In August, a group from St. Bartholomew's traveled to Lauranette, Haiti to continue our partnership with the community and Epiphanie School. Make sure to read the daily blog posts on our website.
There were many memories made during the seven days spent in Haiti. We experienced new things and learned a lot about ourselves and other things around us. I was mesmerized staring out my window as we began to descend into Port au Prince, taking in the place that would become my home for the next week. The ride to Hinche was full of beautiful landscapes and Haitian culture. All of us were amazed to see four people bunched up on a motorbike, and even more amazed later that it would become a common sight. Walking into St. Andre’s School in Hinche (the school supported by St. Dunstan’s in Carmel, CA) and seeing what our little school in Lauranette had the potential to become was amazing. The night in Hinche was nice and relaxed and we took a walk to see the town. It was evident here, as in Port au Prince, that people drive wherever they need on the road to get where they’re going. That night was the first night it rained, but it was just a drizzle compared to what was to come.
We had all heard stories of the bumpy ride from Hinche to Lauranette, and we got what we expected. There was one short stretch of unfinished “highway” running out from the Dominican Republic border which felt like riding in the clouds compared to the rest of the trip. After arriving in Lauranette, we began to build our relationships with the locals. There is a constant horde of kids spending their time at the school, and they were extremely excited when we pulled out a brand new soccer ball. Over the next few days, our bonds with the kids would continue to grow.
On the second day, the rain came. That rainstorm was the most intense rainstorm I’ve ever seen, yet to everyone in Lauranette it was normal. All of us were amazed at the enormous raindrops, huge gusts of wind, and sideways rain. We would move inside to wait out the rain and play cards with our translators, Amabiel and Larose, under the tin roofs of the school. When the weather cleared up the games would resume, in the mud now. The next day when it rained, we had a completely different perspective and appreciation of water. That morning was the first time we realized that the running water for our overhead shower and flushing toilet was hauled in from the well a quarter-mile away, and that was the first day we joined in on the daily trips to the well to fill jugs for the water tank. When the rain came on that day, we captured as much as we could in buckets, jugs, and 55-gallon drums to fill the tank as full as we could, instead of going back to the well later that day. John Darcy created a downspout out of used soda bottles to help capture water from the tin roof, and we left it behind for reuse in the rains to come. It turns out that the reason we were experiencing so much rain was that we were on the back end of Hurricane Franklin, which was sitting in the middle of the Caribbean growing faster than it was moving. That came as a surprise because the weather forecast even when we landed in Haiti was still showing no chance of storms.
Mixing cement to build the roof-support structures for the school was a humbling experience. We had been watching the construction workers before and were happy to help speed along the process, which we did — they seemed to be surprised to have finished the concrete work before lunchtime that day. We helped them fill the rest of the beams for the last few classrooms of the school. Father Noe had to make many trips between Port au Prince, Hinche, and Lauranette over the days we were there and, after driving the muddy road to Lauranette for the third time in four days, decided we needed to leave Lauranette one day early to ensure we didn’t get stuck there and would make it back in time for our flight home. This time, all four of us youth were in the back seat of the ex-tended-cab pick-up truck, making the ride there (when we only had three in the back seat) seem like luxury. Kevin got to ride with our cooks and translators in the speedy but ancient SUV that seemed to be on its last leg. We made it back to Hinche easy enough and enjoyed another night of rainfall (this time from the safety of the Rectory there).
On our last day in Hinche we got to visit the public market. It was like no other market we’d ever seen before. Every type of item was out for sale, and all kinds of food, including a few things that looked (and smelled!) very foreign. People were bustling about by foot all over the place, yet still the occasional motorbike would squeeze its way through. John even bought his very own pair of Haitian sandals, knock-off Nike slides, for only two dollars. On our last night, we made one last trip to the drink stand for Limonade (a Haitian lemon soda) and had one last night of cards with our new friends Larose and Amabiel. We woke up the next day for an early departure for the airport. Father Noe informed us, with little surprise at that point, that the SUV we had ridden in from Lauranette had its suspension go out and that all seven of us would ride in his pickup truck to the airport. Once at the airport, we said our final goodbye to Father Noe, and the beautiful country we had all quickly come to love. God willing, it was just a “see you later.”
The people of Lauranette asked us to carry a message home: They love their new school. They love the teachers, whom the kids say are “much better” than those provided by the government at the “national school” down the road. We now know from first-hand experience that the school building will keep the kids warm and dry in heavy rains, and the spacious school grounds have clearly become a gathering place — and soccer field — for the entire village when school is out. We also learned that, in less than two months, Lauranette will receive its very own Deacon (Snyder Culut), so that its Episcopal congregation (Epiphanie parish) will have a member of clergy and communion almost every week. There is no doubt that the relationship between St. Bart’s and Lauranette is having a big impact there, and the people of Lauranette certainly made a big impact on us.
~Malia Kohls (and the whole Haiti team)