Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas in Cange

My first Christmas away from home was filled with relaxing celebrations with new friends here in Cange, plenty of Skyping back home with my parents, and reading nice emails and message from friends and family. I had a wonderful multicultural Christmas, reaching out beyond just Haiti and the United States.

And, at the beginning of the celebrations, we had a beautiful double rainbow over Cange. Considering it's the dry season in Haiti, this was an extra special treat for the holidays.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Ecole Lo Limonde

Thabenie invited me to visit a primary school she supports in a rural locale called Lo Limonde. This is a walk-through of my visit. I deliberately restricted use of my camera to have a more personal interaction, so I'll use more words to illustrate the experience.

I started the trip on my first ever moto ride (I only decided to do this because most of the trip was on a gravel road and not the busy paved road). We drove for about 45 minutes to Tierra Muscady, where our path ended and we had to switch to foot travel. 
The path traversed pretty typical rural Haiti countryside with very few trees, some farm land, and a lot of open grassy areas with sparse livestock. Dusty now, in the beginning of the dry season, baking in the sun and with little water.We walked for about 45 minutes, crossing one knee deep river, before arriving at the school. As is typical in rural Haitian areas, there is no centralized village. In Lo Limonde, the school is the only building excluding fairly spread out houses.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Manifestations, Bishops, Salt and Pepper

Last week, all American Episcopal missionaries in Haiti were called to Port-au-Prince for several days with a group of bishops, spouses, and staff from the Church Center in New York (including our boss David Copley!). The group was on a mission of presence--to experience just a part of the Episcopal Church in Haiti and to invigorate the ministry of the church in the country.
 I had to travel a day earlier than planned because of pre-announced manifestations in Port-au-Prince coinciding with the November 18th Haitian holiday marking the Battle of Vertieres, the final part of the Haitian Revolution in 1803. I traveled with a group from Cange on their way to a soccer game in the national stadium, and on our way we passed these amphibious UN vehicles on their way to the city for security. We were confined to the hotel all of Monday as the demonstrations blocked the main roads in Port-au-Prince. The crowd came just past the hotel, moving up the street through Petionville.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sustainable Solutions: Chapateau Water Committee

Over three months in, I'm still hearing things like, "what do you do every day?" or "I still don't understand what you do." Most of my job involves meetings--I'm provide a supportive role for various groups and projects going on in and around Cange. Meetings usually do not make for interesting blog posts or photographs, so I haven't posted much about them. But this past week was an exception, when I went to the village of Chapateau to help form a water committee for their village water system.

Engineer Brian, Colon, EDUSC visitor Gordon Smith, and I rode in a dugout canoe across the lake to Chapateau. The Clemson engineers have been renovating a broken water system there, but they wish to provide the village with a sustainable mechanism to improve maintenance and local control of the system. The water committee will hopefully prevent the village from experiencing long periods without water at their fountains and reduce dependency on outside aid.
Brian and Colon
For this process to work, the engineers have been working closely with the villagers so the developed committee is locally grown. Colon, a Haitian gentleman who works frequently with the engineers, provided his usual invaluable support by leading the meeting with the village. His leadership and presence bridges the cultural gaps left between the engineers and the community, significantly improving the potential of success for the project.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Drums, Dancing, Kleren and Sodo

On All Saints' Day, my Haitian culture and Kreyol teacher Emmanuel Milien graciously took Jenn and I on a trip to Sodo, a beautiful waterfall on the other side of Mirebalais from Cange. Sodo is a Haitian Vodou site that attracts many worshipers and visitors for services around the year. Corresponding with All Saints' Day, November 1-7 is one such large Vodou celebration, and we went in pursuit of a cultural experience. Though we actually found little activity at the falls, we had a few interesting stops along the way.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Masters of the Dew

Masters of the Dew by Jacques Roumain is one of the books on my Haiti book list. It is one of my favorites so far, and I felt it called for it's own blog post. You can see the other books on my list here.

Roumain tells the story of rural Haitian farm life in the 1940s through the story of Manuel, a Haitian who returns home after working in Cuba for 15 years. He brings with him a perspective and skill set unfamiliar to the community to which he returns. I found the book very insightful into Haitian culture and the difficulties of rural agriculture, the presence of Christianity in Haiti, and the human element.

I highly recommend this read, and I want to share a few passages I found particularly strong and challenging. The first calls out the approach we take on the challenges we face. One Haitian proverb says, "deye mon, gen mon," which means, "beyond mountains, there are mountains." The second passage acknowledges our significance as individual fleeting lives. And the third passage briefly and poignantly describes the deterioration of our land.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Countryside Hike and Bassin Zim

October has been a busy month for visitors to Cange, which means many opportunities to visit other places nearby just for fun (maybe with a little work thrown in). This past weekend was a great break for me, providing a sort of spiritual cleansing that was much needed for my focus. On Saturday, I hiked into the countryside with Jane Chalker and a group from the University of Miami and swam Bassin Zim on Sunday with a group from The University of the South.
The hike to several rural villages took trails that reach the valley lying beyond the mountains seen off the balcony of the building where I live.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Looking Forward

Before coming to Cange, a village of about 3,400 people, I had an slight expectation of boredom--life in a sleepy little village in the mountains of Haiti would be far less active than, say, life in Sao Paolo or Hong Kong right? After all I do drink from coconuts, ride in dug out canoes, and sit through five hour church services on some Sundays. Quite the active life.

When life gives you a fallen tree, make a dugout canoe.
After spending two and a half months here, however, there has hardly been a shortage of things to do.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Centre de Formation Fritz Lafontant

Centre de Formation Fritz Lafontant (CFFL) is a vocational school in Corporant, about a 20 minute drive down Route 3 from Cange. They train students in agriculture, wood working, and construction through various hands-on projects. It's a beautiful facility with expansive fields of various crops, many of which are experiments to determine better varieties of plants to produce in Haiti.

I got to visit the school for the first time recently, and now I'll be teaching English there two hours a week! My first day is next Tuesday, and I'll be teaching the woodworking students. It should be a fun, regular task to add to my otherwise chaotic and random schedule.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Photo Update

My last few weeks have been particularly random, but I've seen and done some neat things. Here are just a few pictures that capture what I've done, where I've been, and some of the amazing people I spend time with.
Exploring a (small) limestone cave with Ambioli and Roro
A potential site for a new Cange market. This site would be for a once a week large market, modeled after similar weekly markets in nearby towns. It's about the size of a soccer field and easily accessible from Route 3.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Dirty Side of Biodigesters

The Clemson engineers have built a new biodigester latrine here in Cange that will provide more sanitary restroom conditions, take care of waste management, and produce useful gas and waste water for agriculture. I've shown you a few pictures of it already, but it has so far been inactive. Yesterday, I joined Sam on an trip to collect 30 gallons of cow manure to seed the biodigester bag preparing it for use by people. Hopefully by next week it will be operational.

When we traveled to the town of Casse to pick up the sack of kaka bef, rain was just arriving. We delicately tossed the large sack into the back of the pickup truck and took off to Cange. On our way through the Casse market, about 10 people jumped in the back of a truck for a faster trip up the road. I suspect they were unaware of the other cargo we were hauling.
Fortunately, upon returning to Cange, the rain finally moved on and we were able to carry the manure down to the biodigester. Here are a few pictures of the professional process of scooping poo into a bag.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Trip to North Carolina

No I didn't leave Haiti to go back to the Blue Ridge Mountains, but Father Kesner did during a two week trip around the Carolinas. On Thursday, Father Kesner and Ferest, who traveled from Cange, met and had lunch with my parents. Jane Chalker and Al Brady were also there.So glad they got to meet each other and connect.

Ferest, Father Kesner, Mom, Dad, Jane, Al

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cange Circa 1983

"It is appropriate for this project, and suits us fine to consider the spring as part of a divine scheme for supply water to Cange and we will not seek further scientific explanations."

That spring is still going strong, supplying life giving water for the village of Cange through a water system built decades ago and updated by Clemson engineers in the past four years. The source of that important spring is still unknown, yet the water still comes.

The remark about the "divine scheme" comes from the original engineering feasibility study from 1983 done for a water supply system to Cange and Ecole Bon Sauveur. The project marked a significant addition to the relationship between the Episcopal Upper Diocese of South Carolina and the town of Cange, Haiti, a relationship which continues today.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Church in Tierra Muscady

Yesterday I got the chance to see one of the nineteen smaller Episcopal parishes near Cange. Father Kesner preached at Eglise Transfiguration de Tierra in Tierra Muscady. That church is supported by Church of the Incarnation in Highlands, NC, where Kesner will be preaching in two weeks. We went to Tierra Muscady with Jane Chaulker and a few others from Church of the Incarnation who were here in Cange for the week.

The trip to Tierra Muscady was one of my first to a village outside of Cange. We were able to take a car to the church, heading up the paved Route 3 until taking a right onto a rocky dirt road.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What Am I Doing?

My assignment in Cange is economic development, a fairly nebulous task that means different things to different people. But over my first two weeks here, I've gained a much better idea of my tasks.

The broadest perspective involves creating a baseline study of the economy of Cange and the surrounding villages to help guide future economic development in the area. For this, I will work together with the economic development project team of Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries and local entrepreneurs to create a report on the economy. This process will include conversations with locals in the market, various store owners, and those who live in smaller villages who produce (or could be producing) agricultural products to sell in Cange.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bonswa soti Cange

After a relatively stress free day of traveling, I arrived in Cange Saturday with the crew from South Carolina. Since there are several people here from the Upper Diocese of South Carolina, this week has been packed full of meetings, which is helping me get introduced to some of the locals. It is wonderful to finally be here and begin settling in to a new home, language, and culture.
View from my temporary room. I can see the Dominican Republic from my house.
So much has been going on, it's overwhelming, and everything is such a new experience. For this post I'll just share some highlights from my first few days in Cange.

Monday, July 29, 2013


Recently, I've been asked by several store clerks where I live. I find myself stuck in a peculiar position. I just graduated and left from Clemson, where I've lived for four years. I'm currently living at my original home, if you will, in Asheville, where I grew up. But I'm only here temporarily between graduation and moving to Cange, Haiti.

Sometimes my response is just, "Asheville." Other times I'll expand on that and say something like, "Asheville for now, but I'm moving to Haiti in (x number) of days." I'm either timid enough to presume everyone does not want to hear about this awesome opportunity in the Young Adult Service Corps or I'm bold enough to presume they do. Depends on my mood.

Right now home is a tricky thing. I'm privileged and grateful to have grown up and lived in a loving, stable household in Asheville, NC. I'm writing this post from the porch of the house to which I was brought after being born in the hospital. I definitely feel at home here, and I love the people, culture, and natural beauty of these mountains. My family is here. It is home in my heart, and it's going to be tough to leave it. Here's a picture off of the back porch of that house:

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Danger of a Single Story

When we only retain a single story of another person, country, or culture we can develop damaging misconceptions that mislead us to act in inappropriate, and harmful, ways.

By far, the two most frequent comments I receive from others when talking about moving to Haiti are, "Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere," and, "watch out for Vodou down there." Haiti is one such place often defined by a single story. This post is about uprooting that single story and presenting additional information about the country to which I'm moving. 

These details are not meant to define Haiti in its entirety, or collectively present a certain view. These are simply a few details from my reading that have challenged my previous understanding of Haiti and Haitian history.

Inspiration for this post came from a TED Talk video by storyteller Chimamanda Adichie that we viewed at training in New York. I strongly encourage you to watch this engaging speaker explain the danger of a single story here: 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Meet the Other YASCers!

Ashley Cameron created this awesome video that introduces all of this year's YASC volunteers (except for the two from the Dominican Republic who were unable to attend training in New York due to visa issues). Watch the video to find out who we all are, where we are from, where we are going and what excites us about YASC.
You can also find out more about each volunteer at the blogs linked on the front page of my blog.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

So Close And Yet So Far Away

From June 16th through June 29th, twenty some twenty somethings and a few young-adult-at-heart Episcopal missionaries experienced the 2013 training session for the Young Adult Service Corps. Meeting at the Stony Point Center, north of NYC on the Hudson River, we mixed logistical and abstract training sessions to help us prepare for integrating into another country. A big THANK YOU to the YASC staff and all of the others that contributed so much to our training and preparation for our mission years.
I'm amazed by how at home I feel with this bunch of missionaries, given we've only spent three days of discernment weekend and about 14 days of training together. After getting so close during this time, we all embark for distant lands in the next couple of months. But through that, we will all be there for each other for support as we navigate this calling.

Monday, July 1, 2013

It's Fun To Stay At The YMCA. No really...

Will Bryant and I finally arrived home in Asheville yesterday after two days of traveling from New York City and the YASC training in Stony Point, NY. We received early practice in using the f word of missionary work. Flexibility came in handy after a delayed flight from LaGuardia led to an extra night for us in the Big Apple.

We stayed at the YMCA in the middle of Manhattan, something I never thought one could do. It is fun to stay at the YMCA... in Manhattan.
Anyway, in this first post about the YASC training, I'll share two things from training that to me capture both the work we will be doing and how we are preparing to do it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Reading List

I have added a new page to the blog, found among the tabs at the top. The "Reading List." tab will feature books I have on my to-read list and reviews of books I have completed related to economic development, social justice, and Haitian history and culture.

If you are interested, I hope this list will inspire you to read a bit more as well. Also, if you know of any books that you think should be on the list but are not, please let me know and I will look into them!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Change of Place

Two big pieces of news came to me this afternoon. First, I have reached my goal for fundraising! This is far sooner than I expected, and I am so grateful and blessed to have all of this support. Thank you to all who have made contributions! (More on this at the end of the post).

Second, I have received the blessing of Bishop Duracin, the Bishop of Haiti, for placement in Cange, Haiti, a town located in the Central Plateau inland to the northeast of Port-au-Prince. This means my placement is official!

"But wait, I thought you were going to Brazil," you say. That was the plan until Dr. Harry Morse and David Vaughn, both parishioners at Holy Trinity Episcopal Clemson, proposed a placement in Haiti.

Friday, April 5, 2013

And so it begins!

Well actually it already began. Last summer I first heard about the Young Adult Service Corps while talking to my friend and current YASC volunteer Jared Grant. Skip a few steps to February, and I found myself at a deeply spiritual discernment weekend for the program at Camp Weed in Florida. That retreat was a chance for us to meet the YASC staff, former volunteers and the other potential volunteers for next year. The weekend was an intense period of reflection that helped me determine that YASC and a mission year are right for me. Then there's been the past few weeks, when I've been occupied organizing my fundraising, communication and support for this experience.

But in some sense, I feel like YASC starts with this blog. Communication is going to be key for me as I enter a mission year with the Episcopal Church, and this blog will be a core part of that communication. It will serve as a tool for me to record my experiences and work, to keep in touch with people back at home, and to gather support from my family and friends.

I hope it will also serve as a tool for you as you follow me in this journey and participate in the ministry. You'll find information about me and my motivation to serve here, under the "About me" tab. You'll find details on how you can participate in this ministry here, under the "How to Help" tab.

You'll find a passage of scripture from 1 Corinthians in a separate tab on the main page as well. This is a passage of scripture that I really appreciate. In it, Paul provides an explanation of how our individual spiritual gifts fit into our often chaotic world and how we are all united under God. It's also the inspiration for the title of my blog.

You'll find the meat of the blog here on the main feed. I'll be posting about my preparations for leaving, my work and my travels while abroad, and anything else I find interesting or relevant to my service. If that sounds fun to you, I hope you will follow what I post and discuss what you read with others and me.

An unpredictable journey lies ahead, but your support will help me remember I am not alone walking this path.

I look forward to making more posts in the future, and I look forward to hearing from you. Hopefully the next time you'll hear from me here will be with details about my placement.

Together we are many parts but one body.