Ke Kontan

Ke Kontan

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Dear Philippines ...

Dear Philippines,

Where do I begin ? I am currently laying on a mat beneath the stars with my best friend listening to the dogs bark, the roosters crow, and the Mosquitos buzzing around my head. It's hard for me to sleep tonight. After driving through your tattered streets and witnessing the devastation before me - fallen trees, ruined homes, ruined lives, broken dreams, and a mass amount of people looking up to the skies and calling out for answers- my heart slowly sinks. It sinks because I can see the pain in your eyes. I can feel it when you look at me, when you tell me your stories, when you show me what is left of your past and what was supposed to be your futures. I came here without plans and without answers. I came here not knowing how to help .. & to some degree I still don't. What I can say is that you are remarkably resilient. The love and strength you have is inspiring. EVERY single person that I have encountered despite the hurt & losses that they are facing, has been unbelievably kind, gentle, humble, and hopeful. Tomorrow we are headed to yet another island that has been ripped apart. And I already know that it is going to be just as heart wrenching as the others, but your faith and your positive spirits will bring light into the darkness once again. "We are roofless, We are homeless, but we are not hopeless" .. Bangon Philippines !!!!!!! (Raise again Philippines)

If you wish to support the cause we are in desperate need or medical supplies as well as tarps and temporary shelters. Please donate on our website or through my paypal account

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Time to Go...

Well, this is my last night in the Philippines for now ... & I am sad beyond belief .. Not only because I will miss these beautiful people, spending my days with babies in my arms and singing with the children, setting up makeshift medical clinics, traveling to remote islands where no aid group had yet reached, distributing food, shoes, and toys, and being inspired and moved by the strength, kindness, and love of the Filipinos.. But also because I once again had to hug my best friend goodbye as she heads home to Ireland. I'm going to miss our deep chats about life, our beliefs, and what we call living- as well as reminiscing on memories from Haiti that we don't often share with others. I will miss your annoying pokes in the face while I'm trying to sleep, your weird faces, singing and dancing with you - even when we don't know the words to the songs, you always saying "wee" and calling me funny names, and I'll definitely miss laughing at you when you fall in quicksand. Life's just not the same when you aren't around sista. I will also miss big Ronnie aka "Papa Bear" and his non stop shenanigans and jokes. I will miss singing our new duet with you - was a pleasure writing with ya. I'll miss your big tough appearance but your soft gentle heart - I saw it shine through many times on this trip. and I will also miss the flowery pink socks inside your army boots . Make it home safe soldiers & hope to see your arses in canada soon. Love to ya both xx

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Goodbyes are Never Easy ..

Tonight as I sit beneath the stars with my head torch shinning off these pages I feel a deep sadness that is oh so familiar. It's the type of sadness that many of us humanitarians often feel. It's the type of sadness that is inevitable and unavoidable. It's the sadness of having to say goodbye. We experience this sadness as we leave home and kiss our family and friends goodbye but it's also the sadness when you have to leave a place where you know your work is not yet finished. It is the hurt of saying goodbye to the children and adults that you quickly fell in love with. The ones that captured your heart and gave you a joy you can't quite explain. It's the sadness of leaving an island, or better yet a country that has inspired you and that has taught you so much. Not just about a culture or the kindness and resilient-ness of people, but even more so about yourself. The Philippines has turned away a bitterness that I had felt after Haiti and it has reminded me why I became a humanitarian. It was not a choice- but it is something deeply engraved in my genetic code- it's in my blood. It has it's negatives and positives and sometimes it exposes you to things that are hard to bare but I have come to realize that I am at my absolute fullest - whole hearted- my richest and my happiest when I am helping others, when I am surrounded by "real" life and when I am working in chaos with nothing but a backpack on my back. This is my REALITY. This is what I call LIVING. Living is laying beneath the stars and reminiscing and counting your blessings. It's walking through swamps, sinking in quicksand, being covered in dirt, being eaten alive by Mosquitos, ants, & plenty of other little buggers. Its screaming at the top your lungs when you notice a tarantula chillin beside your bed. It's hearing children laugh as they play beneath the rubble. It's when kids come skipping along and take your hand and beg you to sing to them again as it takes their minds off the current circumstances. It's singing "baby" by Justin Bieber over & over & over again until you actually begin to loathe the song. It's riding around in a little tricycle where a small Filipino boy has to peddle and haul your fat arse around. It's eating army ration packs, suffering from diarrhea without a working toilet and yes- sometimes even without toilet paper. It's when a big NGO looks at you and shakes your hand and thanks you for coming completely on your own and saving a woman (& reaching others) that they were unable to get to. It's when a big tough Irish army man has to borrow your flowery pink socks because we have run out of clean clothes. It's setting up a mobile medical clinic in a small village where over 40 homes have been wiped out and that no aid group has visited and tons of people come out of the wood works and line up in front us to receive treatment. It's handing a child a bag of candy or a pair of shoes and seeing their beautiful faces light up like the 4th of July. It's holding a hand or looking a 75 year old man in the eyes as he explains how he has now lost everything that he has ever worked for because Mother Nature decided to be cruel. It's sharing the pain that they are feeling and although we cannot give them much, we can at least give them a shoulder to lean on. It's exchanging languages and cultural beliefs. It's feeling comfortable with being uncomfortable. Living is caring, loving, learning and reaching out to those in need and reassuring them that they are loved, they are needed, and that we do care. No credentials are needed to do this work- just a beating heart that contains compassion. My days are quickly coming to an end here in the Philippines (only 3 days left) but I will not forget the people that have touched my heart and the lessons that I have learned. And I most definitely will be back !!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Meant to be Here

Today we saved a woman from loosing her leg & potentially her life. Her lacerations were deep. Infection was spreading. It has been 2 weeks that she has been laying in bed like this in a remote village after a steel pole fell on her during the typhoon. We were able to get an ambulance to pick her up and bring her to a medical clinic that the Spanish have set up on the island. Out of everything I have witnessed and done this trip - this justified me coming here. This is when I can sit back and say "I know I was meant to be here".

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Bantayan Island

Finally made it to Banyatan island - most destruction I've seen yet. We are currently working in a small village where over 40 homes have been completely wiped out. As I sit here and try to put myself into their shoes my eyes fill with tears. I can't. I can't imagine loosing not only my home but everything I've ever worked for, all of my personal belongings... Everything. But yet again these people continue to amaze me with their strength and their resilience. Every day they are working in the streets cleaning the rubble and rebuilding their homes. Recently I had the common statement "why don't you help the people in your own backyard" and nothing infuriates me more. They ARE in my own backyard. Just because my backyard may extend longer than yours - and just because they may be in the farthest corner of my backyard does not mean that I don't help them. If you look down on our world from outer space what do you see ? You see land and bodies of water. What you do NOT see is fences, border lines, & political bullshit. This world is my backyard. These people are my people. This is my responsibility. I will love and care for them as if they are my friends, my family, because that's my duty as a human being. WE ARE ONE !!!!!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Yearning ...

Oh Haiti, how I yearn for you ...
I miss the days full of chaos, dirty diapers, snotty noses, and scraped knees. I miss waking up in the morning to babies crawling over me and the glow of the morning sun in my window. I miss the sound of kids playing and cheering as the boys run across the yard trying to score on their opponents. I miss the beauty of the mountains and the surrounding oceans. I miss sitting on the roof thinking about my life and realizing how truly blessed I am. I miss Haiti.
I yearn to be back in the country that is complicated, frustrating, dangerous, and absolutely bonkers. I yearn to be back where motos go zipping by me and people are hanging off the backs of taptaps. Where people are dancing and singing in the streets and yes - sometimes even burning tires. Where the smell of food, sewage, and garbage fill my nostrils. I yearn to be home. I yearn to be with my babies. I yearn to be with my friends. I miss the feeling of worthiness - that I am doing something with my time that is worthwhile. I feel as if I am rotting here. Day to day its the same old thing. I miss the adventures, the craziness, the unfathomable circumstances that appear on my doorstep. I miss the hugs, the kisses, the smiles, the neighbourhood kids screaming my name as I drive by or running up beside me as I walk down the street to hold my hand. I miss it all. Time to go back ? ... My heart is thinking so.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Home Sweet? Home

Less than three years ago, Haiti was just a place on a map to me. To be honest, I didn't even know where it was. I knew what everyone else knew – about the earthquake, about the number of people killed and displaced, about what a tough time the Haitians have been through. I knew that it was the poorest country from a geography class that I had taken in high school and I knew that the Haitians had been led my a corrupt government. After deciding to travel to Haiti I decided to do a little more research. I found out a little bit more about their history, about the problems with disease (cholera specifically), and I tried to study a map and become familiar with the different areas. When I arrived in Haiti, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. But boy was I wrong. My mom summed it up perfectly for me- "I saw it on TV, I saw photos and videos, but you only think it was one area affected, but this- this is so much bigger. It is so much more than what the news shows". After spending a summer in Haiti and working in orphanages, medical clinics, and hospitals and learning some basic Creyole, I once again thought I knew everything about the country. When I officially moved to Haiti in April 2012, I definitely thought I knew almost everything I could know about the country besides the language and I thought I knew what to expect taking over an orphanage in the countryside since I had already spent a great deal of time there working in orphanages. And once again.. I was proven wrong. Haiti is a complex country full of amazing people, beautiful countryside, and the most precious little children. However, it is also full of corruption, crime, disease, and poverty. There are things in Haiti that I hear and witness that I won't ever be able to make sense of or comprehend. Even now, sitting here and typing this blog after living in Haiti for a year - roughing it for seven of those months- and being exposed to everything I thought I could be, I know now that I will never truly understand the complexities of Haiti. But what I do understand is that my heart is there. That is the one thing that I am absolutely certain about.

As most of you have already figured out, I have been away from Haiti for some time now. I spent two months traveling. I lived out of a suitcase and backpack and passed through fourteen different airports- some more than once. As a few of you also know, I left Haiti due to some security issues I had encountered as well as personal health problems including broken bones. I can say that although I missing Haiti and my beautiful babies more than anything, after two months of traveling and a year of living oversea's, I am happy to be home.

Sometimes it is easy to lose faith in people, or in humanity as a whole. But sometimes one act of kindness is all it takes to give you hope again. In April, after a series of dreadful events, I was left feeling completely drained. As much as I didn't want to, I became stuck in a horrible mental and emotional state and just knew that I had to leave Haiti. But I couldn't do it on my own. A group of friends came together and helped me to get out of Haiti because of course- working as a humanitarian and not receiving any kind of payment- there was no money for flights. I cannot thank those people enough that came through for me and who opened their arms, their wallets, their doors, and most of all their hearts to me. During my travels I met and stayed with the most amazing people. I visited Guernsey- a beautiful island between France and England which contained a vast amount of history (yes, I am a history geek). Then I was able to also spend some time in London, England. I cannot explain the connection that I felt with England, I think it may be because that is where my family is from. My Dad was born there and moved to Canada with my grandparents when he was a kid. I have a lot of family still living in the UK and had always begged to go and visit but this was my first time. I was fascinated by the buildings and just the entire atmosphere. I then came back to Canada and stayed in Claremont- a tiny little town outside of Toronto where my cousin lives. We played guitar and sang songs and caught up as I had not seen her in what seemed like forever! Then I was back to the airport and off to Los Angeles where I stayed with volunteers that had previously visited Haiti. We walked to the pier and visited some cool shops and also went for a thai massage. After that we headed to Lemoore, a small town that was pretty much a mini version of Mexico. I had a great time relaxing and we also headed down to Fresno for my friends graduation and then to San Francisco to a Giants game. After that I was once again back to the airport, spent four days in Canada and surprised my Mom for Mother's Day then was off to Vancouver where I spent three weeks. Vancouver was absolutely breath taking. I fell in love with the scenery and the people. I stayed with my friend Alex who had brought the band "The Boom Booms" down to Haiti. I had the best time of my life during those three weeks. They all made me feel so welcome and I have definitely made some everlasting friendships. I also got to go with the band to the studio where they were recording (the armoury studios) and was introduced to a man named Chin Injeti. To be honest, I didn't know who Chin was at first- I knew he was a nice guy with a big heart who became a friend very quickly- but I had no idea how talented he was. Chin produced for Eminem, Kanye West, Jay Z etc and was also part of the band Base is Base. He has won a few grammy's and other awards and is now producing "The Boom Booms" new album. I was privileged enough to be able to attend a few of "The Boom Booms" events including a gig at an art gallery in Robert's Creek. That weekend was a blast and I had so much fun with alex and all of the guys as well as Courtney- whose house we stayed at. She lives in a beautiful log house right on the ocean. It was the perfect getaway. I ended up spending my twenty first birthday there as well and of course Alex threw me a little party and Theo (the drummer) cooked me a nice birthday dinner and then we enjoyed some chocolate cake. I could not have asked for a more perfect way to spend my birthday. As my time in Vancouver was coming to an end I was not so content with leaving like I thought I would be. I had developed some awesome relationships there and had fallen in love with Vancouver completely. After Vancouver, I was home for another three days and then took off to Vegas with my Mom and Stepdad. Vegas was just a whole new experience. My Stepdad and Mom go every other year to attend the Celtic Football Convention, and this year, since I had just turned twenty one, I tagged along. My stepdad is from Scotland and is huge into soccer. It was nothing like I could have ever imagined. There was approximately 5,000 people there from Scotland, Ireland, England, Australia, the States, and Canada. They all sang scottish songs and danced. It was like they were all family. It was a really cool experience and I met so many wonderful people. I am looking forward to attending more often now !!!

So, now I am back home. I had a really hard time adjusting the last few times I had been home but right now I enjoying catching up with old friends and visiting family. So much has changed since I left, but so much has also remained the same. I neglected so many things here in Canada when I took off to Haiti so now is my time to play catch up. I have numerous appointments (doctors, dentist, physiotherapy, licence, etc) and so much paperwork I feel like it is never ending. But every time I check something off of my list I feel that much closer to sanity. I am working for my Dad and helping him out for the summer with his business and also just got a job at a restaurant out on the lake waitressing on evenings and weekends to make some extra cash. Although I want to rush back to the airport and jump on a plane to the Carribean Island where my heart is, I know that right now I need to take everyone's advice and focus on me. I experienced a lot of trauma this past year, whether is be constantly witnessing death, poverty, and disease or suffering from illnesses myself and even the trauma from a moto accident as well as my notorious paragliding episode among other things. My body needs time to heal (doctors words), as well as my mind. Right now, I don't know what the future holds. My heart is still in Haiti, my wish is still to be back in the house cuddling my babies and carrying on with my routine there, but I feel okay knowing that they are being taken care of by my friends and Haitian staff. I guess right now the best thing that I can do is make sure that I am 100% and to continue on with fundraising in Canada to support the kids. My goal is to take a year off from Haiti (however, still going back for visits) and work, get settled, and possibly finish my degree in Criminology & Sociology. I found a nice apartment out on the water in a small community where I will be working and move in August 1st. I am looking forward to having a place of my own with all of my personal belongings in it, and I could not ask for a better location. It is close enough to home, but also far enough away to not be overwhelmed. I think I just need some solid ground for a little while, some time to gather thoughts and process things that I was unable to process in the midst of my chaotic life in Haiti.

It's hard coming back to a developed country and trying to immerse yourself back into a life that once was the only thing you knew. I am still experiencing a great deal of culture shock. Sometimes I want to dance and laugh with my friends until midnight, and sometimes I feel like I just want to screen my calls and hide away in a tragic novel or movie. Sometimes I spend an hour getting ready and prettying myself up, and others I could barely be bothered to comb the knots out of my hair before I leave the house. Sometimes I want to be in the company of a loved one. Other times that seems as impossible as waking up in the morning and finding myself fluent in french. I find myself often wanting to be alone than with other people right now. But then again, that just leaves me feeling lonely at times. Everything is so up and down, and I know time will be the only thing to solve this.

I've really learned a lot this year whether it be certain tips or precautions to take while traveling in Haiti or whether it be life lessons. Here are just a few of them:

1) Carrying around a roll of toilet paper in Haiti is essential.

2) Things don't always turn out the way you planned, or the way you think they should. And I've learned that there are things that go wrong that don't always get fixed or get put back together the way there were before.

3) Beauty and poverty are so interlaced in Haiti that you see the both of them within each other. You see the unpleasant living quarters painted in bold bright colours. The naked children clothed in beautiful smiles. The crystal clear blue ocean water that is the backdrop of a small struggling village. The hand made fishing boats that are manned with hard working men and children who spend countless hours untangling their nets.

4) Although we may be separated by border lines, bodies of water, and different governmental systems, people are people no matter where you go. Teenagers still have attitude, little ones love to be cuddled, open arms and a big smile are always a great way to begin a friendship, hand signals are definitely a means of communication, candy and bubbles always make children happy. That each and every one of us strive for success, for love, for affection, and most of all, we all just want happiness.

5) At times we all fall down holes that we can't climb out of by ourselves. That's what friends and family are for- to help. They can't help, however, unless you let them know you're down there.

6) Always check your bed for cockroaches or any other unwanted species before crawling into it.

7) It is important to always conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart becomes heavy with remorse.

8) You can carry pretty much everything on a moto. Including boxes full of groceries. And you can even fit six people on at once- although it is not recommended.

9) It is nice to have money and the things that money can buy, but I am so much more whole without it. The struggle makes you truly appreciate the simple things in life that you once took for granted.

10) Once you have been confronted with a life and death situation, trivia no longer matters. Your perspective grows and you live at a much deeper level. There's no longer time for pettiness.

11) My dreams of working for the UN have been blown up completely.

12) Soup Joumou (pumpkin soup) should be mandatory in North America.

13) Do not show up ten minutes early for anything- including government meetings- because you will end up being an hour or even two hours early instead.

14) Do not ever expect to get more than one thing accomplished in a day in Haiti. If you get one thing accomplished, be happy. If you get two things accomplished, consider yourself very lucky.

15) Sometimes letting go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.

16) Never travel without medical insurance.

17) Make sure that when you eat pancakes for breakfast you put the bottle of syrup in a high up cupboard where your two year old will not be able to reach it, chug the whole bottle, hide in your curtains and attempt to scare you, and then jump on your bed until two am screaming "I LOVE YOU MAMA, MAMA SAY I LOVE YOU"

18) There is a story behind everything. How a photo got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. How you ended up where you are now. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are unbelievably hard and heartbreaking. Never judge someone because you will never know every single detail of their story. And most importantly, never minimize their story.

19) Everyone will always tell you what you "should" do. But only YOU know what you "need" to do.

20) Always follow your heart. It is good to take your head along with you but your heart is where your passion lies, and only by following your passion will you find your truest and most happiest self.

21) I learned early in life that if you discover something that makes you tighten inside, you had better try to learn more about it. If you simply choose to ignore it, then you will never know what might happen, and in many ways that is so much worse than finding out that you were wrong in the first place. Because at least if you are wrong, you can go forward with your life without looking back over your shoulder and wondering what might have been.

My heart is aching like it has never ached before knowing that I am going to miss out on so many awesome things with my kids over this next year. I can only hope that they are able to understand that I want to be there with them and that they know I miss and love them more than anything in this world. It's crazy to think that it was only a year and a few months ago when we entered each others lives, but within that year we have developed such an unbreakable bond, now, they are my entire world. We have had so many struggles and obstacles over this past year and there were times when I began to lose hope and also times when I wanted to rip all of my hair out.. but to be honest.. I would never take back one single moment I spent in Haiti. Through the pain, the tears, the struggles, there has been so many more smiles, laughs, and love. These kids have given me so much more than I could ever possibly give them. This year is going to be the most difficult year of my life, but I know that this too will only make us stronger. I am so proud of all of my kids and it is the most rewarding thing watching them grow up into the little people they are becoming. I never expected to be a single mom of ten children at the age of twenty one, but it is by far the best gift that I have ever been given.

Right now I am trying to plan a number of fundraisers throughout the summer ! We need to raise $10,000 by the end of September to pay the rent for our house for another year. If anyone is able to host a fundraiser or has any fundraiser ideas please contact me via email ( or facebook. I truly appreciate all of your ongoing support and encouragement. I could definitely not do this without the help of all of you !!!

Friday, 15 March 2013

The Start of the Rest of my Life...

A year ago today I boarded a plane to once again return to this small Caribbean island of Haiti. I came to Haiti this time to help support an orphanage that was struggling financially. Little did I know, that a year ago from today I would become a single mother to nine children, at the age of nineteen. A year ago today I had no idea that my life would be so magnificently transformed and be filled with a type of love that I never knew existed. This journey has not been the easiest and I have had my fair share of struggles. But as I write this today I look back to that first day with my kids and have tears in my eyes... as every obstacle we over came, every illness we faced, every heart-wrenching event that crossed our paths, we made it- together- as a family. And I would not have it any other way.

I was on my way to earning a double major- BA(honors) in Criminology & Sociology at the University of Windsor. I had the most perfect little house, a beat up blue sunfire, a job I enjoyed, a boyfriend I had fallen deeply in love with, and a family that meant (and still does mean) the world to me. I had everything that our Western Society claims is "important". But something was missing. It had been since I had returned home from my last trip to Haiti in September 2011 that I began to feel a great void and realized how deeply unhappy I was with my luxurious life back in Canada. At the age of seventeen I had decided to do the unthinkable and book myself a volunteer trip to Ghana, Africa. On that trip I really learned what life is all about and I developed a deep passion for volunteering and traveling. It exposed me to things that I had only seen on television and made me develop a new sense of reality. I decided to travel to Haiti after my trip to Ghana as I had this ache in my heart to be once again doing something meaningful. During my first trip to Haiti in May 2011 I fell deeply in love with this chaotic and complex country. I found myself here. I found a place that I felt at ease, where my heart constantly felt full, and where I felt as if I could be my truest self. I fell in love with the people and their vibrancy and resiliency. So when I got this call about a small orphanage that needed assistance, it took me all of forty five minutes to decide after that I would pack up my entire existence into 3 suitcases and give up my former life full of the finer things to live in a small house with no electricity, no running water, tarantulas & cockroaches running up and down my walls, absolutely no furniture and to ride on the back of motorcycles and be covered in piss, snot, and vomit on a good day- human feces on a bad. To most- this sounds absolutely ludicrous. But within this past year I have learned lessons that my University would have never taught me. I have been put into situations that were extremely uncomfortable but allowed me to grow as an individual and to become completely open minded. I have learned to speak a new language within six short months as I had no one to translate or tell me what my children wanted. I have dealt with loss, sorrow, corruption, and severe suffering. It has taught me patience, persistence, strength, and most of all - love. I not only became a mother but also a teacher, a nurse, a tutor, a handy-woman, and a 24/7 on call support system, patient transporter, translator, affection giver, piggy bank, and a cater to whatever needs arise with those that surround me. What more could I ask for ? I am still learning more and more with each day that passes. My kids teach me the greatest lessons of all. I came here hoping to change their lives, but in totality- they are the ones that are changing mine.

It is astounding looking back to last year and the way that we survived with such little. I still remember using the bucket as a toilet. I still remember ONLY being able to have bucket showers and getting so frustrated because I couldn't get the shampoo out of my hair. I remember laying in bed with my BB gun and shooting all of the tarantulas and cockroaches that appeared from every crevice. I remember tires flying off big transport trucks into our front yard where our kids were playing soccer. I remember the humiliation the kids felt when our water basin dried up and they had to go to school or church without bathing. I remember throwing mangoes at my friends for fun. I remember that when dark hit at 6:30 pm we would rush to the rooms to find the flash lights and continue to have dance offs, domino matches, or play hide n go seek. I remember walking to the beach every day and becoming so bonded with a donkey. I remember the rare occasions (once every two weeks) when they would give us electricity and a huge celebration would take place. I remember struggling every day and worrying where we would come up with the funds to continue feeding the children. I remember being stuck on the top of a bunk bed paralyzed from the waist down and hallucinating from the Malaria that was rummaging through my body and not having anyone to transport me to a hospital. I remember when the hurricane hit and huddling together with a family that I had fallen so deeply in love with on the top of a mountain and embracing the winds and rain together as their house tumbled down around us. I remember being at peace with all of these things as well. I remember not realizing how bad it was until being removed from the situation. We made due with what we had. We lived simply and though we did not have materialistic items, we did have each other. And that was always enough.

I look at the house I am sitting in now and am still awestruck. I remember the day we moved into our house and the culture shock that overcame me as I felt like I was no longer living the life of a cavewoman. I remember my boys sitting next to the toilet for 45 mins and watching the water spin around in the bowl. I remember their confusion when I showed them how they will now have to shower (without a bucket). I remember the fear in Wilmen's (my nannies) eyes as a flame appeared on the stove. I remember the kids so excited that they could have cold water by putting their cups into the fridge. I remember the pure joy and happiness that overcame each and everyone one of us that day as we finally had a home where we felt safe, where we knew that the illnesses would diminish, where we had 1000000 hiding spots for the nights we wanted to play hide n seek. I am forever grateful for the kindness of those across the world, from complete strangers, from friend's and family, from everyone that has assisted us along this long winding road. Huge thank's to Bridge2Haiti for providing this home to us. Thank you to the Pollination Project for nominating me for the $1000 grant towards our Free English Class for my boys in the tent city. Thank you to the Jacques and Bossence family for coming down and assisting with the re-building of the Tiny's family's house that was destroyed in the hurricane. Thank you to the group of incredible British, American, and Liberian men (and a British woman) who have now entered into my life, as well as my children's lives, who have also offered kindness and support that has brought me to tears numerous times within this past week. Their encouragement and their love for my children has left me with a loss of words. I cannot thank my best friend Maeve Mcgoldrick enough for leading them to me. Maeve, without you, this last year would not have been so bearable. Your sense of humor and your ability to relate to every circumstance that arises has taken the weight of the world off of my shoulders on many occasions. Thank you to all of the volunteers that decided to take some time out of their normal lives to spend their days changing dirty diapers, entertaining my kids, and for participating in a new culture and lifestyle. Thank you to my hometown Chatham, Ontario for hosting fundraiser after fundraiser and for all of your media coverage and ongoing support. Thank you to Sarah Griffith for your advice, your assistance with MANY things, and for being my voice of reason at times when my heart decides it is stronger than my brain. Thank you to my family- who didn't fully understand why I chose to come here- but learned to accept it and assist us in anyway that they possibly can. Thank you to my parents for allowing your 19 year old daughter to take off to the poorest and one of the most dangerous countries in the world to chase her dreams and passion and to continue to stand behind her- I could not ask for better parents. Thank you to my friends who have stuck around while many others walked out due to my choice of lifestyle- thank you for understanding and for being there for me whenever I come home and carrying on with our relationships as if I never left. Thank you to Justin Parkinson for being an extra set of hands whenever and wherever I need them and for also being a friend that I can talk to and vent with about absolutely anything. The friends I have created in this past year never seize to remind me by their steadfast that truth, beauty, and goodness exist in this world even during our darkest days. And that no matter what, there are and always will be people loving people through thick and thin.

This is just the beginning of the rest of my life. I can't wait to look back twenty years from now and remember right now, this very moment as my kids are running around downstairs and lilly is dancing and singing to her own tune. I can't wait to watch my children grow into the people I hope and know that they will become. I am truly blessed and forever grateful. I have everything that I could ever possibly want right here in front of me.

Monday, 4 March 2013

A Breath of Fresh Air..

This week I have learned how beautiful life truly is- even amongst heartache, loss, and difficult situations. We can mope around and dwell in self pity or we can choose to LET GO. To see and to indulge in the beauty around us and appreciate that we are alive. I look into the little smiling faces covered in dirt and without clothes and see how genuinely happy they are. They enjoy life just because of its simplicity. We held hands- all of us- different races, different social classes, different dreams- and we became united as one as we shared a connection as we stood on the top of the mountain hand in hand. We shared a brief moment of happiness, or relaxation, as we overlooked the chaos below. These kids amaze me, they take in every little thing that surrounds them. If we participate in human nature- raw nature- we become our truest selves. Forget the opinions of others, forget expectations, forget jealousy and greed. Let go of the negatives and just breathe in the positives. Stop worrying what others portray you as, you know who you are, focus on that. We need to enjoy our earth, our land, and most of all enjoy other human beings. Take in their beauty and overlook their shortcomings. I find that instead of accepting everyone and trusting and believing that we all are the same deep down, we are constantly looking for flaws in one another and trying to belittle each other. We are meant to love one another, yet quite too often I witness us doing the complete opposite. There is too much competition, hostility and selfishness. We can chose to let go of this, we can chose to let go of the idea in our mind that everyone is out to get us, that everyone is going to hurt us, we must take time to understand, to realize that not one person out there is perfect, we all have our own flaws and our own demons- yet everyone deserves to be loved. Everyone deserves to be happy. On top of that mountain today I realized that I need to take more time to appreciate things, to sit down and relax, and to stop trying to change things that I ultimately have no control over. I have fully realized today that I am so much more when I have less. I am the happiest when I have dirt covered feet, less food, no materialistic objects, and just love surrounding me. I know now why these kids on this mountain have the most beautiful smiles. They understand what it means to truly be alive. They may have nothing, but they do have each other, and in totality- that is everything.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Cause Every Little Thing.. Gonna be Alright

Life in Haiti has twisted my mind on a lot of things. It has really changed a lot of previous outlooks and beliefs I have had. I keep struggling with sleep lately, its a battle that I just can't seem to win despite the exhaustion that has overcome me. For some reason I have been feeling unsettled, unsure of a lot of things, and questioning others. I have been battling with my head and heart a lot- something I am not used to doing. I have always been one to ignore the head and to indulge in anything that tugged at my heart; but now I am beginning to realize that by doing that I am putting too much trust into those who I care about and have end up hurt by it. I guess it has to do with me always seeing the betterment of people despite their flaws that I am consciously aware of. I seem to always have faith that they are just struggling with their own demons (as we all do from time to time) and just need a hand to assist them. But right now I am feeling disappointed and unmotivated after being let down by a few people. And it's the worst feeling. It has been a long, long, time since I have felt that way. And it worries me, as I cannot afford to feel this way here.

Although my mind is boggled at the moment, my vision is still clear. This is still where I want to be and where I feel as if I need to be. Nothing will change that. I may however, just need a little break to get back to focus I haven't had time to think, to process, to question and to search for answers from what little I know from life. So no worries on that. I am attempting to take a step back from a few things and let go of others and take some time to myself to clear this blurry head of mine. This past week I have a felt like a train with tracks that have seem to be never-ending hitting bump after bump and I'm about ready to break down- emotionally and mentally. I have come to the conclusion that I can't always fix others problems and that I need to stop running myself dry attempting to do so. So from now on, I shall sit patiently when a problem is presented to me or when I feel these tugs at my heart, and wait it out, make sure it is what/how it seems to appear before I give my heart out. Thankfully I have Justin here to hold me up and keep me going and THANK GOD he has the same horrid sense of humour as I do. So this is the mental mess that I am going through in the midst of my amazing life here in the Caribbean.

On a lighter note, we had our past volunteer Brandon arrive in Haiti with his Mom, Sister, and Brother. They have come with funds and supplies to rebuild Tiny's house in the mountain- a project that I have been hoping to complete for awhile now. Today we headed to MSC in the morning bright and early and loaded up on some basic supplies, doors, hardware, and lumber. We are going to purchase the cement and blocks locally in Montrouis. After buying a few things, we decided we had better take a quick visit up to Montrouis so we can have a better idea for the plan. We spent the entire afternoon on the mountain digging to lay foundation and breaking down what remained of the old house. I always love visiting the family, his boys hold a special place in my heart. They always scream and jump at me when they see me and cling onto me the whole time I am there. It's moments like this that remind me that sometimes following your heart and giving trust to others is worth it. The worst part though about going up to visit Tiny's village is seeing all of the naked children covered in dirt with descending bellies that are full of worms. No matter how many times I see it- it is still just as difficult as the first time. I wish I could do more. It tears me up seeing children like this and knowing what they deserve or what lives they could have if they were in different circumstances- this is another thing I am constantly struggling with as well as deciphering what is a need and what is a luxury for them.

On the way home to Port Au Prince we discovered a new little beach and resting ground. It is our new secret little paradise surrounded by sparkling blue water and gorgeous mountain tops. We were absolutely covered in dirt and dust and probably other things that I do not wish to acknowledge and the water was so absolutely refreshing. Normally, I hate swimming in the ocean- but this place was way too beautiful not too and the water was just perfect. I could have stayed there for hours, however, after a quick ten minute dip we hoped back onto the taptap and were on our way again. We hit traffic and it seemed like we would never make it home. I slept most of the way on the taptap even though every bump we hit I'd either come close to falling out or I'd hit my head off the side. When we pulled up the house the only things I could think about were food and bed !!! Although, like per usual I was in for a surprise. Before I even got to the gate I had a mom from the tent city come running at me and pulling me by the hand. She had been waiting for me to return all day. A little girl- 10 years old- was running around outside and tripped and fell and split open her chin. She did a good number on it. She had done it earlier in the day and the mom had taken her to two different hospitals yet for some reason there was no doctor available to stitch her up? - TIH (this is Haiti). The hospital and stuck gauze in it which was a mess when trying to remove it to see what damage had been done. I laid her down, removed the disgusting and dirty gauze from her chin, and began to work. Luckily I had two assistant by my side. We were able to clean it properly, put some butterfly bandages on it, treat it with triple antibiotic ointment, cover it up well, and give her some pain meds to sleep. My main concern is infection- so I will definitely be checking up on her daily.

Tomorrow we are heading back up to Montrouis and are planning to spend a few nights at the old orphanage !!! Ahhhh will bring back lots of memories. Good and bad. But I am sooo excited to get this house finished for Tiny and the family. It is going to be a long and tiring week for sure, but if we get it finished in time and find an extra day or two on our hands then our volunteers have asked to take a trip up to Jacmel- one of my most favourite places in the world.. and a good place to clear your head :) So now I am going to make sure we work extra fast.

Today I have been feeling homesick in a sense- not to the point where I miss my country or home- but just missing my family and friends and wishing they were here with me. I am really missing my little brothers, my mom for her advice and telling me to just "suck it up princess", and for my dads awesome hugs. I'm missing all of the girls nights with my friends and laughing for hours on end and missing my best friend Brock who always brings me Dairy Queen whenever I am down as he knows anything with chocolate in it cheers me up (could really go for one right now). I have realized recently how much I have pushed my loved ones out of my life- not purposely- and not because I don't want them in my life or because I do not care about them (because I do a lot). I have have always been huge on family and friends. They were and still are my everything and my solid ground - but I believe I have been doing this because it is my defence mechanism for protecting myself. I have been selfish and ignoring messages or avoiding calling back home even when I really want to talk to family or friends- just for the simple fact that it hurts me and that its easier not knowing things and not hearing from certain people. It's difficult living here and I am always missing everyone back home, and it's even more difficult talking to everyone or hearing something is going on with a loved one and I am unable to be there as a shoulder to lean on. I have subconsciously been pushing everyone slowly aside so that I do not have to deal with the sense of loss. It's easier. It sounds horrible, and it is, but it's difficult to stay focused here if my mind is constantly drifting back home. I want those who I have done this to to know that it is not something I have meant to do or want to do and that I do think of you CONSTANTLY- even though it may seem as if I don't. And that I am from this day forward going to work on changing that. It's funny caring for these children. Although many seem the need to point out that they are not "mine"- which I am clearly aware of, I love them and care for them as my own. I made a vow coming here that I would do anything and everything I could to help these kids- that means they come first. Always. And I think that I have pushed people away due to the fact that I want to make sure that they remain my focus and nothing strays me from them.

Anyways, Lilly is wound for sound and not wanting to lay down and go to sleep. She has been improving wonderfully and no longer growls at everyone that passes her by (only a select few). It's the best feeling walking into a room and seeing her face light up and watch her little feet scurry towards me with open arms. She came into my life at the perfect time. She is able to fill my heart completely just as my other children do. After I wrestle with this little one to get to bed, its then onto to Tyson, then all of us are going to spend the evening watching Patch Adams - one of my all time favourite movies and then HOPEFULLY sleep and get a good rest so we can work hard tomorrow.

Friday, 22 February 2013

It's the little things..

Our house is full. That's right .. no vacancies. We have seven wonderful volunteers (including my daddy) and we have a bunch more coming in the next few weeks. I have been begging my Dad to come to Haiti since I began volunteering here a couple years back. He has always refused. But he didn't have much of a choice. I live here, this is my home, and these are my children. It's not so easy for me to jump on a plane and to go and visit him anymore. So... finally, he decided it was time to come and visit me. He couldn't seem to wrap his head around why I would want to come to a country that is full of disease, crime, and poverty. He couldn't understand how on earth I could find this enjoyable. That was until yesterday.

Yesterday morning I dragged him out of the house at 9am with Jodnise and Jodline in hand and headed down to Wharf Jermaie to visit their 18 year old mother who had just given birth to a baby boy (my Godson). Just driving down to Wharf the questions came flying. "How do those woman carry everything on their heads? How do people get clean drinking water? How do people live like this? I knew Haiti was poor.. but I figured it was like the other islands I've visited like the DR or the Bahama's where there is just certain sections that are bad.. but's all bad.. it's always right in front of you.. how do you do it?" We arrived in Wharf Jeramie and I brought him to the clinic that I had first volunteered at. Explained to him how things worked there. This is where we waited for the twins mom to arrive. As we waited we were approached by many others. I would talk and laugh and joke around with them. Dad just stared and walked around taking in the surroundings. While we were gone the other volunteers remained at Ke Kontan and cleaned up our yard and finished building book shelves (they had built me a change table the day before). When we arrived back at the house we loaded up the car (yes 9 people in one small SUV) and headed to Montrouis. When we first arrived we went to visit our old orphanage which is still the exact same way as we left it. No furniture, no running water, no working toilet sink or shower, no proper beds, nothing in the kitchen. It amazes me going back there and seeing how little we had and how we were able to live like that. I laugh and think of how at the time we just didn't know any better. We were used to it. We didn't need much, just the essentials to survive. I miss the beach and the mountains and the small village atmosphere. But I am still glad we made the move as life has become a lot more easier as we have better access to clean water, food, and we are closer to hospitals. Tiny and his family were at the house and after Pedson climbed up the palm tree to get us coconuts we headed to Tiny's old house. We piled 5 of us (Pedson, Petile, Tiny, Chaba, & myself) onto a moto and the rest of the volunteers followed behind in the car. When we arrived at the top of the mountain I was greeted by smiling, naked, and dirty children calling out my name. These children seriously have nothing, little clothes and no toys- but yet are so happy and loving. My friend Lucho met us at the house to take measurements and to make a plan for rebuilding the house. We visited with the family, danced with the kids, and then ran up and down the mountain side. I came across a mother who was holding a little girl- Lilian 2 years old- she was completely naked and covered in dirt literally from head to toe (she even had dirt in her mouth). I noticed how malnourished she is and that her brother & her were completely full of worms. The mom begged me to take the baby girl as she said she is scared because she is so small and always sick. She walked me down to their house which was made of mud and small sticks. The house is the size of my bathroom back at Ke Kontan. There was one small bed and one pot. That was it. I played peek-a-boo and chased Lilian all around the mountainside as she was laughing and growling at me. She can't talk much but can say Wi and Non. She was scared of me at first- but after a few times of tossing her up into the air she wouldn't leave my side. I agreed to take her back to Port Au Prince to take her to a hospital here and have her checked out and to see if we can get her on a nutrition plan. We jumped in the car and headed back to PAP as she slept the entire way in my arms. When we arrived at the house you could tell she was terrified- most likely never seeing lights or electronics let alone everything else in the house. We bathed her- the water was completely black after- she even had dirt packed into her ears. Her mom had pierced her ears (God knows with what) and left string in them so the holes wouldn't close. After we bathed her I dug through our suitcases of clothes and found a pair of PJ's for her. Before bed I had her dancing to Justin Bieber, eating bananas, and she found 2 new babies that NO ONE is now allowed to touch (stuffed bear and monkey). She slept through the night cuddled up beside me- her foot and hand had to be touching me at all times. It breaks my heart to see children such as Lilian. But it warms my heart knowing that I can help her- even if that is just by giving her a safe and clean place to stay temporarily and filling her belly for a few weeks. It brings me such happiness seeing her laugh and play and love her new toys. And this morning she definitely won me over by imitating everything I was doing- she watched me get dressed- she attempted dressing herself- she watched me brush my teeth and the whole time she was mumbling- finally took the hint that she wanted to brush her teeth too... so I ran to the storage closet and grabbed her a little pink tooth brush- she stood by my side and began brushing. When I stopped she stopped. When I spit she spit (although her spit went all over the bathroom). When I was finished I put my tooth brush in the cup, and of course when I looked over, hers was next to mine.

The best part about all of this, was last night. After I had tucked Lilian into bed and before Dad and I went to bed, I asked him what he thought of all this, and that I wanted his honest opinion. He said he is just astonished, he didn't realize how many people we were helping, how many kids we were caring for. He told me he is so proud of me and supports what I am doing 100%. He told me that before, he wasn't really supportive because he didn't really know what I was doing here, he thought it was just a phase I was going through. He expressed how amazing he thinks my kids are and that he just doesn't understand how I'm doing it as he had a difficult enough time just raising my brother and I. He had no idea of the mass amount of people living in poverty and the kids that are walking around without shoes and who are not attending school. I absolutely love having my Dad here. He has helped around the house, loves holding the babies- him and Tyson have become pals, he feeds them, plays with them, and most of all.. he's getting to see what my new life consists of and he's actually taking the time to understand it. I have never felt so happy before just watching him wake up at the crack of dawn to open the gate for the tent city boys and to start a game of soccer with them while everyone is still in bed. I hands down could not ask for a better father. I am dreading tomorrow evening when he will be leaving Haiti and heading back to the cold country. Even though his stay has been short, it has been great. And I really hope he returns again.

I want to thank all of my volunteers who have come down this month to help- Shannon, Aaron, Pete, Justin, Mackenzie, Starr, Dad- you have been a blast and have allowed us to accomplish so much. Thank you to Starr and Mackenzie for hosting a fundraiser to not only come down to Haiti to help us out but to also help out the families around us and the tent city. They bought enough food to give the tent city near our house a good meal and also bought one of my boys (Chrisnel) from the tent city clothes and shoes as his mother passed away and his father pays no attention to him. Every day he comes here he is wearing the same dirty clothes and shoes with holes in them. They have also bought the supplies for us to build a chicken coop, bought food for the other children we are supporting, and paid for groceries for us. I truly appreciate your hard work and generosity and for also thinking of the others we are supporting around us !!!! I am enlightened that you both are willing to reach out to the community and I know they are very grateful. Thank you to the men- Justin, Pete, Dad, Val, Aaron for your building skills and hard work. Thank you to Shannon for always taking the crying and poopy diaper babies. And thank you to all of you for helping to make our yard look a little more beautiful. As I am writing this Shannon, Aaron, Val, Justin, Pete, and Dad are at MSC Plus buying our chicken coop supplies and I have just come back from buying our first 3 live chickens !!! WOOOHOO

Looking back at my life now I have realized how all the little moments in my life have added up to this. To where I am at right now. How the things I thought would never matter in the future, actually take up the biggest part of my past. If I would have followed the crowd, if I would have done what I was "suppose" to do, look at all I'd be missing. My life isn't perfect. We have our ups and downs, we struggle, but it's not me alone, it's us- as a family. Most days I wonder how we will survive the next month let alone the next year. Each day I wake up exhausted- physically, mentally, and emotionally- whether it be from crying babies keeping me up, memories that haunt my dreams, or my own damn head over-thinking and worrying about the things I cannot control. But then my kids and those that surround me here in Haiti remind me that although life here is tough (and extremely frustrating at times), my heart is always full, and that's enough for me. That's enough to keep me going. That is all I will ever need. The rest will figure itself out. Even through the exhaustion and chaos, I constantly find myself smiling- that's gotta mean something. I am happy. I am right where I am "supposed" to be.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Chaotic & Content

Where do I even begin ?
These past three weeks has been a whirlwind of events starting with my kids all getting sick with colds, chest infections, and fevers to cholera rummaging through the tent camp near my house. My first week back consisted of 5 days without sleep, 3 days without a meal, and 2 days without a shower. It was constantly go, go, go. I didn't have time to even stop and think. Whenever an emergency arises my mind stays totally focused on that cause, nothing else. As soon as I would get into my room and about to lay on my bed, something else would come up where I had to dash out of the house in an instant. It was exhausting and draining, but something I have realized is that I truly love this lifestyle. I love being kept busy and always on the go. On top of everything else going on this past week, we received the call about Jodnise and Jodline's mother who had just given birth to a beautiful baby boy. However, she refused to hold him or breast feed him and as soon as I walked into the hospital room the Dr was laughing and said "congratulations". The hospital is not a sanitary hospital at all- the baby had not been bathed, the sheets had not been changed, and the poor mom was laying there completely naked. I spoke with the mother (who is only 18 & now has 3 children under the age of 2 years & no home) and told her that she needs to keep her baby. I told her I would help her when I can and that I will continue to care for her two twin daughters until she is able to get back on her feet (she also had a C section). She has asked me to be the Godmother of the new nameless baby boy- which I have agreed to do.

So back to the tent city issue- we had 13 people in the camp fall ill with Cholera within these past 2 weeks- including 2 children under the age of 2 years. It was terrible. I had people constantly coming to the gate letting me know that another was sick. After distributing rehydration salts, clean water, and fever reducers- I decided that still wasn't enough. That is when I met with my friend Lucho from the organization Give Love to discuss how we could improve their sanitary condition. They are currently going to the washroom (yes #2) in plastic bags and leaving those bags inside their tents. They wait until nightfall until they scurry from their tents and dispose of their waste on the streets. Well, this street is right in front of my house and is downhill- whenever they dispose of their waste and a rainfall occurs, it gets washed right back into their little community. The hard thing about this camp is that there are so many people enclosed into one tiny space therefore as soon as one becomes sick- the others do as well. Lucho and I decided that the most important thing right now is to create a hand-washing station for them to help prevent the spread of germs & bacteria, we have also discussed about putting in compost toilets as well. Lucho is a very busy guy but literally dropped all of his other projects for those 2 days and focused on this tent camp. He put his heart into and I admire the way he works. He not only gets the job done but also gets the community involved, we all worked together. After meeting with Lucho and discussing the potential project, he called me the very next day and asked if I was ready to head to the MSC store to purchase the supplies needed to build a hand-washing station. We jumped in his truck and we were on our way !!!! On the way there I received a call from Val about another baby that had fallen ill with cholera and was in serious condition. We got the supplies then I headed home to check up on the baby. She had been vomiting and had diarrhea for 3 days but the mom was too afraid to let me know- as cholera is something that is looked down upon in Haiti. I gave her rehydration salts and bottles of water and we kept her hydrated. Lucho and David (a friend of Lucho's who also does environmental work in Haiti) stayed up all night working in the dark on the hand-washing station. The next day they came to install it. We walked down to the tent camp and not only installed the hand-washing station but also sprayed the area with a natural product that rids of bacteria, as well as cleaned up a lot of the garbage and shovelled it into the back of Lucho's truck which he disposed of. It was a very long day, but also a very successful one indeed !!! I got really excited today when the men from the camp came over with the empty barrels to fill with purified water and asked for more handsoap. I am extremely pleased to inform everyone that the camp is improving day by day and we have only had 2 outbreaks this week !!!!!!!!

I have been thinking a lot lately about the lessons I have learned in Haiti and how when I first came here, I thought I knew so much.. when really.. I knew nothing. I look around at my life today and just simply laugh. I paused today in the midst of what I was doing and took a glance at all of the baby toys scattered all over our living room floor, how we have an entire refrigerator full of just baby bottles, how the two twins had spread apple pieces not only all over the ground- but also all over themselves and Tyson, how I am sitting here typing this blog while trying to entertain the two babies on my lap, and how all of this is just become so normal to me. When I first arrived in Haiti I knew next to nothing about the culture. I thought it was weird that people kissed each other on the cheek to greet one another, however now, when I return home I lean in for that kiss and have to stop myself reminding me that's not what we do in Canada. I thought that being so squished together in a taptap or on a bus was weird, but now I climb right on up and invite everyone into my personal space. I thought how people sang and danced in the streets was weird, now I absolutely love it and sometimes it even changes my entire day around. I thought that every child I passed on the street I had to give money too, but now I understand that sometimes it ends up doing more damage then good. Riding on the back of a moto with no helmet has become normal, holding three babies on my lap in the front seat of a car is normal, sitting in the pitch black trying to change a diaper is normal, having absolutely no privacy- even when showering as you constantly have kids entering your room asking you questions is normal, burning your trash in the backyard- including plastics is normal. Its funny how your definition of "normal" changes. I laugh now when volunteers come and are worried about bugs, bucket showers, trash on the ground, riding in vehicles with no seat belts, how you can drink prestige on the streets or in a car, how they get so frustrated when there is no power or running water... now I laugh and say TIH (This is Haiti). I am still learning more about Haiti every day as I am still naive about many things. But I do love this culture, I do love the lessons I have learned, and I do love what it has taught me about myself.

There has been some things weighing on my mind lately that I am really struggling with. I had an interesting conversation the other night with two of my Haitian friends, who managed to put some issues I've been having into perspective. They asked me if I went through culture shock when I arrived in Haiti, and wondered how I was able to adjust. I told them about my initial feelings and thoughts when I arrived (kind of what I stated above), and talked about what things were hardest for me to "get used to"- primarily it was the pollution and poverty that were so hard to get over. I explained to them how I've had to adjust to the level of dirt, grime, and overall unsanitary conditions you are faced with on a daily basis in Haiti, how people throw trash everywhere without seeming to care, and the huge disparities between the rich and poor, and how little involvement the government has in their people. It hurts me to see the lack of health care and education and how the value of life is so low. The first thing they said is "well you just have to get used to it and start shutting it out. You have too big of a heart Emily, you are just going to overwhelm yourself. If you get upset about these things you will be upset all the time because they aren't changing. In short; desensitize yourself". It was funny to hear them say that as the "desensitized" issue is what I have been struggling with the greatest. I have always reminded myself to never become bitter, to always keep my heart the same as it was when I first arrived, but now... taking a step back I have realized I have not been listening to myself or taking my own advice. I find my points of weakness are when the exhaustion hits. Driving around today and having volunteers ask questions I have realized I have become somewhat desensitized to the poverty around me. When I first arrived here, the begging children on the streets of Port Au Prince really shocked me and put me in a state of gloom. All I wanted to do was help those children. I was advised to never give money because then more children will come out of nowhere and it could lead to a riot in the street. I struggled with that for the longest time- the not giving. After spending more and more time here though I find myself getting annoyed with the beggers, which is really upsetting me. I think the desensitization is possibly a personal defence mechanism I have obliviously obtained through time against the feeling of being miserable and guilty 24/7. But I still am pissed at myself with becoming annoyed with the demands for money- as I truly know and believe that those people do need it more than myself and I can always spare a little change. I don't have any idea what it is like to be so desperate for the essentials. It's kind of a viscious cycle where we feel bad for the children, then get annoyed through our desensitization, then we feel miserable for having become desensitized. Can you choose the degree to which you are emotionally distanced? I know that no matter how desensitized I think I am, when someone comes to me with an issue- whether it be their health, their home, their food, their family- and I look into their eyes, I realize how wrong I am. Although I may be desensitized to the things around me, such as the enivronment, when it comes to human emotion or need- when I actually hear their stories and see their struggles and put myself into their shoes.. I don't think I will ever be able to become desensitized to that, I will never be able to ignore personal connections and the guilt I feel as once again my heart begins to ache and I get drawn back into the motion of rushing around trying to figure out what I can do to help them. So I guess my biggest goal right now is to stop trying to ignore what is going on around me- to still take it in- even if it does hurt and to grow from it like I did when I first touched down on the Haitian soil. I want to take more time getting to know people and their stories. My goal is to never become so desensitized that I stop making connections and stop helping those that need it the most.

Last Saturday I headed to Okap (Cap Haitian) with a few friends to participate in Haiti's annual carnival. I had gotten a taste for the Carnival this past summer when I spent an afternoon at the Flower Carnival in Port Au Prince- but man was I ever in for a surprise. It was the craziest, chaotic, yet the most amazing and exhilarating event I have ever attended. Haitians really do know how to party. Thankfully I had some connections that were able to get us up onto a stand and to visit the different floats instead of being trampled to death on the ground below. I can honestly say that this trip is one that will stick with me forever and thank you to all of my amazing friends that made this trip that much better !!!

My Dad is arriving in Haiti in two days and I am extremely excited. When he told me he was ACTUALLY coming this time I found myself with tears streaming from my eyes. I have been waiting for this day since I first started my volunteer work. I can't wait to show my Dad the side of Haiti he doesn't even know exists. I can't wait for him to meet the people that have stolen my heart and I am even more excited for him to meet my babies and understand why I have chosen to stay. Right now we have a rather large group of volunteers- 3 from my home town, and 3 that were previous volunteers. It is a full house !!! We spent the day yesterday in Cite Soleil at the school that Bridge2Haiti sponsors for a dance party. It was a blast especially with the Cyborg dance team. However, I am now resembling a lobster due to my sunburn. Which has added to my ongoing exhaustion. Today we spent the day at the beach with the kids and the volunteers- swimming, dancing, playing soccer, and enjoying a feast (and of course I remained in the shade) !!! On the 25th we have a family coming down that has sponsored the building of Tiny's house. I am really looking forward to finally getting this project started- and finished.

Well, I am exhausted and Tyson has finally cut his first tooth- which means there has been many recent sleepless nights and probably a few more to come. Sweet dreams.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

One way ticket to Happiness..

This week sure has been an adventure to say the least. From Port Au Prince to Jacmel to Montrouis to Cite Soleil and then to the airport to say goodbye to two great friends who I have definitely enjoyed having here in Haiti with me.

Since returning to Haiti it has seriously just been non-stop go. I have numerous unanswered emails, facebook messages, and even text messages, so I apologize to those who I have still not responded too- I'm working on it !!! I tried to get as much accomplished this week as I possibly could.

Since being away, my babies have grown so much. It makes me sad. Tyson is now pulling himself up, he has a very distinctive laugh, and he is a little bugger now !!! The twins have finally grown hair and are bigger and have wonderful spunky personalities that make you smile non-stop. Norens is still the same old Norens- loves to push buttons and laughs his butt off over the simplest things- his missing two front teeth make the laugh even cuter. Don is still "cool" Don but is also the biggest sweetheart he has told me over and over and over again how much he missed me while I was gone and is constantly giving me kisses. Don always knows how to make my day- he is quite the ladies man and knows how to impress us especially when he just looks at you and grabs your hand and says "You are SOOOOOOOOO beautiful" (yeah he learned that line from the movie "The Little Rascals"). Wendel has been ill and looks even smaller than he did before. He has been to the hospital twice now but still no results- supposed to be getting them tomorrow. Breaks my heart to see him like this as all he wants to do is just lay in bed. Christine - where to begin with her. She is the strangest, silliest, but most adorable little girl. She is quite the comedian without even knowing it. She has a very big heart and loves to help out with the babies. She will make a great mother one day (like in 50 years from now). Jenny is a very independent child- well let me refrain that- teenager. She has attitude but can't complain as I was just as bad or probably even worse. She is a huge help around the house though and is a good big sister to the other kids. I missed them so much and after being away for them for so long you learn to appreciate all the little moments you have with them. I do not know what I would do without my kids. They are the reason I can honestly say that I am happy and that I am where I want to be.

This past weekend I took Justin and Julia up to Jacmel to visit Bassin Bleu and we had the time of our lives together!!!! We sang our hearts out during the whole 4hr drive and danced and stopped on the mountain side to watch the sunset and to take wonderful pictures. We drove up to Bassin Bleu the next day and hiked up the mountain and swam under the waterfall. Julia and I are both terrified of heights but managed to find the courage to climb up the waterfall as the pressure from the water was making our hands slip. When we finally reached the top rock we debated whether to actually jump off and plunge into the water below. We were totally for it- that was until we looked down and saw the rocks and cliff side that we could possibly knock ourselves out from if we happened to slip and loose our footing. Julia decided it just wasn't for her and moved to a rock further down. After watching Justin jump I decided I had better do it since there was no way in hell that I would be able to climb back down the waterfall as that seemed a lot more terrifying and dangerous then actually jumping itself. So.. I took that 20 seconds of insane courage that you need to make a decision.. and jumped. It was a blast, but not going to lie.. it kind of hurt !! I can honestly say that this past weekend was probably my best weekend in Haiti yet.

On Sunday we decided to pack up all the kiddies once they returned from church and head to our old place in Montrouis and spend the rest of our Sunday at the beach. I decided to go and visit tiny and his family at the mountain top and I took Julia with me. This family is my second family. I love them and care for them as if they are my own. I was brought to tears seeing all 6 of his kids clinging off of me saying they thought I forgot about them. Tiny no longer has a cell phone so I was unable to contact them to let them know that I would be out of the country for a month. The love they have for me is so overwhelming and the love I have for them is completely and utterly unconditional. As soon as I stepped off the moto Tiny had lifted me into the air hugging me and kissing me and started yelling out "Manma, Manmna is here !!!". I danced and sang with the kids on the top of the mountain and we also watched the beautiful sunset. Julia took footage of their destroyed house and how 11 people are currently living in a small one room house made of mud and sewed together jeans. As amazing as it was to see them and although we had a blast together- as we always do- I walked away with a broken heart and an unsettled mind. It hurts me to see them struggling. They have all been ill since I left the Montrouis area and have lost a significant amount of weight. I am doing my best to try to support them but with not having a vehicle it makes it hard to check up on them and to bring them the supplies they need. I made them a promise- that I will re-build their house. They are currently taking shelter in my old home but the contract finishes in April, 2013 and then they will once again be homeless. This is a promise I have to keep. However, time is running out and funds are running low. I have sent out a request via facebook and on our website asking people to specifically donate towards this project as right now, it is one of the main priorities in my heart. I wish I could give them the world, I wish I could see them living comfortably and I think my worries and concerns will be more settled knowing that they will at least have a stable roof over their heads that won't fall when the next storm rummages through the country. Every little bit counts, especially in this case. My goal is to provide them with not only a home but also sanitation as they currently do not have toilet other then a small hole in the ground. I think putting in a toilet and teaching them about general hygiene would significantly improve their health and well being. My goal is to have this project started by Feb 20. If anyone is interested in partaking please do not hesitate to contact me.

On Monday I took Justin and Julia down to Cite Soleil to visit the school that Bridge2Hatii is supporting to take some footage and get some background on the history of the school. Julia is filming a documentary on our journey and our projects here in Haiti however, we decided that it needs to be a collective effort- I do not want the film to be focused on solely what we (Hime For Help) have done but what others are also doing in Haiti that are making positive changes and affecting peoples lives. Sarah and Christian are doing fabulous work in this school that currently has over 550 children. These kids are seriously amazing !!! I was chased around all day by tons of little feet and they all wanted to be picked up or to touch my straight hair. Finally after being tackled to the ground and covered in dirt and sweat I decided to take the kids into one of the classrooms and we took Tampico bottles (plastic Juice bottles) and I made music out of them and had the kids dance. We ended up singing "Baby" by Justin Bieber at least ten times and "Dekole" by J.perry at least 20 times. I had an absolute blast with these kids. These children have grown up in the slums of Haiti and most of them are literally living in a dump. Sarah has given these children an opportunity to get an education, to eat at least one good meal per day, and has also provided them with clean drinking water. I got to know some of the children and had the opportunity to speak one on one with them. I can't wait to visit these kids again !!!!!

Justin Parkinson and Julia Monk left today. Justin had been here since the end of November and has done such great work and I am truly impressed by him. There is not many people who get you- like completely- but he was one of those people for me. To be honest.. I did not think that him and I would hit it off as well as we did in the beginning but boy did he prove me wrong. From our long chats about life, dreams, frustrations, corruption, poverty, and just the world in general we were able to form a friendship that will not be broken. I want to take the time to thank him for keeping me sane, for making me laugh, and for assisting in changing, bathing, feeding, burping, and playing with all of my babies. His extra pair of hands sure were a huge help. Also thank you for staying with the kids for a whole month while I had to be in Canada. I know what you must have experienced and how stressful it must have been to take on the role as "boss" but you did a great job and I felt confident having you there with my kids. I want to wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours and I know that you will do, and accomplish many great things. I hope to see you back in Haiti soon. & that goes for you as well Julia !!! Thank you for taking this week to film some of the "behind the scenes" things we do here at Ke Kontan and for allowing us to voice our joys and frustrations about Haiti. I cannot wait to see the finished product.

I am currently sitting in Rebo Cafe (they have free Wifi) catching up on emails and messages with my friend Maeve who said to me this morning as we were lying on my bed chatting about our lives:

Maeve: "do you think things will always be this way?"
Emily: "what way?"
Maeve: "Us.. Growing old.. Laying in bed together .. Without husbands.. And you getting up when the babies cry and me laying in bed cause I'm lazy"
Emily: "uhm yeah.. Sounds like our futures"

Ten minutes later

Maeve: " Do you think we will always be this poor?"

I laughed so hard. But then thought to myself... I would be completely content with being lonely, poor, and stuck with a friend that likes to constantly remind me of both of those things.. because even though I may not have materialistic things, I truly believe I am one of the richest people in the world- I have all I could ever need. And a husband.. nahhh.. I got 5 little boys that already own my heart & their love is as unconditional as it comes ... :)

As I spend more and more time in this country I begin to think more and more of how impossible it is going to be for me to ever leave. After many years of searching, I have finally found my home.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Goodbye Canada Cold, Hello Haiti Heat !!!

As I am sitting here in the Four Points Hotel in Detroit enjoying my last hot water shower, big comfy bed, and flat screen TV and mini fridge filled with beverages (yes, that's right I am indulging) I am reflecting on my longer then expected visit home. Normally I despise coming home. But this time I was quite content with it. I think my body and mind were finally telling me that I needed a break. I enjoyed this visit home. I was able to spend a lot of time on my own just thinking and trying to figure out my own life as well as spend a lot of time with friends and family. I was only supposed to be home for 2 weeks, but due to health issues, I ended up putting up with this -15 degree weather for a month. I am so eager to get back and see my babies, this is the longest I have been away from them. A few of my days were actually more stressful being home then being in Haiti as I was constantly worrying about the kids or had situations occur that I had no control over and I was really in the dark about certain situations. I am excited to see how much my babies have grown and to just suffocate them with hugs and kisses. I miss all of my boys in the Tent City and playing silly games with them. I miss the mountains, the beaches, the craziness, and of course all of my friends. It seems like I have been gone a lot longer than a month.

The hardest part about coming home is having people ask a million questions and expect a simple answer. You can usually tell who is asking because they are actually interested in what you are doing and then others who ask because that's just what you do. A lot of people probably find that I am bitter when it comes to talking about Haiti and its simply because I can't emphasize enough that "you just won't understand" and it's not your fault. And thinking about Haiti and talking about it, makes me emotional and makes me miss my kids and friends even more then I already do. It just like talking about my family while I am in Haiti, it hurts my heart. It hurts me to answer some of the questions. No matter what I say or tell you, you won't fully understand it. It's impossible. Everything you picture in your mind is most likely going to be wrong. Until you truly experience Haiti- and I don't mean by just popping in and out for a week- you won't understand it. And I am not saying that there is anything wrong with not understanding it. I appreciate those that actually try to understand it. But for me, it's just very frustrating and upsetting to try to explain something that I am so passionate about and seeing people form ideas and assumptions in their minds that are completely inaccurate or ignorant. I still don't even understand Haiti fully- not sure if I ever will. But although Haiti has many many issues and problems, I have so much pride for the country because I have met the most inspiring, resilient, courageous, and kindest people. They are the ones that keep me going and some days they allow me to stop straight in my tracks and re-evaluate my life and my behaviour. I have found myself here. I have found one thing that I am so passionate about that yes- risking my life over it- is COMPLETELY WORTH IT. I wouldn't have it any other way. It seriously hurts me when my friends and yes even my family make jokes or certain comments about Haiti, it makes me furious. I know that most time people are just trying to get a laugh, but don't do it at people's expense. I often just sit there and won't comment but for those of that are reading this who do that, please stop. It also drives me insane when people tell me "look what your doing to yourself, look what it is doing to your health". If I could write what I want to write in response to that, I'm sure I'd have a lot of negative responses to this blog.. so I am going to censor it a bit. Look people, I do care about my health, and yeah I don't enjoy being sick, who does??? But I came to Haiti fully aware of the risks that I was going to be taking. I chose to give up my life and put everything I have into these kids and into helping the people I care about. You can sit there and tell me that "you can't help them if your sick anyways" - well no kidding. But I also can't help them if I return home every time I get a little bug in me. I chose to move to Haiti, to indulge into the culture and the lifestyle and no matter how wrong any of you may see it- if I am sick- I will do what the Haitians do. I will be treated the same way the Haitians are (well, not true as I do have better access to hospitals and medicines) I feel terribly guilty even knowing that I can escape any problems that may occur in the country- natural disaster, civil war, and yes- illnesses. I feel so guilty because there are so many people here that don't have that opportunity who need it so much more then I do. If they can tolerate it, then so can I. Us Westerners are so pathetic when we are sick or injured. We milk it with everything that we possibly can and just mask the pain with pills, alcohol, or other types of drugs. Imagine watching a woman suffer from Breast Cancer for 3 years without ever receiving treatment or medications and her lifting her shirt up and witnessing how the disease is literally eating her and destroying her body. Not only that, but then watching her two young boys (12 & 11) digging through the trash to find any scrap food to give to their mom as they have absolutely no money. Now please.. please.. try to understand why I don't wish to rush home when I get sick. I have stayed home for a month due to health reasons, but I didn't come home for me, I came home for my family and my friends- to finally put their minds at ease so that they can see that yes- I still have two arms, two legs and a heart that beats. My life has drastically changed from stories such as the one above.. that was one of those moments where I stopped dead in my tracks and just cried realizing how fortunate we are in Canada and the United States. It still breaks my heart to this day, it is one of the very many images that will never escape my mind.

I can't force anyone to try to understand the passion that I have and what I'm willing to do to fulfill that passion or live out that passion. When I feel passionate about something, nothing will come in the way of it. I will give everything I possibly can. Even if that means my own life. Because if I didn't do that, I wouldn't have a "life" anyways. Everyone always tells us that we only have one life to live and I always brushed off that saying without ever really considering the truth it contains. I understand that saying now. And if my life ended today or if I was laying on my death bed - the only way that I would be content with dying is knowing that I tried. That I did my absolute best to change a life, a situation, and even myself. That even though I may have put myself in vulnerable situations and set myself up for failure, at least I am not wondering "what could have been". I have a history of making decisions very quickly about people and even situations, I have always loved and trusted quickly- whether that be with someone or something- without caring about the risks or consequences. If there is passion, the rest doesn't matter to me. I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone and everything, but to assume that everyone/everything is capable of reaching his/her/it's highest potential. Often, I am a victim of my own optimism but sometimes.. but the odd time, people/things surprise me.. & that right there is worth it all.

The point of this message is that I am just so exhausted of trying to make certain people understand why I do the things I do, why I take the risks I take, why I am willing to suffer certain consequences if it is going to better another's life. If you are human at all and if you have experienced even half of some of the things I have, looked into peoples eyes that have actually experienced true suffering- then you should be able to understand why I am doing what I am doing today. You should be able to stop being stubborn and ignorant and realize.. that I do what I do because I truly believe that we human beings were put on this earth to love one another unconditionally, to live out our lives to the absolute fullest- instead of settling for what most put out to be the "perfect american life". I don't ever want to sit in an office, to feel tied down to something that I am not passionate about, or to go through the day to day motions faking a smile. I want to be happy, I don't ever want to have to fake that. I want to do what makes me happy and be with those that make me smile and laugh even if that consists of my life and my decisions being absolutely ludicrous through another's eyes.

“Tis' better to live your own life imperfectly than to imitate someone else's perfectly.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

The countdown is on until I get to run through my gate and be tackled by a bunch of my little rascals. I cannot wait. My flight leaves at 6:20 tomorrow morning, so early to bed for me tonight !!!!! Looking forward to not feeling like a human popsicle anymore, but will definitely miss my friends and family. Till we meet again =)