Saturday, February 27, 2010

Update from Stacey

This update is long overdue. After the earthquake we had a lot of trouble with our internet and then our computer started acting up. After a brief trip back to the States with our computer in tow, we were able to get things going again. (Exciting bit of news…we just had to wrangle a mama chicken out the door that got into the house!) So this was written in late January.

As I sit here with a towel wrapped around my head at 9:00 after a chilly, yet satisfying shower, I wonder, Where do I begin? From reports we are getting via CNN, albeit three or four days ago, there are now over 112,000 confirmed deaths from the January 12 earthquake. So with that in mind, I conclude there must be thousands upon thousands needing medical assistance. True, we have seen an increase in the number of patients at the hospital, last time we checked our inpatient load was doubled, but there must be more in need of care.

You are all probably wondering what it is that we have been so busy doing. We are working to establish some kind of central supply area for the hospital so the donations and purchased supplies coming in can be better managed. This has proven to be quite a task, especially for those of us with degrees in Political Science.

As you may know we had planned to start a feeding program at the hospital for inpatients. We expected to feed around 40 people 5 times a week and are now feeding 200 people Monday thru Saturday. That number includes all patients plus two (the two being family or friends of the patient), the cooks, volunteers and the hospital guards. So far we are getting pretty good reviews and will be continually tweaking our menu to provide the best nutrition for the patients. What we are lacking, however, is multi-vitamins.

Along with our feeding program we are providing clean drinking water for the patients and families as well. Every day we get six 5-gallon jugs filled at a small plant down the road that purifies water with reverse osmosis. A 5-gallon jug costs us about $0.87 and we use three jugs twice a day to fill water bottles for the patients. It might not seem like much, but the last thing you want when trying to recover from a surgery or infection is an illness from contaminated water.
Feeding program at the hospital, current kitchen...we're working on getting a better one built (for obvious reasons! If you would sneeze too hard, it might fall over!)

We have also been working with a few local pastors to provide much needed food, clothing and some minor medications such as Tylenol, ibuprofen and over the counter sleep aids. The pastors are getting these supplies to families outside of Pignon that were desperate before the earthquake and even more so now. We are also trying to help those families within Pignon that are taking relatives from Port-au-Prince into their homes. I keep telling people things weren’t good before the earthquake, now it’s even worse. Those families that were struggling before are struggling even more.
Food bags we filled for people of Bouqueronne (rice, beans, oil, tomato paste, margarine)
Finished food bags for a local pastor

Oddly enough things in Pignon seem to be fairly normal. We do have more people in town, more patients in the hospital, and we have food, gasoline, diesel and propane. The prices have jumped a little, but not much, and quite frankly the market on Saturday was one of the biggest and busiest I’ve seen in the 7 ½ months living here. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time before we feel the real effects of the disaster in Port.

One thing that has surprised us is that Pignon is not immune to rioting for food. Last Friday there was an upheaval at our local airport over certain organizations being able to get relief supplies flown directly into Pignon without having to deal with customs. There are laws here in Haiti, and these organizations have legally secured licenses which have allowed them to receive disaster relief supplies without going through the standard red tape. We are not one of them because we are simply too small an organization to make it worth the cost of the licensing. Fortunately, these other organizations are gracious enough to help us and others obtain supplies that we need and have been a blessing to work with these past few weeks.

Unfortunately, there are those who choose not to work within the system and have stirred up the local people suggesting the relief supplies are not going to the right places. As a result, those people living around the airport stormed the incoming planes carrying food and supplies, taking what was meant for those who are most in need. They also cut down placed concrete blocks and cactus in the road to the airport, then burned tires to block vehicles from getting to the airport. Needless to say it scared a few of the doctors trying to get out of Pignon.

We were not personally involved in that particular event, but as some of you know Jared has a way of finding such “events.” We had been asked by a friend of ours to pick up a young woman at the airport to have her evaluated by the orthopedic surgeons we had at the hospital. She had been in a bus accident over a year ago and had severe damage to her right arm. Being that we had the doctors at the hospital and they were more or less through the earthquake patients, they agreed to see her.

Jared just happened to be at the bank across from the airport when a plane landed. He soon found out it was the plane carrying our patient, Martine. As he pulled into the airport a mob began to form so he got her in the truck and was ready to take off when he realized the plane not only brought Martine, but food for this friend of ours. People were grabbing anything they could get their hands on and the pilot stood by in shock. Jared and Gevy got a few guys to help them get the food into the back of the truck all the while people were waving machetes and yelling at them. We have been told these things are just for show and never get violent, but Jared said one guy in the back of the truck got whacked in the head with a club. I guess you just can’t tell what a mob will do.

Somehow they managed to get the truck and about half the food out of the airport and to the office where it needed to go. I was not impressed. During all of this chaos I was at the hospital trying to get some help to Jared at the airport. By the grace of God everything turned out well, and Jared, Gevy and Martine were not hurt. And neither was Rhino, our beloved Toyota. This would not be our last run-in with a mob for the week.

Early Friday morning Jared received a call from a guy in Port-au-Prince saying they were sending some supplies for the hospital and community by helicopter. He said it would be at the “landing zone” between 9:00 and 9:30. So we went to the airport, as it is the only “landing zone” we know. Right before we pulled in a huge military chopper flew over us and headed toward town, opposite the airport. Jared made a phone call and we determined it was indeed the helicopter we were waiting for, it just landed at the soccer field in town instead of the airport.

As we made our way back into town I noticed a mushroom cloud of dust coming from what could only be the soccer field. There were hundreds of people heading to see what was causing all the commotion. Both Jared and I were surprised at the enormity of the helicopter that had landed in little Pignon. It seemed to take up the majority of the field, the rest of which was crowded by onlookers. We estimate there were at least a couple thousand people there. The blades on the chopper were still in full spin, and it took some time to figure out that they had already unloaded the cargo and were ready to take off.

Jared was greeted by a marine who literally had to cup Jared’s ear to scream into it, “Your stuff is over there!” as he pointed to a group of people tearing at the boxes. I was taking pictures of the helicopter, knowing how cool this moment was and that Will would be very disappointed at missing it. Suddenly there was a winding of the engine and I knew it was getting ready to lift. I looked over my left shoulder and saw a wall of dust coming at me and felt as though I was in the Sahara during a sandstorm instead of on a soccer field in Haiti. I turned my back to the chopper and clutched my camera, planting myself as hard as I could on the ground. The amount of wind and dust kicked up by this beast was incredible!
Enormous helicopter at soccer field

I could only see about three feet in front of me and what I saw was people rushing by me screaming and holding their heads. It felt like someone was sandblasting my legs and neck. (Of course this was the day I decided to wear a skirt, duh!) It was scary and exciting all at the same time. I wondered of course where Jared was and tried to make my way toward him. Then it was over. The dust settled and for a split second all the people tearing into the boxes were stunned and we seized the opportunity to get the stuff loaded into the hospital’s truck.

We kept telling people the boxes had hospital supplies and medicine, but they didn’t care. Anything dropped by air was game. All told we ended up with 21 boxes, not really knowing what or how much was taken. Soon after getting the boxes loaded we made our way back to our own truck and found it covered with dirt. I soon realized that we too were covered in dirt. I could feel chunks in my hair and I knew my neck was dusty, but it didn’t take long before I discovered there was dirt in both my ears, up my nose and in my underwear. When I got home to take a shower, I knew better than to take my hair tie out before getting in. The shower floor went from clean to mud in a few seconds. And this was all before 10:00 in the morning…it was going to be a long day.

To say we’ve had a few tiring weeks is an understatement. We have had so much trouble with communication. Not only problems with our phones, but the internet as well. I would like to tell you that is the reason for such a long delay in posting a blog, but the truth is I am feeling a little frustrated that we aren’t able to do more to help those in need in Port-au-Prince. It is so strange to us that we feel a world apart from a city that is less than 100 miles away.

As we talk with other missionaries around the area, we are all sensing that it is only a matter of time before those in Port realize they have no other option and must leave. We are all working together as one body of believers to help those displaced and affected by this disaster. As for our family, we will continue to support those God puts before us whether it be 5 or 5000. We hope and pray that He is glorified in all that we do and every decision that we make. And we are always humbled and amazed by the support we receive from our church, community, family and friends. May God bless you as you have blessed us and the people of Haiti.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Update & Lego Contest

My apologies for not getting anything posted for the past few weeks. Thank you so much to all of you who donated to the supply drive!

In the past few weeks, not much has changed in Pignon, but Jared, Stacey, Will & Natalie have been on a quite an adventure as they have all been to the States and back! Jared & Stacey feel that things are stable in Pignon, so they returned on the 10th to get the kids and have a few very helpful meetings. Their stay felt much too short, and the whole family left for Florida last Wednesday, returning to Pignon on Thursday, February 18. As you can imagine, it was a mix of emotions for them! It was difficult to leave again, yet they felt eager to get back to Pignon to see how the feeding program was going and check in on things. Stacey said Will was even excited to get started with school again this week, so that's a good sign! Please pray for their transition and continued direction from the Lord.

Stacey hopes to get a blog update to me as soon as possible, but they are having some computer issues so please pray that they can get that worked out quickly as well. They need to retrieve all their files from their external hard drive, and so far because of some glitches they can't figure out how. I won't go into details, but please pray for a quick solution as all the files from their laptop are held on this device.

And on a completely different note, I have been lax in helping get the word out about the Lego Building Contest coming up at Marion County Bank this coming Saturday, February 27. Titus Hopkins and his mom have organized this contest as a way for kids to get involved in helping the people of Haiti. Proceeds go to Many Hands for Haiti. We are so grateful to them for organizing this event and for the community support of several businesses! The intial entry date is past, but for an additional late fee you can still enter your Lego creation. Entry forms and information can be found at Marion County Bank. The contest is for K-12. Creations can be brought to Marion County Bank from 9-11am on Saturday, and the public is invited to vote the following week, March 1-5. Great prizes for top creations! For more information or an entry form stop at Marion County Bank or call them at 628-2191. I hope you'll come out to see the creativity and support MH4H!

Thanks for your continued support! Hopefully we'll have a word from Stacey later this week!