Read some of this year's VBS Stories!
My favorite part of the trip was going to the orphanage in Durrissy and feeding the kids. Being at the orphanage was my most memorable moment because I had an opportunity to observe them as they carried out their daily routines as a family. Watching the children work together as a family to overcome obstacles which made them orphans made me very happy. Observing their happiness put a smile on my face. The time spent with the kids was enlightening because I witnessed first-hand the long hours spent between school and work. They would leave school and return to the orphanage to work on the farmland. Unlike my daily school routine, these kids wear the only uniform they have and then when done with school, they'll change into the only other clothing they have to begin work on the land. From these observations I can confirm the following: poor kids are helping their parents on the land producing food, or helping their parents sell food at market or on market day. Finally, on school days, parents and kids are learning side by side. This showed me that education and hard work is very vital in the Haitian community.
Feeding the kids was my second favorite part of the trip because our presence guaranteed them a good meal. A lot of the kids were ecstatic and delighted when we brought them food because they haven't eaten for days. Their responses to receiving the food impacted me. Specifically, I realized that every bit of the food would be eaten. Unlike me who has often thrown away food because I didn’t like it or didn’t finish it, these kids weren’t wasteful. In fact, I often witnessed children finish each other’s meals. I felt really happy to be a part of a group that was providing meals to the children for the short time we were there. These are my more memorable moments about this year’s trip to Haiti despite everyone’s concern for our safety.
- Joshua McKenzie
If I had to summarize my third trip to Haiti, it would be amazing. From playing soccer with the Haitian kids again to going to the beach, this mission trip packed more than enough adventure. Also this trip allowed me to achieve my own personal mission; to learn from the priest on how to help serve the community. On this trip to Haiti, I learned from many priests about how they are continuing to make improvements in their neighborhoods. In Les Palmes, Father Roud showed me how he began a boy scout program to provide education and for teenagers. In Durissy, Father Anis has bought more land in order to build a vocational school in his community so that he can teach kids about agriculture and livestock. These cool and amazing projects within their communities have shown me how to share my knowledge within my community.
One of the most memorable parts of this mission trip to Haiti was going to the beach. Even though it was not originally planned, we all had a great time seeing part of the beachside near Port au Prince. Swimming with Tim into parts of the deep waters was definitely an amazing experience at the beach as well as eating fried fish and mangoes with one of the priests. This is one moment I definitely won’t forget because it was a huge bonding moment for our group, even though it was near the end of the trip.
Another memorable moment would be playing soccer again with the Haitian kids. Even though they believe that Americans can’t really play soccer, this trip we proved them wrong. I was finally able to score two goals while on this mission trip, with the help of Eddy. Finally, this was an awesome experience because I had fun with some of our translators and I saw some familiar faces from my second trip.
In the end, I truly had a spiritual experience. My extended stay in Haiti allowed me to talk to the priests from Les Palmes and Durissy. This was probably my favorite mission group I’ve been with so far. Although our group consisted of varied age groups, we were able to connect with the Haitian children a lot more than we have with previous groups. Also our group bonded very well throughout our days in Les Palmes and Durissy, which lead to so many other funny moments throughout our trip. One of the funniest moments was playing card games with Father Roud because everyone thought he was bluffing about his hand and he never did. Additionally, this third mission trip has shown me the struggles of the children living within the mountains. The large amount of riots going on in Haiti showed me how students from Les Palmes had a hard time traveling to visit our vacation bible school. Furthermore, it showed me how the priests handled bringing large quantities of food to the children within their neighborhoods. Even though we got stuck in Haiti a little longer than expected, I definitely want to return there in the upcoming years to see how these anticipated projects will vastly change each of the priests’ communities.
- Zachary McKenzie
Tim Muth - 2018 VBS program
This year we focused on the environment and giving thanks to God for all of the good things He has given to us. Elena used her creative talents to write a play and make costumes. The play was about a tree and a little girl that took care of the tree. It was a resounding hit. I think it will make its Broadway debut in the fall. Natalie purchased small trees and talked to the Haitian children about protecting the trees so they grow larger each year as we visit for VBS. Amanda read the creation story and showed the children pictures of the wonderful things made by God. Mia, Sofia, Victoria, Josh, and Zach made colorful and informative environmental posters. They talked about them while the children worked on their VBS activities. Our friend Lamothe, had several colorful tapestries explaining the importance of protecting the environment and recycling.
Haiti has many environmental problems. We hope the children remember our lessons and as they grow up they have a positive impact on solving some of Haiti’s environmental challenges.
VBS Music Jam Sessions
Fr. Roud loves music. Also, we found out that Les Palmes’ associate pastor, Fr. Francis, also loves music. On Saturday and Sunday night, we continued a VBS tradition started a few years ago. For several hours, the priests, interpreters, and our VBS team sang (and danced to) VBS tunes. Fr. Roud and Fr. Francis played bongo drums, Mia, Sofia, and Victoria showed us dance & hand motions, and the rest of us had a great time. We sang in both English and Creole.
I always enjoy these jam sessions. It is a very spiritual and enjoyable experience. It allows the entire VBS team to relax and learn the songs. Also, it is a special bonding experience between the priests, interpreters, and our team. I hope the tradition continues for many, many years.
Dream Small: these simple moments change the world
My son, Jason, played me a song by Josh Wilson. When I heard the title, Dream Small, I immediately thought about our mission work in Haiti. Hearts Out to Haiti has been going to Haiti for 20 years. Many times, it is difficult to know if you are helping the people and making a difference. I know we won’t change the country and solve all of their problems. However, we can make a difference in the lives of one, two, three, or many more children. Maybe these children become leaders in their community and make life better for more Haitian people.
Then, I heard a line in the song which really affected me (“these simple moments change the world”). It made me realize it wasn’t the big things we were trying to accomplish but the little things which may have the most lasting impact. A smile, a kind gesture, making a bracelet, playing soccer, dancing, and singing may be the “simple moments” which positively impact a child and motivates them to change their household, community, and country.
We are truly blessed to work with two remarkable priests, Fr. Roud Sauveur and Fr. Yves Anis.
Fr. Roud has boundless energy and is always doing something to help his community. Currently, he is renovating the old church rectory so they can welcome more people to the church. Fr. Roud holds many special celebrations at the church to encourage the people to deepen their spiritual lives and to socialize with their neighbors. He started a Scout program for the young people. The Scouts were invaluable helpers during the VBS program. They served meals & drinks, cleaned up afterwards, and helped the children with VBS activities. Fr. Roud is taking the Scouts to a weeklong religious retreat in August. Fr. Roud believes the Scout program is the best way to engage the young people and keep them involved in church activities. Finally, Fr. Roud is always willing to lead activities with the school children. He gets out his bongo drum to play music and games with them. In the evening, his plays soccer with the young people in the community.
Fr. Anis is the pastor at St. Rose and to fulfill a promise to his grandmother and parents, he built a school in his hometown of Durissy. The school started in 2002 with 3 rooms, 3 teachers, and 80 students. Today, Durissy has 5 new school buildings, 33 rooms, 37 teachers, and 427 students. In a continuing quest to help the community, in fall 2018, Fr. Anis will open a vocational school to focus on agricultural and livestock topics. By the way, just to make sure he is really busy, Fr. Anis is supervising the building of a new church at St. Rose (to replace the old church which was destroyed by the 2010 earthquake)
Haiti: A country of contrasts
During our VBS trip, we experienced the joy of making crafts, singing, and playing games with over 1,000 Haitian children. We had the opportunity to experience the kindness and generosity of the Haitian people as a Catholic priest opened his church to our 15 person team. He provided us a place to eat, bathe, and sleep for three days. We also witnessed the frustration of the people as they held violent demonstrations to protest the actions of their government.
We walked through the beautiful mountains to reach a remote school and relaxed on the beautiful beaches. Our cars bounced over the primitive mountain roads and we saw first-hand the destruction caused by deforestation.
We saw the smiles on people’s faces and felt their welcoming handshakes as they greeted us. We saw the extreme poverty in their eyes as a mother rubbed her stomach asking us for food for her family.
Haiti is a country of extreme contrasts. At times our work is very rewarding and at other times, it is difficult to measure progress. I am proud of HNJ parishioners and Hearts Out to Haiti volunteers who continue to help the poorest of the poor. We are making a difference!
We go to Haiti to help the local people. I had a unique experience during this trip. During the violent protests, we were trying to determine when it would be safe to drive from our temporary shelter in Grand-Goave to the capital city of Port au Prince. We heard about roadblocks, burning tires, and angry groups of people along the main road. The US Embassy told us to “shelter in place” until the situation was safe.
In order to get the entire VBS team safely to Port au Prince, we had to trust and rely completely on the goodness of the Haitian people. Our four interpreters (Lamothe, Domo, Sonny, and Gaspard) treated us like family and made sure we were safe at all times. A Durissy high school student rode a motorcycle in front of our cars to check out the road and would signal us if it was safe to drive through a roadblock. Here was a young person we had helped to educate for the past 10 years and now, he was helping us to safely get back home. We went from helper to those in need of help.
Haiti is full of surprises and you never know what to expect.
Hearts Out to Haiti has a low key fundraising approach. Most of us would rather have fun at the VBS program than participate in fundraising events. Our main fundraising activity is the Adopt a Teacher program. For $420 (or $440 to include annual teacher training) you can provide financial support to a teacher for a year.
Last year, you helped us adopt 105 teachers. Thank you! That was very good and allowed 4,000 children to attend school in Les Palmes and Durissy.
I would like to issue a challenge. Due to growing student enrollments and new programs, we have been asked to support 150 teachers in the 2018/2019 school year. I realize this is a significant increase and a challenging goal. However, I have been amazed many times by the generosity of our supporters. So I will ask if you can help to meet our challenging goal and thank you for all of your past kindness. (Also, if you would like to volunteer to organize a fundraising event, we would be grateful for your help and support your efforts.)