I went to Haiti to share the CHE concept with a couple communities. (CHE focuses on enabling local communities to use local resources to solve current problems.) We were located in a rural area among the mountains north of Port au Prince. About a dozen people attended the “vision seminar”, and I felt the people had mixed responses. Some were attentive, inquisitive, and engaged. On the other extreme, one man fell asleep. They were to respond to the local contact by February if they felt this process could be right for their communities and they wanted further information and help; I fully expect two or three people to respond. My plans to present the material in another area of Haiti did not materialize because the pending hurricane prompted us to leave early. I felt like the trip was worth the investment of time, energy, and money.
Those who suffer from insomnia or curiosity may want to keep reading for a more detailed account of the adventure. I will attempt to report just facts. But I added commentary in italics for just a little flavor.
Saturday 30 October – Departing Dayton’s airport at 3am and arriving at the Port au Prince (PaP) airport after dark made for a long day. Collecting bags and getting through Haiti customs went surprisingly well, and we were quickly on our way to our “home” for the next several days. We stayed in the guest house of an orphanage called “All God’s Children”. Some of us rode there in the back of a truck which allowed us to experience the wonderful breeze as well as the not-so-wonderful rain. The entrance into the orphanage required us to ascend an incline comparable to Mount Everest. Maybe a little less. The truck took two tries to reach the “summit”. We quickly claimed our sleeping spots for a good night’s rest. It was a nice place. We had bunk beds, electric, and intermittent running water. Some of the ladies had further amenities, but I’ll withhold my comments. And as far as a good night’s rest, Haitian roosters do not wait for dawn to start crowing.
Sunday 31 October – The group went to two different places for church services. I attended a church on the far side of a major river. This was my first experience riding in a dugout canoe. The river was filthy; our hosts warned us not to not touch the water. However, it appeared that some of the local people did not seem as bothered about the water purity. They were swimming, washing, and playing in the water. I learned that the church building also served as a school building, thus allowing the children to attend a school without needing to cross the river. We used the afternoon to relax, get to know each other, and even take a walk. We had a wonderful meal, and finished the night with some entertainment. The meal included meat, rice, and plenty of it. That night we had fireworks. I’m talking industrial-size stuff. The highlight came when one misfired, made a u-turn back to earth, and crashed into the roof of the dorm. Sparks landed around my feet. It was awesome.
Monday 1 November – This was our first work day, so everybody had a specialized job. I already explained what I did. Others worked with the children, health care, construction, or running errands. The evening offered more opportunity for getting to know each other. One team member told several stories from their days as a student in my classroom and as an athlete when I was their coach. Their memory recalled specifics that I could not recall…or didn’t want to recall.
Tuesday 2 November – Our team devotion time included a prayer request regarding the approaching hurricane. If we planned to leave before the hurricane, it would have to be in the next day or two. If we stayed, we may not get out of Haiti until next week. Most of us had mixed feelings. Factors we had to consider was safety, the completion of our mission, responsibilities at home, etc. Most of us thought an early departure was the best action. After breakfast, I gave another CHE training. One young man thought the training was scheduled for Tuesday – a day late. I was able to complete that training by noon. I spent the afternoon basically looking for work to do. I took some pictures, too. That evening we went to visit a nearby community. The group went in two cars, and our car didn’t depart in time to reach the community until after dark. We never got out of the car. However, the trip leader made sure we got to visit the community; we went Wednesday afternoon. It was an incredible visit. The center of the community was an abandoned piece of equipment used in construction of a nearby dam. It was kind of like walking on the set of the movie Mad Max. I found it so interesting that the children seemed to be natural photo models. Point a camera at them and they suddenly posed for you. Of course they loved to see their picture afterward.
Wednesday 3 November – Several of us worked together on the same project. We prepared and applied cement to some interior walls for a stucco look. It was hot, dirty, and tiring. And I was absolutely no good at applying the material to the wall. Actually, I was pathetic. I admire the ability of the Haitians to do hard physical labor in such conditions. By lunch time, I was tired. I took a little siesta during the heat of the day. During the afternoon, we learned that our flights were changed to a Thursday morning departure in an effort to miss the hurricane. The evening was spent getting packed and organized for the trip home.
Thursday 4 November – Actually, the departure from Haiti was pretty good. We made all our connections and arrived home safely. It was a short trip but a good experience.
Post Trip – We are still making efforts to follow-up on the training. It has been difficult to communicate with those in Haiti, but we have no plans to give up.