Thursday, December 31, 2009

Meeting with Bekah!!

Last night after Nick got off of work, we drove down to Tacoma, where we dropped Kiara (our niece) off and met with a girl named Bekah. She has been working at COTP for the past year as the nurse and was home for Christmas. She still lives at COTP but is now working at a local clinic. It was so nice to meet her and be able to ask her a bunch of questions. She showed us a lot of pictures of the facility, kids, etc. Also, Bekah showed us the compound off of Google maps, so we now know exactly where we are going!

We learned that, Lagosette is a tiny village with around 20 huts. We are so excited to be somewhere rural. It is only about 10 miles from the airport in Cap Haiten, but it takes 45 mins to get there because all of the roads are dirt! Bekah was able to tell us more in depth about the different duties we will have. It is nice to have a better idea of what we will be doing!

After talking with her for 2 hours (we didn't get home til midnight), the only things we found out about COTP that we don't like is that one, there are Tarantulas there (but she has only seen a few) and two, which is the big one for us, they only have powdered milk to drink. Between the two of us we go through about 3 gallons of milk a week, it's all we drink. We are going to have a hard time getting used to this. We have started joking that we will probably have to buy a cow so that we can have real milk! I am also a little worried about the food, but then I remind myself that at least it's not Banana soup, so hopefully it'll be ok!

I really didn't think it was possible, but now Nick and I are even more excited to move to Haiti then we are before!! Approximately 186 more days until we leave!!! This may change though as our departure date is not set in stone!!


PS. I am beginning to create links on the side bar of my blog, and the only way to do this is to create posts, therefore, I will have several posts after this that might seen kind of weird, but this is how I have to get around it!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Questions and Answers

Here are a few common questions that we have been asked.

How do you know that your being "called" to Haiti?

For the past few years, Nick and I have been trying to do many different things and none of them have ever worked out. Nick tried to join the Coast Guard and the Army Reserves but couldn't get in because of his shoulder. Then we tried to buy a house in Pheonix. We tried to join the Peace Corp, but that didn't work out either. Nick had an interview for a job in Omak Wa, but didn't receive it. Every thing we tried to do didn't work out.

Then, we found COTP. We emailed the volunteer coordinator almost everyday for a month, and every question we had was answered with the response we were hoping for. God really opened up this door for us and helped us know that this is where he wants us to be.

Isn't Haiti Dangerous? Aren't you afraid of being kidnapped, raped, or killed?
Haiti has the reputation of being a very dangerous country. If you read the US Embassies website, they specifically say not to go there. They warn of kidnapping, rape, and death. We are very aware of these dangers, however, if we waited for the US Embassy to say it was safe, we would never be able to travel anywhere.

Last summer when Nikki went to Africa by herself, she was very worried as she had read the warnings about Kenya. She found however, that the citizens there were actually very helpful. Since she was the only white person for miles around, the locals knew that she was there to help, and therefore, where ever she went, she constantly had someone who would take care of her and make sure that she was always safe. It's experiences like this that let us know that people are truly there to look out for you. The organization that we are going with has a great relationship with the community that they are located in as well as surrounding areas.
Having said that, we will definitely take precautions to limit the chance of an attack on ourselves. Nikki will not wear any jewelry or clothes that would suggest our wealth. We will not be out at night and when we are out during the day, we will only go to areas that we know are safe.

How long will you be there for?
Currently we have committed to a year, but we are depending on God to lead us where he wants us to go next. His plans might be for us to stay in Haiti longer, go to Africa, Ridgefield, Bellingham, or somewhere else. We really aren't sure, and will take it one day at a time!

Where will you live?
There is a volunteer house on the compound and we will have our own room there to stay in!

What will you be doing?
We wont know exactly what we will be doing until we get there, but as of now, it looks like Nick will be the maintenance man while Nikki will be working with the children to reach age appropriate developmental and intellectual stages. This may include working with the children one-on-one or in the preschool. Nikki might also help facilitate the Prenatal program for pregnant women in the community. This will give her a great chance to do some out reach.

Nick has been studying growing crops in the Caribbean and would like to start a community garden if he has time. This would teach the people he works with how to grow crops which they can use to feed their family a balanced diet. They then would pass these skills on to their children as well. We both want to work in the community as much as possible. When there are sick babies, they will sleep in our room at night until they begin to get better. We also have discussed making a promotional video for COTP. This is something we will discuss with other staff once we are there.

Haiti has suffered for many years. You can't save the world and even after you leave babies will still die and people will suffer. What is the point?
You are 100% correct. We know that the world has many problems, trust us, Nikki is constantly reading about poverty, genocide, sex slaves, honor killings, and female genital mutilation among others issues. We could spend our lives in this village, donating every spare second and penny, and these things will still continue. People will die of preventable disease, women will be killed in the name of God, and episodes like the holocaust will continue just as they are today.

However, if we are able to save, or even slightly improve the life of even one person, then we will consider our efforts a success. The bible tells us that we are suppose to care for the sick, fatherless, and uneducated. This is what we are planning on doing. We are going to be his hands and feet, and we can only pray that he will use us to create a difference in this place that we will soon call home. We both strongly believe that by simply living a life that we believe in, people will see our actions and try to mirror those in their own lives. Maybe through our time spent in Haiti, a person who other wise wouldn't have, will come to know Christ. How can you put a price tag on that? You have to agree, that that thought would make it worth the risks. As we said, we wont make a dent in the troubles that the world sees. After we leave, our village, and Haiti will continue to suffer, but we pray that hopefully we can start a small spark in someone that will help make a sustainable difference in this village.

What will you get out of this?
While in Haiti, we will gain a whole new meaning for life and will learn a lot about a culture that is very different form our own. We hope to bring this back to the states to share with our family, friends, community, and most importantly our children. We believe that it is everyone's responsibility to do what they can to help others out. Many people in the US have no idea of what is happening abroad. Through our pictures, videos, stories, and our lives, we hope we can help tell the story of some of these people to create a country, even one as advanced as the US, to be truly educated. The US chooses to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others because they believe they can't make a difference. I am here to tell you that we can. For instance Polio used to infect millions, but it is now is gone, even in the poorest of countries.

What goals do you have to make a sustainable difference in this village?
Poverty is viscous cycle that is passed from one generation to the next. The parents are too poor to go to school, and can't afford to put their children in school either. Without the ability to learn new skills, or even learn about preventable disease, these children are bound to raise their children in poverty as well.

Research has shown that education, especially for women and girls can help reduce this cycle. For every year that a women spends in school, her children are likely to spend an ADDITIONAL 1 and 3/4ths years in school. Also, children with educated mothers are likely to spend an additional 2-3 hours per day studying. Educated women marry later in life which results in them having children at an age where their bodies are more prepared to deliver the child. Because of this, the women are more likely to survive child birth and the children are born healthier, leaving less orphans in the world. Education of women has also resulted in women having fewer children, which allows them to have more finances to feed and educate them. Women who have received an education provide for the nutritional needs of themselves and their children at a much greater rate than uneducated moms. Educated moms are more likely to have their children immunized. These two things result in much healthier children as well as a community.

Studies have shown that when a man receives an education, he often will leave the village/city and move to a more urban setting to earn a living. This may better his life, but doesn't affect the community. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to get a job in the community and help others out as well. Often, when men are in charge of the finances, they will use a large portion of their funds for alcohol, cigarettes, and prostitutes. When women are in charge, they will give money to other women/girls in the community to receive an education or start a business, creating a cycle of giving within the community.

We want to do what we can to educate those who we come into contact with. We both believe that this is the best way to make a sustainable difference in Haiti as well as our local community here in Washington. Education helps reduce poverty, create more jobs, and results in a healthier community. While in Haiti education will be our main goal. 52% of the population in Haiti is illiterate. To us, this is unacceptable and we will do what we can to lower this number.

You both have great jobs. With this economy aren't you afraid you wont be able to find a new one when you come back?
We have both been blessed with great jobs that we both enjoy and that allows us to pay our bills. We thank God daily for blessing us in this way. We are very aware of the current economic downturn and the fact that there are thousands with out jobs who are struggling to pay for the basic needs of their families. Trust us, this was a very important topic that we discussed in much length while making this decision. After much prayer and discussion however, we still feel like this is what we are being called to do. We are very prepared to live with one of our families for however long it takes once we return until we have found jobs and are able to save up enough money to move out. We know very well that this could take several months to years to happen, but I'm sure our parents would love to have the time to spend with us!!!

We are trusting that God will provide us with the right jobs when we return. We see this as a great way to gain experience that will help us greatly in our future careers. Many employers want to know that they are hiring someone who is aware of other cultures. Through living abroad, we can gain skills in this area which will be invaluable. We both strongly believe that education is life long and see this as a way for us to continue learning and developing ourselves.

There are so many people suffering here in the States. Why not work with youth here locally?
Nikki currently works with at risk youth here on an everyday bases. Her job is to help foster youth get into and pay for college. Nikki plans of making a career out of working with at risk youth. When we return, we are going to become licensed foster parents and hope to take in teenage girls that are either pregnant or who all ready have children. We will encourage these youth to complete high school, continue on with higher education, and go into a career that they love and will provide for their family. We plan on helping instill life skills in these youth including money management and parenting skills.

Nikki would love to start a non profit taking at risk youth abroad to volunteer in third world countries. This will provide enormous opportunities for these youth that they otherwise wouldn't have. However, in order to do this, Nikki needs to know the local culture of where she will be taking youth and also have connections there of where to house the youth and projects for them to work on. We will be gathering these while in Haiti.

We plan on adopting children from a different country and believe that it is extremely important for these children to be aware of the culture of their home country. By living in the place that we will be adopting from, we will learn their local language, holidays, and beliefs that we can then pass on to our children.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pizza and Glowsticks

So the past two weekends Nick and I have tried to do a few fundraiser to pay for Haiti. The first one we did was selling glow sticks at Lyndens Lighted Christmas Parade. Nick bought 500 glow sticks, hoping that we would profit nearly $900. From the beginning I wasn't to sure about this, but Nick was convinced it was a good idea. So last weekend, we both bundled up, drove to Lynden and waved our glow sticks in the air. Nick spent most of the time taping our poster to the car, as the wind was blowing so hard that about every 30 seconds it would fall down. By the end of the parade, we sold 30. This was the second time that we have tried selling these, and we are still negative money. Apparently this was NOT a good investment. We now have them listed on Craigslist, hoping someone else might try to use them for their own fundraiser. Honestly, we just want to get back what we paid for them as we are still negative about $100.

So, if you know any one who would like to purchase between 1-450 glow sticks, we can hook you up!!!

Today we stood outside Cost Cutter in the 30 degree weather and sold Papa Murpheys Coupon Cards. Before we left we made a deal that if Nick sold more than me I would watch Star Trek with him. The count at the end of the day was 20- Nikki 0-Nick, so therefore I will not be watching that ridiculous movie!! We decided that Nick is like the guy who drives the armored truck, he just stands there holding the money while the other guy does all the work!!! He was also very good at letting me know what time it was, "6 mins til we get to go, 5 mins til we can leave, 4 more mins, still 4 more mins... etc." This went on the entire time we were there. I do have to give him credit though, he made both of the signs for these fundraisers, and I think they turned out great!!! It was so cold out that there were occasional snow flakes falling. The only thing that kept us out there as long as we were was knowing that this time next year we will be living in the Caribbean where it'll be in the 80-90's!

We didn't sell nearly as many cards as we had wanted, mainly because there weren't that many people at Cost Cutter today. Hopefully after Christmas we will stand in front of Haggens which is way busier. We did have one guy who thought what we are going to do is awesome that he not only bought 6 cards (he must really like pizza!!!) but is also going to talk to his Pastor and see if we can present at his church to help raise funds. Hopefully that will work out! When I told one lady what we were doing, she responded with a "poor girl." Apparently she didn't like the idea, but after I told her I was excited about it, she bought a card anyway!!

We also sent out a Newsletter this past week. If you didn't get one, then it was either lost, or more likely, we didn't have your address. If you would like one please let us know and we would love to send it to you. This discusses our upcoming plans and what has lead us to decide to move to Haiti.

Prayer Requests

James Njuguna, the direct of Fadhili Helpers which is the group I went to Kenya with this last summer, was murdered in his home earlier this week. As he was trying to get out of the car to go inside, two men approached their car demanding their cell phones. The driver handed his over right away, but James hesitated. One man then shot and killed James. Please pray for his family, he left behind a wife and young daughter. Also please pray for the organization as it helps thousands of people all over Kenya.

Also, my host family is having some financial troubles as they haven't had any volunteers since Summer. They live so far out of Nairobi that Fadhili doesn't send volunteers there unless they are out of beds closer to the city. Please pray that they are able to pay for Mama's college fees and are able to continue taking care of the children in their home as well as running the school.