Saved by the rules

by Patricia Brintle

My friend Eddy Leveque, FHTH’s Vice President, gives me so much advice about my expectations of Haitian work ethics that I’ve started numbering them and define them as rules:  Rule #1:  Always have plans A, B and C when traveling to Haiti.  Rule #2:  Never plan a stay of less than five days when traveling to Haiti.  Rule #3:  Take an open return on your ticket when traveling to Haiti.   Rule #4… And the list goes on.  I was born and raised in Haiti but having spent a half a century in the US caused my work habits have become rather Americanized.

It was in March 2013.  This particular trip was to be very short:  Day 1:  Travel from New York to Port-au-Prince and take care of business – Day 2:  Catch the morning flight to Jeremie and take care of business – Day 3:  Catch the morning flight back to Port-au-Prince and connect to the flight to New York.  Sounds simple, right?  Except that I had disregarded Eddy’s Rule #2 and only planned a three-day stay.

I arrived to Port-au-Prince in good order and took care of business.  I spent a wonderfully restful night at my cousin’s home up in the mountains of Fermate and woke up early the next morning in plenty of time to catch the 8:00 am Tortug’Air flight to Jeremie.  On the way to the airport we caught an unusually heavy traffic and were told that the road had been blocked.  We backtracked, made a right turn, and went down one of the most vertiginous road through the side mountain.  I was holding on to dear life through the bumps and turns and ups and downs.  When we reached town we sped when we could… you see, cars, trucks, tap-taps, pedestrians, sellers, hand carts, and even goats, all fight for space on the streets of the capital and without a horn to clear the road here and there, cars would be at a standstill.

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We pulled in front of the terminal; I jumped out of the car with a fleeting goodbye to my cousin and ran to the counter.  “I am sorry madam, but the flight was full and the plane is already taxiing.”  My heart sank and for a minute I lost my breath:  I missed my flight.

I looked around in disbelief as if somehow something or someone in that waiting room was to solve my dilemma.  To one side was another counter, with a bright yellow sign: Sunrise Airways.  I remembered Rule #1 and changed gears to Plan B.  I walked over and the young man at the counter, to my disappointment, informed me that all their regular flights had been discontinued and they only took charters of six or more passengers.  I sighed heavily and without losing another minute switch gears to Plan C:  Charter a two-seater.  I called the flight school and to my delight, they had a trip scheduled for that afternoon.

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It was the first time I rode such a small plane.  No room to ensure you don’t get stuck with a bad seat, or to select a window or an aisle… There was only one seat and it was a window seat.  I was given a set of aviation headsets and was astonished at how much they reduced the noise.  Talking was almost impossible which gave plenty of time to enjoy the views.  The southern coast offers breathtaking sights.  The countryside is lush and green.  The coast is strewn with cliffs that seem to rise as soldiers holding back the crashing waves.  We flew low, so much so that we could almost see people walking along.  What an experience!

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I arrived in Jeremie in enough time to do business, enjoy a fabulous meal with friends, have a most restful sleep, catch the morning Tortug’air flight to Port-au-Prince, connect to the New York flight and have a delicious dinner with my husband that night.

My trip was saved by Eddy’s rules.

A Cohesive Team

When we work on a project and call upon the community to join in the work force for a week of intense construction and refurbishing, we never know who will show up.  We hire men, women, young, old, mothers, single, Catholic, Protestant, or any other denomination.  For that week, our work becomes a unity of effort. The town is mobilized and everyone becomes part of the project.

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Haitians are a welcoming people and everyone watches out for our safety and well being.  The entire project becomes a sort of “family affair” at the town level.  By the time we arrive, the town has known about our arrival for several weeks already and we know it will be successful because we learn as much from the villagers we meet as they learn from us.  Learning from each other is as essential as working with each other.  There is a mutual desire to improve on the town and its inhabitants.

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Salaries become secondary as the group pulls all their resources together.  We are all one.  Each person contributes their talents with no fear of being diminished.  For one week we become the ultimate working machine and as someone once said, it’s  a “kombit a grande echelle” where everyone pulls in unison.  One of our main goals is to always leave the place in a better state than we found it; the reality is that we are the ones who always leave better people than we came in and the next project is always better because of the experience of the last one.

Come volunteer with us.  Whether you travel or just work in the administration, it’s always a life-changing experience.

Dinner Fundraiser

Dinner Fundraiser a roaring success

From Here to Haiti held its third annual fundraiser gala on November 8th at Terrace on the Park in Queens, NY.  Our host Lisa Scardamaglia guided the program perfectly throughout evening.  Ellen Rhatigan gave the keynote address and Monsignor John Tosi delivered the invocation.  Guitarist John Ducroiset entertained the guests during the cocktail hour while DJ John Schneider kept them dancing throughout the evening.  A most enjoyable rendition of “At Last” by Megan Latham drew loving couples to the dance floor followed by Haitian flags waving to “Drapo saa” by Jocelyne Dorisme.  Prizes graciously donated by our sponsors made the joy of many winners while Bernard Lebrun, our photographer, made of the evening a tangible memory.  A great time was had by all.

Following are a few pictures from the event — there will be more to follow:

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VOLUNTEER —  DONATE

Dinner Dance Fundraiser

Our Third Dinner Dance fundraiser will take place on November 8th.  Preparations have been under way for months.  Tickets sales are on-going and moving fast.  Below is the flier giving the details of the event.  Visit http://www.fromheretohaiti.org to purchase your tickets or call any of the board members listed on the flier.

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Below are a few pictures of last year’s event:

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St. Francis Xavier in Baudin

In October 2012 our visit in Haiti to assess a few projects took us to Baudin, a small village high up in the mountain past the Trouin valley in the South Department.  As we turned a corner we came to a fairly large church with wide stairs leading to an open terrace.  It was St. Francis Xavier, the parish church of Baudin which welcomes about 700 parishioners each Sunday.  The three wooden entrance doors were locked; the top section had a large crack caused by the earthquake, a sign that there may be more damage hidden from our vantage point.

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Pere Delmas Camy, mild mannered and soft spoken, came to welcomed us with open arms and a wide smile.  He led us to the side of the church where we parked the car.  As we entered the church we were amazed at its spaciousness.  It had been emptied and looked abandoned.  Pere Camy explained that much work will be needed to repair this parish church.  We took pictures and video, we measured, walked, poked and scrutinized every crack; we did everything we could think of to help us make a decision once we consult with engineers and architects back in the States.

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In the meantime, the parishioners celebrate mass and conduct religious service in a makeshift church on the other side of the property.

We need your help – Volunteer – Donate   http://www.fromheretohaiti.org

The Students of St. Raymond

By Patricia Brintle

My parish of St. Luke in Whitestone has been generous to From Here to Haiti from the very beginning.  The pastor, Monsignor John Tosi, helped fund our first project and donated countless statues that now adorn many churches in Haiti.  This past Christmas, my parish came through again by adding From Here to Haiti, Ltd. to the St. Luke Annual Christmas Giving Tree run by the Disciples in Mission group.  My coordinators were Judy Deangelis and Diane Cantatore.  Thanks to them about ten parishes in Haiti received soccer balls, basket balls, tennis rackets, badminton sets and scooters.  This past April, I visited St. Raymond School in Anse d’Hainault and had the pleasure of witnessing the fruits of the giving tree.

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College St. Raymond is a school of about 500 students and stands half-way up a hill, overlooking the bay and surrounded by trees and because of its location, a constant breeze flows through the classrooms.  We arrived as the recess bell rang and watched a flood of blue uniforms spring from each classroom.  The children surrounded us and we soon realized that they already knew who we were.  They thanked us for the gifts that were sent a couple of months earlier and showed us a couple of acrobatics on the scooter they had received, making sure to inform us that they were the only school in the area with one of those.  I smiled, thanking in my heart the Disciples in Mission of Whitestone.

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I cannot thank Monsignor Tosi and the parishioners of St. Luke enough for their support.  Through their generosity they have made so many children – and adults – very happy.

We need your help – Volunteer – Donate   http://www.fromheretohaiti.org