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EXPERIENCE

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In February this past year, two friends of mine, Mike from Minnesota (on the left) and Doug from Rhode Island (on the right)visited Haiti with me for the experience of a life time.  We had a project to do but that was just a means to the end.  To experience the situation in Port-au-Prince as we travelled out of town was eye opening.  Living the experience for a week among the poor of the Central Plateau at Our Lady of the Rosary was inspiring for them to say the least.  I hope I have adequately captured their reactions and experience.

Michael is a very detail oriented person and needs to know what, when, where, and how at all times no matter the situation and yet somewhere in all this “need to know” is a big heart of compassion.  From the minute we got off the plane in Port-Au-Prince Mike had one question after the other about life in Haiti and at times found it very hard to understand how it could be like this.  For example, where do the people work, make money to buy things and food?  It was difficult for him to understand the people we serve in the central plateau have very little resources.  There is no industry and they basically take each day at a time, selling food on the street, maybe selling a few vegetables or herbs they grew in their yard, maybe selling a chicken or two.  Maybe a little carpentry or brick work if it is available.  Whatever comes their way!  Now as soon as we went out to meet the people of the parish, Michael began to understand and his big heart began to show.  He was warm, and kind, and loving to everyone and loved the children and having his photo taken with them.  He wanted to give everything he had with him, unfortunately unless you have enough for everyone you can’t do this.  Michael had to do something and he did.  One morning we were sitting under the tree by the road and recess began at the school.  There is a man who sells sugar cane to the children who have a few pennies.  Michael made sure every child got sugar cane that day.

Doug is an easy going kind of happy guy and more or less takes things in stride.  Doug was in need of a spiritual boost and he sure came to the right place.  It’s hard not to get a spiritual boost when you see the poverty, yet experience the warm welcomes, the smiles, the joy, the faith that God will somehow provide, these people have despite their situation.  Here when they pray “give us this day our daily bread”, they depend and believe it will happen. Doug’s biggest connection was with the children. Doug has always been good with children, a stern and loving father always wanting his children to make a good life and now a devoted grandfather. The photo above I think says it all.  If there is one theme with Doug and his experience it is Education.  He recognizes Fr. Nova’s commitment to education of his parish, his aides, and those he teaches at a variety of schools in the Diocese.

Think about it – Jesus spent His life teaching the people of His time and continues to teach us in His Holy Gospel.

If you were to ask either of these men I’m sure there would be no hesitation in encouraging you to make a visit to Haiti or some other place to experience the good that is being done for others.  You cannot come back home without a change in attitude and without making new friends with each other and those your serve.

It was a blessing for me to have them with me and I hope there will be many more who will want to learn by experience.

Art

GRADUATION 2015

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Graduation is many things to many people and this graduating class of 2015 is no different.  We are so pleased and excited to announce the first graduating class of the Trade School at Our Lady of the Rosary.

For one entire year these graduates spent their afternoons learning the fundamentals of sewing both in theory and in practice.  Sunday, April 12, Divine Mercy Sunday, 8 women and 2 men graduated.  I had the privilege of not only receiving a hand made shirt from the class but also to see the fruits of their labor – they did a great job!

Congratulations – We are so proud of you!

How appropriate they should hold their graduation on Divine Mercy Sunday.  It is this devotion that we have in common.   We pray for each other through this devotion; it is our spiritual connection.

Arriving at this day was not without its struggles.  Originally the class started with about 50 women and men with one teacher for each group.  As time went on some had to drop out for various reasons, the biggest one; finances.  The fee required to attend the class, which were to be used to pay the teachers, was too much for many and those who did stay couldn’t afford all of the funds and Father Nova made it his responsibility to take care of the teacher salaries out of his pocket.  This is not to put a negative spin on the day, it’s just a fact of life in Haiti.

As an organization we are looking at what we can do to support this program for the future and still have at least a small fee which we believe draws ownership and pride in what you are doing and what you accomplish in the end.  So, while we will continue to support this program we will try our best depending on our finances to make it affordable to as many as possible.

Enough talk! Enjoy the photos of the graduates and their work on the photo page.

May God continue to Bless you abundantly!

Art

Painting

Michael Painting Windor

Michael Painting Window

Obert & Junior hard at work

Obert & Junior hard at work

Paint crew minus Celestin

Paint crew minus Celestin

 

Fr. Nova joins in

Fr. Nova joins in

Art, Doug and Celestin

Art, Doug and Celestin

 

Two Celtics fans!

Two Celtics fans!

 

One of the main purposes behind this past trip was to paint the classrooms at the parish school.  Nine rooms in all plus the principal’s office.  Of course there was a little more to it than painting.  The goal was to have several people from the U.S join us for several reasons, one to help with the painting, two to meet the people of Our Lady of the Rosary, and three to get an idea of the poverty and the work we are trying to do there.

Joining me on this trip was my Cursillo group brother Michael who spends his time between Arizona and his original home state of Minnesota and a good friend of mine for close to 40 years, Doug who lives in Rhode Island, my original home state.  Judging by their reactions, comments and multitude of questions I would say it was a very successful trip.  We had the pleasure of working with 5 very hard working young men, Jean, Pierre, Junior, Celestin and Alexis to paint the classrooms.  Fr. Nova even joined us for a few minutes.  I do have to admit the young men took over.  I had a nice, neat plan laid out in my head and if you know the Bible saying, God’s ways are not man’s ways.  Well my way wasn’t the Haitian way and it didn’t take long to figure that out.  The job got done, we had fun, and we made 5 new friends.

We spent late Saturday afternoon visiting families directly across the road from the parish.  It was an eye opener for Doug and Mike to see their small homes, the conditions they live under and the hardness of their daily life just to find food and water.  In spite of all this they are a happy, welcoming people and they were very glad to see me again and that I had brought friends.  We were welcomed at every home.

In the photo above Doug had his picture taken with this young lady to show off her Celtic’s cap.  She was suffering from what appeared to be an ear infection.  We asked her to go to the clinic which she said she did and they wouldn’t do anything because she had no money to pay.  That same day we went to Hinche and purchased some decongestant nasal spray and ibuprofen and gave them to her.  Michel Jean our translator saw her a few days later and reported she was doing much better.

Before I close I just want to add this was a pay your way working trip.  While the project was to paint, it was also designed to raise funds to cover the costs of the project.  Each of us paid our own airfare to Haiti and donated a fixed amount to pay for the paint and supplies needed plus wages for the 5 men that helped us.

Before you leave our site, don’t forget to check out added photos of the painting in progress and the school children:  click here  http://abcforhaiti.org/back-home-2015/

As always, the best fund raiser is word of mouth and I encourage each of you to forward this link to your family and friends and let them know why this is important to you.  And, if you just happen to need a Lenten sacrifice to add to your Easter preparations, we sure wouldn’t complain if you decided to make an additional one time donation. 

Remember 95% of your donation goes directly to support the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Click here to donate:  http://abcforhaiti.org/donate/

Back Home !

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Back home in Haiti! I say back home because this is my 5th trip to Sapaterre and each time I visit it becomes more like home away from home.

We, myself, Doug and Mike arrived in Port Au Prince on Feb 21 on schedule, located Fr. Nova, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Sapaterre and our translator, guide, and good friend Michel Jean.  Michel is from Jacmel to the south and makes his living as a tour guide. We loaded our bags in the back of the truck and headed to Sapaterre.  One of the new things upon arrival at the airport was the institution of a new “Tourist Tax” of $10 US.  The drive took about 2 ½ hours.  The parish is located about 5 KM south of the major town of Hinche which also happens to be the Diocesan center for the Catholic Church in that area of the country known as the Central Plateau.  Just to give a little background Our Lady of the Rosary is the poorest of the parishes in this Diocese.

Upon our arrival lunch was ready.  As we walked into the pastor’s rectory we were greeted with decorations and signs welcoming us to the parish. After a hearty meal of beans and rice, chicken, fried bananas, and potato, carrot, and beet salad we retired to one of the large mango trees to relax from our long journey.  Fr. Nova informed us he had to go out on business and would join up with us in time for the evening meal. 

After a little relaxation and a nice cold Prestige (the local international award winning Haitian beer), I decided to take Doug and Mike to meet my Haitian friends across the street from the parish.  Immediately as we walked along the path people began to recognize me and we were instantly welcomed to their homes where we introduced Doug and Mike.  I am always happy to see them and always made to feel at home.  Even though I haven’t learned the language yet, the smiles and hearty handshakes from everyone say it all!  Michel of course was with us and we were able to converse through him.

After a couple hours of visiting we headed back to the rectory to wind down from the long day under the mango tree, enjoyed a light evening meal with father and were informed we would be attending Mass at St. Peter’s parish – it was their feast day, The Chair of St. Peter, which is always a treat.  I was happy Doug and Mike would have an opportunity to experience a Patron Feast Day, Haitian style. 

To see more photos of our welcome, visit our photo page.

Art

 

Haiti Earthquake – January 12, 2010

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January 12, 2010

7.0 Earthquake Rocks Haiti, Killing Hundreds of Thousands

It is with great sadness that we remember this Monday, January 12 the day a 7.0 earthquake rocked Haiti taking the lives of approximately 250,00 people and devastating the lives of millions.  The quake, centered in Leogane just miles from Port-Au-Prince, flattened Leogane, destroyed much of Port-Au-Prince and the surrounding areas and even impacted Jacmel on the southern coast.

The Lord works in mysterious ways as evidenced by the outpouring of support from other nations and individuals as they rushed to help, putting their own lives at risk and promised financial support to repair the damage done in a mere 60 seconds.

All of us at Action By Christians for Haiti Inc., ask only one thing on January 12.  Take a moment or two out of your day and say a prayer; a prayer for the lost souls, a prayer for all those whose lives were changed forever by this tragedy, a prayer for all those who rushed to help and a prayer for all those who continue to help one of the world’s poorest nations.

The few pictures above tell just a part of that day, please copy and paste the link below and remind yourself of the devastation that took place on that awful day in the history of Haiti.

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+of+haiti+earthquake&qpvt=images+of+haiti+earthquake

May the Good Lord continue to Bless you abundantly and keep you and your families safe from all harm.

 

Third World

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Ebola Victim                                                                                                   Trash

       haiti_1846096b[1]                                                                        Earthquake Haiti 2010

            Have you ever been to what we in this country and other “developed” countries around the world call the “third world”?  I’d suggest that most of us would answer, No!  Understandably, Third World nations are not places that the Travel Agents of the world have on their radar screens at all.  Third World countries do not have what we’ve come to expect as normal accommodations for travelers, chances are that they don’t even have electric service, you certainly can’t drink the water, roads are more like cow paths, no sewers to carry away waste, certainly no garbage collection (there is no garbage only a few scattered pieces of plastic bag floating around), food is scarce, meat and poultry for example lay along the side of the road where they’ve just been slaughtered, pieces will be sold before the sun goes down, so there’s no refrigeration, sanitation is pretty much non-existent.

            In other words, people in Third World nations have little or nothing that we take for granted, including food, water, shelter, health care and clothing; education is hit and miss; students must share books and they would be lucky to have a single piece of paper between them.

            We see our evening television news, or hear the world news on radio or read the morning newspaper and see events like the spread of Ebola (which is not new at all) and wonder how “those” people got it, spread it and live with it.  Disease of course knows no borders it only attacks what it can no matter where it might be.  So some of us wonder what might possess a person to volunteer to go to East Africa and help; why would they put themselves at risk?  Or why would someone go to Haiti after an earthquake and dig bodies out from under the rubble?

            I’ll give you a one word answer; it’s always the “PEOPLE”.  Those of us who have been to such places would tell you in a heartbeat, it’s the people.  People who live in that “third world”; have so little and share so much that they grab your heart and pull at your mind.  Once you’ve been there, it’s nearly impossible to get them out of your thoughts.  Yet like Jesus once said, “you believe because you have seen, blessed are those who have not seen but believe”.

            Blessed also are those who continue to support the efforts of ABC for Haiti and have not yet been to Haiti.  You might also consider travel this coming February and see first-hand for yourself why we continue this work of love.

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Deacon Bernie Filzen

Vice President

ABC for Haiti

 

(Deacon Bernie and his wife Pat have been helping the poor in Haiti for over 30 years.  We are honored to have him as an officer and board member for ABC for Haiti.)

 

Haitian Food

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Digging the Water Closet                                                                      Stalls Under Construction

photowc                                                                                                        99% complete and ready for use

 

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School children with Diri Ak Pwa

Before we get into the nitty gritty of fine Haitian Food just an update on how things are going in the parish.  As you can see by the pictures the children are back in school and the water closet or as we know it the rest rooms are nearly 100% complete and are available for use – just minor last minute details to finish up.  You may not think this is such a big deal, but believe me it is.  We take sanitation for granted, in Haiti nothing is taken for granted and to have a proper place to take care of your business and a place to wash your hands is a very big deal.  It’s one of the most important things they can do to prevent disease.

We are also in the planning stages of spending a couple of weeks in late February to early March at the parish doing a little work.  We will be painting the inside of the classrooms, trying to improve the environment for both students and teachers.  We will not only as a group from the states work on this project but will employ parents of the children to help us.  As always when we have projects we try to get the parents or others in the parish involved to let them know we are a helping hand and not a hand out.  We want them to own and be proud of what is going on in their families and parish.

Now – take a second look at the photo above of the little one with the delicious looking plate of rice and beans, in Haitian Creole – Diri-ak-pwa.  Take some time and try making a batch – it’s quite tasty and filling; add a little goat meat and some veggies and you’ve got a very satisfying meal.  Okay, so maybe goat meat is out of the question – it is a little expensive here in the states, but some nice grilled chicken also goes very well; unfortunately for these children and their families; most of the time the meal consists only of the rice and beans.

Here is the recipe for this staple of Haitian life – want to experience just a slight taste of their diet – make enough to last the week and eat it every day.  Of course, you’ll have the luxury of keeping the left overs in the fridge and reheating them in the microwave instead of having to make a new pot each day.

Oh yeah, when your family. Friends or co-workers want to know why you are eating Diri-ak-pwa every day tell them about us and ask them to join our family in support of the poorest of the poor in Haiti; better yet, invite them over for a meal of Diri Ak Pwa and grilled poul (chicken).  It’ll give you a great chance to sit and chat about why you feel serving the poor is such a wonderful opportunity and blessing.

God Bless

Art

Haitian Diri Ak Pwa

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter

1 onion, finely chopped

1 bell pepper, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup tomato sauce

2 cups red kidney beans, cooked (canned okay, drain first)

1 teaspoon thyme

2 teaspoons oregano

1 bay leaf

1 cup long-grain white rice

1 3/4 cups water (or stock)

Directions

1.  Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and bell pepper, sauté until the onion is translucent.  Add the garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.  Add tomato sauce, beans, and herbs.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes to meld flavors.

2.  Stir in the rice, sock or water, and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 15-18 minutes.

3.  Remove from heat and let set covered for another 5-10 minutes.  Then stir lightly with a fork and serve.

Bon Apeti !

                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Another New School Year Begins

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Action by Christians for Haiti is excited about several new programs to make the school year most rewarding for children, teachers, and pastor!

Just like here in the states and around the globe, another new school year begins at Our Lady of the Rosary.  Children and parents will be doing the best they can to prepare for school which is scheduled to start September 8 and  most children  of Our Lady of the Rosary I am sure are eager to get back to their studies.

We at ABC for Haiti are also eager for them to return.  We have been able to fund several new projects that we hope will help make their 2014-2015 school year a pleasant experience.

First, we have funded the building of a water closet, in our terminology a rest room, actually an outhouse.  Yes, a rest room.  Don’t forget, indoor plumbing is not very common in the rural areas of Haiti where we do our work.  So, it was very important to be able to provide a water closet that will consist of 6 stalls, 4 for the children and 2 for the teachers.   Water will be available for washing of hands for sanitary purposes.

Second, we have been able to fund our second increase in teacher salaries bringing their salary to a competitive level with other teachers.  This will enable Fr. Nova to insure he has qualified teachers and know his children are receiving the best education possible.

Third, we have also funded the salary for a secretary for Fr. Nova.  You would be hard pressed to imagine how busy and exhausting a day the pastor has trying to maintain the parish, provide support for his people, and to keep up with his professorial duties assigned by the Bishop.  Not to mention praying and preparing for Mass and the sacraments as well as keeping in touch with and serving the 3 chapels also assigned to him.  A secretary will be quite the blessing.

Fourth and very important indeed, we were able to add an additional 13 children to our sponsorship program bringing the total of children sponsored for elementary education at the parish to 40.

Last but not least, we are putting together a working mission trip to Our Lady of the Rosary for sometime in February to paint the classrooms at the parish school.  More details will follow as soon as they are worked out.  Start thinking today – maybe you would like to make the trip with us?

Mèsi Bondye pou générosité ou

Art

 

Service to the Poor in Haiti

 

 

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Service to the Poor in Haiti

As we enter our 5th year of service to the poor in Haiti, I would like to take this opportunity once again to thank all of you for your continued support and trust.   People are very skeptical of what happens to the monies they donate, where do they actually go, are they really being used for the good for which they were intended or are they being siphoned off by corrupt individuals or being used to pay off corrupt government officials whose sole purpose is to enrich their own lives and not the lives of the people they have been elected to serve?  These are hard questions and they tend to harden our hearts, and to close our purse strings.  And who can blame anyone – it’s all we seem to hear or read about.  But I remind you dear friends these stories and instances are a small part of what happens.  There are still many good people and organizations that are doing good work in your neighborhoods and around the world.

We encourage you; don’t let these negative stories have an effect on your generosity toward others.  Be cautious, research the organizations you wish to donate to, don’t take for granted just because they are a major organization that your money is being used wisely.  Don’t assume either that just because an organization is small or fairly new that your money is being wasted.  Make sure the organization and their mission is not only what you wish to support but that they are indeed a registered not-for profit organization and that depending on your tax status, your donation may be tax deductible.  Just because an organization helps others does not necessarily mean they have required the proper governmental approval for tax deductible status.

As a quick example, I received a phone solicitation one evening and the cause seemed like one I could support.  When I was asked to stay on the line and someone would get with me to collect my information, I realized I had not asked a very important question.  When the person came on the line I asked them what percentage of my donation would actually go to the cause I was willing to support?  The reply; 15%, that’s correct only 15% of my donation would go to this cause.  I politely told her I would not support them based on this fact.

One of the things we at ABC for Haiti are proud of is our ability to insure 95+% of your support goes directly to the people we serve.  Very little is spent on administrative products.  Our activities and our travels are all paid by the individual; we don’t take one penny to support these activities.  Yes, it is a burden on us but it is part of our commitment to keep our cost down and also a means of keeping us connected to our work – one doesn’t spend his personal finances on something that is not beneficial – serving the poor has its blessings.

We need your help!  In order for any organization to be successful it must grow and I’m not ashamed to admit this has not been a banner year so far.  There is much work to be done in the parish and to help educate, feed, and improve the health of the people we serve.  To do this we need two areas of growth, one, we need at least another 50 good souls to sign on as monthly donors with a minimum of $20 per month.  Second, we need more people who out of the goodness of their heart will make a one time or sporadic significant donations during the year to help our cause.  The monthly donors help us maintain the everyday parish life and the one time or sporadic donors help us fund the special projects.  For those of you who sponsor children for school now is the perfect time to send in your $59 donation.  Donate by clicking on programs above and choosing School Tuition Program.

How can you help?  Talk to your family, friends and co-workers about us and help them understand we are an organization you support and hope they will follow your lead.  Ask your employer if they have matching contributions, it’s a great way to increase your donation and it’s a very simple process for us to provide the information they need.  Our team is always willing to talk to any group of interested persons, whether it is a group of people gathered at your home, an organization you belong to or even your employer.  Lastly, take a look at your donation, your situation, is it possible you have room in your budget to increase your current donation?

We’ve been on the radio, on an early morning news show, and in several local papers.  There is nothing like a personal testimony from you and a meeting with us to help others understand the need and to have a close personal relationship with a group they are happy to support.

As always you are all in our daily prayers and we are sincerely thankful for your support and trust as we look forward to another year serving God’s poor in Haiti.

God Bless all you do!

Art

Next week – A New School Year Begins

 

Father Nova

Father Nova Pastor Our Lady of the Rosary

Father Nova
Pastor
Our Lady of the Rosary

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After visiting the families in the local area we returned to the parish.  We were a little surprised to find Father Nova’s truck gone.  We knew he was scheduled to teach in Hinche that evening but it was a little early for that.  We grabbed our seats under the trees, had a drink and waited for Father Nova to return or the storm to materialize, whichever came first.  About a half hour later Father Nova returned.  He was accompanied by another priest, Fr. Arboretum Michel and Father Nova was limping considerably. He had been in Hinche visiting the doctors.  After we left for our visits Father Nova had gone out to the gardens behind the presbyter to do some work and had stepped on something that had gone through the bottom of his shoe, puncturing his foot.  It was a deep wound and needed care.  There would be no teaching for Father Nova that night.  Father went to his room to rest and we returned to our position under the trees enjoying the breeze and the approaching storm.

The storm did eventually arrive and we moved onto the porch and chatted into the night enjoying the rain and thunder

I’d like to share a little about Father Nova at this time.   

He is a relatively young man who was recently assigned to the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary from his previous parish of St. Anthony of Padua, Croix Fer.  Not only is he a priest and pastor of the parish but he is also a professor.  He teaches 5 days a week in various locations and times, one of the reasons the Bishop assigned him to this area was to be closer to his teaching obligations.  He is a kind and gentle man and what I would call a thinker – whenever there is a lull in the conversation, and neither one of us are big talkers, you can see he is always contemplating something whether it be what to say next, something that is going on in the parish, preparation for class or just thinking in a spiritual manner, he is always thinking about something.  He has a strong constitution and is determined to be the best he can be at all he does for himself, for others and for his church. 

I ask you to remember Father Nova in your prayers and also not to forget Father Wadler who has been reassigned to another parish within the Diocese.

Art