MY SECOND TRIP TO HAITI (Dec. 3-7, 2009)
People ask how much they should give. I always tell them, do not be ashamed to give what you can because the little that we give is the BIG that they receive.
I travelled to Haiti a few weeks after Thanksgiving or a few days before Christmas. These two occasions would not havebeen complete without getting a glimpse of my heaven which is Haiti. Every time I experience or witness abundance in America, I also feel and taste the suffering of the people in Haiti.
I believe that my recent trip was almost arranged by the ONE who is in charge of everything. I was able to bring to Haiti six boxes of 22″x24″ with the total weight of 300 lbs. – all free of charge.
The employees of the TPMG payroll department headed by its manager, Evelyn Perkins have opened their hearts to the poor in Haiti. Marina Brill, Marsha Hellstrom, Yasmin Akbari, Caroline Langton, Chin Peng & Tina Santos contributed cash and in-kind goods and invited organizations and individuals to
donate medical supplies for the clinics, and backpacks for the students in Baraderes, Fond-Tortue, and Riviere Froide. They also contributed for the purchase of school uniforms for the kindergarten class in Baraderes. St. John the Baptist church contributed medicines, vitamins, and soccer balls for the
Sister- Parish while The Love of Vicentica Foundation donated clothings, flashlights, and more than a hundred pairs of slippers for the orphans, handicapped children and the Little Sisters.
Aside from delivering gifts, my wish to be able to find the means to travel to the mountainous city of Fond-Tortue was granted. Sr. Bernadette, the mother superior of the Little Sisters was kind enough to let Sr. Jeanne, the secretary-general to accompany me to Fond-Tortue.
Fond-Tortue, is around 9-hr. drive from the capital city of Port-au-Prince. St. Elisabeth, the sister-parish of St. John the Baptist in El Cerrito owns a school that is composed of 750 students and 40 teachers. St. Elisabeth also oversees 7 chapels and 2 dispensaries.
Fr. Constant, the parish priest of St. Elisabeth and his driver, drove to Riviere Froide to pick us up early on Sunday. We immediately headed back to Fond-Tortue after the 8AM Sunday Mass.
The trip was challenged by steep roads of sharp rocks and potholes. Once or twice, our truck had to cross a river with rocks underneath; cliffs were on one side and mountain rocks on the other. However, God was with us and we found no reason to fear. Even though Fr. Constant and his driver did not know how to speak English, we all managed to find humour in little things. They laughed especially when they heard me trying hard to speak Creole and French.
Two hours before we reached our final destination, we passed by Baraderes to deliver some backpacks and school uniforms for the students of Pope John Paul II school. It was a Sunday but Sr. Alluce, the school principal, received the gifts with great gladness.
Finally, we reached Fond-Tortue with constant nibbling of sun-dried banana chips and squeezed grapefruit.
Fr. Constant celebrated a special Mass for us early on Monday before we met with the teachers and students of the school.
The school building almost looked like an unfinished construction. Some of the classrooms were separated by blackboards so two classes could hear each other. We were told that even though the school lacks resources and more than half of the students do not pay their tuition due to financial hardship, the school continues to operate as the teachers continue to render their services and the students continue to come to school. The students did not have any pens or pencils or books. The parents and teachers help one another in hand-sewing the students’ school uniforms as majority of them do not have any clothes to wear for school.
Among the requests of the teachers were:
1) Increase of salary (currently, each teacher is paid $20/mo.);
2) School supplies like pencil, pen, paper, books, etc.; and
3) Sewing machines and other supplies to get the girls started with home economics subjects.
Sr. Jeanne and I spent the night in Fond-Tortue with a sense of acceptance that we were going to live with two small pails of water and deal with total darkness as there was no electricity even just for a few hours to charge our cellphones or the camera that I borrowed from her (I accidentally removed my camera from my hand carry at the SF airport just before boarding for Haiti).
We travelled back to Riviere Froide after the meeting with the school teachers. Again, we passed by Baraderes and many students came out to personally say “thank you” for the backpacks and school uniforms. It was amazing to see some students in school uniform holding water containers. Water supply is a problem in most part of Haiti so the students bring their own containers to school so they can fetch water for their families on their way home.
We arrived at Riviere Froide late Monday. John and Johnny,the famous 6-year-old orphans greeted me with warm hugs. At that time, the twins were enjoying their last days with the nuns as their adoptive mother from Berkeley, California came to take them to their new home in America.
Haitians face a lot of difficulties but I admire the strength of their character and their great faith in God. I believe that their true richness is found in their hearts. We too can be Haitians at heart. If we do not allow material things to distract us, perhaps we can also see God clearly and enjoy this kind of richness.