Saturday, November 20, 2010

Change of Plans

I received a disturbing email from the volunteer coordinator the other night.  It stated that the organization was requesting I postpone my trip.  They had just gotten notification from the US Embassy that there was a new travel advisory for Port Au Prince.  Due to the increased violence in the area, it has been deemed unsafe for me to enter the area.

Many Haitians are upset and are holding the UN responsible for the recent outbreak of Cholera.  They have started burning trash to in the middle of roads to serve as barricades.  When aid workers exit their vehicles at the barricades, they sometimes have rocks thrown at them with gunshots heard in the background. The Haitian police force is attempting to control the crowds with tear gas, only to have the crowds regroup with even more protesters.  

In addition to these riots, I was scheduled to arrive in Port Au Prince on the Haiti Election Day.  As I'm sure most of you know, elections in undeveloped countries are often unpredictable. Many locals are very upset with current conditions and very well could chose voting day as the day to make their statement.

Although, every ounce of my heart desires to be in Port Au Prince helping the thousands of people affected by the Cholera outbreak, I have made the decision to not travel at this time.  I have two beautiful boys and I cannot justify the risk of traveling at this time.  I had been following these developments for a week or so and was struggling with a decision.  It was a small relief to get the email from both the organization and US government asking me stay home.  However, it doesn't make my heart hurt any less.

I have yet to get an answer from the airlines about my ticket.  If the US Embassy releases an official "No Travel Advisory", my ticket should be refunded.  However, as of now, the Embassy has only released a "Warden's Message" and the airlines view not traveling as the equivalent of cancelling my ticket.  If they allow me to switch dates, there is a chance I will leave for Haiti the end of January..  That trip, of course, is dependent on many things, including being able to get off work and the stability of Haiti.  If it all falls into place, I will gladly be on my way. 

Until then, I am glued to the news for updates.  It is unbearable for me to see all those suffering and feel completely spoiled sitting on my couch in front of my big screen HDTV, but at the same time, unavoidable.  I have been unable to sleep, for when I close my eyes, the beautiful, yet suffering, Haitian faces confront me. 

I am also haunted with the fact that I was originally scheduled to arrive in Haiti earlier this week.  The moment before I booked my ticket, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of anxiety and decided to push my departure date back a few weeks. I wasn't comfortable leaving so soon and just had a gut feeling that it wasn't feasible.  I have never been so happy that I listened to my gut and booked my trip for the end of November.  If I hadn't, it is highly likely that I would be unable to return home from Haiti.  I easily could have been ordered to stay in the tent city and not take the risk of traveling to the Port Au Prince airport.  Thank God I am safe and sound at home and I am praying with every ounce of my being that God grants Haiti citizens the same grace he has shown me.  

God Bless
Courtney 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Church

video

Driving past a tent city

video

Downtown Port Au Prince

video
I'm pretty sure this was an accident, but it turned out pretty interesting.  Just a short video of day to day life in PAP.  The male voice in the background is Pastor Ron, describing the day of the earthquake and his efforts to get a group of missionaries back on American Soil.

Everyday items of need

I am once again gathering items of need to the Haitians will be serving. I have two large duffel bags stuffed with as much as possible (I will be bringing all my personal stuff in a backpack that I will carry on again). Here is a list of most needed items.

• Feminine hygiene products, specifically pads. Most women in Haiti do not wear tampons. Socks/T-shirts / Baby clothes/ Diapers/ Baby Bottles/ Rain gear/ Toy cars/ Stickers/ Pens / Coloring books/ Notebooks/ Flip Flops/ Shoes/ Tents/ Tarps/ Stickers/ Water containers/ Water filters/ Sharpies/ Candy (Chocolate)/ Paint
• Building supplies, nails, basic hand tools; wrenches, screwdrivers, etc. zip ties, duct tape, rope, batteries, toolbox, electrical tape, electrical wire nuts, extension chords, fans, power strips, tarps.
• Office supplies: pads of paper, pens, whiteboard pens, printer ink (HP Color Laserjet Black CC530A).
• Currently Needed: a quality cordless drill

I have had a lot of people ask what I need and this is a great place to start! Because of time constraints, I think the best way to get me donations is to meet me. Leave me a comment or message of some sort and I will be sure to get in touch with you if needed!

Thanks again for reading!

Pictures Alast!

Monday, November 8, 2010

You are doing what?

First and foremost:  Pictures will be posted soon, I promise!  Thursday at the latest---I feel horrible that I have taken so long!


And yes, I'm going back to Haiti in a few short weeks.  I never imagined doing this, but again, God placed this opportunity in my lap, and I can't turn it down.  Let me share with you how this happened.


As most of you know, shortly after I returned, a devastating Cholera outbreak started in Haiti.  I actually spent a day in the area the outbreak started and of course it hit home.  While I was trying to adjust to my spoiled American way of life, this news hit me in the gut- hard.  I wasn't feeling all that great myself, but only imagined how the Haitians felt.  It is hot as Haiti (get it-Haiti instead of Hades...I crack myself up!) down there and to be afraid to drink the water is unimaginable.  I heard stories of people dying within hours and being able to put faces to those dying was keeping me up at night.  


So I did a little Googling and asked a few relief organizations on more information about medical relief volunteers.  New Reality International (NRI) replied within a few days and asked if I would be available for a Cholera relief trip starting Nov. 15.  At the time, I was still feeling the physical effects of my trip, I felt that my family needed me and it just didn't feel right.  So I just left the email sit in my inbox.  


Then the news of the hurricane took over the airwaves.  Paul actually texted me out of the blue saying, "I think you should go, they need you more than we do."  I knew immediately what he was referring to and his support moved me to tears.  I went to work that night and continued to pray about it.  Then it hit me:  I can not imagine sitting at home a week from now, listening to the horror stories coming from Haiti and know that I had a chance to help and didn't.  God was telling me to go and as my friend Sara so perfectly stated, "God doesn't make mistakes."  


So I filled out the information NRI asked for and decided to see where it took me.  I got a very rapid response and filled out the forms as they came (usually within a matter of hours).  I apparently gained their approval and was asked to come as soon as possible.  


I decided to ask for an extension on the Nov 15th arrival date.  That was literally a week away! We have agreed to have me arrive on Nov 28th and leave a week later on Dec 5.  Still coming up quick, but gives me some time to get my ducks in a row!


New Reality International is working to set up teams to respond to the Cholera Crisis.  I will be spending my trip working in a hospital/clinic in a tent city, most likely Petionville.  Not only will I be tending to Cholera patients, but will be educating Hatian midwives on the basics of NRP (newborn resuscitation program).  


My previous living quarters in the orphanage sound like a resort compared to this trip.  I will be sleeping in a tent, cooking my own food and taking showers with very limited water (they instructed me to turn off the water while I lather!).  I will be full on camping in the backcountry in between working 16 hour days at the hospital.  12 hour shifts at work will soon seem like a breeze!


I am in no position to ask for donations, as everyone was so generous with my initial trip.  But I also will not turn down anything! NRI has given me a list of requested items that I hope to post soon.  

Thank you for reading and understanding my motives!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Home Sweet Mosquito Free Home

October 9, 2010

Well, I’m on a plane now.  I have such a horrible array of emotions, I don’t know where to begin. I have had such an experience of simultaneous sorrow and joy and know my life will never be the same.  I have made amazing new Haitian friends for what I hope is a lifetime.  The care and love that I saw our hosts and translators provide for others has inspired me in ways beyond words.

We took over the kitchen for breakfast this morning and made the orphans chocolate chip pancakes with bacon.  They were a little hesitant at first, as this was a great difference from the usual porridge, but the moment we started pouring the syrup, the forks moved a little quicker.  These children have such incredible manners, that they never eat with their hands, only with spoons.  So watching them try to scoop the bacon onto their spoons was entertaining.  I just wanted to tell them to pick it up with their hands, but they probably would have thought I was some sort of barbarian for that type of suggestion. 

Ooopss… we  are gonna land in 10 minutes…I’ll see when I break out the computer again!

Back on the plane…and why oh why, must every person in front of me insist on reclining the seat.  I’m scrunched.

The tears started falling as soon as we touched down in MIA and I called Paul as soon as physically possible.  Just the sound of his voice and the realization that I was a matter of hours away from him and the boys turned me into a teary eyed mess.  I just keep picturing me running into their arms at the airport and melting.  I didn’t know I missed them that much until I got so close to seeing them again.

Before we left the orphanage, the kids came up to give us kisses goodbye. They were so grateful for the little we provided.  They crave attention and I feel that is the least I can give them.

Saying goodbye to our interpreters was even harder.  In a short amount of time, I gained a tremendous amount of respect and honor for them.  They not only fixed the enormous language barrier, but cared enough to be our friends and help in any way possible.  They are amazing young men and I only want the best for them.

I don’t think I have expressed my gratitude for the women at the orphanage well enough either.  They went out of there way each and every meal to make sure we could keep up our energy for long, hot days and always had fresh lemonade ready for us.  They also seemed to know how refreshing a cold coca cola could be and would surprise us every now and then with a cooler filled with ice cold glass bottles.  AAaaaahhhhh…

I keep thinking of what I can do next.  I left part of my heart behind in Haiti.  It’s hard to land in Miami of all places where the bling bling is blinging away and everyone has so much excess.  Within a matter of hours, I went from the land of very little to the land of way too much. 

At the moment, I am wondering if it would be feasible to open up a birthing/newborn center in a tent city.  The logistics are overwhelming and I’m not sure where to even begin accumulating resources, but if God put this in my heart, I am faithful he will make it happen. 

I have also made what I hope is lifelong friendships with my American teammates.  This is a phenomenal group of peeps with an array of talents.  I think we complimented each other well with very little tension, if any at all.  We laughed, cried and fretted together, but overall, we prayed together and accomplished more than most could accomplish in a month, in a week.  We overcame flight delays, blocked roads, communication complications and cultural diversity to help over 500 Haitians.

The worst part is that I feel that we didn’t even make a dent.  There is so much more to do and such a greater need than any one team, or even nation, can accomplish. Just as I felt the deep deep desire to go to Haiti, I know that I need to do more.  I have been blessed with the ability to offer the most deserving people something they could benefit greatly from and there is no holding me back now folks. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Apologies!

I was reading this aloud to Zander today and noticed the many many errors in my posts!  I think they got worse as I became hotter, more tired, sugar deprived and dehydrated.  I'm so sorry- please don't think I'm an uneducated fool.  And to think, I even reread everything at least once!  Whoops!

Bittersweet

October 8th

Well, it’s my last night in Haiti.  I have such a wide array of emotions right, so I’m having a hard time pinpointing my feelings.  I’m very excited to see Paul and the boys tomorrow. I’m very much ready to go home, free of sunburns and mosquito bites.

But there is a large part of me that isn’t ready to go.  I know that it is unlikely I will have the opportunity to return soon and that weighs heavy on my heart.  I don’t ever want to forget the people and experiences this trip has introduced me to.  I want nothing more to make a return trip, but just don’t know how feasible that will be.  Only God knows I guess.

Today was a rest day for us.  We went to the beach to chill out a bit.  First we visited the “private side”.  That was really like a resort, with working bathrooms and a nice resort feeling.  We decided to try out the “public side” because we were told it had more character.  It sure did.  The bottoms of the palm trees were colorfully painted and once again we had a chance to buy the beautiful handmade souvenirs the locals were selling.  I really wanted to buy some goods, but was out of cash.  That was probably a good thing, because I could have easily spent all my money.  It’s hard not to splurge when you see an item someone has worked so hard on and so could use the couple of bucks.

I decided to take a break from the mosquito torture and enjoy the sun torture today.  I got burnt to a crisp on the beach.  It’s okay though, at least now you can’t tell the difference between the bug bite redness and sunburn.  When we got back to the orphanage, the children seemed to be in amazement of my pink and red skin.  It was pretty humorous.

The girls braided my hair later in the evening.  That hurt! They pull your hair so tight you think you might get descalped!  But of course, I was pleased with the results, so it makes it worth it.

I’ve been worried about one of our teammates.  Tony, the other nurse on the trip has become very sick.  He became really hot and feeling sick on the way back to the orphanage last night.  He got a little better through the day, but keeps breaking fevers.  I’m not sure if he has heat stroke or Dengue Fever.  Either way, he is severely dehydrated, hot and not feeling well at all.  What a horrible way to feel in an undeveloped country.  We are planning to drag him on the plane and get him to Miami, where we can take him to a hospital if we need to.  I hope he gets better soon!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Gound Zero

October 7, 2010

I’m winding down after another busy day.  We opened up a clinic next to a tent city here in Bon Repos.  We were able to stop at a pharmacy to get supplies on the way.  We walked into a small pharmacy.  It was maybe 10 ft by 10 ft and had an array of odd supplies.  We even saw other people’s prescription medications there.  Bizarre.  We were able to get some worm medicine and other supplies in hopes to make today successful.

We had an open structure to set up camp in.  So we set up, just like yesterday, but with a lot fewer supplies.  Once again, the people were very gracious and appreciated any help we could give them.  We saw a big need for eyeglasses, but didn’t have any.  Maybe on future mission trips, this is something we can include.  We were able to give everyone at least a bar of soap and bottle of water, and we could tell that they appreciated that as well. 

In what must have been some of God’s work, we ran out of supplies and patients almost simultaneously.  We worked for about 3 hours and saw over 100 patients, so I’m gonna mark that as a productive day.  The heat was more tolerable today, with overcast skies and the breeze going through the open structure really helped. 

After we cleaned up, we took a stroll through the tent city.   Let me tell you, Haitians know how to make the most out of a tent.  These were elaborate structures and impressive, but still cannot compare to a house or even shack.  We started to hand out candy to the kids, as well as our remaining hygiene supplies.  Again, we had to make a quick exit, as the people came quickly looking for goods.

By now, we had traded our trucks back for our bus, so the fun of riding in the back of the pickup was over.  We made a quick stop for drinks; a lukewarm sprite and the most delicious thing I could imagine at that point, and made our way into downtown Port Au Prince.  We drove past the epicenter of the earthquake continued to be in awe of the damage the quake has caused.

As we drove through a pile of rubble, Pastor Ron told us that it used to be a 7 story building- the post office. As we continued further into downtown, the piles of rubble just grew and grew.  It’s disheartening to know that there are most likely still hundreds (at least) of bodies buried under there.  As we looked out at the busy market, I was reminded of the hustle and bustle of Times Square in NYC.  The idea of an earthquake occurring and all these buildings becoming demolished in a matter of seconds was horrifying as I imagined how many people died in this very spot.  I immediately compared it to the NYC Ground Zero. 

The next stop was the National Palace - our version of the White House.    The second level had fallen into the first floor.  The image of this happening to in Washington DC brought me close to tears. 

We then stopped at the “markets” for a little souvenir shopping.  I’m thinking we must have stood out, because the high pressure sales were in full force.  After much bargaining, I got a few things.  I’m now the proud owner of some beautiful painted canvases, as well a handmade drum for the boys.  I can’t wait to show them, and even more, give them a great big hug.

Today was a weird day for me…as we were driving by the miles and miles of tent cities, something changed in me.  I don’t even know what to write.  I want to say I fell in love with Haiti, but that doesn’t sound right.  Maybe it sounds better to say that I know that I will leave a peace of my heart in this country.  It’s a weird feeling, but one that I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life.






Sunday, October 10, 2010

Never Enough

 October 6, 2010

I slept pretty well!  Which turned out to be a blessing, because I worked extremely hard today.  I’m sure this blog is not going to get the length it deserves, simply due to exhaustion. 

We woke up with the sun and set up our clinic is a teeny tiny church with no windows and no lighting.  The set up worked ok; we set up the triage area by the front door, with the work up area by the side door towards the back doors.  Our pharmacy was up in the alter so a couple of people could hand us the requested meds. 

People started lining up outside the church the night before.  In fact, we could see people’s laterns as they were making their way to us, coming through the hills the night before. 

After a few patients who were lucky enough to get very thorough exams, it became obvious to us that we had to speed up the process.  Around the same time, we realized that a large majority had complaints of “stomachache and headache”.  When we started questioning other symptoms, it appeared that they were just looking for anything we could give them.  We had 100 hygiene kits that contained items like soap, toothbrush and band aids.  While it was easy to get annoyed with such strategy of getting supplies, I was saddened by the level of desperation.  Imagine being so far below the poverty level that you would be willing to wait all night for a few hygiene items. 

I hope I’m not displaying the people in a bad light; that is not at all what I’m hoping to tell.  I want you to read my blog with a realization of how lucky Americans are.  While we complain about the stupid call by the coach of our favorite NFL team, there is a place where people will cherish a bar of soap like we would box seats.

What saddened me even more was when we had to pack up camp.  By 1 pm, we had to close the doors.  This did not go over well.  We had probably left 250 people outside and they were not pleased when we had to admit that we were out of supplies.  After being rather proud of the fact that we had seen close to 300 patients, we were quickly humbled by seeing all the patients that weren’t able to get in.  It was beyond tough to look the villagers in the island in the eye and tell them we didn’t have anything left to give. 

I went outside to give away the odds and ends of what we had left for hygiene supplies.  I soon was wishing I had so much more to hand out.  Somehow I felt that giving out supplies to 6 out of over 100 people was unfair.  Similar to the saying, “if you don’t have enough for everyone, you can’t share”.  It’s a tough balance and sometimes you just feel that you can’t win. 
 
I then went back inside to help finish up a few wound dressings.  As I was talking to a mom who was squatting on the floor near the doorway, the crowd became overwhelming.  There were guards at the door, doing crowd control (with bats!) and the crowd was able to penetrate them.  I yelled in a probably a panicky tone and was quickly relieved.  After a few words from a big Haitian in charge, the crowd dissipated in a matter of seconds!

Our ride home was uneventful – our first uneventful transportation the entire trip!  Well not completely, we did get a flat tire, but that was cake compared to previous obstacles. It was nice and peaceful, but I’m ready for more adventures tomorrow.  On the agenda: setting up a clinic in a tent city. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Where there is a will, there is a Haitian way.

October 5, 2010                     

I’m lying here in a shack.  Locked in.  On a bad mattress.  I’m hoping for a pee free night as there is no way to relieve myself.  I’m sharing said shack with 4 other girls and there are 3 beds.  The others were gracious enough to let me have the bed to myself, while everyone else doubled up.  Of course, I feel guilty, but they seem to think I’m going to have a rough day tomorrow and need my rest.  Tomorrow is the clinic in this very remote village that goes by the name Gran Buchonne- although I have no idea if that is even close to the actual spelling.

We left the orphanage this morning in our rental vehicles.  We were told that it was a rough 4x4 ride, but that was a gross understatement. I wish I haven’t run out of words to use in place of amazing and all the other words I’ve used over and over again.  I’m going to go with intense to describe the ride.  Moab has nothing on this place.  Think Independence Pass, but replace the road with rocks of many various sizes.  It’s rough and scary and not at all for the faint. We gave those rentals a beating, to the point of them dying every few minutes and squeaking like crazy.

Early in the day we encountered roadblocks.  IT seems that all the rains may have washed away parts of the road.  There were many time when we were sure we were not going to make it to the other side of the bridgeless ditch in one piece.  At times, we even had to get out and help build the road ourselves.

The real excitement came when we encountered 2 struck Mack trucks full of produce and the dozens of stranded locals on the side of the road. The lead truck had a broken axel and was not going anywhere anytime soon.  The poor people on the side of the road had been there since Saturday (today’s Tuesday)!  It was clear the road was impassible and posed a huge problem for us.

This particular obstacle easily trumped anything we had already encountered and seemed much more difficult to tackle.  A few were even thinking the best decision would be to turn around and drive 3 hours back to the orphanage and forego this part of the trip.  This truck wasn’t going anywhere and we were literally stuck between rock and a mountain drop off.  The men built a new road by digging into the hillside.  The biggest concern was if we could get a wide enough patch of road for our vehicles to sneak between the mountain and truck without tipping over or becoming scratched.

At this point, we realized that this was not going to be an easy task.  See, Americans and Haitians have very different ways of doing things. Haitians have nothing to lose but pride and will find a way to complete the task at any cost.  However, as Americans we are much more worried about the damage (then the cost) their solution would impose.  It was a cultural clash at its finest and there was a good hour when I wasn’t sure which way would win. Eventually all three vehicles were able to squeeze through.  Each and every vehicle got rocked and lifted beyond belief, but we got pas rather unharmed.

It was really hard to leave all these people in the dust, but we had few options.  We were afraid to hand out water and food, as it would cause chaos because we didn’t have enough for everyone.  We were told that someone was on the way with the right part, but I have serious doubts about their ability to get 3 hours down the mountain safely with such damaged trucks.

After five hours of traversing this crazy path, we arrived in Gran Buchonne. The villagers were so gracious; it brought tears to my eyes.  They sat us down and came to us individually with soap, water and a towel to wash our hands.  We then feasted on rice and beans with some delicious bread and fried plantains.  I passed on the goat, but others seemed to enjoy it.  As were we eating, a couple of ladies were squeezing fresh picked grapefruit.  The juice they made was the best juice I have ever tasted.  And I don’t even like grapefruit!

After dinner, we went to the church and once again, I was awed by their ability to worship the lord in such an incredible manner.  They sang and danced for hours and truly have God in their hearts and know Jesus is their Savior.  In fact, they are singing gloriously as I journal.  We can hear them in our shack, as if there were speakers in here.  They plan to keep worshipping until we open our clinic at dawn…I’ll let you know how I slept.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

You haven't seen Haiti until you've seen it from the back of a pickup truck.


October 4, 2010

This is gonna be a looooooooooooong one!

Slept good last night, so I knew that today would be a great day!  We started out the day with a good breakfast of eggs.  I really enjoyed the protein!

We then went through Port Au Prince on our way to Mother Teresa Children’s Hospital.  It’s amazing to see what was destroyed and what was not by the earthquake.  It’s like buildings just collapsed. I know that is what happened, but it’s so hard to explain.  The walls seem to have just given way and everything fell straight down. I can’t even imagine how they can ever clean it up.  I have a hard time even trying to figure out where they would take the debris.  Space is limited on an island.  So limited, that they burn trash whenever and wherever.  It’s not uncommon to come across the smell and site of burning trash.  It’s something you can never forget.

We then got to the Hospital.  This hospital was actually founded by Mother Teresa herself!  It is unexplainable.  There are children lined up in cribs, all very malnourished.  The lack of nutrition has caused multiple other problems in most cases.  These poor kids not only had little or no hair, they had multiple skin lesions, fevers, severe colds and many other aliments.  This location is run by 2 nuns and they are amazing human beings. It’s heartbreaking to walk in there and see the site.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures out of respect for the patients.  It’s sad, because I have no way to properly express the situation.  The children beg to be held, and once you do, it’s impossible to put them back in their crib.  Some children are not only clinging to you, but clinging to life itself. 

We went to get some food after this visit and came across a nice surprise…a real restaurant with real air conditioning! I had pizza, fries and yet again another coke. It was a glorious meal! 

We traded our bus in for a couple of rental vehicles for our trip to the mountains.  We rode in the back of a truck and let me tell you---you haven’t seen Haiti until you’ve seen Haiti in the back of a pickup truck!  The ride was unlike any adventure I’ve had.  The good news is that the trucks are made for riding in the bed, so have built in hand rails.  I held on for dear life.  There aren’t really rules for driving in Haiti, so it is rather unpredictable.  And did I mention there aren’t really paved roads either?  We traversed traffic, potholes, pedestrians, goats, more potholes all while speeding up only to slam on the breaks.  Then the rain came.  And not a little sprinkle, but a huge massive tropical downpour.  We were drenched in a matter of seconds.  But we had an unexpected blast and I wouldn’t trade that experience for a million dollars.

It was also very unsettling to see how the rain affected the Haitians.  They have nowhere to go when it rains.  We saw masses of people running down the street to look for cover, then we saw even more people huddled into any overhang they could find.  We passed a gas station that must have had 1000 people under the awning.  I have never thought about not being able to find shelter when it rains, but for these guys, that’s an almost daily occurrence. We came across a few people affiliated with the orphanage, so picked them up as well.  By the time we pulled up to the orphanage, we had 10 people crammed into the back of an S-10. 

I forgot to mention what happens to traffic when it rains.  It stops.  Vehicles were breaking down, roads were completely underwater and there is no room to go anywhere.  And then once we broke free, it got cold.  Going 60 mph in a back of pickup truck soaking wet will cool you off fast!  But again, I can’t begin to explain how enlightening it was!

When we got back to the orphanage, we were asked to start an IV on our sick girl from yesterday.  They took her to the doctor and he suspects Typhoid.  So Tony, amazing Tony, got an IV in her and we gave the prescribed antibiotic, along with some fluid.  It was amazing to be able to give her this treatment that otherwise she would go without. 

I felt that maybe I was helping today, although I still feel frustration that I can’t do enough.  I will never be able to do enough and that is a tough pill to swallow.   

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What’s that smell?

October 3, 2010



They are getting the best of me.  Smells that is.  The smell of burning trash.  The smell of heat.  The smell of me in heat.  The smell of everyone else in heat.  The smell of my clothes in heat.  The smells! I wish there was a way to document them.  I’m sure the images and videos I’m using will fall short of capturing reality, but I can’t even begin to capture the smell.  If you are interested, I will happily send you my dirty clothes once I get back!

They are saying the heat is worse than most years.  I hope so.  It is sweltering.  There are beads of sweat on beads of sweats. However, there is relief in site, as we are heading to the mountains on Tuesday and they say it is “cold” up there.  I hope so!

We went to church this morning and it was enlightening to say the least. Haitians live a very difficult life, but they know it is only a journey on the way to eternal happiness.  I will never look at my trivial problems the same.

We started to help some of the children today.  It started very promising, as we noticed ring worm on the cutest little boy’s scalp and gave him some medicine to apply.  But things became more discouraging with our next “patient”.  She was complaining of aches and pains, sweating profusely and breathing fast.  We gave her some ibuprofen, which seemed to help, but can’t pinpoint her ailment.  Could be malaria, or could be a virus.  Either way, we can’t do much, as we weren’t able to bring malaria meds with us.  UGH.  I hate this helpless feeling.  Even worse, another girl came down with the same symptoms.  I hope we aren’t on the beginning of an outbreak!

We tye dyed shirts today and the kids loved it.  Well, the adults loved it too!  Not surprisingly, the kids are very needy.  They cling to you every chance they can and just absorb any form of love we can give them.  It’s heartbreaking to say the least. My hands were blue –like smurf/avatar blue- and the kids took turns with a toothbrush trying to scrub them clean! 

Alright, this was interrupted by a surprise visit with a gigantic, huge, large, gigantic cricket and beetle.  I quickly scurried two mats over and watched as my reliable teammates rescued me and took care of the pest.  Whew…I’m going to need some help sleeping after that!    

Monday, October 4, 2010

October 2 PM

October 2, PM

Wow. Wow. Wow.  What a difference a few hours makes.  We have landed safely in Port Au Prince and my life will never be the same.  As much as I’ve seen in the pictures and on TV, nothing can compare to seeing the tragedy with your own eyes.  

The airport wasn’t too shabby.  Not DIA by a long stretch, but probably could be worse.  As we walked along, you could see that we were in a new part of the airport. The damage across the way was remarkable, from broken glass to cracked walls to parts of the ceiling caved in.  Baggage claim (and customs) was just in a big hangar of sorts.  There were about 20 (rough estimate) different mission groups and luggage was a logistical nightmare!  But we all got through it in one piece with all our stuff and started to venture into a land unknown…

The desperation of people wanting to help at the airport for a few bucks in mind blowing.  We had people begging to help us with our enormous haul of a luggage and that was just the beginning.   A boy of about 12 started yelling at us from the other side of the fence, “I love Jesus.  I love you. Give me something!” Apparently they learn at a young age how to survive.  That alone is heartbreaking.

The drive through Port Au Prince to Bon Repos is worth a million pictures.  I took a gazillion, but am not sure if they can even capture the entire truth.  People, markets, tents, and poverty where everywhere, from within a few feet to as far as the eye could see.  I was fortunate enough to sit with Raguel, our Haitian translator who helped me understand what I was looking at.  Not that anything I saw was comprehendible.  The ditches were filled with still water and trash.  And more trash.  The tremendous rainfall the area has seen lately just added to the standing water. What a great place to be a mosquito!

It was amazing to come up to the orphanage.  What a beautiful sanctuary in a world of chaos. We got off our school bus (which was half filled with our donations!) and were greeted by a line of kids.  They were like a tidal wave , overwhelming us with hugs and kisses on the cheeks. They were complete sweethearts- there is no other word.

Dinner was also gracious; spaghetti, fried plantains and avocados. After dinner we set our mosquito nets up on our mattress and interacted with the children.  They do prayers and sing before bed time and it is uplifting.  The kids are miracles in a mess, plain and simple.  One boy, about Zander’s age, invited me to sit with him.  As I sat with him and held him, I felt a tear fall off my face.  I wasn’t even aware I needed to cry, and I don’t know where that tear came from, but I know it will only one of many before the trip is over.    

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Up Up and Awa.....wait just a minute

Oct 2, 2010


Up, Up and Awa……wait a minute (or hours)

Just as I’m getting all excited to finally be on our way, things got interesting.  I was lucky enough to be in boarding group 2 out of DIA.  So I gave my less fortunate companions (all in group 4 or 5) a compassionate “See ya later Suckas!” and happily boarded the plane.  Well, almost boarded the plane.  As we get to the jetway, they announce that they are going to halt boarding momentarily, as the air is not working in the plane and they don’t want it to get too warm.  So I threw my pack down in the jet way and made a little camp with some new friends.  We were just chilling, until we saw the pilot walk by us into the terminal with his bags.  That was not reassuring, and probably when we all started to wonder if we had any chance of making our next two connections before arriving in Haiti. It wasn’t long before they deboarded those of us “lucky” enough to have boarded to announce there was a hydraulic leak and the new part was being driven over to us.

You can only imagine the chaos this created amongst the fellow passengers.  It never ceases to amaze me how everyone feels that their circumstance is worse than all others.  As we (and by we, I mean 200 passengers) were waiting in line to book a different connection, this little lady comes up to the side of the desk and says, “I have a connection I’m going to miss, is there anyway I can cut to the front of the line.” HA!

We booked a new connection and happily boarded the flight (2nd time for myself).  As I made my way to the very very back of the flight, I noticed that not only can I see the tarmac through the back of the plane, but there are about 3 mechanics hanging out of the plane.  We all boarded and were patiently waiting for them to finish their work, when it became obvious we were never going to make our connection in Dallas.  We also knew that there was the possibility of flying to Denver to LA to Miami in time for our Haiti flight Sat morning.  So our group decided that it would be best to get off the flight and go to LA, where we told moments earlier would get us to Miami in time. 10 people and 10 very large obtrusive backpacks later, we made our way onto the jetway.  The flight attendants started to book us onto the LA flight only to realize the LA to Miami leg was full.  They then decided we should go to Dallas, spend the night, fly to Miami in the morning and then arrive in Haiti late afternoon on Saturday.  This was a great solution, as we would just arrive in Haiti a few hours late and not miss an entire day.

The down side to this solution was that we were forced to board the plane AGAIN!  So I picked up my pack (for the 3rd time!) and made my way through 24 rows of the aircraft.  Boy, did we get some dirty looks.  You can’t take a laptop, and a whole weeks worth of snacks, hygiene stuff and clothes through a very full 24 rows of an airplane and not get bad looks. The flight attendants assured us that we didn’t hold up the flight, as they had mounds of paper work to do after the repair was finalized, but I don’t think the other 200 people realized that.  OUCH!

The good news is that American Airlines put us up in a hotel in Dallas and we all got to sleep in hotel rooms and not spend the night in Miami’s airport, per the original plan.  And I got a Texas shaped waffle at the continental breakfast and that almost makes it all worth while.  Almost.

Security through Dallas was strict and tore us apart.  We must have looked like a bunch of runaways they way they scrutinized us.  From bracelets to undisclosed stuffed animals, we were trouble makers with a capital T apparently.  It only got worse when the reps at the check in desk demanded that our packs were too big and we were going to have to gate check them and couldn’t pick them up until Haiti! This was a daunting thought, as we knew that if we weren’t there immediately to pick up our packs, they most likely would get stolen.  Each one of us had to prove that each pack could fit in the little trial box they have.  It took some rearranging, tightening, stuffing, jumping and more tightening, but we got them all in the bin.  It was a glorious moment for the team.  I’m going to chose to look at the morning obstacles as a great chance for team building and some great stories.  I’m relieved to say that in the end, our unnamed panda made the flight with us!

Now I’m finally on the way to Miami and if everything goes well, should be in Haiti by the end of the day!  Whoohoo…but drink service is here and I’m parched---write more soon!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Final Countdown!

A little more than 24 hours and I'll be on my way!  24 hours after that and I'll be in Haiti!  I can't believe it's finally here!  After 6 hectic weeks of preparation, my journey is going to begin!


I have a huge backpack (thanks to Sara) stuffed to the gills.  I have found many pockets to hide peanut butter packets and crackers in; I have a travel pillow (again, thanks Sara) water bottle, umbrella all strapped in; I have my towel, mosquito net and sheet stuffed in; in other words...I am ready!  Let 's get this show on the road!


I'm a little concerned with the tropical storms that don't want to let up.  Matthew hit the tropics pretty hard last week and the resulting rain caused havoc in Haiti, where 5 people died.  The island is not ready for such powerful storms and the results are devastating.  As long as I can get there, I am ready for anything.  My worst fear is getting stuck in Miami and shortening the time I have in Haiti.  Pray for clear skies!


I'm loading up my ipod with new tunes as we speak.  I'm charging up the camera battery.  Passport is packed---off I go!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nesting

A week to go and I cannot wait for it to get here!  I feel similar to how a new mom feels in the day leading up to deliver; anticipation, anxious, excitement- all that jazz TIMES 1000!  So I've taken up to nesting.  Now that I've gone through at least a dozen Project Cure boxes getting supplies and there are no more, I took up to cleaning the break room at work tonight.  That microwave has never looked so good! 

We are doing the big pack Sunday.  I have been soooo truly humbled by the amount of donations.  We have obtained hundreds of pounds worth of medical supplies, thousands of dollars worth of medications and many many other contributions.  Zander's class donated many school supplies and flip flops.  I was able to use some of my financial contributions to purchase additional flip flops- now we will be able to give all 50 kids at the orphanage a brand new pair of flip flops! I can't wait to see their faces!  I'm also planning on donating soccer balls and diapers.  I'm starting to think that we are gonna be over our 1000 pound limit.  That would be just fine though, because the organization sends down two containers annually, so we can just send extras down at a later date.

That's all I have for now.  Thanks again for reading my posts, your prayers, your thoughts, your donations, your advice---I couldn't do this without ALL of you!

Love
Courtney

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A little more than 3 weeks?!?!

PREFACE: It is 3:30 am, so please forgive me if this doesn't make all that much sense. 

We leave 3 weeks from Friday! THREE WEEKS!  Wow, how time flies!  We have almost solidified our plans. We are getting to the point of just "hurrying up and waiting" for the big date to get here.  Vaccines are done, anti-malaria medication is in hand, passport here...just gotta wait for October!

Our next big step is to start packing our 1000 lbs worth of supplies.  We are just waiting to finish gathering everything.  We are collecting over the counter meds, flip flops, clothes, coloring books and just about anything else...As the saying goes- "nothing goes to waste in Haiti!"  We are having a "packing party" on Sept 26 (a mere 5 days before we depart!) and are going to eat some Haitian food to give us an idea of what to expect.  Can't say my stomach is all that excited about the possibility of goat hair soup..but we shall see.  With any luck, it will taste like chicken!

I have heard such tragic stories of the healthcare available down there, I am beyond antsy to offer any assistance I can.  A teammate was telling me how umbilical cords were cut using bottle caps!  Bottle caps! I can't even fathom the idea.   I won't be surprised to see items such as gavage sets and bottles being reused (a far cry from the use once and toss I'm used to at work), but I may faint at the sight of such infection causing practices! 

I have to thank, thank, and thank everyone for their generous donations.  My fundraising efforts have exceeded my expectations and I can't appreciate that enough.  Any extra funds will be going to supplement our supply of medications.  Antibiotics are truly lifesavers and we can't get enough of them!

My prayers are in full force these days.  I'm praying that I can remain healthy not only during the trip, but leading up to it.  I'm praying that the Lord will provide opportunities for me to use my skills to benefit as many as possible in the short week I will be in Haiti. 

I can't think about this trip for more than a few minute without tears forming, so I may have to cut this short.  The anxiety and excitment only to continue to grow.  I know this is going to be a life changing experience and I just can't wait anymore! 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Getting the details

We are gradually nailing down the details of our trip.  Surprisingly, there aren't a ton of planes flying into Port-au-Prince daily, so we are going to spend a good day (at least) traveling.  We are debating whether we should leave Denver early Friday (Oct 1) and get to Miami at 2pm or take a later flight and go through Dallas to get to Miami around 8pm. Our flight to Haiti doesn't leave until 5 am on Sat morning, so we may try to stuff a bunch of us into a hotel room so we can get a somewhat decent night's sleep until the real journey begins.  I'm a little bummed about the trip beginning a little sooner than we expected, because Oct 1st is Jace's 3rd birthday.  However, every time I  look at him, I feel completely blessed that he (and the rest of our family) has so much to be grateful for, and that only drives my desire to complete this mission. 

One of my mission mates, Ashley, has been on numerous trips to Haiti through Red Rocks Church. She sent me slideshows from both her 2009 and 2010 trips.  Her pictures were amazing and only intensified all of my feelings towards this trip.  Her pictures show something that most of us can only imagine and to know that I will be THERE, taking similar pictures myself, in a month can be somewhat of an overwhelming thought. Luckily, I have so much to do, I don't have time to think about it!

We are starting to narrow down our supply list for the clinics we are visiting.  Zander's second grade class has taken up a collection for children's flip flops, soccer balls, colors and coloring books.  It's really exciting to see him get the "mission bug" and inspire his classmates to donate to the cause. 

We have decided to ask for help collecting over the counter medications, such as Aspirin, Ibuprofin.  We are also hoping to get some antibacterial ointment, fun bandaids, rubbing alcohol, peroxide, oral care stuff and q-tips...just for starters.  

My fundraising is going well and I cannot even begin to express my appreciation! 

I still have seats on my casino bus for Sept 18th.  If you mention, this blog, I'll drop your ticket price to $15!!!!  So grab your friend, your gaming card, and your lucky rabbit's foot and come along!

Thanks for reading!
Courtney

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Photos from Sara's Trip.

I "stole" these photos from my Sara's blog. It's hard to imagine living a life this way- and these were all taken before the quake. I am counting down the days until I can add my own photos!





Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How can YOU help?

This trip is not a solo mission by any stretch of the imagination! I need your help to make the most out of this outreach experience! Here's how you can help:

I have set a fundraising goal of $1,500. You can contribute in a couple of ways:
  • Join me for a bus trip up to Fortune Valley Casino on Sat, Sept 18 at 6 pm. We will be leaving from the Englewood Walmart parking lot. For $20, you get free transportation to Fortune Valley, free drinks while gaming, and $5 in coin! Not to mention---100% of the bus fee goes to the Haiti Mission!
  • I am also accepting financial donations made to Red Rocks Church- with "Eggers-Haiti" in the memo line. You can hand me a check or mail it to me!
Our group is also taking much needed supplies. Currently we need:
  • medical supplies
  • soccer balls
  • children's shoes
  • school supplies
Finally, I think I need some help with my own wardrobe! If you have any culturally appropriate skirts (light weight -it's gonna be HOT) I will be happy to take them off your hands!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog--your support makes this giant step out of my comfort zone much easier!

Did you know?

As I prepare for our mission trip, I'm doing some research and learning more about the culture, people and environment of Haiti. Here are some quick-read stats and bullet points...

Haiti's religion is voodoo.

• 10% of the child population in Haiti will die before the age of 4.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

• 7% (337,000) of the children in Haiti are enslaved. They are as young as 3 years old. They often suffer sexual, emotional, physical abuse.

• $25 can feed more than 70 starving people,

• The language of the Haiti people is Creole.

• 45% of the Haitian population is illiterate.

• $50 can provide medical care for more than seven people.

• 70% of the population lives below poverty level.

• $100 or more can provide an abandoned child with a bed, food and medical treatment for almost a month.


I have committed!

I am thrilled to announce that I have decided to act on the nagging feeling that has been weighing in my heart for months---I will be joining a medical mission outreach to Haiti in just a matter of weeks!

This journey started a year ago when our next door neighbors, Sean and Sara, embarked on their personal journey to Haiti. Hearing their stories and seeing their pictures sparked my interest in helping out the poorest country in the western hemisphere. A few months later, as we all know, Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake. As the media continued to portray the unbearable images from the disaster, I could no longer ignore my personal desire to help. For the last year, everything in my being has been telling me to do whatever it takes to get there and offer my assistance.

Earlier this week, my prayers were answered when I committed to joining a mission team through Red Rocks Community Church going to Haiti on Oct 3. Our plans are still somewhat tentative, but we do know that we will be doing about 3 medical outreaches in Haiti. We will be visiting an orphanage set up by Dayspring Ministries, the group helping oversee this mission. We may also be visiting remote villages (by way of a treacherous 4x4 trek) and helping in tent cities. We will also be bringing supplies-anything from medical necessities to soccer balls to children shoes.

I can't believe I leave in about 6 weeks! A year ago, this was nothing but a dream that I might act on when it was convenient. Today, I am weeks away from stepping completely out of my comfort zone into a life that only exist on the nightly news for most of us. I am anxious, intimidated and beyond excited. Please pray for me as I embark on this journey.