Posted by: Cathy | July 26, 2013

Friends Forever

Best friends - forever.

Best friends – forever.

Earlier this week, we enjoyed a 3 day visit with Delmace’s best friend in Haiti… Dad (Dodd) is a little boy who lived at Wings during the same time period as Delmace – but he was not abandoned by his family (as many kids with disabilities are in Haiti). In fact, Dad’s mom took him back to live with her several months before the 2010 earthquake. Dad is well cared for and loved by his mom, but it is a daily struggle for her as she is a single parent trying to provide for both Dad and his older brother Didi. She wants to keep Dad at home with her, but it’s difficult, as opportunities for handicapped kids are scarce in Haiti. Dad is fortunate that his mom found a school for him to attend, not too far from where they live (there are few schools for kids with disabilities in Haiti, and no such thing as “inclusion”)… But she must transport him to and from school each day (or rely on a relative), which often impacts the hours she can work. Since the summer of 2010, we (my siblings and a close friend) have been helping out Dad’s family by paying the rent on their house. It’s not a large amount of money – about $1000 for the whole year (less than my monthly mortgage payment), but it allows Dad’s mom the security of knowing she can provide a home for her boys, get Dad to school each day, and use the money she can make from her job for their day to day living expenses. I’m not writing this to impress anyone – I’m writing it to point out how a relatively small amount of money can make a huge difference to a family in a developing country. And, in this case, the family includes a little boy who is very important to Delmace…

Sharing a "car cart" at the grocery store

Sharing a “car cart” at the grocery store

Playing Beyblades

Playing Beyblades

Yum! Ice cream!

Yum! Ice cream!

iPad time :)

iPad time :)

Being a single parent of a child with a disability is hard in any country, and Dad’s mom was probably happy to get a bit of a break for a few days! We picked Dad up on Saturday afternoon and brought him back up to Wings to spend a few days with us. Like Delmace, all the kids at Wings know Dad from his time living here, and they were all happy and excited to have him around for the weekend. Before heading back to Wings, we stopped at the grocery store, and Delmace was so happy to have Dad be able to share a “car cart” with him! When he first got to Boston in 2010, every time we’d go grocery shopping, he’d seek out those “car carts” with seats for 2 kids. He’d always tell me that he was saving the other seat for his best friend, Dad :) The boys had a great time all weekend. They played Transformers, toy cars, and Beyblades. They had movie evenings (Rio and Kung Fu Panda 2), and giggled and wrestled each night as they shared a bed. We made pancakes for breakfast, and threw an ice cream party for all the kids (funded with money from a student in my classroom – thanks, Will!). And we spent a glorious day at a luxury hotel – breakfast buffet, sun & fun in the pool, and a poolside luncheon. One of Delmace’s other favorite playmates/brothers, Jozye, was able to join us for the pool day too.

2 boys in a pool

2 boys in a pool

Splashing around

Splashing around

Dad underwater

Dad underwater

Me & Delmace underwater

Me & Delmace underwater

Dad & Jozye in the pool

Dad & Jozye in the pool

Poolside photo at the end of the day...

Poolside photo at the end of the day…

Both Delmace and Dad fell asleep in the van on the way back to Dad’s house… Delmace woke up (barely) to hug his friend good-bye.  Good-bye until next summer. It’s sad that they can only see each other once a year – but no matter how much time passes, I have the feeling that it won’t ever matter. They will always be the best of friends.

Post pool hugs in the van

Post pool hugs in the van

Posted by: Cathy | July 20, 2013

Best Friends Weekend!

The anticipation and excitement has been building all week – and now, today, the big day is finally here… Today is the day that we go to pick up Delmace’s best friend in Haiti, Dad (Dodd), and he gets to stay with us and visit until Monday afternoon! Last summer was the first time they had seen each other since before the earthquake, but as soon as they were together, it was like no time had passed and they were as tight as they’d been before… Here are a few photos from last summer… I’m sure there will be plenty more to add after the weekend!

Delmace and Dad have a special kinship - both boys use wheelchairs at school, but prefer to scoot around on the ground to play

Delmace and Dad have a special kinship – both boys use wheelchairs at school, but prefer to scoot around on the ground to play

Eating ice cream last summer

Eating ice cream last summer

Best friends - always.

Best friends – always.

Posted by: Cathy | July 13, 2013

Playing in Haiti – Summer 2013

We have been in Haiti for about 12 days now – and I have been extremely lazy about putting together any posts about our trip… We had a very hectic end of the school year, and then spent several days in Idaho for my niece’s wedding right before leaving for Haiti (with only one day in between the 2 trips), and by the time we finally arrived in Haiti, I was exhausted. Delmace, of course, has been full of energy! 

Delmace at Kelly & Justin's wedding in Idaho

Delmace at Kelly & Justin’s wedding in Idaho

We were greeted at the airport in Haiti by our good friend Renee, Renee’s mom Lucy (“Grandma Lucy” according to Delmace), and one of Delmace’s favorite “brothers” and playmates – Steve.  Arriving at Wings this year was far less overwhelming for Delmace than it was last year. He still received tons of hugs and cheers and people patting him on the head, but it didn’t bother him like it did last year – I think he was actually looking forward to all the attention!

Delmace & Steve

Delmace & Steve

Kisses for Josephine

Kisses for Josephine

Since arriving at Wings, we have been busy for sure – but in a relaxed, laid back kind of way… We have helped Grandma Lucy throw a fabulous 4th of July party for all of the kids – complete with hotdogs, chips, ice-cream, and patriotic cupcakes. We have visited our friends at St. Joseph’s Home for Boys, where Delmace needed to deliver a special gift from the States for founder “Grandpa” Michael – a jar of marshmallow Fluff (he insisted before we left that Michael needed to have this!). We have been out to lunch at one of Renee’s new favorite restaurants in Port au Prince – a place that serves delicious gelato.

Frosting cupcakes with Grandma Lucy

Frosting cupcakes with Grandma Lucy

Yum! Chocolate gelato served in a cocoa bean pod

Yum! Chocolate gelato served in a cocoa bean pod

We have visited the homes of our friends Walnes and Maya to meet their new babies. And, we have gone on 3 shopping extravaganza trips with groups of Wings kids – trips where all of the kids get to go into a store and spend about $20 on whatever they want, and then get treated to lunch at a “McDonalds-like” restaurant in Port au Prince.  Twenty dollars is not a lot of money – but it’s a big deal to these kids, and the fact that they get to make their own choices makes it even more special for them. 

Delmace and I with  Jamal, son of our friend Walnes

Delmace and I with Jamal, son of our friend Walnes

Delmace and Dodgeson, son of our friend Maya

Delmace and Dodgeson, son of our friend Maya

Delmace, Sadraque, and I shopping in Port au Prince

Delmace, Sadraque, and I shopping in Port au Prince

Delmace and Renee at Epidor restaurant in Port au Prince

Delmace and Renee at Epidor restaurant in Port au Prince

And, we have spent time just hanging out at Wings… Playing with the kids, handing out the toys, candy, and other gifts that Delmace and I brought down for them… For the second year in a row, Delmace has asked kids attending his birthday party in the spring to give him gift cards instead of presents, and he uses the gift cards to buy toys for the kids at Wings. This year, he also won $50 in a photo contest by EasyStand, the company that makes the standing device he uses to stretch his legs. He had a great time picking out stuff to bring down – in fact, we ended up with 2 duffle bags completely filled with toys, sports equipment, radios, candy, caps, and various other presents.  

Delmace with a small portion of the loot he brought down to hand out

Delmace with a small portion of the loot he brought down to hand out

Delmace LOVES having a gang of boys to play with every day! They are usually waiting outside for him and the morning – ready for games of basketball, soccer, and baseball, toy car races, wrestling matches, even hockey (which he introduced them to).

Delmace and Erique playing hockey

Delmace and Erique playing hockey

Delmace and his hockey crew - Steve, Erique, and Sadraque

Delmace and his hockey crew – Steve, Erique, and Sadraque

They are also fascinated by his iPad, which he loves to bring out and show them how to play different games and apps. Yesterday, there was a group of kids around the iPad, having a blast with the app “Talking Ben” – they thought it was totally hilarious to make the dog (Ben) burp over and over and over and over… Apparently boys and burping go together in any culture.

Frank Ely, Delmace, Jozye, and Steve making Ben, the dog, burp :)

Frank Ely, Delmace, Jozye, and Steve making Ben, the dog, burp :)

Delmace and Jozye wrestling

Delmace and Jozye wrestling

Tomorrow I am going to do some real work – packaging school supply kits for the kids at Lekol Sen Trinite… But, today I am content to hang out and just listen to the sounds of Delmace playing with his “brothers”.

Posted by: Cathy | August 10, 2012

One Week Home: Post-Haiti Reflections…

Delmace and I have been back in Boston for a little over a week – and I still have not totally unpacked yet. Sure, all the dirty laundry has been washed and returned to dresser drawers; most of the stuff like deodorant, toothpaste, and shampoo is put away; toothbrushes have been replaced; water bottles have been washed (several times); a couple of pairs of shoes have been trashed; and my laptop has been to the repair shop (and back, good as new)… But there is still a suitcase on my bedroom floor with items that need to be dealt with… I know where the stuff needs to go (hall closet by the bathroom), but I guess there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to acknowledge that our big summer adventure in Haiti is really over. We planned and prepared for this trip for such a long time… Even before Delmace ever came home to Boston, I had been planning out his return to Haiti. I never imagined it would take as long as it did for him to get back to his homeland (2 and a half years) – but, looking back at everything, I am now thinking that it was exactly the right amount of time.

Haiti is, and always will be, a big part of who Delmace is. Our home is filled with Haitian artwork. We talk about Haiti, listen to Haitian music CDs, look at photographs, and have maintained very close relationships with friends who live and work at the home where Delmace was cared for. I want Delmace to be proud of his Haitian heritage, and to love the country as much as I do. But, Delmace was only about 3 months shy of his fourth birthday when he arrived in Boston, and I have now come to realize that many of his early memories of Haiti were not so much his memories, as they were mine.

Delmace has always LOVED the Haitian flag. Even as a very young child, he recognized it & associated it with his country.

Above Delmace’s bed in Boston, there is a Haitian flag and an American flag, side by side… He picked both out, and proudly tells everyone who visits his room that he has two countries.

Proud to be “Haitian American”

One of the great things about our trip this summer, was that Delmace was finally old enough (and cognitively aware enough) to make his own memories. He knows about the 2010 earthquake. I’m not sure he remembers all the kids at Wings being crowded into one small room and sleeping on the floor for over 2 weeks, or how scared all the adults were. He knows, on some level, that it was because of the earthquake that he got to come to Boston when he did. But he has a kind of “romanticized” version of his departure from Haiti, and although I have told him the “real story” (countless times), he still clings to his “fairy tale”. I don’t want to take that away from him – but I did want to “show” him his roots, to help him to better understand who he is by really knowing where he came from… And now, I really think he does have a better understanding of Haiti and his early years.

Kisses from Vivianne – a “big sister” and favorite caregiver from when Delmace lived at Wings

Wings of Hope is one of 3 homes in the “St. Joseph Family” in Haiti – and they really do consider themselves a family. Their residences are not orphanages – they are homes. All of the kids who live in these homes consider themselves to be brothers and sisters. Whenever Delmace and I talked about the kids at Wings, I have always referred to them as his siblings, but I don’t think he really understood that until he went back this summer. When we first arrived, he didn’t understand why so many of the older kids kept touching his head, or picking him up, or hugging him. I told him they were all so happy to see him – but it was more than that… He was the littlest brother – who had come home. After the first week or so, he started to really embrace the role of the “little brother”… He would tell me, “Mom, I’m going out to play with my brothers”, or “When the little brother plays with the big brothers, sometimes the little brother gets hurt – but it’s OK ‘cuz they didn’t mean to hurt”…

Even after returning to Boston, he is still embracing the role of “little brother”… The other day, we were weeding through stuff in his room, getting rid of things that were outgrown or seldom used, and I pulled out this old hat, and said “let’s get rid of this – you never wear it”… But he immediately said “No! I need to keep that! I’m gonna wear it all the time because it’s like Jozye’s hat, and I want to be like my big brother.”

Delmace wearing his hat – just like “big brother Jozye’s”…

Our summer trip gave Delmace the opportunity to re-establish a number of other important relationships as well. Most importantly, his relationship with Gephte, a male staff member at Wings who Delmace has always had a very special bond with. Gephte grew up in the St. Joseph Family at St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in Port-au-Prince. As a young adult, Gephte went to work at Wings of Hope – initially as an assistant teacher, but eventually taking on full teaching responsibilities. Over the years, I have spent a lot of time in Gephte’s classrooms – as an observer, mentor, and friend. He is a natural and gifted teacher – one who is able to command the attention of even his most unruly students. He is also energetic, compassionate, and just plain fun to be around.

During the period of time that Delmace lived at Wings, Gephte was also a “live-in” staff member, which meant he was responsible for supervising (and sleeping in) one of the boys’ dorm rooms each night. Delmace was in his dorm room. Gephte’s sleeping spot was officially the top bunk above Delmace’s bed. But, being the youngest and smallest kid in the room, Delmace cried frequently at night, and Gephte would often lie next to him to soothe and protect him. Everyone at Wings started to call Delmace “Gephte’s boy”, and when he began talking, Delmace himself started calling Gephte “Papa”. 

Delmace and his Papa

The only information we know about Delmace’s natural parents, is that when he was about 10 months old, they brought him to Grace Children’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince for treatment. He was suffering from Malaria, TB, and malnutrition, and at 10 months old, his physical disabilities were likely becoming more apparent. He was admitted to the hospital, and his parents came back once to check on him – but then never returned. He stayed in the hospital for 8 months, until he was taken in to the Wings family. Delmace doesn’t remember anything from his time at the hospital. The first people he really bonded with were the staff and kids at Wings. And I have therefore always referred to Gephte as Delmace’s “Papa”. Two years ago, when Delmace needed to bring in photos of his family for a class project, he brought in 2 pictures – one of me and him, taken in Boston, and one of him and Gephte, taken in Haiti. And last year, when some kids in his class told him “you don’t have a daddy!”, he told them that yes he did, and that he called his daddy “Papa” and that he lived in Haiti. This past year, he also started asking a lot of questions about how families are formed; about how babies grow, develop, and are born; and about adoption. He understands that he had another mother before me, that he grew inside her belly and that she gave birth to him. He also knows that his first parents couldn’t take care of him so they took him to a hospital and asked the hospital to care for him, and that eventually, he found a new mom – me. But I was Delmace’s mom in his heart – and in my heart, long before his adoption became final. And, in much the same way, Gephte has been Delmace’s Papa for as long as he can remember… We don’t need a legal document to say that this is so – we all just know it. And it was so wonderful this summer to watch Delmace as he got to spend time with Gephte – and strengthen the bond that he has with his true father.

Gephte carrying Delmace through the front gate at Wings, after a walk in the neighborhood the day before we left…

Another very important relationship that Delmace got to rekindle this summer was with his “best friend in Haiti” – a little boy named Dad (pronounced “Dodd”). Delmace and Dad were always together when they both lived at Wings – always on the go, and always getting into mischief… So much so, that they earned the nickname “Double Trouble”. Dad was not abandoned. His mother brought him to Wings so that he could get therapies and go to school, and because it was difficult for her to care for him at home. Raising a child with a disability is difficult in any country – especially when, like both myself and Dad’s mom (Lulu), you are a single parent. But it is even more difficult in places like Haiti – when you need to work to support your family, but you have a disabled child at home… In most cases, that child can not go to school because they are not accepted at any of the schools, they are not deemed worthy of an education. So unless you have some family member or friend who can watch them during the day, you cannot get a job. That was Lulu’s dilemma, and that was a big part of why Dad ended up at Wings. But he was only there for about 2 years – his mom missed him too much, and about 5 months before the earthquake, she took him back. Initially, he still came to Wings a few times a week, for therapies and school – when either she or a relative could bring him. It was a long distance to travel each day, and eventually they stopped coming. But Dad was still part of the Wings family, and Delmace has always considered him to be a very special friend. There have always been several framed photos of Delmace and Dad in his bedroom in Boston.

Dad and Delmace, June 2009

 And when I returned to Haiti during the summers of 2010 and 2011, Delmace sent me with numerous presents for Dad each time. I took tons of photos of those visits – Dad opening the gifts, playing with the new toys, modeling the t-shirts and baseball caps… I took photos of his house, his mom and his brother, Didi – to share with Delmace when I went home. But even though he loved seeing the photographs, I knew what he really wanted was the chance to see his special buddy again for himself. This summer, Delmace was beyond thrilled to have the chance to visit and hang out with Dad… I think it was one of the things that he was most looking forward to before the trip! We took Dad for special swim days at a fancy hotel pool (twice!) and then brought him back to Wings with us to spend a couple of days each time. The two of them had a blast just being together again. It didn’t matter that Delmace doesn’t speak much Creole anymore and Dad only understands a little English – some things don’t need to be translated… And true friends are often able to communicate without words.  

Dad and Delmace, July 2012

There are so many more things I could say about our trip… Things that were special to both of us – moments that really mattered, and made an impression on Delmace – some of which he may not even realize yet – but, he will… We met so many wonderful people, made new friends, and got to spend time with people who we both consider to be family…

Me and Sam, who is sponsored by my sister Sue and her wife Helen…

Delmace, hanging out with his drumming mentors – Jean Rodain, Rony, Papa Gephte, and Jean Baptiste

Delmace and Dad, asleep in the van after a very busy weekend together…

Delmace showing off his dance moves – a few days after watching the Resurrection Dance Theater guys rehearsing for an upcoming tour

Delmace and new friend, Norlan – son of a physical therapist we met who was visiting from Baltimore… Norlan was adopted from Kyrgyzstan

Norlan is also physically disabled, and walks with a walker. He also uses a communication device to talk…

Delmace and new friend, Alize, enjoying some fruit roll-ups together

Delmace’s best friend, Dad, showing us his cat…

Was it worth it? Did the experience live up to my expectations? I think it did… A few days before we left, one of our American friends who lives at Wings, asked me how I felt after being there for 5 weeks… My response was, that it felt comfortable – like being home, among family… And I think it felt that way for Delmace too… He’s already talking about “when we go to Haiti next summer” – like it’s not even a matter to be discussed, it’s just what we do in the summer… We go to visit family – hopefully for many, many years to come.

“Family Portrait” – Delmace with Mom and Papa :)

Posted by: Cathy | July 31, 2012

Leaving Haiti…

Today was our last day in Haiti… It’s been an amazing 5 weeks for both Delmace & myself! It was so hard to say goodbye to all the kids and staff today… We miss our home & friends in Boston – but it’s really, really hard to leave this place.  

I have more photos to post and stuff to write about – but, we leave very early in the AM so it will have to wait until we get back to Boston…

 
Things have been quite busy at Wings this week! Lots of activity, lots of fun projects for the kids (tie dying t-shirts, making stained glass wind chimes, building birdhouses) – courtesy of a fun group from the Boston area – thanks, Mike, Laura, Katherine, & Kari! Delmace has totally enjoyed getting in on the fun projects – even ditching me (he was supposed to be helping me with a job) to do his tie dying… There have also been some very competitive Zingo games, lots of time riding the plasma cars and other vehicles, and “movie nights” in the kids’ dorm rooms… Delmace even found time to help KC paint her nails one day :)

Delmace, Nikki, and Jozye playing “Zingo”

Delmace, Jozye, and Delome watching “Finding Nemo”…

Painting KC’s nails one morning…

Delmace didn’t ditch me everyday though… There was one morning, when he spent several hours helping me to assemble Art Kits for all the kids at Lekol Sen Trinitie.  We put together 200 kits! The kids will each get a kit as part of their back to school supplies in September. Lekol Sen Trinitie is the school that St. Joseph’s operates for the poorest of the poor children in the city of Jacmel. Children attend school there free of charge – and are given uniforms, shoes & socks, backpacks, school supplies, and provided with a free meal every day. It’s a great school, and we were fortunate to visit on their last day of school during our first week here.

Delmace helping assemble Art Kits…

On Thursday, Delmace and I went to the horseback riding program with the kids. It was a LONG, dusty, and very hot trip – with lots & lots of PAP traffic, but SO worth it to watch the kids on the horses, and get to visit with Paco, their instructor (who spent time in Boston last summer)… Delmace remembered Paco from last summer, and remembered that Paco told him when he came back to Haiti, he’d let him ride at his place… So he waited patiently (well, as patiently as a super excited 6-year old can possibly wait) for all the Wings kids to go through their programs – and then he got his chance. Paco was great with him! He had him riding bareback, and also had him lying across the horse’s back on both his belly and his back to stretch his muscles and improve sensation. When he was finished, he made Delmace walk (with his help) back to where I was waiting! Delmace totally loved it… So now, I’m just waiting for him to start bugging me about horseback riding sessions – wondering if it’s possible to fit that in on top of swimming lessons, violin lessons, and sports…

Pierre riding…

Jozye riding…

Vivianne riding…

Lazar riding…

Paco helping Josephine to ride…

Getting Delmace on the horse…

Delmace riding…

Paco helping Delmace use his legs to walk

After riding, Delmace and I had a chance to hang out at St.Joseph’s Home for Boys in PAP while Renee had a meeting there. None of the boys are living there now – they are all in Jacmel for the summer, but we got to watch the dance tour guys rehearsing for heir fall tour, and we got to go all the way up to the top of the newly completed building, and hang out on the rooftop garden where we had a picnic lunch! What a fantastic space – and the views from the top are incredible…

Port-au-Prince, from St. Joe’s roof

Also from the roof…

Another view from the roof…

Friday, we had a wonderful day hanging out at the pool at the Karibe Hotel… We also did this during our first week in Haiti, but this time we took 4 of the Wings boys with us, along with Delmace’s best friend in Haiti, Dad – and Dad’s older brother Didi… We had a totally awesome day! We practically had the pool to ourselves – and everyone had a great time… In fact, KC had to practically drag Erique (one of the Wings kids) out of the pool when it was time to go! We then brought Dad & Didi back to Wings with us for the weekend :) Right now there are 4 kids sleeping in my room – they are all quiet right now, but this is how they looked earlier in the day…

Delmace, Alize, Didi, and Dad in the pool…

This evening, there was so many toys strewn on the living room floor it was hard to walk… It should be a FUN weekend!

Posted by: Cathy | July 23, 2012

Old Friends and New Friends…

Delmace and I have met so many wonderful people during our time at Wings this summer! Last week, we had were fortunate to spend time with a large group from Tennessee, as well as a smaller group from MA. All of these people have brought their own joy and energy to Wings, and it has been fascinating to watch how the kids react to, truly enjoy – and sometimes manipulate, all these visitors… This week we have another small group from MA, one of whom had been here several years ago, and remembered Delmace from his previous trip. We also have a Mom and her 4-year old daughter from PA – and Delmace is beyond thrilled to have a new, built-in playmate close to his age (and size)!

Delmace and Alazay on the afternoon they met…

It also continues to be a real pleasure to watch Delmace re-establish, and redefine, connections with the other kids at Wings… He is increasingly more comfortable with the other kids – even some of the more physically and cognitively challenged kids. He asked if he could help me feed Clifton the other evening, and this afternoon, he entertained Fabiola with a variety of songs as myself and another volunteer spent almost 20 minutes helping her to drink 1 cup of juice… He also made a point of telling his new 4-year old friend, that “all the kids here are my brothers and sisters… I’m the littlest brother.”

Delmace and Steve drumming together

Josephine and David – two favorite playmates…

Steve, Jozye, Delmace, and Alazay playing some made-up game with bowling pins…

His new little friend is named Alazay (I’m probably spelling it wrong, but that’s how it’s pronounced)… Her Mom, Nikki, works at a residential school for disabled children and young adults in PA, and the 2 of them live on the campus of the school. Alazay is a little firecracker! And she and Delmace hit it off right away. It’s great for him to have someone closer to his age to play with – because, although he LOVES hanging out with the big kids, he is often the one who gets pushed around by them. There have been many tears as Steve has taken his toys, or Frank won’t give him the ball, or Sadraque won’t leave him alone, or Jozye won’t do what he wants… And as Delmace himself tells me, “when the little brother tries to keep up with the big brothers, it’s the little brother who always gets hurt.”

Delmace and Alazay playing in a laundry basket (their “car”)…

Up until this week, Delmace had no interest in even trying any of the food the other kids eat. Even when I pointed out that it is the same food he used to eat when he lived here, he’d have no part of it. But this week, he asked to taste the “labouyi” (porridge) that the kids eat in the evening… This used to be his favorite thing to eat when he lived here – although there are several different varieties (depending on who is cooking it and what is available to put in it), and the kind he tasted was not the kind he used to love… But, he did taste it – and the fact that he didn’t like it did not dissuade him from asking to try some of the rice and beans the next day! And – he actually ate that – and he did it again today – which is so weird, because when he lived here, he HATED rice and beans…

David and Delmace eating rice and beans together

“I really like these!”

I know the staff here are really enjoying their time with Delmace… Today, Clemene, one of the women who was primarily responsible for caring for Delmace when he lived here, told me how much she loves having him around and how she enjoys watching him play with the other kids. She was sad when she realized we are leaving next week – but I assured her that we would be back :) I hope to make this an annual summer trip for us :) 

Here are some other photos I wanted to post for various people…

Sammy – for my sisters, Sue & Helen, who sponsor him…

Sam has the BEST laugh of all the kids here!

Peterson – for Rachel… Showing off his prized photo :)

 

Posted by: Cathy | July 19, 2012

Random Stuff from our Time at Wings…

After many, many attempts, I finally got my blog to load this afternoon…  Hopefully this good connection will last until I finish this post!  The following are just some random photos and reflections from various activities over the past week…

Music/Dance Party Day:

Every Friday is Music & Dance day at Wings…  On this day, instead of their regular activities, all the kids and staff gather on the big open patio, and there is TONS of drumming, singing, and of course – dancing :)  Delmace LOVES this day.  He loves to play the big drum with his “Papa” and the other guys.  He loves to show off his break dancing moves. And he loves to just race around the patio in BIG circles in his wheelchair… All of the kids at Wings love this day too!  It is such a joyous time for all of them – and everyone is celebrated, whether it is Pierre or Steve being applauded for their drumming skills, or Carline or Tigga for their dancing, or Josephine for her singing, or any of the others for some sort of contribution to the celebration… It is loud and lively and totally entertaining – for everyone!

Delmace drumming during Music & Dance morning

Delmace and Papa Gephte with drums

Shopping Extravaganza Day:                                            

Renee calls this event the “second most anticipated of the year” – surpassed only by the annual Beach Trip! On this day, over half the kids got to go down to Port-au-Prince and go shopping and out to lunch.  Each kid was paired with a volunteer (of their choosing), and given about $25 dollars to spend at the store – on whatever they wanted. Some kids bought food – cereal and candy are always popular choices; others bought toys, or water bottles; but by far the most popular item this year was radios… All kinds of radios – radios with built in flashlights, radios with headphones – some which had straps to attach to your arm, others with cords to hang around your neck. My partner, Jozye, had his own list though – he wanted an electronic, hand-held game, and extra headphones for his CD player, so that’s what we got. Delmace, of course, bought a race car and sports balls (no big surprise there)! After shopping, we all headed across the street to have lunch at “McEpi” – a Haitian version of McDonald’s meets Subway meets Baskin-Robbins… After everyone had gorged themselves on some of many treats available, we all piled back into the vans – and made it safely back to Wings just before a big afternoon rain storm!

Delmace & Jozye in our very full shopping cart!

Delmace’s journal page about shopping day

Toy Cars:                                                                                                                                  

Delmace has been having a great time passing out the many toy cars we brought down with us… Some were new cars he purchased with his birthday money, some were ones of his that he “donated”, and we also had a whole bag donated by one of the kids in my class at school (thanks, Will)… We have been quite successful at spreading out the toy supply. Things (toys included) have a tendency to get “lost” or broken very easily here – but are enjoyed immensely while they last… Delmace and all the kids have enjoyed many afternoons playing cars and trucks on the patio :)

Steve with a toy car from Will

Steve, Delmace, Jozye, and Josephine playing cars

Delmace and Jozye with their construction vehicles in the dirt

Electronic Games, Haircuts, & Kittens:                                                                      

Just a few random photos from this past week…

Delmace and Lazar playing with Delmace’s iPod… All the kids LOVE his iPod :)

Delmace getting his haircut by Jean Rodain… Delmace said the people who cut his hair in Boston need to take a lesson from Jean Rodain – and I agree!

The 4 kittens that we heard crying over a week ago – but couldn’t find where the Mama kitten had them stashed… Turns out they were in a large Rubbermaid container full of construction paper! 3 gray tiger stripe ones, and 1 all white – Delmace has named them all :)

We have just under 2 weeks left in Haiti – I can’t believe how fast time is flying! There are still a number of things we’d like to do… Delmace has some special shopping requests we need to take care of – gifts for some special friends back home… We still haven’t made it to horseback riding with the kids yet – but are supposed to be going next Thursday (so hopefully I’ll be able to post some great photos from that! Delmace is looking forward to seeing Paco (who is the horseback instructor), who he met in Boston last summer… Paco told him when he came back to Haiti he’d let him ride one of the horses – and Delmace is ready to hold him to that!  And we are really hoping to spend some more time with Delmace’s best friend in Haiti, Dad (Dodd) and his family…

Posted by: Cathy | July 13, 2012

Taco Day!

Several months ago, as we were eating dinner one night and talking about our summer trip to Haiti, Delmace asked me if the kids at Wings ever got to eat Tacos (his favorite dinner)… I told him that I seriously doubted it – and went on to say that they pretty much ate the same meals almost every single day – and that their main meal was typically rice and beans (never a favorite meal of his – even when he lived in Haiti)… He thought about that for a few minutes, and then announced, “I have an idea, Mom – we need to bring Tacos for the kids in Haiti!” I told him we couldn’t bring Tacos, but maybe we could make them for the kids one day. I figured maybe he’d forget about this and I’d be off the hook for this Taco extravaganza, but every time we had Tacos for dinner, he’d remind me.

So, today was “Taco Day” at Wings of Hope. Today, Delmace and I prepared Tacos for all 31 kids who live here, and for every single worker who was there today! We had a major Taco assembly line going. I cooked the meat and veggies, and filled the shells. Delmace helped to lay out paper plates, and then put Taco sauce and cheese on each Taco.

Delmace and I making Tacos for everyone

Some friends from our church in Boston had given us some money the day before we left on our trip and told us to do something fun with/for the kids at Wings. They said maybe an ice cream party, or anything else we wanted – but we’d already done an ice cream party the first week we were here… And then, we had ice cream again at our 4th of July party… So, Ann and Mark, in case you are wondering what we did with that money, you guys funded the Taco feast today – and it was a BIG success :)

Ready to serve!

None of the kids had ever eaten Tacos before – but they all LOVE food, so they were quite eager to dive in and give them a try… Some of the staff were a bit more apprehensive, but everyone tried them, and I think most people ended up liking them… And, Alcindor, the guy who cooks all the food for the kids, gave Delmace the best compliment when he told him that they delicious :)

John, enjoying his Tacos…

Delmace and Jozye enjoying their Tacos…

Delmace was really happy that everyone liked them – and that it was his idea, and that it worked! I must admit, I’d been a bit skeptical about making Tacos for the kids – but it was really fun, and it was something different for them… Everyone deserves a little variety in their diet!

Posted by: Cathy | July 13, 2012

Week #3: Daily Life in Haiti…

We are now into our 3rd week in Haiti, and with each and every passing day I see Delmace grow a little more connected to the people who I consider to be his first family…  He greets more and more of the staff members at Wings by their correct names, and is more willing to do stuff with them – without needing me right by his side.  He waits every morning to hear Gephte’s voice next door – and then tells me, “Papa’s here!”, and he loves when the older kids refer to him as their “little brother”.  Although still a bit reluctant to spend a lot of time in the crowded dorm rooms at the kids’ house, he truly enjoys playing with many of the kids on the big open terrace in front of our house.

Delmace and Jozye and the “fort” they made from an old table, pillows, and a basketball pole…

Delmace’s journal page about playing with some of the Wings staff and kids

This is a relatively quiet week at Wings…  Renee’s Mom, Lucy left early Wednesday morning, and since then, Delmace and I have had a room to ourselves – and we have enjoyed being able to spread out!  Before Lucy left, Renee took her, Delmace & I for a special overnight stay at the Villa Creole Hotel in Port-au-Prince :)  Two days of sun, swimming, good food, AC, hot running water, and wonderful company – which also included good friends Bill and Michael joining us for breakfast!  We had a fabulous time – and believe me, both Delmace & I really appreciated that hot running water…

Delmace & I in the pool at the Villa Creole

There are so many things we take for granted – until we don’t have them…  Hot running water is just one of them.  Over the years, on my various trips to Haiti, I’ve gotten used to the cold water “bucket” showers – but Delmace was having none of that!  Luckily, I am able to heat up a small amount of water for him each evening so his “bucket” showers are not quite so chilly…  But most people in Haiti don’t have that luxury.  Most kids are grateful if they have relatively clean water with which to bath…

Today was laundry day for me and Delmace.  Because we are here for 5 weeks, it was impossible for me to pack enough clothing for the whole trip.  That’s what I’ve always done in the past – bring enough stuff to last a week or two, but that wasn’t possible this time…  So, today, I washed clothes…  Well, actually, I just did socks and underwear, and was fortunate that I could ask the 2 women who do all the laundry at Wings to wash our shirts and shorts…  The amount of laundry these women wash each day – by hand – boggles my mind!  Between visitor sheets and towels, and all the clothes and bedding for the kids, laundry is something that is NEVER, EVER, finished here.  How easy it is at home to just run downstairs and throw a load in the washer without even thinking about it… But today, I was sitting in the bathroom with a big white bucket of sudsy water, washing items by hand.  When they were finally clean, there is no dryer to throw them into…  Each item must be wrung out and hung to dry. By the time I was finished (several hours later, as I also had wring out all the clothes the laundry women washed for me), our clothes were draped over every available inch of balcony space.  That’s how it is in Haiti – every morning, everywhere you go, you see clothes hung out to dry in the morning sun.

Today, after all that laundry, I really wanted to go to the Baptist Mission and get some lunch at their restaurant.  At the old Wings, this was relatively easy, as they were only a few doors away from us… But now, although it is possible to walk there, it is not possible to push a wheelchair there (roads in Haiti are NOT wheelchair friendly, and, as Delmace loves to point out, there are no sidewalks), so that meant either carrying Delmace or hitching a ride.  This is another fact of daily life in Haiti – sometimes you go places on a certain day or time, simply because a ride happens to be available.  Luckily for us, a ride was available – we snagged the van that had just returned some of the kids from their weekly horseback riding program!

We decided to take one of the older boys, Peterson, with us as a special treat.  Peterson works with the laundry women – and he is a hard worker!  He hauls all the laundry up and down every day – up and down tons of stairs – big, heavy, wet baskets of laundry… And he seldom complains about his work.

One of the many sets of steep stairs at Wings… This is John, one of my favorite kids, who loves going up and downs the stairs…

We piled into the van, and after negotiating unpaved roads, semi- paved roads, and a crowded market area, we arrived at our destination.  It’s weird that, at home in Boston, I would never dream of letting Delmace get into a car or van without having a car seat, and he would never be allowed to ride in the front seat – but in Haiti, I don’t give it a second thought…  I mean, even if I’d brought his car seat, most vehicles don’t have working seatbelts, so using a car seat would be impossible…  You’d think I’d be a nervous wreck driving around like that – especially given the traffic, road conditions, and unexpected obstacles, but I actually don’t even think about it.  For all the unsafe conditions, I don’t see many accidents – I don’t know why… It doesn’t make sense – I guess Haitians are just really good drivers!

Apparently in Haiti, there are no laws against open beer bottles in moving vehicles either…

I got my lunch I wanted today – and it was just as good as I remembered from previous years.  Delmace, Renee, and Peterson enjoyed their meals as well – and Peterson was quite happy to finish what Delmace didn’t eat…  And that’s another fact of daily life in Haiti – most people don’t always know when or how much they’ll eat at their next meal, so they eat everything that is available to them at a given time.  In addition to his meal (and half of Delmace’s), Peterson also managed to put away an extra large ice cream sundae!  And he still had room for some fried plantains as we were leaving – a gift from his mother who sells food on the street in front of the Baptist Mission…

Peterson and his ice cream sundae!

Delmace was excited to get an up close look at a Fresco cart (Haitian sno-cone) as we were leaving.  He LOVES Fresco carts and would love to try one – but he can’t, because they don’t use ice that is made from “safe” drinking water…  He doesn’t understand why it’s OK for Haitian kids to eat them and he can’t.  I try to explain that their stomachs are used to that water and his isn’t, but he doesn’ t buy it.  He thinks that everyone should have “safe” water to drink and make sno-cones with.  I do too, but that’s not the way it is in Haiti…  But it’s hard to explain that to a 6 year old…

Delmace and I by a Fresco cart outside the Baptist Mission. Delmace is fascinated by Fresco carts…

 

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