Haiti Blog

Brent & Letitia Jefkins

Let’s Go to the Chicken!

We are currently in the Dominican Republic hanging out with some friends before we head back to Canada tomorrow for a month but I wanted to show you some pictures of our last fun event that we did before we left.

It is most likely that our kids will be back in school in September when we return to Haiti so our older teens were asking for us to do a last fun event for them before that, so we arranged to find a swimming pool for them to swim in. It was a first time for a lot of them in the swimming pool but it was awesome!

A pool in kreyol is called a “pisinn” but one of our kids asked what it is called in english, I told him it was called a “pool”. A “pool”?! He laughed… you mean a chicken?! … “poul” in kreyol means chicken. Well, we had a blast at the chicken.

Here are some shots:

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Brent.

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Brother Ben

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This is Brother Ben.

He is one of the most “amikal” or friendly people that I know. I rarely see this man without a smile on his face.

Fact. He can’t read. Fact number two. He knows more about the Bible than me. Fact number 3 which is obvious… he loves Jesus.

He often tells me that he prays for me.

He is one of the oldest Haitian friends I have. I think he might be 53. He is wise beyond his years and he doesn’t even know it.

He is the lone breadwinner of a house of 13 people.

He commutes 2 hours each way to work each day.

And…

He is our groundskeeper for Kids Alive.

Letitia and I visited his house today which is pretty much right on the ocean. He toured us around his neighbourhood, which was dusty and did not have many trees, but he kept talking about how he thought his neighbourhood was just beautiful. I walked with him to a local shop to buy some drinks and more than once some witty friends of his asked if I was his son…

This is a man that I love. He makes the world around him warm. There are stigmas around his job that it is a job for the “low” or the “poor”. He either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. I think the later.  He is just happy to work. He is happy to serve. I don’t envy his job (try cleaning up a yard and toilets and classrooms that were just used by over 100 kids). But he does his job well. I feel like this guy is what God is looking for in men.

We need more Ben’s in this world.

Brent.

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Thoughts on Life, Change and a Good Friend.

Sometimes I wish I could freeze moments of my life so that everything stays the same. When the perfect people are in the perfect place, and you dread the day it has to change.

Today it changed for me.

Now, if you froze your life so that it would stay perfect…there would be no change. And despite how the majority of us feel about change- especially while it’s happening- in the end we know that change is good.

Beautiful, even!

Something you thought was perfect can become more perfect in time. And you just continue to add to your life more people and moments you can cherish.

It’s tricky being human…because inside we can feel eternity. We know that one relationship, even a “temporary” one, feels longer than the time frame our life sets it in. But we live in a world that has endings.

How do our hearts compute? We know that something is more enduring, but we see it end.

You hear people say “endings aren’t ending but new beginnings”. Ya, I believe it…but they are still also endings…and endings hurt. I think you have to properly grieve an end before you can graciously accept a new beginning.

But as I’m seeing a lot of “endings” and “beginnings,” and change is just apart of the life we have chosen, I’m beginning to see them differently.

You see, today my good friend (a.k.a. coworker, teammate, ex-roomie, and partner in crime- err, I mean tutoring) Kristen, got on a bus and is about to “begin another chapter of her life”.

For us here Kristen isn’t done and gone. She’s still here in inside jokes, in hearts and in changed lives. Her impact…and may I even say legacy…doesn’t end when she leaves. It continues!

And for her Haiti isn’t over and done with. Haiti is in her blood- and let’s be realistic, it’s probably in her lungs too 😉 . She’s going to carry a piece of all of us in her heart everywhere she goes. Haiti has shaped who she is and is going to be.

This doesn’t look like an end at all to me. Or a beginning.

It looks like the continuation of something beautiful. Not a book with chapters, but a painting that is in process. With every new experience, every relationship, every encounter with Jesus, the painting becomes more and more beautiful and you can begin to see the whole picture.

I imagine when we’re close to the end (the real end-or the real temporary-end) we’ll see the painting almost complete and see how beautiful it really is. And all the pain we endure in moments of change make sense.

I know this isn’t an original idea, but reminding myself about it is comforting in the face of the unpleasant.

If we froze our lives in a good moment, and didn’t accept change…the painting would never be finished. It would never be as beautiful as it was meant to be.

Kristen and the 8th grade boys that never stopped making us laugh!

Kristen and the 8th grade boys that never stopped making us laugh!

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Jesus, help us to trust you, even when we don’t know why, or what’s next. Help us to let go of our need to figure it all out and just let you lead us. Because deep down we know that the painting you are creating with our lives is more beautiful than anything we could come up with ourselves.

-Letitia

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Wrote a Guest Post…Check it Out!

My good friend Jillian…who is a fellow missionary in Haiti, and a much more dedicated and skilled blogger than I, asked me what I thought the teens in Haiti needed. 

She and her husband, Hunter, are about to transition into a new organization that is dedicated to caring for the older teens coming out of the orphanage they were working with.

She has a heart for these teenagers…the transition home they are starting is awesome!

Check them out: http://emmaushousehaiti.org/

And check out the guest post I wrote for her: http://jilliansmissionaryconfessions.com/2013/06/19/someonetobelieveinthem/

-Letitia

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7 Hours Without Resposibilities

One of the hats that I wear with KAI-Haiti is “Planner of Random Meetings and Events for our House Moms”- this is obviously my official title!

Since our parents are the core of what KAI does…we need to make sure they are taken care of. And not just with food, and a home, and hopefully a sense of fulfillment, but surprisingly enough, rest and support too!

Once a month I get all the moms together, or at least attempt to get them all together, and what we do ends up being random. It usually follows the format of:

1) talk a lot in really fast Creole about the kids that are driving us crazy that week-(I’m excluded from this part for more than one reason)

2) pray

3) sing

4) talk some more

5) maybe do a small Bible Study

6) maybe teach them a new skill like crocheting, or a recipe like cookies or bread

7) pray again

8) talk more while waiting for our driver to bring them home

Sometimes we just pray and sing. Because frankly, when you’re living in a house with 10+ kids, who more than likely came from rough backgrounds, and they decide they don’t want to listen to you or respect you, praying for wisdom, peace and patience is definitely the most effective thing you can do!

You can tell the moms need each other once they get together. I’m not even sure if they’ve realized it yet, but I think being in a group with 7 other women who are going through pretty much the same things they are, is a breath of fresh air. Without having to use many words, they know they are being understood. Obviously they still use lots of words though…because they’re women! (Somethings are the same cross-culturally!)

This month’s event was not in typical format. No, no! It came in the form of sun, sand and OCEAN! (the praying and singing did still happen though- this is one of many reasons why I love Haitians)

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We’d been talking about this for a while, and we finally made it happen. Even though the kids are in school, the moms don’t get a break, they cook (Haitian food for a million little people takes a long time to prepare), clean (do I even need to explain that cleaning up after a million little people IN HAITI also takes a long time?), do laundry…you get the picture! The work is never finished, despite having a helper come 3 days a week!

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So we planned it!

It happened!

And it was awesome!

My first time to a black sand beach!

My first time to a black sand beach!

Unfortunately, only 4 of the 8 moms were able to make it. I did give them lots of notice though, because Haiti is a crazy place like that…something ALWAYS comes up!

But can I just tell you that it was still 100% worth it for those 4 moms! And I loved being apart of it!

Without having to be responsible for little people, it’s like they turned into kids themselves. They were giddy with excitement before we even got there. When they got into the water they were jumping into the waves and giggling!

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We ate fresh fish, fried plantains, there was even a plate of octopus being passed around. I tried it…it’s delicious, a little chewy, but delicious!

Plantain and fish being fried over charcoal!

Plantain and fish being fried over charcoal!

Octopus!!!

Octopus!!!

 

MMMmmmm!!

MMMmmmm!!

We napped…well they napped, I read. Then we went swimming again!

We were supposed to have started home around 1 or 2 so they didn’t leave their husbands with the kids for too long by themselves, but I checked the time when we got back in the water, after the napping, and it was 3! I didn’t want to say anything because they were enjoying themselves so much, so when one of them finally asked, and I told them, they all started laughing, like belly laughing!

They thought it was hilarious that they were out past their “curfew”. Such rebels they are!

Freedom from responsibility for just 7 hours was what they needed. A day dedicated to them! I’m just glad I got to witness it!

Since school finished on Friday…I’m praying that was enough to recharge them for the full summer ahead!

-Letitia

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The Impulsive Run

On Friday night I was sitting at a local restaurant with some friends celebrating a birthday party when a conversation topic came up, My friend and her coach were going to make the 6 hour drive to Port-au-Prince at 7am the next day to go run in a Sean Penn sponsored 1/2 marathon in the heart of the city. The top few runners Sean Penn was going to financially support to get to the New York marathon. Then they asked, Brent, want to come? So, I thought about it for a second…

– Have I ever ran 22K before? No.

– Have I trained, or even ran more than 3K in the past year? No.

– Do I have running shoes? No.

– Am I going to drop my plans for the weekend and do this thing? YES!

…So we left the next morning, stayed at a friend’s house overnight and on Sunday went to the starting location at about 7am, The race started late, about 9am or so. They said the roads would be blocked off by police, but they weren’t.

So the race began. The majority of the time I was dodging vehicles as they honked at me, including running behind non-emission friendly tap-taps (public transportation) that were blowing black diesel in my face. Also, it was HOT, there were points where I thought I was going to die. I was getting chills, I was cramping up, I was tired. They did have water stations along the way, and when I was getting close to passing out, I asked the lady handing out water how far I have ran, she said 10K… 10K?! That’s not even half! Gah, you don’t know how bad I just wanted to get on a moto taxi and drive to the finish line.

So…I kept going, determined to finish…surely thinking that some of the buff Haitian runners were probably already done the race because they were so fit. Then I kept running. And running. And running. And then I didn’t see anyone anymore. Then I was in a small community area. This can’t be right!

See…there was no one roping of the track, no one directing where to go. No signs. I was lost.

I retraced my steps and asked for directions. Finally I got back in the right direction. I needed to get to the rich neighbourhood of Petionville! I’m guessing I got off course by about 2km, so retracing my steps makes that 4km off track. Never-the-less I made it. I finished. I’m sure I was dead last out of the people who didn’t quit. Running approximately 26km.

So I’m not too worse for wear. My quads hurt a lot when I walk and because of the shoes I wore, I may have ripped off a toenail. But I finished.

So lessons learned from this experience:

1) Train next time

2) Being impulsive is totally worth it

3) Buy running shoes

Here are some pics:

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The 3 of Us Before the Run

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The Starting Line

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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Well, they make good stories.

I know in past blogs Letitia and I have talked about how routine things in Canada seem to take a long time in Haiti. In the spirit of fun, I have written some comparative examples about how Canada and Haiti…well… differ. I know that I may or may not be simplifying the Canadian version of these but enjoy!

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Cap Haitian Food Market

Getting a receipt:

Canada

Go online and click print or go to store and ask for one.

Haiti

Schedule date with Haitian who sold you product, show up at his house in the middle of downtown Cap Haitian, chat for 20 minutes, then argue/discuss for 20 minutes about what a receipt should look like.  After doing half the receipt, start over. After redoing half of the receipt, go outside to find that someone reversed into your car and that the bumper fell off. Celebrate with smoothies. Continue with receipts while man we need receipt from gets in car that reversed into us and we drive and follow him to mechanic. Finish receipts on side of road as our receipt man shops for candle holders. Remain car-less for most of the rest of the day.

 

Buying a motorcycle helmet:

Canada

Go to store, pick a helmet, proceed to cash register.

Haiti

Wander around Cap Haitian asking motorcycle shops for one. Nobody has any. Last store says that his friend has one, says friend will pick me up and take me to his place. Decline option. Leave town thinking that nobody has any helmets and stumble across one final store. Go inside to realize that there is a bunch of helmets! Ask price. Not for sale, they only come with a motorcycle (turns out almost every motorcycle comes with one but only 1/100 people actually wear them). Ask if they have “extra ones” lying around from people who didn’t see them as helpful in case they face-plant off a moto. Go down alley to some back dark room and they have a closet full of broken ones. Buy 2 for $15.

 

Laundry

Canada

Go to laundry room, insert laundry and soap, return in 30 minutes.

Haiti

For our clothes, we pay a lady to wash them once a week. She does an awesome job. As for sheets and towels: call friends, see if they have electricity. If no… no laundry. If yes… car is not available, find moto taxi on way and get driven there with laundry on lap, or cannot find moto taxi and therefore walk alongside highway with laundry over shoulder like Santa Clause with his Christmas gifts. Proceed to use machine: you bucket load water into machine (1st  manual compartment), with soap, run for 5 minutes, drain water, put laundry in spin cycle (2nd manual compartment), load laundry into first compartment with non-soapy water, spin cycle again, did I lose you yet? Return home in similar fashion to how you arrived.

 

Borrowing a car:

Canada

Car is at mechanics getting full work up for 3 days. Call friend, borrow car, put some gas in it as thank you.

Haiti

Car is at mechanics getting full work up for 2 months. Call friend, borrow car. Borrowed car’s transmission hardly works. After having borrowed car for 3 days, friend decides he wants to “rent the car” now. Pay to borrow car. Give back car. Friend find different car with shredded interior, no locks, one windshield wiper, cracked windshield… it was actually sitting in someone’s backyard for at least 5 years and friend resurrected it as favour to me. Use it for a while, friend borrows the borrowed car to go to funeral. Need different car, walk to friends house along highway because no moto taxis are around. Their car battery is dead. Go back home and stay in for the night. 

 

Grocery Shopping

Canada

Go to grocery store, fill up grocery cart, proceed to cash register.

Haiti

Park car on side street in downtown Cap Haitian (the one that doesn’t lock). Walk through muddy mess of grey water in outside market that takes up 7 blocks or so of streets. Find lady who has majority of what you want (usually one lady will sell rice, pasta, pasta sauce, flour, sugar, oil, ketchup). Barter price. Proceed to find next person, perhaps to find toilet paper. Barter price. Proceed to vegetable area. Barter Price. Oh I forgot to mention that you are dodging wheelbarrows full of everything from chopped up cow to refrigerators. Also be aware of pushing people, people asking you for money, everybody asking you to buy from their stand. Once in awhile you will dodge the odd motorcycle too. Continue to fruit area. Barter Price. Get out of market. Drive home. Shower. Nap.

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