Children's Hope Solidarity Team at MABE Orphanage -- Gressier, Haiti

Children's Hope Solidarity Team at MABE Orphanage -- Gressier, Haiti

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Leisa's Haiti Journal # 6 -- "Survivor Camps"

2010 Haiti Journal #6 Survivor Camps January 27, 2010

Dear Friends and Family,

On a good day, Port au Prince streets are dusty evidence of years of road neglect mixed with sidewalk-kitchen's charcoal smoke and plumes of unchecked diesel exhaust. Now death mixes with the dust, causing folks to reach anxious arms into the back of our truck when I pulled out my own face mask, a tactical error on my part. Another bounce of our pick-up truck forced more dust up from earthquake rubble kicking back. Our six bags of meds and supplies were safe. We all felt safe, maybe even more than any other time in Haiti. The people are numb, my friends are numb and in lucky moments I felt numb too.

It’s those other moments you have to watch out for. Those times when the death and agony take on faces and sounds you think you will never stop hearing and seeing.

Working at the Matthew 25 house field hospital brought many of those moments; the near ghost of a woman carried out post-surgery from our dining room table, who wouldn’t make it through the night; the young girl who took her place on the dining room table; the newly arrived doctor from the states who couldn’t stop muttering as we transferred one of his patients onto a dirty piece of cardboard in the dust…“this is post-op?…this is post-op?….this is post-op?”

But between them all was a special end to the day. After working with a local doctor in the make-shift pharmacy we heard something quite welcome and different rise up from the field out back. Sweet voices raised in prayer and song drew us again out into the soccer-field-turned-survivor-camp. Without electricity, running water or enough to eat, everyone in the survivor camp seemed to remember it was Sunday, and welcomed us into their circle. I could have as well been in any Californian congregation during the “peace-be-with-you-welcome”. A local Haitian priest presided over the sacrament. Someone found a drum to gently respond to the cadence. We shook hands and felt lifted for a moment out of the shared sorrow, or maybe lifted because we were all sharing the same sorrow. There was mostly and profoundly, calm.

Days later, we distributed all the medical supplies we carried and came home. We stock up, and in just one week will return on Thursday with a team of ten and over a thousand pounds of medicine and supplies. Please remember to keep pledging…or just encourage someone you know to make their own pledge. We are in this recovery for the long haul…there is much work to do…but as the Haitian saying goes, “many hands make the burden lighter.”

If you want to see some of the images from our January trip into Haiti, please take a moment to look over these images by Paul Taggart (for AARP). Thanks Paul, for staying in Haiti and helping even after your assignment finished.

peace, leisa
Leisa Faulkner, Executive Director
Children's Hope
3025 A Cambridge Road
Cameron Park, CA 95682

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haiti Journal #5

2010 Haiti Journal #5 January 20, 2010 Carrying Babies Out
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (layover)

Dear Friends and Family,

There is so much to tell...latest news first:

We aren't sure we are coming home yet.

Not five minutes off the small plane last night from the Dominican Republic (story next time), we were asked to go back into Haiti to hand-carry out babies that need transport. Paul turned to me ans said, "I guess you want to go do that".

I nodded. He said he couldn't let me go back alone. We are waiting for details now.

We are emotionally on over-load. As Doctor Jim Morgan confided in me yesterday in Cite Soleil, the transition between depression and manic doesn't seem to happen in these conditions, they just exist together. He had seen between 45-50 amputations in two days at the bigger hospitals where he pulls two and three shifts. Dr Joey said that yesterday was the first 24 hour period without "after-shocks". Everything is a shock in Haiti, even for those of us who have been going in for years.

We stood still for a moment (rare for Dr.'s in Haiti) as we waited at the back of the "Lamp for Haiti" clinic for our traditional flat tire to be replaced (we have never gone a day in Haiti without a car breaking down - making schedule keeping a trick). We stood at the back of the “Lamp for Haiti” clinic in Cite Soleil. We had finished putting away piles of medical supplies that we had re-packed into four bulging bags. A flood of images flashed by.

On our way to the clinic yesterday morning we had passed the same neglected dead bodies on the road that we had the day before, photographed the same growing camps of people without shelter, watched small women with heavy loads pat other women in affection as they pass by other women friends who may be boiling plantain in hot oil, or dusting off used shoes they lay on the sidewalk for sale. Haitian women work every hour of the day...and usually can be seen by tiny oil lamp selling bits of candy or other treats at night. They seem to wake before dawn, because at daybreak I usually catch them scrubbing down a child or two with strong determined hands.

At the clinic yesterday I soothed and they sewed up a young man with a six day old gaping wound that wrapped his wrist and threatened to take his hand. Dr. Joey managed to do what I call a miracle. I only wish I had brought more lidocane...what I did bring wore off quickly as the teenage boy writhed in pain at each miraculous stitch (no one I know at the larger clinics would dare to sew a days-old wound) but he was determined. The teenage boy squeezed my hand tighter. Later, I told Mimi, the clinic manager, that it was a miracle, and she said, “Well, that's what we do here, we save things, we don't cut them off.”

While we waited for the tire, Paul and I followed the sound of a basketball into the next yard to watch a teenage boy play basketball without a net and re-committed to making a backboard happen, when we heard screams. I caught sight of a woman in full regal African dress wailing and running through the tight maze of crumbling homemade cinder block after rushing home to Haiti to discover the local priest was killed. Her friends couldn't contain her or her grief.

A few minutes later, two boys old enough to be in school, if there were one, had just given up teaching me the game they play with BB-size charcoal (as chalk) and 6 stones, and I followed a “baby” in to see Dr. Jim. Babies are so soothing to the soul...they make you stop thinking about yourself. I played my little hand game with him, but he didn't respond like most babies. After the mother and child stepped aside, he lowered his voice and confided...that is a 5 year old child she is carrying. I looked could I have missed it? Jim said he couldn't believe it at first either. Then I noticed in the “baby's” mouth were six year old rotten molars. His pencil legs lay resigned around his mother's hips. This time we had brought the medicine he needed...but I noticed only two bottles children's vitamins left in the chest of the dozens we brought in last doctor prescribed a weeks is the best we can do for now. The infection threatens him more right now.

Manic and depressed are blended...we cry and laugh and work all at the same time. Those who know me know that I am a pushover. I cry when I laugh, and when I see baby powder commercials. Yet, I find myself laughing at Mimi's or Paul's jokes, involuntarily sometimes. Then in a quiet moment the images comeback with the tears.

I will have to tell you the story of the Dominican Republic trip and the basketball hoop in another journal. We are waiting to hear if we go back in to carry babies out of Haiti. We had only stood on U.S. soil for a few minutes when we heard we may be needed to go back into Haiti. How can we say no?

My goal in the next few hours is to try to find medical supply donations in Ft Lauderdale to re-pack our bags with. I took a bath with my clothes last night so they would have most of the dirt off them.

Please know that your messages of support and pledges for Children's Hope really help, not only the work in Haiti, but my spirits. I am sorry I don't have time to respond personally to each of you. But I wish I could hug each one of you and give the traditional Haitian kiss.
peace, leisa 

Last night we were again gifted by connection with “Clean The World” to have them arrange to have one of the few private planes donating free passage in and out of Haiti for emergency patients, aid going in, and for people like us who had delivered supplies. Thank you to Bob for giving us a seat on his plane last night. We have tickets to fly home from Florida tonight, so were trying to leave Port au Prince yesterday to make that connection. Don't really know where we are going now.

In Haiti, the need is everywhere...and it will be a very long recovery. Please know how very much every dollar counts. It is not that there is no food in Haiti, but that the people are so very poor, and now there is clearly no work. For folks that live on less than $2 a day, when costs are as high as the US, then to be grieving, injured and out of a desperate situation. We are staying in touch with donation pledges remotely, so please spread the word, share a journal or bit of story...every bit helps.

Also, I am sorry to be out of contact so often, but the conditions in Haiti did not allow for electricity for communication (don't worry Dr. Ben – the laptop held power). Many satellite towers are down, and without electricity then many routers won't work. peace.

Leisa Faulkner
Founder, Children's Hope
3025 A Cambridge Road, Cameron Park, CA 95682

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Leisa's Journal #4

2010 Haiti Journal #4 January 17, 2010

Matthew 25 House

We got in!

What a relief! And the miracles keep happening. Neil Kopple, (yes, a relation) donated his time, his jet and his bagels to the cause. After "Clean The World"'s Shawn Seiple connected us with Neil, a humanitarian/benefactor who generously flew us into the U.S. Air Force controlled Port au Prince airport, then handed us bag after bag of fresh bagels and cream cheese.

The tower was down, the terminal in shambles and coated with a layer of water, and yet things ran with amazing success and a chaotic sort of precision. Though there was a moment just before landing that our co-pilot (Paul Burke) later reported to us that we lost audio connection with ground control. Our hats are off to Neil for volunteering to fly us in his amazing little jet with just a 20 minute window each way, for meeting the challenge of getting us there safely, and as the volunteers at Matthew 25 House would say was his shinning moment, got the bagels here intact.

Such a trivial thing seems almost frivolous, but for the team of 20 who have been working without sleep treating the earthquake victims, it made for just a moment of relief from the non-stop emotions that come with staving off death against all odds.

I worked the afternoon away in the drug room, organizing and dispensing meds. Everyone had their niche. But at the end of the day, our reward was to be welcomed at a circle gathering service performed by the local priest. Beautiful voices filled the air as sunset brought a cooling breeze, and we were transformed for a moment out of the soccer field full of the wounded and their families. We saw the stars again for a moment, and were reminded of one of the beautiful things about Haiti, their endless spirit and courage. Around the long table as we shared soup and bagels, I heard such a story. The woman to my left held out a small bill and said she had a story to tell...we grew quiet as her moist eyes signaled we should. She said she was given this money by a woman who had suffered a bad foot injury, and without treatment was now expected to die of gangrene. She had lost her home and her husband, but not her spirit. She told my new friend that this was the last of her money, and asked her to take it, and writing her name on a small bit of paper, along with those of her children, asked my friend to find her children. She was kind and up to her last name: Tenderness. Not a bit of self-pity, though she earned it, not expressing any anger though she could have justified that...she actually tried to cheer up those around her. My friend was scheduled to return home soon, but after she shared this story, she turned to her husband, and said, this (showing the paper wrapped small bill) is why we can't go home.

Peace, always and all ways, leisa

Leisa Faulkner,Founder
Children's Hope
3025 A Cambridge Road,
Cameron Park, CA 95682

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Leisa's Haiti Journal #3

2010 Haiti Journal #3 January 16, 2010

Saturday. 11:30 p.m. In route to Boca Raton, Florida.

A day of miracles.
Miracle #1
When we tumbled into bed this morning around 2am it was the first time since Wednesday that we had been in a bed. We hardly embraced a 7:30 a.m. wake up call. But Anthony Bone was on the job, so off we went. We met him the night before as he “pulled a double” by working the bell hop station. He normally supervises in housekeeping. He convinced his boss to have us speak to the staff this morning. After Paul gave a little explanation of how Children's Hope regularly goes into Haiti with medical and school supplies, I spoke for a minute. Since most of the staff are from Haiti originally, I used my very limited Creole which made them laugh, I told them the phone service in Haiti is picking back up, which made them smile, but when we spoke of the tragedy and mentioned the Hatian saying that through solidarity many hands make the burden lighter...they cried. Then, one by one this staff of 100 of the most underpaid, undervalued in our society came up and kissed my check while they each pressed a few dollars into my hand...some with more, some with less...after I had cred, hugged and kissed more than I ever had we floated up to our room.We didn't expect one dollar, and we ended up with a total of $1,359.85. I think the 85 cents were my favorite.

Miracle #2
Back home, when we heard the news of the earthquake, we knew we had to cancel our vacation plans and book a flight on a commercial liner for Haiti. Then we heard the airport closed, then our tickets were canceled by the airline. We were offered a free ticket on a private jet going to Haiti...we headed out to Florida. Then our private jet fell through, but another miracle: “Clean the World” founder Shawn Siepler offered us not only free nights stay in two hotels, but also free passage for our shipment of supplies but two free seats on a small 4 passenger flight to Port au Prince tomorrow morning. Again, we are off. Right now we are in the back sear of a truck headed to Boca Raton tonight, and plan on flying out tomorrow on what Paul calls the Roberto Clemente Airlines. Which got a chuckle from the folks who volunteered to drive us five hours tonight to get us to the airport (and wouldn't even take gas money).

Little Miracle #3
Later that day we were standing on the street of Orlando near our hotel when a car honked at us and pulled over...a tiny shy woman in a maid's uniform came over, hugged me and slipped nine crumpled dollars into my hand, smiled a bit, and silently slipped back into her car.

We won't get to Port au Prince, Haiti until noon tomorrow, and yet miracles are happening already. If anyone was ever tempted to give up on humanity, they should remember another Haitian saying told to me by Junior Mesamours, “God will never give up on us, even if we give up on ourselves”.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Earthquake Relief Update

Friday, January 15, 2010 -- This morning Leisa and I leave for Port au Prince on an earthquake relief mission. With your help we've been able to collect over $10,000 in medical supplies in the past 48 hours. We hope to deliver the supplies to The Lamp, a free clinic we support in Cite Soleil, Haiti's largest and most desperate slum. The outpouring of generosity and solidarity from our Children's Hope family has been overwhelming. We are devastatd by the incomprehensible loss of life and suffering occuring in Haiti. But on this, the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we travel to Haiti inspired by his mighty Dream of love an compassion for all of God's children, and strengthened by all of you who have made this humanitarian mission possible. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. As our Haitian friends say, "Many hands make the burden lighter!" -- Paul Burke

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Earthquake : Relief needed

Dear Friends,

As you all know, Haiti's capital city of Port au Prince has been devastated by a catastrophic earthquake. Children's Hope, our humanitarian organization, has been serving the poorest of the poor in Port au Prince for several years. As I type this, Leisa and I are making arrangements to travel to Port au Prince to deliver medical supplies to a clinic we support in Cite Soleil, Haiti's largest and poorest slum. We hope to leave this Friday morning and arrive in Port au Prince Saturday.

If you would like to offer your solidarity as we support our Haitian sisters and brothers, please respond to this message with a monetary pledge for CHILDREN'S HOPE -- then drop a check in the mail to us at CHILDREN's HOPE, 3025A Cambridge Rd., Cameron Park, CA 95682. Any amount you can afford to contribute is very much appreciated. If you would prefer to donate online you can support our good friends at The Lamp for Haiti at their website: We have worked closely with them for some time and know that every dollar you donate will go to those most in need.

From the botom of our hearts we thank you for your solidarity and generosity at this difficult time. As they say in Haiti, many hands make the burden lighter.

In Peace & Solidarity,
Paul & Leisa

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti: Relief needed

Dear Friends,

Help us raise emergency funds for medical supplies to Haiti! Checks can be sent to CHILDREN's HOPE at the address below.
Please reply to this email with a pledge now...any little amount really adds up to saving lives.

As you probably have seen today, a huge earthquake (7.3) has hit Haiti just 10 miles southwest of the center of Port-au-Prince (PAP). Children's Hope needs your help. Three of the major centers of our humanitarian work in Haiti are centered in PAP, are still not responsive and we are very concerned for the children and families: the boys home (St. Josephs) is located on Delmas, PAP, Sopudep School (for street children) is in PAP, and "The Lamp" free clinic is in low lying Cite Soleil, PAP. Early reports have many structures down on Delmas, the presidential palace in collapse, and the large local hospital is down. Fear of rising water may further threaten the low laying Cite Soleil, where our clinic "The Lamp" is located. I have not been successful in getting through by phone. We here are sick with worry at early reports like the one below. If you have a few dollars to spare, lives will be saved. We are sending emergency funds starting tomorrow, and then as soon as pledges come in, since the need is urgent. We also really need to raise shipping money for the supplies already donated by a local hospital here (Marshall Hospital of Placerville) to send these supplies to Haiti.
If you pledge, please remember to then send the check to Children's Hope. But please pledge now, so we can get new medicines ordered now, and help on the way.

peace, always and all ways, Leisa Faulkner

U.S. Embassy employees reported seeing a number of bodies in the street, but the extent of casualties is unknown, State Department Spokesman Philip J. Crowley said in a briefing today.

“There’s going to be serious loss of life,” Crowley said. (Bloomberg News)

Karel Zelenka, a Catholic Relief Services representative in Port-au-Prince, told U.S. colleagues before phone service failed that "there must be thousands of people dead," according to a spokeswoman for the aid group, Sara Fajardo. (Mercury
Leisa Faulkner, Founder
Children's Hope
3025 A Cambridge Road
Cameron Park, CA 95682