We had a team last week! That's quite rare around here but we really enjoyed this team and we are so thankful all the hard work they put into making the facility more usable. They worked marvelously with the Second Mile employees in a way that gave them ownership of some of the projects (see the deck project below).
The project wish list we set before the team could have seemed terribly daunting, but they completed the tasks with ease and efficiency. Serious, efficiency.
Most mind blowing was the way they tackled the chair project. We borrowed a model chair (desk) from another organization and wanted 20 chairs built to suite. So, in the most sensical of ways they started cutting wood. They sliced and diced 1 x 4s until they had 20 sets of the various chair components.
The pieces were varnished and assembled.
Loudjina's dad worked with the team all week
I think it's fair to assume that the Ferguson's and Jason enjoyed getting to know Loudjina's dad, Jimmy. He worked at the site for two weeks to earn the money the family would need to go to Port au Prince to meet with a team of neurosurgeons. Jimmy and his mother-in-law left for Loudjina's surgery consult the same day that our team left to head back to the States. I'm sure many of you are wondering what happened.
Based on the January assessment of Loudjina's condition the surgeons had ruled out the possibility of placing a shunt, yet there was still talk of an alternative surgery. Sadly, when the family showed up to the hospital on Friday the surgeons deemed that her pressure sores posed too great a risk that the surgical site would become rapidly infected. We had suspected that... There's always the tendency to gear ourselves up for the bad news, even when at our core we hope for a miracle.
heading to the bus station
At this point, we are at peace. We were able to help the family make three trips to Port where they met with US based neurosurgeons. At least they had a chance. Between those trips they spent a combined total of 10 weeks at our site during which we loved them and stood beside them through some of the scariest, happiest, and most painful of moments.
Deep down I struggle with how unfair it is for Loudjina to have lived her life like this. Such a cumbersome existence. And her parents... and grandparents, aunts and uncles and the friends that have loved her... it's not fair for them that she won't live as long as she should.
It shouldn't be like this.. but it is.
Acceptance brings peace. And I find comfort in my belief that God, who is love, loves Loudjina in-quantifiably more than myself or Jenn, or her parents, or the surgeons that devote their lives to kids like Loudjina, ever could. That's the silver lining. The other silver lining is that Loudjina has a ridiculously cool wheelchair. On the Wednesday before they left for Port-au-Prince, our friends at Haiti Hospital Appeal called. They wanted to make sure Loudjina didn't miss out on this amazing opportunity.
We quickly loaded up the family in the truck and Jenn took them over to the hospital where Loudjina was fitted with a custom wheelchair, courtesy of Canada Healing Hands. This group worked tirelessly to create the perfect chair for what must have amounted to hundreds of kids in and around Cap Haitien. What a special moment it was for Loudjina and family, and all of the children who were able to benefit.
The next day Loudjina took a spin in her new chair. Can you imagine?
Meanwhile, the team continued working. By this time they were finishing up the tiling project. The two rooms adjacent to the education center have been unused to date but will soon become an office and a sewing room. The tile will help keep the rooms clean and bright.
With a little coaching, Joslin and Verdieu were able to tile one of the two rooms on their own.
Joslin and Verdieu got an "intro to tiling" during Jason's last trip. Last January, Jason and the guys tiled the space we've cleverly dubbed "the upstairs apartment." It's a second story building where some of our employees sleep. It also has a bathroom, a kitchen, and an area that doubles as Jenn's office. It's also where we make enriched milk. And it's been home to many a spontaneous staff meeting. Thanks to the team, this space has a lovely new chalkboard, made possible by plywood and chalkboard paint.
After the tiling and the chairs, the team built four picnic tables and four table/desks. They also made several more chalkboards. Now the education building is ready for action!
Well, I suppose we still have some cleaning to do. We will have to move some of these picnic benches out under the mango tree. Then we will line up the desks to give that traditional classroom feel.
Why are we so excited about chairs and tables?! Well, the education building has given us an opportunity to host community events, although without any benches, we always had to hall out the beds to use for seating. Also, the moms come to the education center for their business classes and some of their health classes and it is used by staff when they want to meet for prayer and worship. The garden employees have always taken their lunch here. Now they will have a wider range of seating choices and an actual place to rest! They will still come into this space for special training seminars, only now they won't have to sprawl out to take notes!
before the new desks
Ama, is arguably the most excited about these improvements. He gets to teach a literacy class to the moms! As a former school professor, his heart for teaching is one of our favorite things about him. He values education and he loves to learn.
When we spoke with him about the possibility of teaching some basic reading and writing skills he jumped on it. Jenn broached the subject with him and that very same day, after a long 8-hours in the gardens he went home, changed into some "teacher clothes" and headed over to officially enroll the moms in his class. It was very, very official. He made two lists, one with the names of women who could read and write and the other with those who can't. Then he submitted a written request to Jenn. Notebooks, please.
The last and final project, was a deck that was built with the intention to get some of the cooking up off the ground. It's just the beginning but we are very pleased to see how easily the deck came together. We plan to add a palm-branch canopy (similar to the one on our chicken coop) which will ensure that every one eats even during the rare, mid-afternoon rain storm.
a quick lesson on making things level
Between the desk-chairs, and the wheelchairs, I'd say we had a great week. Thanks again team!