Sunday, January 25, 2015

This past week, we welcomed our good friend Alan to Be Like Brit! Alan, as many of you know, was responsible for all of the plumbing work at BLB during the construction phase of building Brit's Orphanage. Alan donated thousands of hours and endless supplies of materials to ensure that our water supply and our water quality were the best they could be! Alan has returned to Be Like Brit many times as a member of the infamous group, Team Toro. He's largely responsible for the playground that group built for our children last March and he's also the man responsible for bringing more than 1000 gallons of water to the local community, as we share our supply with neighbors on an almost daily basis!

As you can see, Alan's also made a few friends here at Be Like Brit over the last few years!


Alan was here this past week working hard on Gama's new house - helping him install plumbing and working hard on the well there! Alan has installed a solar powered water pump at Gama's house, and so not only do we give water out at Be Like Brit, but now Gama is able to provide water to the community just a bit higher up the mountain, behind us! This is great, as it not only provides water to more people, but it also alleviates the burden on our own supply. Access to clean drinking water in Haiti is a privilege, not a right, and so this work goes far beyond the seeming simplicity of it all! We can't thank Alan enough for all he's done for Be Like Brit and for the people of Haiti over the years! He's a true hero!

While we did not host a Britsionary group this past week, it was business as usual with the children at Be Like Brit. We were overwhelmed with the number of photos people submitted to Amanda on January 21, 2015 - Brit's 25th Birthday! So many of you went "Blue for Brit" and the donations rolled in, too! We can't thank you enough!



When Amanda wasn't busy posting photos of all of you in your Britney Blue, she has been hard at work heading up the educational programming here at BLB. We asked Amanda to give us an update this week, as we've had lots going on in her department! Here's what she had to say:
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Since the beginning of the school year back in September, our teaching staff has been working very hard with the children at BLB to support each child individually in their education.  As you would find in any family or in any classroom, some of our children need more support than others.  Our staff does an amazing job of providing that support for our children, no matter what grade level.  Often in Haiti, that means a lot of repetition.  However, we are beginning to see our staff utilizing other methods of reaching with the children.  Many more hands-on activities can be seen either one-on-one or in the class as a whole!  This is one of the things I have been trying to work on with our teachers, finding a way to have children discover things instead of using rote memorization. 



We have received our first round of report cards, which contained 2 terms worth of marks.  I assumed we would receive them after each term, as I had to complete report cards for my students at the end of each term.  But assuming things you learned when growing up in the States is something I have learned that I need to let go of now that I live in Haiti.  So come to find out, the schools didn’t want to send children home with expensive paper after the first term to not have the parent return the report card to the school.  So we waited until December, or even January to find out how our 66 students were fairing in school this year.  When we did finally receive these, we were very happy to see that as we had hoped, our children were doing quite well.  A few need a little more support in certain subject areas, but the overwhelming feeling was that the children at Be Like Brit are doing well and often exceeding the expectation set at school.  Many of our children are top of their class!  Considering the majority of our children have come from homes where they previously didn’t have the opportunity to attend school, this is incredible!

So now that we have the academic area of our education covered, we are bringing in some enrichment.  As you know we have had the wonderful donation of the ABCmouse program by way of Peter Smith at Kid Orange Tech in Boca Raton, Florida.  Through this early learning program, all of our children are getting an early exposure to English.  Many of them have progressed significantly since the start of a regular schedule with the program.  As we are Haiti and Internet isn’t always top-notch, there are have been some days that we were unable to open the room with our 7 touch screen computers and multiple tablets to the children.  They are usually disappointed when this happens, but have come to understand that when there is no Internet, ABCmouse doesn’t work.  However, we are hoping not to have to worry about this problem anymore!  Jonathan has worked very hard at getting a new company to come in and install a better wi-fi system for us.  So far, and I knock on wood as I say this, we have been pretty smooth sailing!  I love being able to say, “yes” whenever the children ask to do something educational!!!  As an educator, it’s music to my ears!  We have also hired a physical education coach to come in and work with our children 4 times a week.  Two of these days are dedicated to the older children who have created 2 volleyball teams, one boys one girls.  The other two days, Coach works with the younger children and teaches them the importance of physical activity.  The children love when they have “sport” almost as much as they love ABCmouse! 





Back in December, our Program Committee member, Debbie Pallatto-Fontaine, came down and spend a good deal of the week working on our education program with me and some training with our staff.  During that week we had a major focus on RESPECT.  We decided as a whole that respect is the source from which all other things follow.  One must have respect for self before you can then have respect for others and for the things you have.  We worked together to create a “Respect Pledge” that the staff and children have begun to review each night to discuss the importance of respect.  We know that constant reminders will be the basis of instilling this value in our children.  As we say in the pledge, “Respect is the key to every door you would like to open!”  Doing these things, like emphasizing respect, are what I believe make us stand out.  We are focusing on the child as a whole and taking into consideration what we can teach our 66 children now so that they well be well-respected members of society and hopefully respected leaders in Haiti when they grow up. 



Debbie and I also took the opportunity to visit all 3 schools that our children attend.  I’ve mentioned many times, but I never cease to be amazed at the many differences that you immediately see upon walking into a school in Grand Goave vs. the many schools I’ve visited and worked at in throughout several places in the States.  The one major thing I noticed on that particular visit was simply the number of students in the classroom.  I’m a firm believer that smaller is better in a classroom as you are better able to give the proper attention to each student.  All but 2 of the classrooms we visited had more than 30 students and a handful of them had over 50!  I’ve had 30 children in a classroom and that was a challenge, I can’t possibly imagine 50!  God bless those teachers!  I am happy to report that recently one of the classrooms with 59 students in it has split into two, making the classes more manageable and much more conducive to the needs of the students. 


CHILD SPOTLIGHT: MAGDALINE:


(from Amanda):

I’d like to give you an example of just how your support is making a clear difference in the lives of our children.  One of our children, Magdaline, has been here with us since March of 2013.  Before coming to BLB at the age of 5, she had never been to school.  She was immediately enrolled at MOHI. When I moved down last summer, the first thing I did, which took a while, was educational assessments with each child.  Magdaline did fairly well for a child going into the first grade.  However, I knew if we pushed her a little more and gave her a little more support she would make incredible strides.  When I assessed her in August, she knew by sight identification maybe 10 letters of the alphabet, numbers 1-10 and could tell me her name and where she lived.  Just this past week, I did a re-assessment to see the growth that she has made.  I was amazed.  Magadaline can now identify almost all of the letters in the alphabet.  She can now identify numbers well past 20.  She can identify her birthday and even how old she is, not a common thing to be able to identify in Haiti, many adults do not know when their birthday is and how old they are.  I was even more impressed when I gave Magdaline a simple book to read and she was able to read almost the whole book with no assistance!  This is the difference our education program is making in the lives of our 66 children.  Through many of you who have chosen to be child sponsors allowing our children to attend school and allowing us to provide these enrichment programs for our children is what is making the difference!  I can’t wait to re-assess again and see the continued growth in Magdaline!!!


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After lots of frustration with our former internet service provider, we're thrilled to announce our new relationship with Access Haiti! Access Haiti is a local company and we've had amazing results with them and their team thus far. We're so blessed to have Pastor Scott Johnson of St. John's United Church of Christ from Kenton, OH, and his congregation who continue to sponsor our internet connection - making things like ABCMouse possible - among many, many other things! We're scaling up our capacities in our clinic and hope to have our telemedicine in place and operational before the mid-point of this year! Thank you Scott and St. John's in Kenton!!!

Many of you saw on facebook that Cherylann and her sister Jodi (a Board member at Be Like Brit!) were busy rubbing elbows at the Sundance Film Festival! What an awesome chance to spread the word about the amazing work that BLB is doing in honor of Britney and for the children of Haiti! We were thrilled to learn that Len and Cherylann's book, Heartache and Hope in Haiti, was included in the gift baskets many of the attendees received! We hope this plants seeds for more people to become involved with our efforts at Be Like Brit and even come down to Haiti to volunteer as a Britsionary!



We're busy welcoming our newest Britsionary Group here in Haiti, along with Len's arrival yesterday! The week is sure to be an eventful one, so stay tuned to our updates on Facebook and Twitter! As always, thank you for helping us help the children of Haiti at Be Like Brit!!!





Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Paradox: Grieving Death, Celebrating Life

Haiti is never simple. The familiar adage that Haiti is the exception to almost every rule really rings true, at least in most of my experiences in the day to day. It's not so much that Haiti's realities are unique to Haiti, but it's the myriad dynamics and complex history which seem to just exacerbate any and every situation that makes Haiti such a conundrum. No better example could present itself than the marking of the 5th anniversary of the earthquake. While we knew we had to recognize this date with our staff and our children, we didn't want the day to be dark and depressing. Yet how can you acknowledge douz janvye without it taking over your emotions and leading you down the invariably bumpy road?



We were fortunate to have with us this past week the fabulous Britsionary group from the College of Holy Cross in Worcester. Among the group was Father Jim Hayes, who blessed us with a prayer as we stopped all we were doing, gathered in the Fr. Bob Lord Chapel with all 66 of our children, our staff, and our group of Britsionarys, and observed a moment of silence with 33 candles burning.

As we sat still, in silence for 30 seconds, the children (as they often do) amazed me with the way they behaved. Even children as young as 2 years old somehow knew that this moment was serious and deserving of nothing but respect. One of our caregivers, Madona, offered up a prayer in Creole, too. While simple, the moment was perfectly apt. In those 30 seconds we reflected on all of the blessings we had all been so fortunate to receive, and thanked God for the gift of life as we continue to do our good work.

While we stopped to recognize and pay our due respects to the estimated 300,000 lives which were lost 5 years ago, we also had a celebration on the horizon. Our boy Dotchley turned 6 years old on January 12, 2015, and while all of our children are special to us, he is extra precious. Dotchley was nearly killed in the earthquake 5 years ago, and if you ask him about the scar on his hand, he'll tell you (even though we know he can't possibly remember). "Douz janvye" he says, matter-of-factly, as if his 6 year old mind knows or even really understands what happened to him 5 years earlier. Nonetheless, it is a poignant and powerful reminder that everyone we know - our 66 children, our 78 employees, our neighbors and our friends - all of them were in some way affected by the earthquake. That fact is inescapable.


As we moved on past a somber Monday, our focus shifted to the outpouring of love and support we at Be Like Brit were flooded with following the incredible press coverage of our work as the national media reported on our work. We were so fortunate to be featured in dozens of local news stories, featured in print and on television. We were especially grateful to have a wonderful write up in USA Today, and to be featured on NBC Nightly News' "Making A Difference" segment! This kind of national attention is invaluable in keeping Brit's story and Be Like Brit's journey lasting, and the support that followed the 5th anniversary was overwhelming! We want to thank Dr. Nancy Snyderman and her Producer Erika again for the great coverage! As well as Marisol Bello from USA Today! Mesi anpil!


As we moved through the week, we remained busy as always with the group from Holy Cross in Worcester, and with our medical Britsionarys on site! Dr. Vicki Kvedar and her daughter Julie first visited Be Like Brit around this time last year, and fitted seven of our children with glasses! They were able to conduct eye exams on all of our children last year and most of our staff! This year, they have already completed 66 eye exams on our children and dozens more with employees! They also worked two days at the Mission of Hope International clinic, seeing dozens more community members! Having this specialty on hand is a rarity and we're so fortunate they are with us!



We were also so fortunate to have Dr. Olga Smulders-Meyer on hand! Dr. Olga is a physician in the States with a specialty in Women's Health, and given that medical care of almost any kind is so sparse in Haiti, especially in this type of speciality, she was very busy working not just with our children on the normal well-child visits, medications, etc., but offered her services to the community, too. Again, this type of specialty is hard to come by here in Haiti, and so we know that the dozens of women Dr. Olga was able to see were so very fortunate to have been seen by her. Another example of how through our Medical Britsionary program we are able to continue the compassion of Britney, and continuously give back to our neighbors and community! Thanks, Dr. Olga!


While our Medical personnel were busy in their respective roles, the Britsionary group from Holy Cross was equally busy! The group was building a home for one of our security personnel and his family near to the orphanage. Fritzner has been with Boss Len and with Be Like Brit for a long time, having worked on construction of the building. His daughter works for us on weekends as a part-time caregiver and the children absolutely adore her! We were thrilled that Fritzner and his family would benefit from the hard work and dedication of this Britsionary Group! You can see the home that he and his family were living in before. Their new home, while simply by our standards, is a world of difference for this family!



 We can't thank this group from the College of Holy Cross Worcester for an incredible week of reminding all of us what it means to Be Like Brit! Thank you for helping us help the children of Haiti at Be Like Brit!!!



Sunday, May 26, 2013

Reality Check

I'll be the first to admit that it's sometimes easy to forget that I am living in Haiti.  Behind the walls of Be Like Brit, where we enjoy the luxuries of safe clean water, electricity, a backup generator, even air conditioning and hot water in some places, my general everyday existence doesn't feel "developing country" - in fact, it feels quite the opposite.  One of my concerns when we have Britsionary groups and visitors stay with us is that they won't get a true sense of Haiti - that they will exist within this "bubble of privilege" which we so easily forget is just that - atypical for Haiti, and as far from the norm and standard of Haitian society as one can get.  I worry about the effects of this bubble on the children who live here, too.  Given that their environments are so controlled and that they themselves are so safeguarded, it's something I often think about:  How will life in this environment affect these children once they are outside of it?  My job is to be sure they are prepared for life in Haiti - the real deal.  A Haiti I hadn't seen much of until this past week.


It's certainly easy for someone reading this from the comforts of their home in a place in the States or elsewhere, or even in the more affluent parts of Haiti to take the work we do for granted.  I feel like at times as the story of Be Like Brit and the lives of the children play out on Facebook, we do a disservice to ourselves and our readers when we omit some of the stark realities of Haiti.  While we all know that poverty exists and people die senselessly all over the world, I didn't have a true sense of how hard things are in Haiti until I set out with a child for Port-au-Prince this past week in an attempt to obtain services and treatment for the child's HIV infection.

After weeks of emails and calls, invoking privilege and name-dropping, the powers that be at Be Like Brit arranged for an appointment at St. Damian's Hospital in PAP.  I was to take the child along with our driver Francky to be sure that everything we needed to get done was done, and that any attempts to pass the child off to another facility or refusal to administer a given test or diagnostic would be met with my vehement objections and insistence on their following through.

We left Grand Goâve at 5:00am on the morning of our appointment to drive the some 50km to PAP and to the hospital.  Depending on traffic, the drive along National Route #2 can take anywhere from 1.5 hours to 4 hours.  Accidents, flooding, traffic jams, people marching in the streets, etc., are all possibilities that can delay a person by hours.  Our early departure hoped to mitigate the effects of any of these possibilities.


No more than 30 minutes into our drive, as I was nodding off to sleep sitting in the front seat of the F150 pickup, a loud bang and violent sway of the vehicle shook me and caught my undivided attention.  As the truck bounced along the smooth stretch of Route 2, I realized we had lost a tire - likely at around 50mph.  Keeping in mind that Route 2 is about as wide as any 2-way city street in the States, littered with livestock, motorcycles, buses, tap taps, people walking, people on bicycles, losing control of a vehicle can be, and often is, a deadly incident.  Thanks to the skills of my driver and friend Francky, I breathed a sigh of relief as the truck came to a wobbly stop on the muddy shoulders of Route 2.



Francky had the tire changed in no time, and I took advantage of the delay to catch a glimpse at a magnificent sunrise.  Francky was beaming with pride at his great recovery from the blowout and his even more impressive speed at which he changed the tire and had us back on track.  We moved on towards Port, talking excitedly about and laughing at what could have been a not so funny experience.

Port-au-Prince is unique.  I have traveled to something like 7 or 8 countries and always to the capital cities.  PAP is like no other place I have ever been.  I would have expected that by now, the sights, sounds, smells, and reality of the city should no longer affect me.  I figured that I'd be conditioned to this by now, and that as we pass by the tent cities and the squalor, the women laying out their meager goods on dusty sidewalk ,the street vendors jockeying for a place within traffic in the hopes of selling a bag of water or a can of Coke, the children picking through smoldering heaps of garbage and filth, the piles of rubble that sit as if the earthquake happened just yesterday, I'd simply look forward and be unaffected.  Yet for some reason, it continues to emit from me a very sad and bereaved sense of frustration and helplessness.  Indeed, with each trip to PAP, I question all that is supposedly good in this world and wonder, why don't we do better? 





As we arrived at the hospital in the pediatric HIV/AIDS unit, being sent from office to office, building to building, getting the run around on why we can't do this and why we can't do that, we met the objectives of our trip in to PAP - we got the necessary diagnostics and tests run that we needed so we can best help this child.  It did not go without invoking some level of privilege - even invoking what I would call "white privilege" - for surely if anyone else had complained about having to wait too long, they likely would have been met with a different response other than essentially being ushered into the laboratory for preferred service.


As we prepared to leave the hospital after hours of sitting and waiting, seeing children who have almost no chance of survival, I was emotionally and physically exhausted.  As we sat stuck in the traffic which is so typical of Port, waiting for a convoy of United Nations vehicles to pass through before allowing the locals to move freely, I noticed a large group of people start to move - and fast! Their shrieks and their exclamation meant something was clearly wrong.  As the crowd ran away from where we sat in traffic, we saw a man with a gun pointed at a man working a money exchange counter in front of a gas station.  The man took the money and ran - while the crowd, the UN and the police were preoccupied, directing traffic in an ineffective manner.



After this long day, we made our way back to the safety and the security of Be Like Brit - unscathed, and thankful that the day's challenges and misfortunes were not directed at us, nor did they result in any serious consequence.

This morning, I drove back to PAP with Francky to bring our friend Debbie to the airport after spending a week with us working on staff development and education curriculum for the summer.  The drive in was without incident - no tires popping, no robberies - but the usual sights, of course.

On our way back out of PAP, we were stopped at a police roadblock.  These roadblocks typically check to be sure the driver is properly licensed and the vehicle is properly registered.  This time, however, I was asked directly by the police office, "where is your Passport?"  As I wasn't traveling out of the country, of course I didn't have it with me.  "Where is your residence permit?" he then asked.  I replied that I was not required to carry a passport or a residence permit with me when traveling within the country.  I offered my U.S. driver's license for identification purposes instead.  This was met by a demand:  Money.  Give me money.

I felt the blood rush to my face in anger and in frustration.  The very people employed to protect Haitians and people in Haiti are so often the ones fostering the corruption.  While this officer asked me for a mere 300HTG (about 7 USD), he very well could have asked me for $500, or $1000, or whatever he felt like.  What could I do? I could argue my legal point but to what point?  I handed over the money, angrily and annoyed.

About a mile down the road, we came upon a body, laying in the street, blood running from the man's head.  A moto had been hit by a truck and the two passengers lay dead in the street while a crowd of people, including the police, gathered around to stare and take photos.  No ambulance, no sheet to cover the body, nothing but traffic backed up and people standing in the streets.

As if that wasn't enough, again, we were stopped by the police at yet another roadblock.  Again, the officer asked me, "Blan, where is your passport?"  My frustration was released in a very stern and very annoyed response, proudly all in Creole.  I argued that the officer had no right to ask me for my passport or for a residence permit, as I was not traveling outside of the country, nor do I live here as a full-time resident - whether or not the basis of my argument is accurate, I continued to argue that I was here visiting and volunteering for 3 months, well within the rules Haiti spells out for foreigners in the country.  While it's likely that he wanted the passport to verify I was not here longer than those 90 days, we simply don't travel in-country with our passports.  I refused to pay him anything, hoping I wouldn't find myself in handcuffs and in the back of a police car in PAP.

All of this speaks to the nature of things in Haiti - there is little, if any consolation in authority, or security with police or those who are supposed to be protecting you.  The simple act of driving 3 hours for medical services which should be readily available is a risk in and of itself.  As a foreigner, you are at the mercy of your host country - Indeed, this week, and especially today, as minor as "the shakedown" was and as insignificant as the $7.00 USD is in the bigger picture, I realized just how vulnerable not just foreigners, but all Haitians can be in the absence of an effective rule of law.

I'm not sure if the lesson learned is to carry my passport with me at all times or if it is to expedite the permit process (which, of course is long and drawn-out - bureaucracy exists and the characteristics of them do not necessarily change across borders).  I can say that my experience this week outside of the bubble gave me a new perspective on what it can be like here.  I realize that it's not necessarily unique to Haiti - but I think it speaks volumes about the character of those people who choose to sacrifice their time, their security, and even their lives to come to a new place in the service of others.

The 31 smiling faces which welcomed me home after today certainly helped.  Maybe that's the takeaway?


Have a good and safe week, everyone!

Best,
Jonathan

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Resilience


This past week at Be Like Brit was in many ways similar to weeks before.  We have been fortunate enough to have had three consecutive groups of Britsionarys with us, and in that time have built two homes, made another home safe and secure for a family of 7, provided food to several families, and given 5 goats to families who will use them to breed more goats so that they might have a sustainable source of meat and milk - opportunities they might not otherwise have ever had if not for our amazing volunteers.

In other ways, this week was very different.  While we welcomed a group of Britsionarys who came to build a house, this time, it was different.  The family of Brendan Scott Beck, a young American professional who died at the Hotel Montana just one floor below where Britney was staying, came to Haiti to build a house in his honor and in his memory.  While I'm not normally involved in the physical and manual labor parts of these trips, the time I got to spend visiting with and getting to know Brendan's family and friends was so very precious to me.  I feel so honored to have been even just a small part of their experience, and continue to be amazed at the ability of the human spirit to rise above tragedy and channel that grief and that energy in to something larger, something bigger than themselves.

Resilience.  I see such strength in people like Brendan's family and friends, in Len and Cherylann, and in all of the children we have brought in to Be Like Brit.  Just when you expect that the difficulties people experience in life might be insurmountable, the human spirit perseveres.  No matter how upset or discouraged I may get at times when I see the things that I see in Haiti, I am forever reminded of the amazing ability at people to press on and come together for each other.  I am thankful that this group reminded me of that reality.

While Brendan's family and friends were busy building this house just outside the walls of Be Like Brit, within them, things continue to be busy!  We are now home to 31 children, having brought 3 more girls in this past week.  We were fortunate enough to have among the Britsionary group our new friend Tom, a RN who volunteered a week of his time to come down and treat staff and children alike here at Brit's Orphanage.  While he performed wellness exams for all of our children, Tom was present for the intake of the newest 3 girls, and was able to conduct the necessary physical exams and tests to be sure we are meeting every child's need here.  He also was on hand when one of our volunteers needed an IV after working long hours in the unforgiving sun, and was able to suture a nasty cut one of our cooks sustained while working in the kitchen.
Tom and I also ventured out into the community and gave medicines and ran tests for some people I have come to know in my time here who were in grave need of his help.  We want to be sure we acknowledge and thank Tom for his efforts! Keeping 31 children and the 30+ staff healthy is no easy feat!  We are so grateful for your time and your knowledge!

We also celebrated Haiti's 210th Flag Day!  Flag Day, it appears, is quite the celebration in Haiti - as well it should be!  The children came home from school on Friday, May 17 each proudly waving their own Haitian flag and most wearing red and blue!  On Saturday, we celebrated the holiday here at Be Like Brit by having the children each draw and color in their own flags and in presenting them with a large flag which will be mounted outside the entrance to Brit's Orphanage.  The children sang and the afternoon was filled with singing, dancing, coloring, and just having a good time!  This is what I love the most - seeing the children celebrating with pride something so important like Flag Day - a holiday many of us back in the States might let pass by without much fanfare.  I was proud of my staff and proud of my kids for making this event as significant and important as it should be.

I'm especially excited this week to welcome our friend and Program Committee member Debbie Pallatto-Fontaine back to Brit's Orphanage! Debbie flew in today and will spend some time here helping me to develop a summer school curriculum for the children.  Debbie's expertise in curriculum development and early childhood education is invaluable and we are so blessed to have her back!

In the meantime, be sure to watch for exciting updates on what is happening here at Brit's Orphanage!

Have a great week everybody!  Here's a few more pics from the week for you to enjoy!

Jonathan









Sunday, May 12, 2013

Team Kabrit and an Engagement!

As we near the middle of May, it's hard to believe how far we have come in just a few short months.  Today we bid farewell to another amazing group of Britsionarys who called themselves "Team Kabrit" -(Haitian Creole for 'goat').  And yes, it is always tough to see a group leave us!


Team Kabrit chose to get involved in several projects, and the amount of work they accomplished in their short time here is nothing short of amazing.  The first task they accomplished was painting the house that Team Toro built for our friend and employee Jackson.  Team Toro started literally from the ground up - clearing dirt for two full days before even being able to start on a foundation.  Because of this extra work, they weren't able to paint the house before their time in Haiti was up.  Team Kabrit jumped right in and completed this new home for Jackson, his wife and their two daughters.


Another project Team Kabrit chose to take on of their own doing was essentially rebuilding an existing house! After learning that the "home" (a plywood and tarp temporary shelter) had been robbed twice by people slashing open the walls with a machete, the group went out and bought all new plywood so that they could install solid walls all around the structure.  They also installed a wood floor in the house and wrapped it all in a new tarp to keep the home dry from the heavy rains which are already happening on a somewhat regular basis.  To top it all off, the Team bought a month supply of rice, beans, cooking oil, milk, and spices for the family, a husband and wife with 5 daughters.  Lastly, they bought and offered the family a goat (hence their team name!) so that the family might raise goats for milk and meat and sustain them in the long term!  The generosity of this group was heartwarming, and we know they have left a lasting mark on so many of us here in Haiti!

Team Kabrit also brought with them exciting projects for the children at Be Like Brit to partake in!  Thanks to our good friend Lauren Gowzdz, the children are all sporting spiffy new tie-dye t-shirts!  Lauren brought all of the supplies, and worked with other members of the group to prep the shirts, tie them, and the process of teaching the children how they could participate!  The children weren't sure what to think at first, and after a bit of time it finally clicked, and the end result is priceless!


Another exciting event that happened while Team Kabrit was here with us is a first for Be Like Brit - two of our returning Britsionarys, Melissa and Ryan, got engaged!  Ryan popped the question on their last day here while visiting Taino Beach, a beautiful spot for any event and a favorite last day outing for all of our Britsionarys.  We love Melissa and Ryan and they have been so good to Be Like Brit and our children here - We certainly wish Melissa and Ryan nothing but the best and were so honored to be a part of their special moment!

We were also happy to have Len and Cherylann come in to Haiti for a short visit this week - it's always great   when they are able to meet a group of Britsionarys, and of course to see their 28 children here! The children are always so thrilled when Papi Len and Momma Len are in town! When the children hear the truck pull in the driveway, they run to gather in the main room to greet them, usually with a song they've rehearsed just for them!  This week, it was "Oh Happy Day", one of Brit's favorite songs! How sweet it is to bear witness to these events!

While things are always busy in a household with 28 children, there is no rest for the weary!  As we bid farewell to Team Kabrit, we are eagerly anticipating the arrival of another group, who (by the time you read this blog) will be safe in Haiti and likely adorned in children curiously investigating a new group of friends.

We are excited to see what happens this week at Be Like Brit! Keep up on our progress by following us on facebook and twitter! Happy Mother's Day to all of you in the States -  Haiti celebrates next week!

See you then!
Jonathan

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Team Toro, and other things!

This week, we welcomed a Britsionary Group who came down specifically to build a house for one of our employees, his wife, and their two children. This group of volunteers worked especially hard! Usually when we build a home with volunteers, we have our own laborers clear the lot and pour the foundation.  This is a labor-intensive task and requires hauling buckets of dirt out by hand for up to two days.  Team Toro asked specifically to leave this task for them! While they fueled up on Toro (Haiti's version of Red Bull), Team Toro has been working hard and working nonstop! It's amazing what a group of volunteers can accomplish in a week!


We also welcomed our first Medical Britsionarys this past week! Megan and Cindy came down specifically to be sure any medical needs of the Britsionary group were met, and also worked extensively in our own clinic, as well as two days of outreach with the Mission of Hope International Clinic!  In just one week, Megan and Cindy screened all 28 of our children, performed wellness exams, diagnostic testing, administered medicines, updated charts, and even saw members of our staff who had some issues needing attention.  These two worked tirelessly and their work is so appreciated!  We brought them by the Cuban Clinic here in Grand Goâve and to Lifeline Christian Ministries, too, so that they might get a sense of medical care and facilities in a place like Haiti!  We can't thank Megan and Cindy enough for doing all that they have done for us! Bon Travay!



As Haitians celebrated Labor and Agriculture Day, the staff at Be Like Brit took the children out to take part in their own way, each by planting either a seed or a sapling of some sort here on the property.  It's a great way for the children to get their hands dirty and participate in important events of Haitian culture! It's also a great opportunity to teach things like teamwork, patience, and even the basic skill of planting itself!  The kids loved it and we so enjoyed the day!

After the planting was done, we took the children out to a local field where they could get some good exercise, play, friendly competition, and just be kids in general! Thanks to the new bus, we were able to bring everyone and 6 members of our staff out together, and the children slept extra well that night! :)

We also have exciting news to report concerning a new relationship with Tulane University's School of Social Work in New Orleans, Louisiana.  I went to Tulane and am a product of their master of social work program with a certificate/concentration in global and international social work.  That program brought me to Rwanda the final semester of my graduate school study, and after a quick visit from TSSW last week, I'm happy to announce we'll be hosting MSW interns here in Haiti at Be Like Brit starting this fall!

The students will spent 15 weeks here with us, working on specific projects which will give them the opportunity to apply the skills they have learned in the classroom and in their field placements in the U.S. here in a global context.  We know this relationship will benefit both TSSW and BLB, but ultimately it will serve to benefit the children who call Be Like Brit home the most.  As we grow as an organization, so do our complexities, and it's wonderful to have a resource like Tulane University School of Social Work behind us!  My thanks go out to Dr. Elaine Wright and Dr. Heather Gillis of TSSW for their visit and the opportunity to work with them in the future!


We continue to stay busy here at Be Like Brit - and by the time you read this blog, we will have welcomed our next Britsionary Group in!  As my position is an on site, live-in position, it's always tough to see people and visitors come and then go - but we are always excited to welcome new faces and form new relationships with the next group! We are blessed to have the support of so many wonderful people, and our children are the ones who reap the benefit!

Have a great week, everyone!