(Lynn’s wrap up post from her visit)
I’ve written a lot about the heart-wrenching, emotionally-charged situations I’ve experienced in Pignon—now I want to share updates on positive changes that have occurred at the Children’s home and in Haiti in general. I am SO thankful that I was able to visit again with the timoun and Pastor and Madam – the vast differences between now and when I first visited with Esther 2 years ago are amazing! This trip filled me with encouragement and hope for their and Haiti’s future.
To me, the hugest miracle is: WATER!!!!
- THE CHILDREN CAN GET A DRINK OF WATER WHENEVER THEY WANT!
In 2012, on a hot afternoon, it was heart-breaking to realize the children were waiting for a delivery of clean water. Their well and sketchy generator barely produced enough water for cooking and cleaning. And was not suitable for drinking. It took lots of fundraising on Denny and Abby’s Part ($30,000? Thanks to YOUR donations!) but it was accomplished: the installation of a new well, a new pump, and solar panels to power the pump (solar power also provides lighting at night)!
- PLUMBING TO THE CHILDRENS’ HOME!
Children now have flushing toilets and shower heads for the first time in their lives! During my 1st and 2nd visits, the children had many open sores that were infected, or close to it. Washing regularly was impossible with such a limited water supply. This visit, there were only a couple children with noticeable skin issues, and those were quickly resolved.
- A REAL PLAY AREA!
Previously, surrounding the Childrens’ Home, there was barely enough level ground to place one chair—it was way too rocky, uneven and dangerous for even a game of soccer or jump rope. Carl and Sigi oversaw the construction of a huge, flat, walled playground, right out their front door!
- ORPHANAGE CONTINUES TO GROW
2 years ago there were 33 children, now there are 46! Pastor Francois pretty much accepts any child who is brought to him. The story I shared about the baby “Dinky” came to pass because the uncle, who lives on the other side of the island, had heard about Pastor’s willingness to help. I also witnessed Pastor, over and over, handing small amounts of money to those in need who approached him. He even converted an out building to a residence for a desperate young couple while I was there. Also, as the children get older Pastor is able to help them pay for further schooling (Phillipe 16 and Chelove 18, are now living in Cap Haitian for advanced schooling.)
- AND A VERY VERY IMPORTANT CHANGE IN THE LIVES OF 46 HAITIAN CHILDREN: THEY KNOW THEY ARE LOVED BY MANY IN THE US!
I always wonder whether my spending plane fare to Haiti is the best use of my money…shouldn’t I just donate the money outright? But any doubts I harbor evaporate while the timoun gather close for hugs and affection and assurances that we will return. Every day 6-10 come up to me with the simple question, “Papa Denny? Mama Abby?” They have figured out we’re somehow related to each other. When they ask about “Betsy, Bella?” Papa Mark? Mama Jill? Sista Esta? I tell them “retoonay biento” (return soon), or for Carl and Sigi, who I haven’t met, I answer, “remen ou timoun!” (love you children!). This visit I was able to tell them that we would return in July! Then their question was, “Retoonay Jiye? Papa Denny? Gramma? Betsy Bella?” The older children counted off the months on their fingers for the younger. The children KNOW we will continue to visit them, and not forget them.
- 24/7 DIRECT CARE FOR THE CHILDREN
Before, there was a half time worker who helped with the children. The daily care fell to the older children, some who are only a couple years older, to make sure the youngers ate, got into bed at night, dressed for school etc. Now there are 2 full time “Mamas” who stay in the home with the children. I noticed a dramatic difference right away – when the baby would cry, Mama Nicole immediately popped her head out of the home to check on her. I remember being impressed with the children on prior visits when they would jump to comfort a little brother or sister who fell or fussed. Or when a younger fell asleep in my arms, now the Mama takes her to lay her down. And the Mama called them in to ‘manje’ (eat.). The olders still help with these things, as it should be in any loving family, but the responsibility now lies primarily with an adult.
I also noticed 3 washer women who take care of the piles of laundry – they were singing and laughing with a couple little children sitting amongst them, enjoying the attention. There were part time washers previously but what I noticed this time was that the older girls were not among them, doing the heavy washing.
These wonderful changes are a result of generous donations and monthly support by you LovingHaiti supporters!!!
The town of Pignon, and Haiti itself, in my view, have also shown some great improvements:
- PORT AU PRINCE AIRPORT NO LONGER FEELS SCARY DANGEROUS
I was prepared for another chaotic tug-of-war for my suitcases – it really took determination during prior visits to get through the hustlers wanting to grab our bags for tips or worse.
PAP has erected a whole new building for arrivals…instead of all the suitcases being mounded up on the floor, with no security to assure owners got their bags, now they have a regular baggage carousel like you see at any airport. And security guards even check to make sure your bags match your tags. And no hustlers are allowed in the baggage pick up area. It felt so easy…and safe.
- PAVED ROADS
When Esther and I first visited in 2012, we were disturbed by the sight of children playing in filthy water pools formed on the dirt roads after a rain. Cholera has been a problem in Haiti, exacerbated by lack of adequate drainage. In 2013 I sat and watched intrigued while locals paved the road in front of the Orphanage property—no power tools or machinery were used; they hauled buckets of water and sand on their heads from the river (1/2 mile away) to a hand-cranked cement mixer. It was amazing to watch how quickly the road would get laid. Now most of the streets of Pignon are paved with good drainage.
There was electricity to the major cities in Haiti in 2012, but now the lines drop down into the smaller villages. Power poles have been erected along the major roads and the locals can choose to buy electricity. The power is still very unreliable—it goes out for long blocks of time—so most folks still have to rely on generators or solar power like Pastor does. The orphanage property has lights in the Children’s’ Home, and strung through the trees outside so the children aren’t stumbling in the dark any longer. (To clarify: there’s a hospital in Pignon, and a few businesses that use power – 95% of the homes are huts/shacks with no power, toilets, or running water.) But the village of Pignon now even has streetlights!
I also observed great progress in the public school system. When Pastor and I would drive to Cap Hatien for shopping, we’d leave while it was still dark because the road is SO bad it takes 3 hours to drive 40 miles! The ruts are unbelievable, plus you literally have to drive THROUGH a river at one point! There’s no bridge! So after rains, it is sometimes impassable. (I did meet an Army engineer this trip who is volunteering to build foot bridges over some of the smaller rivers – so there’s hope for further improvements.)
Anyway, back to the schools: it was always impressive/sad to witness the lengths the Haitians go to get their children to school. Each school sports a different bright color of uniform, always clean and neatly pressed—how can they manage that when they are washing clothes in the river or in buckets?? And no electric irons, they use heated coals in a cast iron thingy—girls all have matching ribbons and bows in their hair.
“Shows school children putting shoes back on after crossing river!”
In the dark (6am) we’d see them walking, running, riding donkeys, 5 on a motorcycle, on their way to the nearest school, streams and streams of them along the road. Education is obviously very important to the Haitian, and they take pride in being able to pay the small public school tuition. (there are also private schools like the one at Pastor’s—these would be first choice but more expensive—approx $3 vs $30 per year for primary; $10 US per year vs $100 for secondary.)
This visit I saw beautiful new schools along the road to Cap Haitien, one on the outskirts of Pignon. And the coolest thing: there are now school buses! A number of buses went by, filled with children in a rainbow of colorful uniforms. Very exciting to see.
I toured the new school in Pignon with my friend Pido. It really is beautiful. Funny thing, the inside courtyard is filled with a perfectly drawn basketball court, complete with regulation hoops—it must have been due to some American consultant: the boys were playing fu’tbol (soccer) on it! I doubt they play anything else J
My understanding is that it is the new president of Haiti, Michel Martelly, who is responsible for these huge improvements . Things are looking better for Haiti, and I hope and pray the trend continues. The next election will be in 2015 and presidents can’t serve consecutive terms in Haiti.
But what we can know for certain is that 46 children in Pignon are living a better life. And besides having their basic needs met—like drinking water!—they now know they are loved and cared for by a group of Americans who won’t let them down.
I am VERY thankful to be a small piece of this wonderful ministry together with you all!
FEEL THE CHILDREN’S JOY!