Pitching for a Gold Award

by Patricia Brintle

During the summer of 2019, Brianna Janicek and Jessica Shaw visited From Here to Haiti headquarters seeking assistance to form a girl softball team in Haiti and run a three-month program that would culminate in a tournament.  This was with the goal of obtaining their Gold award, the highest achievement within the Girl Scouts of the USA. 

The young women did not flinch when they were told that the game is unknown in Haiti; instead they were challenged to introduce the game to the Caribbean island and when it was proposed to the diocesan youth director in Jeremie he gladly took on the challenge.  

The girls shipped a barrel filled with softball equipment for two teams then raised funds to pay the coaches and for various expenses associated with three months of training.  The girls periodically send instructional videos of themselves to help the Haitian team with their form.  

“Team Jessica” and “Team Brianna” were formed and are now learning to pitch, bat, catch and throw a curve ball.

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The road to become an Eagle Scout

By Patricia Brintle

One Sunday in October 2019 Felix Lam, along with a few volunteers, filled three barrels with various school supplies to be shipped to three schools in the diocese of Jeremie in Haiti.

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This was the final step in a service project to become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in scouting. Felix sought the assistance of From Here to Haiti to find the schools and ship the barrels to their destination.

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The three chosen schools are Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Fond Rouge, St. Anne School in Anse a Macon on Grande Cayemite, and Notre dame de la Merci School in Petite Riviere de Dame Marie.

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School supplies are a prized commodity in Haiti and needless to say, many children and teachers were made very happy by the precious gifts.

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PASSPORT PREDICAMENT

by Patricia Brintle

In April 2013, our project was the replacement of the roof of St. Jean Baptiste in Anse d’Hainault.  The work was to take a week: leaving on Friday and returning the following Sunday. The team consisted of Joseph Brintle, Eddy Leveque, Ordea Leveque, George Westby, Chantal Westby and me.  Eddy and Ordea had gone ahead and were waiting for us in Haiti.  We had decided on a new design with stronger support and better ventilation for the roof and that portion of the work inside the church was done a month prior to our trip.

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Very early on Friday Joe and I drove to JFK with the Westbys.  There was excitement in the air for it was the Westby’s first trip with FHTH and they were looking forward to the adventure.  Joe slipped his passport in the kiosk, selected one carry-on bag and pulled his boarding pass and seat number. As I slipped my passport in the kiosk the machine refused to read my information.  I moved to another kiosk but that one also would not accept my information. I called an airline employee who gladly came to help but her trials were also in vain.  She then scrutinized my passport and with a note of sadness in her eyes told me that my passport had expired just three days prior.  My heart dropped. What a predicament! Workers would be waiting for me to start a large project on Monday morning and I was unable to board the plane.  My life suddenly became very stressful.  To make matters worse, because it was the Westby’s first trip, they did not know where to go.  Decisions had to be made quickly.  I told Joe to travel with them and that I would join them as quickly as I could.  Joe continued to Haiti with the Westbys and I stayed behind, heartbroken, to work at obtaining a new passport in order to rejoin my team.

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On a Friday even an expedited passport would not be available until Monday.  I spent two of the most agonizing days of my life glued to the computer searching for the best ways to quickly renew my passport.  After much research and many phone calls, I travelled to Stamford CT on Monday afternoon and by way of the Connecticut Passport Agency I had a brand new passport.  I took the only flight to Port-au-Prince on Tuesday morning.

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The team had rented a car to reach Anse d’Hainault and drove all day and into the night.   Because all the local flights from Tortug’air had been cancelled indefinitely I had to get to Anse d’Hainault by car as well.  Before my flight that morning I called a friend in Port-au-Prince who rented a car for a day, picked me up at the airport, and drove me to Les Cayes where another friend was waiting to bring me to Anse d’Hainault via Jeremie.  I was joyfully reunited with my team around one in the morning.

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The work had already started that Monday and the team had done well.  Charles Weitz was the engineer on record and did a remarkable job leading the group of workers, all from the community.   When I arrived on the site Wednesday morning I was pleased to see that the plan had been followed to a tee and team members had embraced their assignments with gusto. Chantal and Ordea took care of feeding the crew and distributed water periodically during the day; George took pictures while Eddy and Joe kept the momentum. Each team member followed their own assignment and all progressed flawlessly.  The old roofing had been completely removed and installation of the new red roof was well under way.  The next day, Thursday, the side aisles and half the center were completely covered; then on Friday, the remainder of the roof was completed.

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The news that St. Jean Baptiste was getting a new roof spread quickly.  People from neighboring villages came to admire the work in progress and many asked us to come do the same in their respective towns.  The community was especially pleased knowing that from now on they could worship rain or shine.  By the time we left that Friday afternoon, our mission was accomplished:  St. Jean Baptiste had a brand new roof.

 

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ASSESSING ST. JEAN BAPTISTE

By Patricia Brintle

It was in August 2012.  The team consisted of Joseph Brintle, Ellen Rhatigan, Robert Choiniere, Eddy Leveque, Rodolphe Dossou and me.  Our mission was to assess the work required to replace the roof of St. Jean Baptiste, the parish church of Anse d’Hainault.  We took a Delta flight from JFK to Port-au-Prince and early the next morning we took the 8:00 a.m. Tortug’Air flight to Jeremie.  A friend picked us up at the airport and we took the road right away. Anse d’Hainault is a seaside town in the Grand’Anse department at the end of the southern peninsula of Haiti. The trip was difficult; it was mid-day when we drove into town.  The road was rocky, mountainous, and rocked the car so much that at times it was difficult to speak.

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The two miles from Dame Marie, the last town on the way, was a welcome straight roadway, which upon entering Anse d’Hainault opened to a plaza filled with greenery where friends sat on benches deep in conversation. We were amazed at its beauty and quietness.  Facing the plaza stood the imposing church of St. Jean Baptiste, the reason for our visit. From the outside we could guess its largeness and for a moment wondered if the cost of repairs would be prohibitive.

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Up on the hill to the right we could see the presbyter, a cream-colored cement building with a wrap-around porch towering over the town.  It was inviting yet somewhat withdrawn from the hustle and bustle of the village.  As we approached we could see Pere Jean Medard Etienne, the pastor, waving to us.  He had prepared a feast to welcome us and thanked us for making the difficult journey to help his parish.  He said that the Conseil de Fabrique (pastoral planning committee) were looking forward to meeting us and were grateful at the prospect of a new roof for their beloved church.

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The church was built in 1906 and had since survived Hurricane Hazel in 1954, Andrew in 1992 and Thomas in 2010.  The earthquake of January 12, 2010 shook the structure and caused a couple of cracks as well as some damage from falling objects but age had caused the most harm.  It is a rectangular structure with a bell tower at the front and a rotunda above the altar. The lack of statues for such an imposing church was noticeable. The floor is cement with no adornment. A baptismal font with a damaged copper cover stands near the entrance door facing the stairs leading up the bell tower.  The church welcomes over 700 worshipers each Sunday and is the center of the community in this coastal village of 23,000 inhabitants.

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The rafters were badly damaged with many broken framing studs, which compromised the support of the tin roofing, causing it to sink on each side resulting in a terribly unsafe condition.  The roofing itself is corroded and strewn with holes causing the worshipers to avoid church services when it rains.

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We took pictures, measured, made extensive notes and met with members of the Conseil de Fabrique, which included Charles Weitz, the engineer who would prepare the estimate for the repairs and be the foreman to oversee the work once the funds raised.  Our visit was very productive.  We were given a list of supporters from Anse d’Hainault living in the US and Canada who would help fundraise to replace the roof.

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During the following months, we corresponded often with Mr. Weitz, Pere Medard and the members of the Pastoral Council (Conseil de Fabrique) to reach a consensus on a new shape for the roof.  By January 2013 we had reached an agreement on a more effective design with an estimate cost of $39,000.  The roof was replaced in April 2013, within budget, with ample time for the community to celebrate the parish feast on the 25thof June.

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Hurricane Matthew Relief

Friends

As you remember, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti on October 3rd – the day after we returned from replacing the roof of St. Joseph in L’Asile.  Since then we have been working assiduously with the various communities in Haiti to repair as many churches as possible.  Because of the dire need and acute emergency, we temporarily parted from our usual procedure in order to get these churches completed. This is an update of the work From Here to Haiti has been able to accomplish to repair some of the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew.  I have to say that we have done a lot with our meager means but I must add that all the priests worked very hard and well in concert with their community and with From Here to Haiti to make it happen.

Following is a list of the churches that were completed with the date of their completion:

– St. Joseph in l’Asile – Completed 11/8/16

– Holy Angels in Staintage – Completed 12/13/16

– St. Isidor in Beaulieu – Completed 12/23/16

– Notre Dame du Mt. Carmel in Fond Rouge – Completed 12/24/16

– Marie Reine Immaculee in Les Abricots – Completed 12/24/16

– St. Gerard in Chardonnette – Completed 12/27/16

– St. Pierre in Previle – Completed 12/30/16

Many other churches need roofs and we continue to work at finding the funds for them.  We note the following two:

–  St. Anne in Cayemite lost the entire roof; fundraising is on-going by the students of St. Luke School and the St. Luke school of Religion; in addition, St. Anne church in Ossining promised to take a collection toward the roof and The Voices of Friendship choir did a concert for the benefit of St. Anne.  We hope to raise the funds in time to replace the roof for their feast in July.

–  Notre Dame de la Merci in Petite Riviere de Dame Marie has partial funding for its roof, but in the meantime, one of the walls of the church fell requiring additional funding.  The Haitian choir “Group Eclat” had a concert for the church and we will have the results soon.

Thank you for your continued support and fervent prayers.

Cheers,

Pat

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Verso of Ile a Vache Postcard

By Patricia Brintle

In October of 2012, we travelled to Ile a Vache to assess St. Antoine de Padoue School which is administered by the Petits Freres de Sainte Therese de l’Enfant Jesus.

In the months prior to leaving, whenever I would tell someone about our destination, I would hear about the beauty of the island, how it is a little paradise where couples spend their honeymoon, a beautiful little corner of the world that civilization had not touched.  I would hear about spectacular sunrises and sunsets; about lounging on the beach sipping on a coconut laced with Barbancourt Rum; about that little sandbar you can walk to and claim as your private island for a day.  I was filled with anticipation.

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Brother Anthony Saint Juste picked us up the morning after our arrival and off we went.  We stopped at Riviere Froide Café-Lompre near Leogane to visit their mother house, have breakfast and discuss the project with Brother Leandre who is in charge of the congregation.  The brothers are hard working and try their hand in agriculture, bee keeping, iron work, and just about any work to raise money to survive.  They do most of their own construction but too often need financial help to purchase materials.

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On the road to Les Cayes we could not help notice the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy just a week prior.  Huts were submerged underwater, plantations flooded; many trees uprooted, especially in the banana fields where they all laid broken in the muddy water.  The damage was tremendous.  In early afternoon we were boarding a small open boat from Les Cayes to Ile a Vache.

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We sat in the middle of the boat and were given a plastic sheet which we thought was to protect us from the sun but quickly realized it was to shield us from the sea splashing abundantly in the boat.  It was a very bumpy 30 minute ride which slowed a bit as we approached the island and cruised along the coast line until we reached the small village of Madame Bernard.  We docked and walked across a waterlogged plaza and up a hill to the home of the brothers.  They welcomed us with open arms and bright smiles.

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After washing the sea salt from our hands and face and went on to assess the school along with the local engineer and other members of the community.  We visited the building, inspected each room and took many pictures.  The edifice was in such bad shape that we were surprised children and teachers could actually use the space. We measured, pulled, pushed, jumped on board, and made extensive notes to be discussed with volunteer architects and engineers in the US.

 

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The evening meal was spent discussing getting to know each other and discussing what to expect from the community of Ile a Vache.  We learned that the inhabitants feel left out and separated from the mainland.  Life is difficult there.  It takes much effort to transport goods, water is scarce and the soil does not lend itself to a very successful agriculture.  We spoke about the hotels and resort on the other side of the island but were told that they were very beautiful but that the owners and guests are far removed from the poverty that exists on their side of paradise. We could feel the pain in their voice.

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The next day we celebrated mass at the nearby church and admired the boat shaped altar and the crucifix made from an anchor.  We prayed for the community of Ile a Vache and for the means to repair the school.  Soon after, we took the boat to Les Cayes and to an SUV toward our next destination:  The mountain top village of Baudin in the diocese of Jacmel.

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NY Times Article on Ile a Vache history:  Efforts to colonize African-Americans under President Geffrard.  See link below.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/12/the-le-vache-from-hope-to-disaster/

SURGEON IN SPITE OF HIMSELF

 by Patricia Brintle

We never know what surprise awaits us when we leave to work on a project.  However, we always learn something each time we travel and subsequent trips are always safer and better prepared.

It was the second day of our stay in Chardonnette to repair the wall of St. Gerard church back in August of 2011.  We had just had breakfast and were leisurely going over the schedule for the day and reviewing each team member’s assignments.  Ellen and Bob would help mix cement, Joe and Eddy would be on the scaffold with the workers, and I would be with Pere Emmanuel ensuring that the work was moving in time.

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Suddenly we heard a loud commotion at the front gate.  There were screams, yells and cries of distress from the cook: “docte Levek, docte Levek, vini vit” (Doctor Leveque, Doctor Leveque, come quickly) she said addressing Eddy, our vice president.  We rushed outside to find a young man holding his head and blood rolling down his face.  He had gotten into an altercation with his friends, things got heated and a rock was tossed.  The young man got hit in the head leaving a three-inch laceration.  At the sight of the blood the others ran from the scene.  Pere Emmanuel took a chair and set the young man down while scolding him for getting into a fight.   He was from the parish and lived nearby.

 

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Eddy went on “M.D.” mode and sent Pere Emmanuel to find a suture kit at the school clinic.  I was to serve as the attending nurse while Joe, Ellen and Bob watched in awe.  In no time, the wound was cleaned, sutured and the head bandaged.  The young man closed his eyes and did not move during the operation, nor did he utter a sound while his head was being sutured without anesthesia.  Eddy gave him a couple of pain pills and sent home with his friends and careful instructions on caring for the wound.  We all took a few deep breaths and continued our plans for the day.

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Although we always travel with a first aid kit, we knew at that moment that packing a suture kit or, at least, some butterfly wound closure strips would be a must in the future.

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My thoughts about From Here to Haiti

By Joanne Weir

When I think about From Here to Haiti, I think about its members, and the passion they have towards helping people.  Sure non-profits raise money to get something done.  Sounds simple, right?  But NO – It’s not at all that simple!  The members of From Here To Haiti are not only executives running a non-profit organization.  They are the administrators, schedulers, fund raisers and foot workers going from door to door, collectors and shippers of items in need, repairers, painters, and sculptors of broken statues for Haitian Churches.  Their “to-do” list is never ending, and that is all before they plan their trip, meet up with other volunteers in Haiti, lay out the plans, and then start the physical part of the job!  It’s exhausting, and to them, it’s exhilarating!

From the moment a job is decided upon, From Here to Haiti members start to sweat.  I know their sweat increases their passion, and like their “to-do” list, their passion does not cease.  Hundreds of organizations are researched for grants; hundreds of calls, texts, emails postal mailings are made to raise more funds or for donations of statues, clothing, and whatever else is needed to help people.  Every donation whether it be $1.00 or $1,000.00 is appreciated with gratitude.  And, don’t forget, there are many, many obstructions that need attention in order for them to progress.  When a job is completed, you see on their website exactly what was done.  This is the simple part:  another job completed out of love.

I do not know much about non-profit groups helping Haiti rebuild from the earthquake of 2010 except for what I read in the media.  Sometimes the news is positive; sometimes it’s negative.  From Here to Haiti is very different to me because I know two of the members personally.  I see with my own eyes and feel inside my heart the passion that my friends have towards rebuilding, and improving living conditions in a place very close to their hearts.  I get to see what their process involves in raising whatever money and materials they can so that they can help rebuild even a small portion of Mother Nature’s destruction to communities.  The hope and faith of the people affected by this destruction are no doubt reinforced as From Here to Haiti lands on their soil.

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A basketball game in Mouline

In June of 2015 we went to the small town of Mouline to build a roof for St. Paul Church.  A strong hurricane wind took the roof off back in 2011. A make shift structure was built to accommodate the faithful each Sunday, but within a couple of years, the temporary structure itself began to leak. It became imperative for St. Paul to be renovated.  In one week, the church received a new roof, a new coat of paint, and the parishioners were delighted.

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Among the many toys we brought with us when we traveled to St. Paul Parish were a basketball and a net – the hoop was too large to fit in our suitcases. St Paul Mouline (1)

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As we set out to play, the ingenuity of the children became obvious and they showed their skill in making do with their meager resources.  They formed a hoop from a piece of iron they found on the construction site and tied it to the existing soccer goal post. They were able to play undeterred by the uneven ground.

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No sooner had they gotten the hang of shooting the basket that they realized they needed something sturdier.  They conferred and disappeared in the thicket next to the house of the priest.  Moments later they reappeared carrying a nice post.

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They chose a spot where the ground was flat, dug a hole about 2 feet deep and planted the post.

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They borrowed a hammer, took some nails from the workers and placed their hoop solidly on the post.  Soon they had a line of children practicing their skill at making a hoop shot.

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Never underestimate the resourcefulness of children.

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A needed well for a small village

Notre Dame de la Merci, the parish church of the seaside village of Petite Riviere de Dame Marie in the Grand’Anse extends beyond the villagers’ pastoral needs.  The school counts over 250 children and many come to attend class from the neighboring mountains.  Those who live in town, however are plagued by a water source that is brackish and unsanitary due to the close proximity of the sea. An artesian well was requested by Father Belony, the pastor of the church to alleviate the resulting sickness and restore health to the community.

Fundraising for the well was made possible by the help of the 7th Grade class of St. Luke School in Whitestone who enlisted the support of their parents, their friends, their teachers and the students of St. Agnes Academy in College Point, Queens.  In February Pere Belony and the well digging company (Kris Kapab) dug the well using very rudimentary means efficaciously.

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 Little by little the water Becomes cleaner
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Water runs until it becomes clear.

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No sooner was the clear water gushing from the earth that children ran home to tell others and returned with buckets to bring back clean water home.

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Then  an old man comes… look at his happy face

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The word spread fast and soon over 50 people came to fetch the precious commodity.

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The word is out… Everyone comes to get water

Pere Belony is third from the left.  He said he was the first to drink from “St. Luke Well.”

Once all the village had their homes filled with clean water, work started to build a hand pump for the well.  The well will be named “St. Luke Well.”

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Now work starts to construct the top with a hand pump.

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