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There's an old parable about six blind men who touch  an elephant to see what it was like. Each feels only one part of the elephant, such as the leg, the tail or the trunk, so their perceptions vary greatly.
Haiti is like the elephant and my two traveling companions -- Jan Frenzl and Joleen Tustin -- and I are like the blind men. Although we are each being shown the same things, our life experiences are leading us to touch different parts of the beast each day. During conversations and debriefing sessions each night, we are able to pull our perceptions together to get a better look at the big picture of Haiti that our guides are hoping we will eventually see.
One of the things we talk about is how to marshal our great intentions into action once we get home. The overriding problem is that there is not just one problem. "Water is the biggest need," someone says.
"Until they do something about all the trash and garbage, they can't begin to move in a positive direction," says another.
"Nothing can possibly improve until the government is stable," says a third.
We are all correct and if we had a larger contingent of people with us I'm sure the list would be as long and the number of people.
Lots of good people would like to help heal Haiti in a significant way. I am learning however, that good intentions are sometimes not a good thing and helping can actually be hurting.
For example, today while we were traveling on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, we stopped to look at a new housing development under construction. More than 200 concrete homes are going up that will each house a family. The area has been cleared for what looks like at least four times that many.
It is a wonderful gesture to provide good, solid homes to so many homeless people. What could be the harm in that?
"How will the people get to their jobs with their homes so far away?" our Haitian guide, Tony, wondered aloud.
That's a good question. Unless new jobs are created closer to the homes or free transportation is provided, it's highly likely that people -- even homeless ones -- won't move. What good would it do for them to starve in a new house?
Another problem facing Haiti is land erosion in the mountains. People have been cutting down trees to make charcoal to use for cooking their food.
One humanitarian group thinks the solution for that is to provide propane gas. The problem with that gas must be imported at a high cost and it will take lots of jobs away from people whose livelihood depends on making and selling charcoal.
Before I came to Haiti, I had a wonderful idea (or so I thought) that it would be nice to pair up children from Holy Family School with children at the parochial school we are hoping to partner with. They could be penpals. The problem is that it takes time and energy to translate all of the letters and mailing them is too expensive on the Haiti side.
My attempt to form a relationship between the students -- however well intentioned -- would simply have created one more obstacle for them.
Someitimes trying to do the right thing isn't the right thing at all.
You may have solved one problem, but created another.
The list of problems seems endless in Haiti. It's kind of like taking a swing at a mosquito and stirring up a swarm of them. (That's a great analogy since that is what I am literally doing as I type this.)
The answer lies in finding some middle ground. That can happen only with good leaders working at finding a balance to meet the immediate needs of the people as well as their future needs. I wish them well.
In the meantime, all we can do is what we can do.
My "blind" companions and I are working at having our eyes opened on just what that means.



A street sign marking the way to Tony's house is the #26 hanging on the tree.

My brain is so confused. Since it’s dark out, I guess it’s nighttime, although in my weary mind, maybe it’s tomorrow night.

I can’t keep track of the time of day, let alone the day of the week. It’s hard to remember that it’s February and that it should be cold outside.

The only thing I know for sure is which way is up. That’s good because I know which direction to send my prayers and there are many.

I thank God for putting Barry Borror in my life under whose wonderful care I am in.

I also thank our host, Tony, for welcoming us into his home and being so gracious in answering our countless questions about his country. It must be exhausting.

I also thank God for giving Tony an impeccable sense of direction. The man is better than any GPS system on the planet.

To say that traveling in Haiti is difficult is putting it mildly; traveling in Port-au-Prince is impossible for visitors and dangerous even for the locals. There are places Tony is hesitant to take us, like the open-air market, and places he refuses to take us like City Sole.

The main problem with traveling as I see it is the absence of street signs, traffic signs and trafficable streets and roads.

When I think of the decisions I help make concerning the Barton County roads, it’s almost laughable by comparison to what the Haitians deal with. (BTW, I thank God for the great roads we have in the U.S. and the small problems I face on the commission.)

There are only two paved highways in Haiti and depending on your perspective, they either take you into or out of Port-au-Prince. I use the term paved quite loosely here. They are partially paved – maybe the whole width, maybe half, maybe less. Pot holes (big enough to lose a small car) and speed bumps (large enough to high center a small car), appear randomly.

Tony, as well as other Haitian drivers, drive on the right side or left side of the road depending on where the holes and bumps are.

As an aside, there appears to be no road rage in Haiti. People tail gate, cut off others, whip in and out of traffic, pass as other cars approach head on and a myriad of other driving transgressions without animosity. Near collisions – within the half-inch mark – are so common that even I stopped noticing. I guess when in Haiti … applies.

To get back on course, Haitian roads leave A LOT to be desired. This lack of infrastructure limits the country’s ability to improve, maintain or grow in any meaningful way. I am not exaggerating by saying the roads look as if they have been bombed. I don’t think they could be any worse in a war zone.

Roads into towns off the main highways are not clearly (if at all) marked by any standard. Making a U-turn off of a highway onto a secondary road finds a plethora of other problems. Roads are dusty or muddy depending on the day and so dangerously narrow that if two cars meet, one must back up. (Tony tells us the biggest vehicle always has the right of way and always wins.)

Roads are also pot holed, filled with rocks and have things like muddy streams to cross and animals – including goats, cows, donkeys and small children walking to school – to avoid. Kansas deer and raccoons would be proud of their Haitian counterparts because they are rarely, if ever, hit.

Add to that the huge problem of trash and debris as well as building materials dumped in front of the home/building where it is to be used some day and you begin to get the picture.

Today’s trip to the mountain town of Dano is likely to leave us with sore muscles. We braced our legs and held onto our bobble heads as best we could, but still felt like popcorn in a sizzling skillet.

Tony’s home where we are staying is on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince although for all I know it’s in Timbuktu. A main street in the city’s capital is more like one of our alleys, although not as well maintained. Signs for smaller streets are hand painted on fences or trees or often non-existent.

The added difficulty is that you can’t see where you are going because every property is well guarded with a concrete block wall. The narrow streets, bordered by trees and fences, give one the impression of being a mouse in a maze. The streets continue to get narrower and narrower until the road leads us to our home away from home.   

And for that, I truly thank God.

When a StarTeam visits a project country so much happens to change them. They often see first hand what the reality is for many people. Here is a short video with a message to a church back home that might give a touch of what they see, hear and experiance.

[video: 400x250]

There's a famous book that begins, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times."

 That pretty much sums up Haiti.
To say it is a country of stark contrasts is an understatement. Haiti's two worlds are tied together by a common location. It is a land that boasts the endless beauty of the aqua-blue Caribbean Ocean and a misty mountained landscape. And yet, nearly half of its 6 million people choose to live on top of each other in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The city was decimated two years ago in the earthquake and still people live there making homes and eeking out a living on top of the ruins and filth. The other half of Haitian population is scattered in small towns in the rural areas. Life is very difficult there, too, but for this Kansan, the choice of where to live is obvious.
The dual worlds are as different as night and day.
Black and white.
Haitian and Blanc.
In an effort to show us the dichotomy of Haiti, our hosts took us to Club Indigo on Thursday. Formerly Club Med, the facility is under renovation, but it points out life enjoyed by Haiti’s wealthy with its great restaurant, two swimming pools and a private beach. Vendors at the resort had their fine wares well displayed as would be expected. Just hours later, we visited an open-air market in Port-au-Prince that was so divergent from the high life that our host hesitated to take us.

Although a very unkind word, I can't think of any other that comes close. We'd seen the shacks lined up on the sidewalks and into the streets with people selling everything imaginable, but I had no idea what was just behind them. Clean and unclean and new and used items as well as living and dead animals were piled on filth and debris from years of markets. The smell was unbelievable. I have never been so happy to leave a place in my life.
I am having an internal battle with myself over the experience. I don't want to be judgmental, but people should not have to live that way.
One of the biggest obstacles to a better life for Haitians is water.
How ironic.
Haiti is an island nation surrounded by water, yet good water is in short supply. Most people do not have running water in their homes and those that do have city water are afraid to drink it. Water for most people comes from communal public wells or privately dug ones. Poor people have access to water only if they can carry it. Wealthy people have other options, including buying bottled water.
Haiti is a country that has suffered under terrible dictators and yet as oppressed as they have been, Haitians smile, don't complain (even about the heat and mosquitoes) and seem to be content with what they have ... and don't have. It is a country of very poor people and very rich ones with a narrow band of middle class. The climb from the low end to the high end is not impossible, but very difficult.
The only way for changes to happen is through education. Parents across the board realize this. That's why the work done by non-government organizations like Star of Hope is so important.
The image of children who live in abject poverty the children and struggle for basic necessities like food and water makes seeing them at school that much more amazing. They arrive at school -- sometimes after an hour-long walk to get there -- dressed in clean, pressed uniforms, smiling faces and girls with ribboned hair. Their minds are bright and their spirits are willing, which is in stark opposition to what one might think about their futures.
Here's the biggest irony I see in Haiti.
The worst thing that has happened to our Caribbean brothers is the earthquake that killed nearly a half a million people. However, because of that monumental disaster, the world has come to its aid and Haiti is receiving the support it deserves.
It was the worst of times; it was the best of times.
Is it possible that the worst of times can be followed by the best of times?


Starteam, in less than three days in haiti has already visited three of star of hope schools; Boyer, Jeanton and dano. Visiteurs and children  spent great time together building up inside each  class room  strong relatioship sharing information about each another. Visitors are happy to visit differents parts of the school like office to meet the school staff, dinning-hall to watchin children eating rice and beean for lunc and in the  kitchen to talk to the cooks. In each school they have visited they distribute school supplies that John Stang collected from students of Honors Program  in Roanoke College  kansas for children in star of Hope school in Haiti. Visitors are very satisfied of the schools programs that star of Hope is supporting for poor children in Haiti, they promise to be a child sponsor immediatly they go  back home next week.  Before leaving haiti Next Tuesday, star of Hope staff will continue  helping  them to visit   Port-au-Prince, Rigaud and hesse  school  and other places around.  Sunday they will go the catholic church in Boyer to assist first mass in Haiti.
They are very happy to visit haiti and amaze to see Star of hope work.  


I've never dreamed of being a rock star. Ask anyone who's ever been within ear shot when I'm singing and they'll know why.
But today, my first day in Haiti, I sure felt like one.
We arrived at Pentecostal Holiness School, sponsored in part by Star of Hope,  with all 575 students waiting for us to to get there. Never mind that it was after school and that they all had other places to be.
Never mind that they were dressed to the hilt in crisp, colorful school uniforms.
Never mind that they's been waiting for us in the humid, tropical heat. They all seemed genuinely happy to see us.
A delegation of preselected students approached us with warm, open smiles and bright, shining eyes. They each shook our hands with their brown fingers lingering on our white, seldom-seen skin.
"Blanc, blanc (white)," they whispered with enthusiasm that was gaining speed.
"Blanc, blanc."
It became a chant filled with broad smiles and giggles.
"Blanc, blanc."
It was all for us along with hand-made banners and corsages made from red ribbon.
They were clamoring for us, reaching out for us, touching us -- just like a rock star.
It's heady stuff for three Catholics on a simple mission.
It seemed like all of the girls, especially the little ones, wanted to hold our hands and stroke our skin.
One little girl asked Jan (Frenzl) to take her home. I, on the other hand, scared a young boy when I took off my sunglasses. I'm sure he had never seen a blanc person with two different colored eyes.
We were paraded through different classes at school and some of the kids were brave enough to ask questions. Do you have children?
What are your parents' names?
Is it hot where you live? (Try explaining snow to a Hatian. It's kind of like trying to tell a blind person about color.)
We had fun at the expense of our host, Tony, who couldn't remember our names. Of course, they all start with the letter J, but we laughed and teased because all middle-aged white women look alike.
It's an odd feeling, being in the minority, but it's also a great one to be acknowledged without even having done anything. Barry Borror, our Star of Hope guide, says it's because they see the possibility in us.
The possibility that we can care enough to help.
The possibility that we'll share our story and that you will care enough to help.
The possibility that God will move us into action that will be beneficial to us all.
There are lots of hopes pinned on us and I am grateful and willing to accept the challenge.
I know with God's help, I can.
After all, I am a rock star. Today anyway.

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