March 23, 2016 Leaving Haiti again Time has flown by, we have been here since the beginning of January but it seems like weeks not months. We have been able to accomplish a lot on this trip. Having more language skills, is helpful, understanding the culture better, and having a support group to work with helps the most. It takes time to be accepted within any community. But we both feel much more a part of both the Haitian community and the Americans that are also working here. We have many good friends both Haitian and American. The first trips that we stayed here for an extended period of time were very lonely, also depressing. We felt like we were making very little progress, but really it just takes time. Now we have invested the time we can see real progress being made. The buildings at the Center that include the pavilion we built last fall, a house for a guardian, an office a storage facility, an outdoor kitchen under roof, and a composting toilet should all be finished this week before we leave. We have also had the gates to our compound and the center painted so they wont rust away. We facilitated two successful workshops that we know the education given will have a life of its own. We helped Father Gracia with some organizational issues he was having problems with. So it has been a busy three months. This is only the major accomplishments and does not include all the everyday challenges we faced. When I leave the US to come to Haiti I always feel sad to leave family and friends. With my new smart phone and being able to message it makes it easier to stay in touch. But of course we miss out on many things we wish we could be home for. Leaving Haiti is also sad there is so much we are in the middle of, that will probably not progress without our direction. The people here just live to survive today and dont have much vision for tomorrow. We share our dreams for the Center with them but they just dont have the education or experience to go forward without guidance. We have no idea what is in store for us or when we will be able to return so it is harder to leave. There is also the relationships here that are hard to leave, as you can imagine the other Americans and Bob and I have formed tight bonds, we let off steam together, rally each other when we get down and discouraged. Provide a reprieve from our work by sharing a meal and an evening of English. I will greatly miss these friends. Everyone depends on funding so everyone understands and we pray for each other. Going home is exciting, our daughter just found out she is expecting her first child right after we got to Haiti. I look forward to being with her and our son in-law for the beautiful time of their life. One of my best friends had a double bypass surgery just a couple of weeks ago and I am anxious to see her. Of course I cant wait to see all of my children and grandchildren. The grandchildren have always grown so much both physically and mentally. Then there is the conveniences of American life that will be nice to get back to. It is a blessing to have such richness in both parts of our life. We will hit the ground running when we return. Bobs father will come to stay with us for a couple of weeks a few days after we get home. We will be working on the shipping container for the parish twinning program a week after we return. We are expecting friends to visit in the beginning of April. We also need to find jobs to support ourselves until we can find funding to continue our work here in Haiti. So there is never a dull moment. We will begin packing up the apartment. We take the solar panels down off the roof and store them in a locked room. We also take the wash tubs in and I have already started giving my flowers away. All of our summer clothes are here so we will need to pack all of them. We also have more suitcases here in Haiti than at home so we will have to figure out a way to bring back as many as possible. We just got contacted by American Airlines that they located our missing bag. The one that never showed up since we have been here. We are not sure where to have them deliver it now we are leaving on Monday. Looking forward to seeing many of you while we are in the US, Thanks for your interest and your prayers, Denise
March 22, 2016
While here in Haiti last fall I was involved in many cases of severely malnourished children. Two of which were so severe that they were hospitalized for Koshcores (a lack of protein that causes major swelling in all the body parts). The swelling can cause the child to have a heart attack and untreated will result in death. There are many children that with lesser degrees of malnourishment and all the children are probably under nourished. We have the school lunch program that is helping the 750 children that attend our five schools. But there are many other children that cant attend our schools. So another solution was needed. I thought about how our agricultural workshops were reaching so many people, how the people seemed to be so hungry for the information and how they were putting the information to use. Giving a workshop on nutrition could be a good venue for reaching the mothers. I believe it is Gods plan that mothers are bonded to their children and really want what is best for them. If these mothers dont know about nutrition how can they provide their families with what they need? There is also the fact that these families are very poor and cannot afford a lot of food. I made the decision to provide the opportunity to the women to come to a workshop on nutrition. Providing a class on nutrition that included ideas of how these nutrients could be provided with in their income level. Also encouraging them to grow small gardens in their yard, giving them with some seeds for some of the plants we discussed. Also there was a third session on sanitation practices that would help with the health problems the families face, and environmental issues that challenge their health. One of the sessions were led by a woman working here that is originally from France, she along with three Haitian women discussed the nutritional needs of the family and how they might fulfill these needs with things they could afford. They also talked about the health concerns of not eating a healthy diet. The garden session was led by a Haitian Nun we work with, a agricultural technician, and another Haitian woman that has an agricultural back ground. The third session was led by a Haitian woman that is also a agricultural technician, and a American volunteer. I think it is important that these messages are given by Haitians for many reasons beyond just language skills. One of our main goals is to empower leaders in the communities, and I think that people receive new ideas better from other people in their communities. The response was wonderful. We had over one-hundred women with the leaders the first day and about a total of ninety the second day in a different location. The woman sang and asked questions they seemed very engaged. A healthy traditional vegetable stew was served for lunch made by my friends here in Garcin. None of the cooks asked for money I was very impressed by that and paid them anyway. The total spent to educate 200 women was $200.00. I know we got a lot of bang for the buck. Last night I asked the ladies that work for us if they have heard any feedback about the workshop. They did the cooking and did not attend the sessions but they knew a lot of the information that was presented. They told me the ladies are all talking about the workshop and are really hoping there will be more workshops. I assured them if I am able to return there will be. While I was reading many articles preparing for the work shop I ran across two reports that assured me this as the right approach. One was on an international summit held in France concerning donors to the agriculture projects in Africa; they were calling for mandatory nutrition programs to accompany all agriculture projects. Another assurance came from a Report from the World Food program specifically reporting on the malnourished and under nourished problems in Haiti. The report listed the first cause for the problems are the lack of education on nutrition and the first solution being education on nutrition. I think we are on the right track. These reports also stated that economic change cannot happen as long as most of the population is malnourished or under nourished. The people just dont have the brain, or physical development to make the necessary changes. They also dont have the calories to work a full day. So here was another two days in the life of working in Haiti, Thank you for your interest and your prayers, Denise
Life for an American in Haiti March 4th 2016 Haiti is a beautiful country, especially in the Northern area where we work and there are some trees. Then there are the beaches with the white sand and beautiful blue water of the Caribbean. Unfortunately many of the beaches have trash floating in the water so developing a tourist trade could prove to be difficult. Trash is a major problem here. They dont have any plan for the disposal of waste so it is all over the streets. Up here where we live in the mountains the people buy very little that comes in containers, so you dont see as much trash, but you can smell the plastics burning on a daily basis. The village we live in would be hard to explain or to tell the population. There are small kyes (houses) everywhere. I once said to a visitor that it is like living in a camp ground and he corrected me that it was more like a refugee camp. We are the only people in the area that has indoor plumbing, and electricity. Although our solar electric is a very small system and we have very limited electricity, we still have lights and can charge our cell phones. It is also very noisy here in Haiti. There are the roosters, the children playing ,crying , adults talking, people arguing, voodoo drums, soccer games on radios, school children reciting, and when someone dies the keening, My friend who is also working here, said the Haitian people do not have TV , movies or books so they have to have the drama in their lives. I think this is very true. Since last fall, water has been very limited in our village. There is an organization, OXFAM, that is working on rebuilding the cistern that holds the water for the village. Hopefully when they are finished there will be more water available. We have to be very aware of the water we use and try to be conservative as possible. I use wash tubs to do laundry and have a wonderful hand crank wringer. This is considered a washing machine. I cook using small pieces of wood on a small rocket stove, which is equivalent to only having high, on one burner. I also have a small solar oven. I love the solar oven but you have to have sun. Here on the island, you have to use it in the morning, most afternoons are cloudy. I only cook on the weekends usually so this is all ok. We dont have enough solar electricity to have a refrigerator so we have an ice box. We buy a large block of ice about every four days. It is very hot here, although we have had a few days when the temperature dropped into the low 70s. Then everyone was in sweatshirts and jackets. Mostly it is in the 90s and very humid. Because it is an island there is a breeze most of the time. There are political problems here like in most countries. The difference here is the only voice the people feel they have, is to stage protests. These can become violent and people can be killed. We have a website we check were other Americans that are working here report on the area where they live, or are traveling through if there are any problems in that particular area.. Haiti does not have reliable media; there is no local news station, or even a national news station. There are no daily news papers. They dont even have a mail system. There are two cell phone companies and they send out weather alerts if there is a hurricane threatening an area. It is not safe for people to travel by themselves. There are highway robbers, untreated mentally ill people, and disparate people that kidnap other people hoping for a ransom. This is difficult for me as I have always been independent. Shopping is another challenge. Since the earthquake in 2010, there are a lot more foreign people here so Port au Prince now has some stores like we would be used to, but they are very expensive. The other parts of the country have market places. Some of the bigger towns have a grocery store, but you cannot go to the store expecting you will find what you need. Just because you saw it there the last time does not mean they will have it this time. Buying simple things we would consider staples in the US can prove to be a challenge, you could walk the whole market trying to find a battery and then there would be a very special price because you are white or you may not find them at all. The markets are streets filled with venders, our local market has a back section that we recently visited for the first time, and it was like something out of the dark ages. They were slaughtering goats and the mud was mixed with blood. They had goat heads for sale along with the other parts. We have a friend who has problems with his neighbors goats in his garden and we suggested he buy a few heads and mount them on his gate as a warning to his neighbors. He found this to be very funny. This area also had stalls for your voodoo needs. I found it all to be very interesting. The ladies that work for us do most of our shopping but occasionally we do go to the market to buy a few things. The people accepting foreigners are probably like in most places, especially in third world countries. When we go to town there are always people begging, this can get very tire some. Some of the people you can tell really have no choice, but most just look at you as an opportunity. After the three year of living in our village we no longer have people coming to our door asking for money for food, they all know I will only offer them seeds. We help with medical problems and I am the school nurse. As anywhere it takes a while to develop true friendships which we are blessed with many. Now we are blessed with a truck we are much more mobile. The roads for the most part are very bad and my neck suffers from the constant jostling. To get to the main mission we drive thru the river and across beds of rocks (large rocks). It is only about 8 kilometers to the main mission but this trip takes about an hour. Many parts of the mission are not reachable by road and you have to walk. These areas have become difficult for us to visit. I guess it is the same everywhere, to become a part of the community you have to laugh with the people, dance with the people and attend the funerals. I feel that Bob and I are now a part of this community. I am always sad to leave and excited to go home. As I am sad to leave my family but excited to return to our community here where we are so needed. Thank you for your prayers and your interest, Denise s.d.s.
Today we are feeding over 100 women at a nutritional formation workshop for women. For breakfast we are serving peanut butter on bread.
We asked the ladies that were buying the food to buy peanut butter. Instead, they bought fresh peanuts. This picture is Mdm. Fritznel roasting the peanuts. There is a local organization that has a hand crank peanut butter grinder. They processed the peanuts into peanut butter.
This is the new building under construction at the Fr. Jim Bretl Agriculture Center.
When completed it will have three rooms. The room closest to the gate is for a future guardian. The middle room is an office with a sleeping loft. And the small room on the end is an outdoor kitchen.
The really good news is that it is on schedule and on budget!!!
Many, many thanks to the Salvatorians for making this dream come true, and empowering us to pursue it. Again, m’eci.
Life in Haiti February 28th, 2016 We havent been writing as much because we have been very busy. Our funding will end shortly after we return to the US; we will have to find jobs to support ourselves until we can find the funding we need to continue our work here. There is so much to do yet, we feel like we are really starting to make real progress. Our language skills are improving, we have established a solid core of people we can work with, and understand Haitian culture so much more. All of these things have taken time. There is also the aspect of being accepted into the community as people, not just another nonprofit handing out goods for a short time then leaving. Bob and I live with the faith that we have devoted ourselves to Gods work and he will show us the way. I am working on writing a grant and sending out request letters to foundations to find a foundation interested in supporting our work. There are obstacles such as many foundations will not support work with a religious affiliation or grant funds for operating expenses although they are a reality. So these three months we are trying to get as many things accomplished as we possibly can, not knowing when we will be able to return. So far the pavilion is completely finished along with a depot. Now we are in the process of having a house for a guardian, an office, an outdoor kitchen, and composting toilets built at the Center. We received a grant from the JLG of the Salvatorian order to build these buildings. When this construction is finished the Center will finally be ready to open. How the Center will function is still unknown without our input, so far the people dont seem to have the vision or skills to bring the potential of the Center to its ultimate goal. Last week was very uplifting we facilitated agricultural workshops with just under 200 participants. The participants were educated in four areas. The response was great, the people were very happy to gain the knowledge. Some of the people had been to our workshop last fall and reported their successes and failures with the new techniques, encouraging others to try the new ideas presented. There was also information given on two different pests ruining the sweet potatoes and millet crops in the area. I showed a video on growing Vanilla, it was very rewarding to give this information at the Center where you can see vanilla growing on many of the trees. The thing that struck me the most as far as our accomplishments in working here, was none of the participants asked us for money. They were just so grateful for the information being presented. This is a big step in the right direction. The concept of community is not a part of the Haitian culture, they do help each other out but for the most part they live in survival mode trying to make it through each day. I pray the information we were able to present can make positive changes amongst the people here. I will be heading up a second workshop on Nutrition in a couple of weeks. The area we are in malnutrition amoungst all the people is causing many problems. I have helped four children that had such extreme malnutrition that they needed to be hospitalized to stabilize them. The adults do not eat enough calories to work a full day. Pregnant women are under fed so when their children are born they cannot produce sufficient milk, and they dont have the money to buy formula. Not only is the lack of nutrition causing health problems but also it is evident that brain development is also being affected. I know a large part of this problem is families lacking the funds to buy food. But I feel another part is lacking the knowledge of what good nutrition is. The work shop will include classes on nutrition itself, having a garden in your yard, sanitation and health, and also recipes to cook the food they can afford and grow in a more healthy way. I feel like this workshop will greatly impact the health of many of the children and families we serve. I also believe these workshops are teaching the people to fish. I will turn sixty in a couple of weeks and although I dont feel old I do realize the years we have to help here are numbered. Through education we are hoping to leave sustainable changes here so the people will someday not have to rely on outside help. Bob and I have come to understand they do not need hand outs but a hand up. I ask that you pray for us that if Gods work is not finished here he will give us the wisdom on how to continue; if he has other plans for us we will be able to embrace our new vocation. I cannot see the day we wont return here at least for short visits, the schools could not function without the school sponsorships, the children would not eat if not for the school lunch program, the items sent on the shipping container will still need help to be distributed, the center will still need direction. There is not anyone one here with enough training or skills to administrate these programs to their full potential as of yet. But with a few more years I can see where that could become a reality. Thank you for your interest support and prayers, Denise Snyder s.d.s.