Thursday, June 30, 2011

St. Vincent's School for handicapped children - Haiti

Wood smoldering ... woke up with an interesting aroma this morning. Just across the street from the Le Plaza hotel is the Haitian tent city existing since the earthquake 18 months ago. The smoldering wood smell had interesting qualities … food cooking, many varieties, added to the sensory experience. Haiti does not observe daylight savings time. The sun comes up shortly before 5am.

The purpose for being in Haiti is Quality control and training. St. Vincent s School for handicapped children received a shipment of Mobility International specialty wheelchairs that were donate by contributions made to The Red Thread Promise. Mobility International believes that when we become a part of someones life by being part of a team that provides specialty wheelchairs, they are our family for life and our mission is to keep recipients in well maintained wheelchairs.

Not finding an escort in the morning for our mile walk to St. Vincent's through the heart of Port Au Prince, the adventure was made without one. Sonya is a good leader; all along our route Haitians have set up shop trying to sell anything they can. From cooking food to selling computer parts … there was even one tire repair operation on the sidewalk. Haitians are getting more and more bold, some even moving their shops into the street.

When the container of wheelchairs was released from the port, the wheelchairs where offloaded, trucked into the city and put into storage. The mission - organize the shipment so the folks at St. Vincent's can easily find what they need. Also training, training, training. We train folks how to maintain our wheelchairs and also explain that “one size fits all” is not an option. Folks who need wheelchairs have special individual needs one must address.

Jojo is Internationally known. His art is painted from memories of Haitian Caribbean adventure. Jojo has special physical challenges, but that doesn’t slow him down. Scenes of people enjoying family, the ocean and Caribbean life in Haiti are his trademark and Jojo donates much to St. Vincent's for the needs of the handicapped children in the school.

Now that we have the wheelchairs organized, we brought one of each kind from storage to the school, so we can properly fit individuals to the chairs. We need to ensure that kids get a proper chair. Each individual has special needs. Having a wheelchair that fits properly helps development of a growing child's physiology. We rolled the wheelchairs through the streets of Port Au Prince back to St. Vincents main campus. It was quite a scene.

St. Vincent's is a school with many opportunities. People from all over the world have relationships with St. Vincent's. We met a film group there who has their premier showing of their documentary playing in Haiti this evening. We struck up a friendship and decided to have lunch together. We hailed a taxi and packed 7 of us into a Toyota and when screaming through the streets of Haiti. Our destination was Hotel Oloffson. Pulling in (to the hotel) several UN vehicles filled the parking lot. Armed guards with machine guns guarded the entrance. Dining on the porch where military brass from several countries.

The menu is interesting … it is all in French, so I took a chance on the goat. The meal was fantastic, but I like the rice and beans at Le Plaza better!

What contrasts. As we were eating on the porch at Oloffson the military folks eventual left. A dining experience in Haiti can take several hours as the clock doesn't seem to hold much influence in Caribbean life.

As we were enjoying our meal Sonya watched a trailer of the documentary. We walked back from Hotel Olaffson Le Plaza. Seems it is becoming dinner time, getting about 4:45 … so the sensory experience of food cooking over whatever wood Haitians can find in the tent city permeates the air.

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