Thursday, October 30, 2014

October 30th, 2014 – Keith

Only 55 days till Christmas !!!!!
Are you ready? Got your shopping done? I’ve got some gift suggestions for you in today’s blog.

As you probably know HATS (Hands Across the Sea) runs not only the orphanage but a school as well. This year there are over 425 students, an increase of almost 100 over last year. The Institution Mixte Karen Huxter is housed in the adjoining compound from the orphanage and caters to not only the HATS kids but kids from the surrounding community as well.

Institution Mixte Karen Huxter

Students arriving for school

The school is staffed by Haitian Board of Education certified teachers and Luckner Estimable and Karen are the Director and Administrator respectively. The school has an excellent academic record and last year scored well above the national average in final exams.

The school yard

Flag raising


Typical classroom

Karen distributing new textbooks

In light of the increased enrollment, the organization is in need of student sponsors for this year. As of today there is a shortfall of about 65 kids needing a sponsor. What a great Christmas gift for the person that has everything. Give the gift of education sponsorship to a Haitian child.

Waiting for school photos

School sponsorship provides an excellent education to children whose families cannot afford the costs of tuition, books and uniforms.  Our school children also receive a high-nutrition drink at recess and a hot lunch every school day. School sponsorship covers the majority of the cost of uniforms, textbooks and schooling for the year, including nutritional support.
It costs only $275 per year to sponsor a child from preschool to grade 6 and High school sponsorship costs $375/year.

Contact to sponsor or check out the web-site for more information.

Thank you in advance for your support and Merry Christmas!!!!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

October 29th, 2014 – Keith

Bruce Spingsteen
“London Calling” – Hyde Park – London – 2009

Someday I’ll walk outta here again
But now I’m trapped!!

Living on the HATS orphanage compound for an extended period, there are days I feel like these Bruce lyrics. Walking around the compound helps, getting outside the gates to stroll along the canal is better, BUT there is nothing like a road trip to St. Marc or Port au Prince to change one’s outlook.

St. Marc is 30 kms away and the drive takes 30 – 45 minutes. St. Marc is a city of about 160,000 people and is the largest city between the capital of Port au Prince in the south and Cap-Haïtien in the north.

St. Marc

Today’s objective was the bank to get a bag of cash to do the end of the month payroll. And I mean a bag; we had a stack of Gouds like a loaf of bread.

Driving in Haiti is an experience that is difficult to describe. It seems like there are people, and cars, and trucks and motorcycles and potholes and speed bumps and animals everywhere. Everyone wants to be in your piece of territory. Of course there is the shouting and horns as well. I love it.

Ladies out Twacking

St. Marc street corner. Motorcycles, students and sugar cane

I’ve moved many mattresses in my day but never in a wheel-barrow

Which bus holds more????

A Nissan?

Or a Toyota?

You have to be aggressive to get anywhere but at the same time drive defensively because you know not where the next threat is coming from. Taking pictures for the blog at the same time as I was negotiating the traffic was probably not one of my better ideas….. but we survived.

Taxi stand

Pont Sondé Market

Shoppers on the way home from the market

 “Electricity” – the HATS soap opera – update.
Luckner is STILL waiting for the installer’s quote before the work can start. The old Delco keeps chugging along. The new Wilson sits quietly alongside awaiting its turn. Paulto was able to work some magic on the 2 fridges and they are now working quite well again……. Stay tuned


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

October 28th, 2014 - Joan

A terrible stink was emanating from the laundry room at Karen’s. Now Karen can tell if it is dead rat, dead mouse or decomposing garbage just by the smell but this one had her stumped. We blamed it on a dead critter and called it Mickey. Thus began a major clean out of said laundry room.  So we pulled all the appliances out, dragged everything off the shelves and some of it had been there since before I was born! By the end of the day we were no closer to finding Mickey but the place was spotless. We decided to let him alone for the night.

Joan cleaning

On Monday morning it only took Roselene 5 minutes to narrow the smell down to the decaying water in the washer and voila, Mickey was gone. Thanks Roselene.

While the laundry room was getting a good going over, Keith was making the depot usable again. He built new shelves, arranged and threw out lots of stuff and if you’re coming to HATS you don’t need to bring paint roller handles with you, there are tons!

Keith cleaning out depot

We have some budding engineers and construction workers. The 3 musketeers and one water girl were busy out back of Karen’s building house walls and roadways for their trucks. I thought it was so cute watching Sandra put water in Ti-Luc’s bucket as he was mixing “cement”. Keith saw how serious the boys were with their building so he made them some forms for the walls. They were thrilled.

Ti-Luc, Dieunel, Judel and Sandra out back.

Sandra the water girl.

There are moments here when everything slows down and Saturday late afternoon was one of those times. All the homework and chores and jobs had been finished and you could see small groups of kids playing a game or reading or doing a puzzle on the front porch at Mama’s. I love those moments when it truly feels like a family enjoying each others company.

Djemema and JJ playing the match up game.

 That’s it for now from this family to your family. It’s all about our kids!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

October 26th, 2014 – Keith

Sundays are important teaching days for the kids of the HATS orphanage. Church is a huge part of their culture and they are joined for fellowship by other school children, teachers and neighbours from the community. Everyone is dressed in their finest clothes and it is amazing how clean they all are arriving, considering some will walk several kilometers on the dusty roads to come to church.

Heading to church.

Joan was the special speaker this morning. She shared with the congregation about God’s promises in Ephesians 6: 11-17. Nice job, well received and a good challenge for all in attendance. Great band of timbrels and drums this morning – Rocking!!

Joan with her translator, Karen

The kids from HATS presented 2 musical numbers; Mache and Loue bon Dieu. Carol and Joan taught the children these numbers and they performed very well.

HATS musical group.

During the service there is a short fellowship time and some of the babies have a nap at the back of the church.

Church nursery

The Sunday tradition is for all the volunteers and kids to pile into the truck and head to Luckner’s store for a visit and a treat of cookies and soft drink. Seat belts are clearly optional for otherwise it would take 5 trips each way to ferry the 19 of us to the party.

Load ‘er up

Load ‘er up some more

Full house

Big selection and hard decisions

Magdala getting her first driving lesson from Msta Keif

The rest of the afternoon was read and rest time or temps de tranquille….........until the big soccer game at the church. The boys have done a wonderful job of cleaning up the yard there so it is safe for games.

Soccer in the church yard.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

October 25th, 2014 – Keith

Oh what a beautiful morning!!!

Sunrise on the canal

Sergeant-Major Karen allowed Joan and me to join her on her weekly, no kids, 06:00AM Saturday canal march. She sets a good pace! The sky colours this morning were out of this world. What a great way to start the day and finish the week. It was nice and cool as well. Of course I should explain that cool in this part of the world is anything below 30C.

Sunrise over the Massif Mountains

Despite the hour we were not alone. Locals on motorcycles and on foot were headed to the Saturday market in Verrettes. Horses, cows, goats, chicken and roosters shared the path.

Sergeant-Major Karen and Joan

Keith and Joan

Every morning 50-75 labourers gather on the canal bridge, outside the compound hoping to get chosen and picked up for a day’s work in the rice fields. By midmorning there are a lot of disappointed workers.

Off to work?

It’s Saturday so some of the kids roller-bladed, rode their bikes, washed the truck and did their homework???? maybe.... And chores.

Judel, Jofky, Dieumel and Josie rolling and riding

Vlad and JJ wash the truck

“Electricity”  - the HATS soap opera - update
Luckner is waiting to hear from the installer with his quote for the hookup. Then he will send a deposit to Port au Prince before the guy will show up. In the meantime the old Delco continues to put out sketchy voltage.  Its latest victims are Germaine’s blender and the mission house fridge! However, right at the end of the episode/day Paulto arrived to work on the fridges…… will they survive the night? Stay tuned.

Ti-Luc is supervising Paulto while apprentices Dieumel and Judel (wearing his hard hat) learn the trade.


Friday, October 24, 2014

October 24th, 2014 - Joan

I (Joan) usually start my day at 6:30 a.m. with a walk around the compound; Keith tells me that 7 go arounds makes a kilometer.  The kids are still eating breakfast and getting ready for school, the sun is not yet up but it is light out and the air has not yet become so humid that anything done quickly causes major sweating. I can get in about 6 rounds uninterrupted, then the kids are out and curious about what’s on my iPod or giving me gifts of leaves, or they want me to hear their memorized homework for that day  and that’s it for the walking. Yes, I guess I could start earlier but I would miss moments like these.

Djemima, Karena and I in bedroom

Anne, Jofky and I with charts

The kids love to see our pictures, of themselves and of our family. Just before heading off to school they gather in the front porch and pray before heading out. If they come early, we get a chance to see pictures. They head out to school and I head to the office.  Various jobs come my way, doing payroll, typing class lists, tidying up.  At last we have internet to send the class lists to Liette, Karen’s daughter, so she can get getting sponsors for the new kids.

Kids looking at photos with Joan

We spent yesterday morning taking pictures of the preschool 3 and 4 year olds. Are they ever cute. I think it felt like a field trip to them as they left the school grounds and entered the compound for their photo. Some were not too sure about us “blancs”  ( that’s us white people) but we only had one crier.  Each child in preschool 1,2 and 3 gets their picture taken for their sponsors. Preschool 1 are all new and there are 45 of them. If you can, please go to HATS website and check out how to become a sponsor. Thanks, it is so needed.

Kids at picnic table

Ducklings in a row

Homework is an important time of the day. The kids get home from school at 12:30 and get changed. Got to keep those uniforms as clean as possible! They have about ½ an hour to play, then its lunch time and then lessons begin. That’s what they call homework here. So it is about 3:30 or 4:00 before everyone is done and then it is play time.

Today, the school organized a soccer game with the uniforms that the team brought with them. The older kids got to watch and there was serious playing and cheering going on. Soccer is to Haitians what hockey is to Canadians! The older school kids had cleaned the field of debris and rocks the day before and this morning when they knew that the game was really going to happen, they made the goal posts. New soccer balls were found in the depot for the game along with the uniforms and the kids had a blast.

Intense concentration

The cheering crowds


Thursday, October 23, 2014

October 23, 2014 - Keith

Emma and Don – this blog is for you.


Electricity and keeping it operating at HATS is a huge and ongoing concern and problem. How many times today have you flicked a light switch, or turned on an appliance or the TV without thinking?
Here in Haiti the flicking of a switch and the ensuing light that follows is usually then followed by a smile or sigh of relief or some new Haitian words I recently learned from little Anne!!

Electricity arrives on the compound from one of 5 possible sources:

1)      EDH - Électricité de Haiti..EDH (Pronounced Eddie Ash. I was here 3 days on my first visit before I realized Karen was referring to Hydro and not some random local dude!!)  The Hydro is delivered via traditional overhead wires from various transmitting stations. The closest one to HATS is a small Hydro dam at Ti- Rivière. Last June a lightning strike hit the transformer and it blew its top and was destroyed. It hasn’t been replaced. EDH wants Karen to pay $6000 US to replace the transformer. That’s not going to happen because of the expense and the fact that the product is not that good. Hydro is un-reliable at best, most times not  available, expensive and prone to power surges which has destroyed electronic equipment at other missions.

Scorched transformer

Ti – Rivière

2)      DELCO – The generator. The diesel generator is now 10 years old and showing its age. Parts are hard to find and it was out of service for 3 months this summer waiting for a part to arrive and be installed. It runs about 5 hours per day to provide electricity for the laundry, pump well water to the holding tanks, feed the internet and charge the batteries. It has not been providing constant voltage and killed am air conditioner, printer and a fridge already this month.


3)      Inverter – An inverter converts DC power into AC power. A house runs on AC power and a car uses a DC battery. When the Delco (or the recently deceased Eddie Ash) run they charge a group of 16 car batteries through a battery charger in the inverter. At night the batteries through the inverter run some lights and the fridge.

Batteries and Inverter

4)      Mini diesel generator – When the Delco was on the fritz this summer Karen borrowed a small household diesel generator. It was able to pump water and charge the batteries enough to keep the food from spoiling in the fridge.

Mini Delco

5)      Self winding flashlight – When all else fails the old self winding flashlight provides enough light to keep from bumping toes or stepping on insects in the dark. It has 3 functions.
Provides light
Musical instrument, depending on speed of winding
A toy for children or bored volunteers

Winding flashlight

Emma O'Rourke, Karen's brother Don, and their team members in Springdale, Newfoundland raised the necessary funds for a new generator. Thank you Emma, Don, team members, and all in Newfoundland who donated and helped in any way for this to now be a reality.

Low and behold……. Karen and Luckner were able to finally track down a new generator in Port au Prince and it arrived today to much fanfare!!! A Wilson P33-3 with a Perkins motor.

Yup. You read it right. Wilson P33-3.

New generator arrival

Generator shed modification

The generator arrival show – standing room only

Wilson P33-3

The boss is the one with the red hair not the red hat!!

Hopefully it will get installed, hooked up and tested in the next few days.

I’ll keep you updated on this powerful soap opera…….. if we have electricity!!!!