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Thursday, 05 April 2012 16:09

Haiti Trip, February 2012

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On Valentine's Day with my brother, Eric, and I left New York for Haiti. We had to spend the night in the Fort Lauderdale airport. The next morning, we boarded the plane for Port-au-Prince where we were met at the airport by the faithful driver of the hostel, Matthew 25, where we were staying. On landing in Port-au-Prince I noticed that the tent cities around the airport have diminished in numbers since I had seen them a year before. However, the roads have not improved nor have the crowds diminished.

Matthew 25 is a great place to learn about Haiti and to get caught up in current events. An interesting person we met was a native from Jeremie now living in the Boston area. He gave us info about our destination such as Jeremie is called the breadbasket of Haiti and it is the Haitian capital of poets. It was also wonderful reconnecting with Sr. Mary and Nancy, friends from my last stay at Matthew 25.

On Feb 16th we took a small plane to Jeremie where we were to work for two weeks. The flight was a delightful 45 minutes, flying low along the coast of Haiti which gave us a beautiful view of the blue waters of the Caribbean. Shortly after leaving the capital the coast turned a lush rich green which is a big contrast to the dry brown deforested area around Port-au-Prince.

We were met at the Jeremie airport by Renate Schneider the coordinator of "Haitian Connection" a multi project organization which includes education, health and housing for Haitian women. Renate has lived in Jeremie for many years. You can find her many contributions on the web site at " Welcome to Haitian Connection-Koneksyon Ayiti" and at http://universitynouvellegrandanse.org

Jeremie is a hilly coastal town of about 31,000. We found it to be a very friendly city. We felt very safe here and spent hours just walking the streets and exploring. Many of the people who knew a bit of English wanted to talk to us. The young people were especially interested in us and we in turn learned a lot about Haiti and its people by taking time to share. With a bit of French and a few words of Creole I can get along. Eric with his charm, facial expressions and pantomime communicated with everyone. The schools are functioning (credit to the new government) and we were very impressed by the clean, colorful and well pressed uniforms worn by students on their way to class every morning.

We stayed at the guest house of the University Nouvelle Grand Anse. We were very well cared for by an excellent cook, housekeeper (who also did the laundry) and a gardener. The guest house was an excellent place to meet people who worked at the university. We spent hours in the evening learning about the country, history and culture of Haiti. Two Maryknoll Affiliates from Wisconsin, Ann and Jim Coady, were into their third week of teaching at the university when we arrived. They quickly made us feel at home.

Each day we went by jeep to the university. Eric and I helped Ann who taught English. We divided the students into groups of five or six. It was a very satisfying experience as the students were very eager to learn and had many questions about our American and Canadian life, especially its politics.

The first weekend we were there, Renate brought us to the local market where we found an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. There were also dry products which had just come off the boat from Port-au-Prince. It is a very, very busy market and for those not familiar with such crowds it was a little overwhelming.

The same day Renate introduced us to Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity who administer a home for children. Ann, Renate and I held the little ones and helped feed them. Eric went off to the older children and they had a great time doing hand games, marching and dancing. Eric and I returned twice more to spend time with the children. The sisters and the staff are very welcoming and the children are well cared for. The last Saturday Renate treated us to a swim in the Caribbean. If you have never swum in the Caribbean you must try it. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end so after two weeks we had to return home. But there will be work to do again in the future.

Is there anyone ready to join me on my next trip to Haiti during the winter 2013?

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