Friday, September 22, 2017

March 2017, A different spring break for these university students

11 Loyola University Students chose to spend their Spring break a different way: not on a Florida beach but with lots of children in their home, the Foyer Notre Dame de Lourdes in Haiti.

One special day: Every child at the beach and everyone gets a mango! New bathing suits: thank you Alicia Barger, Teri Louden, Dr Patricia Ayres and all the friends that made that day possible.

 Morning English language classes with material prepared by Dr Heidi Brown:

Craft activities: painting, kites and new project: glasses, pencil and toiletries fabric cases sewn by the older girls. Thank you Angela Christman for the looming kits and Melanie Giraud for kite material.

Garden project moving along really nicely: new plot, new fruit trees, growing banana trees, tiny mangos and coconuts, spinach, corn, manioc and yes, water! Thank you: Bob Freson, Angela Christman, Association Terre des Montagnes, Ed Barker, Gilles Letourneau.  

Stimulating education: books donated by Philippe Bruno added classics to the existing collection and  a senior project at Prof. Lorenzi’s Social Entrepreneurship class at Loyola University Maryland is designing a distance learning classroom so high schoolers will be able to take courses on line with a French institution. Thank you Louise Finn and IT for the donation of three laptops. Once again, awards were given for best students in their grades.

Gifts of craft supplies, clothing, soaps, toothpaste, backpacks and basic first aid filled 15 duffle bags. Thank you Rendez-vous: Haiti club at Loyola (Krystele Antoine, Courtney Radcliffe, Isabella Luque), Robin and Sal Lenzo, St Pius community, Dr Patricia Ayres and my cousin in France, Fran├žoise Chazal.
Future projects: - Maximize in -house food production with the gardens but also the hen house.
-          Develop bio-digester capacity
-          Build a Transistion house for the older children supported by an infirmary/pharmacy near the Foyer 
-          Set up online high school classes to improve the quality of education for teen agers
-          Repair damaged home for widow, mother of three
( Thank you Dr Roche and Church of the Transformation)

Other concern: Abelardo. Visiting orthopedists explained that his growing body will become too heavy for his legs.  What to do? Right now he is able to play soccer and has a pretty good kick.
Heartfelt thank you to generous friends and sponsors: International Programs, CCSJ, Mission Integration at Loyola University Maryland


July 2017 Volunteer Tracy Sanna is back!

Tracy is a Loyola U. Pastoral Counseling graduate that first volunteered in 2013 and is sponsoring Ti-Widner. She is also a full time social science teacher.
Pizza Project Phase 1
Rendezvous Haiti purchased an outdoor pizza oven to be used to make and sell pizza in the restaurant and to potential offer start-up options for job seekers. During this trip, the young adult and adolescent women practiced making pizzas and cook them in the new oven. In order to encourage creativity we had a pizza cook off to see whose pizza was the tastiest. The girls used a variety of toppings that they thought would peak the interest of their Haitian customers.  Toppings included tomato sauce, cheese, green peppers, onions, and hotdogs. This pilot project is the result of research done by LUM’s class of 2017, Rob Scherba, who interned for RVH this past spring. A start-up investment of around $ 1,000 was assessed. The next step is to find a motivated micro-entrepreneur who can take this on.   
Sewing Project
The young adult women at the Foyer showed their sewing skills by creating pencil cases and eye glass cases. These women worked together and used their creativity and expertise to create 20 items that will be sold this fall to gain money for the Foyer. The most impressive aspect of watching these women was their team work. Side by side, they completed what they could not do alone. This project’s goal is to stimulate resourcefulness, creativity, skill acquisition and autonomy.

Painting Project
The young men at the Foyer again put their artistic ability on display by creating beautiful landscapes of the Caribbean. These also will be sold in order to raise money for the Foyer. Each artist was paid for his work to incentivize creativity and entrepreneurial skills. They are encouraged by their 3rd place finish in Food for the Poor annual worldwide competition.

Kids Projects
During this trip the young children at the Foyer participated in beading, bracelet making, bridge design and building, drawing, and geography activities. During this week the children did not have camp and appreciated the stimulation and opportunity to engage their bodies and minds. 

Mamba Making
Tati Jo and the other girls and women at the Foyer created their delicious Mamba (peanut butter). This budding business is a hit with volunteers. Catherine, never leaves Haiti without a Mamba supply J and Tracy bought several jars to bring home.  All the proceeds go to the Foyer. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Journey continues

When Thomas stepped out of the car and into the bustling main hall, little arms grabbed his legs reaching out for the loving that volunteers invariably shower on the children. Fortunately, they come on a regular basis.  For Thomas Robinson, it had been three years since his first visit and he is still wearing the bracelets made by Mano or Kervens. From that first moment on, he spent his days, holding one baby or another, kicking soccer balls, teaching English , supervising craft activities and sharing game filled moments with all those that reached out to him. On his previous visit, there were only forty some beds, no running water, no bathrooms for the children and only thirty dishes which meant that the children had to eat in shifts.

For our One Special Day: the major meal of the day had in addition to the very generous portion of rice and beans, meat, vegetables and mangoes for dessert. We also bought three pools for the littler ones.  

 This time again, we rewarded best students, best caretakers of little ones, members of the band for their efforts, most helpful, best paintings and most creative young Fenel for his initiative of making a drum.


Fostering micro-entreprises.
_ RVH funded a start up in the slum of Cite Soleil. The mother of three of the children at the Foyer has been living in a tiny shack unable to find a job. She came the day before I left to show me the manicure/pedicure kit we facilitated her getting. There was joy and hope in her voice when she showed me all her supplies. She will offer her services in a section of PaP where women can afford them. It is not unusual for women to get home manicures. Marielande will report to Maud every other weeks to get the mentoring she needs to hopefully start a better life.

_ We are continuing in our support and mentoring of Fenel, whose little shop we have help start, is doing a balancing act since responsible for the care of his eleven year old sister and going to vocational training for metallic structural work run by Terre des Hommes Switzerland. He is excelling in the practical aspect of the training but struggling with the theories. In the evening he runs his stall and sells basic necessities. He will be entering twelve grade in the fall, is anxious to finish and start working full time. RVH is helping him with a grant for half his rent for a year. On weekends he goes to the Foyer and helps repair what is broken. RVH would like to help him purchase soldering equipment so he can find work once he graduates in November.

Manje Lakaye”, the restaurant that opened in March is now managed by a young woman whose children attend the Foyer’s school and who caught Maud’s attention, because she was unemployed and desperately trying to find a job to support her family. She is using the boom box that RVH had brought down in March to facilitate evenings of music and dancing.  The business is slow, with irregular customers but it has only been opened four months and might need time to establish itself. The neighborhood seems to have developed a few other businesses since the last time I was there, which is encouraging. 
ABC mini-market with Bully as manager opened its doors in March 2016. We are very proud to follow the progress of the hard working young man who is regularly sending reports and is being mentored by Andy Robinson who provided the seed money for this whole sale start-up. We are seeking the additional investment of $ 1,200 to facilitate Bully fixing a truck for deliveries and to invest in a larger inventory.  We see the potential for growth and significant income for Bully and his future family.

Future plans:
_ A Teacher Training workshop scheduled for the last two weeks in August is all set to go. Thanks to the generosity of RVH supporters, funding has been obtained to pay for the airfare and stay at the Foyer of Madame Claire Beauvais whose field of expertise in France is elementary school teacher training and who has extensive experience working with schools in Haiti. Eight teachers with their directors will attend this workshop and get paid while they do so. This should give a strong head start to the new school year. 

Next goal is to find funding for an after school tutor that could supervise a few hours of homework everyday as well as online English instruction.  A budget of $ 160 a month is sought for the duration of the school year. $ 1,600

The purchase of a Taptap minivan would facilitate transportation of children to the schools where special training or events take place.  RVH has $ 6,000 already but is looking for another $ 11,000 to purchase a vehicle in good condition.

_ Maud’s next goal is to rent a portion of land next to the Foyer to increase production of vegetables and spices not only for the Foyer’s consumption but also to be sold either at a local market or to other orphanages.  RVH will look for a volunteer who could come start this project and train some of the children in basic agriculture. We will look to fund a trainer’s salary, tools, field rental and seeds.

_ Looking for sponsors for the children that don't have one, volunteers to teach English, micro-entreprise, to mentor young adults and to make short video clips of success stories.

Without the help and generosity of the friends of Rendez-vous: Haiti, none of this would be possible. It is a journey : a journey of solidarity and hope. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Rendez-vous in 2015

Thanks to friends and volunteers in 2015:

A pickup truck was donated and transported to the Foyer

We paid salaries, repairs, tuition, helped set up 2 micro-enterprises, and brought medication (in particular for Maud Semelfort, the cook who is fighting breast cancer)

We purchased a peanut butter making machine to help start the production of peanut butter.

We completed the volunteer housing and installed solar panels, thanks to a major donation from Association Terre des Montagnes. 

At least 50 volunteers have already enjoyed the facility and been a resource for the Foyer bringing skills, knowledge, donations, and love. 

We taught: computer literacy , English , patchwork & Entrepreneurship.

We brought: shoes, clothes, toiletries & crafts supplies.

We took all the children to the beach, organized puzzle, kite making, drawing, & painting competitions & rewarded school achievements

We  have helped support the studies of Bully Sanon in Engineering for the past 3 years & he graduated this December.

Instructing computer skills
while keeping baby Samuel happy 

English class
Bully Sanon receives his degree in Engineering

In 2016...

We will be looking for sponsors for 10 students, work on micro-enterprises, fundraise to purchase a "taptap" ( that will generate income and facilitate transportation) & develop a restaurant/take-out counter to foster jobs and revenue.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Solidarity in July: almost two years since the children moved to the new location.

Samuel meets new grandma.
What do you do when you are a one-year-old and you want to escape loving teasing from a dozen little hands? You run to the visiting grandma volunteer that will be only too happy to cuddle you and shield you so you can finally get a much needed nap!  Resisting little Samuel’s “Hey?” and pleading eyes is simply impossible. 

After two weeks, leaving the 116 children is tough!  Don’t get me wrong: they can be very annoying. When forty little bodies fight and tug at your arms because they all want a page to color or thread to make a beaded necklace and then pout because it isn’t the right color, while I am profusely sweating in the scorching summer heat of Haiti, I want to pull my hair out. But when evening comes and it is a little cooler and two or three little ones settle on my lap, their calm and loving touch melts my heart.

The children at the Foyer NDL are regular children: they run, tease each other mercilessly, cry, laugh, watch too much TV, and the teenagers only seem to care about their phones and whatever mysterious attractions they possess. They are basically OK.
Yet, I have several great concerns: the food given by Food for the Poor and Hunger Relief International is not quite sufficient and whoever in those administrations decided that confetti frosting was a good spread for the tasteless white bread that is breakfast is a criminal. How can one encourage sugar consumption in a place where the water has no fluoride and there are no dentists around? And how can one possibly qualify this as healthy food?

 Donors like to contribute to “sexy” projects such as providing clean water, education, and electricity, but no one is interested in funding salaries for staff. Aside from the director at the foyer NDL, only one full-time and six part-time staff members take care of 116 children under the age of 23. Of these children, 45 are under the age of 7!  Supervision and individual attention is simply impossible yet so very necessary for their wellbeing.

Napping 8 ft above ground

For Maud Laurent, the Director of the Foyer NDL, developing revenue-generating activities takes time and energy outside of her regular job as one of the Directors of C.O.H.A.N., a Dutch development agency. Hosting the volunteers with all their needs, keeping up with the reports demanded by organizations that try to help, and putting together requests for food and more food are daunting tasks that occupy Maud from 5:30 a.m. to well after 11 p.m. As of now she has no operating budget and has been relying on donations. Feeding three meals a day to roughly 124 people not counting visitors, is a great accomplishment. Funds are also needed to enable the children to go to school, and get vocational training.

Maud with latest child: Samuel, 12 months
So, how can the Foyer NDL develop the resources to be sustainable? Friends are thinking of two solutions: 
1) Finding 100 sponsors who will pay US $40 per month.  The $4,000 revenue these sponsorships would generate would cover a lot of the costs of salaries, supplies, medicines, tuitions and repairs. It would enable the infrastructure to be more solid and without the constant need to look for funds, Maud Laurent, could spend adequate time to promote a new venture: 2) Developing a take-out counter, small restaurant and convenience store as a way not only of instilling life skills and providing jobs for the teenagers, but also to generate revenue by selling the products from the Foyer (cooked chicken meals, peanut butter, and now homemade vinegar). RVH is funding this startup takeout counter/restaurant and retail convenience store and looking for additional funds to get it off to a good start.  We are just in the first phase of this pilot project (cleaning the building) and will begin setting up soon. We’ll see how it goes and will reevaluate, adjust, and adapt in a few months.
Space for takeout /store.

On the whole, the kids are doing well and in fact benefit from a lot of attention: FENDLI and Kid4kid are some of recent and regular visitors. The Foyer has attracted over thirty volunteers since the opening of the guest rooms. A group of 12 Quebecois are running a music, arts and crafts and sports camp this July. Most volunteers understand that even if Maud and her staff are happy to host them and feed them three delicious meals each day, it takes away from funds that would be used for the children’s needs so the contribution between US $ 20 and $ 35 a day according to the length of stay and the capacity to pay is gladly given.

My biggest concern is to have a beautiful structure fall in disrepair as wear and tear of so many energetic youngsters takes its toll on the plumbing, furniture and appliances. There isn’t enough supervision and no salary for additional staff. No one stops the six year old who hits the piano in passing with a large carving knife or tells another that pornographic chalk drawings are not appropriate. The Foyer doesn’t need to expand; it needs to do what it does better. 

We can help by sponsoring a child, volunteering to teach what we know for instance, English (a tool for the children to eventually find jobs) and paying for our stay or writing a tax-deductible check that will be used directly to cover costs of tuition, car repair, propane for the stove, plumbing repairs and staff salary.