Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

A letter from Pere Ajax with an update on the situation in Haiti after Hurricane Sandy

Dear brothers and sisters,
I am writing you to let you know of the situation in Haiti following Hurricane Sandy. I just returned from a trip to Port-au-Prince. The situation is devastating. The storm stayed for almost five days. The rain fell without ceasing. The wind was very strong. The streets are flooded. In some areas the water is waist deep. On my drive to and from Port-au-Prince, I saw many bridges that have fallen and are destroyed. I have seen streets that I pass everyday, now are rushing rivers. As much as this saddens me, I am not surprised. With the infrastructure we have, these results are to be expected. The departments that were affected the most were the South, South East, West, Nippes, and Grand Anse. It saddens me that school just began three weeks ago, and already there is another problem for the people of Haiti. There are many people who were still living in tents or in unsafe housing, and the hurricane took away what shelter they had. Hurricane Sandy has left many people displaced and with no place to turn to. Many families in Haiti already had a difficult time providing for their families. Now after the hurricane, it is more difficult to find food to eat, and people who give food cannot provide for everyone who needs it. I am asking for you to please continue to keep the people of Haiti in your prayers. It means so much to me, and to the Haitian people. Thank you so much for these prayers and for everything you have done for us already. It is appreciated so much. I cannot put into words how you have helped the people of Haiti.
Blessing to you,
Rev. Dr. Kesner Ajax

Donations can be sent here 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"If they come, we will have Mass to Thank God"

A friend of mine, Pere Jean Fils Chery, posted pictures of during and immediately after Isaac. He is a priest at a parish called St. Etienne up in the mountains. He gave me permission to share some of his pictures from yesterday.

Pere Jean Fil's house during the storm. 
Driving around Leogane

Driving around Leogane

Yesterday afternoon Pere Jean Fils told me that they were already trying to prepare to have church on Sunday even with many of the benches blown away or damaged. Another priest friend who works at a parish in Leogane said that many of the people in the area had lost everything. The tent that the parish worships in was completely destroyed. In spite of that he said he was still preparing for mass on Sunday saying "If they come, we will have Mass to thank God" 

*Pere Jean Fils writes a blog and you can check it out at You can also follow him on twitter @JeanFilsCHERY 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

"Oh Those Poor People"

*I hesitated making the below post because I didn't want it to be mistaken for a lack of concern for the devastation Isaac caused but I was talking to a Haitian friend of mine in Port au Prince and they encouraged me to post it saying "if thats what you believe then post it, if you don't post it then you don't really believe it"

I was talking to someone earlier this week and the issue of tropical storm Isaac approaching Haiti came up. As surprising as this might be for some of you, I didn't bring up the Haiti topic. They were telling me that Isaac was going to hit Haiti and "Oh those poor people." It is a phrase that I have heard over and over again when people talk about Haiti - "Oh those poor people"

Every time I hear this or similar comments it drives me absolutely crazy. It's not that I don't think that Haitians gets more than its fair share of bad luck. They do (Earthquake, Hurricanes, Cholera and the list goes on) and its Too Much. It's not that I don't empathize with the people in Haiti, particularly those still living in Tents or with unsuitable housing. I do and they have constantly been in my thoughts. And it's not that I haven't been worried about my friends and god-daughter. I have been worried and have been on the phone and facebooking throughout the past couple of days to see how they are doing. And I am sure in the coming weeks I will be posting about the devastating effects of the storm. But I wanted to take a moment to talk about those "poor people"

When Americans say "Oh those poor people" it's said out of pity. It's a throw away statement. "Oh those poor people." They feel bad but they don't really care or know Haitians. If they did, they wouldn't be saying "Oh those poor people." It's said in a way that implies that Haitians and Haiti can't help themselves, that they are bystanders to their own fate. "Oh those poor people" suggests that they just let things happen to them. "Oh those poor people" suggests a people who are poor in spirit, depressed, in-active, and weak.

These aren't the Haitians I know.

At orientation this week I heard a quote from Einstein that went something like "you do not really know something, unless you can explain it to your grandmother." So this is how I would explain the Haiti and its people, that I think I know, to a grandparent - Haitians are resilient. They are strong and don't take things just sitting down. They are the farthest thing from poor.

There is a picture taken by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti of a woman walking through chin high water caused by flooding from Isaac. Its a striking photo and you immediately worry about the woman (and hope that the person taking the picture helped her). It's a picture where you could easily pity that woman caught in the storm and say "oh that poor woman" but then you read the caption. This woman is going back to her home to get her belongings. She is strong. She is fighting back. She is Haitian.

And just in case I haven't sufficiently made my point, heres just one more thing. Recently the brunt of the storm ended in Port au Prince and there are already photos out of Haitians clearing the streets and helping each other. Of girls going out in the floods to get drinking water. I even saw one photo of a RaRa (like a parade) through the streets of Port au Prince playing music and celebrating the storms passing. I don't understand how anyone can see Haitians and think "Oh those poor people."

I hope you will keep Haitians in your thoughts and prayers as they work to recover from Isaac and as they continue to work to get people out of the tents and combat Cholera. If you would like to read more about Isaac and its effects on Haiti you should check out Sister Sarah's Excellent Adventure. Her blog has some great coverage of Isaac's impact.

RaRa in the streets after Isaac by @joshjobitz

Cleaning up Champs Mars after Isaac by @isabellemorse

Carrying drinking water after Isaac by

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Am I Holding Haiti or is Haiti Holding Return to Blogging

Well, its almost been a full year since my last least I didn't let it go a full year...right? But I'm back and have made it a goal to post more regularly. I recently returned from a trip to Haiti and am starting grad school this fall to study international development. The combination of these two things had me thinking that it would be nice to start blogging about Haiti again. Its been about 2 and a half years since I left Haiti but there is something about Haiti that I can't let it go.

When I thought of the title of the blog I thought it was a nice alliteration with my name and Haiti's but it never occurred to me how true that title would be...but perhaps the title should be reversed. While I may think I'm holding Haiti, I think that Haiti has a hold on me and its something I just can't seem to shake...not that I would want to. While the tie I feel to Haiti has a bit to do with wanting to help and do what I can to participate in its rebuilding and development, it has so much more to do with the friends I have made and the feeling of being at home every time I visit.

While its my hope to one day return to Haiti - I no longer live you might wonder what I'm going to write about. So far I have had about 6 return trips to Haiti, and I have a lot of stories stocked up that show the place and people that I know and care deeply for. These stories most definitely won't be in chronological order but will relate to something that I'm thinking about at the time. I will probably also talk more about some of my favorite Haitian things...I can't wait to post about Presitge! There will also occasionally be commentary on news in Haiti or my perspectives on development and mission. And because I strongly believe that you can best learn about Haiti from Haitians, I hope to feature some posts from some of my friends.

So here I go again...and hopefully it won't be a year before you hear from me again. Also if anyone knows how to change the background on blogger so that it makes one big picture and not a tile of pictures please let me know!

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

That Haiti Feeling

There’s a certain smell to Haiti. A feeling that you get when you step off the plane or out of your comfortable hotel room that tells you “Yep you’re in Haiti

I think you can get this kind of unique feeling in all kinds of places. When I’m in Florida at my Grandparents there is a certain feeling in the air…and its not just the humidity. Or there is the familiar feeling when you step back in your childhood home for the first time in a long time. There was the chocolate smell I always connected with my summers at camp. Or there’s the feeling I had in college when I stepped out of my dorm to go to class. All these feelings, scents and sounds were completely unique and I could close my eyes go to any of these places and know where I was just by the way I feel but Haiti is be far the strongest.
Stepping out of the plane, or hotel room or apartment you are greeted by the various smells of car exhaust combined with people cooking, the feeling of the hot sun and thick air. The sounds of honking, shouting and laughter. The feeling of the constant busy-ness in Port au Prince. I wish I had the words to explain it better but its just something you feel deep down inside.
I feel it every time I step off the plane. I felt it everyday I was living in Port au Prince when I stepped out of my apartment and I feel it now every time I step out of my hotel room. It’s a feeling that’s comforting that says your home,. Its exhilarating and says “you’re in Haiti!” it’s a feeling that also says “take a deep breath and hold on tight because you’re back in Haiti
And this trip was no different. I stepped out of the airport, closed my eyes, took a deep breath - I was back!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On deciding my summer vacation...

At the end of July I went back to Haiti to take a little summer vacation time. In a lot of ways this was a completely selfish visit. I wasn't going back to Haiti for any project or for work or anything. I wasn't going to help anybody but myself I guess. Whenever anyone asked me why I was going to Haiti I just said it was for Vacation...which in a way was true - I did have to take vacation days from work. And I'd get the usual response "Haiti isn't exactly a vacation destination"

Part of me completely understands why people find it funny or weird or offensive to consider a trip to Haiti vacation, or just to be going for yourself, but for me Haiti and my friends there are almost like my home and family. In so many ways going to Haiti to me is no different than visiting my cousins in _____ City, USA. Its not a mission trip, or business trip, its just going to visit people I care about.

Anyway - I hadn't been in Haiti since last November and simply to much time had passed. I had been trying to hold off my return visit to Haiti till the ordination of the seminarians. You might remember before the earthquake I lived at the seminary and attempted to teach English to the seminarians and they have since become good friends of mine. You can remind yourself here or here. I had wanted to be sure I could be there for their I held off on making any visits to ensure I would have enough money for that trip. But rumors of the ordinations being in January quickly turned to rumors of May, to June to July to Late which point I had enough. Now this is probably a sign that I need to get a new source, but the thought of not being in Haiti for almost an entire year was too much, and as soon as I heard the news they wouldn't be in July, I began making my plans to go to Haiti ASAP!

Part of this desire to go is this pull that Haiti has over me. For those of you that have been there before you might know what I am talking about. I also think that my experience during the earthquake made this pull inexplicably stronger. Haiti to me is somehow one of the scariest places but also one of the places I feel the most safe. It is a place where I feel the most like an outsider but also one of the few places I feel like I belong. Its a place filled with tragedy but also with a great Joy and one of the places where I am the happiest and most carefree. And I just needed to be there again.

The other reason I decided to finally hop on a plane and go back was because last November my godson(or is it daughter...more on that in a future post) was born and the mom had been waiting to do the baptism so that I could be there. So sometime in Mid-June I just decided that I would go at the end of July and that was it. I called up my friend (the baby's mom) told her I was coming and asked if she could do the baptism while I was there.

I told a few of the seminarians, my old Kreyol teacher and some others that I'd be in Port au Prince and my trip was set...I was just going to go to Port au Prince to go to a Baptism, hangout and just be.

This was the first of my return trips that I hadn't really thought out - hadn't planned too much in advance, and was shocked when the weekend I was leaving came around and I had done almost nothing to prepare - just packed my things the day I was supposed to leave and got on a plane like I was going home for the weekend as easy as that...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My return to blogging

Hey All - so if anyone is out there and still interested in reading this I have a small announcement - I'm going to start blogging again. This is mostly because as I search for news and blogs to keep up with whats happening in Haiti I get irritated by the way Haiti, Haitians, the church etc is portrayed...I'm admittedly a critical person by nature...but really if you visit a town and then write a news piece about it shouldn't you at least spell the name of the town correctly? No one would visit Chicago and then spell it Shicago - its just insulting. So instead of just ranting and complaining to myself I'm going to start trying to write again.

Don't worry I won't use this as my rant forum...well maybe once or twice...but I plan to continue using this as my opportunity to share my own experiences with Haiti and how I view a country and people that I care deeply about.

So if anyone is out there still interested in reading I need a bit of advice as to where to go next - should I continue writing about the trip I took in November in order of all that happened - come back to the November trip at a later date and just write about my most recent July trip - or just randomly tell stories out of in particular time order? Or do something else entirely?

Eh - maybe I will just do what I want - but let me know if there is something like you would like to see me write about. So here's hoping that this return to blogging lasts a bit longer than my last attempt...