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As you know if you’ve been reading our previous blogs, we began an ambitious home rebuilding project after the hurricane, to help people in the area around our clinic rebuild their destroyed or badly damaged houses.  In the first stage of this project, we had our Community Coordinator, Gemi Baptiste, visit over 700 homes in communities closest to the clinic site to see how many of them were in need of repair and rebuilding.  The criteria for choosing homes to rebuild were simple:  the house needed to be severely damaged or destroyed, the land needed to be owned by the homeowner, not rented, and they needed to be willing to build their own house if they were given tin, nails and cement.  Furthermore, they needed to be willing to be photographed in front of their house, both before and after the building process.  500 homes were chosen for rebuilding and, over the past two weeks, 10,000 sheets of tin, over 3000 pounds of nails and 300 sacks of cement have been distributed to the homeowners.  Here are photos of the distribution process:

The tin sheets were carries from the storage depot out into the yard, counted and put in piles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several piles of tin ready for distribution

 

Crowd of people waiting for tin and nails

 

The tin is wrapped in packs of 10 or 15 and secured with wire for support

 

Each recipient had their photo taken as they stood by the supplies they received.  Some only took tin and nails and will wait until they are further along in the building process to get their cement.  Others took all three – tin, nails and cement.

 

Woman poses with tin and nails she received

 

This man received tin, nails and cement

 

There were various methods of transporting the tin and cement back to their homes.  Some carried it on their heads, others paid motorcycle drivers to transport it and others used mules and donkeys to get the precious cargo home.

Transporting on his head

 

Loading cement sacks onto a motorcycle

 

Two packs of tin loaded onto a donkey

 

We were discussing the progress of the project with Gemi and he said that people are very motivated to get the frames of their houses built so they can receive the tin for the roof.  In fact, they are actually helping one another with the framing and with nailing the tin in place.  He says groups of men are going from one house to another to help one another rebuild.  For those of you who know Haiti, you know that collaboration is not a strong part of the Haitian culture.  In this small project that grew out of a huge need we saw in the communities we serve, we are finding two aspects of true community development.  First, the Haitians are building their homes themselves.  They’re using the design of their choosing, the size of their choosing and the materials they have available.  We’re coming alongside them to help them, but they have taken responsibility for their own homes, effectively rebuilding not only their houses but also their lives.  Since they’re doing the building themselves, they have complete ownership of it and the house is their home, their dwelling, their possession.  We are assistants in the process, not directors.  It’s a Haitian project, not an American one and they are proud of it.

Secondly, and this came as a total surprise to me, they are helping one another in the rebuilding process.  This is an amazing, empowering, positive unintended consequence of what we started.  Neighbors helping neighbors, young helping old, skilled helping unskilled, in a true spirit of progress.  That’s unusual in Haiti and we are thrilled to see it.  We’re praying that this spirit of cooperation and collaboration will permeate their communities and become a new way of living for them.  Cherlie preaches this message of service to the patients in our clinic every day, but now we’re seeing it in action and it is truly gratifying.

We give thanks to our very generous donors who have allowed us the privilege of serving these communities in their time of need after the hurricane.  Once we’ve distributed all of the materials for this first stage of rebuilding, we will move on to communities further up in the mountains and give them the opportunity to participate in the rebuilding project.

Grateful receipient with his home-building supplies

 

POLITICAL UPDATE

We are back in Jérémie now and our clinic is open and busy.  We’re staying up at the clinic site during the week, so as to avoid any demonstrations that might occur in town.  There are no new developments with regard to the situation with Guy-Philippe, but there is a great deal of discussion about possible disqualifying information that is being disseminated about the newly elected presidential candidate Jovenel Moise.  It remains to be seen as to whether he will be inaugurated as planned on February 7th.  Until then, there is always the possibility of unrest as his supporters react to the negative news that is being spread about him.  Political uncertainty is difficult for us, but it’s a common theme here, so we need to stay flexible, as do our potential visitors!  As always, we appreciate your prayers for us and for our ministry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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JANUARY 17, 2017

I think the number of gray hairs on my head has doubled in the past two weeks and yesterday certainly contributed. Cherlie and I had been in Port-au-Prince since January 6th, due to unrest and violence, not only in Jérémie, but on the road to Jérémie from Cayes. On Friday, the 13th of January, Guy-Philippe appeared in court and the charges were read to him, to which he replied, “Not guilty”. So, another court date was set. We were waiting to see the reaction of his supporters after this court appearance in order to decide our further steps. While there were still daily demonstrations in Jérémie, there was not widespread unrest as there had been last week. So, we decided to try to make the trip by vehicle from Port-au-Prince to Jérémie. We were going to “make a run for it”, so to speak. But, because of potential violence, we felt it would be best for me to “hide” in the jeep as we traveled, so that no one would see my white face and be tempted to kidnap me. I certainly didn’t want to end up as a hostage or something worse.

Yes, I realize it’s quite comical to think of someone my size “hiding” in the jeep! But, that’s exactly what I did. We put our duffel bags in the jeep behind the front seats and then packed the rest of the jeep with boxes of meds, groceries and supplies to take with us. We then covered the whole back of the jeep with a huge tarp. We left Port-au-Prince at 4am. After passing Cayes at 7am, with two and a half hours left to travel, I climbed into the back of the jeep and curled up with my knees bent, lying down on the duffel bags. A laundry bag full of dirty clothes was my pillow and my bare feet were pushed up against the side of the vehicle. Off we went with Miller, our driver, driving!

All weekend, I had been mentally preparing for this ordeal, thinking that my greatest problem would be pain from arthritis in my hips and knees. I was sure I could endure the pain because my desire to get home and back to our clinic was tremendous motivation. I really felt very much at peace with the decision to travel. I had taken some acetaminophen before we left Port-au-Prince and as I lay on the duffel bags, I felt quite comfortable. But, after only a few miles of driving, I suddenly began to feel claustrophobic. My face was up against the front seats, my head was pushed against one side of the jeep and my feet were pressed against the other side. The tarp covered my whole body with a thin slit of light coming through from the front of the vehicle. I felt like I was trapped in a cave and needed to get out immediately! So, I sat bolt upright, moved the tarp away from my face and said, “I don’t think I can do this!” Cherlie and Miller looked over at me with looks that said “What’s your problem?” So, after I sat up and gulped in some breaths of fresh air, I felt considerably better. We realized that I could prop up on my elbow and peer through the opening of the tarp except when we went through areas that were heavily populated or areas of expected problems. Then, I would lie down flat and stay out of sight. And, that’s what I did. In fact, in the two and a half hours that we drove, I propped myself up on my elbow so often that I got an abrasion on it! But, with the air conditioning blowing in my direction and a little light coming in and periodic views of where we were going, not only was I not claustrophobic any more, I didn’t even get car-sick. As it turned out, we got stopped at a couple of police stations but passed no road blocks or other gangs of demonstrators. At many, many places, rocks were piled along the road where roadblocks had been previously placed. And, there were a few areas where young men were sitting near piles of rocks, looking like they would throw some at likely targets. Fortunately, we weren’t targeted. As we drove through the town of Jérémie itself, Cherlie saw evidence of burned tires (I wasn’t looking at that point), but no active demonstrations were taking place. In talking with a friend later, we found out that very early in the morning, a group started to burn tires in town and the police came up and said to them, “No tires are to be burned today. You can demonstrate any other day of the week, but today, you can’t.” When I heard that, I thought, “Yes, Lord, you wanted us to get home safely, indeed.”

Our plans now are to go up to Gatineau tomorrow and re-open our clinic. The people up there have been asking about us and have pledged that we will be safe among them! So, we’ll stay up there through the week and only come down to Jérémie periodically (like to watch the Packers’ game). We are still concerned about the political situation here, as Guy-Philippe’s next day in court is January 27th and local elections are being held on January 29th. Until the next president is sworn in on February 7th, things are still unstable. As things develop, we will let you know. In the meantime, thanks for all the prayers and support from you, our Home Team!!

According to our staff in Jérémie, there continue to be daily protests on the streets and these will continue through the week. There is less violence, however, and businesses are open, but no Americans are visible on the streets, since the threat to them is still very severe.

Today there were very high winds and rain and many people lost the tarps that were covering their houses. This is devastating to people who have not yet recovered from the hurricane. They fear another storm is on its way.

Please continue your prayers for their recovery. Please pray also that the political unrest will be resolved soon and that we can return to Jérémie and resume our clinic activities as well as our rebuilding efforts. We plan to remain in PAP until at least Friday, which is the day that Guy-Philippe is scheduled to be in court. The result of that court appearance will most likely determine future activities and unrest among his supporters here in Haiti.

Not much new in terms of news today. The road to Jérémie is still blocked by gangs of protestors and there is unrest in the town of Jérémie itself. Extra Haitian police forces are out in number, according to our sources and there is less violence than there was yesterday. But, the situation is still volatile and we are staying in Port-au-Prince for the time being. Electricity is limited here but, otherwise, we are quite comfortable.

We appreciate all the prayers and emails that have been coming our way. We will continue to try to give frequent updates. There have been several articles about the arrest of Guy-Philippe on the internet. This has been a severe blow to the stability we all hoped would come with completion of the long drawn out Haitian election process. It is very disappointing

Cherlie and I were in the US for two weeks to visit family and take care of FHH business during the holidays. We were in Florida yesterday, getting ready to fly back to PAP, when we received news that there was unrest in Haiti. It was related to the fact that a politician named Guy-Philippe was arrested and taken to the US, supposedly on drug charges.

He is from Pestel, which isn’t far from Jérémie, and is a very popular politician in our area, having won election to the Haitian Senate in a landslide during the recent elections. We’ve met him and he’s visited our clinic and he is beloved by most of the people in the Grand’Anse where we live and work. Since his arrest there has been widespread violence along the road from PAP to Jérémie and in Jérémie itself, with tires burning in the streets and gangs roaming around town.

We were not fully aware of the situation yesterday and flew to PAP this morning, narrowly escaping being in Fort Lauderdale Airport during the shooting that occurred there. Since arriving in PAP, though, we have been informed by our friends in Jérémie that the violence is widespread and is especially directed to Americans.

It is a very dangerous situation and one that requires much prayer and wisdom. For now, we will remain in PAP, but if things deteriorate, it may be necessary to go back to the US. We are putting everything on hold until we see how things play out. In all my years in Haiti, this is the first time that the unrest has been so specifically anti-American, so we need to be very cautious, not only in terms of our own safety but also the safety of visitors. I will update this blog as I am able in the days ahead. With the Lord’s help and with your prayers, we will “be strong and of good courage”.

Upon seeing and experiencing the devastation of Hurricane Matthew and being witness to the uncoordinated response of relief and aid organizations, Cherlie and I felt strongly that we needed to do something to help Haitians in communities around the clinic to rebuild their homes.  Over 90% of the houses in the area were severely damaged or destroyed.  Roofs blew off, walls fell down, and during two months of daily rain, people were wet and discouraged.  Most of them lost clothing and personal possessions, livestock and crops.  They were destitute and hungry.  Some of them built small shacks to live in temporarily, built with old tin, bark from coconut trees or coconut leaves.  They knew it was a temporary solution but they didn’t have money or resources to rebuild their houses, until Friends for Health in Haiti came to their door.

Temporary shack made of tin

A temporary home not even as tall as it’s owner

 

Coconut leaves and bark make a shelter for this man

We sent our community coordinator, Gemi Baptiste to visit every home in the communities closest to the clinic site.  He had a proposal for them:  the clinic will supply you with 30 sheets of roofing tin, 10 pounds of nails and 4 sacks of cement on the condition that you rebuild your own house and allow us to photograph the house before and after.  Those who agreed to the conditions received a card with their name on it and the amount of materials they would receive.  At a later date, they would be informed as to when materials would be ready at the clinic for them to pick up.  In the meantime, they could start to clear the debris from their old house and build the frames for walls and roof.  Later, we heard about comments like these from recipients of the cards:  “We knew that if any help would come to us, it would be from Dr. Wolf, Miss Cherlie and the clinic.”  Others said, “We know that if something is given to Dr. Wolf and Miss Cherlie, they will share it with the communities and not keep it for themselves.”  This, to us, is what Christianity is all about – living out your faith and meeting the needs of those you are called to serve.  But, it also means meeting those needs in a manner that empowers the local people, by having them participate in the process, rather than creating dependency by doing everything for them.

Her house is destroyed so why is she smiling???

Roof is intact but the house fell down

Wet clothing and possessions lie where this house used to be

House skeleton remains

From the time of the hurricane until the beginning of December, rain poured down every single day, making our drive up the mountain to our clinic and down again a muddy, slippery trek.  There were days when we couldn’t get up the mountain and afternoons when we couldn’t get down, due to large buses getting stuck in mud in narrow parts of the road.  Our four-wheel-drive jeep with its big, knobby tires kept us going, barely.  Finally, the rains stopped, the road dried up but there were deep ruts and crevices where the rain and the buses had left their mark.  We wanted to start our house-rebuilding project but first we had to do some road repairs.  So, we hired some local young men and we had Miller, our driver, take up gravel and rocks and we repaired the worst portions of the road.  We decided it was better to repair the road than to risk significant damage to our dump truck!

Workers shovel fill dirt and rocks into the dump truck at the river

Dump truck unloading fill dirt and rocks on the road

Young men spreading out the fill dirt on the road

Unloading rocks in an area of the road with deep ruts

We were able to take 5000 sheets of tin, hundreds of pounds of nails and 300 sacks of cement up to the clinic before Christmas.  This past week, the materials were distributed to people who had been visited by Gemi, deemed to be in need of house repair and given a card.  This is just the start of our rebuilding process.  To date, we’ve given cards to 500 families in communities closest to the clinic.  In the ensuing weeks, we hope to visit and help another 1000 to 1500 families further up in the mountains, thanks to the generosity of our donors.  The area in which we work has 7800 households, and over 90% of their homes have been badly damaged.  So, there is still much work to be done.  But, when the people of God put their hearts and hands together, much can be accomplished.  Thank you, donors!  And, thanks to the Haitian homeowners who are rebuilding their own houses with grace, dignity and gratitude.  We’ll have more updates in the weeks to come.

 

 

 

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