Monday 19 of March

What can I say it has been a crazy wonderful day. After years of being worried about the ownership of the land the school in Taytay is on. Now the situation is finally resolved and Star of Hope Philippines owns the land in Taytay were Star of Hope Christian School/Peter Ek Education Center is located. It was a day filled with all different kinds of emotions, remembering Peter with tears in my eyes and then joy and happiness when I saw all the children singing and dancing. I´m proud of being a Star of Hope member. Proud of knowing friends like the Ek´s who saw the need and became our miracle. Peter, a generous and engaged sponsor to Star of Hope for more than 20 years who saw the Philippines as his second home. When he passed away, way to young his wife, children and his brother and family wanted to continue his work and make an impact. For that I am thankful. Because of their generous donation the threat of losing the school when the 25 year lease expired is now over.

The Ek Family, me and Pastor Gani

 

The most touching moment was when Mary Ann Gomez a former sponsor child to OBH Nordica/Peter Ek and now a teacher at Taytay held a speech in honor of her sponsor Peter. There were not many dry eyes during her speech. To hear how important a sponsor can be to a child growing up is reassuring. The world is a good place and you can change it one child at a time. Today Mary Ann is herself impacting the next generation of 2500 students at Star of Hope School and since Star of Hope now owns the land it will not be over in two years it will continue to impact students for many more years to come.

 

Blessings to all.

Friday 8 of March

It is hot and humid. I love the heat and being able to wear my flip-flops. On the way to Taytay where the Star of Hope school with 2500 students is located, I can see how much more construction there is than when we lived here 5 years ago. The roads are still as bad as always but there are more businesses, stores and restaurants. In north Taytay there is even a big department store.

When I arrive at the school it is pretty quiet. I find out the high school students are taking their National achievement test. It is the test of which they need high scores to get in to a good college. I sneak around and try not to disturb. When the testing is completed there are some tired teenagers coming out of the classes but they are soon re-animated. Preparations for our big re-inauguration day and Founders Day are taking place. Children are practicing for their show dances and the school yard is soon filled with laughter and music.

Not much time passes before I have two girls approaching me shyly saying hello - still remembering my name. I am so blessed to be able to be here.


23 feb 2012- Carnival of 2012 in Haiti has been organized for the first time in Les Cayes City in South of Haiti. It is a national popular musical event that used only to take place in PAP Capital of Haiti. It is reported that the three days of carnival in Les Cayes from 19 to 21 of February have been well organized, huge number of the population participated joyfully without violence. it has been a great success!

Note, Maria's blog from last week.

Today was a great day except for me starting to get a sore throat.  When I walked in to church it said on the wall with big letters “Knowing Christ is knowing God”

What a good start, all smiling faces with eyes filled with happiness to see me.  It felt so welcoming. When they sang the songs in Tagalog the words came back to me and I could sing along.

Julius the youth pastor sang with his beautiful voice “Who am I”. He has a voice that always touches my heart. Listening to the different testimony one was different and I think shows the difference between the countryside and city. A girl from the youth group was telling how they had been in Infanta were Star of Hope is running a school singing and meeting with the students. She wanted to take in an offering to be able to buy the children hamburgers next time they are going there. They had found out the children never had tasted hamburgers so they wanted to take them out for hamburgers.

In the afternoon I went out with my son Leon’s sponsor child Jay and some of his friends for some shopping and to eat. What a joy. It sure is much more rewarding to shop with him than my own children. I don’t have to make Jay try things on he does it with a smile and thankful eyes.

This was last week, in the evening on the 10th I got really sick and was then taken to the hospital on Monday since my throat had closed up and I was not able to breathe through my mouth and had not been drinking for 24 hours so I was dehydrated.

Today is a new day and tomorrow is the big day, re inauguration and foundation day.

 I had to spend 5 days in the hospital with IV for fluids and antibiotics. I´m glad I’m out and on my feet again. Thank you all for your prayers!

 

After 20 hours in the air (Kansas-Tokyo-Manila) and hours of waiting I´m finally in Manila, The Philippines!  It’s been two years since my last visit and five years since I and my family lived here. It is clearly a déjà vu feeling for me, the smells are the same, the noise is just as loud, the smog seems to be the same old smog but what is absolutely the same is the kindness and smiles from Gani and Liling Coruna who meet me at midnight at the airport. I almost feel home.

This trip is a trip of sheer excitement. I have been worried for years about the School in Tay Tay Rizal, Manila. You see the lease on the land that Star of Hope’s  School is built on was set to expire this year and a huge solution was needed. Without a “land swap” deal of some kind closure seemed the only option, and this was without a doubt one of our best schools. Yes, 25 year leases can go fast sometimes.

I felt the last few years that there were forces who wanted to take over the school and fight us so we could not continue our work but God is miracle and gave us a miracle too.

The answers to prayers are generous donors who made it possible to buy the land for the land swap deal. This is a big deal as metro Manila prices are comparable with most Asian cites except the last 5 years have seen a 40% increase in metro land prices in Manila!

 When Gani talks about the future it is with excitement in his voice. There are plans – a preschool to be built, a sanctuary for girls who have been abused in their homes. The ideas are endless. It is a big difference if I compare it from two years ago. Now the air is filled with hope for the future.

I´m even more excited about what God wants from Star of Hope in the Philippines in the future.

I find myself smiling the whole time. I am now in Greenhills and Crame where I lived 5 years ago and now I see many things are the same as I recall, it seems the vendors are the same too and it seems like I still have the aura of “an resident” so I am treated differently than the “tourists”.

Today will be meetings and planning but tomorrow I will walk around Star of Hope School in Taytay with children all around me with an even bigger smile.

Maria

Every year 8.8 million children under 5 years of age dies worldwide. A third of them die because of malnutrition and related diseases. Terrible that it should be so.

One third of all children in the world weighs too little for his age or are too short due to malnutrition. 160 million children suffer due to lack of vitamin A; 1 million die from a weakened immune system, 500 000 go blind each year.

3 billion people of the world's 7 billion has wrong nutrition; 1 billion are undernourished, 1 billion are eating the wrong foods, 1 billion are overweight or obese.

 Something is wrong.



March 16, 2012. Star of hope Haiti in cooperation with Haiti on Feet organization have funded construction of a rehabilitation Center in Hohital de la Communaute Haitien HCH for Handicaps in Haiti to have a place to do  therapy. The  inauguration ceremony of the center  is happen today. Many concerned groups took part to the inauguration:

-          Star of Hope Int. by Lennart Eriksson and Fred Thorneas

-          Star of Hope Haiti by Myrtha and Tony,

-          Haiti on Feet by Gunnar Hallgreen,

-          Hospital by HCH Board members

-          Erik Development Partners by Swedish doctors and medical technicians

-          And guests

The rehabilitation Center measures about 150 square meter with 2 rest-room, office and two exercise rooms.  

March 7,2012- Star of Hope sewing school in Jeanton Haiti in the benefit of 40 future seamstresses is at 4 month of functioning. Different models of skirts, blouses lessons have been already seen and taught with the students so far. Today they have been taught how to make different necklines of a blouse, It was not an easy lesson but the students was at level and focus to understand everything teacher Myrtha taught to them. Thank you to all supporters, May God bless you all!

Tony



 

In the spring of 2011 I was in Mirandita located a few kilometers outside the town of San Carlos. Star of Hope supports the village and the school with among other things food. In the village lives only 16 families and the area contains small farms, pastures, simple houses and abandoned crofts. All the villagers abandoned the area completely during the years 2002 - 2007 when the various guerrilla groups swept through the area. Others had left the area before. Some families came back as late as early 2011.

The families in Mirandita are scattered on the hills in the area. Many people live along the simple small paths. At the top of a hill lies the village's small school with three classrooms, which is also the village gathering place.
It's a bit difficult half to get there, the road is bad and the Colombian army clears slowly but surely different areas of anti-personnel mines. The area that only a few years dictated by the various guerrillas is now secured area, however, is the number of personnel mines left in the area.
The landscape is beautiful with green hills and rippling streams, however, it is still few people in the area. Many have left for good. The 40-year conflict has cut deep wounds in the Colombian soul. Will they ever heal? I am glad that Star of Hope through its partner in Colombia can make a difference in this village.

Three days in a row on one of the Star of Hope's largest projects. It has been choppy few days, we had a lot planned, but Maria was hospitalized for four nights. And I feel bit down with a fever, but try to struggle on.

With very good help from the Star of Hope staff, I have taken me past the obstacles with diseases and children who fought in the examination and others who have trained for the big opening of the school hall on Monday and had some made ??anyway.

It is tough with fever in the heat. But we are pleased by all the happy focused children who struggle to the very end before school holidays start in a few weeks.

One of the 2500 fighting children is Rosehny Subaldo, 8, who attend class two. Her favorite subject is math and she wants to be a teacher when she grows up, she thinks her teacher is so good. Some pictures of her below:

 

 

 


March 7,2012- Star of Hope sewing school in Jeanton Haiti in the benefit of 40 future seamstresses is at 4 month of functioning. Different models of skirts, blouses lessons have been already seen and taught with the students so far. Today they have been taught how to make different necklines of a blouse, It was not an easy lesson but the students was at level and focus to understand everything teacher Myrtha taught to them. Thank you to all supporters, May God bless you all!
Tony

Feb 14th,2012

Starteam from Kansas visited star of hope development projects in Haiti from 8 to 14 of February. They have visited 4 of star of hope schools and one Catholic school seeking help. 1500 pupils that they met in schools welcomed them warmly and gifted them with a load of love, gratitude, experience, needs and deep relationship to go back home on Valentine day to share with all sponsors and everyone who would like to be part of hope development in Haiti.

Happy Valentine day to you all!

Tony

 

New school reforms are pouring into the Philippines. One of the new to be implemented is that all schools must also offer pre-school. Another suggestion is that the High School is extended by two years. If all this is implemented then the total of 15 years in school before any college or university. Expensive to implement, costly to families, and becomes schooling so much better?

One can understand that the school work to improve education. In a study pertaining to primary education in 2011 the Philippines was ranked as 99 nation of 138 surveyed. And only the seventh best of the nine surveyed in Southeast Asia. Only 20% of young people continuing to higher education. What many argue is that there should be invested money in improving the quality of higher education.
Today there are entire 1700 colleges and universities in the Philippines. Some people think there should be fewer but higher quality. What do these reforms for the Star of Hope, the children and families we support? I'll try to sort it out the next few weeks.

 






March 1st 2012- Training  session that star of hope organizes this week for 25 preschool teachers in Port-au-Prince with TIPA TIPA  is moving well to   4th day of training lessons. Today trainees had the opportunity to visit one of the best school in Petion-ville that is part of training program to have better idea to run a good school. They have been impressed by the school environment inside the class-rooms and outdoor that is for them very favorable to apply learning and teaching lessons they receive in the training.   For them this school is a reference to improve any school to  model school.



How do you know if your prayers have been answered or if you are an answer to a prayer?
Two years ago, immediately after the earthquake in Haiti, the Justice and Peace Commission at Prince of Peace started planning a way to help our Caribbean brothers. After a full year of trying to make some inroads with Catholic Relief Service that led nowhere, our path crossed with Barry Borror and Star of Hope USA  just 10 miles down the road from us in Ellinwood.
He was the answer to our first prayer. We started talking seriously about some of us making a trip to Haiti to find a sister parish. Star of Hope has had missions in Haiti for nearly 30 years. It did not just surface after the earthquake like many organizations. Father Reggie Urban and I had thought about making the trip on our own, and although I felt like God would protect us, I was very happy when He intervened with Barry.
A well-seasoned missionary with many countries and a zillion miles under his belt, I knew we would be in good hands.
Our second prayer was answered by Tony Boursiquot, Barry's right-hand man in Haiti. Tony was asked to find a suitable parish for us to partner with and he found one with Our Lady of Perpetual Help just down the road from a Star of Hope mission in Boyer.
Barry and Tony have worked together for most of the time Star of Hope has been in Haiti and I'm quite certain they believe they have been the answers to each others prayers. Barry needed a visionary with solid people skills and Tony needed a vehicle to help his fellow Haitians.
At this point I'm going to stop numbering the prayers that have been answered on this journey. There are simply too many to count. Suffice it to say the Lord has been busy on our behalf.
Another prayer was answered when Father Roderick Mitial agreed to meet with us and embraced a partnership. Father Roderick speaks fluent English, which will make the ongoing communication between us much easier.
Father Roderick has literally built the three churches he serves as well as a school named Good Shepherd with 300 students.
A year ago Prince of Peace raised $600 from a St. Patrick's Day dinner and sent it to Father Roderick. The new church in Dubuission had a roof and the gift allowed him to put in windows and doors that he otherwise had no money for.
Last week, the team of Jan Frenzl, Joleen Tustin and I were able to tell Father Roderick about the nearly $7,000 collected during Mass the Sunday before we left. I was truly amazed at the generosity of my fellow parishioners. As we place the first $1,000 in his hands, we asked Father what he would do with it. Without hesitation, he said he would pay the teachers and staff. Father admitted that before we arrived, he did not know how he would pay them this month.
Barry has seen many such examples of God's amazing power and love and has a way of explaining things in a way that makes you believe it.
He said that God's time is timeless and nearly 30 years ago He had a hand in creating Star of Hope Haiti. He brought Barry and Tony together to do His work.
Star of Hope Haiti has been in place so that when our hearts were opened -- not only Haiti's need, but the very real one inside of us -- it would be there to guide us in our growth.
I know that we have planted a seed in Haiti that I hope will continue to grow. As I travel home tomorrow, I know that my many prayers have been answered and many more are in the works. I feel as if God has looked down on our little mission and has smiled.
I have found new meaning in my life and feel renewed in many ways. I am anxious to get home and share all of the ways that God has opened my heart.
In the end, it doesn't matter whether it was your prayer that was answered or if you are the answer to a prayer. It only matters that prayers are heard and answered. Believe it!

The Philippines: first day out

 

Taytay
Today we went to school in Taytay as the Star of Hope operated since 1989. Today there are 2 500 students from primary school grade 1 up to "high school" grades 4. It was great to meet all the children again.

 

 

Taytay has grown from a few hundred families when the Star of Hope opened the school there for about 20 years ago. Today there is at least 6-7 000 families in the area. I'll try to find out how many exactly. A former "land fill" has been a residential area.


There are a lot of things you may not be used to in in USA: bicycle taxi, sidecar motorcycle taxi overcrowded with children and young people on their way to and from school. Then there are lots of other things. When you buy a soft drink as it is poured into a plastic bag and you get to the straw. Cheaper for the children and the seller gets his bottle refund from the soft drinks companies.

Soon I'm on my way to Manila and the Philippines again. It is always a pleasure to go there. Star of Hope gang do a great job down there. There will be text, images, videos, and more. Looks like it will be a tough schedule, I will be extended by a few days from the planned trip.

Some pictures from school Taytay from 2011. Star of Hope has been working in the Philippines since 1983 and the school in Taytay is today a leading school in the slums of Manila. There's more coming soon:


I've blogged about Cirec before. Right now I go through thousands of images and information from there, so thought it was time again. I visited Colombia and Cirec 2005, 2008, 2011. What strikes me when I go through the material is how many small details that goes in to making a prosthesis, and develop it so that the recipient can use it in the best and most comfortable way. There are plaster casts, making the prosthesis, then it shall be adjusted to allow it to fit as well as possible. I'm really impressed with how good all of the process is. Really great job from everyone involved!

Add all the hours of rehabilitation, training and recovery. Many feel the very bad psychologically also. They have been in an work related accident, car accident or been the victim of an attack by a land mine or similar. Terrible!

Cirec is Colombia's leading institutions for the manufacture of artificial limbs and rehabilitation of the disabled. They also work with advocacy for improved attitudes towards people with disabilities. Star of Hope has been working with Cirec since 1985. You can also support operations by donating some money to the Star of Hope.

More on Flickr here

Dennis Thern for Star of Hope.

 

Update on Maria 2

I talked to Maria today 0930 CST.

She has a terrible strep throat, almost completely closed, she has had 5 days of high fever, her sugar (long term) is terrible, she received IV for fluid, IV for  Antibiotics, she is comfortable with the hospital quality and standard and happy with her 3 doctors.

Gani and or Lilling and or family are with her 24/7, Great people!

Please keep her in your prayers. 


Feb 27,2012: Star of hope Haiti organizes second training session for preschool teachers of 5 schools supported by Star of hope in Haiti. The training is given by TIPA TIPA, a welknown Trainer institution national and international. it is one week training  about curriculum, participation, technique and method  to increase teacher teaching capacity that is  part of schooling program   to drive  schools supported by SOHH to model school

Tony 


Day five in Haiti finds me on a Sunday wanting to clear up some misconceptions I had before I arrived. For instance, I thought:

1. The heat would be oppressive. It's hot here, but not like in Kansas. I hear it has been in single digits this week and there is a winter storm watch for tonight. Here it's been in the 80s and 90s all week. Yesterday's 91 translated into a heat index of 99 because of the humidity. I have always heard people complain that "it's not the heat, it's the humidity."
In reality, it's the heat. High temps, dry air and high winds are just plain uncomfortable in Kansas. Give me 100 degrees including humidity, a cold Prestige beer and good conversation under a mango tree in Haiti and I'm just fine. (It's OK to hate me just a little.)
And besides, the humidity has done wonders for my dry winter skin.
2. The mountains are more like foothills.
 We made a trip into the mountains yesterday and I learned differently. You know when it's hot in Colorado Springs and you go up to Pikes Peak? Getting out of the car at the Baptist Mission at Fermete was similar; I would have liked to have had a jacket. (As an aside, we met the elderly man and his wife whose grandparents founded the mission. Cool stuff.)
Jan said the drive up the mountains reminded her of Europe. "I didn't know you've been to Europe," I said. "I haven't," she replied. It was extremely funny, but maybe you had to be there. (I'll bet you wish you were.)
The mountain was 4,459 feet high and we could see the clouds covering Port-au-Prince. Our guides had hoped we'd see the actual city. Barry did his best to point out places of interest anyway.

3. The insects and mosquitoes would be nearly intolerable.
Maybe it's my Kansas experience, but Haitian mosquitoes are nothing. They are small, brown, not too plentiful and I haven't seen one land on me yet. There's no way one could carry off a small child like the ones in Kansas can. 
Do you want to know the difference between Kansans and Haitians? Even though we should be mosquito tolerant, we continue to slap at them in an attempt to kill them. Haitians not only don't bother, they don't even seem to notice.
Also of interest is that, although our host Tony's home has completely open rooms and windows, there are no swarms of bugs at the lights at night. The chickens in the yard and the geckos on the walls probably help.
Even though the bugs aren't bad, we still sleep under mosquito nets at night. It kind of makes me feel like a princess. Jan didn't have a net the first night and was plagued by one buzzing in her ear. She tried to keep it out by pulling the bed sheet up, but then she was too hot. (She tells the story much better.)
I do have a series of bug bites on my legs, but they don't itch and I  never felt anything bite me. The only thing about them that bothers me is that I can't shave my legs.

4. Haiti is a Third World country with limited 20th century amenities. Obviously, this isn't true since I have full access to the Internet any time I need it. And to my surprise, even people of meager means have cell phones here because they are given away free. They are the kind that you have to buy prepaid cards for, but nobody does. They use them for incoming calls that are free.
I worried a lot about restroom facilities before I got here. My guide and host have timed all of our outings so carefully that I have always had access to a flush toilet.

5. Everything would be dirty. There is, of course, a major problem with sanitation that we see daily. But the people themselves are clean. Even in a crowd there is no smell of body odor. Everywhere you look, especially today because it is the big laundry day, people are washing their clothes by hand and laying them out to dry. Children arrive at school clean with freshly laundered uniforms. That they take such pride in their personal hygiene says a lot about the character of Haitians. With such limited water, it is a real struggle for them.
I have many more random thoughts to share, but I hear a Prestige beer calling me and a mango tree waiting. (P.S. The house boys are really cute. Fortunately for them, I'm married.)


Maria told me on Friday all was well and I was waiting on her blog post but it never came.

I sent a text message on Saturday and did not get a response, not so unusual as Marias Hotel was close to Greenhill’s one of the largest shopping centers in all of Manila. I heard Maria was planning to take some of the neediest kids shopping and assumed she was just busy.

On Sunday I did not hear a word either but that’s not uncommon as Sunday is Church all day and then with the time difference is assumed it was just, well normal.

On Monday, (today) I was met by a telefone recording from Star of Hope Philippines saying Maria is in the hospital and she is stable, apparently this Kansas infection took a turn for the worse in the warm Philippine air. She was having trouble swallowing and not breathing as she should.

Please pray for Maria and a fast recovery and as soon as she is better you can read about it here.

Mark

 

 

 

I was privileged once again to travel to Haiti with a team of fellow Kansans. This time the ladies saw first hand how much even a pencil means to the kids in rural Haiti.

The Honors Program students at Roanoke College decided to collect school supplies as a service project. They chose Haiti and Star of Hope to act on their behalf. It was heartwarming to see the hundreds of Haitian children excitedly receive something from the visitors from America.

Take a few minutes and reflect on what it means to give.


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.

 

 

Did you know that...

18 landerThanks to you, Star of Hope works in 15 countries around the world.

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Also because of people like you, more than 30,000 children receive education and care through Star of Hope.

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