Hello all.

 

Here is a short report on my trip to Haiti. Well, maybe it's not so short. There's so much to tell!

 

How to describe the week there? It's hard because it was by far the most satisfying, rewarding trip I've ever taken. First of all, the group of 12 of us were all very compatible. Very diverse, but all really nice people who worked hard but had loads of fun. We had 3 from Liberal, one from Arkansas and the rest from Wichita. Only 2 Rotarians - Sam and me. Sam is the ED of Inter-Faith Ministries here in Wichita. IFM is our partner for our Rotary work there. He's one of God's shepherds on earth.

 

The reasons the trip was so good this time are several:

    The weather was the coolest it's ever been in the 3 trips I'vetaken. Still hot, but not unbearable and good sleeping weather for the mostpart.        

    I slept really well every night except 1. That's due, in part, tothe ew sleeping pills I took this time, but also because it wasn't so hot.I also took ear plugs this time, and had a sleep mask to block out any light, rare as it was.    


    I shared a room with Lindy, a nurse from Liberal, rather than being in a dorm type room with 3 or 4 beds in it. She and I got along really well and we had our own private bathroom with a shower. Usually I'm sharing a bathroom with 6 or 8 people. The room we stayed in is usually given to a doctor and spouse, but different (single) doctors came on this trip. Those doctors are younger and very fun and funny.    


    The mission was multi-layered. We had 2 guys who did carpenter work(even brought their own tools), 3 doctors and one nurse, a computer/telecommunications guy, 2 other guys who worked in the clinic and did outside work when needed, Sam & me.    

I spent almost all my time in the new computer lab there. This is a very exciting addition to the vocational school and while I had nothing to do with establishing it, I was certainly a big part of getting it up and running.

 

I will talk about what I did in the computer lab. First of all, as background, over the past few months, we had shipped 14 laptops (all different - mostly purchased on E-Bay for $100 or less) to Lambert. David Glover had spent hours converting them to French keyboards and configuring the programs so that they all were exactly the same. He pre-loaded several programs including a TurboTyping program that is just terrific and a WorldFacts program https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html that is  just full of information about countries of the world.

 

On the first day of class, in fact, we studied the flags of Haiti and the U.S.and the history and details about both countries. Even though the program is in English, I was amazed at how hard the students studied the words and tried to figure out what they were reading. One of the students who neither speaks or reads English even asked if there was a border between Mexico and the U.S.!

 

When we got there, the telecommunications guy, Dave and I, made more changes to the computers - including putting shortcuts to TurboTyping, Word & Excel on the desktops. We also made changes in the Control Panel Settings to default the keyboard to French since David G. had not done that, thinking they might want to switch back and forth. The teachers did not want that capability, so we fixed it.

 

We had to build more computer tables to hold all the computers since we took9 of them with us on the plane. Once we got all the computers plugged in (to solar-powered batteries which are pretty dang neat), we were ready to teach. The next morning, we had a room full of teachers and students who had never seen a computer, a mouse or mouse pad. It was such a kick introducing them to the mouse - how to hold it, how to click it, how it moved (with the ball), etc. Then we had them open their computers (remember they were all different brands). That took awhile. Then we had them find the power switch and turn it on. Again, that took awhile because they were all different. We had to go through the boot-up process, click OK to get past the password screen and wait for the desktop to appear. Then we talked about the keyboard and the desktop and how you use the mouse and its pointer to tell the computer what you want to do.

 

Once we did that, we had them shut down. Again, that took a bit of time - explaining that you never close the laptop without a black screen and that you never touch the screen. After shut down, we repeated everything above.  I was amazed at how quickly they did it - and remembered everything they had been told.

 

Finally, we taught them how to double click a file "TurboTyping" - which was a challenge since double clicking can be tricky. This TurboTyping program is a really slick program that teaches you how to type - just like in typing class. It has exercises from simple to harder for each combination of keys. It also has games which they quickly discovered and timed exercises. I am still impressed at how quickly they learned what we covered while I was there. Some of the guys are really fast typists - and accurate. The women were not nearly as good at it, which was interesting.

 

I taught with Ismael - a very bright young teacher whose English is quite good and computer skills very good. He and I spent lots of time together as I taught him all kinds of shortcuts and new things he could do in Word. He wanted to learn Excel and Publisher, so we went through some basics on those programs, too. He is a great teacher and was our interpreter as we taught the classes. He was really appreciative of the work we did and on my last night he came to the house with a gift for me - a water globe with a suspended globe of the earth inside it and 2 ships sailing on the water. Hesaid he hopes I return to Haiti soon so he can learn more. He also sent mean email which was here when I got home Saturday. Such a nice young man (photo attached).

 

We built cabinets, teacher's desks, computer tables, renovated a room next to the computer lab (new ceiling, painted, shelves). We saw that our sun ovens are still being used and that our well and new solar powered pump works but that there is an obstruction in the well (probably from kids throwing rocks down it after it was drilled) so the water supply we should have had isn't there. We're going to have to dig a new well which is disappointing, not to mention expensive. We'll move the pump to the new well. In the meantime, there is plenty of water for the school and neighbors which is wonderful. (Plenty of water to flush the toilets at the school - a rarity!) Nothing is ever easy in Haiti, that's for sure, but it will work out.

 

Also, we have 200 small sun ovens ready to be sold. We're looking for a buyer - as the group that ordered them and has already paid for them left Haiti without completing their project. So we'll be able to continue making more ovens when we sell those already made. The Assembly Plant that Rotary paid for provides a great workshop for building other things such as the cabinets, desks, tables, etc. that we built on our trip.

 

The group as a whole met after we ate dinner to talk about priorities for the community. We are working to expand the computer lab as quickly as possible as that's a possible money maker (cards, gifts, etc.) as well as skills that can be taken outside for employment.

 

We desperately need another big truck that can be used as a tap-tap (taxi) and move all of us back and forth to the school (it's about a 30 minute drive from the house). The previous tap-tap (a 12 year old truck that we purchased) was a terrific money-maker. Those Haitians pile on vehicles like the Mexicans (sorry, no offense meant here) - and pay a small fee for the privilege to ride. Our old truck is finally in the graveyard and it's too bad because it really made money for the school and helped with many of the expenses in addition to covering its own maintenance which was steep due to the horrendous road conditions. We miss it - not just for the income, but for the transportation between Reverend Dantus' home (where we all stayed) and the school.

 

So that's a short version of what we did. I loved this trip and would have liked to stay longer - except that I was totally eaten up by mosquitoes even though I was using 100% Deet. Today (Tuesday) is the first day they haven't itched like crazy. I'm sure glad I took my Malaria pills this time. I almost forgot to get the prescription for them, and malaria is somewhat of a problem there.

 

The first thing I did when I came home was take a hot shower. Bathing and washing my hair in cold water for a whole week was not fun! We lost electrical power here in Wichita right after we got home - but I was prepared with flashlights at the ready since we very, very seldom had any electricity in Haiti and it's pitch black at night. Because of that, we usually were in bed by 8:00 - 9:00 p.m. and up early (5:00 a.m. usually because that's when the roosters really start to crow). We were always on the road to the school by 7:00 or 7:30 a.m. We would return from the school around 4:30 or 5:00 and be eating dinner by 5:45 or so while it was still light. Once it got dark, there was really not much to do other than visit on the balcony of the home we all stayed in or go to bed. That's what most of us did since we were so tired from the heat and work we had done all day.

 

I hope you enjoyed this short recap. Visiting a third world country is truly an experience that every American should have. The Haitian people are just beautiful and so eager to learn - and thankful for the few things we provide for them. Attached are a few photos of the computer lab. Sam Muyskens came in on the first day of class and could not believe how quiet it was - except for the clicking of keys. We certainly had excellent students!

 

Geri

 

 

 
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