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!