What a great start to a new year in Haiti !! After a wonderful Christmas holiday with my daughter and family in Florida I arrived back in Haiti on January 1st. My first day back was so great - renewing friendships at church, visiting friends in the tent city, and getting back into speaking Creole again. The second day I was also honored to be invited into John's tent (tent city leader) to have dinner. About eight people crammed into his tent and a bunch more outside talking and listening through the doorway "flap". They asked all kinds of questions about my family, etc. - great fun and great time to get reacquainted. The rest of that first week was somewhat relaxing visiting friends in church and getting things set up again for teams coming to serve this new year. Since then it's been "fast and furious" (no relation to the "gun thing" in the USA !). Teams have come and gone and done wonderful work here for the Haitian people.
Right now we are focusing on finishing the Torcelle orphanage that we started last fall. As of today the second floor is built and the roof is starting to go on as I write this. It's so exciting for Pastor Bellande and the orphan children as they will finally have their own home to grow up in. This last fall, as I mentioned in previous emails, the children had to move out of their rented house that was over an hour's drive from town. Now the boys live in a small rented house close by and the little girls live in our bunkhouse at base camp. Move in day in the new building will be quite a celebration !! We've also started the well for the orphanage and church close to the building. This well will provide free fresh water to the church, orphanage and to the community as well.
Last year I put out the word on Facebook for anyone who wanted to help put two of my Haitian "children" from the tent city in school. God has blessed them with sponsors so they are now attending school at our church. Two of my kids are orphans and the other has only a mother who works in another city. So I was their "papa" at a recent school event where they issued the report cards to the children's parents. My kids did just "ok" on their report cards so I decided to start helping them with school work. A couple times a week we sit near my bunkhouse and work on lessons together - VERY difficult !! - Just try helping someone with school lessons that are written in French. I speak no French and only a little Creole and my kids don't speak much English !!! Communicating in that context is a riot ! And with my old brain, I feel like I'm the one in school and not them !!!
Last fall we started working with a new orphanage called Sarthe. They are the ones with a school of close to 200 children, along with a church and girl's orphanage, currently with 15 girls. Our first project is to build a bridge over the existing "stream" that runs across the front of the property. It's a "stream" - but it's mostly made up of waste water from the local soda bottling plant about 1/4 mile away, as well as raw sewage from "somewhere". It's an ugly mess in front of the property, but what a wonderful group of people. We've gotten to know many of the children and local families there as well and hope to have some new facilities built for them this year.
Some of the same American staff is back from last year and some new ones coming as well. Should be a wonderful year, helping the Haitian people and advancing God's kingdom here.
Blessings to you all !!
Uncle Mark Olson
Torcelle orphanage - Second floor all framed and starting to put up the roof trusses !! A couple of the Haitians working with us are learning carpentry very well and will be able to use those skills after the building here is finished. That's Jeanjean, one of our Haitian workers, in the corner with white t-shirt and hat working on a stack of roof trusses we just built. And that's Aaron Harris (who most of you know) on his knees next to Jeanjean laying out the next truss to be built - or maybe he's praying !
Well drilling rig for Torcelle orphanage working away. Finished the well at 150 feet deep with plenty of water for our needs !
This is Joneese with me. She lives in a tent behind where we are standing with her mom, sister, another lady and her baby. Their tent is right next to our Torcelle orphanage. One of the American team members building the orphanage donated money this week so Joneese and her sister could start school. Hopefully they can start in February after we get them uniforms, books, etc.
My Haitian "kids" - It's all smiles now but we haven't started lessons yet !! This is Macule in front, Geraldine by me and Witchiny in the middle. Interesting being a "father" to young children again. Homework is especially hard for me !!
That's the Sarthe church on the left with the "stream" in front. We were just recently blessed to be able to purchase the empty lot next door to the right and will be able to start construction of the orphanage facilities as soon as we complete the bridge over the stream. When the stream is flowing full the entire neighborhood stinks. We hope to cover the bulk of the stream across the property to enable our construction vehicles to drive onto the site. We were also recently blessed by a church in Oregon who has decided to pay for drilling a fresh water well here to get clean drinking water for the school, orphanage and community!!
Two of the orphanage children doing laundry next to the church/school/orphanage.
Pastor Renolds, his wife Roseland and their three boys. They run the school, the church and the orphanage at Sarthe and have become almost like family already.