Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What a Journey !

I'm not sure where to begin this blog as so much has transpired since my last blog. Bruce and I returned from Haiti in mid October. It was a very trying yet very successful trip. We had several goals in mind when we departed for Haiti:
We were looking to secure a rental house for the future mission trips to Petit Goave.
We were hoping to meet with the local pastors and the Mayor of Petit Goave in an attempt to them donate land that we would be able to build the "Village" on.
And finally, we were hoping to have the opportunity to sit and speak to Bobby and Sherry Burnett from Love A Child, a well established organization in the eastern part of Haiti. The have been there for 25 years and are truly a remarkable couple who have successfully made a difference in Haiti.

With all of that being said, we accomplished all three of these goals!!! The house that we will be renting is centrally located in the village of Chabane, just outside of Petit Goave. Our translator and friend, Renel, has a small store which is next to the house. All of the children and families that we have hold close to our hearts live in the same area, which is a wonderful blessing.

As for the meeting with the Pastor and the Mayor concerning the donation of land, after several meetings and miles of walking, they have agreed to donate 17 acres for us to build on. One of the only reasons that this was possible was due to the work of Scott Beegle, the young man who generously donated his time and drew up our plans for the village. Without the plans in our hands in Haiti, I'm sure that the outcome would not have been so positive. Thank you again Scott for your help!

On the last day of our trip, we were able to meet with Bobby Burnett at the Love A Child location. We were completely amazed with the entire facility. From the fully functional medical clinic that employees Haitian doctors and nurses, to the beautiful orphanage and school, to the building of 100 Haitian homes. Bobby made us feel at home and entertained our questions for over 2 hours. The information that he gave to us will save us thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of work. We are deeply indebted to Bobby and look forward to having him as our mentor as we continue this incredible journey.

Finally, our trip to Petit Goave gave us the opportunity to spend much needed time with the children who truly are the inspiration for us to help Haiti. Their smiling faces that waited for us to wake up every morning were a beautiful sight. Our days were blessed with their presence and our nights ended with hugs, kisses and "Love you Mom and Pop." Life doesn't get better than that. As usual, it was difficult for us to leave as we worry about all of them while we are gone. We speak to Renel once a week and he is our lifeline to Petit Goave while we are gone. The best thing is that we will return in the beginning of January with a team of volunteers.

On another note, Helping to Heal Haiti has been approved as a nonprofit corporation by the state of Pennsylvania and all of our paperwork has been submitted to the IRS for our tax exempt 501(c)3 status. This means that we are able operate as a nonprofit organization in which donations and contributions are tax deductible for the individual or business giving them. This is great news and I am so thankful to everyone who has assisted us with the tremendous amount of paperwork and hours required to achieve this. The next task will be to file all the paperwork with the Haitian government, something that I am dreading as it has to be written in French. Oh well!!!! The challenges continue to come in and we will find a way to work through them.

In closing, I again need to thank my wonderful daughters who somehow understand and support my need to give the Haitian children hope for a better future. I am blessed to be their mother. Please pray for the people of Haiti who continue to praise the Lord in the midst of destruction and disease. God Bless you and please visit our website at www.helpingtohealhaiti.com

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Heading Back to Haiti

EXCITED!!!! In two days, Bruce and I will be landing in Haiti. So much to do, 10 days to do it in. We will be spending the first 2 days in Port au Prince working with Pastor Freddie Hebron. Then it's off to Petit Goave, our second home. There we are hoping to find 7-12 acres of land that will either be donated or reduced in price for us to build our village on. We have been working tirelessly for the past 2 months completing all of our paperwork for the IRS to become our own Non-profit Foundation. We have been successful and are now officially "Helping to Heal Haiti, Inc." We have formed a board of directors and are blessed with the officers that will help guide us during this wonderful journey. Sandy Evans and Jill Bright are the Co-Chairs, Krista Lease is the Vice Chair, Lisa Scanish is the Secretary and Mary Wishneski is the Treasurer. Sandy was kind enough to find a young man who is willing to transform our pencil drawings of the village into a professional blueprint. It is our hope to build 30-40 Haitian homes, a church, a clinic, a life skills center,a school, a barn, a garage, a warehouse, a community center and a volunteer guest house that will house 30+ volunteers. It is extremely exciting to finally get all of our thoughts onto paper. Many thanks to Scott for all of his help.

Other wonderful news is that Johnny's mother had a baby girl on August 16. We have been told that mother and baby are healthy, but Haiti healthy and US healthy can be very different. I am anxious to see both of them myself and look forward to holding that sweet baby girl. We will be staying with Renaul, our Haitian translator, and his wife while we are in Petit Goave. It will be very nice to stay in a family setting and look forward to seeing everyone. We will be speaking to the Mayor and shopping for building material quotes. Finding transportation and cooks for our January trip and securing the rental house. Lots of business to conduct, many friends to see and kids to play with. We will try to blog while we are there, but Internet access is sparse at best. Please pray that we have positive outcomes and a safe trip. But above all, please pray for the Haitian people who continuously lives in tenuous, unstable living conditions yet continue to thank God for His grace and mercy.

Believing in making this dream a reality and thanking God for His guidance,

Shelly Meadowcroft

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Summary of Our Journey

So we've been home for 4 weeks and I believe that I am slowly getting back into the swing of things back in the states. I've returned to work and have finally finished unpacking. With that being said, I have had some time to reflect on my second trip to Haiti. When Bruce and I went to Haiti in March, it was a new adventure where we met incredible people and experienced things that very few people ever have the opportunity to. Whether it was the Haitians unwavering faith or the children’s beautiful singing, it changed our lives and empowered us to make a commitment to improve the lives of these impoverished people.

As we landed in Port au Prince in the beginning of July, we didn't feel like visitors, it felt like we were coming home. It was wonderful to be back, but disheartening that nothing had improved since we left, with the exception that the children had returned to school. The buildings affected by the earthquake, eighty percent, are still just huge piles of rocks which entomb tens of thousands of dead bodies. Although the stench of death has passed, the pungent smell of sewage and garbage fills the air. The people look tired and haggard, but they are still praising the Lord for giving them another day to live. They are very aware that they live difficult and trying lives, but they will gladly explain to you that they are rich in spirit and faith. The tent villages have not lessened in size or quantity. The tents are still spaced only 2 feet from the next and are now tattered and torn from the hot sun and the rainy season. Parents and children alike sleep in the sweltering, muddy, mosquito ridden tents where communal diseases such as Tuberculosis will soon become rampant. With all of this being said, we were still elated to be back in Haiti and even more driven to improve the lives of these gracious people.

Our team was a very diverse group in age, profession, experience and of course personalities. We had four Emergency Medical members which included Chris and myself being paramedics and Bruce and Randy who are firefighter EMT's. Two college students, Chris is a sophomore at Boston College studying pre-med and Kelsi who is a junior at Temple University studying psychology. Lindsay and Randy just graduated from high school. Randy will be attending Alvernia College for nursing while Lindsay will be studying Physics at the University of Pittsburgh. Sandy has Doctorate in Education and has been teaching at Octorara Area School District in the primary grades for the past 12 years, with a total of 17 years in the field of education. Michelle is a graduate from Bloomsburg University and is a teacher at Twin Valley Middle School. She is also a member of St. Peters Church where the members have been gracious enough to help support our team in Haiti with prayers, man power and monetary contributions. Bruce and I were extremely pleased with this incredibly hardworking, kind and dedicated team who joined us for our second trip to Haiti. We laughed and cried, questioned and problem solved, prayed and sang, broke down and rejoiced TOGETHER. It is our hope that they will all return to Haiti with us in the future.

Our time in Haiti was interesting and diverse. We spent time in both Petit Goave, a smaller suburban town that was devastated by the 6.1 aftershock, and the highly congested capital of Port au Prince. Although we didn't expect to be stationed in Port au Prince, we were given the opportunity to work in varied settings and meet some incredible people. One of those people was Pastor Freddie Hebron, a Pastor from Savannah Georgia, who has been working in Port au Prince for the past 14 years. Through his tireless dedication and faith, he has been able to establish many services that benefit the Haitian people. We were fortunate enough to work with Pastor Freddie and 10 of the members of his church in Georgia. We travelled to four different orphanages and churches to provide medical care to those who haven't been seen by a medical professional in as long as a year or more. We were even given the opportunity to go to Cite Soliel, an area that was determined by CNN and Time magazine as the worst place in the world to live. Although this may be true, the children were beautiful and the people were kind to us. Most of these people live in a way that would be found to unfit for our livestock in America. Yet there is minimal assistance, with both medical and humanitarian needs. These, and all the others that we cared for, are literally hanging on by a thread for day to day survival. The patients ranged in age from newborns to 90 years old. Each had a different story to tell, with different medical complaints, but all were extremely gracious for our services. It was truly an honor for us to provide care to each individual, knowing that they honestly gave us so much more than we could ever give them.

While we were in Haiti, our team was stretched to every limit possible. From dealing with extreme heat while sleeping in a tent, to ants invading our luggage, to living in Port au Prince which should hold 300,000 people but now has 3,000,000 residents. People who were placed in leadership positions were unable to fulfill their roles, and our team jumped in and accomplished what needed to be done. We debated healthcare with the Red Cross after we found out the doctors and nurses leave the hospital at 5pm leaving the hospital with no medical professionals. Even when we offered to volunteer to cover the night shifts, we were denied as we weren’t a part of the Red Cross. So through their own vanity, they were willing to have very sick people either wait 12 hours for medical care or possibly die rather than allow qualified emergency medical personnel provide care. Simply outrageous and this is a situation that will be addressed with the Red Cross prior to our next trip to Haiti in October. My point being that even though there were many aspects that were either out of our control or completely opposite of what we expected, we remained united as a team with a clear vision of making a difference in the lives of the Haitian people.

Since this was my second trip to Haiti, I was very aware of how difficult it can be to process all the experiences and emotions that you incur daily. Since four of our members were under 20 years old, we took special care to speak often about how they were feeling and what their thoughts were about condition of Haiti. By the end of our trip, I was truly amazed at the maturity and commitment of the college kids. Not only did they work tirelessly without complaining, they processed all the destruction and poverty and formed their own opinions on how we as a team can make a positive impact concerning these issues. All four students will be returning to Haiti in the future and are hoping to bring other students with them. These young adults will truly be the ambassadors that are needed to continually remind others that children and adults in Haiti are dying every day from preventable illnesses. Through their testimonies and drive to empower the Haitian people, I believe that we will be able to make the lives of these incredible people brighter and help restore hope for the future.

The future of our team will full of change and expansion. We are currently completing our forms to become our own non-profit organization named Helping to Heal Haiti. Our plans are big, but our determination is bigger. Bruce and I will be returning to Haiti in October for 10 days to take care of the business aspect of our mission. We have located a large house in Petit Goave that we are hoping to rent for the next year. It has room for a medical clinic and housing for our teams. It even has a toilet and a shower! We will also be looking for land and meeting with the Mayor of the town in hopes of having 7-10 acres donated to us so that we may begin the building of our first “village.” More details will follow, but we have big dreams that we are diligently working on to make them come true.

So, in ending this very long blog, I would like to thank all of the families, friends, churches and organizations that have supported all of us through this crazy journey. It’s your support and prayers that allow us to be successful. A special thanks to my three incredible daughters, Jenna, Kelsi and Abby, who understand my need to Help to Heal Haiti. “My whole world begins and ends with you.”

Tres bien merci ! Au revoir, Shelly Meadowcroft

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I arrived home last night from my trip in Haiti. I'm usually not one to be open with my thoughts, but after coming home I had a flood of emotions piling on top of eachother, leaving me overwhelmed and thought I would give this a try..

I have always been interested in traveling and giving back, and saw this as a way to get my feet wet. I got involved in this trip through my mom who had gone a previous time (which I was mad she didn't invite me) so I made sure the next time she went I was right there with her. I knew little about Haiti before this, the only connection being a friend who's family passed in the earthquake. I tried to prepare myself for what I was getting myself into and what kind of conditions I would witness. No news report, story, picture, or video could ever portray the type of life the Haitains live.

When I think about the kids I met, I find it amazing that they smile because the only things they have and depond on are relationships and faith. At home we are so focused on materialistic, nonimportant things that we lose focus on what life is really about. Yes, I am blessed to have a roof over my head, opportunities, and a car to get me places, but is that really wealth? Haiti changed my opinion of what defines a good life. My life may be easier than theirs, but my life is not as near as rich as their faith in family and God. What kind of life would you rather live?

After being there I feel a sense of duty to give back to the less fortunate. I was never able to wrap my mind around what I had done to deserve a "privlaged" life, and some of the best people I've met have been down the roughest path. Through this experience, I've learned that everything has a reason and I have the tools to help the ones who can't help themselves.

My overall experience was touching, and I definetly plan on returning to Haiti to continue giving back. I'm so happy that we were lucky enough to have a great group, everyone really got along perfectly. I find it frustrating that even though I tell stories of what i saw to my friends, they will never fully understand the emotional experience, but the people i went with will and for that I am so grateful for.

- Kelsi

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chris again from Port au Prince

So we are nearing the end of our Haiti trip…and what an experience, accomplishment, and blast it has been. Since we left Petit Goave and came back to Port au Prince, we have seen and done so much more. Upon our arrival back to Port au Prince, we found out that a visiting Christian mission team from Savannah, Georgia was also staying in the Department of Environmental Health, where we are staying. There are about 10 women in the visiting mission team, each of them with a specific job to do at the mobile clinics we have been setting up. Some work the pharmacy, some work the “in-take” (where people are greeted), and some work in the Prayer/Group Therapy area. Every area They are all great people to work with, each of them with their own sense of humor. We met them on Friday of last week, which was the same date as my last post. That night we sorted through endless amounts of medications, some brought, some found in the nearby warehouse, and some brought by the Georgia mission. The next day, we held a clinic for all the Pastors that had attended a conference run by the leading Pastor of the mission team, Pastor Freddie. Pastor Freddie is the man, he is a great guy, willing to do anything for anyone, and is always upbeat and ready to help you. All the while, he was running a conference for over 1000 pastors of churches in Haiti. We saw about 280 pastors in about 4 hours, each one of them with a different complaint, but most of them in need of the vitamins and the medications we had sorted the night before. The team did a great job moving people through, it was run in an almost a gymnasium style building, with a stage in the front (serving as the intake area), a medical evaluation center right off to the side, then the pharmacy across the hall. The mission ladies also set up a prayer station in the middle of the gym for those people and pastors who just wanted someone to talk to.

The next day was Sunday, and so we joined the ladies of the mission and Pastor Freddie at the local church (rows of wooden benches with chairs on the sides) for their service. Little did we know, the service would be 3 hours long, including things such as 15 minute songs, long speeches in Creole, and finally a talk by Pastor Freddie himself. The people there all come to service every Sunday, so Pastor Freddie was introduced as a guest speaker. He is originally from Savannah, Georgia, and he talked about American churches at home, and what he has to do to get the people to come to church. If the A/C breaks, the people go to another church. If there aren’t donuts after service, no one comes. If someone’s car breaks down, they will not be able to go to church. After he said each of these things, I watched the Haitian people. Instead of shaking their heads in disgust at the luxuries that we have to have, they were laughing. They laughed at us. They think it is absolutely hilarious. Even though we have legs, we never walk anywhere. Even when the weather is a little hot, the A/C has to be on. It was amazing to see their reactions. Early Monday morning we had to say goodbye to Michelle…she was a great worker, she kept the kids busy with games when we needed to do clinic work meanwhile she was also organizing our clinic and keeping us in line. We really missed her in the pharmacy this week, she did a great job on Saturday.

Yesterday the group, along with the visiting mission team from Savannah, Georgia, went out to Cite Soliel. Cite Soliel is a section of Port au Prince originally designed to house day workers for the local factories. As John told us earlier in the trip, the section has been named “the least desirable place to be in the world” due to its appearance (mainly shacks with metal roofs) and the appearance and rise of gang politics in the last few years. Due to its nature, we found out that much of it was neglected when the original aid came through after the earthquake. We got on a bus (a big yellow one, like the ones that take kids to school) and drove into Cite Soliel. It really was neglected. A lot of the buildings are still in pieces, no one really cleaned anything up, and people are everywhere. We were driven to a school, and set up the clinic under big tents in what seemed to be the schoolyard. After we set up the clinic in the 4 sections (the intake, the evaluations, the pharmacy, and the prayer corner), we saw the entire school in a little more than 4 hours. It was a big change of pace (a whole day of pediatrics) but it was a lot of fun to play with all the kids. Sandy had all the kids coloring with crayons in the intake area, and then Kelsi worked to funnel them over to the evaluation area. After the kids were seen, Lindsay would shuffle them to the pharmacy and make sure they got the right drugs and vitamins they needed. We would never have been able to do everything without their help, I am so thankful they were there. After the clinic, we all came back and ate dinner, then packed up for the next day.

Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to Kelsi, Lindsay, and Sandy early this morning. We could have really used them today, but they all had to be home. I know they were excited to go home, but Randy, Bruce, Shelly, and I agree, we definitely miss having them and Michelle here. They were so much fun to be around, and balanced out the ratio for Shelly haha. We made it today without them, but their presence was definitely missed. Today we set up another clinic in northern Port au Prince. This clinic was in, what I think, was the worst area yet. Buildings were leaning over, some without foundations. Pieces of windows and floors were hanging by a few wires. They had cleanup crews, but all they were doing were trying to clear the road (which the bus couldn’t get down because there was so much rubble, so we just walked.) Today we saw people in a small area, but we still saw over 300 people. Some of them were the ones working on the road, others were just people who lived nearby. While we were working, one of the ladies from the mission team fell ill due to heat exhaustion, so I took her back to where we were staying. After I got her back, my ride back to the clinic was a Ford Ranger, and Pastor Freddie’s wife was already in the front, so I got to ride in the back. And by back, I mean I sat on the tailgate of the truck while it drove through Port au Prince. There are two main modes of transportation in Haiti. There is the “motortaxi” which is a motorcycle that allows you to sit behind the driver. This is hard when you have a lot of luggage. So, the other way to go is the classic pickup truck, except no one ever sits in the seats in the front, it’s all about that back bed. So today the back bed was filled with water, so I was literally hanging on to the back tailgate by my legs and that’s it. On the way back to the clinic, we were going up a steep hill, and suddenly, the radiator started smoking. So we pulled over. In the middle of Port au Prince. To fix the radiator. I was not in the car, I was in the middle of Port au Prince, trying to fix a radiator. And I did not feel unsafe for one second.

I decided there are two types of first interactions with people in Haiti. There are those that ask you for money, and there are those that shake your hand and thank you for being there. But so far, this whole trip, not one person has shown any kind of violent tendency or any kind of anger or hate towards us. Contrary to what most people think of Haiti, the people here want you to be here. They know you are there to help. I think they know you aren’t in Haiti to vacation, you are there to help them in some way. So most people smile, give you a thumbs up, or wave. Or all three.

In both Petit Goave and Port au Prince, a big part of our lives has been the roof. The roof wherever we are staying has played out to be where we spend most of our nights. We all go up to the roof and sit and talk about life, about philosophy, about our day, or about our favorite color. In both places, you could see the whole city all lit up, or most of the time lit up when the electricity was working. It gave us a place to unwind from the day and get to know each other a little better. I am so thankful for each of the people who came with us on this trip. Each one of us adds something to the group, and it is really cool to see at the clinics how we all mesh together. Our team is strong, strong enough to be in Haiti, setting up clinics, making kids smile, and working together to make a better life for the people around us. I am so proud to be a part of it, I will never forget this experience or the people who made it happen. I can’t write anymore, if you read that whole thing thanks for caring so much. I’ll be home Thursday night, and Shelly, Bruce, and Randy will be back on Monday.

All the best for now, Chris

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Well it's about time I reflect

So this is my first time using the blog...I have completely under utilized something that can help me connect with my family and friends. To be honest I am not so sure what to write and put what I have seen in words. This trip has opened my eyes so much to what I have and how fortunate I am. I have seen kids without clothes, people so dehydrated they can hardly walk, hunger and starvation so severe I couldve swore I was looking at a skelaton and the list can go on and on. My eyes have truely been opened. 

Although we have seen a lot of upsetting, depressing and heart wrenching things we are making a large impact on the country and I am extremely thrilled to have been invited.

Today we held a clinic for priests and their families. We saw all but 300 patients in just over 4 hours. Patients were "checked in," then moved on to see the doctors. Doctors evaluated patients and then prescribed the correct medication(s). After they received their prescription they moved to our make shift pharmacy where they received medications for their symptoms. 

Everyday is a learning experience for me in this country and I am so happy that I've learned so much! I can also say that the people of Haiti have given me more than I could ever give them..

Five days in Haiti . . . what an experience!! It’s amazing to me the range of emotions I have felt in such a short time. This country definitely contains a lot of beauty despite the devastation. It’s easy to see the awful effects the earthquake caused; collapsed buildings, communities of tents, roads and bridges badly damaged. It’s been my desire to also find the positive aspects that continue to exist; the absolute beauty of the mountainside and ocean, the Haitian people continuing to have faith as we see signs “Merci Jesus” and “God is good”. The gracious way in which the people accept the donations of clothes, toys and medical supplies we have bought.
In an effort not to go on and on, I’m going to bullet some of the things I have done or witnessed:
• Rode on the top of a cargo truck from Petit Goave to Port au Prince. To take in all there was to see, brought tears to my eyes. Definitely a top 10 experience of my life.
• Goat was served as part of the lunch the other day; I had to pass on that!! Rice and vegetables filled me up just fine that day.
• Seeing the sweetest smiles on the kids at the orphanage as we gave them clothes and toys. They sang a song for us when we arrived (in French).
• Watching a little Haitian girl fall asleep in Lindsay’s arms as she held her.
• One of the Haitian girls (about 16 years old) trying to teach me some Creole. I was not pronouncing it well at all, it was pretty funny!
• I talked our interpreter into walking about a half mile to buy us 2 pizzas for us (which cost $20.00 each), and he came back and said the restaurant doesn’t have any pizza today.
• This group that I am here with has been nothing short of great in the way each member gives of themselves to others, has shown flexibility, and has stepped up to the plate every time when needed.
This is a time I will never forget, and am thankful to God and Shelly for providing it.