Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Gifts to Haiti

Thanks to the creative efforts of the Bradford Family, the Van Werts, the Jewetts and Maddens, Susan and I have 100 beautifully decorated gift bags we are sending off to Haiti for Christmas. Each bag contains pencils, a toothbrush and toothpaste, stickers, a small stuffed animal or flute and candy canes (of course). This shipment is the result of donations throughout the year that are collected and organized so that we can provide a little something special for the students in Pignon. Susan and I sometimes kid about needing a warehouse (other than our den) to store all these items. I guess having to find a warehouse for storage would be a good problem to have.

Thanks to everyone who donated items for this year's Christmas packages. You can be assured that your donations will be much appreciated and will brings smiles to a lot of faces this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pignon Well Project Continued.

Just yesterday Susan and I received pictures from Jean showing the completed well house. This is the third and final step for the well project. Since my post last month a concrete slab was poured around the newly installed pump and it was prepared for the construction of the well house. Everyone here is so pleased with how smoothly the entire project went. Haiti Outreach did an amazing job bringing the project in ahead of schedule and under budget. The Oakhurst and Tracy Rotary Clubs were likewise impressed and pleased with how quickly this international project was completed. We've been told by others with more experience in international projects that Haiti is a difficult country to work in. This has not been our experience. We seem to have been guided to the right people and organizations that have made this effort unproblematic. Pastor Carsel's friendship and guidance in Haiti along with the experienced staff at Haiti Outreach have made this a rewarding process for everyone involved. We hope that we can work with Haiti Outreach again in another community. There is certainly no lack of need in Haiti.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Susan and I were so excited yesterday to hear that the well in Pignon has been drilled. We were expecting it to be drilled at the end of the month but equipment was available and there was an open spot in the schedule, so Haiti Outreach went forward and made it happen. This is such a wonderful accomplishment and whether through donations or simply an encouraging word, you have all played a part. It was just about a year ago that Susan and I made this a priority in our lives and we feel so blessed that it has come to fruition. We want to give a huge "THANKS" to our friend Jean Ronal in Pignon who has provided these pictures and who has been such a good friend. He has made our efforts in Haiti much easier. Also the efforts and generosity of the Oakhurst Sierra Rotary Club, the Oakhurst Sierra Sunrise Rotary Club and the Tracy Rotary Club must be acknowledge. These Clubs have gone way beyond what we expected and are the major financial support for this project.

Haiti, like most developing countries, does not know the convenience or health benefits of having fresh water each time you turn on the faucet. Thanks to our trips to Pignon, this wonderful convenience is no longer something we take for granted in our lives. This well will provide fresh water for the students at school eliminating the need to send someone to the river with a 5 gallon bucket to get water. It will also give the school the opportunity to start a community garden providing food for neighborhood families or produce that can be sold at the market. The well will be a life changing event for this Pignon neighborhood.

Again, thank you all for the support and encouragement you have shared with Susan, me and our friends in Haiti.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Back in the US of A

Susan and I got back late Monday night (Aug. 22) and are just getting back into the groove of being home. Both of us seem to have brought a cold back with us. Just our way of holding onto Haiti awhile longer? It was a memorable trip this year in so many ways. Tons of kids, 230+ on our last "school" day, some great Haitian adventures (for us these always involve transportation and/or food), textbook shopping in Cap Haitien and confirming well drilling plans with Haiti Outreach were all part of this wonderful journey.

The results of all our combined efforts to gather school, recreational and health supplies, five suitcases full (180 lbs.), were almost lost before we left the States. Seems that the shuttle driver leaving our Fort Lauderdale hotel at 5:30am just assumed that we were in the van with him, it was actually another couple, and he unloaded all the suitcases in the road outside the departure terminal and sped off leaving the bags there. Susan and I got downstairs at 5:35am, asked about the bags and nearly panicked when we found out what had happened. A mad dash to the airport revealed that, although security had been called, the bags were still sitting in lanes of traffic waiting for us to retrieve them. A mad dash, a close call and a two hour departure delay, but other than that it was an uneventful day. 

This year we stayed in Pastor Carsel's family home. As always our Haitian friends are gracious hosts giving us our own bedroom, preparing wonderful meals everyday and treating us like honored guests. By the end of the week we had the routines down for showering from a 5 gallon bucket and using the outdoor latrine. We continued to get favored treatment but we started to feel like we were part of the family. The Pastor's house seems to be the center of community business as well as a social hub. Lots of neighbors would come by to conduct business, sit and chat for awhile, examine "new" fashions that arrived in two boxes of clothing from the States, play cards or sit in the shade enjoying fresh fruit or sugar cane. These were relaxing times for Susan and I, a wonderful break from the intensity of 200 kids at school.

Although the time we spend with our kids in the classroom is draining physically and emotionally it is the highlight of each trip. It is the reason we go to Haiti. This year our friend Jean Ronal got together a group of his friends (Chedlin, Phanel, Lenna, Benjamin, Son and brother Joseph) to help us out. They were invaluable!! Without them someone may have died. A student? Susan? Me? These young men were there everyday helping to communicate with the kids, teaching songs, telling stories, maintaining order (of sorts) and being there to support us in every way. Susan and I are constantly amazed by Haitians' level of generosity and their willingness to help. Even in the most stressful of times, times when I was ready to pull what remains of my hair out, Jean would smile and say, "They're just kids" or "That's life". I'm starting to understand that when daily life is a struggle and everyday presents new challenges there is no need to sweat the small stuff. A good lesson for me to learn. All of our planning for "learning stations" went out the door on the first day. Too many kids, too little ability to effectively convey detailed instructions, the heat and the humidity did our planning in. For the four days of school we focus on a daily craft (paper plate fans, paper bag puppets, English language color flags and coloring project), teaching songs, telling stories and playing outside. Everyone seemed to enjoy each day with a nice balance of classroom time and playing outside. The Frisbees, soccer balls, jump ropes and balsa wood gliders were a huge hit and went a long way in burning some of the kids bountiful amounts of energy. Susan and my admiration and respect for school teachers continues to grow.

Well that is enough for now. We will be posting more about our adventures later and will try to set up links to photos and videos. Bye for now.....    


Friday, August 12, 2011

Just About There.....

Susan and I are making a final mad dash to get everything ready for being in Haiti on Monday. Thanks to all of your generous donations we are taking 180 lbs. of school & health supplies jammed into suitcases. All our personal stuff will be in a backpack. With the help from a number of educators we actually have some lesson plans prepared for this year. What a concept, right? We are going to divide the younger kids into 5 or 6 groups with the older students (18+) helping as group leaders. Then each group will spend 30 mins. or so at six different learning station. We didn't have this level of planning and preparation last year and still we realize that with over a 100 young kids involved it may all crumble into chaos at any moment. We are hoping that soccer balls, jump ropes and Frisbees will burn off enough energy to maintain a minimum level of control. Guess we'll find out soon enough.

Also...because local Rotary Clubs from Oakhurst and Tracey, California have stepped up, in a huge way, we'll be able to sign agreements to get a well drilled later this year. What a treat it is to get clean water by just turning a faucet. We are very fortunate. The company that is drilling the well, Haiti Outreach, has an office in Pignon with a 6 or 8 bedroom guesthouse so Susan and I hope that some folks who have expressed interest in going to Haiti may be able to join us on the well drilling trip, December or January.

We are excited to see our Haitian friends and look forward to an amazing journey. Pictures & stories upon our return....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Getting Close to Departure

Well some of my growing panic was calmed today. I have been really concerned, maybe overly concerned, that we don't have our "lesson plan" ready for the Haiti trip and there are only 17 days left before we go. But today Susan and I had a wonderful meeting with Annie, our new best friend in Oakhurst, who is a curriculum coordinator for Madera County. Annie shared with us her experience as a mother, a teacher and a curriculum coordinator. After just an hour or so with Annie my panic was fading and a developing plan of how to teach 150 Haitian kids was starting to emerge. We came up with a strategy to divide the students into smaller groups that will rotate through a number of "learning stations". Each station will have a different focus. There will be a music station teaching songs, an English language station, a P.E. station, etc. Each station will be color coded with a matching flag that the student will design using that station's color. This will be so cool! The kids will be outside being active at times followed by indoor lessons. From our experience last year we realized we needed to get the kids outside more often. Hopefully we can burn up some of their apparently endless energy. As has been the case before our appreciation for educators continues to grow. What special people teachers are. Panic fading, excitement growing.....

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Los Angeles "Kick-Off Event"

Susan and I wanted to publicly thank daughter Lauren, friends Art Becerra and Beth Andrus for all their hard work on our Haiti fundraiser in Los Angeles last weekend. The Be the Power of One "Kick-Off" event was amazing! Everyone work so hard to bring it all together. The food was fabulous, Art mixed some great cocktails and we raised more than $900 for our Haiti school projects. On top of this, there was a whole table of school and health supplies that were donated. We are very close to having the funds needed for our well and new textbooks. It was a huge success and we really appreciate Alfred opening his home for the afternoon. Thanks to everyone that made this event work and all those who donated. The dollars and supplies will go a long way in Haiti. Let's do it again......

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Busy Sunday in Oakhurst

Susan and I spoke today at two services at our local Methodist Church. What a great group of folks! We shared our Haiti experience and pictures with the congregation. Everyone seemed very interested and they donated some school supplies, money towards the well and a $25 gift certificate to Toys R Us. Between services we enjoyed answering questions and snacking on some Haitian treats that they baked up. Next week we will be in Los Angeles for our "kick off" reception for Be the Power of One. We are expecting about 30 people and we'll share info about our efforts in Pignon. Susan believes that we will soon have enough money for the drilling of the well so we are hoping to finalize drilling plans with Haiti Outreach in August. Both of us would like to be in Pignon when the well is drilled and it will be nice to return before another year passes.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Planning and Packing

Planning: Thanks to all the efforts of our daughter Lauren, friends Beth Andrus and Art Becerra our July 16th event looks like it'll be a wonderful "kick off" for Be the Power of One in Los Angeles. This looks to be a gathering of about 30-40 folks that have already started to get together supplies for our August trip to Haiti. It'll also be a time for Susan and I to visit with new friends and to share some of our experiences. We are very excited and look forward to a fun evening.

Packing: Our plan this year is to take our school supplies, personal hygiene items and playground equipment in a number of suitcases that we can leave in Haiti when we return home. The baggage charges really add up and it is still cheaper than shipping from the west coast to Haiti. By carrying things with us we are also assured that they get to the planned destination. As we grow and deliver more and more items to Haiti we will have to figure out a better plan. One partial solution will be to purchase items in Florida and ship from Miami to Port-au-Prince. This seems to be relatively inexpensive and Pastor Carsel has reliable people to receive the shipment when it arrives in Haiti.

So far we have 80+ pounds of school supplies packed and ready to go. Next week we will pick up 400 fruit and vegetable seed packets that will be for family and community gardens in and around Pignon. Susan and I think we can get the rest packed in one large suitcase but are willing to add a fourth piece if needed. In the end we'll be carrying somewhere between 120 - 160 pounds. Our personal items for the week will be in our two backpacks. What an adventure!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Seven Weeks and Counting

Haiti Update June 29, 2011

Haiti may not be in the headlines everyday now, but it is certainly in the forefront of our thinking. Susan and I will leave for Haiti in just about seven weeks. There is so much to do still. Because the five hour drive home from Los Angeles is just too much to take after a week in Haiti we will be flying out of Fresno this year. To us the additional airfare seems well worth the four hours less drive time home. This will be a real treat. We’ll leave Fresno on Sunday August 14th to Fort Lauderdale, spend the night near the airport and fly out early Monday morning to Port-au-Prince. Our return flight will be on Monday the 22nd. Both Susan and I were hoping to stay longer this year and scheduling conflicts put an end to that thought. While in Port-au-Prince we are hoping to get a tour of the University and to see some of the reconstruction progress that has been made over the last year. When we are in Port-au-Prince it will have been 19 months since the earthquake struck. We are hoping, but not holding our breath, that there has been some serious work done on rubble removal and reconstruction within the city. It has been a painfully slow process.

Because of everyone’s generous donations over the last year we will be taking three times the school supplies that we delivered last year. We’ve also been able to send more funds for additionally needed desks and school uniforms. We also plan to purchase textbooks on this trip. Pastor Carsel has told us that next school year he is expecting close to two hundred students. We will again spend some time with the folks at Haiti Outreach in planning for the water well to be drilled. We believe we may be able to accomplish this goal without grants from Rotary International. This will speed up the completion date for the well and free up grant funds for future projects. Over this last year we have had numerous people that have expressed interest in making future trips with us to Haiti. To this end Susan and I will be exploring housing options in Pignon that would be suitable for taking small groups with us. Stay tune for more on this. We are excited about sharing the experience and there is nothing that comes close to seeing things in person.

There is so much more to share with you all but this is enough for now. Susan and I both are so thankful for the support and encouragement you all have shared with us. We feel truly blessed to be given the opportunity to help out in this way. The friends we’ve met and experiences we’ve had through the work of Be the Power of One has enriched our lives far greater than anything we’ve done for others. Thank you.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Getting Closer to August

We had a great conversation with Pastor Carsel the other day regarding our upcoming trip to Pignon. Looks like this year Susan and I will have two teaching assignments with the main focus on English language skills. As we did last year, we'll be teaching the primary school age students ages 3 to 13yrs. What is new for this year is that we'll have a class of students 18 yrs. and older. We are not sure if the two classes are at different times of the day or if each of us will teach one class alone. This will be quite a challenge. Our respect and admiration continues to grow for all the teachers out there. Susan and I are both very touched and amazed at the number of people who are stepping forward to help with Be the Power of One. We put the word out and you all continue to make things happen. The level of commitment and contributions people continue to make is a real testament to all that is good in the world. Our local Rotary Clubs and the District office have contributed financial support, donated high quality fruit and vegetable seeds and continue to supply school supplies. Our friends Beth and Art at Rhythm and Hues Studios along with daughter Lauren are planning a July reception in Los Angeles to introduce Be the Power of One to friends and co-workers. Things just keep on moving! Many times Susan and I will comment to each other about how this has taken on a life and momentum of its own. It will be quite a ride. Huge THANKS to you all for your help and interest in this project.

P.S. We are looking for a creative, French speaking person to design English/French flashcards. Know anyone?? 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

College Scholorship Program

Last year we received a request from one of our friends in Haiti to help him finance attending the State University in Port-au-Prince. At the time it was simply beyond our means and we felt like the primary school's needs were about all we could handle. Now, several months later we've begun to consider setting up a program for college scholarships in Haiti. A number of things have changed that may indicate that this is a good time to begin working on the details of a scholarship program. First, we've learned that the cost for attending the State University is approximately $1500 US per year, including tuition, books, fees and transportation from home to school. Secondly, we've had a donor say that they would cover the cost for at least the first year. An extremely generous offer and truly a blessing that we are very excited about. Yet with this offer many other concerns have surfaced. Can we get funds directly to the school? How do we handle the inevitable and numerous requests from other deserving students? What system should be set up for progress reports from the student?  We are guessing that as the process continues this may be something that is handled by a selection committee. Just some thoughts for now. We continue to be amazed at the path that Be the Power of One has taken....

Friday, May 27, 2011

Update for August 2011

Susan and I continue to make plans for our August trip to Haiti. It feels so much better to be more prepared and therefore less apprehensive about the trip than last year. We are very encouraged by the number of people that are coming forward to help with the school and Haiti in general. Next month we will meet with a man who has a background in agriculture. He will be providing fruit, vegetable and tree seeds that we will take to Haiti for family and community gardens. These are high quality seeds that are inspected and certified to be imported to foreign countries. I'll post more details later about a planned fund raising reception in Los Angles and a start to our University scholarship program. Good stuff !!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

This August school dates

Susan and I just got the dates for our next trip to Haiti. Summer school in Pignon is Aug. 13 - 21st. This year we know ahead of time that we are the teachers. It'll be nice to be prepared. We've been asked to focus on English lessons. Thanks to so many of you friends we will be taking tons of school supplies, toys and health/hygiene items with us. There is so much need. THANKS!!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Great meeting in Tulare, Calif.

Susan and I just got back from a meeting in Tulare with a representative of the Rotary District office who will be helping us with grants. With the commitments we currently have from our local Oakhurst Rotary Clubs and matching grants from Rotary District and International Rotary we will apply for grants for well drilling, school supplies, latrines at the school in Pignon and possibly some improvements at Pignon's local hospital. These grants will be for 2012 and will be in addition to funds needed for on-going projects. We are both feeling very encouraged after this meeting. We have also decided to purchase a video projector with personal funds to help in our presentations. Next step is for us to save up for a video camera. We hope to have the camera before we leave this August so we can have footage for a new, longer video. Exciting stuff.....

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Charles and Denise come through.....

Once again Charles and Denise at the Bargain Barn in Oakhurst come donating two giant boxes of school supplies and toys for Haiti. They did the same thing for last year's trip to Pignon and Christmas 2010 for the kids gift bags. You two are WONDERFUL, thanks for all you do. 

We have quite the stash of supplies for this year's trip, mid-August, to Pignon. We are also excited about an upcoming event, July 16th, in Los Angeles. This event will be a fund raiser that will focus on playground and sports equipment. On Thursday we travel north to Turlock, Ca. to talk with Rotary International members about matching grants for our well project.

Good stuff happening, we feel blessed.

Friday, April 29, 2011

An Eye Opener

A close friend of ours just got back from a trip to Africa and it was quite an eye opener. Here is a part of what she shared with us,

"Tim it was truly an eye opener for me~ I never understood the need to help other countries when there is so much poverty here..I get it now....we have opportunities.....they do not~ Heartbreaking~Yes I am compelled to do something and education is the key."

 Maybe a school in Africa will be our next project.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Soroptimist International of the Sierra - Oakhurst, California

Susan and I are very grateful and honored by the generosity shown by the Soroptimist International of the Sierra, in Oakhurst, in supporting our work in Pignon, Haiti. Their donation will help to keep our primary school open and able to provide a nutritional meal for local students. What a great group. Thank you so much!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Just Sharing

I wanted to share with you all a Facebook post that I got from our friend Jean Ronel (Jn Ronel on Facebook). It was from mid-Dec and if I remember right I was asking about the election unrest and cholera.
Here is how he responded to our concerns.


To me this feels like a very true reflextion of the Haitian spirit.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Our Documentary

Be the Power Of One Documentary from Destany Star on Vimeo.

Keeping in Touch

With all the available techno gadgets these days it should be easy to keep in touch. Well not so easy in Haiti and other developing countries. Last August in Pignon we wanted to check emails at the local "internet cafe". We were told that the internet was down for awhile, we figured 30 - 60 minutes at tops.We were surprised when we were told it might be 3-4 days without service. Susan and I are working on a plan that may help in keeping us all updated and in touch with ongoing projects. We are exploring the idea of sending a digital camera to our friend Jean and having him take pictures of all the goin' ons in Pignon and Port-au-Prince. The shots could be uploaded to an online service for frequent updates. More later on this developing plan......

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Soroptimist International Presentation

Susan and I want to say thanks to the Oakhurst Soroptimist Club for inviting us to share our story about Haiti and Be the Power of One. What a great and generous group of women. Our community is very lucky to benefit from all your service. Thanks too for the wonderful Facebook comments and sharing our video link with your friends.  Link   More later......

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

One Year After the Quake

January 12th marked the one year anniversary of the 7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti. 47 seconds that changed Haiti and changed our lives. Susan and I have three presentations over the next two weeks about our Haiti trip and the work of Be The Power of One. We will be speaking with a womens business group, the Soroptomist Club and a local church. We are excited, honored and encouraged by people's interest. Just yesterday we received the finished edition of a 3 minute video that the Minarets High School (O'Neils, Calif.) media class created for us. It is terrific! Look for it to be posted very, very soon.

Thanks for all the support. There is an unlimited amount of work to be done in Haiti and so many other developing countries. We have our work cut out for us all.