It has been unfortunate timing on my part to arrive in Haiti on the precipice of a pandemic. The situation here, however, is not one of people spreading the virus and getting hospitalized, but rather something that is scoffed at and invisible. Many people do not believe COVID-19 exists in Haiti and to be honest, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of people getting it. The real issue is the fluctuating exchange rate and the market prices going up. Port-au-Prince is also in some political turmoil – and often is – too but that barely touches us in GwoMòn.
A personal drawback for myself during these times is not being able to meet certain people and do certain activities.
The volunteers through the Religious of Jesus and Mary sisters (RJM) returned to the United States almost as soon as I arrived. The summer camps for students that I would have participated in were canceled. And a group from Ireland who come once a year to build a house for a family were not able to come. Being out of country doesn’t necessarily mean the work stops though.
These past few weeks I have had the opportunity to help some people out. The Irish who couldn’t come build the house still, through Brittany, contracted Frietznel, the Haitian they usually work with, to build a house. Britt left to discern with the RJMs and asked Abby and I if we could visit the site weekly and take pictures to keep the Irish updated. We agreed and were able to see the house to its completion last weekend. God willing, I’ll be able to meet the Irish group next year.
With Britt’s departure, she also asked us to do her a favor and travel with the hospital’s mobile clinic and take pictures. We also agreed to that and spent the morning taking pictures of the nurses taking women’s blood pressure and babies being weighed in an area I’d never been before called Perou. Or at least really close to Perou.
Yesterday, Sami and I went to the henhouse together where she works and I took a bunch of videos of her. An MKLM in El Salvador is making a video on what Maryknoll is doing to combat hunger and wanted a video of Sami doing her stuff. So I obliged by taking maybe 20+ videos. We’ll see how it turns out!
I have also been blessed by many people helping ME out as well. Jacques, who works with me in the tree nursery, has been such a kind and gracious companion. We spend a lot of time working together and have gotten to know each other well. Last Thursday, I didn’t go to Grepen on account of traveling with the mobile clinic. I had told both Rosemond and Jacques that and assured them I would be there on Friday, on account that I heard neither Jacques nor Rosemond would be there. When Friday came, I fully expected to be on my own for the morning, but after an hour of work, I looked up and saw Jacques striding on up. When I asked him about it, he said he finished the thing he needed to do, knew that Rosemond wasn’t coming, and didn’t want me to be on my own.
He’s so sweet!
And Something Familiar
The year before this one, I was a volunteer for FrancisCorps in Syracuse, NY. My worksite was L’Arche Syracuse, an international nonprofit for people with disabilities, living in community. I was an assistant in one of the 4 homes in the Syracuse area. Each home had 4 core members, or what the residents with disabilities are called (because the relationships between them and the assistants are what make of the core of the community), and a varying number of live-in assistants and non-live-ins of which I was the latter.
Most of my duties included sharing time (when I’m on the clock) with one particular core member in my home. Let’s call her Stella, for privacy reasons. Stella and I went swimming together, went to the beach, shopping, the library, the L’Arche office to help out, the local church, parks, the zoo, fairs and festivals… you name it and we likely went. I was placed there specifically for Stella so she would be able to get around and enjoy her retirement as she deserves.
(I was also the big candle-maker in the house, of which the proceeds go to L`Arche International to support L’Arche communities around the world that do not have government funding and rely solely on donation and fundraising)
One of the most important aspects of my work was Tuesday Art Class. Art Class is a wonderfully chaotic mess of assistants doing their best for the core members and the core members doing their best to have fun. I mean this in the most positive light I can. It was hard sometimes, but Art Class’s benefits and rewards outshone any problems we faced. It was a lesson on the beauty of imperfection and imagination.
Usually on assistant plans the day and it rotates every week. Ideally, there are 4 assistants for the 8 core members, 3 coming from one house, three coming from another, and 2 coming in from outside facilities. By the end of my year with them, there were usually just 3 assistants and I was the most experienced. The morning starts with prayer in the office, followed by a morning excursion somewhere (the most popular was bowling), returning to the office for lunch, and then an after-lunch activity, usually arts and crafts related.
We flew by the seat of our pants most Tuesdays.
This whole description though is set up for what I’ve started doing recently. It’s not as crazy as Art Class, but it still holds the same theme of listening and the ministry of presence that I learned at L’Arche.
Maison Bon Samaritain (MBS) is a home for people who seem to have nowhere else to go. They are primarily elderly, many with a disability or other health problem that makes mobility difficult. I’ve started going there Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for a couple hours to spend time with them. It’s difficult to understand much but I make my rounds with the nurses, the cooks, the guardian, and the residents. After I greet them and make some small talk, I settle down with a couple, usually Sovè who has become a good friend and is one of the youngest there, and play cards or dominoes. Occasionally I’ll help the kitchen with bringing the food to the dining room.
It’s not much of a ministry yet, but it fills my afternoons. Sr. Jackie, RJM, proposed an activity for the MBS residents, something I’ve been itching to do since I started going there, that would benefit Lekòl Jezi Mari as well. It’s an alphabet wall for the students that MBS can make and decorate for them. While it’s a slow process with getting the materials we need and prepping letter plaques to decorate, I’m really looking forward to it. In the future, I hope to do more for them.
My apologies for updating late this month. I wrote a short article for the Maryknoll Lay Missioners website in August. If you wish, you can view it here:
Also, if anyone is interested in a topic they would like to hear about, learn more about a project or person, or anything else you are interested in, feel free to send a message. It can be short, feel free to respond in the comments or the weird little chat bar. I don’t believe I have any problems receiving them.
How is everyone? I’ve been talking with my family regularly and the reality they are living is something I cannot yet fully comprehend since Haiti has been hit differently. You all have my prayers and am thinking of you guys every day (if at least to finally write something for you). While I ask that you all stay safe and protect the people around you, I also want to encourage you to live your lives and, as my mom just mentioned to me this morning, not live in a bubble.
May God’s peace follow you wherever you go.