Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving,

I am thankful to be an American. In the United States I not only live in a country of abundance, I live in a country of excess. I am thankful that I am thankful. I am thankful I am learning not to complain.

I am thankful I have choices. I choose to leave my comfortable abundant life for extended periods of time, to live where there is not enough to go around. I choose to live with the poorest of the poor. I choose to live where there are hungry children outside of my door, day and night. Children asking for shoes. I choose to live where babies around me die of malnutrition because their mothers do not produce milk, and there is no money for formula. I choose to live where, if there is formula, it is often mixed with untreated water, bringing sickness and death.

I choose to live where often I have to carry spring water in a five gallon bucket, to which I add Clorox to make it safe to drink. I am thankful to have access to this water. Many living close to me do not, they drink untreated river water.

I am thankful that I have solar electricity to power my cell phone and laptop and to provide lights in the evening. I am thankful that we have smartphones to email our children and grandchildren. We miss them terribly while we are here.

My neighbors gather at night to take advantage of our lights, and plugging in their portable radio to listen to a soccer match. They are thankful, there are no other sources of electricity in our village. I have to be diligent, watching for neighbors who try to sneak an extension cord into one of our outlets to charge their cell phones (Yes, even here, cell phones prolific). We do not have enough solar power to share on that level.

I am thankful for the small electric camping fans that draw so little electricity that we can run them all night. They not only offer relief from the stifling heat, but the white noise they produce drowns out the Voodou drums that sometimes go on 24 hours a day, for days at a time.

I am thankful we have Cipro, the drug needed to treat cholera. I am thankful that we have Chloroquine, to treat malaria. I am thankful that we have aspirin, to treat a headache or reduce a fever.

And I am thankful that we have these to share with our neighbors. Their only other source is a five kilometer walk down the mountain, if they have the money. I am thankful I have not contacted cholera, malaria, or TB. Denise had malaria one time and she was very sick.

I am thankful that I eat every day. My neighbors do not. Most days I have a bowl of soup for breakfast, and beans and rice for supper. Most meals we share with friends who would not eat otherwise. Often we do not finish all of the food because we know that there are young boys outside of our door, hungry.

I am not a genius or have an advanced formal education, but I did receive the proper nutrition when I was young so that my young brain developed while I was in school. I am thankful for that.  I was taught problem solving skills. I learned at a young age the power of hard work. In raising my family I learned about using what I had to provide for my family, rather than complaining and asking for a handout. I am thankful for that.

So, what difference does it make that I sacrifice my life of comfort, to spend my life living alongside those who are trapped in grinding poverty?

 

I believe in helping ease the burden of people who have never had any of the advantages that I have had. Sometimes easing that burden is just living next to people, sharing in their daily lives, showing compassion and offering a helping hand.

Actions speak loud. Kindness fosters hope. Hope is the seed of dreams, dreams are the foundation of vision, and faith gives strength and courage to follow the vision. Faith is the substance of things hoped for.

I see changes in the friends we have made. Where once they had a vacant look in their eyes, and saw only helplessness, now, I see sparks of life and hope. They have discovered that there are possibilities.

Whereas at one time they constantly were begging for handouts, now they come to us with ideas for projects and ask for us to partner with them. I am thankful that we have the resources to buy beans and rice for a work crew, a work crew willing to volunteer their time and efforts to work on a community project, but do not have the calories needed to perform the work. I am thankful we have tools to loan and resources to buy essential materials.

These people are coming to understand their own value. They are beginning to recognize the gifts that God has given them. They are learning to have faith in themselves. They know that we will do all within our power to work alongside of them, so that they can accomplish the changes that are necessary to improve their lives.  They know that we mean what we say, and do what we say.

But we do not work alone. We are part of the body of Christ. We prayed to be used as his hands and we are thankful for the opportunity. We are thankful for our faith community, and the whole body of Christ who share in this vision.

All of you who know us, know that we raise money for different projects. And that money earmarked for a particular project is used exclusively for that project.

Now we need to ask for your help to support our living expenses as we continue in this work. Denise and I live by faith, we are not wealthy and we do not have a nest egg. We do not have an income. We have given up the opportunities of full time permanent jobs to live and work in Haiti. Our lifelong business did not survive the financial meltdown. For the past three years, different benefactors provided our support. Now we are asking you to contribute.

Most of you have been with us on this journey for many years, you have followed along, sharing our struggles. You know we work diligently to be good stewards of the resources that have been given to us. We promise you that we will continue to maximize the impact of every dollar invested in the Haiti Project.

Please be generous, we hope we have earned your trust and confidence. God Bless you and your family this most holy of seasons.

 

Bob Snyder

The Haiti Project – 3668 Lower Helton Rd. – Alexandria, TN. 37012

PartnerInHaiti.org

 

 

Medical Mission 2015

November 08, 2015

We just returned home from bringing the medical team back to PAP, it was a sad good bye. A team of five people four nurses and a pharmacy helper came from Detroit area, and two Haitian Americans arrived from Delray Beach Florida to interpret. Johnny and Anita were also working as interrupters and myself.  The team arrived last Friday, I drove the team to Kalabot on Saturday and shortly after we arrived the clinic opened.

Patients were seen on Saturday afternoon, Sunday afternoon, all day Monday and Tuesday morning with a total of 290 people seen. On Sunday a young mother brought in a 16 month old baby that had severe asthma, and probably pneumonia, his breathing was greatly restricted. We did not have the medication he needed so I prepared to drive him to the hospital, the mother sent a young girl to her house to get clothes. The young girl returned and said the grandmother and the father would not allow the baby to go to the hospital. The mother then left saying she would get their things and return. While she was gone Anita and I discussed the situation. The mother had told Anita the baby has been hospitalized on two different occasions and was referred to a hospital that was very far away. The father refused to allow the baby to go to this other hospital. Anita knows of a group just this side of PAP that would be willing to help the baby and his mother; they would stabilize the child and then work with the mother so she could be trained to take care of the baby. So Anita and I decided the best thing to do was for me to drive her and the family to Anita’s house, and she would go with her husband to this hospital. Well we waited over an hour and the mother did not return. Then another woman came to get the baby. She said the mother was too ill to return and the baby could not go to the hospital. Fr. Gracia explained to us that the family practiced voodoo and that was why they did not allow the baby to receive medical care. We cautioned the women that the baby could die and Gene (our Haitian friend) told the women that this was the opportunity to get help for the baby. We had a truck to take the baby and a place to take him to get the help he needed. She just left with the baby.

The next day they sent a family member to tell us they wanted us to take the baby, but Bob had come to get the truck and Anitia, so we no longer had the truck; there is no telephone service in Kalbot so I could not call Anita to make arrangements to take the baby. We told the family that on Wednesday we would be going to PAP and she could meet us in front of the Hospital and we would take her then.

Monday night after we closed clinic we returned to the rectory for much needed relaxation and something cold to drink. While sitting in the court yard waiting for dinner a young girl was carried into the court yard. She was about 15 and at first we thought she was having a seizer, her eyes were rolling back, and she was foaming at the mouth and talking incoherently. The medical team jumped to action but could not discern what was going on. Gene and Mariette the Haitian Americans that traveled from Florida took over and started to pray over her. Fr. Gracia had us go into the house and begin eating. He seemed rather embarrassed. Gene came in and explained the girl believed her uncle had put a voodoo spell on her. Father ate quickly and went back out to the girl. I was helping to clear the table and saw him out in the court yard praying and soothing the girl. He had the girl stay at the rectory the rest of the time we were there.

On our final day of clinic Gene and Janine climbed the mountain to go to Gene’s parent’s house, they are in their nineties and are not able to come to the clinic. One of the nurses had caught a stomach virus and could not come to help so we were down three people. Many people came to be seen and we were swamped. I ask Sr. Julian (the Haitian nurse) to see patients also and she was glad to help. One of the American nurses called me over, she had a baby who was very swollen, his belly and his arms and legs. He cried anytime you touched him, she had not seen a baby in this condition before and was not sure how to help him. I called Sr. Julian over and was confirmed the baby was suffering from severe protein malnutrition. We wrote a letter to the hospital to see him at my expense and the mother left. I told Sr. Julian if the child needed to go to St. Marc we could take him the next day and to meet us in front of the hospital at 10:00 in the morning.

 

Late afternoon we returned to our apartment I prepared dinner and we had a relaxing evening. The next morning we left for PAP. Our first stop was the hospital to look for the children and their mothers. Neither of the children were there. Gene and I went into the hospital to look for them. Gene asked around and found out the malnourished baby had been there, they could not help her and sent her to Gonaives, and the mother of the baby did not have any money so a doctor gave her the money for the motto to get to the hospital.

 

We then went to an office that helps malnourished children to see if they had a phone number for the mother, they did not. So we dropped Gene off at a relative’s house and went to join Anita and Elwood. The whole team would not fit inside our truck so some people road with them.

 

On our way to PAP we stopped at the hospital in Gonaive to see if we could find the malnourished baby and his mother, we could not find them. So Anita said I had done all I could do and we should just continue to PAP. The medical team treated us to a day at the beach what a wonderful gift it was. It is a side of Haiti we never get to enjoy. The relaxation was very renewing for us to go back to work.

 

I sincerely want to thank all who participated to help the people we serve. They gave a lot of themselves without complaining treating many sick people, under difficult conditions. I am sure they will all be blessed for their hard work.

 

Thank you for your interest and your prayers,

Denise

 

P.S. The malnourished baby got to St. Marc for the help he needed, I was able to send money to the family so they could eat and buy the prescriptions the baby needed.

 

Sr. Julian and Denise preparing for new medical clinic. Johnny in background.

A Poem

Choices

 

Limits, Boundaries, borders, fences, walls, guardrails.

Freedom, servitude, slavery, bondage.

Arrogance, humility.

Freewill.

 

Jesus loves the little children of the world, red, yellow, black and white, Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Jesus loves me.

NO, ME!

Choices.

 

A child is ill, very ill. Few choices. Tradition, based on superstition and fear. A new option, western medical team. The nurse, unable to deal with the life and death crises in the remote mountains, arranges to transport the child to modern hospital.

Offer is made, mother agrees and leaves to pack for journey, does not return. Grandmother says no, tradition is better.

Next day, mother changes mind and arranges to meet team and transportation. Does not show.

Has the grandmother refused again, or was it too late? It no longer matters. Free will.

The nurse weeps.

 

Grace offered, grace refused. Free will.

Jesus wept.

 

40

An open letter to my grandchildren (and yours)

Denise and friends watching Bob photograph students.

October 27, 2015

Dear grandchildren,

I am writing this to all my wonderful grandchildren and if you would like to share it with the children in your life maybe it will give them an understanding of life in other places. I want you to know how much I miss you, and think of you all the time. I wonder how school is going? What are you going to be for Halloween? There is no Halloween here, for Christmas people visit family, but there is no Santa Clause, or gifts, no big meal. They also do not have the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy.

One of the things that stand out to me is many of the children wear clothes that may have Dora, Sponge Bob, Spiderman, or a Disney character. These children have no idea who these characters are, they have never seen TV, movies, or they do not have storybooks. Often we would consider what they are wearing to be pajamas, but to them who would have special clothes you only sleep in, and why would they be so pretty?

Children here in Haiti live in what they call a Kye A kye is very small not much bigger than maybe your bedroom , some may be as big as your living room. They may have a grass roof or a tin roof; they may have cinder block walls, woven stick walls or woven leaf walls. It is hot here so they don’t worry about getting cold. All the family lives in the Kye, the grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and many cousins. Mostly they may only have one or two beds and many people sleep in one bed or grass mats on the ground, a Kye does not have a floor. Most Kyes do not have electricity or running water.

The kitchen is a small building outside, and has a fire for cooking, The cooking fire is often smoky, so it makes your eyes water and it also makes you cough. It does not have a table, or cabinets. There generally is not a bathroom or an outhouse. You would go to the river for a bath or wash up in a bucket, if you did not live close to a river.

Children carry water from a faucet on the road or in the village. Small children (3 to 5 years old) carry maybe a gallon jug, larger children will carry five gallon pails on their heads. This is the water for everything the family needs, cooking, cleaning, and bathing. The water is not purified like we have and sometimes everyone gets sick from the water. It is kind a like camping all the time, but not in a nice camp ground.

If you are lucky enough to get to go to school, (many children cannot) your school would not have electricity, so no lights, no air conditioning, no computers, and no movies. They do not have desks; there are long benches that you sit on that has a top board to use for writing, many children share a bench. There are not cafeterias in the schools, so if there is food served you bring your own bowl and spoon and eat in the classroom. Some kids have to share a bowl and spoon so they would have to wait for their brother or sister to finish eating to get to eat themselves. Every day that food is served it is usually the same thing. Rice and Beans with a red sauce.

Your class room would not have pretty posters on the walls. Your school books would not have lots of nice pictures. The children do not have books to read for pleasure. They have to learn to read and speak French to understand their school work.

Recess is a favorite time, the children don’t have a playground, but they play in the school yard. They like children everywhere like to chase each other, the boys like to play soccer (they call it football) and the older girls like to jump rope. Usually they don’t have a real jump rope they just have whatever rope or sting they can find. If they don’t have a real ball they play soccer with a bottle, or some ones shoe becomes the ball. The children don’t have cleats anything becomes a goal, usually two big rocks. But they have a lot of fun playing.

The children do not have toys, but anything can become a toy. A plastic bag becomes a kite, a plastic bottle becomes a car. Other than the school uniforms the children have whatever for clothes and many do not have shoes. Often you see young children that are naked. But there are always many children to play with and families are very close to each other.

Families do not have cars, very few parents have jobs. Most commonly the father has a big garden, may be some goats, chickens, and if the family is lucky a donkey. The mothers carry big bowls on their heads of fruits and vegetables to sell in the market, If it has been a good market day then the family will have dinner, but if not your dinner could be a piece of sugar cane, or a piece of fruit, some children don’t get anything to eat.

Even though life is so much different here, than what your life might be, the children are happy, they have a family that loves them. They are loved in their communities and everyone looks out for them. They have never even heard of Mc Donald’s so they don’t miss going, they have never seen play grounds, toys or movies so they don’t miss them either. They are happy with the way their lives are , they maybe wish they weren’t hungry but they always have been hungry so maybe that is normal too.

I am thankful that all of you have such wonderful lives, full of so much opportunity. I just pray that you take advantage of all that is offered to you, learn all you can and become the person God intended you to be.

 

May God bless you ,

Bobchi ( Denise)

P.S. Can’t wait to see you at Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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