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Day 1 in Haiti

Posted by Admin on Friday, April 26, 2013 |

Courtesy the team from New Harvest Church in Fresno, CA

STRETCH

There is no true way to fully describe what we were able to experience in just a short amount of time here in Haiti.  But in an effort to give everyone a sense for what our day looked like and what we experienced, we have included a few photos and this summary of the day:

GENERAL TIMELINE:

10am:             Boarded flight and departed Miami

12am:             Landed in Port-au-Prince

1pm-4pm:      Vehicle tour of Port-au-Prince, shopping at “Giant Market”

4pm:              Arrived at guest house in Fermathe

4pm-6pm:      Part of group stayed at guest house, others visited crèche

6pm-7pm:      Dinner

7pm–9pm:     Team debriefing, prayer and fellowship

9pm:              Bonswa (Creole for ‘good night’)

Starting in Miami, we were thrilled to meet up with Kathi Juntenen, who is the director of Chances For Children, at the airport. Knowing that the arrival in Haiti was going to be quite an overwhelming experience it was great to have her leading the way.  Our team had gathered many donated items from friends and family and were able to bring along a few plastic crates filled with donated diapers, baby formula and other needed items for the orphanage.  So as you can imagine, a fully coordinated effort was required to get everything and everyone in the vehicles heading in the right direction. 

Once we arrived in PAP (Port-Au-Prince) Kathi’s staff and other paid helpers ushered us to the 2 vehicles to begin our tour through the city. Our tour consisted of driving through extremely congested roads lined with people seemingly every inch of the way.  Rules of the road are very informal and it often feels like “survival of the fittest” but somehow it all seemed to flow pretty well.  But more importantly, we were overwhelmed by the imagery we were exposed to along the drive.  It’s too hard to describe, but simply stated, everything looks rundown, old, damaged and in disrepair.  This includes the buildings and vehicles.  Coming across anything that looks new or in good shape is definitely the exception…not the rule.  It’s clear the effects of the earthquake a few years back have left a lasting impression.  And whatever the earthquake didn’t damage, the extreme poverty and lack of resources from the government and business has over the last few decades.

During the tour, we experience a slight adventure in that one of the vehicles suffered a flat tire. A few of us jumped out and assisted the driver in pulling off our best impersonation of a NASCAR pit crew and had it changed out in a manner of minutes.  Fortunately this didn’t set us back much at all…praise God!

We then moved on to our single scheduled stop of the tour which was the “Giant Market”.  This market is as close to a typical American market as you will find on the island featuring many of the same products as you would find at Save Mart or Vons.  In fact, the store was very much exactly like what we are used to in the States and is commonly used by Kathi for her grocery supplies during her stays in Haiti. It is a stark contrast to everything else around it on the island.

Next we jumped back into the vehicles and headed up the mountain to our home for the week, Kenscoff.  Try to picture driving from Fresno to Shaver Lake in less than 14 miles lined with pedestrians, street vendors and motorcycles whizzing around you the entire time.  The elevation at the guest house is about 5,400 feet and 6,000 in Kenscoff.  There were a few large estates and private villas along the route…apparently many government officials and other more affluent people live up this way.  But by and large, the scenery looked much like the rest of the city with very little signs of growth or improvement mixed with scenic views of the valleys below (very beautiful from afar).    

We eventually reached the guest house here in Fermathe just a few minutes away from the creche in Kenscoff.  We were thrilled to meet a couple that was actually getting to take one of the children home from the creche for good.  In fact, this is their last night in Haiti and they are heading home in Arkansas tomorrow with their son Renalson.  They were actually making their way to the creche one last time to celebrate with the other children and say their goodbyes. 

Part of our group (Lori, Tina and Scott) were able to tag along and see the creche right away.  We won’t spend too much time describing what they saw as that will come over the next few days when our entire group makes daily trips there to serve.  But just know that God has already captured the hearts of our group for these children…Lori, Tina and Scott were overwhelmed with the enthusiasm of the children and their desire to be loved.  To be continued…

Our team took some time after dinner (wonderful meal prepared by the staff) to debrief and just digest what we took in today.  Going back to the beginning of the post, we used the word “Stretch” to describe this day.  It became clear as we shared one-by-one around the room that God had used today to open our eyes and expand our minds to things none of us had ever experienced before.  In fact, we all took a few minutes to share why it was that we were called to make this trip; already God has revealed that his plans for us each are bigger and more meaningful than we ever could have known. He has our attention and we are eager to see what is in store for the rest of our days here. 

Our prayer request of those of you back home is this – We have been called to this place.  He has shown us what he wants us to see. May we be the faithful and obedient servants that he needs us to be for the sake of His people here in Haiti.  And may we be a source of encouragement and hope to those that work for and to those that benefit from Chances for Children. 

All for God’s glory!  ~ Team Haiti

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Guest house

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View from Guest House

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City streets

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Lori at the creche

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View from the plane just before we landed

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Wisdom

Posted by Kathi on Thursday, March 14, 2013 |

Seeking God’s wisdom and not our own can certainly be challenging. Over the last few weeks in Haiti,  I have had a few experiences which  highlight that relying on manmade wisdom is never enough:

  • Waiting in multiple lines at a bank for 3 hours to get a cashiers check.
  • Having 3 of our 4 vehicles end up at the mechanics on the same day (with me waiting in a mechanics shop for 4 hours)?
  • A  birthparent who hasn’t seen or visited their child in 3 years sending someone to tell us that they want them back, now that they are old enough to work or be sold?
  • Damaged equipment and vehicles because people don’t respect personal property and let them deteriorate due to neglect?
  • A child with a sexually transmitted disease at the age of 7, due to abuse.

When I lean on my own knowledge it is not fathomable. It makes me angry, frustrated and discouraged. But then I take time to read Proverbs 2 and realize, it is impossible to understand human nature. It is not within my makeup to understand His ways. I have to realize that this too is all part of His plan. My job is to continue to keep stepping forward in faith and knowledge that one day it will be revealed.

 

The last week has been filled with many positive things as well. I don’t want to focus just on the negatives. The crèche now has 7 children in the final stage of their adoption process, and while we have had some glitches with paperwork missing dotted I’s and crossed t’s, we are confident that all 7 will be heading home to their adoptive families within the next 30 days! That is great news for these families, and the children – it is also encouraging to see the fruit of our efforts.  We now have 50 children under our care!! The place is rockin’ and the kids are so amazing and I am proud of what a family feel the Crèche still has - even with that many children. That is a reflection on our team in Haiti and our amazing staff. We now employ over 60 individuals and the blessings this brings to their families is a joy for us to witness. I recently brought down employee badges for everyone, and the happiness that each person expressed receiving their simple little badge was heart piercing. They proudly wear their badges as they walk home from work to show off the fact that they have jobs.  Something no one takes for granted.

As always, Haiti continues to present a myriad of faces. Some dark and jaded others bright and brilliant. But it is the laughter and smiles of the children we love and provide for that keep us on course, even in bumpy seas. We are excited about all the new things we have underway to enrich our community here in Kenscoff (especially our new medical clinic for children in the community). We love where we work, what we do and hope you will join us by coming to visit and share in our mission to provide hope for children in Haiti. Thanks for your continued support and prayers.

Blessings,
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Haiti as seen from the eyes of a C4C volunteer

Posted by Kathi on Wednesday, February 06, 2013 |

We might be an eclectic bunch from California, but there's nothing random about how or why we came into contact with Kathi Juntunen and Chances 4 Children. After speaking with Kathi this past summer and hearing her heart for Haiti, we knew we wanted to be a part of what God was doing thru C4C. We had all come to a place in life where we wanted to be doing something more with our lives and living for something greater than ourselves! So November 2012 We took our first trip to Haiti… We instantly fell in love with the beauty of the Haitian people as well as the breath-taking views we experienced on our drive from Port Au Prince up into the mountain community of Kenscoff. Amidst the beauty, we also witnessed the hardships the people of Haiti face on a daily basis and our hearts were stirred as we saw a country affected by so much devastation. It's these hardships and devastation that have produced such great needs and why it was such a blessing to come and serve with C4C!

The outdoor bathroom project was underway when we arrived in November and it was our work project for the week to help with it's completion. We didn't know what this would entail but soon realized that our contribution was to be the manual labor that moved the building materials from their point of drop off, down the hill, around the back of the creche, to the construction area where a team of Haitian laborers were steadily working on the building… Let's just say we got our workouts that week via shoveling huge piles of sand and gravel, carrying bucket after bucket and moving cement cinder blocks. But it's amazing how hard work doesn't seem as hard when you're fueled by passion and the knowledge that you're doing something meaningful and life changing for others.

Our time with the kids at the creche was amazing. We fell in love with their smiles and hugs, laughter and life. Their longing to be hugged, loved and nurtured was precious and the bonds we created with them made it more than difficult to leave. The only thing we could think about when we left was coming back.

Last Wednesday marked the beginning of our second trip to Haiti! It was incredible to be greeted by those little familiar smiling faces and to see how they've grown and blossomed in only the past two months! We specifically noticed a couple of the kids who had been newer to the creche back in November had filled out and looked so healthy and happy. We knew it's because of the care they've had through the C4C creche.

This second trip has been a few days longer than our first trip which has enabled us to spend a LOT of time painting the inside of the new medical clinic on the C4C property. It's so exciting that the children of Kenscoff will have a large and well-equipped facility to tend to their health needs. One day we even got to let a few of the kids paint with us. It was so cute as they were SOO excited and felt so special. Going to church on Sunday was a unique experience as it was so different than attending church in the US… Although we couldn't understand what they were singing, speaking or praying, we all clearly saw the hope that they have. After church on Sunday we did a Valentine's day party and lunch at the Kenscoff orphanage. It's heart breaking to see the conditions that these kids live in but that only elevated the joy we got to experience in being able to provide them with a meal and do a Valentine's day craft with them.

We're psyching up mentally and emotionally for our goodbyes tomorrow which definitely won't be easy! But we know we'll be back, and that will ease our pain just a little! We already can't wait for our next trip and our next opportunity to spend quality time with these precious souls!

Written by Michelle Dirks

Blessings,
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10 Productive Days

Posted by Kathi on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 |

Usually my trips to Haiti are filled with more setbacks than positive outcomes, and I always come with a HUGE To Do list, and low expectations. That way I don’t get overly frustrated. But this trip has been like arriving in a new and improved Haiti. Things seemed to fall into place, or maybe I have just learned not to sweat the small stuff. Of course, small stuff is relative – like not getting stressed out that the C4C Van has been sitting at the mechanics for over 60 days. Or the fact that on the day of arrival 2 out of our 4 vehicles were in the shop. Or that one night after a long hot day in Port au Prince, I arrived home to no power and no water.  Or that a translator who took 2.5 weeks to do her job, did it poorly and wanted 3 times the going rate. It’s true, a year ago, stuff like that would get me annoyed, stressed and a bit aggravated. But I have come to love and accept life here in Haiti – nothing goes as planned and there are always struggles. But it helps you realize that as much as we might try, we really aren’t in control of anything!

So when you have a week with only a few disappointments and lots of major accomplishments you can’t help but feel giddy. This week was one of those weeks for me. One of the highlights of my week was reading the report cards of the children who just finished their first ½ of school. Now keep in mind, these are children living at our Children’s Home – kids who have never attended school in their past. This is a BIG thing for them and they don’t take the responsibility lightly. They love displaying their uniforms, backpacks and shiny shoes as they walk next door to the private school with other children from the community. They are proud of this accomplishment and their performance and integration with other children in the community is great for their esteem. They are serious about their school work and every day they diligently work with their teachers and tutors to complete their studies. As a reward for their amazing performance I had the privilege of meeting them after school one day with snacks and then walking them home. They were beaming, to have me meet them at the school and we got to talk about the importance of always trying your best. Their report cards were the frosting on the cake – many of them received glowing reports and have proven to be “top in the class”. I was one proud Mama.

I also got to see how blessed I am with an incredible Director in Haiti, Pastor Renelus Maxime. With very little direction from me (other than a floor plan and funding) the construction of our new medical clinic is well under way. This is an exciting time for us as we can continue to add new services to the community. As we start 2013 we will be actively looking for partners to help us develop, manage and run our children’s medical clinic.

And the rest of my time in Haiti was filled with many, many meetings. The last days were spent visiting attorneys, shipping brokers, other NGO’s, IBESR, USCIS, The Embassy and plenty of hardware stores. It was productive, but left me very little time to spend with the kids. But that’s the way some trips are and I am just grateful for each and every day that I am able to continue to work in Haiti. It is always hard to transition back into life in the U.S. but with God’s grace and the love of my family and friends – it will be a great homecoming.

Blessings,
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Happy 2013

Posted by Kathi on Monday, January 07, 2013 |

Sometimes I get ahead of myself – and even worse, I get ahead of God. As a Type A personality, my head fills with goals and action items the minute the clock strikes midnight ushering in a New Year. Within the first hours of the new day, I have charted out my plan, my goals, my to do list. I get a giddy, excited and anticipatory feeling when I think about the great ideas and plans that have been formulated to help improve the lives of families and children in Haiti. But then it hits me – where is God in all of this. What is His desire and will? And that’s when I realize that my action plan has a major flaw – I have forgotten what should be center and forefront in my 2013 plans – God.

So this is why my New Year’s salutations are a bit delayed this year. I needed some time to reflect and pray on my plan, to gain a better understanding of how God’s will should shape my direction.

The reality is after a week of prayer and reflection – nothing miraculous happened. No lighting rod, no burning bush, and no river held back.  But I do have a calm, peaceful, settled direction about where we are headed.  We made a few adjustments to the 2013 plan, but what was major was that I examined every single goal and action item with a fresh perspective – is this pleasing to Him. Does this serve others? Am I always valuing others needs before my own? A simple reminder to use my foundation to better plan both my personal life and my professional life as it relates to C4C. In fact, especially as it relates to C4C and our work in Haiti. Because there are always going to be challenges, setbacks, problems and difficulties, but knowing that everything we do is in alignment with God’s will, strengthens us. It allows us to persevere through the challenges. It keeps us fighting for what is right. This year I expect great things for our work in Haiti. We start the year with so many blessings unfolding.

  • 40 orphaned children living at our Children’s Home
  • 7 children preparing to be united with their adoptive families in the next few weeks
  • 30 women in our artisan program who are now earning regular and consistent incomes to care for their families.
  • $13,000 and 4,000 pounds of donated food being sent to Haiti to help us feed our children, and kids living at 3 other orphanages as well as an elderly group in our community.
  • Construction of our medical clinic is underway and we are actively looking for health care partners to start the clinic this year.
  • And in February we start the construction of a second home for children – our Toddler House.

As I depart for Haiti this week, I will continue to ask each of you for your prayers and support. While keeping God at the forefront of this all, I also need the personal encouragement that each of you provide to me. There are many changes within C4C, the most significant being the departure of Vivian, who has been my rock for the last 5 years. While it is time for Vivian to explore new opportunities it leaves a big hole in our adoption program. This week, I am traveling to Haiti with Vivian’s replacement and I am excited to introduce her to our team in Haiti and our children. Her role will be different than Vivian’s and it will be a time of re-learning, growing and stumbling, but knowing that this is His plan for our ministry – helping orphans-will sustain us through the difficult first few months. We ask for your patience and support if you are in our adoption program.

So here we go….embarking on our 7th year of working in Haiti. Believe it or not, it has gotten easier, thanks to the increasing network of friends, donors, supporters, families and churches that have stepped up to help us.  We wish you all the best in 2013.

Blessings,
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The many blessings

Posted by Kathi on Monday, June 25, 2012 | Comments 0

Sometimes all you need to do is to step away to realize the many blessings that have come your way.

It has been 3 weeks since I left Haiti, and while it feels like I have been back at home much longer than that – I am amazed by the progress in the past few weeks. The tile work is complete; all the rooms have been cleaned and are ready for the children!! We plan to start moving this week!

The place looks amazing, thanks to the help of 2 volunteer teams in June. One group worked on cleaning and organizing the home and also ran a medical clinic for all of our children. The second team landscaped and prepared the playground and finished up all the touch up painting. Both groups spent every afternoon with the children in prayer, bible study activities and fun.

Our plan is to move the children from the crèche this week. Then in August we will start admitting children from the Kenscoff orphanage. Thank you to everyone who donated funds and time especially our partner Alliance for Children.

I sometimes have a hard time asking for help. But at this point, we are so close to being done, that I need to ask for your assistance. If you saw how the kids in Kenscoff were living, you would understand the urgency. We still need some additional financial help to finish.  We have a few more projects that need funding:

  • We need a commercial washer and dryer (due to the volume of clothes and the humidity)
  • Outdoor bathrooms are needed to help minimize the use on the indoor facilities
  • Completion of the driveway and side walkways
  • A second septic needs to be built
  • Hot water heaters, generators, invertors and other systems to generate power and hot water.
  • We need funding to admit the Kenscoff children (medical screens, legal paperwork, court appointments, attorney fees, blood work, medications) approximately $150-$200 per child.

Please consider making a financial donation to help us.

The life lessons I learned from my 3 months in Haiti are still etched in my heart and soul. My brain, still plays tricks on me and I wake up thinking “Oh, I hope we have power this morning”, but then I realize I am back at home  and am appreciative for the little luxuries I used to take for granted.

Some days the work in Haiti is discouraging, but this month I am extremely encouraged.  I am touched by the support of friends and our church communities. Lakewood Church (CO) donated a water filtration system for the kids & the community.  Highlands Church (AZ) has helped fund many church renovations and sent over 40 volunteers to serve with us.  Highlands has partnered with us to provide both VBS programs to the children and mentoring and enrichment classes to church leaders.  We have already started using the unfinished community center for these programs.

The past few weeks brought some setbacks in our adoption program, as the Haitian Parliament ratified the Hague (which is NOT a good thing for international adoptions). But we also had good news - four families were approved by IBESR, one step closer to completing their adoptions. We now have 24 children in our adoption program.

We have also had great success with the Micro-Credit / Artisan Craft program – 3 months with jewelry sales of over $1,000. These funds go directly to the artisans in the program - allowing them to care for their children, continue education and become financially secure. We would love to have you support us with this program by donating your old cereal, cracker boxes, scrapbook papers, etc.  We would love to ask our adoptive families across the country to host jewelry parties to help us empower women in Kenscoff.

I look forward to the continued progress in our programs, the impact we are making in the community, the hope we are providing to the orphaned children, and to the gift of continuing to serve God. As always, thank you for your continued love, support and prayers.

Blessings,
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