Haiti Blog

Brent & Letitia Jefkins

101 Days

I am sorry, dear readers, for not writing a new blog post in over 2 months.

I did write a newsletter in January, which was full of exciting things we’ve been up to. You can read that here: Jan2014update

Otherwise, you might be wondering what’s going on with us.

What’s going on in our hearts? What have we been processing?

Honestly I’m not even sure I know.

As of today, we have 101 days left in Haiti! We’re thinking a lot about leaving- the good and the bad. But I’m trying not to focus on that. I’m trying not to let “leaving” affect how I interact with people around me…I’m trying not to detach earlier than 101 days from now.

So leaving Haiti is only a small part of what I’ve been thinking about.

Forgiveness has been a big theme in my life lately. I’ve been seeing how hard it is for many of our teens to forgive those who offend and hurt them. They tell me they’d rather hold on to it forever and lose a friend. And no matter how much I tell them it’s not worth it, that grace is better, I don’t think I’ve convinced anyone yet!

I can understand where they’re coming from…because over the last few years I’ve been working on the voice in my head that says, ‘Don’t forgive! You’ll just get hurt again.’ I feel like the only authority I have to tell these teens to forgive is because God has told me to forgive…I’m just passing on the message.

If there is anything I want to pass on…it’s the message of reconciliation. Us to God. Us to others. If there is anything Haiti needs…it’s to learn the importance of reconciliation.

A part of this whole forgiveness thing…is asking others for forgiveness when you hurt them.

I had a perfect opportunity to demonstrate this to one of our teens when I said something seemingly innocent, but as it turns out, very offensive, to a Haitian. I don’t want to give you all the gory details, but I made sure I went to this boy and apologized. I explained that my intentions were not to harm him, but that I now understood that what I said was hurtful and assured him I wouldn’t ever say that again.

You might think, ‘A silly cultural misunderstanding would be easier to forgive than an intentional jab.’ And maybe easier is right, but it still took 3 days for him to talk to me again…and I wasn’t even sure he would because of this great difficulty with forgiving.

But I’m okay with feeling and looking like a big idiot for a few days if that means I have a chance to show our teens how to ask for forgiveness. I’ll be the sacrificial penguin.

Leaving.

Forgiveness.

I’m pretty sure that’s just scratching the surface. But there you have it! And just because I’m nice, here are a few cute pictures of us and our friends a few weeks ago at the movies!

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Transitions: An Update on The Independence Program

The Independence Program (i.e. my baby…

…I’m kidding, I’m not really that possessive about it) has some exciting news to share with you!

But since it can’t talk, I’ll share on its behalf!

I have been working for the last few months with the person who will be taking over for me when I leave in May. His name is Giovany! He has been working for Kids Alive for a few years now as our Social Worker, he will keep doing his previous job, while taking on a new role!

Meet Giovany!

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There are many reasons why I’m so excited to transition the Independence Program into his hands, the main one being:

I know that when I leave Haiti I won’t have to worry about the Program’s success. He’s got the vision, and is excited about it!

Other reasons include: He loves giving “formasyon”. I give you the Creole word because in English it’s more of a sentence! It’s like, teaching about life skills or other instructions that help “form” people. And he’s good at it. I never felt super comfortable teaching on such topics, but he does it with ease.

This one’s obvious, but he’s Haitian! There is no one better to teach Haitian teens how to live in Haiti than a Haitian.

He’s fun, can get goofy, likes to play the guitar and sing songs; he has fun with the teens! But he can also be very serious. His background in Social Work makes him passionate about healthy relationships, good communication and conflict resolution (things I also value very much!) And he will need these things as our first 3 girls in the Program move into a house together!

Which brings me to my next piece of exciting news!

The first 3 girls in the Program are moving into the first Independence Home this month!

Me and the 3 girls in front of their new house.

Me and the 3 girls in front of their new house.

The month is half over already, as you know, so that means in the next week and a half the house needs to be finished, all the furniture and food bought and all their stuff moved in. We want them to have enough time to adjust to this new living arrangement before starting back to school for the 2nd trimester of high school.

This is where I need your help! In Haiti, you can have plans, but life happens and things get delayed. This happens more than you can imagine. So despite the house ALMOST being ready, and everything seeming to be on track…you never know!

So I would love for you to pray with us that everything will continue to move along smoothly, so that after Christmas, but before New Years the girls can move into their new home!

Thanks so much, and I’ll let you know what happens!!

-Letitia

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Home: Part 1

We’ve been in Haiti for a couple weeks now, but before we get back into blogging about Haiti-life, I thought it would be fun to show rather than explain our relaxing month in Canada.

Enjoy!!

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In Toronto!

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Letitia in our friend’s wedding party. Can you spot her?

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That’s right, we rode one of those bad boys (and almost crashed many times)

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A little blurry, but got a chance to lead worship back at our home church, Bethel.

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We celebrated our 4th anniversary in Canada. We got to share a canvas and paint something to remember it by.

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Got to go cottaging! Man, that water was COLD!

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Letitia and Ellie!

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With my sister Amy. She’s coming to Haiti in December!

We’ve had a little bit of fun since being back too!

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We put an ex-pat soccer team together called “Blan Tonbe” or translated “White People Falling”. We lost 8-2.

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Also, check out this video. Our kids recently sung at our church’s evening service. Awesome right?

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– Brent

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No, You’re the Hero

Background Story:

Brent and I spent 12 days this month in the Dominican Republic with 4 kids who were having eye surgeries done for different eye problems.

(I’ve actually attempted to write about the whole experience on multiple occasions, but there were so many different emotions and thoughts about it, I’ve been finding it hard to pick one or write them all down together.)

Two of the four kids had one parent with them (2 of our house parents), and the other two are from the community where our school is…so instead of living with our house parents, they just come to our school and go home everyday to their families. The majority of them are very poor.

Brent and I took on the majority of the care-taking role for the 2 community kids, one a 7-year-old boy, and the other a 10-year-old girl. The house mom that came was a super big help when it came to making them eat food they didn’t like or were too drowsy from the surgery to eat!!

We’ve returned now with 3 of 4 surgeries done, and a plan to go back again to finish the last, and do a follow up procedure on another.

So….

The Actual Story:

Lucy at the waterfalls we went to (post-surgery)

Lucy at the waterfalls we went to (post-surgery)

Yesterday, when Brent and I were at the school, the father of the 10-year-old girl (whom I will call Lucy*) was there to thank everyone for organizing the whole trip and paying for his daughter to have this surgery and to find out more information about her follow-up procedure.

You see…Lucy lost her eye in 2008 (which would make her 5 or 6-years-old at the time) because she was playing outside and accidentally fell on a stick. Gory, I know, but how traumatizing for her and her family!

The solution that was available/affordable to them at the time was only a half-fix. Whatever surgery she received was not well done, and a cheap fake-eye was given to her. Because it was some cheap plastic thing, it didn’t sit in her eye right so the other kids would always make fun of her, and it would fall out often and cause her pain.

One top of that, the father explained that in 2009 his wife died. So with 2 kids, Lucy and her older brother, he became a mom and dad; and the sole provider for his family. He explained how he does their laundry and cooks their food. In addition, he somehow also manages to make enough money to pay for both kids to go to our school.

Just for you to have an idea…Lucy came to the DR for 2 weeks with her 3 best outfits. One was probably some flower girls dress from the 80s, and the other 2 outfits were so worn and outdated that I’m sure 95% of North American parents would have thrown them out years ago! According to Haitian culture, she would have been sent with her nicest, fanciest, newest clothes.

Those were the best she had!

We got the opportunity to tell her dad how well behaved and smart his daughter is. Lucy was actually excited to work on her homework that we had for her so she wouldn’t fall behind in school! She’s in grade 5 this year and will be advancing to 6th grade next year because she keeps her marks up!

Her father was beyond grateful for all our help in getting Lucy this surgery, and repeated many times that God will bless us for our work.

The only thing I’m thinking at this point is…

“NO, you’re the hero!

I spent, what?…12 days with her! Making sure she ate, comforting her when she was hurting.

But you! You spend your entire life making sure she’s cared for, working your butt off so she can eat! No, God bless you for sticking around when it got hard, for being the dad she needs! “

How common is it for fathers to leave their kids in someone else’s care…sadly it’s too common here. He stayed! That in itself deserves all the blessings in the world.

Heck, it’s not even like I paid for it! A generous group of volunteers said they would pay for all the surgeries (which includes the costs of getting passports and visas for the kids and parents, food and transportation)!

I’m so totally moved by this dad! Despite getting teased at school, Lucy is so feisty and has a quiet confidence that you know only comes from having a good family who loves her.

I am so not the hero in her story!

I hope he knows he’s the hero in her story!

[Obviously no discredit to Jesus here, because the dad is clearly a man of great faith, who trusts in God for all his provisions…but we all know that Jesus is always the hero behind the hero 😉 ]

-Letitia

Here are a few photos of one adventure we went on after their surgery:

Suspension bridge on the way to the waterfall

Suspension bridge on the way to the waterfall

We're adopting!!...just kidding ;) Group shot...missing a bunch.

We’re adopting!!…just kidding 😉 Group shot…missing a bunch.

 

*name changed for protection

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Spring Break Movie Day (Complete with Apartment Shots)

Since the kids are out of school for 2 weeks and I had been talking about having the teens come over to watch a movie at my house, I thought this would be a good time.

I warned them all that our apartment is small…not small for 2 people, but small for 25! I got them to bring some chairs from the school too!

Our living room (and that's our bedroom on the right)...note the red table!!

Our living room (and that’s our bedroom on the right)…note the red table!!

Our kitchen, and you can see the door to our balcony there on the left.

Our kitchen, and you can see the door to our balcony there on the left.

And now for Movie Day..we watched some football movie called “Invincible” (I let the kids choose between a few movies I inherited from someone!)

 

Our wall doubles as a screen thanks to the awesome projector someone donated KAI!

Our wall doubles as a screen thanks to the awesome projector someone donated KAI!

It was a little crammed!

It was a little crammed!

After the movie I gave them some juice, and Brent had Photo Booth open on our Mac (it’s a program that can take pictures and videos but changes the effects to make people look silly) and the kids had fun laughing at their funny faces!

Here’s a little clip of that!

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Kids Serving Kids

One thing I’ve learned about teaching ‘life skills’ is that they’re hard to teach.

For example, the last class I led we talked about Empathy. What it is, why it’s important, how to be aware of discrimination. But until you are faced with a situation that demands empathy, it’s hard to develop that skill.

So we (our Director and I) decided to take this group of teens to a home for disabled children, where they can learn how to care for others who cannot care for themselves.

We split the class into two groups, as 24 teens invading a small care facility would be too much for the workers. The first group went mid-February, the second group last Saturday.

It was a privilege to watch and see different gifts and personality styles coming out of the teens I work with regularly. We had a few rock-stars; kids who got right in there, not a afraid or uncomfortable about the different disabilities the kids had. They perceived needs before being asked, and didn’t stop working the whole time. We had others who were hesitant, but willing…they just needed encouragement or a specific task.

The needs of the kids in this care facility range from high-functioning physically but mentally slow, all the way to physically and mentally unable to care for themselves (many in cribs).* It is a Catholic organization, and many of the staff (who are Brothers…I’m not sure of what we call them in English, like male nuns, but not monks) don’t get a full day off because there are too many needs and not enough staff.

Some of the tasks our teens help with are: feeding the kids, cutting their nails, doing the girls hair (which can be quite an ordeal in itself for the ones who don’t like it…but also very helpful as they like to have their hair done so that it looks nice for church on Sunday), putting cream on them, and then just giving them attention!

It can be hard working with people who have disabilities at first when you don’t know what to expect. Each group has only gone one time, so I am anticipating that as we go more regularly they will be able to develop relationships with some of the kids and feel comfortable helping them. We plan to go once a month.

I think there is something beautiful about rescued children helping other children who need help! They’ve received love and now they can pour that love out on others; when love that flows in doesn’t flow back out I think it can become stagnant and we can become hard hearted. I’m beyond proud of all of ‘my’ kids, they truly are wonderful!

-Letitia

(Our Director took some pictures of the second group…I’m hoping to get them and post them up)

*Sorry if the terms I use aren’t politically correct, I’ve been out of Canada long enough to have forgotten proper terms and Haitians say things as they see them, so they can say things that in Canada would be terribly offensive…just keep that in mind if I don’t use the right terms 🙂

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The Unleashing of 140 Kids Who’ve Never Played on a Playground

“Who here has ever seen a playground?”

Asked one of the volunteers who came down to help set up a massive playground at the Children’s Village.

A few kids put up their hands jokingly. Even our Director had never been on one.

A group of 5 men came down from Michigan to put together the hybrid playground they took apart from multiple playgrounds in the Michigan area. Friday was the presentation of the finished product. After our little Friday chapel service we had everyone hold hands around the playground, pray, and then Brent gave some basic instructions…like: you go down slides not up them; don’t climb on top of the tunnels or the roof; don’t walk on the monkey bars, etc..

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Not all teams get to see the instant reward of their work…but the results were quite obvious and so fun to be apart of.

The big metal slide was a favourite!

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I even captured the first moments on video! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWxKSncdBm0&feature=youtu.be 

-Letitia

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Mardi Gras: Kids Alive Style

Since it would be difficult to bring 90 children to a crowd full of rowdy people for Carnaval, we decided to celebrate another way!

We inaugurated our soccer field by having 2 big games on the Tuesday of Caranaval, Mardi Gras.

Pre-soccer-game basketball.

Pre-soccer-game basketball.

Game 1: Girls (self-proclaimed Sealions) vs. Boys younger than 12

Despite our best efforts we lost 9-1. You might think a bunch of teenage girls (plus a 25 year old) being up against little boys is an unfair match…but you’d be wrong. These kids could out-deek me with their eyes closed.

The day before the game a nine-year-old boy volunteered to be my trainer!

The only reason I decided to join the team was for comic relief (if you know me well you know I only play sports that don’t involve movement); the girls are all WAY better than me. But they were all excited to have me play!

Team Young Boys, preparing.

Team Young Boys, preparing.

Girls Team

Girls Team

(Yes I have corn-rows…don’t hate…I asked for 2 French Braids and got 4…which look more gangsta than I was planning!)

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Proof I played!

Proof I played!

Game 2: Boys older than 12 (formerly self-proclaimed Magic Boys) vs. Staff

This game is an annual one! Everyone loves this game! Besides the staff, everyone is cheering on the boys!

Last year they tied 3-3.

This year, again, they tied 3-3.

Let me tell you why this is amazing. The staff are a bunch of strong men who have been playing soccer longer than the kids have been alive! Most of them are very skilled. The fact that the boys can hold their own is impressive! But also, the boys are really good too…and young and agile…the fact that the staff can keep up is also amazing!

Check out that beautiful view!

Check out that beautiful view!

Proof that Brent was kicking butt!

Proof that Brent was kicking butt!

We love Manno!

We love Manno!

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Our driver doubles as a goalie!

Our driver doubles as a goalie!

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And a little bit of fun during the games!

Dancing to the music we had playing on the big speaker!

Dancing to the music we had playing on the big speaker!

I can't get enough of this face!

I can’t get enough of this face!

Friends!

Friends!

The spectators.

The spectators.

It was a great day!

Today, Brent and I are feeling a little sore!

-Letitia

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