Well, there’s my first week done in Haiti, and since it coincided with Christmas here’s a list of 12 gifts I received. It’s been great to be back and to be welcomed by so many people – they’ve all helped to make my “first Christmas away from home” very special.
-hospitality from Silar and his wife
When Adam first asked Silar if I could spend my first few nights in Haiti at his orphanage, he said, “She can stay her whole life if she wants to.” I wish I could – not only did they take really good care of me, but they’re taking good care of all seventy kids that stay there in spite of some very limited resources. It’s really a very special place, home to one of the best XO laptop programs I know.
-inspiration from the kids at Silars’
For example, all the kids are up by five or six for devotion, and then after breakfast they start chores. That means by the time I finally woke up, everyone was already hard at work washing clothes and dishes, sweeping rooms, preparing lunch…When I say everyone, I mean everyone. Even tiny hands can get to work sorting out beans.
-a visit from my old friend Jimmy
The first time I ever left America on my own (as opposed to with a group of volunteers), I interned with the English program at Jimmy’s school. I went in very naïve and I’d like to think I came out a little less after my time there, and the experience was also my inspiration to start exploring computers. It was nice to return the favor almost two years later by bringing Jimmy by Silars’ to show him what a fellow Haitian has been able to do through sheer faith and heart.
-enthusiasm from Hope for Haiti’s Children
Junior, Jeanide, and I visited this orphanage and school to meet with all the key people about the XO program that we’ll be starting there later next month. They’re committed to finding the ideal set-up, time, and people to make everything happen, which is great. I took photos of all their electrical equipment to pass on to their tech guys, plus this one of Junior posing by their bus.
-peace of mind from Robenson
Jameson, one of Project Rive’s teachers, came up Saturday with his brother Robenson (“came up” makes it sound casual: we’re talking about hours and hours on the back of a truck going down dusty, bumpy mountain roads in the hot sun. These guys are dedicated) to get supplies for the solar charging system Robenson will be installing for Project Rive. We got our big battery and solar panel at MSC-Plus and went over the details of setting everything up. Robenson’s handyman dad taught him everything, and then he went on to study plumbing and electricity to learn even more, so I’m pretty happy we were able to find the right man for the job.
-reliability from the XO laptops
We tried out 17 that had been sitting in Junior’s house untouched for over a year and they all turned on and booted up – which means they’ll be making their way soon to schools and students who can use them.
-a girls’ day out from Jeanide
I spent the night with Jeanide, who teaches at Silars’, and asked her to take me shopping for clothes the next morning since I’ve never had the chance to do it in Haiti before. “Are you okay with second-hand things?” she asked. I assured her I was, so Jeanide led me through the throng that is Mache Taba – a street market that was a crowded maze of sellers and buyers looking for bargains on clothes, food, toys for Christmas, and everything in between. I didn’t end up buying anything, but I got a great experience, and Jeanide got some Christmas presents for her family and herself.
-laughs from Jeanide
After the market, we went home, and after flipping through the channels for a while we found a Mr. Bean movie playing on TV. The language barrier wasn’t an issue at all with getting the jokes, and the film’s plot, in which Mr. Bean’s travel plans constantly go awry, reminded me of some of my own crazier adventures getting around in Haiti. The fact that a video camera was a central part of the plot also rminded me that I need to take more pictures – sorry guys!
-a fun night out from Junior
Junior wanted to show me “the real Haiti” so we went out one night in Petionville, a clean, safe, (rich) part of town where it’s okay for a blan to be out at night. We ended up going to one of the parks and watching a Christmas show that featured acrobats, singers, rappers, and a fashion show. The place was packed, but we found a good view standing on a park wall, and I really liked getting the chance to see this piece of Haitian culture – whereas Junior, since he’s an actual Haitian, found a lot of it boring but stuck around because he knew I was having fun.
-special movie night from Kevin and Tammy Groder
This couple recently sold their house to move to Haiti permanently, so this was their first of many Christmases in the country. They invited me to join them for a screening of the 1976 musical version of Scrooge, which they assure me is the best version out there (and they’ve watched them all – it’s a tradition). The songs were stuck in my head for the rest of the day.
-Christmas dinner from the Mission of Hope family
Even on her day off Renee doesn’t really rest – she was up cooking in the kitchen at seven on Christmas morning. Among many other delicious dishes that emerged, we had a “lobster dinner.” The Haitians found it funny that it’s considered an expensive meal in America. Well, it was cheap this time, and as an added bonus I got to eat it with Renee, Lex, their children, and many missionary friends, making it feel like a real Christmas even if there was a distinct lack of snow.
-a gorgeous view from Be Like Brit
I walked all the way up the hill today (they offered to drive me but I wanted a workout) to visit Be Like Brit, an orphanage with a very unique story – after their daughter Britney Gengel died in the earthquake, her parents decided to honor her memory by building the orphanage she wanted to start here one day. As the director Jon explained to me, the goal is to help the “poorest of the poor,” taking kids from very vulnerable situations into an environment where they can grow up to be Haiti’s next leaders. So much has been done to provide for the kids here – including, hopefully, a Sugar course sometime in the near future.
And, just to make this a baker’s dozen, thanks to all of you whose contributions, support, and encouragement helped to make this possible.