I can't believe we are already a few weeks in to our term here (however long that may be). The days always seem to run together in Haiti. Tass and I were both so surprised how easy it was for our family to get back into the swing of things; it's almost as if we never left.
As per usual now, my parents accompanied us on our move back here, bringing along my brother this time. After a few wonderful days when them we parted ways. Before their feet even touched California, they were blowing up our phones saying how they wanted to come back. It's true: there's just something about this place that if you come once...there's this draw and pull to return.
There have been some significant changes while we've been away. There is more organization and structure this time, which we love. Haiti seems to always be in a state of chaos so it is difficult to implement change-especially structure. But we are pleased that 2017 is starting off really well here in Carries.
There is one temporary change that was not so welcome, but one that I do understand: because of the arrest of a Haitian politician on 10 year old cocaine trafficking charges, the riot and protests that it caused in Jeremie, Haiti has caused our leaders here to tighten our security measures. In Jeremie, a group of Haitians made it very clear that any Americans are extremely unwelcome and if they see any, they will be killed. Now, our village is hours away and most everyone in Carries knows us and welcomes us. But still, until the chaos dies down a bit, we are not permitted to go walking around the community as we did last year. I miss wandering from house to house checking in on our friends and seeing how they are all doing, but again, hopefully in a few weeks we can resume doing that.
For now, our focus is working in the Mission-which consists of the orphanage (babies' home, big kids' home, and teen girls' home), the school, the men's professional home, the medical clinic, and the elderly home.
While we were gone, the single mom's home somewhat fizzled out which saddens me. There was no one to take it and run with it. Now there is just one mom there with her 2 children, but she seems to be doing well.
This year, our leaders at Mission of Grace asked me to take on the teen girls' home. As of right now, they go to school and come home. We provide their every day needs such as food and water, clothes and shelter, but there is not much life in their lives. There's nothing for them to get excited about and there's a bit of sadness in most of them. I have been asked to organize field trips, projects, activities, and just get them overall excited about living.
I started a weekly yoga class with them which they LOVE. We'll be doing field trips once a month to various parts of Haiti to learn about their history and culture. I will learn too :) I'll also be teaching music classes with them, as well as the little children.
Beyond activities and fun, I know they really need a mentor and listening ear. However they see me (a big sis, aunt, many call me "mom")...I know my life speaks far more than my words ever will. I know they are watching and seeing every interaction I have with my husband, my own children, with my co-workers here, etc. I can tell them all I want to be great students, to speak kindly, to be selfless, to be honest (and I do)...but what I show them far outweighs what I could ever say. I am honored Miss Kim and Miss Lynn asked me to be an integral part of their lives this year.
Another area they've given me to oversee is the social media accounts for Mission of Grace and Oceanview (where we live), which I am happy to do. If you do have facebook or instagram and haven't found us on there yet, please head over to our pages and give us a like! You can see and keep up with the daily happenings here.
Tass has dove head first back into directing teams that come. This cooler season of Haiti (January-March) is when it is busiest with people visiting and wanting to serve in this organization. He continues to do all the pre-trip communicating (as he did when we were in the states), and then coordinates ongoing projects, mission needs, supply needs, airport pickups, meals, and just the many day to day responsibilities of overseeing teams that come. It's far much too me to handle, and he does it so well and so gracefully.
This week, Tass' main project has been getting our soup kitchen moved to a larger location. Our soup kitchen feeds about 100 people in our community per day that would otherwise not eat. It had been running 5 days a week, leaving people very hungry on the weekends. Recently though, funding came in to where we could open it 7 days a week which is fantastic. New pots and pans were purchased, we hired one more cook, and spent a few days cleaning up and painting the new location. It will be up and running very shortly!
Our former soup kitchen location...
Our new location...
With indoor cooking!
Our girls are both doing wonderfully. Krista, a 19 year old gal we snatched up from home in Roseville is overseeing their schooling for the next few months so Tass and I can continue to be involved in our charges here. She is doing an impeccable job, and is so resourceful and creative. I tell her daily, but I don't think she'll ever know how grateful we are that she decided to come and be such a huge help to our family. Every body plays such a vital role in this organization here and everyone is needed to keep if flowing properly. Without her, Tass and I would not be able to do what we do here. We are very thankful.
A team from Roseville comes in just a few weeks which is always fun to have home come. Bob Hasty, the man responsible for dragging me to Haiti in the first place will be bringing that team and we are very much looking forward to their arrival.
As always, if you are interested in coming and seeing what takes place here, please email Tass or myself. With a good itinerary, you can get to Haiti in about 9 hours from California (1.5 hours from Miami). It definitely feels like a whole world away, but it's quite accessible. We always need the help and expertise of various fields: doctors, nurses, construction workers, electricians, moms, dads, sports coaches, artists, musicians, whatever your talent or gifting: it can most definitely be used here.
And for those that can't make it, we thank you for sending your support (prayers, finances, good vibes, juju) so that we can continue doing the work we are doing. We appreciate each and every one of you!
Until next time,
Tass, Sheena, Ellie & Lilah Souza