Saturday, December 24, 2011

A (not so) gentle reminder

My computer crashed the other day. It shut down a few times on it's own, gave the blue screen of death and then upon trying to reboot notified me that it could not find the hard disk drive. Crap!

I tried and tried to get it going - not really knowing what I was doing. I tried to do a system restore with a really old back up disk I had - nothing worked. I was frustrated. I was mad. Mad at myself for not backing up my system regularly. I have all my really important working documents on a USB Drive, but I still had a lot of things like music, tv shows, pictures and all my uploaded emails on my hard drive. After hours of trying, I finally had resigned myself that I may lose everything. Fine. But the second problem is actually getting it back to working order, even if everything is lost. I don't have my start up disks here and I really don't know if I trust anyone here to work on it. That means sending it back to Canada. Luckily, a group is coming down next week, so I can send it back with them and then have my parents bring it back down at the end of January when we meet them in the DR. But still, that's a month without MY computer.

The truth is, i'm upset about the inconvienence of it all. No longer can I look at and write responses to nicely organized emails offline, instead I have to get on the internet (which has been working at a snails pace lately) and search through the 3000 unsorted emails that occupy my yahoo account. I can't listen to my music. I can't what my tv shows when I just want to relax.

It hit me yesterday, when we were at the beach with friends (seemed like a good distraction from the computer problem), that what I was trying so hard to avoid had found me. You see, in Haiti, you can keep yourself very removed from the materialism and consumerism that is so much of a North American Christmas. I found it very refreshing. But, it turns out it can find you here as well. I had put so much of myself into the computer, I had forgotten what really can give life and joy. Not things, but God's love and the relationships of family and friends around me.

And so, I think I've been able to let go of the frustration. Life will go on, maybe a bit differently, but that's okay.

May God bless you deeply this Christmas. Joyeux Noel!  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Food is such an important topic in Haiti. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about it - what do we need to buy, how much does it cost, how in the world can my neighbours afford any?

For the past 2 years I've been trying to figure out what exactly the cost of food is in Haiti. It's baffling to me. It's baffling because I see how much I spend on food knowing full well that many around me live (barely) on a fraction of what I have. I do know that I don't eat like a typical Haitian. I eat like a wealthy Haitian. I have 3 meals a day. I eat meat at least once a day. I enjoy luxuries such as milk (canned or powdered), cheese (not the real stuff - highly processed, but nevertheless a luxury), etc. I would probably enjoy more luxuries if we lived in Cap where I had more regular access to the tiny grocery store that is there for ex-pats. For the most part, our food is bought at the outdoor markets in Limbe and Cap.

Thankfully, Cal's dad is more than happy to go to the market twice a week for us. You may think going to the market sounds fun - it is, for the first few minutes. But going to the market in Haiti is different than even countries like Honduras or Nicaragua. They don't have that romantic European or Latin American feel. Haitian markets are dirty, muddy, crowded, hot, dirty, loud, hot... get the idea?

Anyways, I thought I would give you an idea about the cost of food.

$1 US = $8 Haitian

The staple of a Haitian diet is rice. A 25kg bag of rice (American) sells for $200 Haitian ($25 US) right now. You may think - wow, 25kg's that'll last a long time! Wrong! Haitians don't eat rice like a side dish, it is the meal. I have seen children eat a heaping large dinner plate with no problem! 25 kgs doesn't last that long.

Eggs. Eggs (Dominican) are sold in cartons of 30 for $33 Haitian. A few weeks ago they were just $30. Inflation.

Iceberg lettuce (imported) - $7 Haitian

Chicken (Dominican) 6 drumsticks for $15 - $20 Haitian

Cooking oil, 1 gallon (American or Dominican) - $65 Haitian

Box of Cornflakes (American generic) - $21 Haitian

Coffee (Haitian Processed), 1/2 pound - $20 -25 Haitian. Local coffee is available in the markets for much less but is ground super fine and doesn't work in electric coffee pots or coffee perks, but tastes awesome if prepared in the the traditional Haitian way.

You might be seeing a pattern here. Haiti has a lot of imported food. It still amazes me how much of our food here is imported from the US and the DR. Unfortunately global trade rules have made it cheaper for Haiti to import food, then produce it themselves (a topic for a whole other post).

What can we buy that is local? Fruit! Yes, we have any amazing selection of fruit - oranges, grapefruits, limes, bananas, mangos, papayas, passion fruit, pineapple - it's amazing! Haiti does still grow rice - although it is hard to find, we grow some beans (congo beans are in season right now and are my favourite), sweet potatoes, manioc, okra, etc. 

Anyways, the point is, food is relatively expensive in Haiti if you consider the income (or lack thereof) that most Haitians have.

Friday, December 9, 2011

My little idea

Two years ago I wrote about my experience with the midwives in Haut Limbe. I had just been here a couple of weeks when Rosemary, a midwife nurse from the states, came to lead a seminar for about 25 local midwives. A few weeks ago, she came again to lead a 2-day seminar and I was able to attend.

I got so much more out of it this time - of course we had an interpreter, but this time I could understand the kreyol of the midwives. They are such sweet, special people. I was able to laugh and joke with them. There is a great age range of midwives, most of them being older. Some I'm sure are in their eighties (or looked it). Many of them live in extreme poverty and provide their services for free to their neighbours as it has been tradition. While they are happy to provide the service, they would appreciate some compensation, at least to cover the cost of purchasing the supplies they need - soap, razors/scissors, string, gauze, gloves, etc.

The midwives have formed a little association. They meet together at least once a week to support and learn from each other. My friend Carmelle is acting as coordinator of the group. Carmelle is 30 years old with a 9 year old boy and 5 year old girl. She lives with her mom (who is also a midwife) as she broke up with her husband.

Carmelle is bright and motivated. She is a member of the local scouts and is often involved in community activities. After spending time with her, I was trying to think of a sustainable way to help the midwives. Often times, people from Canada and the US send supplies down for them, but there is nothing consistent. I was trying to think of a way that the midwives could find supplies on their own, with their own talents.

I was thinking about the many groups that will be visiting this coming year, and then I had an idea. What if the midwives could make something to sell to the visitors? Something that is not too costly to make and could sell for a reasonable $5 - 10 US. I imagined that a lot of them can sew and do embroidery, so I thought maybe they could make potholders like my mother-in-law made for me! It's something affordable and a nice gift idea. They can use the profits to have a kitty to buy birthing supplies as well as to buy additional fabric and thread.

With just a small investment from me, I sent Carmelle off to Cap today to buy the supplies and the ladies will start working on the potholders. So, if you are planning to come in the next year, be ready to buy some pot holders and support some Haitian midwives! I'm so excited - I hope it works!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tis the season...

It's December in Haiti (and everywhere else in the world for that matter) and Christmas is fast approaching. It's really hard to believe that this will be my 3rd Christmas here (much to my mother's dismay)! But really, can you expect a girl to go from +30 to -30 degrees? I do miss Christmas in Canada - the lights, the food and time with family, but I'm trying to make the best of Christmas here as well.

A Haitian Christmas is pretty low-key relatively speaking. I've seen a couple of houses with Christmas lights (those that have electricity) and I've started playing Christmas music on my laptop while I work at the office and in my kitchen. The kids in the community are finishing up their end of term exams and are excited to be on vacation. There is more Christmas music being played on the radio and we sing carols in church.

This year Cal and I are hoping to have a small Christmas celebration with his family - not something they ever do. Christmas is just another day of the year for most Haitians. So, we are hoping to buy a goat - yep, a goat - to have a little feast! Goat is seen as a delicacy here, it's more expensive than chicken or beef. It's actually really tasty as well. Of course I won't be preparing it, I'll leave that up to Cal's mom, but it should be a good time. And since Cal's dad isn't really fond of goat, we'll make sure there is some beef for him. :)

December also brings cooler days and nights. No longer do I break out in a sweat from folding the laundry or walking 5 minutes to the University - thanks goodness! Cooler days also mean much cooler showers - brrr!! Unless I've just had my workout, I've resorted to heating water for a bucket shower these days to make it bearable.

Blessings to you as you prepare to celebrate Christmas!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

On the bright side

Since my last post wasn't exactly positive, I've been trying to think about what is positive in my life right now. The answer - I'm losing weight!

Now, that may sound ridiculous considering the country I live in being that most people don't have enough to eat each day and anytime you do gain weight you are greeted with cheers and "ou gwo!" (you're big!). But the truth is, I've been gaining weight steadily since the all inclusive, all-you-can eat buffet at our honeymoon resort! It was just too good to pass up - variety, three times a day! I didn't even try to stop myself. Dessert? Yes please! I was sure once I got home I would slowly drop the extra weight and get back to normal - wrong!

It was probably a number of things - adjusting to married life, adjusting to cooking for the two of us, the stress of waiting for Cal's visa, and it being too hot to even think about exercising. And then, we went to Canada for 5 weeks - pretty much the all you can eat buffet all over again! Not good. By the end of the trip, I could barely button up my favourite pair of jeans. But then I told myself, it's just "Canada weight". I'll sweat it all off back in Haiti. Guess what - that didn't happen.

After weeks of complaining to Cal, I finally bit the bullet and started exercising. It's cooled down enough now so that by 4 or so in the afternoon it is bearable to climb the mountain behind our house. Sometimes there is even cloud cover and the sun goes behind the mountain - bonus! I've been doing it 4 or 5 times a week for the past three weeks and this week I finally noticed a difference!

We've also tried to adjust our diet - less rice, more veggies! I think Cal is even dropping a few pounds! Just waiting for the day when I can put on my favourite jeans again...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Where I'm at

I've been up and down and all over the place for the past couple of weeks. There's a lot going on around here and in my head.
  • Cholera numbers are down! We had up to 130 or 140 at the CTC just over a week ago and now we are down to 10 or 20. Thanks for all of your prayers and support. Unfortunately, there were a few deaths, but they were due to other complications so we are pretty happy with the care that was received. 
  • With the cholera literally close to home (several children who live next door to us), it was a bit more emotional to see the crisis increase. I made several trips to the CTC to check on "my kids" and to their homes to make sure the remaining siblings had enough food and water while the parents were at the centre. I'm so thankful that the CTC was here and that we were able to get the supplies needed to treat these children.
  • There a lot of tough discussions and decisions to be made at the clinic. The clinic is going through some growing pains, trying to figure out how they can continue the mission of the clinic and work with partners here and abroad. Please continue to pray for the clinic.
  • I've been doing a lot of communicating with groups who will be visiting in the next 6 months. We have a ton of interest (6 to 8 groups) who would like to come. It's been tricky managing the calendar to find dates that work for them and for us here, and the reality is, there is only so much time and likely not everyone will be able to come when they would like. I know that for my own sanity and health, I need breaks between groups (at least a week) so that limits the amount that can come during the "cool" season here, and I'm trying not to feel guilty about that.
  • We have mice in our house. On top of everything else that is happening, it seems to be the last straw for me and my patience gets a bit thin (usually at Cal's expense). They are sneaky little mice. They have been able to eat the bait off of the rat traps (apparently they don't have mousetraps in Haiti) and get away unscathed. I've even made a homemade trap attempting to drown them, but they are too smart. Yesterday we put out poison - but they haven't taken it yet. Last night when Cal and I came home, Cal saw one go under the fridge, chased it out and killed it with his foot. I guess that works too, but I just know its brothers and sisters will be back tonight! 
  • Cal and I are discussing when we will return to Canada - its a hard decision and will require a lot of things to line up. Please pray for us.
  • My financial support is not at  the level it should be so that is an added stress as we make plans.
  • I've been thinking a lot of how it is best to help. Poverty is such a complicated issue in Haiti and unfortunately in the past well-intentioned help has often done more damage than good. It's a tricky road to explore and creates a great tension. Pray for me and the ECCC has we navigate our relationship with the clinic and Haut Limbe.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Batay Vètyè

Haitian public holidays always sneak up on me here. I don't have a calendar for them so it seems that out of the blue they appear and surprise, no work today! That's what happened today (or last night when I found out).

November 18 is to remember Batay Vètyè - or the Battle of Vertières which actually happened basically in Cap Haitian and was the last major battle before Haiti declared its independence from France. 

As today is a holiday, Cal and I had a leisurely morning at home - cleaning and making breakfast, all the while listening to the local radio station from Limbé. They spent a lot of time recounting the history of Haiti's independence, giving commentary to the current state of Haiti and its government, and playing songs encouraging Haitians to rise up and have pride in their country and pointing out how in the past 200 years, Haiti has not become what they once dreamed of.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Update

The cholera situation is not improving.

Last night, the CTC received over 30 children from a local community school who appear to be suffering from cholera. It is suspected that the water at the school was contaminated. Please pray for the children and that we can discover how the water source became infected.

Up until this point, few people from the community of Haut Limbe had contracted cholera - this is hitting much closer to home. Many of you who have visited Haut Limbe will know or recognize the children who are affected.

Thank you to all who have already contributed financially to cholera relief. If you are still interested in giving, click here for instructions.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A quick update

  • The Plan was a success!! I can't believe it. Everything worked out very well - we got to Cap, got a hotel room, I got my nails done, we had a delicious supper complete with ice cream for dessert, and we got on the bus to the DR the next day! Amazing! We had a great, relaxing weekend in Santiago with our good friend Tammi and arrived back in Haut Limbe Monday night. I may have to make a "plan" again sometime!
  • Cholera is still here. The numbers have remained stable at 50 - 60 patients per day being treated. We were able to secure additional staff from Public Health, so that has eased some of the strain, but there is still a long haul ahead. Please continue to pray for this, and if you are interested in donating, please see this post.
  • Dr. Manno was in Canada for the past week and a half visiting a number of Covenant churches and supporters in Alberta and Saskatchewan. He is currently on his way back and we are looking forward to having him here again!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cholera Update

Just one year after it was discovered in Haiti and just shy of a year of when Eben-ezer Clinic accepted its first patient, cholera is on the rise again.

Since November of last year, the Eben-ezer Clinic cholera treatment centre (CTC) has treated approximately 3,000 patients. After the initial outbreak, the number of cases began to decrease steadily in the new year and by March or April, the CTC was treating less than 10 patients a day. Over the spring and summer months, the CTC remained open to treat 3 or 4 patients per day with staff from Eben-ezer Clinic and nurses provided by the Ministry of Public Health in Haiti.

In the past couple of weeks, the number of cases began to increase to about 20 by last week. Over this weekend, the numbers surged and we are currently treating 60 patients.

We cannot do this alone. Over the past year, we have received generous financial support from several organizations and individuals in Canada, the United States as well as Doctors without Borders and the Haitian Government and we are grateful. To continue to operate the CTC and provide quality care, we are asking again for your financial support.

We need to increase the number of nurses and support staff in the CTC to ensure quality of care for our patients. Cholera is a treatable disease if caught early enough and given the proper attention.

The Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada, one of Eben-ezer Clinic’s partners, is accepting donations for cholera relief.

To make a donation by cheque, please make it payable to: Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada PO Box 34025, RPO Fort Richmond Winnipeg, MB R3T 5T5

Please include a note that it is for Haiti Cholera Relief.

To donation online, please follow the link and designate your gift to “Haiti Clinic” from the drop down box and write “cholera relief” in the comment box.

Tax receipts will be provided.

Please pray for the patients and as well as the staff and board of Eben-ezer Clinic as we face this challenge again.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Plan

First of all, I may be a bit crazy for making a "plan" - I do live in Haiti after all. Planning is not part of the culture here, and if it does happen, it rarely works out the way you intended. But, I have made a plan.

Next weekend, Cal and I will go over to Santiago for a few days. The main reason for the trip is to get my passport stamped (I have to leave the country every 90 days) so that I'm legal. The secondary reason is to have a "break" from Haiti. Even though the DR and Haiti share the same island, they seem to be worlds apart in many respects. Going to Santiago for a few days gives me back a bit of sanity and normalcy - smooth roads, traffic lights, fully stocked grocery stores, hair salons, restaurants, fast internet, 24 hour electricity and a hot shower.

Since I've been in Haiti, I've been making the trip over to the DR every few months and it has been wonderful. Anyways, we are planning to go next weekend. But, before we go, I have a plan. Cal and I never really "dated" while we were dating. A date for us was going to the bank in Limbe on his motorcycle and having a cold drink afterwards - exciting stuff. So, we're going to have a date! It's Cal's birthday on Saturday, our 6 month wedding anniversary on Sunday, it'll soon be the 1 year anniversary of our engagement and since we never really celebrated my birthday together (it was in July) we are going to celebrate - I think there are enough events to justify it.

Since we will be taking the bus from Cap to Santiago next Friday am, instead of waking up early to be there at 8 am, we are going to go to Cap on Thursday afternoon and get a hotel for the night! We are going to go for a nice supper at a nice restaurant and eat ice cream! I'm going to have a hot shower, Cal can watch cable tv. I may even go get my nails done. Oh the excitement!!

Yep, that's the plan. We'll see if it works!

Friday, October 14, 2011

When the abnormal becomes normal

I finished reading Kathie Klarreich's Madame Dread last week. A very interesting read that I can relate to a lot. Kathie came to Haiti in the late 80s and ended up staying to work as a journalist for American media. At one point in the book, after she has lived in Haiti for awhile and visits home in U.S., she reflects on how some things about her life in Haiti used to be abnormal all of the sudden seem normal and she only realizes it when its placed in contrast with her American life.

There are many times that I forget how "abnormal" life is here for me and it is only when I go back to Canada or when we have visitors here to point things out that I remember what my "normal" life is like. I read a funny comment by another missionary in Haiti the other day. He said "I looked out the window and thought I saw someone walking a dog with a leash and I though it was strange. But then I realized it was a goat, and it seemed normal."

Here are some examples of things that now are "normal" to me:

  • Eating spaghetti for breakfast (I don't do it often, but it doesn't weird me out)
  • Putting toilet paper in a waste basket rather than flushing it down the toilet.
  • The smell of Klorox.
  • Goats, chickens, dogs roaming the streets with no apparent owner.
  • A stray dog running down the aisle of the church during the service.
  • Drinking Coke from a glass bottle.
  • Waiting in line at the bank for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Carrying any purchase or item in a black plastic bag.
  • Leaving parboiled meat in a pot on the counter for 3 days, and then eating it.
  • Buying processed meats like salami or hotdogs from vendors that have no refrigeration and the meat has been sitting in the sun all day.
  • Storing eggs on the counter, rather than the refrigerator.
  • Drinking water out of a little, plastic bag.
  • Seeing 4 or more people on a motorcycle
  • Hearing a radio ad for a bus station who's biggest selling point is their washroom.
  • People sitting on the streets, hanging out, all the time.
  • Piling 7 people in the extended cab of a small truck.
  • Planning my workday based on the availability of electricity.
  • Changing money on the street.
  • Greeting people with a kiss on the cheek.
  • Driving one hour to eat ice cream.
  • No traffic rules.
  • Unfinished buildings, everywhere.
  • Carrying my own supply of toilet paper for any outing.
  • Eating oranges, Haitian style.
  • Bringing my own chair to church.
  • Bucket showers.
  • Making supper by kerosene lantern.
  • Never standing under a mango tree from May to July.
  • Listening to Celine Dion, Backstreet Boys or Michael Bolton almost everyday.
  • Finding ants in your oatmeal and eating it anyway.
  • Saying "amen" after the choir sings in church.
The list could go on and on.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

If she only knew...

So yesterday Cal, Sendie and two other boys who are deaf from our community made a safe trip to and from Gonaives to meet with the Starkey Hearing Foundation to be fitted with hearing aids. The Starkey foundation often have celebrity volunteers with them and yesterday I happened upon a news release saying that Miley Cyrus was on a mission with them in Haiti right now. I had sent my camera with Cal to take pictures, so when he got back, I searched through them to see what I could find. And guess what, low and behold, there is Sendie with Miley Cyrus!

I love that neither Cal or Sendie had a hot clue that they met one of the most famous teen stars in America yesterday. I don't know much about Miley's personal or professional life right now, but I do have to give her credit for her work with Starkey and coming to Gonaives (a hot, dusty city) in Haiti and giving some of her time to help out. I can't speak about her motives, but I do know that in coming here, she was not swamped by adoring fans as no one here knows who she is. It's nice to know that there are some places in the world where celebrities are still just regular people!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


What's going on???

Well, Sendie is on her way to Gonaives with Cal (for the 2nd time in 2 weeks - long story) to meet with the Starkey Foundation to fit her for hearing aids! So exciting, especially since school just started this week and these will help her immensely! I think i saw a press release saying Miley Cyrus is with the foundation in Haiti right now. Hmm - doubt many people here know who she is! Please pray for everyone making the trip as the road from here to Gonaives is quite frankly horrible and goes through 2 mountain passes.

I've been busy contacting potential groups who will be visiting in the next 6 months. It looks like we'll have a number of groups coming and it'll be busy. Pray for all those that will be coming and all of us here that will be receiving them.

The number of cholera patients being admitted has risen lately - maybe because the amount of rain we have received in the past couple of months. Pray for the clinic as they make decisions as to the future of the cholera treatment centre as our funding is almost finished.

In happier news - we've had electricity 24/7 for the past week and a half due to EDH's (Haiti's electricity company) generosity and our inverter system! Yay for a cold fridge, a fan at night and lights! Small things make all the difference here!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fail - maybe not.

I seem to be failing at this regular blogging thing - sorry folks! I am still alive, and I will continue to try to keep you all updated as to the goings on here in Haut Limbe.

I do have a small excuse for not writing in the past couple of weeks. We were hosting a volunteer couple (who also happen to be friends from Canada, now living in Hawaii) for 10 days. Joel, is a nurse and spent his time in the clinic assisting Manno by doing wound care, putting on casts, consulting patients and organizing one of the back supply closets. Brooke, an artist, led a 5 day art camp for 18 children from the community. It was a great success! I had the privilege to help her out and it was so great to interact with the kids and watch them be creative with the different projects. We met every morning for a few hours, and by the end - we were tired! The kids enjoyed their time, even though it doesn't look like it in the picture below! Picture taking is "serious" business in Haiti!
I would post more pictures, but I'm way too impatient to wait the 5-10 minutes to upload each photo.

Besides the "work" that was accomplished during their stay, Cal and I had a great time hanging out with Brooke and Joel and showing them the real Haiti. One of the advantages of visiting in a smaller group - we have the flexibility to show people a lot more and have them experience more regular Haiti life. This included a nice little tour of Cap Haitian, including a couple of the fanciest hotels, some time at an orphanage in nearby Limbe, a street party in Lakil during their annual saint celebration, a leisurely day at the beach and a few motorcycle rides! It was great to have them here. Thanks for all your hard work Brooke and Joel!

After dropping them off at the airport Saturday am, we decided to spend some time in Cap running errands - I hadn't really been there since we returned from Canada. First stop, a treat for me - a pedicure! At $6 US, I couldn't resist a little pampering for my poor feet. While I was relaxing, Cal and Alin looked all over Cap for some light bulbs, with no luck. They found light bulbs, but not the kind I wanted. I prefer soft, yellow light instead of the harsh white light of most inverter, power saving bulbs. Oh well, better luck next time!

Next task, off to the grocery store to see what they had in stock so I could do some "Canadian" type grocery shopping. We found some items for a treat, but unfortunately not the white cheese I wanted, so it was off to the downtown Haitian market to find it. Cal and I walked up and down streets, asking as we went along which "store" had cheese. We finally found it. Now, the crazy thing is how this "store" worked. There is a counter with shelves and storage rooms behind it. You walk up to one window marked "fiche" or receipt and you tell the guy what you want. He rights it down, along with the price and then hands you your receipt. You then go to the window marker "caisse" or cashier, pay your bill and get a paid receipt back. You then go over to the large counter where there are 4 or 5 workers behind and try to get the attention of one of them while 10 other people crowd around you, so that they can find your items for you. 10 minutes later, you finally get your cheese. This is Haiti.

That about tired me out, so we decided to call it a day by stopping at the gas station for ice cream and visiting Cal's sister for a few minutes. On the way home, we stopped a second gas station which actually had a better selection of groceries that than the grocery store in Cap, so I picked up a few more treats and we were on the way home. By the time we arrived, my motion sickness got the better of me and I spent the rest of the afternoon laying down and resting - but, I had my cheese!

My sickness decided to stay around for a few more days, so I spent Monday and Tuesday at home, near the bathroom. Luckily, we had borrowed a friends 3G internet stick, so I could do a quick check of emails from my room! I never thought I would see the day I would have internet in my bedroom in Haiti, but alas, it is here. A company called Natcom has come into Haiti and offer cell and internet service. Using the stick isn't exactly cheap, but it sure helps when I don't want to make the journey to the University in the rain or when I'm not feeling well. We hope to have our own Natcom 3G stick soon!

Well, I think that's all for now - almost time to head home for lunch!

Monday, August 29, 2011

What I did on my summer vacation.

Okay, so as indicated in my last post, we really are back! We spent a great 5 weeks in Canada and now are settled back into life here in Haut Limbe. What did we do in Canada? Well, let's see:
Cal's first photo in Canada - Toronto Airport, just after going through Canadian customs. He's still a little ticked that the customs agent "wrecked" his visa. Since he had a single entry visa, they cross it out with a red marker - real classy!

By the river after lunch at Taste of Saskatchewan

Watching a soccer game one evening on the beautiful soccer field.

Day out at McBride Lake fishing.

Going for a boat ride at Crystal Lake

At the zoo in Winnipeg.
  • After a 24 hour journey including 2 bus rides, 1 land border crossing, 1 taxi ride, 2 flights and 1 comfortable ride in my parents van we arrived in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan!
  • We spent 2 weeks in Saskatoon hanging out with my family, exploring the city, shopping and enjoying high speed internet and cable soccer stations (Cal).
  • For the long weekend we headed out to Norquay, Sk to the family farm to meet and visit a bunch more relatives and friends. Attempted to go fishing one day - ended up spending most of the day relaxing on the shore enjoying the beautiful day. Gave Cal the grand tour of Norquay (5 minutes) and spent a wonderful afternoon out at my cousin's cabin at Crystal Lake. Neither of us could bear to swim in the "cold, Canadian water" (we are spoiled here) but did enjoy some boating action.
  • Returned back to Saskatoon for a couple of days before heading on our Alberta tour which included Strathmore, Breton, Covenant Bay Bible Camp and Malmo. It was a lot of driving but so great to catch up with many friends that we had made from their visits to Haiti.
  • Came home to rest and wash clothes for 1 day before heading out to Winnipeg for a week! Spent time with Ben and Shauna (formerly of Haiti), went to the zoo, the Forks, and enjoyed a Stella's mexican breakfast. Visited still more relatives and friends and celebrated at Ben and Shauna's reception.
  • On the way back to Saskatoon, stopped in Minnedosa for a night to share with the church there.
  • Arrived back in Saskatoon to do last minute shopping, treat myself to a pedicure and have an early celebration of my niece's birthday.
  • Left Saskatoon on the afternoon of the 19th, flew to Toronto, then Montreal, slept a couple of hours and then flew to Puerto Plata in the morning. Attempted to take a taxi from the airport to our friend's house in Santiago - ended up taking 3 different vehicles arriving over 3 hours later. Spent the night in Santiago and then caught the bus to Haiti on Sunday morning and arrived back in Haut Limbe Sunday evening! It was a good long journey! 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

We are back!

Yes, we are still alive! We returned back to Haiti this past Sunday after a great 5 week vacation in Canada. We had a good mix of relaxing, travelling and visiting and by the end, we were ready to return here. Thank you for all of your prayers for a safe journey for us!

I'll write more soon!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Learning to take the chair

Short term and long term missionaries often say they go to serve the people of whatever (poor) country they are working in. I believe that is true and should be the motivation of any mission. Learning to serve those who are in need is important discipline of the Christian life. However, I think there is another discipline to learn as well – learning to be served by those in need. Let me explain.

When I first came to Haiti, I tried so hard not to be treated differently because I was a white girl from Canada. I wanted to fit into life here as much as possible. I didn’t want special treatment. This included using the same washrooms (latrines) as others and sometimes using no washroom (I am a farm girl and know how to squat in a field!). It included eating the same food as others (when it was safe). It included being squished into the backseat of a truck with 3 other people for a 6 hour bumpy, hot, drive to Port au Prince and sharing a tent set up on concrete with no mattresses for one night. It included many other things as well.

Haitians are very hospitable, even if they have nothing to offer you, they will do their best to make you comfortable. Often times visiting someone’s house, I would be offered one of the only chairs to sit on while visiting in the front porch. I used to be stubborn and refuse it because I didn’t like to be the only one sitting while everyone around me was standing. One time, we were watching a live soccer game in a neighbouring town (there are no bleachers so everyone stands), one of the vendors selling drinks out of her cooler offered me her chair. She was quite a bit older and looked tired and hot so I didn’t want to take her chair. Besides, 300 people around me were all standing just fine, I didn’t want to be the white girl that needed a chair.

You see, I used to think they were only offering me a chair because I was white and therefore for some reason deserved a chair. But, being here longer, I realize that that is not the case at all. They are offering me a chair out of care and hospitality, why should I deny that? And so, I’m learning to take the chair, even if it makes me uncomfortable, even if everyone else around me is standing. Because by taking the chair, I’m letting them serve me and give me a gift. A chair may be the only thing they have to offer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Just a few more days!

It's hard to believe that in just a few days Cal and I will be on our way to Canada together! Saturday morning we will be begin our LONG journey there. We'll leave Haut Limbe at about 7 am, drive to Cap, take a bus from Cap to Santiago, DR. Arrive in Santiago at 2 or 3 pm. Catch another bus to Sosua, DR. Take a taxi to the Puerto Plata airport. Board our Air Canada flight at 9:50 pm. Arrive in Toronto at around 2 am. Go through customs, and then wait for our 7 am flight for Saskatoon. Arrive in Saskatoon at around 9:30 am Sunday am. Whew! I think we will be a little tired!

Now that I know that Cal is coming, I've been trying to think of all the things that we can do and what I can show him about life in Canada. We'll get some time out at the family farm in Norquay, do some fishing, go to Winnipeg to see friends and relatives, and possibly head out to Alberta for a few days to visits some friends that have come to Haiti.

We'll spend the first couple of weeks in Saskatoon with my family, relaxing and exploring things there. I'm excited to show him the University, our parks, malls, libraries and go to a movie or two. Any recommendations for what else you would show someone on their first trip to Canada?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The answer is YES!!

Cal was granted a six month Canadian visa!! We will be in Canada July 17 to August 20 and will for sure be visiting Saskatoon, Norquay and Winnipeg in that time - possibly Alberta.

Thank you everyone who prayed for this - we are so excited!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

They are on their way!

7 youth and 2 leaders from Malmo Covenant Church are on their way to Florida right now so that they can fly to Haiti early tomorrow morning. Will you join me in praying for them?

  • Pray for safe travel in the air as well as on the ground once they arrive here.
  • Pray for good health for all - it's really hot right now and we don't want anyone to overheat!
  • Pray for relationships to be built between the Canadians and Haitians.
  • Pray for the minds and hearts of the Canadians and Haitians both to be opened and much learning to happen. 
  • Pray for energy for myself and Cal this week - hosting is great, but it is also a lot of work!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More Waiting

Cal had his appointment at the Canadian Embassy this morning at 8:10. I just talked to him and they gave him another appointment for July 7. I pray that this is a good sign. Nevertheless it's going to be a long week of waiting!

Monday, June 27, 2011


Saturday morning we were up early (3 am) to make sure Cal was up and ready to wait for the Port au Prince at the Haut Limbe "bus stop". After getting him out the door, I was able to sleep again for awhile and when I called at 7, he told me that the bus picked them up at 6, not 4 (this is Haiti after all!). They made it to Port by noon and all is well and good. Cal is staying at a friend's that is apparently not too far from the Canadian Embassy, so he should have no problem getting there tomorrow am.

I had a pretty relaxed weekend - did some baking, reading, writing and visited with Cal's family. I thought I would have a super sleep last night, but my body decided to wake me up at 3:30 and I couldn't fall back to sleep! It's going to be a long day added on to the anticipation of waiting to hear the results tomorrow.

Please pray with us that Cal gets his visa and has a safe trip back.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Learning to cook in Haiti is a challenge. Learning what fresh fruits and vegetables there are, where to buy meat, storing things... I was doing pretty good when we had regular electricity. However, in the last 2 weeks we've had barely any EDH (state power) and so the inverter batteries do not get to full charge so we only have power for 5 or 6 hours at night, or sometimes none at all, like last night.

We just have an apartment sized fridge, and don't keep much in it at all except for some cheese, butter, mayonnaise, processed meat (ham, salami or hot dogs) and juice or pop to treat ourselves to a cold drink. If we get regular power, the fridge can stay fairly cold - but this morning when I opened it, not a pretty smell. I think the ham is done - boo!

It also make it difficult to plan creative meals - we do our best to eat up the lunch leftovers at supper so that they don't go bad or to waste. We also can't store fresh meat. Luckily, the local butcher didn't kill a cow this past Saturday, so we didn't have any beef to store - but it does limit the variety of our meals. Chicken or fish - those are your choices.

Every night when I lay in bed I pray that they will give us EDH - seems silly, I lived without it before and millions of people in the country do it everyday. But I got spoiled with regular power for an extended period of time and now I miss it. Hmm...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On being anxious

I've been anxious this past week. For a few different reasons:

  • Cal's Canadian visa application appointment on June 28. We've been getting all the documents ready for that hoping that they are enough for the officer to grant him a visa. I'm also praying that he has a safe journey to Port au Prince, is safe in Port au Prince, and is able to make his 8:10 am appointment without sleeping in or getting stuck in traffic!
  • Thinking about if Cal doesn't get the visa and going to Canada on my own. How many weeks should I stay? We already bought both of our tickets (you have to present them at the embassy for your visa application). Also, we booked with Air Canada out of Puerto Plata, DR and now they are on strike - hopefully that doesn't affect us!
  • Thinking about money. My support level isn't what it should be - it'll be a tight couple of months. I feel ridiculous worrying about money here, considering how everyone lives around me. Cal reminds me on a daily basis that we need to rely on God to provide all of our needs - but he's better at it, he's been doing it his whole life. Honestly, I've never had to worry much about money. Sure there were times when I couldn't do all the extras, but I've always had enough for food, shelter and much more. One of our devotions last week was about trials and hardships, and Cal reminds me that this is a trial, and we just need to put our faith in God. Much easier said than done!
  • Thinking about making sure our refrigerator stays cold enough during the day (when we don't have power) so that our meat doesn't go bad. Seems silly - but I would hate to waste meat!
But, there are many things to be excited about as well:
  • A youth group from Malmo Covenant Church will be coming the first week of July. I'm excited as we plan activities for them with the young people from the Scouts here in Haut Limbe. I'm excited for them to experience a world so different from their own, but interact with young people here that are probably more similar to them than we think.
  • This fall we are preparing to host an art program for children in the area. A volunteer (and friend) will be coming to lead a program for about 15 kids ages 9-12. We spent some time brainstorming about it over Skype last week and I'm excited about the possibilities of children here a new opportunity.
  • Going to Canada! One way or another I will be going to Canada this summer. I'm excited to see family and friends, drive on smooth roads, eat BBQ'd meals and fresh vegetables from the garden!
Please join me in praying about these exciting upcoming events (and also that I would remain focused on the good, rather than worrying about potential trials and hardships).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Random Bits

  • It's hot in Haiti. Duh! The past two weeks have been cloudy and rainy, so we haven't felt the heat as much. Then yesterday morning the sun came out! Hallelujah - maybe my laundry will dry in less than 3 days! With the sun, came even more heat and humidity. It gets up to about 33 degrees Celsius during the day, and down to a cool 30 degrees at night. While I have no idea what the humidity is, I can say it is high by the perma-sweat on my face. Ugh! Oh well, as long as there is water for showers, I'm a happy camper. I'll take it over -40 and snow!
  • I'm getting used to being called Mme Cal (pronounced Man Cal). In Haitian culture, once a woman is married, and a lot of times even before she is actually married, she is called Madam whatever her husband's name is. At first I wanted people to still call me Janelle, but I've gotten used to answering to Mme Cal and kind of enjoy it. Even family and close friends do this - not more than 10 minutes after the wedding ceremony was finished, Cal's mom was calling me Mme Cal!
  • I'm also learning that cooked meat (beef) doesn't need to be stored in the refrigerator all the time. Last week, Marlene had come over to cook up some of the beef we had bought from the butcher on Saturday and she left it in a covered pot on the stove. When we got home, I asked Cal if we needed to put it in the fridge, he said no. The next day, Marlene came, fried it up and we ate it. Nobody got sick! I know that people do it all the time here because very few people have access to refrigeration with consistent electricity, but I just wasn't used to seeing it in my kitchen! Also, did you know that eggs don't need to be stored in the fridge either??
  • I learned how to make peanut butter the other day, well, partly. I came home after work and Mama (Mme Isaak) was getting ready to roast a bunch of peanuts in a big chodye (pot) over the richo (charcoal grill) on the porch, so I stayed out to watch her. We SLOWLY roasted the peanuts in the pot, stirring them almost constantly, adjusting the temperature of the pot by removing or adding pieces of charcoal). Once they were roasted sufficiently, she spread them on a large tray to cool and we started shelling the skins off. After that, she was going to take them to be ground and turned into peanut butter (of course with a little pepper added)!
That's all for today! Hope you are enjoying a sunny Saturday wherever you may be!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Oh how the days go by

Sorry! I've been a real slacker lately and haven't taken the time to write blog posts or letters. I think of ideas for great posts when I'm walking around town, doing the dishes or sitting in church (I admit I sometimes daydream with speaker is talking too fast!), but I promptly forget them by the time I come to the internet in my little closet office at the university. So, please accept my apologies! Here’s a little update.

Things are going well here. The humid season, or should I say more humid season has arrived along with hurricane season. After going for months without rain, a couple weeks ago a system set in that gives us rain almost every day and not much sun. It's good to have the moisture, but I am missing the sun a little bit.

In mid May, we had a group of 12 from Strathmore (and other parts of Alberta) here for a week. Boy were they busy! During their time here, they were able to help continue the construction of the living quarters above the depot, create an inventory for the pharmacy and depot and build a house for a very deserving little girl and her family in the community of Danda - a couple of hours from here. They did have some fun as well - we went to the beach, had a Creole class, had a private concert, watched a futbol game, and participated in Flag Day celebrations.

The next group from the Wetaskiwin, AB area arrives at the beginning of July. It's a youth group, so I'm looking forward to connecting them with the youth in the community and building some of those relationships.

Work at the clinic keeps on going! It's been busy, especially since Dr. Joselie has been away in the States to have her baby boy, Joey Andrew Monel Jules, who arrived on June 6th! We excited for them to return and to meet little Joey. We've also been working on expanding the water distribution system in the community. Now, even more families will have better access to water for their daily needs. Our hope in doing this is to prevent diseases like cholera as well as other waterborne diseases.

Married life is treating us well! We are settled into our apartment now and are getting into a routine of life together. I'm having fun cooking some Canadian dishes for Cal (he's been pleasantly surprised that I actually can cook) and taking care of the house. Marlene, who cooked for me at Mme Isaak's house, still comes to cook our lunches Monday to Friday, which is a blessing as she is a great cook and it frees up my mornings to do work at the office and clinic.

What else is coming up? Well, on June 28, Cal has an appointment at the Canadian Embassy in Port au Prince to make his application for a Temporary Residency Visa to come to visit Canada with me this summer. If you could be praying for that, we would greatly appreciate it. We are feeling positive about his chances of getting a visa, but you never know. If he gets it, we plan to be in Canada from mid July to mid August. If he doesn't get it, I will still come, but for a shorter time. While we are there, we will visit with family and friends in Saskatchewan and Manitoba as well as visit some churches giving support.

There are a few prayer requests:

• Please pray for the clinic staff and committee that they would be unified and work together for the betterment of the community.
• Pray for Dr. Joselie and her family as they welcome Joey into their family.
• Pray for Dr. Manno that he would stay healthy and get the rest he needs.
• Pray for the students in the community that are writing final exams.
• Pray for Cal and I as we apply for his visa and make plans to visit Canada this summer

Thanks everyone for your support and encouragement - it means a lot to both Cal and I.

Bondye beni nou! God bless you!

Monday, May 16, 2011

For real this time

Alright, being as I haven't posted anything of much substance in over a month - I'll do my best to catch up.

First of all, the wedding was fantastic - it went smoother than I could ever had hoped for. My friends and family all arrived in and left Haiti safely - my biggest concern. I was able to go pick up my friend/cousin Melissa in Puerto Plata in mid-April. While in the DR, we were able to make a quick trip down to IKEA in Santo Domingo with Tammi to do some serious kitchen/housewares shopping. It was a success and I must say it was definitely strange to be eating Swedish meatballs and boiled potatoes in the DR - but when in IKEA...

Melissa and I came back to Haiti in time to pick up my other good friend Rose a week before the wedding and promptly went to get manicures and pedicures in Cap Haiten. Not something I ever treat myself to in Canada, but when its only $5 US for each, how can you pass it up?

The three of us had a good time relaxing, catching up and just hanging out in Haut Limbe. We even got an afternoon of  fried fish and suntanning at the beach one day!
Melissa and I at the beach

Rose and I at the beach.

 On the Wednesday, my family (parents, sister, brother-in-law, nieces and nephew) arrived in Cap Haitien. It was great to be able to show them where I've been living and my life here. My nieces and nephew are all little blond, blue-eyed cuties so they were quite the spectacle in town where people have probably not seen many white children.

While in Haut Limbe, we prepared favours and decorations for the wedding and then headed into Cap on Friday to spend the night at the lovely Hotel Christophe.
On our way to Cap - wedding dress safely packed in the pink bag!

We woke up to a beautiful, sunny Saturday and we able to get ready in time to have some pictures done in the hotel's courtyard before heading off to the venue for the ceremony and reception. The wedding was supposed to start at 12, and I think we actually got going at about 12:45 - not too bad by Haitian standards! Even with out having a rehearsal, the ceremony went fairly smoothly and mission accomplished - we got married!!

Mme David, Mme Marc (caterers) and me.
The cake!
The ladies prepared us a wonderful meal and an extravagant cake - I had know idea what to expect! Everyone ate their fill and by 3 pm, we were all done. It was perfect and I couldn't have asked for anything to be different.

With Alin who brought the plants and flowers for decorations.
Tammi - photographer and friend!
 On the Monday following, after my family friends boarded their plane, Cal and I went to Puerto Plata for our honeymoon for a week and a half. It was a beautiful resort with great food.

Resort in Puerto Plata
Before dinner on the last night.

We ended the honeymoon by stopping in Santiago for one night with Tammi and to do some last minute shopping for the house.

Our little kitchen.
We are back now and are mostly settled into our apartment. I'm enjoying brushing up on my cooking skills and impressing Cal that I actually know how to cook.

This Wednesday, a group of 12 arrive from Strathmore to help at the clinic, so we'll be busy! I'm excited to see what God has in store for them.

Thanks for all your encouragement and support - Cal and I appreciate it so much!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mr & Mme Calvin Christolin

Mr & Mme Calvin

My Nieces, nephew and I.

My sister (Maid of Honour), Nicely (Best Man), Calvin and I.

Cal's Family

My parents and Cal's parents.

My family.

Mama Manno and I.

We're back!!

We are here - we've actually been back in Haut Limbe for a week, but it's been a bit busy catching up on things, moving into our apartment and arranging everything. We are happy to be here and get settled into regular life before our next group arrives on Wednesday.

I'm going to try to post some pictures of the wedding by the weekend!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How a trip to Cap Haitien can suck the life out of you

Anyone who has spent a little time in Haiti, will quickly learn that nothing is easy here. It's best just to work on that assumption and then be pleasantly surprised when something is easy - it'll save you years of stress and frustration.

On Saturday we went in Cap with a significant list of things to do for the wedding and for the apartment. Perhaps it was too ambitious, but it was all things that needed to get done in the next little while. Anyways, we set off at about 9 am in the truck. Now, getting to Cap itself is an adventure. It's only 25 kms away, but only a quarter of the road is paved (with pot-holes), the rest is gravel (with pot-holes) and very dusty as we haven't had any rain in weeks. Needless to say, I don't make the trip into Cap unless I absolutely need to. Along the way, we stopped at the wedding venue, paid the deposit and continued on.

We arrived in Cap. Cap Haitien is a city that was built or planned for about 200,000 people - it now contains about 1 million people. So, needless to say, it's crowded, busy and dusty! Traffic, is well, interesting. I know that it's a whole lot better than Port au Prince, but for the size of the city, it's still frustrating. Our next stop was the florists - but they weren't open. So we headed off to the hardware/appliance store to look for a stove and a fridge. After some talking and negotiating, we were able to settle on a stove and fridge. The stove is a bit bigger than I wanted, but when you only have 3 to choose from, you have to go with what you got. Driving to Port to find one just doesn't seem worth it. We didn't take them with us, because we didn't have the extra money for the stove. Cal went back on Monday to pick them up.

After that, we were off to the "stores" to find kitchen and household supplies. Mama was with us to help in our search and negotiations. Basically all of downtown Cap is one big open air market, but there are some "stores" along the side streets. We searched up and down, but Mama couldn't find anything that made her happy, so we to the main central market with all the food, clothes, shoes, supplies - basically anything you would need. After weaving our way through the "machanns" with their rice, vegetables, meat, etc, we found the kitchen supply area - heaven. We start picking all kinds of things we need - pots, spoons, bowls, knives, etc. We got a pretty good haul for about $50 US. We piled everything into a "kivet" (a large basin) and paid someone to carry it out through the maze of the crowded market to the truck for us.

By this time, I'm getting pretty tired, and hot. It turned hot here last week, so it's around 30 degrees during the day. We go to a nearby restaurant for a bite to eat and a drink and to regroup. After, we go back to the florists, they are open now. Made our payment for the wedding flowers and all the final arrangements. One last stop. To buy a mattress/boxspring. Here again, there isn't a lot of choice, unless you want to buy used - then there is tons of choice. We find a bed, make a negotiation and tie it to the truck. We're done!!!

By now it's about 3 pm and I'm wiped and a headache it starting to set in. We get home around 4, I eat the lunch that Marlene left for us, shower and fall down on my bed with exhaustion. My headache lingered around all night and into the morning. Finally, by Sunday afternoon I was feeling a bit normal again.

I shouldn't complain too much - Cal made the trip to Cap again Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It's tiring. Good thing I have a week to recover before my trip back to catch the bus to the DR!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Sendie Salomon
Sendie came into the clinic on Monday morning with her aunt. She is 10 years old and lives with her 4 brothers and parents in La Coup - a section of Haut Limbe. Since she was born, she has been hard of hearing. She began attending school at age 3, but has always struggled to keep up. The teachers do their best to help her, but class sizes are huge here and they simply do not have the extra time or expertise to give Sendie the attention she needs. She is able to read and write, but is very shy to speak as she has difficulties because of her hearing problems.

After Manno saw her, he called me to come and get her story so that we could send an email out to friends and supporters of the clinic to see if anyone would be willing to help Sendie so that she could see a specialist, perhaps in the DR. I wrote an email yesterday morning, not being very optimistic about what kind of response we would receive. Oh me of little faith.

This morning when I opened the inbox, we already had 5 responses from people with ideas and wanting to help financially. I was blown away and totally pumped. I showed Manno the emails and he said "this is the body of Christ - it didn't cost us any money to send an email. Can you imagine if we hadn't tried to help this little girl?". It's so true - it's so much bigger than us, God is in control and is working in the lives of people all around the world - in Haiti and in Canada and the U.S.

I'm not sure what the next step is for Sendie, but I'm excited to find out!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

And the winner is...

Michel "Sweet Mickey" Martelly.

Yesterday, just after 6 pm, a roar was heard in the area as the results of the Presidential election were announced. Martelly won with 67% of the vote over Mme Manigat. Martelly is a famous Haitian rap star who is very popular with the young people. Mme Manigat is almost 80 and the former first lady of the country. I don't really know who would have lead the country the best, but I'm just glad this election process is finally over! With Martelly winning, it means there will likely not be any demonstrations or protests over the results. These were just the preliminary results, the final results will be announced on the 16th - just a week before my wedding! I'm glad that things are quite decided and that there shouldn't be any unrest in the next few weeks.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

March Update

Dear Friends & Family,
Bonjou from Haiti where it is now summer I believe. We don’t really have four seasons here – just comfortable and then HOT! It was a pretty cool and comfortable winter, but it seemed to change overnight.

This Sunday in church I definitely needed my paper fan to give a little breeze during the service. We have now entered the season of multiple showers per day!

Weather aside, things are going well. This past month we hosted a group of 9 from Lighthouse Covenant Church in Sarnia. The majority of the group were 15-21 years old, so they had a lot of energy and a lot of questions! It was great to see them build relationships with our Haitian brothers and sisters here. They began helping construct the second floor of the depot that will be used as a residence for doctors and nurses working at the clinic. We also visited an orphanage in Limbe, had a Creole class and participated in a community English class. I think their trip was a success!

The clinic has been fairly busy, which is a good thing, but we also have some challenges as far as staffing. We have needed to hire an additional doctor for many months to help with the patient load, but we have not yet been able to. In addition, Dr. Joselie is on maternity leave for 3 months so we are under even more pressure for another doctor. Please pray for the committee as they work to secure a new doctor to serve at the clinic.

March 20th saw the run-off presidential elections here. Everything around here stayed calm and we hope to hear the results in April. Please continue to pray that the process will be fair and just and that peace will remain in this country.

Cholera is still here, but the numbers remain low. MSF pulled out of Limbe last week, so we expect the number of patients we receive at our treatment centre will increase a little bit. We are prepared to stay open to receive cholera patients needing treatment.

There has been some excitement in our household this month. Manno’s dad, Isaak, who had been living and working in the United States for nearly 20 years, retired and returned home to Haut Limbe! Manno’s mom (who I call Mama) was able to welcome her husband back to a very different house since he left. There has been a lot of work done to the yard and houses and since Isaak worked in maintenance in the US, he’s been busy everyday working on a project around the house. It’s such a blessing to see this family reunited as this does not always happen here when a spouse or family member goes abroad to work.

Also, Cal’s sister Briza gave birth via C-section to a healthy baby boy on March 15. We are thankful that everything went well.

Looking ahead, the next few months will be busy! Of course this month I will be hosting my friends and family coming for my wedding on April 23. In a couple of weeks, I’ll make a quick trip over to the DR to meet my friend who is flying into Puerto Plata (and do a little shopping). My parents, sister, brother-in-law, nieces and nephew will arrive a few days before the wedding. We’ll spend a couple of days in Haut Limbe, and then go to Cap Haitien the day before the wedding. After the wedding, Cal and I will take our honeymoon in the DR and then come back to work in May.

At the end of May, we are expecting a group from Strathmore to visit. In June, there is a possibility of a small group from Minnesota as well as a group from Randolph World Ministries coming to providing training in the lab at the clinic. The first week of July, a group of youth from the Edmonton church will be coming – right in the heat of summer! We are getting the fans ready now for them! So, it will be busy. In mid July, we hope to make a trip back to Canada to visit friends, family and churches. Please pray that Cal is able to receive a Canadian tourist visa.

For me, this coming month will be focused on preparing for the wedding and preparing our apartment. We have decided to rent a little basement apartment that Manno is fixing up in the back house of our yard. We’ll have a nice sized bedroom, bathroom and combined kitchen/living area. I’m excited to be staying in the same yard so that I’ll be close by for visiting groups and also to have my adoptive family around me.

After the wedding, my monthly expenses will increase (about double) as we will be renting the apartment, buying and preparing our own food and just taking care of day to day expenses. I want to thank all of you for the support and encouragement that you have given me so far. If you would like to continue to support me monthly or with a one-time gift, you can do so online at Designate your gift to "Haiti Clinic" and write "Janelle Peterson" in comment section. Cheques may be mailed to: Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada, PO Box 34025, RPO Fort Richmond, Winnipeg, MB R3T 5T5. Please include a note indicating your donation is for Janelle Peterson. All gifts are eligible for a tax receipt.

Well, I think I’ve covered just about everything. Thanks again for your encouragement and prayers. I would love to hear from you!

Bondye beni nou (God bless you)!

Janelle Peterson

Monday, March 28, 2011

The heat is on...

I think winter is over. Yesterday during church I had to use my fan during the service to keep myself cool. It's been a fairly cool winter here - compared to last year for me. By cool I mean, walking to/from the clinic during the day doesn't cause me to break out in a sweat and I can sleep in my flannel pajamas!

This weekend I had a "mini-vacation" house-sitting at the James' while they were in the DR. It's always a treat. This time I didn't even have to take care of the parrots! Someone else came to feed and water them!

This coming month is going to fly by I think - it's less than a month until the wedding! I'll be spending the next few weeks getting our basement apartment ready - buying appliances and household items. On the 11th of April, I'll go over to the DR to pick up my friend coming for the wedding and make a shopping trip to IKEA in Santo Domingo! Then, we we return to Haiti, my other friend comes and a few days later my family arrives for the wedding!

Yesterday i finished "addressing" the wedding invitations that will be hand delivered in the next week or so. We'll meet again with the caterers and make some deposits for the flowers and venue this weekend.

I forgot to announce this before, but Cal's sister Briza had a baby boy by C-section on March 15. Baby and mom are doing well!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Clinic Needs

People often ask how they can help Ebenezer Clinic. Here are some ways:

Medical Supplies/Medication - We have a whole depot full of gloves, bandages, syringes, etc so we don't need supplies like that. But on a monthly basis we need insulin, One Touch or Reli-On glucometers and test strips. We have a program for diabetics in which they come and receive an insulin shot once a week. Most of the patients cannot afford it, so donations of insulin are very helpful.

Medical Professionals - Doctors and nurses who are willing to volunteer are always helpful. It is usually best if you can commit to at lease 3 weeks of service as it takes awhile to get the hang of medicine in Haiti, so the longer you stay, the more beneficial it is. Volunteers must be flexible to work in conditions different than North America and be willing to learn about Haitian culture and medical practices. We are also always looking for people who are willing to give training to our medical staff to help develop their skills

Financial - The nature of Ebenezer Clinic means that we do not make a profit and therefore are very thankful for financial donations given from individuals and churches. To make a financial donation through The Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada, please check out the link at the right of this page.

Prayer - Anyone can pray. Pray for the Clinic Committee, the doctors, nurses and the rest of the staff. Pray for the patients that come from all over the north of Haiti for care.

If you have any questions, please email me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

He's back...

Another exiled former president has returned to Haiti. Aristide landed in Port au Prince from South Africa yesterday morning. I heard the news just as Ben and I were driving away from the airport to drop off the group of Canadians for their Miami flight. Ben had called a friend in Port and while he was talking I could hear the noise of the crowds in the street in Port through the phone.

As far as I know things stayed calm in Cap yesterday - Ben and I were anxious to get home as soon as possible. Nobody knows what this means - how will it affect tomorrow's runoff elections. The Haitian people are very divided in their support for Aristide - even in this community. Please be praying for Haiti in the coming days and weeks.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An interesting read

The following blog references a book I recently read - "When Helping Hurts - How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself". It's a challenging read, but I recommend it to anyone interested in or involved in missions/development work.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fighting a cold

Sunday afternoon I started to come down with a cold – boo! Monday morning, I woke up early, started my day by having breakfast and going to the office, but a half an hour later my sneezing, runny nose and stuffy head convinced me that I needed to go home and rest. So that’s where I’ve been for the past few days, save making a couple trips during the day to check/send emails. I need to get well soon as I have a group arriving on Friday morning and groups take a lot of energy when your healthy, never mind being sick!

Thankfully we’ve had a lot of EDH lately so I’ve been able to watch a gazillion episodes of House on my computer (thanks Ardis)! I suspect the generous amount of EDH is for Kanaval or Carnival. There hasn’t been school Monday, Tuesday or today. I think it starts again tomorrow. There isn’t much for celebrations in Haut Limbe, but some of the biggest bands in Haiti have been playing in Cap Haitian this week. Last year there were no Kanaval celebrations at all because of the earthquake, so this is my first experience (which hasn’t been much).

Well, back to resting I go. I’ll try to give an update once the group arrives!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A philosphy of mission teams/mission work

One of the essay questions on one of my senior economic development courses at university was to write my philosophy of development. What a great question! I think I remember most of what I wrote, and I think I would still mostly agree with what I wrote at the time. I believed in grassroots development that was more than just a transfer of money or resources and included the participation of local peoples. I was leery of large INGOs that had a band aid approach to development believing they did more harm than good, all of the time. However, life experience and field experience adds new questions to my idealistic philosophy that I held. After working 6 years at a large Canadian food aid and food security organization, I quickly learned that there are many instances where food aid is the only response that is appropriate so that people do not starve. I learned that there are many organizations working on the ground with local partners to develop sustainable methods of development. I also learned that there are many organizations that choose not to work with local partners in a healthy way and this results in much damage.

Being in Haiti for the past year, I've seen both of these cases. Development and relief work is big business in Haiti. There are over 15,000 registered NGOs in Haiti! With that many organizations, one would think things would have changed here. But to look around, you see that is not the case. It makes me wonder why and what can be done to make lasting change. There are definitely systemic changes that need to be made in government and business - getting rid of corruption. There are also cultural beliefs and practices that inhibit lasting change. I'm not saying that this culture is bad - I believe that there is good and bad in every culture (including Canadian culture), but there are some historical and spiritual beliefs that do not encourage change.

I often wonder why I am here - I'm sure lots of you wonder that too! Although I guess I am technically a "missionary" I don't really feel like one in the traditional sense of the word, especially for Haiti. I didn't come to start a church or school, I don't lead Bible studies, I don't have any converts (nor have I tried to have any), I usually wear pants instead of skirts or dresses, I ride motorcycle taxis, etc.

So what do I do here? I do a lot of listening and learning. I'm learning to listen even more that talk or give advice. I've already made many mistakes by not doing that. The North American value of efficiency isn't always effective, especially in Haiti.

On a practical day to day level - I do work. I help Manno with his email communications. I coordinate volunteers and teams that want to help at the clinic. I give advice (when asked) for administrative matters at the clinic. I interact with my Haitian friends and neighbours everyday establishing relationships and building trust.

So what's my philosophy of mission teams and mission work? I'm not a fan of traditional mission teams. Gasp! Nope, I don't like them. I've seen too many teams of people in matching T-shirts at the airport arrivals ready to save Haiti. Sorry folks, you and your 9 teammates are not going to save Haiti in the next 7 days of your trip. Many of these teams come to Haiti ready to "fix" Haiti with no cultural or historical understanding of this country. They believe that North American models of development can be transplanted here and will be fruitful. They come to build churches, schools or medical clinics while Haitians stand around watching them wishing they could have a job. Or, they want to evangelize Haiti. Good intentions - but there are already churches here with many pastors who are doing this. Many pastors work in Haiti without pay - it's a calling for them. Is it not more effective for a Haitian to hear the Gospel from a fellow Haitian then a visiting missionary? What North American missionaries can bring is training and resources for the workers already here.

So what do I think mission teams should do?
  • First of all there needs to be a partnership between the team and the local partner. Both parties need to be in agreement for the purpose of the trip. 
  • Teams need to come with an attitude of learning and listening, realizing that they do not have all the answers (if any) and that they can learn a lot from their Haitian brothers and sisters. 
  • The team should not be the primary workers. When we do construction at the clinic, we always hire the local tradespeople to direct the work. The team usually spends their time doing grunt work, or sitting around building relationships with Haitians.
  • Teams should never give out food, clothes, candy, toys or other gifts in their own. Doing this is just asking for problems and reinforces the stereotypes of the "rich, white people" to the locals.
  • Teams should engage with the local culture and people making an effort to communicate and speak Creole.
  • Teams should understand that there is much more to Haiti than what meets the eye. People often say "everyone looks so happy even though they have so little". Which is a true statement. However, many people have been struggling to survive their whole life, they choose to have joy and hope rather than bitterness and anger. Even though people look happy, they are still struggling inside.
These are some of my thoughts, sorry for the rambling. I hope that you will join me in the struggle of understanding this beautiful country and come along and support those who are doing their best to make a difference.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Praise Items and Prayer Requests

I realize that I do not share with you nearly enough praise items and prayer requests. Here is my attempt to do that and please remind me to continue to do it!

  • The solar/inverter system that was donated and installed by the ECCC a couple of weeks ago is working great! We now only need to run the generator for a couple of hours in the evening to run the water pump for the town! This will result in significant savings in buying fuel for the generator.
  • The number of cholera patients has decreased dramatically! We still have a few, but it is much more manageable and the word about prevention has spread.

  • Run off Presidential elections are set for March 20. Prayer that things remain peaceful and that Haiti is given the chance for a free and democratic election.
  • A group of 9 from the Covenant Church in Sarnia arrive next Friday. Pray for them as they travel and for their time here that they would build significant relationships with those they come in contact with here.
  • Pray for Cal's family. His brother, Placide, has been diagnosed with anemia (it's very hard to have a high iron diet here) and has a reoccurring infection in his foot due to poor circulation. Also, his older sister, Briza, is pregnant and will be having a C-section in the coming month. Surgery is always a risk in North America, and even more of a risk here so please pray for her and her family.
  • Pray for our housing situation after the wedding - we have a couple of options, but nothing is for sure yet. Pray that it will all work out for the best and that I won't get too stressed about it in the meantime!
  • Pray for my friends and family that will be traveling here for the wedding in April that they would remain safe and healthy!
  • Pray for Cal and I as we prepare to apply for a Canadian Tourist Visa for him to visit Canada this summer.
Thank you everyone for your prayers and encouragement!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

From the God's Politics Blog Today

The jolt in Port-au-Prince herniated a disk in my lower back last month. The pain is making it hard to sleep at night. I’ve walked with a sideways bent and haven’t been able to pick up my two young children since.

But here’s the thing: The jolt happened while riding a motorcycle taxi to a meeting in a tent camp where 50,000 people live under tarps. So I can’t much indulge in feeling sorry for myself.
I travel to Haiti regularly for work with a nonprofit, but right now I’m back in Florida where I have a safe, dry home to sleep in; I have a bed; I’ve already been to the physical therapist four times; I can afford ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Aleve; I eat more than enough each day. You get the idea.
So when I start complaining, then remember this context, it seems my basic choices are either to be grateful or to be an ass.

On one hand, this is the proper perspective. On the other, this is a potentially exploitative “benefit” of what are typically called some variation of a “service trip,” but are also sometimes critically called “poverty tourism.”

We see people suffering so much more than us, and then come back and say, “It just makes you so grateful for what you have.” Or, “It puts life in perspective.”

The motorcycle taxi driver I was riding with lost a staggering amount in the earthquake. The church he attends collapsed on more than 200 people inside, his friends, his relatives. After getting off his motorcycle, I was soon talking with people in the camp who lost everything and have little reasonable hope for improvement any time soon.

A sore back? Sheesh.

But if the longest lasting result of my working in or visiting a place with much suffering, is that I feel a little better about my own life … well, then I’ve probably exploited people struggling with poverty even more than they’re being exploited already.

So for me, three differences come to mind to keep these trips from being “poverty tourism”:
First, who and how do I visit people? Is it marked by dignity, without patronizing, with humility, as a learner. Are we visiting with people or an organization who have respectful, engaged relationships with the community? What kind of photos do we take or stories do we tell? What side comments do we make to our fellow travelers? Do we ask ourselves the hard questions? How do we, or shouldn’t we, talk about “them?”

Second, and related, does it make a difference to how I live “back home?” In how I give, what politics I engage in, or in whatever the area is that we each can make a difference to the systems that perpetuate pain. How do I think and talk and act?

Third, is my visit only the beginning of a long-term commitment to finding effective ways to help? Even if I worked hard to build a community center or learning language or to add on to a church building, it wasn’t much in the big picture. People are often gracious hosts and share the best part of their smiles and lives with us when we visit. But sometimes that seems to give us an excuse to quarantine the unsettling part of our experience, the part that might demand a lot of us.

These are some of the factors for me. I’m in Haiti many times a year, but I still need to check myself.
If we come back with a kind of souvenir that makes us feel more comfortable about our lives, then it’s likely been exploitation. If we come back and we’re more uncomfortable, and also committed to smart, respectful ways to help, then maybe we properly honor the hospitality we’ve received.
Can we find good ways to contribute to each other’s well being?

Some people think there shouldn’t be these exchanges at all. I don’t agree. I think they’re important for working for justice. But I do think there are differences between traveling as a poverty tourist and a citizen of the world.

Kent Annan is co-director of Haiti Partners (, which has set up an Earthquake Response Fund. He is the author of After Shock, which explores questions of faith, doubt, and searching, and he is also the author of Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle: Living Fully, Loving Dangerously, which is about living and working in Haiti.