Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

This one snuck up on us.

With Hurricane Isaac, we had days of warning. Everybody went to the store. Everybody warned the people in their sphere of responsibility. I had long conversations with Madame Meristel, plus the three guards Ceyab, Venice, and Johnson.

Not so with Sandy. I knew there was a storm in the neighborhood of Haiti, but the just-above-a-sprinkle and overcast skies were not fear-inducing Wednesday. I was genuinely surprised when school was canceled for Thursday.

Note on that. The Minister of Education sent out a communique canceling school on Thursday at 9:00 pm Wednesday night. Then our director forwarded it to the staff, and we had to try to get ahold of the kids. I mean, I guess snow days work like this in the States, but it just seems so arbitrary and disorganized.

Wednesday night through Saturday it just rained like it was going out of style. Hard, soaking rain, for three days straight.



This video got passed around Facebook by all our Haiti friends. It's from Le Nouvelliste, a French-language Haitian newspaper.

The Grise River, in a suburb of Port-au-Prince called Croix des Missions, was overtopping its banks, taking away pieces of houses and businesses along its shore. Many poor people build on land that is probably not legally theirs, just because it's free and available, and that often happens in ravines, flood plains, and along riverbanks. When the waters rise, your house goes away.

After the storm, all three guards said they had had "water in their house", but I was unable to determine the extent. I didn't know enough words to get specifics.

Madame Meristel says her concrete roof is "preske fini", or almost finished. She and her five kiddos will not be under a tarp roof much longer. Click here to read about their roof beginning construction.

Last week four of her five kids were at my house for some reason, outside talking to our guard. I was overjoyed to run into them. I had met the 5-year-old Kristel before, but never the three boys, who I would guess are between 10 and 15. They all shook my hand and said their names.

One of the best parts is that all four had on school uniforms. Madame Meristel and her husband are undeniably very poor, but their kids are in school, which puts them above 50% of the children in this country. They are both employed, and they have a house that is (almost) not a tent. I'm not saying I want to trade places with her, or that we're going to stop helping them, but there is hope.

Love,
Katie

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thorns and Roses

I once heard that each evening at dinner the Obama family shares "Thorns and Roses", the high and low points of their days. I'll share mine with you and ask for prayer.

First, two praises. When Ben halfway cut off his finger, the ambulance company was out of our insurance network. We applied for a waiver based on our income, and today we heard that we were approved! So they are waiving our entire balance, which was $2,000. That's a huge relief and a big provision. Thank you, God.

Second praise. A 12th grade student I am very close to applied for a huge, very selective scholarship a month ago. It has the potential to pay for most of college, and this would be an incredible boon for her family, especially since losing her father in the earthquake almost three years ago. Today, she found out that she has won it!

Prayer request. Our neighbor and coworker Jean has been extremely sick the last few days. Today she went to the hospital, and blood work revealed that she has both typhoid and dengue fever. Dengue is like malaria, but with the added treat of terrible bone pain- it is sometimes called "the bone crushing disease". Poor, poor, Jean. She is here with her wonderful husband and will be well-tended, but both illnesses just have to run their course. Please pray for Jean.

Love yall.

Katie

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ugh.

This is how my day started:
I massive cockroach crawled out of the toilet paper roll and flew onto me while I was sleepily using the ladies' room.

This is how my work day went:
The classroom AC broke.
(High of 95, heat index near 110.)

This is how my day ended:
I got an email saying my dear friend has cancer.

I just want to shout a swear word.

Night.

K

Fair Trade Favorites 3

This week I've been celebrating fair trade shopping, which is a win-win as it provides you with cute and tasty treats while AT THE SAME TIME as providing fair wages for an artisan in a poor part of our global community.

Click here to view Fair Trade Favorites 1.
Click here to view Fair Trade Favorites 2.

And, at last, the final installment. Our first items come from http://www.serrv.org.
Peacock tablecloth from India, $45
Nautilus serving platter from Bali, $45
Set of three apothecary jars from India, $140
These look straight out of a Pottery Barn catalogue. 
Can also be bought separately.
Children of the World mobile from Sri Lanka, $22
Noah's Ark wall art from Haiti, $75
Made from recycled steel drums and signed by the artisan who created it.
Brass inlay box from India, $32
1 Inch Brass earrings from Bali, $19
Autumn tablecloth from India, $85
Natural clay cloud mobile from Peru, on sale for $19
Inspired by the sky above the Andes Mountains

And now, moving on to our second fair trade vendor, http://www.ethicalsuperstore.com
Indian rosemary chocolate wood watch, 89 Euros
Organic and fair trade cotton baby playsuit, 11 Euros

And now to close our our fair trade favorites, our final vendor is http://www.oxfamshop.org.au.
Wood and brass globe desk accessory, handmade in Moradabad, India, $27
Polished aluminum elephant ring holder from India, $11

I wish I could buy every single one. Let's purchase our gifts, home decor, jewelry, snacks, and linens from fair trade groups.

Katie

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fair Trade Favorites 2

Fair trade products are handmade, artisanal, eco-friendly, and, most importantly, created by businesses that pay fair wages to craftspeople in developing countries. 

Once I started browsing online, I found so many treasures I had to create a second post! Here are my favorites.

Beautiful products from Green Heart Shop.
Box lantern from India, $15 or $21
Antiqued mango wood bird doorstop from India, on sale now for $21
Material is silk/cotton

Wallet from Cambodia, on sale now for only $14!
Bengal toy tiger from Bangladesh, $30

A second site, Ten Thousand Villages, certainly has the best selection of any I've seen.
Capiz shell star ornament from the Philippines, $10
Noah's Ark with animals from Cameroon, $235
I'm not predicting you will order this, but I was astounded at the detail and artistry.
Nativity from Haiti, $89.
You see beautiful cut metal work like this frequently in Haiti, though this is the most beautiful round nativity scene I've seen. They are handmade in Croix-des-Bouquets, a place I've visited often, from oil drums.
Peace dove from Haiti, $34.
From the same artisans as the piece above.
Capiz shell hummingbird ornament from the Philippines, $8
Olive wood Madonna and child from the West Bank, on sale now for $12


Brass peace bangle from India, $16.

Click here to read "Fair Trade Favorites 1", another curated shopping list of desirable products that benefit the lives of the poor.

Christmas shopping, here I come!

Katie


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Meristel Roof Construction Begins

JOY! You guys donated over $1,500 for Madame Meristel, her husband, and their five kids to get a new roof after theirs was destroyed in Hurricane Isaac.

And it's happening!

Meristel went to a hardware store and bought the items to build his roof. He gave Miquette the receipt, seen below. 

Do you see that stamp at the bottom?

PAID

We gave the cash to Miquette, and she was the one to actually hand it to Meristel and explain where it had come from. Meristel and Madame Meristel came straight to Ben and I on campus, lavishing on the thanks and praise to God.

In Kreyol, I said: "Mwen te di zanmi mwen avek fanmi mwen nan Estazini ou pa gen tent paske Siklon Isaac. Mwen te ekri yo yon papye. Yo bay mwen kob pou ou. M pral di yo ou di mesi anpil!"

This means (ish): "I told my friends and family in America you don't have a roof because of Hurricane Isaac. I wrote them a paper. They gave me money for you. I will tell them you say thank you very much."

The reason I include the exact words is because I love to laugh at the Kreyol I can come up with. I can get by, but...... how exactly do I explain blogs and Paypal to a person who has likely never used a computer? Instead I tried to say, "I wrote them a letter" but what came out was "I wrote them a paper".

Oh well.

This is Meristel!
He told me to tell you guys this:

"Thank you very, very, very much. God bless you."

I echo his words. It's really amazing, guys. I am so blessed to get to be a middleman on this.

I hope to get a picture when the roof is completed. I have no idea where they live. I'll do my best.

Love, Katie

Friday, October 12, 2012

My Day at TeacHaiti

Our vision is that Haiti needs transformation in all areas- top to bottom. Often you hear about Haiti's poverty, and the great work people are doing with impoverished people. Awesome work is done at Heartline, the Apparent Project and more places than I could possibly link to.

Friday I got to do this with my Sophomore class. TeacHaiti is their adopted ministry for the year. Once a month we go read with their students, play games, and just hang out. The most fun part is seeing my students in a new environment. Some who are academically weak show great leadership abilities in planning the day, or are amazing with kids.
The students of TeacHaiti are not read to at home. Busy parents, lack of education, lack of money for books at home... there are a lot of causes, but it does not happen. So the main thing we do is read with the kids. Most of the time we read in French, but if the students' English is good enough we will read in English.
Cassandra reads to the little guys
My favorite picture is this one below of my student Hans reading to kids. I later told Hans that he cannot begin to understand how important it is for these kids to see a young man reading. Hans is a stud in the making.
Excited audience
We also play with the kids. Soccer, relay races, red light green light...
Filling cups of water in a relay race
Gettin' her relay race on
My students also wanted to be creative with the TeacHaiti students.
Decorating a Haitian flag
Most adorable child ever.
I'm sweaty and I know it
I get to enjoy this even more because my little buddy, Sarah, is now in 1st grade at the TeacHaiti school. She is growing so much! And getting sassy!

(If you don't know who Sarah is, please click the "Sarah label" in the righthand column. We have known this girl since the day of the earthquake, and we now sponsor her through TeacHaiti.)
Sarah smiling shyly at me
I asked a new Quisqueya student what she liked about today and she was gushing about everything. She exclaimed that she had never seen or done anything like this before. Now, I love TeacHaiti. They will be written into my will. But, this student just played a relay race with kids on a concrete surface 20 feet long. She had never done anything like it? The separation between social classes is huge here. We are trying to break it down. And have a blast doing it.
My first grade buddies

Ben

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fair Trade Favorites!

Oh yall. Danger.

I just found out about http://tradeasone.com.

I want everything.

I've always loved the idea of buying Fair Trade products, but let's get real: often the products are ugly, or the websites contain just a few items. Trade As One features hundreds of quality products from  Palestinian olives to Ghanaian chocolate.

For your viewing pleasure..... my favorites.
Bamboo bowl from Vietnam, $33
Divine chocolate sampler from Ghana, $15
The only farmer-owned chocolate company in the world!
Garlic and herb dip mix, $5
Made by women coming out of chronic homelessness and unemployment in inner-city Colorado
Nativity statue in aluminum and bronze from India, $20
Africa coloring book, $10
White dove carved from jacaranda wood in Rwanda, $8
Little Marron the Baby Bear, hand-knitted from alpaca wool in Peru, $7
Quilted mini clutch from India, $14
Set of 6 silvery stars from India, $9
These would be beautiful on a Christmas tree, but would also function well tied to a gift.
Sun-dried Tomato Caper Spread from Palestinian territories, $12

Organic, vegan, gluten free dried Kopali pineapple from Mexico, $4

There is so much more where this came from. Trade As One sells everything from silver tealight holders to globes to barbecue sets to trivets to scarves to toys. There is an entire beauty section I didn't even get to yet. And if you are a coffee or tea drinker... just you wait.

Supporting these businesses directly puts earned income in the hands of our poor brothers and sisters who desire to work and raise their families out poverty.

WIN-WIN!

Katie

Monday, October 1, 2012

Money. Sigh.

Well, this is a blog post I didn't want to write. We have not had to say these things once since we landed in Port-au-Prince almost 3 years ago.  Since our personal support has always been solid, we have been able to raise money for other things.

A few things have changed recently. We have lost a handful of monthly donors over the past six months, including our very largest donor.

At this point we are coming up about $300 short each month. We had been transferring money our of some back-up savings to cover that monthly deficit...

...but then we hand an emergency finger-severing incident and that put a big dent on our emergency savings. Also our rent went up.

Because of this, we need to rebuild our personal support. Would anybody like to join in and become a monthly giver to our work in Haiti?

You can do it by using Paypal on the right side of this blog. You can type whatever number you'd like in the white box. You can give once, or set up a monthly gift (that is preferred, for budgeting purposes). 

Please feel free to forward this along to your missions-minded friends. If you'd like to introduce anyone to our work, refer them to the "frequently asked questions" tab above.

And if you do decide to give, here is what your money facilitates:

We live in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and shepherd a flock of about 100 high school students at Quisqueya Christian School. We are their teachers, and also like youth workers. We disciple them formally, in weekly small groups, but also informally, in a million tiny moments walking to class, standing in the lunch line, or hanging around after school. Our students are largely nominally Christian, but frequently we overhear "aha" moments where they realize, for the first time, something like, "God loves me even if I still make mistakes?" They need the gospel, and continued discipleship, desperately (just like everyone else). There are not active youth groups or Sunday schools here like we enjoy in the States.

If you have specific questions, email us at benandkatieinhaiti@gmail.com.
Ben (10th grade sponsor) with the 10th grade class officers
Me and my discipleship girls at prom
Me and my discipleship girls before the basketball championship
Discipleship girls at the beach
Ben and one of his players after the basketball championship
We do our best to be good stewards of the money given to us. We believe that budgets are moral documents.

Thank you so much.

Katie

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