june 2016 visit.

Published June 2016.

it takes a village.

Our team of 27 (mostly teens) is prepped and ready for a morning flight to Port au Prince, Haiti.  Several of the travelers participated in a time of prayer and send-off at Woodbury Community Church this morning – this is the first international trip for the WCC Youth Group.

Plans for our week mainly include encouragement and support for the students and staff at ANA Primary School.  There will be fun and games, arts and crafts, singing and dancing…plenty of hugs and many cheek kisses!  We are also hoping for some home visits and conversations with families. And the highlight will be sharing in the year-end Spektak with the students as they showcase their talents to celebrate the school year – songs, skits, dances and recitations. Stay tuned for highlights from the week!

As Kozefò works to support this one primary school, there are many, many organizations doing great work in Haiti. In fact, I am aware of many non-profits that have Minnesota connections. Just today, our local Sunday paper featured a story about NFL players /Minnesota Vikings that have a connection with Haiti. The Pioneer Press reported, Vikings duo share Haitian bond, mission of hope in their homeland.

And then you have these fantastic MN folks [Jeff Gacek, Tony Sanneh, Troy & Tara Livesay, Callie Himsl] doing great things in their own little corner on the island nation of Haiti…

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ~ Mother Teresa

And so we do our part…to share a little love…some fun and games…financial support…educational guidance.  THANK YOU to all of our Kozefò sponsors that have assisted in educating 94 students this year! We could not do this work without you. Check back this week to read more about our adventures.

tap tap arrival.

Travel plans flowed well today, with only one lost duffle bag. We have connected with our LA girls and have started to make some sweet connections-these beautiful young ladies had spent their early years at the ANA orphanage and will be joining our team for the week!

Bon Nwit!

full day of fun.

Our team jumped into action yesterday with the students – in fact there was so much going on that I am certain that there were things that I missed.  We shared music and games and arts and crafts. Kids were active throughout the school! There were interviews/photos of 20+ new students for the fall – as parents and children waited for hours for their turn. New and current students were measured for their uniforms. Teacher training occurred in the tech classroom – working through wifi difficulties, yet feeling encouraged by the staff and student access to learning online.  The cooks prepared a great lunch of rice and meat sauce, and then we were off to visit Apparent Project – Papillion Enterprise to support their work.

Watching our teenagers jump into this fully with their big hearts was a blast! So many sweet reunions and new connections occurred.  Back at it again today!

There is something quite sweet when adventures unfold and it is clear to see that people are using their talents and gifts.  There were so many incredible glimpses of that today, as the hours flew by at ANA Primary School!

The creative, dedicated graphic designer rolled out the first ever School Yearbook with great joy this morning. They were clearly a huge hit with both staff and students!

The confident, independent director’s assistant joined the teachers on an outing in Croix des Bouquet to get the grade 6 dancers dresses fitted by the seamstress.

The efficient, organized, savvy planners provided sponsor packets [letters-sunglasses-photo-book] for every single student. And what a fun highlight for me to spend time sharing that sponsor moment with my girlie Lasseur Ruth!

And what can I say about these amazing group leaders?  They rocked their time with the students! Way to go team!

spektak.

The year-end school program – the Spektak – was spectacular! [Despite the delayed DJ – and a 5-hour long adventure.] The students looked amazing in their matching “Sunday Best” attire…there were recitations, skits, dancing, singing and a fashion show. Our team even provided the American national anthem to follow the singing of the Haitian National anthem. Student performances had clearly been rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed – as pieces were memorized and spoken articulately, songs were sang with gusto and dancers danced in sync with one another. Parents waited SO VERY patiently through the technical difficulties and were filled with pride as they watched their children perform. Many sponsors had the opportunity to meet the parents-grandparents-cousins of their student – so fun.

Following the Spektak – we headed out on another adventure – hiking an hour up the hill from the school to reach a waterfall. As one team member commented tonight, the waterfall just happened to be a bonus, as the walk itself was so great. We were able to wander through the neighborhood, greeting folks we passed, as students joined in along the way.

ADD WATERFALL WALK PICS HERE

so many stories.

There are just too many stories to tell today, so I am going to skip the details, hit the highlights and support with images that give you just a very small glimpse into the adventures of today…

  • staff meeting – filled with accountability, humility, gratitude, inspiration
  • activities with students – FUN all around
  • soccer balls for ALL!
  • home visits
  • Pizza Amour
  • worship at Eucalyptus Village guest house

What a day. Bon Nwit!

ADD PICS from June 24, 2016

wahoo bay beach day.

Yesterday was a great day to head up the coast for a little fun in the sun on this tropical island!

We made a quick pit stop in Titanyen at Grace Village [supported by Healing Haiti] – a beautiful space for meeting the needs of children and the people of the community.   Our board member Steve had been on previous trips with their organization and hooked us up with  a tour.  What a perfect opportunity to partner with another team that has a Minnesota-Haiti connection – we will return again once their restaurant is up and running! The vision of a building project for us at Kozefò was deeply enhanced seeing their space and wise planning in design with intention.  Today we will visit the ANA land with director Rock for a little more dreaming and visioning.

ADD pics from June 26, 2016

And then the beach….ahhhhh!  Such a great way to support tourism in Haiti, as well as a time to relax and connect with one another.  Several staff and interpreters were able to join us to for a very special time together. Big thanks to the donor that provided this opportunity for including them! Take a peek at the fun that we had…and consider spending your next vacation in Haiti at Wahoo Bay Beach Resort!

Posted on June 12, 2017 and filed under June Trip 2016.

january 2016 visit.

Published January 2016.

kozefò trip preparations.

We are planning and packing and preparing for this next adventure.  Our group includes a fantastically eclectic group of folks – some returning – many new travelers.  There is a large group coming from the church that my sis and I grew up in – where our parents worship and we still celebrate every Christmas Eve.  Eight in our group are in there 60’s-70’s…I think.  Courageous, generous souls that desire to grow and learn and give of their time and talents. My sweet nephew Eli – really the initiator of this Haitian connection, having been adopted from Haiti and having lived at the very site of our school will be part of our group – traveling with his parents and BOTH grandparents.  Now, how cool is that?  My dad’s cousin Bob will be joining us from Boston; my sister’s childhood bestie and Kozefò board member Amy will make her first trip to Port au Prince; a random conversation lead to the sister of a new co-worker joining us; a Minnesota-Florida fellow will be connecting with us in Atlanta; a local Woodbury couple will be returning and bring their middle school-aged twins this time.  So many great folks!

We have a fun-filled itinerary planned, with the understanding that there needs to be flexibility and a willing spirit to see where the path may lead.  Check out our plans and keep us in your thoughts and prayers!

 

productive day.

There are really no words….or maybe there are just too many words for today.  We hit the ground running, and there are just not enough pics on my camera, so I can only share a very small glimpse into the fun we have had here at A New Arrival Primary School. There was a finance meeting and a teacher meeting – complete with receipt documentation and conversations about hopes and dreams for our kiddos.  The computer lab was buzzing with activity. Plumbing projects have begun, the painters are rolling, a bookshelf is nearing completion.  And the kids. It is really just about the kids for me.  There were hugs and songs and stories shared – crafts were made, sewing lessons with 5 and 6 year olds, and Mr. Realdsen has returned as a physical education teacher – doing calisthenics and soccer games with the assistance of a Creole interpreter.  So much good stuff today.

My heart is full.

from one world to the next.

There were so many sweet intersections that occurred between my ordinary world back home and the crazy-cool events of the day. I am always in awe when things align the way they do…not really even surprised by it too much anymore.  I have figured that this is just the way God likes to work, huh?

Event #1 – Teacher Seminar.  This is what I am trained to do…paid to do in real life. And then I get to share a little of my thinking here with teachers that are eager to learn, willing to collaborate, think and consider ways to apply the ideas in their classrooms.

Event #2 – FaceTime Conversation. My friend Amy and her boy Gefte were able to connect today with his father and brother here in Haiti.  There was a whole mess of emotions with that chat.  The awesomeness of being able to have technology to create this moment, the heartbreak of what it means to relinquish parental rights under very difficult circumstances, the joy in seeing family – Gefte’s smile and “love you dude” to his brother…wow.  The complexities of having families in two places and making the most of it all. Hmmm.

Event #3 – The Parental Presentation.  The teachers toasted our team with a grand gesture of thanks – cake and champagne.  There was gratitude shown to our parents for sharing Lori and me with them here in Haiti. So humbled. So honored.  And then there was that fantastic pop of champagne that hit the ceiling!  Good times.

Event #4 – Neighborhood walk.  I love a good “drop-in visitor” that is willing to show up when I may still be in my jammies.  In fact, I have a pal that has been known to show up with her own coffee and hop right into my bed if I still happen to be there!  Not everyone feels that way – most prefer to tidy up and prepare for their guests.  Well, today we found a few friends in the neighborhood that welcomed us into their homes unannounced with open arms – hugs and I love yous and thank yous as well. We were allowed to drop in.  We returned to the home of Sebastien and were greeted with a “Bonswa Madam Sara!”  We visited Bradley and his cousin Richardson – we met Samuel and Nolbi’s family.  And as we walked through the neigborhood, more and more friends joined us.  By the time we returned to the school, we had enough pals for some serious soccer action.  Such a perfect way to spend a Saturday!

Event #5 – Pizza and football-very common in my household.  So, following a very full day that included much painting, tidying up, computer prep, shelf building and plumbing, the team enjoyed a completely chill evening with conversation, dinner and the Patriots vs. Chiefs game on the big screen at Pizza Amore. Such a gift. Bon Nwit!

the pictures say it all.

The last couple of days were filled with so much beauty – incredible worship, Pastor Adam’s message, Caribbean Sea adventures and a sunset view, smiling students, cheerful workers and a visit to our friend Gladimy’s home.  I will let the pics speak for themselves.

back to business.

Wow. What a week.  We soaked it all in and have now returned to our work of teaching, nursing, doctoring, ministering, painting, running a craft store, filling pharmaceutical prescriptions, supporting school staff and living the life of retirement…and for our four students on the trip – they are back in class.

Our school in Haiti welcomed us in with open arms, kisses on the cheeks and creative greeting signs.

We experienced so many “good moments” together and share a common love for our students. And now business is back to normal in the hands of some incredibly kind, smart, creative, hard-working and caring individuals.  Thank you so much to the staff at ANA Primary School!  We are grateful for you all! Mesi Anpil.  Until next time.

Posted on June 11, 2017 and filed under January Trip 2016.

kozefò 5K 2015 by the numbers.

Published August 2, 2015.

Runners, walkers and volunteers enjoyed another beautiful sunny day to support the work at ANA Primary School.  Student art work, Kozefò merchandise and handmade soap were the new additions this year! (Thanks Jim for the Haitian inspired Toasted Coconut Lime Verbena!)

10 students were selected for sponsorship-YEA! 30ish are still waiting, so check them out on our website if you are interested: http://www.kozefo.org/sponsor/

And the results are in for the 4th annual Kozefò 5K…

total Runners-Walkers registered: 90

total volunteers: 35

money raised: $4000

Overall participation and money raised may be a bit down from last year [guessing that many summer vacationers were still out of town] but that did not stop the FUN!  I am always humbled by the loyalty and generosity of others. My fav part of the day is making rounds to check in with the variety of folks that show up – cousins and in-laws, work colleagues, family friends, church members, schoolmates and the guy that won it was a returning runner just looking to support a good cause!

Thank you to you all!

Posted on June 11, 2017 and filed under Kozefo 5K, Fundraising.

june 2015 visit.

Published June 2015.

when in haiti.

Our fabulous team of 23 arrived in Port Au Prince today…complete with an extra swing through the customs line to verify that the contents in our boxes were indeed school supplies.  Pastor Ernso of Eucalyptus Village greeted us at the airport and transported us through the streets to his sweet oasis of a guest house…via TAP TAPs! With the luggage piled in the back of a truck. Nothing like jumping right in as a local.

Looking forward to a relaxing evening…with plans to start working tomorrow…projects at the school – painting, building, prepping for the computer lab…time with Rock, Nahomie and Rosita!

Agenda for the week:

  • Saturday – work day – dinner at Pizza Amour
  • Sunday – church with Pastor Ernso – PAP tour to include Laboule 12
  • Monday – VBS/Day Camp – English Institute
  • Tuesday – VBS/Day Camp – The Apparent Project – Epi’dor
  • Wednesday – VBS/Day Camp – Wahoo Bay
  • Thursday – Year-End SPEKTAK at the school
  • Friday – depart

Orevwa! Bondye beni ou.

wants vs needs.

I live in a time and place that I am not even certain that I have ever really had to worry about my “needs.” I have shelter, water and food. Bills can be paid on time. There is money left over to do things for pleasure – to shop, dine out, travel. I really wonder if I have ever had to face a real NEED in my life?

The past few days in Haiti have been filled to overflowing with moments that I long to share – a sweet work day at the school, with building, painting and organizing…a neighborhood walk into the homes of three students that offered us a very small glimpse of the lives that they lead once they leave school each day…worship services that were packed with people and full of the holy spirit…energy filled days with the students – singing, dancing, playing, learning, making music together, jumping rope…English Institute lessons between Americans and Haitians – medal award ceremonies in our honor (a story for another time.) And.So.Much.More!

Yet the piece that has me awake tonight, sitting on the balcony to write this at 3 am…is the conflict between needs and wants. Wifi has been sketchy to non-existent this week. The 23 of us are staying at a lovely guest house, along with another group of 10 or so from southern California, and a couple from Spokane. I am pretty sure that we have maxed out the generator, as the electricity has been flashing on and off for the past 30+ minutes – just trying to get going. And I am not certain how long it has been since the city power has been turned on here.

For us, the inconvenience of limited electricity and wifi, impact the fans and AC that keep us cool at night…and the ability to hop on the internet or iMessaging to connect with family and friends back home. Needs or wants?

For some of our students, they have left the family they know and love, to move from the countryside to live in the city with a relative in order to have opportunities for a “better life.” Not sure how often, or if they have the opportunity to communicate with their loved ones. In the homes we visited, I did not see beds. I can only guess what the sleeping arrangements may be each night. Fans? Nope. AC-certainly not. The foods or drinks we may crave from our normal routine – clearly “wants”…as there are many, many individuals in this place and throughout the world, desperate for a meal.

I have no answers. I can only reflect. And hope that through life’s circumstances, we can pause long enough and regularly enough to encounter the abundance of blessings in our lives…to seek contentment…to share with others…to keep our eyes open…to seek joy.

So, for now, I will crawl back in bed – generator power has been restored – and I will pray for the sweet little faces waiting for us tomorrow. And I will pray for my own strength and patience and peace.

  (photo snapped by a young student during the English Institute “medal ceremony”)

(photo snapped by a young student during the English Institute “medal ceremony”)

  (Sweet Lovena – one of our darling students – Lovena’s mother died in March 2013, so her father has sent her to live with her aunt and one cousin.  Her seven sisters and two brothers remain with her father in the countryside.)

(Sweet Lovena – one of our darling students – Lovena’s mother died in March 2013, so her father has sent her to live with her aunt and one cousin.  Her seven sisters and two brothers remain with her father in the countryside.)

relationships.

A week in Haiti…filled with activity – Vacation Bible School [music, crafts, games, free play], sponsorship letters, new student registration (42 more enrolled to add to our current 51!) the construction of two new classrooms, painting the computer lab, tech teacher interviews, laptops prepared, English class lessons, neighborhood walk/home visits, budget review with our accountant, teacher meetings, and the year-end Spektak for the school – whew! What a week!!!!

Dreaming, planning, praying for the future. Reflecting personally on all that we have experienced.

Yet, when all is said and done…it is really just about the people.

“Love God, Love Others.”

And that is what matters. Language barriers did not hinder the love between us. New friendships began, and old ones were renewed. There are just so many sweet stories to tell.

Posted on June 11, 2017 and filed under June Trip 2015.

april 2015 visit.

Published April 2015.

Bob and I are just wrapping up a week in Haiti…I sit here with a Rebo coffee and a chocolate croissant in the Port au Prince airport, trying to capture the events of the past week.  What fun to finally experience this adventure with my hubby…it is really impossible to explain until you live it on your own.  We have shared many conversations over the past 7 days regarding life, choices, perspectives, poverty, racism, education, family, faith, opportunities, work ethic, aging, gratitude, frustration, hope, joy, America, Haiti….so.much.talking…so.many.questions.

Just as it was impossible for me to explain to him all that I see and feel when I visit…it is so difficult to capture our experience in words here too.  We had the opportunity to spend much of our first day with Gladimy – English Teacher that runs the English Institute as our school…attending church [well over 1,000 in attendance, sitting in stairwells, standing, packed in for the service-yet we were given seats right up front of the congregation.] Visiting the children’s church was a highlight – hundreds of children in a large classroom, spilt by age levels. Bob jumped right in with these little ones – completely in his comfort zone.

Following church and a lunch stop at Epi’dor, we went to Gladimy’s neighborhood of Delmas 24, meeting his father and brothers – such a privilege to meet his family and visit his home. We walked the neighborhood, visiting with boys that had constructed their own kites with sticks and plastic bags, wandering the market filled with goods to purchase-rice, beans, vegetables, and piles of fresh chicken, goat and beef.

Our guest house was lovely – Pastor Ernso and Gina of Eucapyptus Village made us feel so welcomed (relaxing pool and dinner for two on the patio!)…and meeting other guests was an added bonus. Shout out to Team Tassie-Vivien, Trina and Danielle and their connection with Tony Sanneh of the Sanneh Foundation (retired pro soccer player doing great things with soccer players in Cite Soleil with the Haitian Initiative PLUS the students of Saint Paul Public Schools! Love the crazy cool connections that occur when I show up.)

Monday brought us to ANA Primary School. All of my favorite little people showed up! Even though this was Easter Holiday week, they came to see us….with a welcome sign, classroom decorations, songs and recitations! Once again, Teacher Bob was in his element. He met with each class and taught them math games with cards – 7-up, High/Low, War. And while I held a teacher meeting to plan for the June team trip, he lead all 50+ students in Red Light/Green Light, Kaboom, thumb wrestling, and hand clapping games. At one point, Teacher Jonas needed to ask him to “keep it down out there” as the kids were cheering and yelling and laughing so loudly.

Plans were made regarding the hopes and plans for the summer team trip, the year-ed Spektak, the development of a computer lab, expansion of two classrooms for the 15-16 school year. The teachers are hard-working and responsible – seeking to hold students to a high level of rigor, challenging them to succeed. I always leave here humbled, inspired, and anxious to find ways to meet the needs and press on to make our little school a success for these students.

Following the work – we took time to play. In recognition of our upcoming 25th wedding anniversary, we chose to relax at the beach (and give the tourism industry at little support!) Wahoo Bay has been a day trip for me several times, so this time we chose to spend a few nights. Owner/Manager Jennifer was darling – taking the time to visit with us. We lounged by the pool, soaking in the ocean breeze, scoring a sweet snorkeling deal with George and Michel for $10 and a fresh grilled crab on the beach for $12! Bob love a good deal! There were scrabble games at sunset and morning runs around the tennis court, as other guests played soccer on the court. We recharged and are ready to face reality again. Until next time! Orevwa!

Posted on June 11, 2017 and filed under Haiti Visit.