February 2013 Pilgrimage Trip Summary

Following are updates received during the recent pilgrimage trip to Haiti by eleven parishioners of St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in Lewisville, Texas.

Tuesday, February 5 – by Sue Ogle
Took my first solo taxi ride in Port-au-Prince this morning …. it just doesn’t work well when two people don’t speak the same language …. the only word we both understood was ‘airport’ – that’s not where I was going, but that’s were I got!

Met up with the St. Philip Haitian Pilgrims contingent and experienced many heart wrenching and warming events. We stopped to visit Citi Soleil, one of the poorest areas in Port-au-Prince. Inside the compound the Pilgrims erected a jungle gym for the students in a record two hours. We fed the poor at the Food For the Poor kitchen, by scooping rice and beans into plastic buckets (1/2 gallon) that would
be the only meal that day for the hundreds of people in line to receive this meager meal.

We met a woman who had lost her husband in the earthquake, she and her 4 children were living in one of the plastic tents, but proudly on the land they had purchased just before the quake. Now, three years later, she smiles broadly as Food For the Poor is building them a small home that will complete their dreams. No longer will she have to stand up each time it rains to avoid the water.

Wednesday, February 6 – by Keith Hilton
I have mixed emotions about yesterday. As I reflect on it, I feel sad that people have to live in such horrendous circumstances, but at the same time I saw hope and happiness for things that would make us feel like our world was ending. I saw more poverty than I could ever imagine. Thousands of people living in shanties and tents. It’s unimaginable how vast it is. Everywhere we drove around the city was worse than anything you could see in the states. Miles and miles with people everywhere. 3 million people live in Port au Prince and 85% of them are unemployed. The average daily wage for those with jobs is $3/day. But what impressed me the most was the hope that I saw everywherre. School children in a school in the middle of a slum area that were excited to be there and happy wearing their white and blue uniforms, singing songs for us, trying to pronounce our names, excited to have their picture taken and then giggling as we showed them the digital image. Reaching out and taking our hands as we walked around, thrilled for us to be there so they could show us what they’d learned.

Then we visited an area called City of Hope. A collection of cinder block 2 bedroom homes that had been given to people in the slums. I will never forget the image of a woman that showed us her home, beaming with pride just because she owned a home. The people living there told us that by owning a home meant they weren’t animals anymore. The last place we went was to visit a woman and her 4 children that were living in a tarp shelter. Her husband had been killed in the earthquake but prior to that, they had bought a piece of land. She had built her tent on the land and had written Food for the Poor asking for them to build a home for her. She’d just found out that it had been apporved and they would build the house for her this month (it only takes 3 months to build these homes). We can’t comprehend the impact something like that has on someone in this situation. The pride and dignity that they feel to own a cinder block, 2 room house is incomprehensible in our world.

Wednesday, February 6 – by Sue Ogle
What a day for Haitian Pilgrims! We visited a government run secondary level school this morning. These teenagers struggle to learn in unconditioned classrooms with 106 students per class. They were very interested in talking with us and many asked us questions in exceptionally well spoken English. Better, their behavior was respectful, attentive and curious.

This afternoon we put our work gloves on …. 200 trees were planted at Foundation Montesinos in Titanyen, Haiti, an orphanage run by Pere Charles Moise who worked beside us with many of the children helping with the planting.

Some of the Pilgrims worked in the library relocating over 1,000 books to protect them from the elements. The 85 children range in age from 3 to their early 20s, many of which lost their parents in the earthquake, or were rescued from prisons. They are taught Creole, French, Spanish and English languages. I was especially touched by an 18 year old girl named Sarah, an energetic leader who really liked my neon blue nail polish. My prayer for Sarah is that she continues to learn and develop her leadership skills and not be entrapped in the black hole of poverty that supresses so many talented youth in this country.

Thursday, February 7 – by Sue Ogle
Thursday in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, the Haitian Pilgrims visited a Senior center managed by a Korean order of nuns (formerly by Food For the Poor). Homeless Seniors who have no family are given a 10×12 foot home with a bed, dresser and table. They have a small front porch with a plastic chair from which they sit and visit their neighbo…rs and visitors. We were divided into teams and sent to help in housing sections. Keith and I were sent to section C, we didn’t know what we were going to do until the worker in the section met us. We were humbled to hear that we would be bathing women and sweeping out thier homes and washing the front porches.

As you can well imagine, I bathed the women and Keith swept out their homes (a really heads down sweeper). The women sat in their front stoop chair, removed their clothes and I was given a bowl of warm water, bar of soap and towel. I was humbled and blessed to care for them; once bathed I dressed them in clean clothes. When finished the women reached out to give hugs and kisses of gratitude. One of the women was blind and she took my hands and kissed them. I was reminded of our Holy Thursday foot washing tradition and I could not get the ‘will you let me be your servant’ hymn out of my mind. The morning visit ended with dancing in their center pavilion to upbeat music. A very spry Haitian man kept me dancing the entire time. What fun!

Thursday afternoon the Haitian Pilgrims visited the Orphanage for Handicapped Children. What a beautiful environment these physically and mentally challenged children of God have to live each day in dignity, care and love. We moved from bed to bed touching, talking, stroking and praying for them; some could respond, many didn’t appear to know we were there. Their fragile, thin bodies contorted in unnatural angles, heads bent back and eyes starring out to never, never land. I am reminded that my three children are perfect, living with every opportunity available for the taking. Why … the eternal unanswered question begs for reason, solution and absolution.

The children with mobility, voice and cognition teach us that they are here to bring us joy! We played soccer (with a basketball), blew bubbles at which the children screeched with joy and reached out to grab. Little girls grabbed at my neon blue nails and gave me that (are you really an adult?) look. One girl in a wheel chair wanted each of us to give her a fast ride; we would push her up and down the room until she reached out and grabbed another one of us – it was now their turn. Our hearts filled with joy, we say farewell to our new playmates whose faces will stay with us forever.

Friday, February 8 – by Sue Ogle
Friday 2/8, the Haitian Pilgrims last day in Port-au-Prince. With suitcases pack tight in the bus we head out to go shopping! Buying Haitian art for our relatives, friends and sponsors gives us a sense of contributing to the economy…

We then head over to the Bernard Mev’s Hospital, one of the few to survive the earthquake. We visit the children’s area to find volunteer doctors and nurses from Cincinatti! Eager young adults on their first medical mission, eager and happy and determined to return. They love working in an environment where their medical skill to save lives is more important than avoiding law suits and completing insurance

We’re also invited into the neonatal room where a 2.1 lb baby is being held by its mother, so tiny, so perfect. Others are under lights or in incubators being cared for by attentive staff. A short walk to the roof takes us to a room where artifical limbs are molded. There are feet, legs, metal knees and molding equipment scattered throughout. A very proud technician shares with us that they are using the same technology that was used in the movie ‘Dolphin Tail’. A silicon sleve is displayed and it’s explained that these are used for patients with thin skin and bone issues (Ah Ha Moment!), those are issues my Dad struggles with daily …. maybe I’m in this room for a reason.

Our mission to Haiti comes to an end; our incredibly talented driver, Daniel, delivers us to the airport where we do a little more shopping and wait for our return flight to reality.

Medical Mission Report From Sue Ogle

Sue Ogle, a board member of the Haitian Pilgrims visited Haiti to participate in a NOVA Medical Mission in Cavaillon, Haiti, and to oversee the transition of management of the Haitian Pilgrims clinic in Boileau to NOVA. Following are her daily reflections of her experience.

Monday, January 28
Helped facilitate the processing of 195 patients through the medical clinic today in Cavaillon, Haiti. Many many sick babies. NOVA, Hope for Haiti is the organization I’m working with this week. What an outstanding group of Doctors, nurses and volunteers.

Tuesday, January 29
Second day the Nova, Hope for Haiti medical mission clinic was open for business in Caviallon was decidely different from the first. We saw 218 patients, a little boy with a burned leg was given priority. Another boy had severe asama and spent the whole day under the watchful eye of a peds doctor. A little boy threw up in triage (my work area) and I loved cleaning that up … three minutes later his mother was feeding him cheetos again! I held a baby girl that was born with a partial brain, she wil not survive as she is seizing multiple times a day. I also held a 4 week old infant, as beautiful as could be … and that was followed by a 3 year old that bit me in the leg (no skin broke).

Ive also picked up a number of Creole phrases that instruct people to “sit there” “come with me” “stay there” “go over to the church” “thank you” more than I’ve learned in 12 years of trips – ya gotta love it! Can’t wait to see  what’s in store for tomorow!

Wednesday, January 30
Hi everyone, writing from St. Therese in Boileau, dogs are barking, roosters crowing and bugs biting – don’t they know it’s bedtime!

I spent another full day a the NOVA, Hope for Haiti Medical Mission Clinic in Cavaillon today. Everyday there has been a young man (22) who is obviously mentally challenged; he speaks loudly at me trying to explain in Creole what is physically wrong (there is nothing physically wrong with him). This goes on for hours and at times all I really want is for him to go away. Today our area was puddled from the night’s rain and it looked as if we were going to get very muddy. They young man immediately picked up a hand-made broom and swept the water away until there was no more. Later an eldery blind woman (very late seventies) came to the clinic. The young man gently took her by the arm and guided her through the 3 hour process of waiting to be triaged, wait in queue to go into the clinic and then into another queue to see the physician and then wait again to have prescriptions filled. I learned that the woman “adopted” the boy and they care for each other. God’s plan is so much better than any we would prepare for these two gentle souls. I know he will be back tomorrow and I will welcome him.

Today I also saw two patients with Cerebal Palsy; one is 16 and the other is 3. The 16 year old is carried by her mother everywhere, the child has never been able to walk, and now is about as tall as her mother. The 3 year old will never walk and has almost no ability to hold her head up. Both children are so very loved and cared for by their mothers and extended family. What both mother’s could use is one of those three wheelers that joggers use to push their young children with … they would be so much better on the rough streets of Cavaillon than any wheel chair (which are rarely affordable). If anyone knows of one that is no longer in use, but in good shape, and would be willing to donate to these children I will find a way to get them to the mothers. It would change their lives beyond our immagination.

Thursday, January 31
Another inspiring day in Cavaillon, Haiti …. On Tuesday I saw a 4 month old boy who weighed 7 lbs. His mother died of breast cancer one month after he was born. While quite small, he is essentially healthy. We needed to find formula for this baby as there was no wet nurse available. A quick text message to a friend resulted in two large packages of Infamil w/iron, bottles and nipples and a $200 donation for the family to continue to be able to feed the child. Our challenge was that the child did not show up to the clinic this morning as expected! However, a good friend of the Haitian Pilgrims, Yvani did come to the clinic for treatment and knew where the small hamlet was that the records said the boy lived. We walked to the village and through neighbors found the house at the top of a steep rock trail. We presented the boy’s aunt with the gifts and took pictures (which I can’t load up here in Boileau, i will when I get home). As we left, it was comforting knowing that this baby boy will survive long enough to be able to eat solid food and thrive. More amazing to me was that this little boy is named Dave (David), the name of my youngest brother who died at 6 years of age …. this was truly a God Thing.

Friday, February 1
I can’t tell you all how much your comments on my postings have meant to me, they are so kind. I have received two donations of the three wheel jogging strollers and am humbled by your generousity and care for my friends in Haiti.

On Friday of the NOVA Medical Mission we treated another 200 patients. Our biggest challenge was that all the medicine that was shipped from the states was still being held up in customs in Port-au-Prince! We had close to 200 people coming back to the clinic for their medication and we didn’t have it. A sign was posted outside the building, but again, many Hatians cannot read or write. It was very painful to have to tell them to come back the next day as many of them hav to walk a long way just to go home empty handed and still sick. Fortunately, customs released the medicine around 4:00PM and it reached us around 11:00 PM that evening. Now the scramble begins to get this large shipment open, sorted and ready for distribution. The NOVA volunteers work with such precision, focus and speed that any organization would be envious.

Saturday, February 2
I spent Saturday afternoon handling patient flow once again; because of a heated argument from one of the mother’s in the pediatric line I ‘policed’ the pediatric waiting section. The entire afternoon was spent entertaining the children, playing paddy cake, choo choo train, dancing with the children and sparking their curiousity with my bright blue nail polish with flowers on the pinky fingers. One little girl pulled on my pinky finger and then pulled my arm until I was close enough and she gave me kisses, she then pulled me forward closer so I could kiss her mother. What a fun afternoon!

Saturday also brought a unique experience … I had played with a little brother and sister while they were waiting to see a pediatrition. Once they were through with their visit, the mother brought them by to say thank you and kiss me goodbye. This happened many times throughout the week, but this time the litle girl caught me off guard and her saliva fluid got in my mouth. While I would normally not be concerned, this is Haiti, and one must be cautious. The nurses advised that I needed to rinse my mouth with bleach water (YIKES!). A very few drops of bleach in a small cup of water, rinse and spit. I could taste that bleach for hours! But I would not change this experience for anything. The afternoon was spent tearing the clinic down, again an amazing tacticle effort by NOVA volunters. Most of the unused medical supplies were driven to the Haitian Pilgrims clinic in Boileau and locked in the new pharmacy. This was such an amazing gift to our clinic the shelves will be filled with many medicines and supplies that they’ve never had in the past.

Saturday evening was time to put my business hat back on. Representing Haitian Pilgrims and working with Joe, the NOVA business representative, we presented the staff of the Boileau clinic with a small salary increase in recognition of their exceptional work ethic and dedication since we lost our physician 18 months ago. Joe and I then extended an offer to a physician that we had been observing and evaluating all week to be the full-time physician at our Boileau clinic. To our delight and after negotiating his salary, he accepted the position and we all celebrated with an appropriate Haitian rum toast! What a successful and rewarding week this has been! I thank all of you for your thoughts, prayers and support. You keep me going!

Sunday, February 3
On Sunday, we board the bus at 7:00 AM to drive to Port-au-Prince. We arrive in a record 3 hours (remember, we’re on a big yellow school bus!), and I say a fond farewell to my new 36 friends with hugs and kisses (Christians, Muslims and Jews all working together to bring health care to the poorest of the poor). I am now sitting by the pool under the palm trees sharing my thoughts with you. And while this sounds wonderful, I dare not walk out of this hotel as it is in a very dangerous neighborhod. I will regroup my body and mind today and tomorow in preparation to meet the Haitian Pilgrims coming to Port-au-Prince Tuesday morning where I will greet them with our Food For The Poor pilgrimage guides with open arms. I have to wait about another 3.5 hours until my hotel room is ready, but what the heck, I have a good book (no it’s not 50 Shades of Grey …) and the shade of the palm trees. Please continue to pray for safe travels for my friends who go home today, the ones
traveling on Monday and Tuesday and me.

God Bless you all, Sue Ogle