Tuesday, December 29, 2009

BTI Graduation

The weekend before Christmas I had the chance to go back to Les Cayes to help with the graduation at BTI…or The Bishop Tharp Business and Technology Institute.

In an earlier post I wrote about what a great program BTI is and how it helps train students in job skills like business and computer sciences to help them get jobs. The last time I was there I got to listen in on a seminar about Entrepreneurship and particularly a discussion about ways to reuse water bottles. You can find used water bottles thrown everywhere. It was so exciting to hear these students think outside the box and come up with ways to support themselves, help their families and even grow and strengthen Haiti’s economy. So needless to say I was happy to help out with the graduation.

I also got to help with a kids Christmas party. BTI offers English classes to kids in Les Cayes and this was their holiday party. Santa even came and each kid got a present and I got to make the placemats!

Here are some pics from the Christmas Party and the Graduation.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Playing Catch Up

I’m sorry that it has been so long since the last time that I wrote. It has been a very busy few weeks. Here are some of the things I have been up to

Trip to Les Cayes, Okay…
In November I had a chance to go to Les Cayes…or rather OKay which is what most Haitians, I am told, call it. Apparently it was called OKay and then the French made it Les Cayes…I’m not to clear on the details…Anyway I went there.I was excited because I knew during the trip I would get to visit the town of Torbeck. About 20ish years ago my church back home had a relationship with the church and school there and I was excited to be able to see it. And lets be honest, I was also excited because it meant I got to leave Port au Prince for awhile. The drive to Cayes was beautiful with the mountains and driving along the ocean…Haiti’s landscape is a truly amazing.

Anyway in Cayes I was working with a bunch of American partners that were visiting the area, particularly a group from a church in Atlanta that was looking to begin a relationship with some sort of project in Cayes. The group was there to get a better understanding of Haiti, of Cayes and see what project would best fit their parish. It was wonderful to be able to spend time with these people and help them in their search. Spending time with them also meant that I got to see a bit more of the area than I may have normally…It also included a trip to the beach at Port Salut and my first time eating Lobster (So good!)

Port Salut

Eating Lobster

I also learned more about 2 exciting projects that helped to give me hope for Haiti and re-energized me a bit. The first one is Maison de Naissance. It is a clinic that deals with Maternal Health and it has been able to do amazing things in the area. I also think it is not just the clinic but the nurses go out into the field to visit and educate women. From what I could gather it seemed to be a great organization that was taking a holistic approach to health and development and took into account local knowledge, which I appreciated. It is also cool because it is all run by nurses!

The second is BTI, The Bishop Tharp Institute of Business and Technology. It is kind of like a community college that the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti runs. It is exciting because it is training people in skills that are needed so that they can hopefully find jobs. I wish I could give you the percentage of students that find jobs after leaving but I forget the exact number…I do know that when considering the very high unemployment in Haiti, the number of students who do find jobs is impressive. If you want more information about BTI just let me know and I can get it for you.

The group from Atlanta also decided to partner with BTI and build a guesthouse. This will give housing for visiting partners, visiting professors and could potentially be housing for nursing students (the want to have nursing students train with Maison de Naissance). But if a guest house were to be built, the thought is that BTI will add a hospitality component to its curriculum…which is good because Haiti is currently trying to grow its tourism industry again.

I’m headed back out to Cayes this weekend to help with BTI’s graduation…I will let you know how it goes.

First Trip to Cité Soleil
Also in November I took my first trip to Cité Soleil…the first of what I hope will be more, but so far the timing hasn’t worked out. In case you didn’t know Cité Soleil has been called the biggest slum in the Western Hemisphere. While I was there I was helping with an organization called LAMP which is a clinic.

So I went not knowing what really to expect or what I was going to be doing…and I had heard a lot about Cité Soleil and not much of it was good. For example, I told someone I was going and they proceeded to tell me that the other week 5 people had been shot and killed…not really what you want to here before you go somewhere.

So I had those thoughts running through my head as I arrived at the clinic and as soon as I got there I was immediately thrown into preparing and distributing prescriptions to patients. And by that, I mean, that there was a table filled with bottles of medication and you tried to put the right amount of medication, into the right envelope as quickly as you could. But I have to say, somehow it all worked.

Afterwards I walked around with the woman who manages the clinic, first to look at some land that LAMP is considering using for a feeding program and then to visit some of the schools in the area. The woman I was with tries to take care of the children in the schools as much as she can. For example, many of the children come to the school with out shoes so when she has extra money she tries to buy some shoes.

Overall I enjoyed my time there and am looking forward to going back…I also want to add that I felt completely safe the entire time I was there.
Street in Cite Soleil
Last year I didn’t get to celebrate Thanksgiving because I was living in Northern Uganda but this year I was determined to celebrate Thanksgiving complete with turkey and cranberry sauce.

I have a girl who cooks for me sometimes but she only speaks Creole. I asked her if she would cook Thanksgiving Dinner for me and some of my friends, and with some help was able to successfully ask her to make turkey and something with pumpkins, squash and sweet potatoes. In one the grocery stores here we were also able to buy ocean spray canned cranberry sauce (my favorite).

Thanksgiving Day, we went to an English service in Petionville and afterwards some of my American friends here as well as a couple Haitian friends gathered at my apartment for dinner. It was a good time and we even added a Haitian twist to our Thanksgiving…Rum Punch

“Pilgrimage” to Mirebalais, Cange, Hinche and Cap-Haitian
The day after Thanksgiving I left to go on another trip with Lauren and Pere Ajax (the same people I went to Cayes with). It was really good and the only thing that would have made it better was if I hadn’t been sick with a cold the whole time. And I apologize that there aren't pictures up for this yet...I didn't take any pictures on this trip and am waiting to get some but I will post some when I get them.

Anyway we left Friday, only 2 hours later than planned. We stopped in Miribalais which is in the Central Plateau for a couple minutes to talk to the priest there and look at the Episcopal School. Mirebalais seemed like a nice town but we were there for no more than 20 minutes and then we were back on the road again.

An hour or two later we stopped in Cange, also in the Central Plateau. I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with Paul Farmer but he is a doctor who founded this incredible health facility in Cange called Zanmi Lasante. He did this in partnership with an Episcopal priest. So while I was in Cange I had the opportunity to visit Zanmi Lasante, to see the hospital and all the other medical services they offer, as well as the Episcopal Church and School which are incorporated into the facility. What they have done there is really incredible and it feels like stepping into another world.

Finally at the end of the day we reached Hinche, also in the Central Plateau. One of the first things we did was take a small tour of the town…the highlight for me was the airport…which was a field filled with kids playing soccer and livestock grazing…We stayed there that night and the next morning there was a big Mass to celebrate St. Andrew…the Episcopal Church in Hinche’s namesake. The service was really nice but my favorite part was the beginning when the band, all the choirs (there were at least 5 choirs) and all the clergy processed around the public square and into the church.

After the service and quickly eating some really good food, and King Cola Banana Soda we were back on the road and on our way to Cap-Haitian. That night we got to Cap-Haitian and did another little tour of the town. Cap-Haitian is in the northern part of Haiti and right on the ocean…The rectory also happens to be right on the water. Cap-Haitian seemed like a really nice and chill town.

The next day was the First Sunday of Advent and we went to L’Eglise Saint Esprit, the Episcopal Church in Cap. It was a beautiful church and I was excited to recognize some of the melodies of my favorite Advent hymns even if I didn’t understand the words. I think I should also point out that I got phone numbers from 2 guys before we had even had Communion.

In the afternoon there was a graduation for the Episcopal Vocational School in Cap. The school has been around for maybe 30years and has about 1,000 students, studying everything from accounting to auto mechanics. This particular graduation was just for the students who had studied accounting. My travelling cohorts and I were given seats in the front of the ceremony as special quests…we even got boutonnieres to wear. It was a little awkward and the ceremony was a little long but at the end when the new graduates sang Michael Jackson’s “We are the World” and I could not have been happier

The next day we visited the L’Eglise Saint Esprit School. It was an incredible school; it was clean and seemed like a very happy learning environment. It was surprising to learn that the entire school had been constructed without the help of outside partners. It had been paid for entirely by the community. And just trust me when I tell you how rare I think that can be here. I think it would be exciting to see what this parish and its priest could do if it were given a little outside assistance since they have already been able to do so much on their own.
In Cap I was also able to see my first Bat...one night I was out late on the balcony and had started to fall asleep when it swooped past my head...I yelled screaming into my room and of course the bat followed...but then left. Also, Cap taught me to always bring a mosquito net.

Overall the “Pilgrimage” as we called it gave me a great opportunity to see a lot of Haiti and I feel like now I am starting to get a better sense of the country and the work of the Episcopal Church here.

…I am sorry this post was so long…I promise not to wait so long before my next post…

Friday, November 13, 2009

Soda, Pringles, Bagays and other things

So I wanted to share some of the funny or interesting things that have happened over the past few weeks…

This is the Life
This is the life…Its an expression I seem to keep hearing from the seminarians and other Haitians that I have met. The first time I heard it was in response to someone saying a friend’s family member had died. Someone simply said “This is the life”

Since I have been in Haiti I have heard about a lot more deaths in people’s families only to hear the response, “This is the life.” I have been to two funerals so far in Haiti, one for the mother of the Bishop and one for my friend’s step-father. The funeral for my friend’s step-father was a Catholic service and it was actually a funeral for three different people and their families. It was interesting to think about having to share your funeral time with two other families but I guess “This is the life.”

The other night some of the guy seminarians were watching TV and the girls came in to watch their soap. There was some discussion and then the girls changed the channel to the soap. One of the guys looked over to me and said “This is the life” Since then I have heard the expression used for frequently in similar situations.

I just think it’s interesting that the same expression can be used for such different events. I’ll leave it to you to think about why this could be.

King Cola Banana
So maybe my favorite thing to drink here is the King Cola's brand Banana Soda. It’s amazing. I drink about 5 a week. I love it. There is another brand that has Banana Soda, its called Fiesta and it really just is not even close to as good as King’s

So I went to my grocery store earlier this week and they were out of King Cola Banana. I’m pretty sure I bought them out. Now I am trying to settle for Fiesta until they get more but it’s really just not the same.

My Empty King Cola Banana

Walking on the Street
A couple of weeks ago I was running an errand with two of the guy seminarians. We were walking along Rue Capois and the guys were telling me how I needed to walk in the middle of them. I asked why and they were explaining that culturally in Haiti when two guys and a girl walk together the girl has to walk in the middle so the guys can protect her.

So of course they are in the middle of telling me this when a guy on the street grabs my arm and pulls me back, away from my friends. I pulled my arm out of his grip, and caught up with my friends and said “Nice job protecting me”…

(This is a funny story…the area where we were walking was completely safe.)

You should just know that there are a lot of Pringles in the stores here. The have just about any flavor you can think of. It’s crazy.

But two warnings for if you are ever in Haiti…do not buy the generic brand. If you’re going to get them you should just splurge a little for the real thing. Also do not buy the Dill Pickle flavor. I made that mistake my first week here. I thought it looked interesting and wanted to try something new. It was a bad idea.

A couple weeks ago we had a going away party for a missionary who had been working here for the last year. In preparation for this party I had to find a gift for her that would be from the seminary. I figured I would talk to her friend who was an artist and see if he had any ideas for something that would be easy to travel with and that she didn’t have yet. So of course when I told him he asked if he could make it. I said yes and asked what he wanted to make.

I should probably mention at this point that this artist friend only really speaks Creole and some French and most times I can’t understand a word he says.

So the artist friend begins going into some long description about what he wants to make and I have no clue what he was saying. I only noticed that he kept using the word bagay. So I grab on to this word and think to myself if I can just figure out what bagay means than I will have some idea about what he is talking about. So I commit to him making the gift and discuss the price…still not knowing what I am going to get…but knowing it has something to do with the word bagay.

So later that day I talk to one of the seminarians (one who knows English) and tell him all about my conversation with the artist friend and that he wants to make a bagay. And I ask what the word bagay means…Turns out Bagay means Thing…awesome.

Luckily everything worked out in the end.

Air Jordans

Last night the girls that I am living with showed up randomly with like ten pairs of Air Jordans, that I'm guessing were somehow given to the seminary. They were big shoes.

The Old Seminary

Last week Lauren, Jude and I as well as a priest named Pere Ajax, went to this town called Montrouis to check out this resort for a conference that is coming to Haiti in January. We also went to celebrate Lauren's birthday. We drove out there after English class on Wednesday, had dinner at this nice resort and spent the night at the old seminary.

The old seminary is beautiful. While it is a little overgrown at the moment all it needs is a little work and it would be amazing. Theres a good amount of land, lots of trees, oh and its on the water! It was awesome and I found myself wondering how we could get the seminary to move back there just so I could live there.

Anyway that morning before our meeting at the resort we had a nice 6:30 am swim in the ocean. The water felt great. and it was a wonderful short break from life in Port au Prince. Heres a picture from the beach there.

Seriously...its beautiful right.

I'm going to Les Cayes on Sunday. I'm really looking forward to it and I'll let you all know how it goes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Working at the Seminary

Classes at the Seminary started a couple weeks ago and since that time I have been very busy. I am beginning to get a better understanding of my job and its expectations as I continue to figure out what my role is here.

I have to admit when I found out that I would be doing most of my work at the seminary I was a little disappointed for various reasons. Probably the most significant reason is that I was really unsure if this is the work I am prepared for and meant to be doing.

After my trip to Sudan about five years ago, I knew that I wanted to work with poverty issues. I left behind any lingering thoughts of having a “normal” life and realized that I wanted to dedicate myself to fighting poverty, to finding peace in a world that at times seems plagued with violence, to stop corruption and greed and work to have governments that serve all their people. I wanted to be living in community with the poorest of the poor helping them to earn money and to learn, while at the same time learning from the beauty of their spirit. It was after this trip to Sudan that I decided to study issues of poverty and development in college and in Uganda and hoped to begin to gain an understanding of all these issues, so that when I finished college I would be able to jump into working and do my part to save the world (as corny as that sounds)

So when I decided to join the Young Adult Service Corps, I thought that this would be my opportunity to finally do all those things that my trip to Sudan had inspired in me. And then I found out that I would be teaching seminarians and working to develop the seminary. Talk about a bubble bursting. It seemed to me like another year that I would have to wait before I was able to do the work that I think I am meant to doing. The work that keeps me up at night wondering about what can be done…

But these past 2 weeks working at the seminary have helped me to better understand the work that I am doing here. That this is not a year of waiting but rather that this can be a year of action. That helping the seminarians is helping Haiti. These seminarians are not just future priests but future leaders of the church and they are future leaders of their country. The church plays a significant role in Haiti. For example in the Diocese of Haiti there are 250 schools that are run by the priests. These seminarians have the opportunity to reach out to the most vulnerable in their society, not just by sharing the word of God with them, but showing them the word of God and turning God’s word into action.

For the past couple weeks, in English class, the students have been working on Advent Devotionals. It is through their reflections that you can get a glimpse of Haiti, its strengths and its problems and see the potential these seminarians have to make a difference in their communities.

I am hoping to share the completed devotional with you, so please let me know if you are interested in receiving a copy. The main goal of the devotional is to raise awareness about the work of the seminary, and to allow people back home to learn about Haiti from Haitians. It is also a hope of mine that we may be able to raise some funds to help support the seminary. So please let me know if you are interested.
Just so you know the pictures in this blog were taken at the opening service for the seminary in the Chapel. And in case you can't tell the seminarians are the ones in the robes with the black belts. There are 17 this year...10 first years and 7 who are 3rd or 4th years.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

World Food Program in Haiti

By February in Haiti the World Food Programs will have used up all of its foodstocks in Haiti.

You can learn more here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

More on La Gonave

Here is a link to an article from Episcopal Life Online about the weekend at La Gonave written by Lauren Stanley, a missionary in the Diocese of Haiti


PS I took the picture!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Port au Prince

So I have been here almost a month now, so I guess I should probably tell you all a little bit about where I'm living ... Port au Prince.

I should confess that I purposely waited to write about Port au Prince because earlier I would not have had very many good things to say. This city is intimidating and scary ... I guess like most cities are at first ... except at a whole other extreme.

Port au Prince is packed with people and cars. The cars may just be the scariest part of the city, the drivers drive fast, park on sidewalks and really could care less about pedestrians. There have been a couple of times when I was walking that I could have sworn the car was trying to hit me.

Monday through Saturday there are people everywhere. The population of Port au Prince is estimated at about 2.5-3million people packed into a relatively small area. Its hard not to be a little intimidated walking on a street filled with people speaking a language you do not understand, and its clear you stick out, and are probably the topic of conversation. It also doesn't help when people are shouting "Blanc, Blanc, Blanc" at you, Which means white person or foreigner.

Admittedly, it's easy to be distrusting of some of the people on the street and for the first couple weeks I found myself gripping my bag tighter and tighter, not smiling, or responding to greetings. Now, I am happy to say, I've gotten more used to being on the street, realizing that it is more important to walk with confidence than to tightly grip my bag and that being friendly to Those that I regularly see on the street is a good thing.

Probably another difficulty is the poverty. I only need to walk out my apartment and onto the street and you can see the poverty on the street. From an old women sitting on the ground saying she is hungry, to a young boy in tattered clothes following you for a couple blocks asking for money. I know that this is not unique to Haiti but it is still hard to debate whether you should, or not, and to say no, because in all honesty if I gave some to one person I would be surrounded by others asking ... so I am going to try to find ways to help without giving money directly.

In spite of these and other challenges of the city, I am starting to see some of the good parts of this place more clearly. For example, it is hard not to admire the atmosphere of chaos that somehow seems to work. I really do think Port au Prince could give New York City's title of the City the Never Sleeps a run for its money ... just ask the three year old in my building who seems to be up playing outside at 4:30 am and is somehow still up playing at midnight.

Also there is brilliant artwork that is full of color that can bring dull, dirty areas to life with color. There are streets that are filled with people selling art. For blocks it feels like you are walking in an art gallery but it is even cooler because you are surrounded by the sites sounds of the city. And there are of course the taptap Which are nozzles that are painted with all different colors and themes. A lot of them have religious meanings and reference bible verses or simply say I love Jesus. I wish I had a picture of one now but I will try to get one soon.

There are also some really great people here that look after me. For example there is this man who runs my local supermarket. He always comes and says hello to me while I'm paying as he slips free gum or candy into my bag. I recently had a birthday and when he found out he told me I had to come back the next day for my present. He gave me a box of chocolates ... wrapped and everything!

I live close to the Champ de Mars which is kind of this huge public square with statues and museums and is really close to the Palais National, which is supposed to be where the president lives. It's a cool area and there seem to be a lot of concerts and what not there so it will be exciting to spend some more time exploring there.

The Palais National

Well I guess that's all I wanted to say about Port au Prince for now ... I will probably write more later as I continue to experience this city. I will also try to get more pictures. Gradually I am working up confidence to pulling out my camera on the streets, and right now I am only doing it on Sundays when the city is not as busy. But I promise more later.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Address

Hey all! Heres my address at the Seminaire de Theologie Eglise Episcopal d'Haiti but I wouldn't reccomend sending me packages or anything that you would be terribly disappointed about if I didn't actually recieve it. Saying that, it would be great to here from people from time either through mail or email.

Mallory Holding
72 Avenue Christophe
Port au Prince, Haiti (W.I.)

If you absolutely want to or need to ship something to me please get in touch with me and I can tell you how to ship something through UPS.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

A bit about my Job and Apartment

So I have been in Haiti a little more than 2 weeks and I wish I could tell you my daily routine and whatnot…but I don’t really have one yet, what with the different trips and the fact that classes at the seminary don’t start till Oct. 19.

But I have found out a bit more about what I will be doing and now that I have gotten settled in to my new apartment I can show you pictures of that too.

First... my job.

Jude (the other YASCer here), Kyle (a missioner who’s been in Haiti for a year and leaving soon) and Lauren (a missioner that will be working here for three years) met with Pere Oge Beauvoir, the dean of the seminary this week, to touch base and figure out mine and Judes responsibilities for the year and what not.

So here is a list of some of things I am going to attempt to do or make steps toward while I am here.

- I’ve been told I’m the Director of Development for the Seminary (yikes) so some things I’m thinking about working on are
- Increased housing for students, missioners, profs, etc
- Classrooms separate from the University
- Work on income generating activities:
- Possible progress towards a capital campaign and endowment
- Seminarian summer internships

-Teach English to Seminary Students as well as continue classes that have been occuring for various priests

-Improvement of Seminary’s Website

-Help with Diocesan Development Projects when possible

-Elementary School income activities

-Proposal and Grant Writing

-Possibly help with Teacher Trainings for the Bureau Anglican de l’Education en Haiti

-Children/Youth Christian Formation?

-Lay Leadership Training?

Other tasks as they come along…this is the list now but who knows what will actually end up happening.

But as you can tell from the list there is a lot going on here. I have quickly learned that people working for the Diocese of Haiti, wear many hats. Priests often times not only work at their churches but also run elementary and secondary schools as well as teaching a class at the seminary. So it seems in this sense I will be jumping right into the life and work of the diocese. Admittedly I feel like I am in a bit over my head, however I am looking forward to the challenge and am excited to start working….

BUT if you have any suggestions or ideas for anything or think you would like to be involved or of some help to me or have ideas for people to contact… I would really appreciate it. I may be the one working in Haiti but I see this as an opportunity where all of us can take part in mission and help other members of the Episcopal Church. So please do be in touch with me.

Now for my living Situation…

I live in a very nice 2 bedroom apartment that I will be sharing with 3 of the female seminarians. I have still have yet really to unpack and have been sharing the space with Kyle, who will be leaving Haiti in November.

The Apartment is on Ave. Christophe and is close to the Champs de Mars and is right next to the seminary and the Episcopal university as well at the L’Ecole St. Pierre. A couple of priests also live in the same building but I haven’t met them yet.

Here is a view of Ave. Christophe but the pictures really don't do the street justice because I took it on Sunday morning so there are a lot less people and cars. Also it might be a bit blury because I took them in a rush since my camera was drawing unwanted attention. But you can notice on the streets how cars park on the sidewalk. You might also see in the picture on the right, my neighborhood trash-can which makes taking the trash out very convenient. Also there is a picture of the apartment building.

My Front Door...its very secure!

When you first come into the apartment theres the living room with a desk, which at some point will be mine, and another one that the seminarians use.

There is also a hallway kind of area that has a washing machine (yes!)

The kitchen is big with nice sunlight and we just got a brand new gas top stove and a line to dry clothes on.

There’s a bathroom…I don’t have much more to say about it …its a bathroom

And there’s my bedroom which as you may be able to tell from the picture is still in transition a bit since we have had people visiting and what not. I am slowly starting to unpack and get settled in. I’m especially looking forward to buying some art to make the walls in my room more interesting. I also just want to point out the AC unit in the room…its amazing.

That's about it. It's really nice and I feel lucky to be living in such a comfortable space. Anyway now you know a little about where I live and what I’ll be doing. I hope to write more later about my routine and also what its like living in Port au Prince.

Please do stay in touch and let me know if you have any suggestions or are interested in getting involved with my work!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Surprising Trip to La Gonave

Last Thursday I headed to the Ile de la Gonave for a blessing of the animals. Well little did I know at the time that this trip was bound to be completely different from what I expected…including a blessing of the animals without any animals!

I found out I was going on Wednesday and everyone kept calling it a ‘Grande Fete’ which to me meant big party…so I left bright and early the next day looking forward to some fun on the island, loving life and blessing animals. It would be the perfect break from my adjustments to Port au Prince.

So we get to St. Mark, which is the town we stopped in to catch what we had been told was a ‘Yacht’ to La Gonave. While the boat was very nice it was no yacht but I guess you would call it a power boat…whatever the next size up from a speedboat is. And we took it through the beautiful ocean water. It was amazing to see Haiti from the water. I was having a wonderful time on the water enjoying each choppy bump of the ocean and the tips and turns as Bishop Duracin stood there on the boat surveying the Ile de la Gonave ahead of him. I could just about taste all that I dreamed Caribbean island life to be like.

Well apparently I forgot that I was working for the church and that I was in Haiti. We got to the St. Francis’s church compound around 9:30 and quickly left for what would be an hour long (felt like 2hours) ride up a mountain driving over rock and some of the bumpiest most uncomfortable roads I have ever been on…oh island life.

I also forgot to mention that along the way we met up with a group of 6 Americans who are partners with various churches throughout the island who were also there for the Grand Fete. It was nice to spend time with them throughout the few days and hear about the work they are doing as well as lean on them for support for those few days. I will say that I admire the partners in these areas for committing to a relationship with a church that is so remote and difficult to reach.

Anyway we finally get up the mountain to this clearing of a beautiful church that has just been built by the partners and spend the next three hours blessing it as well as doing Baptisms and Confirmations. It was a long service even by Haitian standards from what I here.

Exhausted we all head back down taking another route. And our vehicles get stuck in the mud. Eventually we make it back very exhausted and wondering what the next day will bring.

So Friday we are told we will leave at 6am to do the next church blessing and Baptisms and Confirmations. We take a 2 hour car ride again on another crazy bumpy road and then we had to get out and walk. So we walked, for an hour and a half in the hot sun. Thankfully we had some donkeys which people took turns riding. At one point when we began our walk there was this amazing image of the Bishop walking ahead of all of us he seemed so comfortable in this setting and didn’t mind a little bit of walking. He also got up on a donkey at one point and looked a bit like a Haitian Clint Eastwood or John Wayne.

We have another long service (but not quite as long) at another beautiful new church. I will say that I admire the partners in these areas for committing to a relationship with a church that is so remote and difficult to reach. The walk back to the car was enjoyable because the sun was behind the clouds and you were able to really appreciate the beauty of the countryside. The other highlight was on the drive back we saw flamingos…a lot of them…just hanging out in the water…so cool

Saturday was a day of rest. And after the first 2 days we all needed it. There was also the chance to go to the beach. I did and it was so beautiful looking at the ocean and the mountains of La Gonave and looking back out to the main island of Haiti. But the one thing that distracted from all this was the trash which covered the beach. After getting past the trash I was out in the water swimming in the warm Caribbean for the first time, in my basketball shorts and a t-shirt because I left my swimsuit in Port au Prince. It was a bit awkward but totally worth it.

Now finally on Sunday we had the Blessing of the Animals. The church we were staying at in La Gonave is St. Francis. In the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti, as I understand it, on feast days of name sakes and what not many of the priests and seminarians try to go to the parish to celebrate. Hence why all this stuff was going on at La Gonave.

So Sunday we have church and I keep waiting to see some animals to bless. The service ends and the Bishop and others process out to the courtyard. I’m thinking the animals must be waiting outside, we can’t celebrate the blessing of the animals without animals. Well there were no animals outside. I was so disappointed. In Haiti most of the dogs and cats are strays and aren’t taken care of but I really did think some cows or goats or even a flamingo would make it out to be blessed. Later that day we were talking to the Bishop about pet blessings in America and he laughed with a smile that seemed like he was thinking how crazy we Americans are.

The next day we came back to Port au Prince and I was so happy to be back. My island party was nothing like I had expected and was exhausting. Although I didn’t have the fun in the sun I had hoped for it was a good chance for me to be exposed to various issues in Haiti such as rural life, roads, environmental issues like trash and the treatment of animals. It was also a great chance for me to learn more about partner relationships in Haiti and how they can be used and grow to benefit both sides of the partnership. Lastly I really did appreciate spending more time with the Bishop, seminarians and others who I will be spending this year working with.

Heads up…I promise in my next entry to share more about where I’m living and my responsibilities etc. And please let me know if there is anything you would like to hear more about.

Holding Haiti at La Gonave

Monday, October 5, 2009

My first few days...what a whirlwind

I am sorry that it has been so long since the last time I wrote. I have now been in Haiti for more than a week and have probably spent more time outside of Port au Prince than I have actually spent in it. I was recently on the Isle de la Gonave and had an interesting time but I will write more about it on my next post. First I wanted to give you an impression of my first few days in Haiti.

Things have been very busy here since my arrival. There was a small mission group that arrived the same day as me that was staying at my new apartment which added to the craziness. The adjustment has been a little rough but that’s normal when getting used to a new place and thankfully I have been able to take some of the lessons of adapting to new cultures that I learned in Uganda and apply it here…the biggest one being patience both with myself and my new country.

My first Sunday I went to St. Trinite Cathedral which has these beautiful Haitian wall paintings that depict stories from the Bible but place them in a Haitian context. Very Cool. I also met the first and currently only female priest here and she is really cool. I know we exchanged this look of understanding in communion before I even had a chance to meet her.

Monday I went to a blessing of new classrooms for St. Vincent’s which is a school for those that are handicapped or have some sort of disability.

Later that day I was off to St. Etiennes which is a small church in the mountains about an hour outside Port au Prince. There was a program to train the Sunday School type teachers (called monitors) and a Vacation Bible School that Kyle (the missioner I am currently staying with) and the small group of mission trip-ers were doing. Being in the mountains was beautiful and it seemed like a church in the sky. The hospitality of the priest and his wife there was wonderful too.

Tuesday night I was back in Port au Prince and bright and early Thursday I was off to Ile de la Gonave, which I will post about in the next couple of days. So far it has been a whirlwind of new experiences and I’m just trying to keep up. I am anxious to feel comfortable here and to know my way around. I feel confronted already with a lot of challenges such as working on my French, learning Creole, finding my way around town, figuring out how to get food…so many things

I will try to elaborate on a lot more throughout my time here but let me know if you have any questions or if theres anything you want me to post about!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I'm Here!

I got to Haiti safely with an interesting flight including me holding my water bottle in my lap (it leaks and I didn't want it to leak on my bag) So I'm holding it and fall asleep and when I wake up the water bottle has leaked all over my front and it looked like I wet my pants on the plane. I was so afraid I would show up and still have a wet skirt and that that would be the first impression I made here...I'd be that girl. Luckily it dried.

Now I'm busy taking in everything I have to learn and trying to get acclimated as fast as I can and feeling slightly overwhelmed but I'm sure it will be fine in a couple weeks.

I will try and write more later once I have more to say

Monday, September 21, 2009


After being delayed a bit, I am leaving for Haiti this Saturday morning. I want to thank everyone for all of their help, donations and support throughout this process of fundraising and preparing to leave. It has been amazing to experience support in ways I couldn't imagine from both old friends, those I've only just met and even strangers. Leaving for Haiti, I know that I have a whole community of people holding me up so thanks to all of you!

And in case you all were curious about my fundraising, with all the help I received not only was able to meet my $10,000 obligation but it was surpassed! With the extra money I plan on creating somewhat of a discretionary account that I can use to support some sort of project of something that I come across once I’m in Haiti. I will be sure to sure what I end up using it for. It’s been amazing from donations from my home church St. Marks, to my moms in Elmhurst, from Chicago to Ottawa and Northbrook all the way out to Nebraska and West Virginia. Thanks again!

So now I find myself with just a few days before leaving at a chaotic time full of change for my family wondering why I’m leaving and going to Haiti of all places. The past few weeks have been a times full of questions, nerves anticipation, excitement and fear. I keep asking why is this the path that God seems to have laid out for me now, at this time and in this place.

Well yesterday I went to see the 6th Harry Potter movie, again, with my mom. At the beginning of the movie Professor Dumbledore takes Harry from his home to this disheveled house that looks a bit scary. Dumbledore looks to Harry and says You must be wondering why I brought you here.” At which Harry replies, “Actually sir, after all these years I just sort of go with it.”

Maybe now after all these years of incredible experiences in places like Sudan and Uganda I should take some advice from Harry and just go with it and trust God.

So hopefully next time you hear from me I’ll be safe in Haiti having met someone at the airport, gotten settled into my new home and enjoying my first few days. Thanks again for all your prayers and support.

Holding Haiti with thankfulness - Mallory

Sunday, June 28, 2009

This coming year I will be serving in the Diocese of Haiti as part of the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC). YASC is made up of young adults from all over the Episcopal Church who have a desire to serve, and live in companionship with others around the world. YASC participants spend a year working for churches around the world. In my group of YASCers there are people going to Colombia, the Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, Hong Kong, Japan and Ecuador.

YASCers at a training in Toronto

As for me and my journey, I will be going to Haiti. Starting in September, I will be living in Port Au Prince teaching English to seminarians, training youth leaders and doing an assessment of possible microfinance initiatives that could help support education institutions of the Diocese of Haiti.

I am really excited about this opportunity and it is something that I never really expected. Since the end of high school I have been passionate about issues relating to poverty, and issues of peace and conflict in Africa. My passion started in Sudan growing through my visit to the Diocese of Renk in Southern Sudan and was strengthened after spending a semester studying in Uganda. It was out of these experiences that the desire to work against poverty while living in companionship, and growing in faith came about leading me to YASC.

Although I never thought I would end up in Haiti the things that I have already started learning about the country, especially its people, makes me think that it may be exactly the right place for me at this time. Throughout my blog entries I hope to share these things and my experiences but right now what seems to stand out to me most from what I have read is the strength of the Haitian people, despite everything, a strength that I hope to learn from.

Holding Haiti in anticipation - Mallory