Catching Katy

Reads, Eats, & Everything Else


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St. Joseph’s Family

There are not enough words to express how amazing the organizations were saw in Haiti are. St. Joseph’s Family is the umbrella organization we worked with in Haiti. And they have an incredible story. The St. Joseph’s Home for Boys was created in 1985 by Michael Geilenfeld to take boys off the streets and/or out of child slavery and give them a home, a family, an education, and more. We visited for a day and met Bill Nathan, the current director of the home, who grew up at the home. He fell seven stories off the building when the earthquake hit and lived not only to tell the story, but to return as director and oversee the rebuilding of the home. You can see a video about Bill here.

the new St. Joseph’s Home for Boys – opening any day now!

Wings of Hope is who we stayed with and worked with most of the week. It is a home that was saved by the boys at St. Joseph’s in 1994 when it was about to be closed. It is a home and family for children and young adults with physical and mental disabilities – something that is not accepted at all in Haiti. All but one of the 31 children/young adults who reside there were left by their families at the hospital, an orphanage, on the streets, or in front of the Wings gate. Most of the them have fairly severe disabilities. Some of them have little to no use of their legs and/or arms and have to depend on others to move, feed them, and care for them. Others have no physical disabilities but are high on the autism spectrum or have Downs Syndrome. But these children/young adults are the most loving group I have every met. Wings with Hope’s motto is “possibilities not disabilities”, and in a society with such a strong stigma against disabilities – they surpass what anyone would expect them to do. During the school year, they provide occupational therapy, physical therapy, recreational therapy, and classroom time for each child. During the summer, there is more free/play time, though we still got to participate in some organized activities like Bingo – a group favorite.

Wings of Hope temporary facility – their building was damaged, condemned, and torn down after the earthquake

Hanging out on the porch at Wings

The kids are very smart. Many of them do chores throughout the year to earn an allowance and have an annual shopping trip to spend their money. We were fortunate enough to be able to accompany them on their shopping trip this year!! Most of the kids wanted radios, my shopping buddy, Teddy, wanted cereal – a guy after my own heart πŸ™‚ After shopping we went out to lunch and had burgers and fries – a real treat for the kids. It is definitely a highlight for them for the year and it was a highlight for me on our trip.

Teddy and I in the van after a fun day of shopping

We also were able to accompany 12 of the kids to horse therapy, which they do on a weekly basis! It is a treat but also a great therapy for them all. And of course there was dance party Friday. But I think the best part was just the day-to-day hanging out with kids, getting to know them. Despite lack of language sometimes and what most would consider abnormal behavior, we loved on these kids and more importantly they loved on us. Sometimes just sitting and being present can make all the difference in the world. I can truly say that I got to know every single one of the kids/young adults on some level – some more than others – and that I love every single one of them. They all have nothing but love to offer, gains to make, fun to have, and a family to support them.

Frank Ely taking pictures with my camera

Pierre loves time at the horse ranch

Marhitza and I

our whole group, not wanting to say goodbye!

I know I have not done the trip justice at all. I guess you’ll just have to go for yourself to see how amazing it is. πŸ™‚

To learn more about these organizations, visit their website: www.heartswithhaiti.org


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Haiti Outreach Ministries

We had the privilege to visit a couple different places while in Haiti. One was a day away from Wings of Hope (where we were staying the week) to visit Haiti Outreach Ministries (HOM). They are set up in 4 different communities around Port Au Prince and are doing so many wonderful things. We met Pastor Leon at the main, and largest, location. He gave us a very throough tour and overview of everything the organization does. At this main location, they have a church, primary school, vocational school, medical clinic, and a clean water system, where anyone from the community can come to get clean water at no charge. Talk about a one-stop shop!! Not all of the locations are able to offer all these things, but they are working towards that goal.

looking down into the courtyard at HOM

Their month-long VBS was taking place at the time, so the grounds were filled with energetic children and beautiful singing voices. It was a treat to just stand and listen to hundreds of children singing together. They also started an orphanage after the earthquake for a group of their own students who lost their parents. We got to visit for just a few minutes and visit with the small group of girls already living on the property as they finish construction.

VBS at HOM

Visiting the orphanage

Pastor Leon is an energetic and passionate man who is obviously committed to the people in his community. He led us to visit one of the other locations where the church had been destroyed in the earthquake. The same thing happened at the other location but we did not have time to visit them all. His number one priority is to get the buildings rebuilt, as they have been meeting under a tent since the earthquake in January 2010. It was amazing to listen to the stories of some of the people who had benefited from the teachings and care from the HOM family. And it was obvious that the communities were affected by the love and opportunities offered by this organization.

view from the school roof at one HOM location – the church starting to be rebuilt


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#34. Haiti

[Side note – I apologize for the short delay between trip and posting – I returned with 2 weeks left at my job, tons of work, and a house to move!]

One larger item in my 101 list was to visit a new foreign country. That country was Haiti. I’m going to do a number of posts about the trip because there is so much to share – though I will still not be able to convey the full awesomeness of the trip. But I will try. This post will be about Haiti in general. Right off the bat I can say that could I do things differently, I would have looked at the language more – Creole – and learned more words……..or some words (let’s be honest, I didn’t have much time to think about the trip until we were at the airport…).

We arrived on Saturday, mid-afternoon. 2.5 years post earthquake. The airport is still being repaired and rebuilt. It was slightly chaotic getting through customs, finding our checked bags of donations. Walking outside into the thick heat, breathing in the first smells of a new place (after all, you should use all senses when experiencing something new). Make it to the van, already sweating, and start driving. There are so many cars. There are no traffic lights, no stop signs, seemingly no traffic laws, and lots of working horns. Definitely an experience.

whizzing past a park in Port au Prince

Maybe I was completely wrong and ignorant in this expectation, but I expected to still see lots of collapsed buildings, ruble, etc. But that was not the case at all. Although there are security fences around pretty much every property, with the exception of a few collapsed buildings we saw, it appeared that condemned buildings had been torn down and many buildings had been rebuilt. I probably expected this because after two mission trips to New Orleans, there are still many areas that have not been touched since it flooded.

one of the few collapsed buildings we saw

The landscape of Haiti was very interesting. There were areas, especially driving up the mountain, that were green, but I would not say they were lush. They were kind of green, but bare….?? Apparently there is a lot of deforestation in the country as there is a high need for firewood. Don’t get me wrong, there were still trees around, just not a ton. It was still a beautiful country – very full of life and energy, people everywhere. It was just a different beautiful than say the Grand Canyon or Redwood Forest.

Not once did I feel unsafe or uncomfortable during the week. There were a couple instances when we were stopped in traffic in the van and had a person ask for money at the window – but never were they scary or aggressive or inappropriate. In general, people were friendly wherever we went (of course, the actual groups we stayed with and visited were exceptional and amazing – more to come on those).

The whole trip was amazing. There is way too much to put into one post, so there will be multiple. And I’ll try to get them done quickly!