Sunday, September 27, 2009

Baby Post






Joseph Junior



Here are some pictures of my abandoned babies at the hospital. I have 4 currently, and I take them to Saint Germaine for physical therapy 2 to 4 times a week depending on how healthy they are. Norma has shown me how to massage them, how best to help Jolene walk and little stretching exercises to do in the pool. I never thought I'd be doing any sort of physical therapy here, but I enjoy it!

- My first little girl is Jolene, whose been with me since the begining and IS STARTING TO WALK! I took a video of her walking in her crib on the soft service and posted it on youtube:

You can compare that to her walking on solid ground, which is more difficult for her in this video:

She's doing great and is very happy with all the attention. I take her 4 times a week, everyday that I'm in Tabarre. She is a trooper, who had meningitis, tuberculosis and malnutrition when she was abandoned and has come back to be a normal little girl. She doesn't speak yet, but that doesn't worry me much, because in all other ways she acts like a normal 2 and half year old. She makes eye contact, laughs, plays, reaches, eats, attempts to walk and is moving all the time.

-My second little girl is Lilianna, who is making progress despite an uncertain medical history and profound mental retardation. She rarely acknowledges anyone, doesn't speak, attempt to walk or change facial expressions often. She was abandoned when she was a little older, I'm assuming when her family saw her issues. She's probably 3. She is always is chewing on something, usually her finger, but doesn't seem to feel alot of the pain it would cause you and me. She will reach for something if I hold it out in front of her, just so she can put it in her mouth. The reaching is progress enough for me, and the muscles she usually hold so tightly are loosening with physical therapy.

-My first little boy, Joseph Junior is tiny tiny tiny. He was extremely malnourished, and has absolutely no muscle mass right now. He is very aware of what is going on around him, but can't lift his head to observe things. The Haitian physical therapists are afraid to work with him because he's so small, so I bring him to Saint Germaine when Norma is there to work with him. The other days, I massage his limbs and give him attention. He's too small to go in the pool.

-My newest little boy, Gilot, is still battling malnutrion, and is unable to move without pain. His skin is flaking off and he's lies with his arms and legs pulled to his chest with a feeding tube in his nose. I've seen improvements in his health in the last 2 weeks he's been with us at the hospital with medication and proper food. I massage lotion into his skin and try to move his joints while we wait for him to get stronger.

-Finally, here's a video of my abandoned babies in the Tap Tap room. They are all healthy and 2 of them (Cassandra and Luco) are waiting to be adopted by hospital administrators. I play with them every week day:

Friday, September 25, 2009

Me and Ingrid
The plaza where we had dinner, with a view of Columbus' son's house
The oldest church in the Americas

Back from the DR, which was an awesome trip. I stayed with the Conaways in their beautiful 19th story apartment over looking the ocean. Sammy Sosa lives upstairs in the penthouse, but he wasn’t around this weekend, otherwise we probably would have hung out. We went to watch some baseball on Saturday, and then to dinner in the colonial district. We went to a restaurant which claims to be the oldest pub in the Americas, down the street from the actual oldest church in the Americas, across the plaza from Columbus’ son’s house (more of a castle, but whatever). Santo Domingo is an actual city, extremely different from Port-au-Prince. There are tall buildings, modern stores and its alot cleaner than what I'm used to over here. It was cool.

Sunday was the orphanage, where I got to catch up with my friend Ingrid from college. It’s a very different set up than Haiti, with everything all spread out in a field as opposed to in the mountains with trees and a breeze. It’s a newer home, so their houses are definitely a lot more modern than ours! They have so many volunteers and I met several more than the 6 I already knew.

That night, the Conaways let me do laundry IN A LAUNDRY MACHINE which was beyond exciting. I also got to go to Wendys and learned that Baconator is the same in English and Spanish. The bus trip back and forth wasn’t too bad at all, with air conditioning, a bathroom and comfortable seats. The border was slightly terrifying, with my passport being taken and transferred to different buildings and tons of people trying to help me with my bag or beg for money. Sometimes, I think if I hear “BLAN BLAN!” one more time, I’m going to scream.

The weekend for everyone here in Haiti was terrible, however, as we lost another girl in Kay Christine. Audelina was 15 years old and confined to a wheel chair, unable to speak with some breathing problems. She had meningitis as a baby, and was battling pneumonia which she was just not strong enough to fight. She died on Saturday after Norma tried to revive her, the same as she had tried to do with Emilie. Gena rushed back from her vacation in Ireland 2 weeks early for the funeral on Monday, which I missed because of damn UN roadblocks. Needless to say, I am very tired of losing children.

Yesterday, a former volunteer, Erin, returned for another year with us. She went to college in Seattle, which is cool (even if it was UW). We went out for drinks and pizza, and then to a club in Petionville. It was fun.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I’m back in Tabarre working in the pool again, and it’s much different with all the kids in school. From the 15ish kids I had all summer, 50 seems like so much! I’m adjusting well to having so many children demanding my attention, and look forward to a semi-permanent schedule for the next several months.

The nurses have given me 2 new babies to work with at the hospital in addition to my 2 girls, Jolene and Liliana. Both boys are extremely small and look less than 6 months old, despite being a year and 18 months old. Neither are strong enough to go in the pool, and my newest is too small to even leave the hospital. Both will benefit from physical therapy, be it at St. Germaine, or just with me helping them bend their legs and arms in their cribs. I’ll take some pictures soon. Norma is confident that with work, Jolene will be walking in the next month, so I will be bringing her to physical therapy 4 days a week in the afternoon until this happens. She now has an orthopedic shoe and can semi-walk with me holding both her hands. She is stubborn though, and refuses to put weight on her bad leg. The other 2, Joseph and Lilana will trade off mornings for the 4 days of the week I’m in Tabarre, and every day I will spend 20ish minutes with my newest boy in his crib.

So with the babies, the pool with the older kids on Tuesday and Thursday, and helping out in class in between all of this, my days are very full. I have made a little friend in Shamana, a 4 year old autistic girl who falls asleep in my lap every morning and afternoon on the school bus. She functions at about a 2 year olds level, I believe, but is tough and isn’t fazed by the constant noise of the school. We have many more boys than girls and I think Shamana is the youngest.

A French woman who just returned to spend another few years in Haiti working for an agricultural organization came to visit the Father Wasson Center yesterday, and Robin, Johnny and I went to have a drink with her next door. The hotel is finally coming together, although they say it won’t be finished until 2011. Behind all the construction, they’ve already opened a beautiful restaurant and bar which is fancier than anything I ever went to in Portland. It has funky furniture, chandeliers and a nice view down to Port-au-Prince. The view from my balcony will be a lot nicer when everything is completed, but I’ll be gone by that point!

Besides that, I’m just getting ready to go to the DR tomorrow. Bus leaves at 10 and I’ll arrive hopefully by 5.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Parties, prison and plans for the DR

Party in Kay St Nicholas
The boys

Their beds all made with their teddy bears!

I have been working in Petionville all week, showing Elifet how to work with the special needs pre school kids and I’m very proud of him and his efforts. He takes one child downstairs into our new “office” (which I rearranged and am decorating) for about an hour at a time, and does all the things that I wish I had time to do with the kids everyday. I sit with them and embroider and tell him about each child that comes in and what they need to work on specifically, be in muscle control in the hands/arms, colors, shapes and numbers or just simple stimulation. The kids listen to him (even Jefferson who likes to throw things) and I’m confident he will do well with this. I plan to spend every Friday from now on in Petionville, helping him and the embroidering ladies in the afternoon when all the kids go home.

Last week was more time at the orphanage, and with Donatella and Renzo leaving, there was a small party held in Kay St. Nicholas, one of the boys homes. The boys were all around 12, and were very happy to receive hot dogs, coca cola and pringles. They showed us around their new house (they had just moved up a level) and as always, took a million pictures with my camera.

Friday night, Maive, Robin, Renand and I went to a party held by some of the St. Germaine ladies at their house near Tabarre. Jeana works in Petionville in Kay St. Elian and her sister Carmelle works in Kay Christine at the orphanage. They live in the house with their other sister, Jose. The house was modern and very middle class, far off the main road and up allyways. It was, of course, behind a gate and wall like all Haitian houses out of the slums. We drank prestige and coca cola and ate good food until midnight when we finally had to get going for the long drive back up to the ophanage. It was an awesome night.

I’ve mentioned one of our older boys who was in prison for killing another boy who grew up in the orphanage, but now comes an interesting twist. The boy who was killed, Onell, was the godson of my Uncle Lee, a priest who works at St. John Bosco in Lakewood. He was notified and asked how the other boy, Mario, was holding up in prison. The organization, noting his concern, asked if he would be willing to be Mario’s new sponsor while we attempt to get him out of prison. The situation is hazy, but what is clear is that Onell was a few years older than Mario and there was some sort of fight over food which Onell started. There was a knife and Mario was defending himself.

I went and visited Mario in the juvenile center on Sunday with Robin and one of the boys who grew up with him, Ti James. The outside looked like a construction site, and there were 150 boys from 11 to 17 in concrete rooms where they slept on the floor. We waited for an hour and a half to meet with Mario, and when he was brought out I was shocked almost to tears. He’s not even 5 feet tall, and looks about 14 years old. He has some sort of bodyguard another NPFS boy set up for him, so he’s safer than the other boys. However, we still had to slip him some money so he could pay off the other boys to let him sleep on a mattress for a couple hours. We told him I was Father Lee’s niece and that I would visit every Sunday, and he seemed happy at this. I know the boys are beaten, but we can’t really get a clear answer out of Mario about how he’s being treated when there is a guard standing by. NPFS is confident they can get him out of prison before he turns 18 and moves to the adult penitentiary, where he would be much worse off.

Vern, Mary Sue and Thomas are a family that have ties to NPFS and Father Rick and visit every now and again. They recently moved to the DR where Mary Sue works at the embassy, and visited us earlier this week. When Vern heard I was heading to the DR later this month, he offered to let me stay with them for a weekend, which I’m very excited and grateful for. Apparently, Santo Domingo is a very safe and interesting city AND HAS A MCDONALDS. I’m excited to head there next weekend to see the NPH home and see the city. I hope they have a Starbucks and Diet Dr Pepper, too.

The end. Miss you all.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Me and Eveline from the baby house
Norma and Donatella with Ives and his art

Richarson, Richard's twin brother

Mandelson and the pencil holder and purse we made our of newspaper

Things are good. I've spent the last few weeks at the orphanage, with short breaks down to Petionville to do laundry and visit my babies in the hospital. I like it up here alot, because its nice and cool (even cold sometimes) and theres always something to do. I've especially enjoyed joining the madames and Maive making embroidered cards in Kay Christine. The children help as much as they can, and each card is sold for 3 US dollars to raise money for the Saint Germaine programs. It was easy enough to learn how to do, since my grandma taught me to do it years ago! In Petionville, the mothers of the kids who come to Kay Elian make the cards, which allows them to give back to the organization as well as receive the income that they are missing out on by bringing their children to therapy and waiting with them all day. The cards are really beautiful, and I'm going to buy several for Christmas this year.

I took some of the girls aside last week to do a project for Robin and sponsorship. The girls were asked to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up, which they took very seriously. We ended up with 2 nurses, a doctor, a police woman, an air hostess and a nun. My Rosemene, whose missing the leg, drew the picture of the nun and was very happy that I found her to take her with me.

Last weekend, we had some of the volunteers from the Dominican Republic home over to visit us. There were 5 girls and a boy, and that was only some of their international volunteers! Its crazy because in Haiti, we really only have Maive, me and Norma and even Norma is really on her own wave length due to her more skilled position as physical therapist and her longterm relationship with NPFS. They were all under 30 and super nice, and it was very nice to meet them before I head over to the DR later this month.

We have several temporary volunteers right now, here for a few weeks and then heading home. Eddie from the States just left after his few weeks here painting the school, Renzo is here from Italy to visit his godson and Donatella is also from Italy, here as a physical therapist. I've already seen several people come and go, and am getting very used to new people being around all the time. At least there's never a dull moment.

After Liz, our Irish art teacher, left a few weeks ago, we've been very lacking in the art project department with the kids. Its a great form of physical therpy and is very stimulating for everyone. In an attempt to get an art therapy program up and started, I'll be in Petionville all of next week showing one of the older boys how to work with the children productively with paints, crayons, whatever we have so we can make artwork an everyday thing for the kids. I often work with the kids on various art projects, last week making purses out of newspaper and old books. I'll continue to do this in Kay Christine, but the younger kids in Petionville where we only have preschool and physical therpy need simpler, repetitive and muscle toning activities. We'll see how we do on supplies, but even if this boy can sit and help the kids extend their arms to draw with crayons individually it would be worthwhile.

The downside to Kenscoff is the showers- we never have hot showers in Haiti, but at least in Petionville, its so hot that you really don't care. A good shower here is considered a bucket of hot water you warmed up in the tea kettle.