managed to raise two children that are adventure-seekers is beyond me.  But I will admit that I have been blessed to have my eyes opened a bit wider on this trip.  I've always been somewhat conflicted about why I have so many resources at my disposal and why most of the world does not. Having recently read Rich Stearns' The Hole in Our Gospel, I have seen first hand these past few days that those WITH resources are God's PLAN A for helping those WITHOUT resources.  And according to Stearns, there is no PLAN B.  It's a lot to think about.

I'm going home on Tuesday morning. I will be taking a really hot shower, putting on clean clothes, wearing a bit of makeup.....and, let's be honest, probably running by Starbucks.  But I will talking to the finance director at my house (Mr. Wilhoit) about what we can do to make a bigger impact on people's lives in Haiti, and I will be committing to pray daily for this country that has been so hard hit.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Maman Mwen

Mom is here! We've thrown her into the Haiti deep end. More to come, here are just a few quick pics of the last two days.
Mom's first Tap Tap experience. She was a champ.
Mom meeting her sponsored child through TeacHaiti- little Woogina, who will be a third grader this fall at the TeacHaiti School of Hope. It was a pretty unbelievable moment.
 This morning we went to the TeacHaiti school supply distribution. Many more pics to come!

Off to my birthday dinner (or, as my mom calls it, "our" birthday)...


Friday, September 17, 2010

Green and Gold and Honored

This blog entry is early. I shouldn't post it for a two more weeks, but I cannot help myself. To quote the little boy in the Walt Disney commercial, “I am too excited to sleep[wait].”

I am married to and serve with an awesome woman. She might down play it or even deny it, but she lit the spark that started this mission fire in us. She had a passion about missions long before I did and helped me find the desire to serve the least of these that I now have.

She works tirelessly for our two person mission here, always doing things I would never have though to do. She writes most 'Thank You' notes, books all of our travel arrangements and writes more than half of the blog entries. I probably do not tell her thank you enough, but she is about to get some very high praise.

If you have had the pleasure of knowing my wife then you know that right after Jesus and Salsa she loves Baylor University. And Baylor University loves her.

We were told that Baylor will be recognizing Katie has their Young Alumnae of 2010!

Baylor will be honoring Katie at half-time of their Homecoming game in October and she will be waving at Baylor Nation during the Homecoming Parade. This, of all things, might be most exciting to Katie who has attended all but ONE homecoming since she was born. 24 out of 25 ain't bad.

This is a huge award and Katie is so honored to receive it. No one goes to Haiti and does this kind of work expecting or even wanting praise and awards. They do it because they believe in the words of Jesus Christ and want to serve a cause. We work with people who have been in Haiti decades and have not received anything like this.

Katie was so humbled she didn't want to tell anyone besides our family but I asked, and begged to write something to celebrate her.

What we both hope is that this will keep Haiti and it's struggles in the spotlight longer. We know most people/media have moved on. The ever-changing news cycle has removed Haiti from the forefront of peoples minds. But Haiti still desperately needs so much: temporary and permanent shelters to replace the tents, rubble needs to be cleared and basic services need to be delivered, elections need to be held freely and fairly. Most importantly the aid pledged by governments needs to be delivered.

We acknowledge that there is much work still to be done. This award is not a mission accomplished moment. Please join me in congratulating the love of my life and my partner in ministry, Baylor University's 2010 Young Alumnae of the Year, Katie Kilpatrick.



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