Oct 14th 2015


Yesterday we had clinic, Sr. Julian told me about a child she sent to the hospital the day before that was severely malnourished. When clinic closed Bob and I took Sister and Johnny to town to check on the child and have lunch to discuss the upcoming medical mission.

Sister and I went to the hospital first and found the child needed to go to a larger Hospital in St. Marc ( a little over two hours away). The ambulance only went as far as Gonaive (which is an hour away). I suggested that I take the child in the  morning because it was already one o’clock in the afternoon; I was told it was an emergency and the child may not live thru the night if she didn’t get medical care right away. So I said I would take her right away Bob had thing to do at home so he took a moto back to the apartment and Johnny traveled with me.

This child’s whole body was completely swollen, this is malnutrition I have never seen, and frankly don’t completely understand. It was explained to me that the next step was for the skin to crack and there was a real threat the child would have a heart attack. I really want to do research on all this information when I get home and have internet.

The child lives with her grandparent that are obviously very poor people but love their granddaughter a great deal. I was urged to drive as fast as I could over the horrible road to Gonaive. Then the rest of the way to St. Marc is a crazy highway that everyone is driving at about 90 kilometers without any rules. Mentally driving here takes a lot out of you; there is so many things to look out for kind of like in the video games the kids play. We arrived in good time and got the help the child needed, paid for the hospital and prescriptions, leaving the grandparents money for the next few days. It was 5:00pm so we needed to head back. Driving at night is even more difficult and dangerous in Haiti. We made it back safely Bob had waited dinner for us and so we sat down and ate.

On the way back Sister told me she really wanted to open a nutrition Clinic. I told her years ago we had one but the sister in charge of the Clinic was transferred and the Sister’s that came to replace her did not continue the clinic. I agree that a Clinic or Clinics are needed but there are more children born each day that will require these services. The problem needs to be attacked from many different angles. We have already started on trying to improve agriculture so crops will be more successful and family’s will have improved incomes, families having gardens in their yards, and there needs to be education on nutrition. Nutrition is much more than simply giving someone something to eat so they are not hungry. I have heard of mothers melting a candy in water to replace a bottle so the baby will stop crying. I have said many times you see mothers giving their children a piece of sugar cane to replace a meal.  Spaghetti noodles are very cheap here and often this is what a family will eat with a little oil and maybe some onions. These things do not offer nutrition.

So the work continues and each day we gain deeper insight into not only the problems but possible solutions. I have been working on a grant over the last several months. I have had difficulty finishing the grant because I have not had a whole clear picture of what our plan is. We have all these pieces but putting them all together into an end goal has been difficult. But now God has opened my eyes to see clearly how all these pieces are necessary for a whole. We cannot bring about a lasting change without all of these pieces becoming the way of life here.

Thank you for your interest and your prayers,


West of the Equator

IMG_1114Interesting tidbits from working a Haitian construction crew.

We are in the process of building a pavilion and small warehouse at the Fr. Jim Bretl Agriculture Center.

Two days before the project was scheduled to start, the “Boss”, Boss Julien, came and told me that there was a problem. The men he had hired refused to work because we were using a different “Boss” than we had used when we built the foundation. In Haiti, it is not acceptable to change “Bosses” on a job once it has been begun.  Even though there has been a two-year interlude, this project is considered the same job.

When we hired the first “Boss”, Boss Julio, to work on the pavilion, we first paid him to estimate the job cost so that we could seek funding. When we raised the money for the foundation, we hired him to build the foundation. It has taken two years to raise the funding for this phase. In the meantime Fr. Gracia has replaced Fr. Jadotte as pastor of the parish.

There is a saying here that each river has its own rocks, meaning that each leader has his own people. Boss Julien is Fr. Gracia’s choice. But another dynamic in this culture, a culture that is deeply steeped in fear, there is a common belief that voodoo is involved when someone leaves a job, whether it through their own decision to quit, or they are fired because of incompetency, or because of illness or death.

Many times once a “boss” leaves a job, no one is willing to take the job. They fear consequences, and sometimes there are, people have even been killed.

Boss Julien asked us if we would explain to Boss Julio why we were not hiring him. We told him that he would need to talk to Fr. Gracia.  Fr. Gracia had told me he would be in Port au Prince at the time, so I phoned him and he did not answer. I then sent him a text, telling him that it was very important to call me. He did not respond.

When Fr. Gracia did not return my phone call, I agreed to talk to Boss Julio and when he came, explained to him that we were not dissatisfied by his work, rather, we were very pleased with his work. I told him that this was Fr. Gracia’s decision. For the record, we paid Boss Julio 300gds a day, and he has much more experience than Boss Julien.  Boss Julio agreed to work “under” Boss Julien, so work could be started.

The next day, the day before we were scheduled to begin, Boss Julien came and told Johnny he wanted to talk to me. Johnny has been translating for us. When Johnny found out what he wanted, he warned him it was not a good idea, but Boss Julien insisted. Boss Julien said that he wanted 1,000 gds a day instead of the 650 gds we had agreed on. He also wanted 600 gds for his “under bosses” instead of the 500 gds we had agreed on. Johnny had told him it was a very bad idea to change terms of agreement after we had agreed. But….

To help put things in perspective, Sr. Jackie pays her “Boss” on the construction site for the new hospital 450 gds a day. There are a couple of reasons that we agreed to a premium wage for Boss Julien, the first is that he is Fr. Gracia’s “man”, and Fr. Gracia’s decision, second Boss Julien is traveling from Kalabat, an almost two hour one way trip by moto.

We had paid Boss Julien 500 gds a day to build the shelter roof at our apartment, and we fed him and his helpers. We agreed to the 650gds a day with the understanding that we were not feeding him or the crew. There will be between 6 and 12 workers a day.

When he told me what he wanted, I responded that I was cancelling the project, turned, walked into the apartment and refused to discuss it further.

After a while, Johnny came and told me that Boss Julien wanted to talk to me again, and I told him there was nothing to talk about, but he persisted and I relented.  When I came back out on the porch, he started to talk about wages again and so I turned to go back in the apartment. Before I could go in, he said he wanted to work and agreed to our previous agreement.

I told him, that I say what I mean, I mean what I say, and I do what I say. I expect the same from him. I agreed to proceed with the job. Then as he was leaving, he asked me for money for his moto. I thought that Denise was going to go ballistic. I just laughed and told him “forget about it”.

Johnny and I had ordered all of the materials the previous week, but when the work began, the materials had still not been delivered. The truck we hired had broken down. If you saw the picture I posted on my personal Face Book page, you would not be surprised. The truck was supposed to have picked up the material on Saturday, but because of the breakdown, it was rescheduled for Monday. When the truck showed up to pick up the material, the driver discovered that the storeowner had sold the material the previous day and it would not be back in stock until sometime later that day.

The material did not show up until after dark after Boss Julien and all of the workers had left. It is the “Boss Man’s” job to oversee the delivery of materials. Delise, who manages the center, had stayed at the job site. He called Johnny, and Johnny and Bermane took motos to the center where they hired some local men to unload the truck. Among other things were 130, 94lb bags of cement.

One of our neighbors who is working on the job site came up to me the next morning and said that they are working in concrete, and asked for a pair of rubber boots. I told him that I did not have any, so he asked for a pair of tennis shoes. We do have shoes to distribute, and everyone in the community knows it, but they have not been unpacked and sorted.

We have been waiting for Fr. Gracia, as that has traditionally been his decision as far as distribution. The crates of shoes arrived here in May, and Denise and I have been here for over a month and there are still no plans on distributing them. Denise and I have decided that we will unpack, sort and arrange to distribute the shoes.

When we arrived at the job site, we discovered that when workers are working in concrete, by tradition, we are obliged to purchase food for them. ..

Another day in paradise.

Triple post, we have not had internet access

40This is a little long, but we have not had internet access.

The Vicar General was in Gros Morne Sunday. He came to give the long awaited announcement that areas of Gros Morne and Riviere Mancelle are being combined into a new parish. The areas of Riviere Mancell are Garcin, where we live, and Buchan Richard, where the Fr. Jim Bretl Agriculture Center is located. The areas from Gros Morne include Sr. Pat and Sr. Jackie’s home, the school Sr. Pat oversees in Fonibo, and the area where our friends Elwood and Anita live.

These changes will result in some challenges as well as new opportunities. Denise and I work in duel capacities. Our work began when we visited the parish on a fact-finding mission as representatives of the Parish Twinning Program. The Parish Twinning Program aids in establishing “twin” parishes in the United States with parishes in Haiti. The parish of Riviere Mancelle is “twinned” with four US parishes, including St Gregory, our home parish. Collections from these US parishes are sent directly to the priest to run the parish. The Haiti Project funds and support projects within the parish. The Haiti Project also collaborates with other parishes addressing common problems.

When the idea of forming a new parish first surfaced, Fr. Gracia asked Denise and me what our response would be. Ultimately, he asked us to make a choice between serving the parish of Riviere Mancelle or the new, as of yet unnamed, parish.

Our response was that as part of the Parish Twinning Program, we did not have authority to make any changes concerning the Parish Twinning relationship. As far as we know, we will continue to work with the parish of Riviere Mancelle in that capacity. However, as the Haiti Project, we have relationships with two schools located in the new parish. We will continue to support these schools. We also have been developing the Fr. Jim Bretl Agriculture Center, and in the future will continue to do so. At first, he protested saying we would have to make a choice. Therefore, I asked him if that meant if we chose the new parish, would he refuse money from the Haiti Project for school tuition, lunches, or other projects. His response was a firm “NO”.

There will be challenges as we work through these changes, but I believe that the opportunities that new relationships offer will offset the difficulties we encounter.

The details of the new parish have not been decided as of yet. We do not know where the central church will be located, but the new priest will be diocesan, and that he will be in place by January.


From Denise.

September 24, 2015

This week started out well. We had a very good visit in Kalabot. Our welcome was very warm, there is always good food, and many friends came to visit. We were able to discuss a number of issues with Fr, Gracia. On Saturday there was a meeting of the Leaders from the different areas of the parish. During this meeting we were able to explain the changes we would like to see in the Sponsorship program, and school lunches.

We have suggested three changes in the Sponsorship program. These changes became evident to us as we have lived here and worked amongst the people .I don’t think many people anywhere truly appreciate things they receive for free, so it will become mandatory for parents of sponsored children to work at  the school, such as in the garden, cleaning, helping to prepare the lunches, and maintenance. I have seen in the US the parents being involved in the school as being positive for all .The second change is the child’s attendance; they need to have a good attendance record. The third item is they have to pass the previous year. There are too many children that want to go to school, and are not able, to waste resources on children that are not trying. I explained to the people in the meeting that the reason for the program is to build a better Haiti. Bob included the program was to create leaders for the communities.

Our lunch program has had its challenges. The Haitian government made a decision last year that private schools will not receive food from The World Food Program. We have heard many assumptions but do not know why this decision was made. There is food received from Food for the Poor but this would not even feed the children for a month. The Sisters of the Divine along with several Parishes collected over 22,000.00 US dollars for the program this year. We have over 800 children and staff to feed 181 days even at .25 a meal, we will still be short of funds to feed the children every day. So instead of the traditional meal of Beans and rice and red sauce with dried fish we are changing to the rice and beans one day a week and then serving soup another and bread and peanut butter a third day. We still will not be able to feed the children every day, so we have decided every other day will be the best choice. Some of the children may not receive anything to eat over the weekend, so feeding them on Mondays and Fridays will be important. At the meeting we expressed the importance of gardens at each school, and buying locally produced food to help the local farmers.

Thank you for your interest and your prayers,


October 5th


The clinic we opened last spring has slowly declined in participation. The first day we saw over fifty people, now there are maybe one or two. So last week Sr. Julian asked me if she could close the clinic, because she does not even raise enough money to pay for her moto. She explained that when the medical team comes, or when I was here and helped in the clinic, people will come, but when it is just her or her assistant people do not come. So I told her it was up to her, if she needed to close the clinic then that’s what she needs to do.

Then a woman brought in her twins that were born last spring. They had congestion and were malnourished. The mother could not breast feed and cannot afford the formula they need. She has an enlarged heart and is weak.  The twins needed to go to the hospital. Then there was a man who had a bad hernia and enlarged testicles, he also needed to go to the hospital. While I was preparing to take these people to the hospital in our truck, another woman came to the clinic. She had been in the hospital for 21 days, but could not afford the prescriptions so she was still sick. Sister asked me to help her, she is a young mother. So we had her load up also.

Going to the hospital in Haiti is totally different than in the US.  Each service is paid for before it is granted. So you stand in line to pay the cashier for the consultation. Once the twins were admitted I had to go back to stand in line to pay for their prescriptions and lab tests. The prescriptions were written not only for the medications but also for the IV fluid, needles, and volume controller for the IV.

I then went to the Pharmacy to get the prescriptions filled; although she gave me two bottles of IV fluid she only gave me one needle, tubing and controller kit. I told the lady that there were two babies but she said no this was correct. So Okay, she then told me to go to the lab and pointed to the next door which said lab. I went in to the room and gave the woman in charge the papers and receipts showing they were paid for.  She then started yelling at me. (People everywhere think if you don’t understand what they are, saying it louder will help). I understood the Creole I just didn’t understand how I could get pee-pee from the babies.

The admitting nurse spoke good English so I tracked her down to ask her how I was suppose to get the urine from the babies. She explained that the lab didn’t know the babies had been admitted and wrote something on the lab request and told me to return to the lab. Once again they were not happy with me and told me I was in the wrong place.

Now keep in mind it is very hot and all of this has taken hours. Haitians did not go to kindergarten and don’t stand in line and wait their turn, they push in front of you. When I caught on to this I thought Ok,ay I am from Detroit and I can be just as aggressive. Finally the lab assistant realized I really didn’t know where to go and she showed me a little shack in the court yard of the Hospital. This is where they gave me to plastic cups to get the pee pee.

So I returned to the mother who now had two crying babies I took one of them and she dug out a bottle from her bag, it had what looked to me to be some kind of tea in it. I then gave her money, and the woman that came with the man with the hernia, went to buy the babies milk.

I then went to the administrator of the hospital to set up an account so the babies would be cared for while I was in PAP for the rest of the week. All of this took over three hours to accomplish, but I thanked God that for the most part my Creole got me through the process.

I then returned to the truck and Bob and I decided we needed more Haitian goudes for our trip the next day to PAP. So I went to go into Fonkoze, the bank, they had just closed, but the man let me in anyway. There were several people so I had to wait over an hour for my turn. Exchanging money is a trip in its self; the exchange rate that day was a little over 52 goudes to the American dollar. So you get this big pile of money. I asked her if she had a sack. She pointed to my back pack but this is a big pile of money and to just shove it into your back pack didn’t seem like the best idea. So she got me a large envelope and I put the money in it then the back pack.

When I returned to the truck Bob was relieved nothing had happened to me, because I had been in the ban for an hour and a half. We happily were heading home when we saw Sr. Julian coming down the road on a moto. We stopped and she needed us to go get a lady who was in labor. She needed to go to the hospital. They had called an ambulance, but it had not come yet. So we went to the ladies house, loaded her and several family members in the truck, then proceeded back to town. Just as we got to town we met the ambulance. The woman, Sister and the family piled into the ambulance. We were relieved because she needed to go to Gonaive which is an hour each way over a very bad road.

I mentioned to Sister that I thought God was telling us he didn’t want the clinic to close.

Thank you for your interest and your prayers,