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Concordia U's visit to St. Gabriel's

Concordia University in Portland, Oregon is a private non profit Lutheran liberal arts university.  In May, Dr. Barbara O'Malley Floyd, a Professor of Nursing in Concordia's Department of Nursing in the College of Health & Human Services led a group of students and faculty on a 14 day trip to St. Gabriel's School in Fontaine, Haiti.  Professor Floyd has sponsored more than one student at St. Gabriel's School in Fontaine, Haiti. A report of that trip, along with its goals and objectives, follows below.  As you read it becomes clear that this is but another example of people blessing the community of Fontaine and being blessed by that same community in return.

 Concordia University Team

Concordia University Team

May 20, 2016  

Hi Father Noone. Our team of Concordia University faculty, staff, and students left Portland Oregon on May 2nd and returned May 15th.  Our team consisted of four students and two faculty.  It was an interdisciplinary group with two pre-nursing majors (Tiffany and Ana), one exercise science major (Tasha), and one graduate student of international development and service (Jen)  My co-leader was Michelle, an academic advisor and I am Barbara, a nursing professor at Concordia.   The objectives of our trip were: to experience intercultural learning and service in rural Haiti, to promote values of social justice by supporting continued development of St. Gabriel School, to observe and reflect on Haitian culture through interaction with Haitian students, to identify some of the hopes and dreams of Haitian students, and finally, to identify assets and barriers to education, health and economic development in an area of rural Haiti.

Day 1  May 2, 2016

We were up and at PDX at 4:30AM, ready to check in our bags and head through security. We hugged and said goodbye to our families as we left on our two-week trip. We breezed through security, which was a blessing! Once we were on our plane, we headed to Atlanta. Our flight was very smooth filled with naps, books, movies and music.  After a brief Atlanta layover, where we had enough time to grab food, we were off to Port au Prince!

We landed in Haiti's capital about 7:00PM, and were greeted by a nice man who helped us carry our bags. Thankfully our drive to Matthew 25 House took only a few minutes, as we were beat! This was the first experience we had with driving in Haiti and seeing the nightlife. Cars were pushing their way through and never hesitated to honk.

We made it safely to the Matthew 25 House and were greeted by a lovely American gal, Abby, and her sweet dog, Mariana. It was nice to have familiarity in such a turbulent place. She fed us well and we fell asleep to the sound of a church choir next door.  -Tiffany


DAY 2 May 3, 2016

On the road again! We loaded up our van and began our six-hour drive to Fontaine. Every few feet we heard "BEEP BEEEEEP!!!!" I was amazed that even the goats, donkeys, and dogs knew that the honking meant to move to the side.

Our first stop was at Zanmi Sante  (Partners in Health), which is the hospital that Paul Farmer played a large role in founding. We were able to have one of the grounds keepers give us a brief tour. We had the honor of meeting the director of the hospital who was very glad we visited. I was very excited to visit the maternity and women's health wing of the hospital. While we were there, one momma was getting an ultrasound and the ultrasound technician explained to us that the women now mainly go to the large hospital to have any procedures or if there are any complications. We also got to visit the internal medicine wing where there were patients being treated for heart disease and HIV. The doctor who was working with us told us that the patients normally stay for 15-20 days to make sure they are stable before they are sent home.

After the hospital trip we were back on the road to Fontaine. We stopped for a Haitian feast lunch and I think the best part was the cold Coke for everyone! With full stomachs we were back on the bumpy, winding road. We picked up our translator and friend for the next 13 days, Yousaline, along the way and she brought a baby goat along with her! Unfortunately baby goat (named Charlie) took a bit of a tumble off the top of our van. The driver swooped him up and he seemed to be just fine.

Once we got to St. Gabriel's school, we met Brother Bill Griffin, a Xaverian brother, who is posted at St. Gabriel School,  got settled in and tried to go for a walk, but we were interrupted by a bit of a rainstorm. The rain made for a quiet evening preparing us for a busy week ahead.  -Tiffany


 Tasha with some younger students. 

Tasha with some younger students. 

Day 3  May 4 ,2016

Woke up super sticky!!! Fontaine is amazingly humid and moist. It took us a bit to get going especially, since there were seven women and one bathroom. St. Gabriel's School starts at 7am at which time the grades line up by their classrooms and sing a morning song while the flag is being lifted. They sang their prayers and the national anthem beautifully while they raised their flag. When the ceremony was completed, all went into their classrooms. We thought we were going to be introduced to the school, but it was decided that we would introduce ourselves in the individual classrooms.

We had an amazing breakfast of scrambled eggs with vegetables and hotdogs. We also had Haitian coffee, which was very flavorful. We had a mini talk about our plan for the day, but then started to realize that people from the community were showing up with goodies.  The Haitian people brought many crafts, paintings, sculptures, and aprons/skirts to sell. They set up a mini market in front the school and we had to quickly learn how to bargain. I am not much of a bargainer because I wanted to give my money to all of them. I felt their sales were probably their livelihood for the week.

After all the shopping, we finally went into the 10th grade classroom to teach health. The Haitian students loved asking about our names and families.  They also asked our ages and wanted to know if we were married. I told them my story about why I didn't have a boyfriend and told them it was because I was studying and they laughed. Dr. Floyd gave a talk about the reproductive system and then the students wanted to take a break because they were hungry. I felt bad when they said that because lunch might be the first meal of their day. Waiting till 11am-noon for a first meal is dreadful! We finally took a break and then we had lunch. Some children came up to me and wanted to be friends with me. Some had very sad stories and one student had lost both his parents. After our well-needed nap, we walked to the homes of students Dr. Floyd sponsors. We also experienced our first naked baby during our walk to a student's home and the baby was so cute! We also got to see a "little" spider underneath one of the chairs, which was huge, compared to U.S spiders I've seen. We went back to the school and played cards. In the evening we reflected on our feelings about being in the classrooms and then went to bed! -Ana



Day 4 May 5, 2016

My alarm went off at 6:45am, which is early but... today is my birthday! My day started with a nice cool shower. When I got out of the shower I asked Michelle if she would braid my hair. She did.      

Breakfast was delicious as usual. We had pancakes, pineapples, mango, bananas, and hard-boiled eggs.  Our first class was at 9am with the 12th grade. We started the class by teaching them the Chicken Dance. We thought it would be a fun thing to do and it was a hit! We continued in the classroom reviewing anatomy and played a few rounds of Hangman so they could work on the English alphabet and spelling. They were really good at solving the words. Then Dr. Floyd taught a lesson on sexual education. The class did sing happy birthday to me in English and in Creole. I felt very special to be able to spend my birthday in Haiti.

After lunch we needed to wash our laundry and asked Youseline to help us get the buckets. We filled the buckets with the well water. While we were attempting to clean our clothes there were ladies that were ladies watching us wash our clothes. They gave us a few helpful tips because this was the first time for most of us to hand wash clothes. After we had washed and rinsed them, we took our clothes to the roof and laid them out to dry. The sun was nice and warm.                

Later in the afternoon we went on an outing to the distillery down the road, then to Pignon to explore the sugar cane business. We were all actually able to try some sugar cane. I think that Tasha and I enjoyed it the most! We had to hurry back to the school to collect our clothes before the rain started.                  

Dinner was wonderful! We had lots of yummy food! The cooks even made me a birthday cake and brought us champagne to drink. I was so excited and felt so blessed to be here in Haiti for my Birthday. I could not have asked for a better birthday or a better place to spend it! -Jen


 Professor Floyd with Fanace

Professor Floyd with Fanace

Day 5 May 6, 2016

We woke up early again to a beautiful breakfast! Then the professors wanted us to join the 9th grade Spanish class. We waited for the professor to print some papers which we thought would be the lesson plan.  However, as soon as we got to the class, he said, "Okay teach us." I really get nervous when I am put under the spot light and I was lucky that Tiffany knew some Spanish songs. The professor recorded our singing. I did the introduction and farewells in Spanish and the professor translated for the students. The students knew Spanish pretty well. They would tell us their names and what they like to do in Spanish. Michelle, Tasha and I left the classroom at 10am to visit the elementary school. We took three soccer balls and one Frisbee. The children followed us around until we reached the principal. We asked if we could play with the children. The principal was a kind man and agreed. We played Frisbee with a group of children and most of the girls were playing with us. At first, some children did not want to touch it but then would if we passed the Frisbee to them. They were quite cute! The children usually get a 20-minute break for recess and after that time were called back to their classrooms. We left the soccer balls and we thanked the principal. We agreed to return with the other members of the team.

Returning to the school, we took a quick nap (the heat is quite draining and we sweated buckets) and then got up to have our lunch! Most of the team members stayed on the school balcony talking to the students. I think the best experience is being able to have conversations with the students and learn their backgrounds. Each student knew what they wanted to specialize in and many of the boys wanted to be doctors. They specifically said cardiology, pediatrics and oncology, which I thought was great! The students are so knowledgeable and you can tell that many take school very seriously. I am privileged to have meant such wonderful students who are really hoping for a bright future. I pray they do. We ended our afternoon with dinner and set-up for a movie night. We watched "Invictus" and we had popcorn and cold soda! We finally went to sleep early in expectation of our Saturday Beach trip.  -Ana 


Day 6 May 7, 2016

Today was an interesting day. We were supposed to go to the beach but it had rained all night and continued into the day. All of the roads were flooded and it was impossible to get to the beach. As bummed as we were we became very creative. We do live in Oregon where it does rain a lot. We decided to make a music video. We spent a couple hours running around and dancing in the rain to create this video. It was so much fun and we laughed a lot. Some of the people who stopped and watched us while we were filming seemed to be a little confused.

During the afternoon the rain died down a little which made it possible for us to go on an outing. We waited a long time for the car to arrive. The car had been stuck in the mud and had a flat tire. After the car finally arrived we went on our outing to the Pignon market. While we were walking through the market it started to POUR! People were running into us to get out of the rain and the people selling things were panicking trying to collect their items before they got soaking wet. We wound up taking refuge in a pharmacy to get out of the rain.  While we were standing there you could literally see the water rising on the street and the water looked like a river flowing down the street. In order to get back to the car we had to venture out into the flooding water. The water came up to out ankles and we had to hold on to each other for balance. We did not want to know what was in the water because there were people throwing their garbage down the sewer pipes. We eventually made it out of the flooding water and found a place to get drinks while we waited for our car to arrive. The drive was extra bumpy and we had to drive through a lot of puddles to get back to the school. We were all pretty tired once we arrived back at the school. We washed our feet then took naps before dinner.

After dinner we watched a movie called Lincoln. It was a long movie but it was a good one. Most of the girls did not make it through the movie and left to go to bed. I made it all the way through the movie and enjoyed the ending. We loved having a day to cool down and to relax. The constant heat was making us pretty tired.  -Jen

 Jen and 10th Grade Students

Jen and 10th Grade Students

Day 7  Sunday May 8, 2016

After breakfast we attended Mass at St. Gabriel's Church, which is next door to St. Gabriel's Middle and High School.  We were warmly welcomed and they had chairs in the front for us.  After church we did our laundry.  Lanise (one of our cooks ) and Youseline actually did most of our laundry because "we were not doing it right."  We dried the laundry on the roof of the school after some students rigged up a clothesline with cord Barbara brought.    We ordered coffee from Lanise who bought the beans and ground them for us.

In the afternoon we walked to river with Youseline and some of the boys. In evening we had a nice discussion with Pierre-Louis about how our trip was going.  Pierre-Louis arranges the driver for trips to the airport to get us back to Port-au-Prince.  Berteau was designated as the one to drive us both to Hinch and Port au Prince. We loved Berteau's company and his driving.  Tasha says she wants to come again.  Michelle had lots of good suggestions on planning more structured activities for future trips. I think our trip has been a success.   Barbara

Day 8  Monday May 9, 2016

We all had class with grades 8 and 11. Students demonstrated the chicken dance to music and then most of class joined in.  We share a bit about our personal stories and challenges.  We also shared the music video, Dancing Men, to great applause.    After lunch and a rest we visited the home of a 12th grade girl, Blonise, who had invited me to visit last week.  Blonise is an orphan who lives with her grandmother and many cousins in a tiny home.  The grandmother sells some things in the market but cannot do much work as she takes care of numerous children.  Then we visited Fanace, an 18 year old boy in the 10th grade who I sponsored.   Last week I learned that Fanace has some difficulty walking He has a stiff gait and chronic pain.  He told me he cannot run.   I asked Tasha and Jen to work with him to show him some simple stretching and strengthening exercises.   They did this but quickly called me and a cursory examination revealed an abnormality of the spine.  We discussed with him about trying to get a proper medical evaluation and he seemed to understand.    Youseline and I also visited Jonette, her boyfriend, Wilkin, and her family.  I have sponsored Jonette for several years who has now dropped out of school as she is soon to give birth.  We discussed options for her future, perhaps the possibility of working towards attending an auxiliary nursing program a year or so after the baby is born.  -Barbara

Day 9 Tuesday May 10, 2016

Today is our beach day! We set out for Cap Hatien about 7:30 am.  The road was long and windy with many rivers to cross and deeply rutted roads.  It was a full three hours to the edge of Cap Hatien, and then another hour to the beach resort that we visited.  It was a truly beautiful beach with shaded areas to rest, balmy warm water to swim in, and we had lunch there, very good but expensive.  After our few hours there it was time to head home and we found the road even rougher as there had been more rain.  At one river we were guided across by boys in the river who showed us which area was safe and how deep it was.  It was a very long drive and it was getting dark.

As this was our last night, when we returned to St Gabriel an elaborate dinner and party had been planned for us.   We invited the St. Gabriel's cooks and students with whom we had spent quite a bit of time with, including the 22 12th grade students who hope to graduate in June 2017, to join us.  Lots of music and dancing, with all energetically joining in the fun.  Fanace and his friend Ivronel came, but Fanace would not try to dance. At the party we learned that Jonette gave birth to a baby boy this day and both mother and baby are well!

Day 10  Wednesday May 11, 2016

It was hard to say good-bye to our new friends and the 12th grade students wanted us to come to their classroom one more time.  They hope we will all return next year for their graduation.  We promised to try.  After lots of good-byes to Pierre-Louis, Kenold, Brother Bill, Madame Lanise, Madame Marie, Madame Calistene and others, including Fanace, Berteau loaded the vehicle and we set off.  We made one more stop in Pignon, to visit Jonette and her new baby at Bien Faissance hospital.  I was thrilled to see she had given birth safely and Tiffany delighted in holding the new baby.  Then off to Hinche, our next stop on our journey back to Port-au-Prince.   We found our hotel, L'Ermitage, just a short drive down the road from the Midwives for Haiti house.   All of us were impressed at how nice it was, actually quite luxurious after our week in Fontaine.  We had lunch with the Midwives for Haiti team and I found the phone number for a "Midwives for Haiti" graduate whom I was eager to meet.  Sonise came to the MFH house and we had a lovely visit.  She was a student when I first met her in 2012 and I interviewed her that year and again in 2015.    My gang worked along with the MFH team to pack birth kits for the matwons.  Matwon is the Kreyol word for traditional birth attendant.  -Barbara

 Ana with Haitian Friends

Ana with Haitian Friends

Day 11  Thursday May 12, 2016

We had a very nice breakfast at L'Ermitage then we set off to join our MFH visiting colleagues. Two vehicles full of MFH volunteers and visitors set off to visit the waterfall at Bassin Zim.  When we were almost there our vehicle got stuck in a rut at the edge of the road. An amazing number of Haitian men (maybe a dozen or more) emerged from I'm not sure where.  They assisted in putting rocks under the tires and also pushing the vehicle, which was also being pulled by the second vehicle that accompanied us. In the caves above the waterfall you can see Taino (original inhabitants of Haiti), and also signs of voodoo ceremonies.   Swimming in the pool at the base of the waterfall was a delight.  Young boys and one girl accompanied the walkers up the path and were truly a help in the more slippery parts. We gave them a small tip for their help.   Later we had lunch again at the MFH house and sang our Haitian grace, taught to us by Youseline.  It goes like this;

Manje sa

Ou voye ban nou an papa

Mange ki bay lavi

A rough translation:  Eat this food that is given to us by our Father, this food that gives life.

Following lunch our team went off to St Therese's Hospital for a tour given by CeCe, one of the Midwives for Haiti team. I met with Nadene Brunk (founder of MFH), as we had business to discuss, and I asked her if she knew of an orthopedic doctor to whom who we could refer my student, Fanace.  She immediately wrote an email to an American orthopedist who comes to Haiti several times a year.    Late afternoon I was expecting my former student Sonise to visit again, but a huge downpour let loose and we headed back to our hotel, phoning Sonise to say she should go directly home as well.     -Barbara

Day 12  Friday May 13, 2016

We checked out of L'Hermitage and had 5-minute drive to the convent of the Sisters of Incarnation where Midwives for Haiti team taught class to local "Matwons" (traditional birth attendants).  Leaving Hinche we stopped at the Birth Center in Marmot where my friend Sonise works.   We had a short tour and visit, more hugs, then about a 3 hour drive to Port-au-Prince where we had a late lunch/earlydinner in a local restaurant and then went on to our destination, the Le Plaza Hotel in downtown Port-au-Prince.   The trip from the restaurant to the hotel took about 1.5 hours due to snarled traffic.  We were glad to arrive at our destination but sad to say good-by to Berteau.   It was delightful to be able to spend some time at a modern, quality hotel with a lovely pool. The ladies headed for the pool, and I headed to bed for a rest.   -Barbara


Day 13  Saturday May 14, 2016

As Michelle needed to be back at work on Monday she left today and Youseline accompanied her and our new driver to the airport. We had a lovely buffet breakfast at the hotel then Youseline's niece, Manoucheka, joined us.   Manoucheka lives in the city where she studies design and became our tour guide for the day.  We walked around various buildings in and around the plaza, called the Champs de Mars.  The ladies wanted to shop for mementos and gifts for family and friends back home so we visited lots of vendors, doing our small part to stimulate the Haitian economy.  We had lunch in a small restaurant known to Manoucheka. The restaurant owner also rents out rooms and insisted on showing me the rooms.  After lunch we returned to the hotel for rest and pool time.    I was excited to receive an email that the Community Health in Haiti team is willing to see Fanace the first week of August if we can get him there.   -Barbara


Day 14  Sunday May 15  2016

Manoucheka arrived at 8:00 am and had breakfast with us after which we headed to find a nearby church.  We planned to find a Protestant church but Manoucheka only knew of a Catholic church about a 20-minute walk away.   We started walking and arrived at a very crowded church about 25 minutes later.  There were only a few seats available and it was exceedingly hot. The Mass was in progress with the introduction of small children who were making their Frist Communion.   We stayed about 20 minutes but the girls were obviously suffering from the heat and so we left, exiting one by one so as to be discrete and not appear rude.  We found a small grocery store close by and purchased lots of cold beverages both to drink while walking and for later in the day.  Grocers with cold drinks are a mainstay to alleviate heat distress    We returned to the hotel for rest and lunch and later walked out again to visit a famous monument, Neg Mawon, and then the national history museum.  I had learned that Neg Mawon represented freedom, breaking the shackles of slavery.  The national museum gave a fascinating account of the various stages of Haitian history, a meaningful experience as we are near the end of our trip.  We ended our day with a bit more shopping and souvenirs, along with rest, pool time and our last dinner in Haiti.   Barbara

Day 15 Monday May 16, 2016

Homeward bound.   Our driver met us at Le Plaza Hotel at 5am to take us to airiport for our 8am flight.    He also took Youseline to the bus station so she could take a bus home to Bohoc.  She will be back to her job in Bohoc tomorrow, teaching French and English at the high school in Bohoc.  Our flights were uneventful, though we had a 7-hour layover in Atlanta. Friday.  We arrived home at PDX at 9:30 pm where we were met by our families and friends who were happy to se us and we them.   -Barbara 

Sarah Goh