Our very own Christina Dyer, International Service Co-Chair, led a team of people to Haiti recently. After watching the video, check out the article by clicking "Read More"
The Rotary Club of Roseville Goes to Haiti!
Our very own Christina Dyer, International Service Co-Chair, led a team of people to Haiti recently. Read her synopsis below and then click on the link to watch her video...
The country of Haiti shares about 1/3 of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with its neighbor, the Dominican Republic. It is a tropical island with incredible natural beauty, but with a long, troubled history of colonization, wars, subsequent corruption and extreme poverty. Natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes have racked the country in the past decade, and have exacerbated the Haitians citizens continued struggle for access to basic education and healthcare. There is little to no infrastructure once you leave the capital city of Port au Prince, so those who live in the villages have no clean water, no sewage or garbage systems, no electricity, and few if any public schools. The majority of the services in the villages appear to be provided by international aid organizations such as CARE and UNICEF, and a multitude of Christian church organizations provide early childhood education and community services.
St. Augustine Episcopalian church in Rocklin, already had a partnership with a church and school in the small village of Thomasique Haiti, outside the central plateau city of Hinche. As a Rotarian, a trip to visit our sister church and school would not be appropriate without bringing some level of service to the community, as there are so many unmet needs.
Because the school has no electricity, our Rotary club of Roseville provided $1000 in funding to purchase the necessary materials to create lighting strip kits powered by solar panels. The kits were designed by an organization called Lighting for Literacy, a 501c3 in Los Gatos. The goal is to teach our American youth how to build solar powered lighting kits to improve literacy rates for kids in developing countries. We partnered with students and faculty at both Adelante High School in Roseville and Granite Oaks Middle School in Rocklin. The South Placer County Rocklin Rotary club also provided $500 in funding towards the light kits.
For our trip from Sacramento, it was quite a long journey, with 2-3 stops each way, and an overnight stay in the Miami airport. As typical with travel in developing countries, travel is never fast, efficient or easy, but it is always an adventure.  We broke down in the middle of a chaotic, busy, crazy road, with cars, trucks, semis, motorcycles, taxis, dogs, goats, and people all sharing two lanes of potholed “highway”. A Haitian man, who spoke no English, jumped in the front seat with me to move the stick shift car, while about 5 men pushed it to kick start its engine. They got it moving to much applause and celebration (and money), and we turned around and immediately returned it to the rental car company that had just “tuned it up and prepared it” for the rough travel of our trip. NOTE: It is important to focus on why you are there, and not how frustrating or uncomfortable the systems are. It does you no good to get upset. No one cares. It is an exercise in humility and patience.
Our accommodations were a bit rougher than expected. We fought off cockroaches, mice, bedbugs or mattress fleas (your choice), as well as malaria laden mosquitoes. Kalie and I had no lights, mirror, or garbage can in our bathroom, no flushing toilet or clean water. I showered after a long day with a cold garden hose type drip, and a flashlight in my teeth It was a bit shocking, but one can handle anything for 3 days, right?
My personal costs were high as I covered expenses myself and my two boys. It cost approximately $2000 per person for everything. We held fund raisers to help with some of the expenses, and our RCR was generous in their donations towards our travel expenses.
Some of the unique experiences included a visit to the country’s school for the handicapped started by a Catholic nun about 50 years ago. In a country with such great extremes and a daily desperation to survive, you can imagine how those with disabilities struggle just to live. Often they are shunned and cast out at a very young age. The handicapped school, as it is called, is a refuge of kindness and support.
Our project is what made it all worthwhile. The project served about 300+ people in a very small rural village. I was able to interview the dedicated teachers at the school and talk to them about their needs to help the students. The children that attend the school are fed a meal daily--often the only food they get that day. It makes it difficult to learn when you are extremely hungry and dehydrated. The children were happy to receive the lighting strips and phone chargers, but the teachers were extremely happy that they could have lights to work in the cooler evenings, preparing for the students. St. Augustine provides for the teachers’ salaries now, as they had been volunteering as teachers for their community’s children. All the people of Thomasique were interested in the Americans visiting, and were thankful for the very little we provided. It is a start…