March 3 - Haiti Fundraiser

Thanks to everyone who helped out with the Haiti fundraiser musical evening on Sunday March 3rd. Our music director Michael Mulrooney and friends entertained over 60 people with a wonderful evening of songs from musical theatre. Thanks to everyone who painted the bird houses that were sold in the silent auction, and thanks to Kathy Munn who coordinated the desserts and to everyone who baked. Donations to date amount to almost $1900. These funds will be used to support the mobile medical clinics and the gardening initiatives in Haiti.

April 5 - Pre-Haiti Dinner Meeting at Miriam's

April 5, 2013 – Planning for this mission trip has been underway for months at Tansley United Church, but Larry and I were away and have not been to any previous meetings. The Outreach team, under the energetic leadership of Janice Martin set up the contacts with Empower Global, through Cal Shultz. Larry and I had always planned to be part of the effort, but only decided to actually travel with the team about 6 weeks ago.  We need to catch up on the expectations and information that have been shared within the group. Kathy still does not have the go-ahead from her boss to take the time off, but has gotten all the necessary shots and so on [Update: Hurray – Cathy will be coming]. Her son Zachery has decided to go even if she can’t. That means there will be 8 or 9 of us: Cal, Steve, Jim, Miriam, Leon, Zack, Larry and I, and hopefully Kathy. This evening is our chance to learn what we can about what to expect, what to bring with us, and generally how to prepare ourselves for the experience. Cal and Marci have been to Haiti many times, so can offer us lots of advice and guidance. But first, we enjoyed a bountiful and delicious potluck dinner. We are United Church folk after all, and must have food!
We will be working under the umbrella of Empower Global, which is a recognized charity in Canada, and the Canadian Government supports its operation. Our main task on this trip will be to find some aspect of the work there we can adopt as a Tansley project into the future. Of course, any work we can do on this trip, we will. One need is construction at the Empower compound. Empower is offering training to Haitians, based on a successful African program that combines various skills such as gardening, agriculture, hygiene and general life skills. They work in groups of 5 on small garden plots. There are also medical clinics, both fixed and mobile, which we’ll see some of.
First, we reviewed a bit of history. Haitians are rightfully proud that Haiti was the first independent black republic, breaking free of France in 1804. However, the country got no support from other countries, lacked infrastructure and governance systems, and eventually the Spanish-dominated Dominican Republic seceded. That part of the island is much more prosperous.
We were told that Voodoo is a very real and powerful force in Haiti. We will be staying very near a voodoo centre, so need to be aware of some aspects of the religion. It has a great effect on the attitudes of people practicing the religion, making them feel helpless in the face of the forces that guide their lives and determine their fate. In contrast, the Christians recognize their ability to work on bettering their own situation. We should not take random photos – especially not of any voodoo-related buildings or rituals. We need permission to take anyone’s picture. Relationships are the most important thing to Haitians, with the result that they are very agreeable to anything (even if they have serious reservations about an idea). Cal told us that makes it a bit difficult to find out what they really think of something, and also could lead to disappointment if they cannot fulfill a commitment they make just to be agreeable.
We discussed appropriate clothing, and shared ideas about things we might be able to take to leave behind or to share with the Haitians we will meet. We also shared information about staying healthy while we’re there. Haitian children, particularly, like to be hugged and to hold hands. Cal told us we’d be touched a lot and to be prepared for that. 

April 6 - Hooray!!!

April 6, 2013 – Kathy got permission to go on the trip, so we will be 8 from Tansley plus Cal leading us! Hooray!

April 8 - Health Readiness

April 8, 2013 – Larry and I visited the Halton Travel Health Clinic and got a couple of necessary shots, then dropped off our prescriptions at the pharmacy. I’ve started to develop a list of things to pack, based on the advice from Cal and Marci and from the nurse at the clinic. The group is sharing ideas for things to take and leave, and we plan to be organized about who takes what.

April 9 - Getting Supplies

April 9, 2013 – I visited Value Village, where I picked up a suitable skirt (women are encouraged to wear long skirts, rather than pants in Haiti) and then the Dollar Store for some pencils, sharpies and skipping ropes. At the Board meeting this evening, we planned for recognition of this trip on Sunday, including the presentation of a cheque for the donations of the Tansley congregation toward the Empower Global health clinics. There has been a musical fund-raiser, an auction of bird houses, and a penny drive as well as envelopes available for donations to this cause. The total raised is over $2000. That should cover at least a day’s expenses for the travelling clinic.

April 14 - Blessings and Funds for Empower Global in Haiti

April 14, 2013 – During our regular church service this morning our mission was acknowledged and we received the thanks and blessings of the congregation. I found the exchange very moving. Sue, co-chair of the board, urged us to “Go out into the world with a daring and tender love. The world is waiting.” We replied “We go to bear witness to God’s love in our lives”. She said “Go to your chosen work with the thanks and blessings of this congregation” and we replied “Let us go to serve God as we are called, and as we are led. Amen”. There was also a formal presentation of the funds raised in the congregation for the work of Empower Global, with whom we are working in Haiti. It was amazing to realize that the children’s penny drive had garnered something like $150. That’s a heavy load of copper! That, along with direct donations, and the concert and other fund-raising, ended up totaling well over $2000. This evening at the Prayer Shawls gathering, the Haiti Mission was one of the focuses of our prayer time. I feel very well-supported by the prayers and good wishes of our congregation, family and community.

Link To Photos

20 April - New York to Santiago, Dominican Republic

April 20 - It was tough being up and ready to load the shuttle by 4am, but we were all present and accounted for. At the airport, since Cal had much necessary material that needed to get to Haiti beyond our personal needs, there was a great deal of juggling and shifting, but eventually we got everything distributed among the 9 of us. At security we discovered we hadn't done it perfectly and one more bag had to be checked.
The flight to New York City was brief and easy but upon arrival we found that the onward flight to Santiago was delayed. That gave us 5 hours to spend at JFK.

Over breakfast we shared our expectations, hopes and concerns about this mission, and Cal recommended that we all read "The Demons of Poverty".  As well as his copy we were able to download it, so some of us are well into the book.
When we finally boarded, we had a slightly rough flight to Santiago, but once there, found all our luggage and a couple of vans to move us and the stuff to the hotel.
We all felt the need to freshen up, and then met for dinner.  Cal shared the course material for the course used to train Haitians in self-sufficiency, business and life skills.  By then we were all ready to find our beds and rest up for the 4 hour bus trip to Cap Haitien tomorrow.

Photo Collection New York to Santiago, Dominican Republic

Videos for the Complete Trip