Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hurricane Isaac Update

An update from our friends at Child Hope, whose needs I shared about a few days ago.

Thanks to all of you who prayed and donated to help Isaac storm victims.

Living in Haiti, we are accustomed to crisis response but this storm truly hit us harder than expected.  The years of wear and tear already on most of our neighbors' tent homes became evident when the storm hit.  The severe winds and hard rain almost vaporized some homes.  They were already in bad shape, which made it easy for the storm to reek such quick devastation.

What really blessed us was the quick response to our call for assistance.  Immediately, funds came in online that allowed us to act swiftly -- purchasing tent repair materials, food, blankets and to pay for hospital care and prescriptions. 

One of the most wonderful aspects of the response is that it was from a lot of people, some giving $5 and $10 dollars, others giving more.  But it was the a true demonstration of the body of Christ at work.

We have been actively repairing and rebuilding tents since the day after the storm.  We are trying to rally together repair teams, mostly from the tent cities themselves.  We are averaging 10-15 repairs/rebuilds per day and have roughly 500 tents requiring work.  The work ahead is tremendous.

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you for your generosity, prayers and support.

I am so happy to hear that the church is responding.

Two of the people in our circle are in need as well: Our guard Ceyab lost the tent he and his five children were living in. He has another place he could go, but doesn't want to. We are trying to think about how to help him. 

Also, our cleaning lady Madame M lost the roof of her house, which was a tarp. She and her husband (who works at Quisqueya) have five children of their own. They have been rebuilding their house since the earthquake, and it is finished, except the roof- that's why they were using a tarp for the roof. Her husband is going to find out from a contractor how much it would cost to finish the roof. We're going to figure out how to do that, too. 

When it comes to donating to charities, Ben and I have certain standards. For instance, we love organizations that work through locals, or those that offer cycle-breaking solutions like a job or education instead of just perpetual handouts. 

However, we've struggled to come up with "policies" to go by when it comes to a giving directly to a person. It's hard to know. So far the only principle we've come up with is to "be generous, and also wise". 

For instance, if you've had a year to save up for your rent (which is due annually), and haven't savedh anything, you've probably been unwise in your spending choices and I'm unlikely to pay your rent (barring unusual circumstances). But recently we were asked for help with rent from a poor man we know who has saved 50% of the amount, AND his wife had two hospitalizations this year (we know this for sure). That's a bit different. 

Another example: last year our former guard had a foot infection caused by not wearing socks in his boots. We thought, "let's buy him socks." A Haitian friend of ours who also knew this man said, "No- he definitely has enough money for socks. He did not spend wisely."

I'm not God. I never know exactly what to do. I don't know for who is lying, who is irresponsible, who is genuinely in need of mercy and Christ-like generosity. We just try to help, and also not make problems worse. I feel like I'm putting myself in the superior position of a parent sometimes, metaphorically wagging my finger at grown adults: "You need to make better choices!"

It's hard to figure out. So we pray. The Holy Spirit is a person, not a formula.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Urgent Appeal from Child Hope

Isaac passed Friday night and 48 hours later, still no internet at home. I'm over at another building to update you and pass on word of a need. There is a ministry here, Child Hope, that I respect and love very much. For now, I'll just tell you of one of their ministries: a feeding program for hundreds of kids who live in a tent city down the street. This tent city, 2.5 years post-quake, is teeming with tarps and people. The kids come three times a week for a meal, a children's vitamin, and a safe place to play for a few hours. Bill and Sue Manassero, the couple who run Child Hope, sent out an emergency email yesterday, and you can see it below.
Child Hope feeding program last spring

From Child Hope:

Tropical Storm Isaac hit Port-au-Prince last night in a fury.  Child Hope facilities had minor damage but neighboring tent city residents were devastated. 

Currently, we are housing 30 displaced tent city children.  Many of these children are in our feeding program.  We have also formed a team of older boys from the orphanage to help repair tents.

We found an old woman in a local tent who went into a coma last night during the storm and have taken her to a local hospital.  Her condition is serious. We are taking on her hospital costs.

There are no other organizations helping out at our local tent cities. Child Hope is the only organization providing assistance in this area and, in that Child Hope is not a relief organization, resources are limited.
We do not generally ask for funds but, due to the urgency of this situation, are appealing to you for help in purchasing food, drinking water, blankets, clothing, and for medical funds/supplies and materials to repair tents.  The need is now.  To donate click here.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers and assistance.  God bless.

Bill & Susette Manassero

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Preparing for Isaac

Jefe will wish he had a raincoat
There's a hurricane coming tomorrow. Isaac. The eye should pass over the Dominican border and into Haiti around 2 pm Friday.

We knew about this on Tuesday. We went to the store Wednesday, stocking up on pasta sauce (gas stove!) and making sure we had full 5-gallon drinking water jugs.

Last night, however, many poorer Haitians still had no idea. I told the school guard who I love (and who has five children at home) about the siklon coming and he was unaware. At school today I asked the kitchen ladies if they knew- not yet.

Tonight Ben spoke with the guard, Johnson:
Ben: Eske ou konne genyen yon siklon? Li ap vini demen. (Do you know about the hurricane? It will come tomorrow.)
Johnson: Wi. (Yes.)
Ben: Eske ou te prepare? Ou gen manje avek dlo? (Did you prepare? Do you have food and water?)
Johnson: No paske m pa gen kob. (No because I don't have money.)

Of course we gave him some. Him and the other two guards, and our cleaning lady, who also has five children (not the same family as the guard with five kids). This isn't a story to say we're awesome for handing out $5 bills, but instead to point out that people who listen to the radio, walk around on the busy streets, have steady jobs, and can probably read at least a little somehow did not know about a CAT 1 hurricane coming 24 hours later. How is that? What about all those who are worse off?

We'll be sitting inside, reading TIME magazine and grading papers. 400,000 people are still in tent cities.


P.S. We just wrote a "frequently asked questions" section. You can read it here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

My Top 11 Haiti Photos

 This post is dedicated to my beautiful Haiti, and a few favorite days of the last three years.
Photo by Ben

Photo by Ben
Photo by Ben


PS If you read in a feed reader, come by the real blog address to see the renovation!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The One Where Ben Cut Off His Finger

Warning: this is a kind of gross injury story. No bloody pictures, except one, which is very small and you get warning beforehand so you can skip it.

Saturday was meant to be our last day in America. Our flights to Haiti were scheduled for 8:45 Sunday. We had a long list of things to do: pack, make a  Walmart run, wash the dog, call friends, etc.

Around 11:30 we headed to southern Dallas for a family birthday lunch at Ben's grandparents' house. We brought Jefe so everyone could meet him. Ben stepped into the kitchen to begin preparing the hamburgers. While cutting a giant block of cheese, he almost cut off his finger.

I had my back to the kitchen and was sitting with Ben's grandmother. All of a sudden I hear a lot of screaming. Ben's aunt yelled, "Do you need to go to the hospital?". Without a second of delay, Ben said, deadly serious, "Yes."

Somebody wrapped his hand in a towel and somebody else handed me a plastic bag to catch the blood. Ben's uncle Thomas grabbed the car keys, I grabbed my purse, and we raced to the car.

Thomas knew the way to a hospital about five minutes away. Ben was really scared. The white towel wrapped around his left hand was saturated with red, and there was about an inch of blood pooled at the bottom of the bag. Thomas paused and then drove through a red light or two. Ben was telling him to hurry. At one point we were silent and Ben asked to turn on the radio. It was "Penny Lane". Ben started singing, so Thomas and I started singing, too. I thought it was helping to distract him.

We arrived and raced into the ER. I banged on the glass and a blonde nurse took us right back, to a sink area. She unwrapped the towel, rinsed the cut, and then rewrapped it. Then they sent us back into the waiting room to wait.

Ben was in a tremendous amount of pain. The waiting room was packed. I got on the phone with my mom and she called the airline. Then she got my insurance file out and comforted me that this would not, in fact, bankrupt us. I couldn't even remember my deductible- in the States we have a high-deductible plan and I've never even used it in three years. Thank the good Lord that we ponied up the money (which seemed like a waste often) for insurance.
 About half an hour later, we were called back into the ER and saw a PA, Jonathan. He unwrapped the finger again and this time asked Ben to move it. Ben was able to wiggle the whole finger but could not bend it (like you would to pull a trigger). That's when the PA knew tendons had been severed. Up until this point I thought our travel plan might be salvaged- perhaps stitches and a good bandage could allow us to get on with our day and flight out as scheduled. However, the PA said that tendon damage meant immediate hand surgery. He tried to see if there was a proper surgeon on call, but there wasn't. He gave Ben a digital block, which numbed the finger completely. As you can see below, this made Ben's fiesty side come back.
 Ben was taken for hand xrays, where they had to unwrap the whole thing again. The PA Jonathan came back. There was a hand surgeon at an affiliate hospital 20 minutes away and said we could transfer there. Jonathan got ready to stitch the finger up (why they would stitch a would that was about to have surgery, I don't know).

Ok, here's the picture of the cut. It's cleaned so it's not bloody.

To the bone

 Then we waited for several hours. This part was kind of sweet. I think the grace of God prompted my critical, blaming, controlling side to die temporarily and I felt supernaturally peaceful and loving. This is our first medical emergency together.
 Around 6 pm, our transfer paperwork was ready. The charge nurse informed us that Care Flite was on the way. EXCUSE ME?!!!

If you're not familiar, Care Flite is an ambulance HELICOPTER service. We were horrified. For a finger? She later informed us that they also have ambulances, and that for insurance liability purposes, patients are not allowed to drive in private cars during hospital transfers.

Oh brother. Well, we got a laugh out of that.
 They insisted on strapping Ben into a gurney and rolling him through the ER and onto the ambulance. Would not let him walk himself there.
Guns up in the ambulance.
I drove behind the ambulance. It was the first time I was alone. I thought about the fact that I'm Ben's primary person. I was the one who signed the forms, was allowed in the xray room, and told his grandparents it wasn't a good idea to come visit. I'm allowed to do that. It's my prerogative. I'm a grown-ass woman. And I am, more than anybody alive, responsible for taking care of Ben. It was a heady thought!

We arrived at the second hospital and they put Ben in an ER room. His nurse swore a lot and was funny. We explained again about Haiti and how we were trying to have the surgery immediately. I had to make a decision quickly about whether to cancel my flight or not. The nurse paged the surgeon and put Ben in a gown. Lots of waiting. My parents arrived just as OR nurses wheeled Ben up to the pre-op floor.
 In the pre-op area we met the surgeon. All we had heard before was that he was short, foreign, nice, and that his name was Dr. Upenas (pronounced you-PEE-nis). Not joking.

When we met him, we discovered it was actually Upe ñ as. He said he had done 30,000 finger surgeries. He said he was going to use a fancy new technique involving placing amniotic membranes over the severed tendons. "Um, ok," we said.

A tall, loud Louisiana man was the anesthesia provider, and he gave us a minute to kiss and pray before Ben went in to surgery.
I joined my parents in the surgery waiting room for a few hours. The surgery only took 45 minutes, but pre-op and post-op were long. I watched the Olympics and ate the dinner my parents had brought. They brought me a bag of things I had asked for- phone chargers, spare clothes, things for Ben in case he had to spend the night. I decided that unless Ben had complications, I would fly the next morning. I called everybody in Ben's family. I sent emails. My dad left to go pick up our dog- Jefe would be flying with me to Haiti in just a few short hours.

Finally, close to midnight I spoke to the surgeon. All the tendons, arteries, and nerves were severed, but they were all repaired successfully. He will have full usage of the hand back. I then got to go back and see Ben. He was freezing cold and the two post-op nurses were covering him in warm blankets. They were very excited because he had held down a cracker. They said he could go home that night.

His pain meds would need to begin in four hours, the middle of the night. Where to find a 24-hour pharmacy? My dad drove to six different pharmacies before finding one. He filled Ben's pain med prescription. Mom drove Ben and I home. We arrived at 1 am. Ben went right to sleep. I frantically packed and was in bed by 2:00. My alarm went off at 5:30.

I flew all day and God proved so merciful. 15 hours of travel with two bags, a puppy, and a third world airport went as smoothly as possible.

Ben sees the surgeon again Wednesday and will fly back to Haiti Thursday.




Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What I Did on My Summer Vacation 2012

It's been six weeks since we last blogged. Here's what Ben and I did this summer in Texas.

I (Katie) went on a family girls' trip to Mexico.
We visited food trucks in Dallas.
We snuggled our puppy.
We went as counselors to student camp and led a Bible study/recreation group named "Team Chopstix".
Team banner
Rec games. It was hot.
Morning Madness
Camp shirt
One of the beloved camp traditions is "Date Night", a dress-up dinner. Ben and I dusted off our wedding attire to recreate our Big Day.
Dress source: Goodwill. $15.
In late July we flew to Louisville to visit our very dear friends Macy and JT, who just moved there from Dallas to attend the seminary.
Fajitas in their brand new DIY kitchen
We visited a bourbon distillery. I got a tat.

(just a temporary one :)
Wild Turkey distillery. Ben was feeling very Southern, genteel, and hifalootin', like we needed to adopt Virginia accents maybe.
 Our last weekend of summer was spent at the lake with very dear friends from our home church.
Shucking corn for dinner
Ben makes stuffed jalapeno appetizers
 Just two days before flying back to Haiti, I headed for a day trip to sweet ol' Waco, Texas. Several of my best friends have moved to Austin, and Waco is halfway between.
Common Grounds, home of every Baylor kid's favorite coffee
Ninfa's, home of every Baylor kid's favorite margarita
The Baylor bear! She got very close.
My favorite place- Baylor campus
Those of you who know us personally know that we had quite an unexpected and trying event occur on the very last day before we were supposed to fly back to Haiti for this new school year. That's my next post.

Thank you, God, for this summer. I'm excited and refreshed and filled up with love from friends and favorite things. I feel like I've "sharpened the tool" as Stephen Covey would say, and I'm ready for this school year to begin.



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