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Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving in Haiti: From Rags to Riches

There is something uniquely different about living in a third-world country, especially with regard to the disparity between the rich and the poor.  I have always stated, however, that in order to be successful in a third-world country, whether as an individual or an organization, one must have the skills necessary to interact with all segments of the population, from the most destitute to the most elite.  This Thanksgiving was an incredible four day journey into various segments of society that exist in Haiti.  It was truly a holiday to remember.

Our blessings began the day before Thanksgiving, on Wednesday, when we were very surprised, and grateful, to receive full thanksgiving meals for each of our children from Bridge High School.  Bridge is a school that I have been substituting at a few times over the past month, and Wednesday they held their Thanksgiving lunch for all the students and staff prior to breaking for the holiday.  I was filled with gratitude when a knock at our door turned into plates of turkey, macaroni and cheese, rice, and a whole pie for the children!  Thank you to Bridge High School for thinking about H.E.R.O. and our kids.

On Thursday I went to the airport to pickup Ishmeet, a friend I met in April, of 2010, after the devastating earthquake.  Ishmeet was returning for a short trip to analyze the progress of the IACH school that he helps fund.  I have been working with Ishmeet and the school to organize a successful school.  Thursday evening, Betty, the Union School nurse played host to over 30 people for the most magnificent Thanksgiving dinner in recent memory.  She put on quite the event at her beautiful house located in the mountains outside of Petion-Ville, where the air is cooler, the noise is almost non-existent, and the view is unbelievable.  We all left stuffed, and thankful, for such a great opportunity to share Thanksgiving with great friends.

Despite wanting to sleep Friday away, we had a lot on the agenda including visiting the IACH school with Ishmeet.  In the heavy traffic of Port-au-Prince it took us about 2 hours to reach the school in Carrefour, where the students, staff, and administration were eagerly awaiting our arrival.  Ishmeet was able to see first-hand what an amazing effort the IACH administration has placed into creating a fully operational school.  With Ishmeet’s continued support of the school, we hope to increase enrollment, add a food program, and ensure that the students have all the necessary books and school supplies each year.  The only drag was the 3 hour return trip to Port-au-Prince.  There is nothing like sitting in stand-still traffic in 90 degree heat and 60% humidity.  We survived.

That same Friday afternoon we visited an orphanage where Dora, a volunteer from Hungary, has been working for the past year with orphans with disabilities.  I have attached the link (Click Here) for the video, but I must warn you, this will bring tears to your eyes.  Tears of sadness will roll off your cheeks as you see the severity of the disabilities, and tears of joy will fall as you realize that without this orphanage, these children would either be discarded or dead already, a testament to the great work that Dora and her team are doing. 

Saturday started out as a lazy day for me.  After helping interpret for Ishmeet during an IACH administrative meeting, I planned on staying home the rest of the day/night to play with the kids, as I will be returning to the U.S. early next week.  However, at around 6:30 PM one of our police teams (we have 2 teams that come regularly) showed up.  For 2 hours they played soccer with the kids, checked their e-mail and Facebook status, and motivated me to go out for the night!  What resulted was a great night out with Daniel, Ishmeet, and all of our friends to see a Reggae band in Petion-Ville.  At around midnight Daniel and I were talking with our police team, as they had to check up on us during our night out, and they invited us to go on a short patrol through the streets of Petion-Ville and Route Frere.  It was quite an experience sitting in the back of the police pickup, riding at full-speed, looking for troublemakers and drunks.  They returned us about 45 minutes later, telling me that next time we will go on the full patrol, for 12 hours, with full gear and equipment.  I don’t know if I am ready for that, but it sure would be a great story to tell!

Arriving home Sunday morning at 4:00 AM we slept for only 2 hours before Ishmeet had to pack his bags and head towards the airport.  Our kids went to church in the morning with Daniel and a friend that is in town for the week, and then they had their weekly Sunday English lesson.  The day ended with the completion of our daily chores, and a delicious lasagna dinner made by Michele.  It was a nice, calm, ending to one of the best Thanksgiving weekends of my life!


Steven M. Kirby, Ed.D

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