The Last Couple Hours…

We are down to the last hours of our trip. I have to say we have accomplished so much in one week. Rebecca, Diane, Joni, and I have worked so well as a team to make sure we got everything we wanted to accomplish done and then some. I do want to thank our entire Enactus team and the BRCC community for everything they have done to make this trip possible.

Well, we are all packed and ready to come back home…. the forecast shows that it will be snowing on Tuesday morning. We are all hoping it does!!! Who doesn’t like a nice snow day :)

Au revoir Haiti!

In several hours Diane, Rebecca, Hind and I will be heading to the airport and flying over the aqua blue waters of Haiti. Last night, after some hot plantain pudding, we were all reflecting on what we have accomplished as a team in the past week. Not only did we complete the tasks we had set out to do, but we were able to meet with several committees on starting new businesses which was exciting. In particular, yesterday, we visited an after-school program which was voluntarily started by three young adults. Not only were these three coordinators motivated, they had a business plan for sustainability and had a plan to pay us back and pay it forward.

Overall, I feel as though we have accomplish even more than we set out to do. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and work with such a motivated and hard working team. Although our BRCC Enactus team has a lot of work cut out for us to do, we are more than excited to watch the next stages of our projects in Haiti evolve.

Au revoir Haiti!

Joni

The final day

Today… Saturday is the last day on this adventure. Its been a busy day but a good one. We awoke this morning to go and observe a student leadership camp up the mountain which I found really interesting as I had never gone further up than the sand quarry. It still all Mon Lopital but it was interesting. The people who run this camp are very entrepeneurial and we met several times during the day to discuss small business ideas that could be used to increase the sustainability of the camp.

Tonight we packed up for our journey home – we had a good trip…. lots of stories to tell when we get back …. so see you on Tuesday on campus. Its time to take my last cold shower for the trip! I want to do it before the generator runs out of power!!

Rebecca

Hallelujah!

We’re heading home tomorrow! I’m so happy to imagine myself on that plane, heading back to the States. I’ve enjoyed my time in Haiti, but I miss my family, I miss my Noodle-oo (aka my fat puppy), I miss my bed, and I miss taking hot showers and feeling clean. My college kids are even going to be at home so I can see everyone at once.

It’s been a very successful trip and we’ve accomplished a lot. We were talking about that at the evening dessert Santlis prepared for us. We distributed approximately 140 pairs of shoes, checked on the Davis School for the Disabled, checked on the orphanage and saw how all the girls were doing, checked on the tap-tap, shopped for our fundraiser, worked extensively in the bakery and provided training on best practices for maximum profitability, built and cooked on biostoves, and met with some entrepreneurs looking for assistance. I can leave feeling really positive about the outcome of our trip.

USA – here we come!!

Friday …. and my 13 step cold water shower protocol

Well today started with that haunting rooster again…. he sits in the tree outside our room and goes at it in the middle of the night. Today I was determined to track down the culprit and I did … his picture is below…. what a loud mouth!

Do this morning we headed down to Port au Prince to the artisan cooperative…. which is always a fun time. Joni, Hind and Diane helped purchase the crafts and items for our next art auction including the most beautiful baskets. We had a great time and poor Father Roosevelt – typical guy when out with a group of women …. he waited for us! After we had depleted our budget we headed back up the mountain to Mon Lopital – we then all worked on reconciling our purchases and setting prices and packing up the goods…. this took a couple of hours and was tough…. but finally we got it to work and it was time for dinner. Dinner was chicken (not rooster darn!) beans and rice and watermelon. There was also potatoes but I’m not sure what she calls the dish as its like mashed potatoes but them creamed and baked again.

This afternoon was the best …. we taught a group of people from the village about biostoves and had a hands on workshop to build the stoves. Not only did we build the stoves we cooked on them – we fried eggs, boiled eggs and even popped popcorn on the biostoves… all powered by biomass briquettes. It was a great afternoon!

Tomorrow we are being token somewhere ot meet a group of young people who run a leadership program for middle to high school students. Tomorrow afternoon we will be packing up and getting ready to ship back out to the awesome USA Sunday… I was warned we are coming back to frigid temperatures but I can tell you I am looking forward to it! Bring on the cords and sweaters… and my UGGS…. that is normal for me at this time of year and I miss it… along with my hot water, my family and my bed (not in that order of course). I am carving lettuce…. salad….I always crave it when I’m here….

Now as promised on to my multi-step cold water showering procedure, I must credit a few people who have added value to the process over the years… Gail and Megan Samples. Their ideas are incorporated into my process:

Step 1: Since the sink in our bathroom fell off the wall on day one and our pipes are leaking when we reattach the sink to the wall. Brush your teeth before you get in the shower and spit into the shower (it rinses down as you shower)

Step 2: Disrobe – but be careful where you put your clothes as the baby roaches get into everything – remember to keep on your flip flops to enter the shower. You do not want to walk barefoot in that shower……..

Step 3: Take your bath towel off the wall and snap it good – things crawl up into it during the day and there is nothing worse than finding something in your towel when you exit the shower

Step 4: Get it the shower stall and turn on the cold water…. I must specify once again that there is only cold water so your temperature options are easy… cold or cold.

Step 5: quickly stick your head under the water and lightly wet your hair while at the same time wetting your wash cloth (which is a necessity). Then turn off the water.

Step 6: Take the shampoo and condition and mix both in your hand (thank you Gail for this one) lather up your hair with this mixture – which cuts down on the times you need to rinse your head off with cold water. Let it set.

Step 7: Lather up your body with liquid soap – bar soap doesn’t work as well – we need to minimize the need for water so liquid soaps work best (let your hair conditioner set on your head while you do this)

Step 8: (This is the biggie) turn on the water and stick only your head in and as thoroughly as possible rinse your hair out.

Step 9: This is the shocker… its time to rinse everything else… I start with my legs and then arms and rinse and then hold my breath and jump in the water trying not to make weird painful noises… remember take a deep breath before completing this step.

Step 10: turn of the water and catch your breath

Step 11: Step out of the shower stall and dry yourself off being careful to keep on your flip flops but at the same time figuring out a way to dry your feet.

Step 12: Proceed to get dressed and do all the other little tasks necessary in your showering ritual.

Step 13: (Optional) I add this step for Megan Samples gave me this one… when in a 3rd world country sprinkle Gold Bond Powder on youself … it makes you feel human again and smell nice!!

Now if this process is too tedious and you are in a place where your normal American 3 – 5 star showers are not available and you DO NOT want to go through this process… you can opt for the alternative plan of action perfected by Joni and Hind on this trip…. just don’t shower at all while there.

Hope this helps all you world travelers! Good night from Haiti  – its time for cold shower #6 (with one more to go tomorrow night)

Rebecca

Buying, Selling, and Producing – an accountant’s dream!

BUYING: Today we left right after breakfast to go shopping at the Fair Trade Co-op in Port-au-Prince. When our team visits Haiti we always stop here so we can support local artisans and hold a fundraiser sale when we return to campus. A trip to Port-au-PrBuying:ince means another hair-raising, death-defying ride with Father Roosevelt at the wheel. Hind, Joni, and I all make sure we are buckled in securely and then trust all will be well. So far, so good!

The Co-op had so many beautiful things. There were several larger things I would have loved to have bought for my home, but I had no idea how I would ever ship them. In the meantime, I picked up a few things for my family. Having selected a few personal items, I got serious about helping Hind and Joni select items for the fundraiser. We kept calling out, What about this, Rebecca? What about this? Do you think they’d like this? Every so often she’d ask the girls if they thought their peers would like this item, or that. Between the four of us, we knocked out the shopping fairly quickly. The Co-op has a very well-organized computer system tracking all the inventory for the artisans and providing an itemized receipt. As things are being tallied, young men are waiting to take the items and carefully wrap them in paper and place them in bags for the customers. You pick them up as you leave. A few of the American stores I’ve been in could learn a thing or two about customer service from this shop.

SELLING: Time for another exciting ride back to the rectory! Joni realized as the car was swaying dangerously from side to side in the deep ruts of the sandy, mountain road that she wasn’t buckled, but we were all wedged in so tightly with shopping bags that we decided she was as cushioned as she could possibly be. Once we got back to the rectory we went into action. Rebecca went through everything the team had purchased, Hind verified each item against the itemized receipts, and I created an inventory sheet in Excel, using a formula to calculate our conversion rate to determine our Cost of Goods Sold in US dollars. Together we set prices that would allow us to recover our COGS and make a little profit to apply towards our international projects. Have I mentioned I love Excel? I have to thank Marlena Jarboe for being such an excellent instructor and showing me that there’s almost nothing Excel can’t do. After getting my accountant-nerd fix, we cleaned up and prepared for our dinner meal. We had a few new things and, excitement of all excitement, watermelon! I’ve missed fresh fruit this week. Rebecca made arrangements with Father to get us a few different kinds. We really appreciate how well she’s taking care of us!

During lunch, Joni presented Rebecca with a small gift from us. At the co-op she noticed that, among the other handmade refrigerator magnets, there was a colorful rooster. We all know that Rebecca likes to collect refrigerator magnets from the locations of her travels, and since Chanticleer has done his utmost to keep us awake all night long, we thought having her own personal Haitian Chanticleer would be the perfect reminder of this trip. We were told the roosters spend the night in trees here, and there’s one right outside our window. We’re determined to catch him in the act. Rebecca has hatched a plan to sneak up on the roof and, using my small flashlight and her camera, take a picture of the offender from just above the tree. We have a suspect in mind and Rebecca took his picture today. We’re going to determine if it’s a match.

PRODUCING: After lunch we prepared for our biostove demonstration. We were all really excited about this project because it has the potential to make such a significant impact. While Hind, Rebecca, and I worked on inventory, Joni had been busy walking around the grounds and making note of the cans in the trash piles. She asked Jonathan and Claudy, the two orphans who live here at the rectory, to bring her all the cans they could find. She was going to prove how easy it would be to find the resources necessary to make a biostove for free. We gathered a few men and a few of the young men came out of curiosity, so we had a fairly large audience for our demonstration. We had packed a large number of empty, cleaned cans of all sizes, and both a large and a small biostove that we had made as examples. I used the laptop to show the demonstration video of Tim Byrd teaching Joni, Hind and me how to make the stove. I had edited it down to all of the main steps and added French captions. Joni and Hind had created a Biomass Guide booklet with step-by-step pictures and French captions. Following the video, the three of us guided them through the steps as they took turns using the tools on the cans, while the others followed along in the guidebook. It was a great success! We showed them how to start fires in the stove, using biomass briquettes as fuel. We were boiling water when Joni had the excellent idea to make hard-boiled eggs. She then got a frying pan and began cooking a fried egg as well. I think everyone was surprised to see how well the food cooked. Joni tried to encourage Jonathan to taste her fried egg, but he said, No. I’m not hungry. His frightened face betrayed his true feelings. Joni boldly took a bite, but he was still not convinced, so I took a bite. Then I pretty much pressured Robens, our translator (and he of the earlier microloan standoff), to man up and try a bit of egg. He good-naturedly acquiesced, only to be surprised at how good Joni’s egg was. Soon, the hard-boiled eggs were finished and I peeled one to show them the inside. Haitian men – such skeptics! I fed one delicious looking egg to the sweet, yard dog lying at my feet. Very quickly one of the men laid claim to the other egg. Joni then went and begged popcorn kernels off of Santlis, the cook, and made a pot of popcorn on top of one of the smaller biostoves. It was delicious and she shared it with Santlis to thank her.

Needless to say, all of the food inspired the men to greater interest and they began grabbing extra cans to make more stoves of various sizes. Even Jonathan got into the act. We assured him he had the makings of a great entrepreneur when he had the idea to attach a handle for the workers who go out to garden all day. They can carry a little stove with them and cook their afternoon meal out in the garden. Brilliant! To hit our message home, Rebecca whipped out her laptop and showed the pictures from Well of Hope in Kiserian, Kenya to demonstrate how successful the women there have been with their briquette business. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Today was a great day. We accomplished so much and made so many people happy.

TGIF

Its Friday!!

We were all super excited to go shopping today ( girls love shopping). After breakfast, we headed right to the car to go to the Co-Op and purchase items for the art sale ( for those of you who love the art sale……we got some really cool stuff this year). We really shopped until we dropped. I loved how this place was reasonably priced and no one was trying to scam us.

We then headed back to Mon L’opital and got right to work by putting everything onto a spreadsheet and converting prices. The items on the receipt were in Creole which was a little difficult to understand but since I could slightly compare some of the words to french we got it done. Rebecca and Diane have amazing organization and accounting skills  that got the job done. All that is left is to price tag all the items when we get back to go old Virginia. After lunch we set up the biomass stove video, booklets, and examples Tim helped us make at school. We began teaching some of the men from the village how to make it. Everyone participated and seemed intrigued by it. We made two biomass stove and put them to burn. The heat that comes out of these is amazing!! we fried an egg, boiled an egg in ten minutes, and even popped some tasty popcorn. The best part is all the items that are used for the biomass stove can be found and used for free.

Well our week in Haiti is coming to an end. Tomorrow we will head out to get some D-lights for the bakery and go check out the boys and girls club. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Another typical, or not so typical day, in Haiti.

So, currently Hind and I are curled up beneath our mosquito nets getting ready for bed. One problem; we forgot to turn the light off. Neither of us wants to get out of bed for several reasons. For one, there is a giant cockroach dead right below the light switch. Actually, earlier today (as recorded in previous posts) one friendly cockroach attempted to climb up my leg! …… DURING our script rehearsal.

Anyway, as we begin to quiet down here in Mon Lopital, every animal in Haiti decides to wake up and begin a musical ensemble… *see previous posts for further description.

Overall though, we’ve had another great and rewarding day! From handing out glow sticks to smiling school children to meeting with our bakery accountant we are continuing to accomplish those things we have set out to do.

Tomorrow we have some really exciting plans in store. Hint: biomass and Haitian art is included!

Until tomorrow!

Joni

 

 

 

Thursday…. a hodge podge of goings on….

So that rooster last night just got on my nerves…. he crows or (whatever you call it) so much that he sounds like he has Laryngitis! Tonight Roobens is going to go out there and see if he can shut him up…. good luck with that one.I tossed and turned so much last night I woke up and was wrapped like a mummy in my one sheet I lie on. I refuse to lay under it – its doesn’t look too clean and it freaks me out a bit. I brought my own pillow, pillow case, towels…. but not sheets… live and learn.

After breakfast this morning we decided to go to the school. Traditionally each year we come up with an activity for the children who attend the village school – which is about 500 kids. A few months ago I was in Michaels Craft Store and they had these containers of neon bracelets for $1 for about 15 bracelets…. So I cleaned them out and bought close to 250 bracelets and put them away for the trip. So today we started with the little little children (kindergarten) and gave each child a bracelet. When we ran out of bracelets we gave the older kids two pieces of bubble gum. One thing I noticed and its not a good thing is that  the people are becoming very at ease with using buildings that for the past few years had been viewed as unstable due to the earthquake. When we went to the school with bracelets and gum the older children were now upstairs in this two story concrete building that was heavily damaged during the earthquake. For the past three years we were not allowed up on the second floor. The lower floor is used as a village clinic.   Now they are using the upper floor  for classrooms. Not only that but when we went up the stairs to the second floor they locked the door to stair exit – so in my mind I’m thinking hmmm if I feel a rumble there is no getting out that door – so I’m jumping. The problem is there is no place for anyone to softly land.So the bottom line is not my freaky way of planning for quick escapes but thinking those kids are in serious trouble in the event of even a minor tremor. It seems that Haiti has forgotten. I can assure you I haven’t ……..

On the way back to the rectory we stopped and interviewed vendors about bread sales – we used this information to move the bakery to actually add another size of bread to the product offerings.

This afternoon we worked with the bakery accountant going over inventory control, break even analysis  and reporting. We taught him how to use spreadsheets and set him up on Excel. He was mesmorized. His name is Frantze and I think he is very bright but very quiet…. I hope he can hold his own against the head baker who is very comfortable in his skin. Roobens even was so excited by our spreadsheets he talked Diane into designing his for his business. Diane was very patient with him and was a very good tutor teaching him the ins and outs of her spreadsheet – I tell you those spreadsheets are viewed as gold here – especially since the formulas calculate everything for you. It was a great training opportunity for everyone involved.

Joni & Hind have been working on compiling Haitian recipes with the cook St Leez – she is amazing and has agreed for us to document her most famous and favorite recipes and then we plan to create a little Haitian cookbook ….so far we have recipes for beans and rice, congo bean sauce, Haitian hot chocolate, hmmmm not sure what else. We may start our own You Tube Channel – “Cooking with St. Leez”

The funniest thing that happened today was tonight – we were rehearsing for competition and Joni was presenting one of her sections when Diane jumped up from her seat ran over and pushed Joni and started stomping the floor – a roach was on Joni’s foot. Lets just say that it took Joni a long time to catch her breath and she just said her heart skipped a beat… it was the third huge cockroach we dealt with today…. yuck!

So tonight is cold shower #5 (coming up right after this blog entry is finished) only two more cold showers after tonight…. I can feel my hot water shower coming toward me – but not fast enough!! Diane laughs at my process for showering ….. it is my 14 step cold water shower protocol…. you need to tune in to my blog tomorrow people…. I will share it. :-)

Tomorrow we are going into Port au Prince once again to shop for Haitian arts and crafts at the artisan cooperative! Its fun and great fundraising. Tomorrow afternoon we have our biostove training workshop set to go – Tim we will be thinking of you.

So for tonight I think I am going to sit here for awhile on the roof and take in the lights of Port au Prince…. and reflect on this day. It was our down day per say but eventful nonetheless!

Oh by the way the photo below of the loaf of bread that looks like a sheet cake is a drawing of me – the bakers made it on the bread with scraps of dough… I think I was supposed to be flattered…. not sure if I am or not… does it look like me? The girls seems to think so…. hmmmm

Rebeccabakery1 bakers cake bread export

 

 

The Musicians of Bremen

is a very old folk tale in which a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster, past their prime, decide to abscond before they can be discarded or turned into dinner by their owners. They find themselves outside a home where robbers are hiding and, hoping for a meal in exchange, perform a “song” outside the open window. I won’t spoil the ending for those of you who haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure you’re asking, what the heck does that have to do with Haiti??! Well, this morning Hind woke up and began describing the cacophony of conversation that has been occurring between a cow, a dog, and a rooster right under her window. She was convinced it was a very in depth conversation, with each animal going in order: cow, dog, rooster, cow, dog, rooster. I couldn’t help but laugh and think of that story from my childhood.

Rebecca and I have had our own issues with animal conversation. Just outside our one and only window, which has to remain open if we’re to have any air circulation at all, resides Chanticleer, or his descendant I suppose. He proudly, and LOUDLY, crows ALL. NIGHT. LONG with an echoing rooster in the neighbor’s yard answering him ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Now I’m originally from the midwest and I enjoy sleeping with my windows open any time I can. We live in front of a dairy farm that has a rooster or two wandering around and houses its newborn, bawling calves along the fence line between our property. However, there are about 150 yards between my open window and those noisy critters. Chanticleer outside our window? Is RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR WINDOW.

I think this post is turning into a Creature Feature because I’m now inspired to mention how each day has seen more roaches running around the house. The first day all was spic and span and roach-free. The 2nd day found a few of the smaller roaches running around. Yesterday I found two of the large roaches, friends and family will know what I’m talking about when I say they are very similar to the wood roaches in East Texas, and today saw several more. In fact, as Hind and Joni were practicing their competition presentation, I saw one stealthily making its way towards Joni’s bare foot in its flip-flop. I quietly got up and moved around Hind, trying not to distract her from her recitation, and grabbed Joni firmly as it was about to climb up her foot and pushed her away so I could stomp it. I don’t LIKE the roaches, but I’m not too bothered by them as they just remind me of Houston. Which is why I live in VIRGINIA. Joni’s reaction was priceless. At first she seemed confused, and then she saw the roach, and then she screamed. I had been trying so hard not to distract the presentation practice, but needless to say, I was not successful. Shout out to Hind for finishing her section during all the screaming and stomping.

We’re up on the rooftop in the dark which has three advantages: 1. It’s so much cooler up here. 2. The view of the lights of Port-au-Prince way down below us and the large moon above us is undeniably beautiful. 3. It’s so dark we can’t see what creatures are lurking near our feet. Ignorance is bliss. I wish you all could see Rebecca in her spelunker light shining out from her forehead. It’s both adorable and hilarious all at once. Okay, I know I should tell you all about the Excel training session I had with the bakery accountant, but all I’ll say is that I’m so glad to have all these things to work on during the day. Haiti life is filled with a lot of hurry up and wait. Those who know me well know how I feel about waiting and doing nothing. I don’t do that well. Having to work out a system that will work for a Haitian who doesn’t speak English has been a godsend. I’ve also learned quite a bit of Creole: depans, revni, revni net, etc (expenses, revenue/income, net income).

We’ve been working our way through our list of goals and tomorrow we finally demonstrate how to make a biostove out cans.

Chiklet… chiklet… chiklet!!!

Chiklet is the creole word for gum and the children sure do love it.

Today I had a different alarm clock. Instead of just the rooster crowing, The cow would moo then the dog would bark, and then the rooster would crow …….. at this point the rooster sounds like it has laryngitis. It was the same order from 4:00 AM until I decided I couldn’t take it anymore …. I honestly think they were having a conversation with each other. Oh, to add on to the amusement, as soon as Joni and I were out of bed, at 7:00 AM the animals decided to end their conversation and get some rest.

We began our day with breakfast and got ready for our productive day. We were suppose to have a meeting at ten with a group of people from the area about an idea they had. But we shortly realized that 10:00 AM in Haitian time can really be 5:00 PM. Once father told us they are on Haitian time we decided we would go ahead and go to the village school.

We started with the little kids at the school and gave them glow-in-the-dark bracelets. They were so fascinated with how these bracelets were creating light and loved it so much. One class had such an energetic teacher that they welcomed us with a song. I think the children really enjoyed being in school. Thank You to every sponsor that gives these children the opportunity to be in school. It makes a huge difference! As we went class to class saying hello and handing out bracelets to the younger children we saw how the classrooms were set up and how they seemed to be obedient. Once we were done with the younger kids we headed down to what can be considered as middle school to give out “chiklet” and boy do the kids love gum! Nevertheless, we had a good time and then got on with our day. We walked down and saw a lady selling bread… We were curious to find out if she purchased her bread from the Mon L’opital Davis Bakery but we found out that it would be too expensive for her to purchase the bakery bread because it is too big to sell for 1 haitian dollar. Rebecca went on to tell her that we will ask the bakers to make a smaller bread so she does not have to travel all the way to Port au Prince to purchase her bread.

We conversed about it as we walked back to the rectory. We all sat down in the hall and decided to get some school work complete before we will meet with the bakery accountant to help him with spreadsheets that Diane created to keep track of sales, expense, and inventory. The accountant was really excited about how the spreadsheet will make tracking data so much easier with Diane’s amazing spreadsheet that did all the math automatically. As he explained how he was going to start using it this week we felt comfort that he felt passionate about it all. So rememeber that group we were suppose to meet with during the morning…. they decided to show up finally as they wanted to meet right away one of the translators told them they have to wait because we were currently helping the accountant who showed up at the promised time. Well as always I felt a little bad since they had to wait for an hour and then thought to myself well they made us wait all day so its okay for them to wait for just a little bit.

After finishing with the bakery accountant we made our way over to meet with the group. They explained to us that they run a sort of boy and girls club in Mon L’opital for 7-14 year old children. The reasoning for why they had the club was a great because it included teaching the children social skills and ethics. The group wasnt sure what kind of organization we were and Diane explained to them that we were not an organization that gives a hand but more of an organization that gives a ” hand up”….. they understood what we meant and said that they would go back discuss some business ideas and when we go to the club to visit on saturday they will have a better business plan for us to look at and how exactly we could help.

As the sun went down and the stars were coming out we chomped away at some tasty popcorn and Joni went into the kitchen to learn how to make Haitian hot chocolate to bring  back and share with everyone. As we enjoyed the warm tasty sugar loaded hot chocolate we discussed American Football and how the price to run a commercial for the Superbowl could fix every problem in Haiti.

Well today was a very eventful day. As we are all sitting on the roof looking at the beautiful scenery Joni is taking out her braids, Diane is entertained with how I was actually disturbed about the animals, and Rebecca is typing away on her computer with a flashlight headband which reminds me of the mole with the head flashlight which was a cartoon that I watched when I was little ( I cant think of the name of the cartoon… I even tried googling it but no luck) but it is pretty amusing… every time she turns and looks in my direction it is funny and blinding but hey its a great source of light.

Wednesday…. midway point

Well today was a crazy day… very strange. It started with breakfast … between Diane not eating Gluten and Hind not eating pork meals are a crap shoot! Well anyway we had this huge meeting with the bakery committee at 10am which lasted about 2 hours. – maybe longer. We reviewed operating procedures, inventory, inventory control, sales, waste, marketing… you name it… we went over it. We have another training session tomorrow at 4pm to training Frantz on accounting procedures and how to track all the data in Excel. He was sitting next to me during the meeting today and when we saw our spreadsheets his eyes lit up so we will be adding his training to tomorrow’s agenda.

In the afternoon we went up to Riviere Froide to check on the Davis School – which is holding up fine- it is actually being used as a school. By the time we got there school was out so we checked out the building and then left but it is being used as it is intended to be used…. which is what I wanted to check on. Next we went over to the Second Chance Orphanage and met with the children the college community sponsor. The girls (all girls now) drew pictures and took photos and had a great time with us and we met with a local gentleman that wants to start a business that would help add a sustainable revenue stream to the orphanage. We told him to work on his ideas and send us  information and then we can decide whether its something we will pursue.

We then bounced our way back up the mountain – what a trek… anyone who thinks getting around this place is easy… is just plain crazy! So we came back up to a sack of plantain pudding and of course a staple of any BRCC Enactus trip – sugar cane…. I piece I had tonight was the best in a long time I could actually chew through it but I hate spitting it out… it just feels barbaric! Joni and Hind actually had Father teach them to hack the came stalk into edible peeled pieces…

This evening was the best though… I have been doing this for so long sometimes having people come in with their requests for loans just gets old. Of course over the years we have had some good business plans presented to us but no one had ever run the wrath of Diane. Roobens Collins is a man I have none since day one of traveling to Haiti – back in 2007 or second Haiti travel team gave him a microloan to start a home entertainment business. He actually shows sports shows and sometimes movies and charges for it. Roobens had actually expanded the business to include a disco – complete with disco ball but then it all came to a screeching halt with the 2010 earthquake that destroyed alot of his equipment including solar panels we had provided the microloan for. Over the last year or so Roobens has been rebuilding his business but simply breaking even due to the need to use diesel for his generator to power his operations. So he came to us tonight to ask for another microloan for more solar panels and a inverter. It was like being back in 2007 – we sat we listened and then the four of us went into our office (Diane and my bedroom) and met for about an hour.

We created an action plan complete with repayment terms and printed out microloan agreement (our new Enactus handy dandy traveling printer was AWESOME!) Then we went out and presented our terms and plan to Roobens. It was like being in a lawyers office. Diane who had typed up our agreement when line by line with Roobens and Father Roosevelt (who is our loan administrator) what our requirements on reporting and repayment were and just everything he would need to know. It was going smoothly until a transportation fee of $20 was brought up by Roobens – he had forgot to tell us about the $20 needed to get himself and his soon to be purchased solar panels back to LaGonave. Diane specifically asked him about transportation and since he failed to tell us before we worked out the terms and contract she refused to budge and gave him $20 … it was a stand off. Roobens was set on that extra $20 and Diane was set on not giving it to him. Although I have to admit I almost told her to just give him the blasted $20 she stood her ground and would not cave. Finally he borrowed the $20 from Father Roosevelt – signed our loan agreements and everyone was happy. I knew he was not going to refuse our loan – just as I know his business is a great business from LaGonave. I have to admit that Diane was the force to be reckoned with and I KNOW Roobens will never underestimate an American woman again! He didn’t know what hit him.

Well more tomorrow – its late and we are about to lose power… so if there are typos in this posting I will fix it in the morning…. when you see the lights start flickering you know you have about 5 minutes left of power…. so goodnight moon and goodnight Virginia – we miss you all!

Rebecca

 

 

Are we there yet?

Todays festivities consisted of a lot of driving around curvy, bumpy, and chaotic roads (well not really roads to be honest just dirt paths). I have to say Father Roosevelt is the only person I would trust to drive me around in Haiti. He knows how to maneuver around any situation. Have you ever seen a land cruiser get through two dump trucks in a one lane dirt path? No,I didnt think so…  and I hadn’t either until my heart dropped and I gasped for my last breath while Father drove past them as if it were an every day situations. Well I assume in Haiti it is a daily situation. As Diane said ” Father should become a race car driver” all I was thinking was “are we there yet” and a little car sick from the exhaust fumes and the bumpy one hour drive. We finally made it to the Disabled school BRCC Enactus (previously SIFE) built a couple years back in  Riviere Froide. It was nice to see previous work other students did and the opportunities they created through this entire time.

We then got back in the car and headed back down the mountain to the orphanage. As all fourteen girls came to welcome us with a smile and a kiss on the cheek, I could see the joy in their faces. The best part of it all was when Rebecca put on green neon hair extension and all the girls thought it was the funniest thing in the world. As we passed out art supplies for them to draw a picture to each their sponsors they immediately grabbed a seat and got to work. It was so nice to see the older girls help out the younger girls. It made me feel warm inside that they were not just all friends but more of a family. The rest of the day consisted of a tasty treat of sugar cane that was DELICIOUS!! I thought at some points that I was going to break a tooth trying to break it off but I am glad to say that I still have all my teeth.

I have to say I am exhausted after the busy day we’ve had today. Now its time to get ready for bed and try to convince myself that the cold showers were just like getting into a nice cool pool. The villagers outside seem to be playing some popular american rap songs right now which might be hard to fall asleep to but I guess its better then the rooster crowing all night!

A la prochain!

What is tougher than Sugar Cane?

Today felt like a week! We accomplished so much one day it was incredible. After waking up to a delicious breakfast, we interviewed employees and the accountant from the bakery which was interesting. Next we enjoyed a lunch of rice and beans, a goat roast  and a casserole type dish of conch (so good). Hind and I have also been working on gathering recipes and taking videos from the kitchen here in Haiti. We plan on putting together a recipe book after returning which I am super excited about. After lunch we headed to see the school our team built after the earthquake to check up on things and then headed to our orphanage to get updated pictures of  the children for their sponsors. The girls, as usual, took advantage of the photo-opt with modeling poses.

After returning from our road-trip of the day, we were greeted with delicious plantain pudding, fresh bread from the bakery and sugar cane. Sugar cane is juicy and sweet, but the cane part is tough and impossible to swallow (remember this). But, the night was not over…there was something we needed to discuss. Long-story-short, one the gentlemen here approached Diane yesterday asking for an additional loan for his store. He felt like Diane would be a little more likely to say yes than Rebecca, but little did he know. Diane politely said she needed to discuss things with us, and so tonight we all sat down and put together a contract etc… After thoroughly discussing the situation as a team, typing and printing a contract, we presented the plan to father and this Haitian man. After Diane clearly went through the contract, the man stated he needed more money than originally asked for and what was put in the contract. He needed twenty more dollars. In reference to my sugar cane comment, tonight Diane was the cane and Rebecca was the sweet sugar juice. After about thirty minutes of the Haitian bargaining for more money and Diane remaining firm on her response of “no”, Rebecca began to lose it with laughs; after all it was just twenty bucks. Maybe you just had to be there to grasp how hysterical this was, but when it comes to business we’ve learned Diane can be tough.

Bonwi!

Joni

There’s a full moon over Mon L’opital…

and that must be why it’s been such a crazy day. We began with breakfast, per usual, then organized a few things until it was time to meet with the bakery accountant, manager, and committee members. After counting baked bread pieces, observing, and asking what seemed like a million questions about ingredients, costs, prices, wages, etc. I crunched the numbers to project weekly, monthly, and annual earnings. Things looked great for the bakery if Monday was a typical day of production, but the manager told us that they hadn’t made any money during the 2.5 weeks they’ve been in business. We needed to see their numbers and analyze the issues. We discovered a few, among them a lack of communication between the head baker and the accountant, as well as a few issues with the account keeping itself. When we briefly showed the accountant our spreadsheet, there was no denying he was intrigued and gladly accepted our invitation to a training session. We emphasized the need to be profitable and not simply aim for the break-even point each day. I am looking forward to working with him tomorrow afternoon.

After that meeting, we had a little time to ourselves to discuss some of our plans and get ready for an early dinner. We were heading off to visit the Mon L’opital-Davis School for the Disabled, as well as the Second Chance Orphanage. That was a LONG. BUMPY. CRAZY. DRIVE. Dale Earnhardt, Jr has got nothin’ on Father Roosevelt! What is truly amazing to me is how everyone maneuvers within a hair’s breadth of one another without anyone getting killed. Pedestrians, scooters, motorbikes with 3 and 4 people hanging off of them, and all sizes of cars, trucks, buses, tap-taps, and even huge dump trucks all weaving in and out on any side of the road that is open. After managing a very steep hill in Father’s Land Cruiser, it was very gratifying to see the school. The children were already gone for the day, but we saw lessons written on the chalkboard and assignments resting inside the desks. We then headed back down that hill and through Port-au-Prince where the girls in the orphanage reside. We had fun distributing the rest of the donated backpacks, much needed art supplies and paper, and few fun things for the girls. We then asked them to create a picture or a note for their sponsors and took each one’s picture. Haitians don’t typically smile in pictures, but several seemed to enjoy striking a pose. Haiti’s Next Top Model? Maybe. :)

After a long drive back with a quick stop for some sugar canes, we prepared for our evening dessert (tonight was plantain pudding) and some fun with the sugar canes. Afterwards, we met with Roobens, our translator. Rebecca knows Roobens from La Gonave. He has a disco/entertainment business that was damaged in the earthquake, and he wanted to ask for a small loan to purchase a solar panel and inverter to save money on his energy costs. He had been successful before the earthquake, so we were inclined to oblige him, but…he had borrowed from us once before. We wanted to be sure the microloan was just that, a loan, to be paid back. We also wanted to receive regular reports on how the business was doing. In Haiti, agreements sometimes are treated as suggestions, and follow through can often be problematic. Rebecca came up with a very creative solution: Use the money he earned for his translation services this week as the first portion of the loan, considered paid through his services, and require monthly payments for the remainder to be made to Father for the benefit of the orphans. Our sponsorship program pays for educational expenses and meals for the children, but clothing and other basic necessities are always a struggle. This would provide Father with needed funds while we brainstorm a more sustainable source of income for the orphanage. It also gave Father a vested interest in being sure that Roobens made his monthly payments. After questioning Roobens closely about exactly the amount needed, and asking him several times whether he needed transportation costs to get the solar panel from Port-au-Prince to La Gonave,  the team members went to discuss the amount and how the agreement would be worded. We typed up the agreement and printed it out with our handy-dandy, portable printer. We then asked Father to join us as we explained the terms of the loan. This was when things took a little turn.

Roobens wasn’t entirely excited that his translation services were part of the loan. He obviously had been expecting to receive the loan in addition to payment for the week; however, Rebecca had never actually requested his services and he showed up on speculation. He began to explain that he needed transportation money to return home. Ah. I see. We don’t like the terms so now we want to change the terms. One thing many people do not know about me is that when it comes to business, I’m all business. Over the years I’ve had a number of people, especially men, try to pull a fast one or two on the “little woman” only to realize they have met their match. My husband has let me handle all the business negotiations for years. I play hardball. I’m pleasant. I’m professional. But business is business and after doing more than my part to ascertain the terms beforehand, I am usually not amenable to changing the terms after the fact. Roobens did his utmost to be persuasive. Even Father calculated the cost of transportation and converted it to US dollars – $20. The entire loan was for $350, with $150 repaid through translation services. What’s another $20? Well, I wasn’t about to be moved. Roobens is an adult AND a businessman. I asked several times about transportation costs and he assured me that it wouldn’t be necessary. He came to Mon L’opital on speculation, hoping to benefit from Rebecca’s good will and kindness. My mother always taught me not to write the check before the money has been deposited. (Her version of not counting your chickens before they’ve hatched – accounting must run through our blood.) I decided I was holding the line and holding Roobens to that philosophy. The only thing breaking this stand off was if Rebecca gave in on the $20. It wasn’t the amount, it was the fact that he was trying to change the agreement after the fact. I mentally willed Rebecca not to give in. Hind “innocently” asked how he got to Mon L’opital from La Gonave in the first place and how he had planned to return. Father could see we weren’t going to be moved and began to persuade Roobens to accept the terms of the loan. He could see my resolve. At the end of it all, Roobens accepted the terms and the loan. We all signed copies of the agreement, shook hands, and took pictures. I can only imagine the impression he now has of American women. We had a good laugh over it later. Apparently, my determination was quite amusing to Rebecca, Hind, and Joni. I think it was their first exposure to Business Deal Diane.

What a crazy day!

Tuesday…no Wednesday…. no Tuesday

bakery breadHi Everyone

This entry made on Wednesday morning is actually for Tuesday. Right when I was about to blog the generator starting beeping…. Kiss of death for all power and the Internet connection. So I am posting this and will post my regular Wednesday entry later tonight.

Well three cold showers down and four to go…. its Tuesday night! I count my days by cold showers taken… sorry I just can’t get past it. This morning started with the great shoe giveaway. We actually started it yesterday but had to stop when we were told it was time to go to the bakery to learn about the production cycle so today we finished up all the kids except those who were absent from school today. After the shoes were distributed which took a few hours we went and checked on the bakery. We didn’t stay too long – we tend to slow them down when we are there and they were rockin when we walked in…. it was amazing the smell of baking bread coming down the road as we walked toward the bakery in the village – you could smell the bread baking… and it smelled DELICIOUS! We have a huge bakery committee and accounting meeting on Wednesday so we decided to leave the bakers to their job and let them bake bread! They did deliver a huge loaf for us to eat tonight… the loaf was etched with the words… “ I LOVE YOU BABY”

After lunch we sat on the roof for about an hour and played Uno with Roobens and a couple of the kids that work at the rectory.  Then we went back to the bakery for some interviews with a few of the 40 vendors who are now buying our bread to resell. We also talked with a baker and a baker clerk who have been working at the bakery since it opened about the impact they have felt personally since the opening of the bakery. One of the bakers told us how he was unemployed and could not find work – now he has a job he loves and not only is he earning income the entire village now has access to bread and the people who once had little to eat can afford to buy bread and are not hungry. Very cool

Tonight we had Enactus competition rehearsal – the rest of the team in Virginia at had their first rehearsal at 8am this morning with Randy so to keep consistency we had our own rehearsal tonight.

So here we are – no power …. But the laptop was charged so here I sit with my blog now done. Tomorrow we will be going to check up on our school in Riviere Froide, visit our orphange to get an update on the orphans we are sponsoring among other things like working with the bakery committee … tomorrow will be busy and it marks the midpoint in our trip…. So tomorrow I promise will be a better more colorful blog!

Rebecca

These boots were made for walkin’…

and I just revealed which generation I belong to by stealing the title of a Nancy Sinatra song for my post, but today we started off with shoes, shoes, and more shoes. Yesterday we distributed a portion of the shoes that were generously donated through the Enactus Shoe Tree initiative, but today we saw many more of the children from the local school come through the doors to be fitted. It took a few hours, but we managed to work through the majority of the students that had been measured during the team’s last trip to Haiti. There are still some shoes left to distribute – some to a few absent students and some to village residents – but the bulk of the shoes have happily met new owners. We also distributed donated backpacks to the preschoolers.

We then returned to the bakery to take part in the actual process ourselves. I was taught how to make the special markings in the top of the bread using a knife tip and small pipe (which doubles as a rolling pin). The marks appear as a line and a half-circle which, when baked, reminds me of the dimples in the Saltine crackers I used to eat for my after school snack when I was a young child. In fact, when the bread is baked, its coloring reminds me of that cream-colored cracker with the brown edges, only much thicker, of course. The fact that bread is baked mostly in squares or rectangles adds to that impression as well. Joni helped with the placement of squares onto the baking sheets and Hind placed the trays in the oven. Hind also got up close and personal with the dough that had yet to be rolled out and formed into bread.

After dinner (which actually occurs around 2pm) we played several rounds of Uno with Jonathan and Claudy, two of the children who live at the rectory, and Roobens, a friend and interpreter from La Gonave who is staying here this week to help. I’ll just admit it – I came in last two out of the three times we played. Later Roobens and I were sharing sports information (he’s a big futbol fan and full of World Cup talk while I was bemoaning my lack of Australian Open coverage) when a young man knocked at the rectory gate. Roobens went to investigate and let the young man in, who then quietly sat in a chair on the rectory patio. He was waiting to see Father. He patiently waited for over an hour before Father was available. Roobens and I continued our conversation while Father and he had what appeared to be a very serious talk. Afterwards, Father expressed that he needed to speak with Rebecca and me about this young man’s situation. It was explained that he had been turned away from his school today because his fees hadn’t been paid, and the gangs near where he lived were pressuring him to join. He had been able to avoid them because he had been in school, but being turned away would not only end his dream of becoming a lawyer, but also leave him vulnerable to the gangs and crime. Was there anything we could do? Rebecca took a picture of him and I took his information in order to create a biography to send out to our very generous BRCC community. Hopefully, someone will be inspired to sponsor him and pay his school fees.

We have a lot on our plate tomorrow so I’ll call it a night. Bonne nuit!

One pair of shoes makes a huge difference

Last night was a little harder for me to fall asleep since I was a bit paranoid about a mosquito being inside of the net. I ended up tossing and turning with a flashlight trying to see if it was really there or if it was all in my head…. I’m starting to think I got rid of it but just   felt paranoid for the rest of the night. Once I was asleep I was able to get a couple of hours of sleep until the alarm clock of the animals outdoors came on ( the rooster crowing and the dogs barking).

Joni and I were both awake around seven and decided to go up to the roof to look at the beautiful scenery. Diane and Rebecca an hour later joined us on the roof all dressed and ready for breakfast. We all enjoyed the nice cool weather Mon Lopital has in the morning, the beautiful blue sky, and the gleaming water sparkling in the distance…. Only if we had this scenery in Virginia.

After having breakfast that consisted of eggs, fish, plantains, potatoes, and what seemed like yams to me we began bringing children in to finish giving away the shoes. The system we used today was very succesfull. While Diane was grabbing the shoes to pass to Joni and I fitting the children, Rebecca was snapping away with her camera. The children seemed very happy and grateful for the shoes they recieved. Prior to giving away the shoes, the younger children from the school came to get a backpack and play with the with a clown nose Joni put on. Rebecca was able to get a picture of the children laughing while honking the nose.

As our day felt like it was going by so fast we got invited to the bakery for an on hands experience making the bread. Diane helped flatten the bread and poke holes into the bread while Joni put the bread on pans to get ready for baking. I was able to see how the oven works and put the bread into the oven to bake. The bakers had a great system down working together. It was very nice of them to let us learn. The rest of our day consisted of playing UNO with the children and getting some of my school work complete. I almost forgot that my classes did start today and I have to stay on pace. After having some delicious hot chocolate and Haitian bread with peanut butter we all gathered around to practice our competition script.

Tomorrow we will be going to the school to spend some time with the children!

A Tuesday in Haiti

This morning we began, bright and early, finishing (for the most part) distributing the shoes for the children. As we quickly learned yesterday, the process was pretty hectic. Thankfully the four of us worked together very well and together we got through almost 150 pairs of shoes. One little boy in particular was extremely touching to me personally. On each tag we had the name and age of each child along with shoe size, but this young boy was so skinny that he looked several years younger than his age. I began helping this boy put on his new shoes and immediately realized the boy did not have the strength to put on his shoes. The shoes, which were too large due to the boy’s narrow skinny feet, did not fit. After a couple minutes, Hind and Diane, did their magic and found the perfect fitting shoes for this little boy. Although he was extremely quiet, this boy slowly walked up to Rebecca gave her a kiss and skipped outside holding his new shoes. I was doing everything possible to refrain from tears.

After shoes, we ate a delicious lunch and then headed back to the bakery for some hands-on “baking lessons” from the bakery employees. Next, we recorded the bakery employees, and bakery vendors on how the bakery has affected them and their families.

After a delicious dinner snack of homemade Haitian hot chocolate and bread from the Mon Lopital – Davis bakery, we did not lose anytime and began practicing our Enactus script to prepare for rehearsals when we return. We then gathered around with Father Roosevelt to discuss plans for the remainder of our time in Haiti.

Teach a man to bake…….

Last night I was so tired I didn’t need any help getting to sleep. I woke up several times during the night due to dogs barking, roosters crowing…. but overall I slept okay. I got up about 7am. Diane was already up and dressed as was Joni and Hind…complete with full make-up. So I prepped for the day. Breakfast was spaghetti and also a sort of eggy omelet…. I stuck with the pasta … its safe. Food here is a challenge. Diane is gluten intolerant…and Hind can’t eat pork. Try explaining that to a Haitian cook! Well the eggs were the saving dish for both Diane and Hind as the spaghetti is gluten-heaven and it had pieces of pork in it…. it all tasted pretty good to me. The best part of the meal was the juice. They make their juice fresh from the fruit trees … it was like mango and papaya…. it was great.

After breakfast we had several of the school kids start coming over to claim their “Walk a Mile in my Shoes” shoes it was slow going… whose shoes were too tight, too small too big…. URGHHHHHH it could drive you crazy. After about an hour the bakery manager came and told us that it was time to go up to the Mon Lopital-Davis Bakery to watch the production. When we arrived it was in full operation. In the back room this large bread making machine which runs off a diesel motor was running full blast and the head baker was slamming what had to be 40 lbs of dough over it – under it – and through it until it was shiny smooth and flat. Then they moved the dough over to the cutting table where they cut the dough into loaves. These loaves come in every size and shape from small squares to round tubes to sheet cake sized loaves with etchings and drawings. After a long period of observation we starting assessing the production process – Diane hit the ground running documenting all of the product costs, asking about measurement of the inventory items in the production process, what each type of loaf would sell for, costs of production, fuel, transportation, labor…. this went on for about 3 hours or so… This would normally be my job and one I like the least but Diane was doing so well I decided to let her go for it. Nothing like brow beating a Haitian man into giving you answers.

Then it was finally time to bake and sheet after sheet went into this massive oven …. this process went on from early morning till late night. And as soon as the bread came out of the oven a vendor would show up almost magically and pay for her loaves of bread and happily leave with her order. We discovered that the vendors who buy our bread in bulk and are selling it make a 50% profit margin on each item… not bad

After an early dinner – people eat dinner at 2pmish here – I wasn’t feeling too great so I took a power nap while Hind and Joni had their hair braided and Diane crunched her data on the bakery. Diane was a woman on a mission…. I was not stepping in her way. Through our projections we are estimating that the bakery will report over $66000 of revenue this year running at its current level … however there are already plans to run electricity to the bakery so there can be a night shift with double the employees ….

Tomorrow we meet with the bakery committee and accountant to hash out numbers and plans … but it seems that this bakery is going to change not only the lives of the employees who now have jobs, the 3000 people living in the region who now have access to fabulous bread but also the numerous vendors who are increasing their income through bread sales.

So tomorrow will bring more shoes, more bread, and more questions…. more soon
Rebecca

Bonding, Braiding, & Bread

Today has been such a sunny fun filled day!

After waking up to the sound of a rooster croaking I was wide awake and ready to start the day. Joni and I began by going through all the shoes one final time to make sure they were all accounted for. After breakfast, the children from the village school came over to the rectory in small groups to get fitted with shoes they can take with them. It was such a heart warming experience to see how happy and grateful the children were. The shoe process had to be paused for the day since the operation of the bakery was about to begin.

The Mon Lopital – Davis bakery was up and running as we walked in. They had three workers making the bread with a manager supervising. I have to say those men worked with dedication and ambition. They began by mixing a 110 pound bag of flour with all the other ingredients. Then, they put it through a big bread machine to flatten out and cut it up into squares to put on pans to rise. Thirty minutes later, they began baking the bread which looked appetizing as it came out. Prior to baking almost 32 pans of bread the village residents began showing up to purchase the bread. It was amazing how fast the bread was gone after coming out of the oven!

The bakery I guess wasn’t that hot for Joni and I since we decided to sit on the rooftop and soak up all the sun. While on the roof, one of the children came up and asked me to help him with his english homework by translating what he did not comprehend into french. I enjoyed helping Jonathan so much with his english homework. After becoming a couple shades darker in a short time span we migrated indoors to play a card game with Jonathan and other residents in the village when we got the wonderful idea of wanting our hair cornrowed. Jonathan found one of the village ladies to do our hair and I have to say they did a wonderful job.

Until tomorrow!

Another day in Haiti!

Wow! What a day. After a delicious breakfast of spaghetti and eggs, we began our shoe distribution. The children were called from the school in groups to receive a fitted pair of shoes. It was amazing to see the beaming smiles on the children’s faces as they received a new pair of shoes; their gratefulness is overwhelming. But soon the shoe process ended abruptly; bakery time!

Today was our team’s first time observing the bakery. The first thing I noticed was how quick and efficient the bakery team worked. Although the bakery has only been open several weeks, we were amazed to discover how quickly the villagers produced the loafs of bread. Each bakery employee had very specific roles. One employee operated the rolling pin machine while another employee cut and shaped each loaf. As soon as the bread came out of the oven, villagers were waiting to buy their share of bread which many of them carried down and around the mountain to resell. It was so fascinating seeing the project of our imagination become a reality.

Tomorrow Hind and I venture into the kitchen for some Haitian cooking lessons!

Until tomorrow!!!

Joni

 

Bread, bread everywhere…but not a bite to eat!

Last night I fell asleep like a shot – exhaustion is even better than Ambien when staying in foreign places! But just like home, I woke up between 6:15-6:30am – sleep habits are deeply ingrained – completely wrapped in both my flat sheet and fitted sheet like a cocoon. Rebecca said I looked mummified. I can’t blame that on Haiti. I toss and turn at home as well – my sheets just tend to stay tucked there.

We ate breakfast at 8am and I stuck with the eggs cooked in a seasoned sauce with green peppers and onions. It was very different and very good! The other dish was their version of spaghetti, but I can’t eat gluten so no pasta for me! Which leads me to the point behind my post title: After distributing a portion of the shoes to children from the school and meeting with a couple of young men who want to start an automobile a/c repair business, we headed up to the bakery to watch production and ask some questions. We spent several hours there and the smell of the freshly baked bread was heavenly, and I mean heavenly. I could practically taste it just through the aroma. Everyone was able to sample a small bit, but sadly I couldn’t because of my aforementioned gluten intolerance. I can only imagine how delicious it was because the fragrance was quite literally mouth-watering. Rebecca, Joni, and Hind all agreed it was incredibly delicious. Rebecca and I returned at the end of the evening to check on one more thing, and we discovered they had made two large decorated loaves for us. I will enjoy smelling it!

After getting many, many questions answered I went right to work creating  a spreadsheet on expenses, sales, and income. That’s where I was in my element and I completely forgot that I was in the most “foreign” place I’ve ever visited as I concentrated on including every detail and creating formulas. I LOVE Excel! Part of my purpose for being on this trip is to teach the bakery employees a basic accounting system to track sales and expenses. Putting it altogether for us to see the numbers in detail helps me to organize my thoughts on how to show them the simplest way to record their input and output while striving for accuracy. They are operating primarily as a distributor, selling to vendors who can travel farther afield and sell for a profit. This model is the most beneficial here because it positively impacts the greatest number of people. It creates the opportunity for more people to earn money and more people to have access to bread. It’s a win-win situation!

It is very warm here, but not unbearable. Outside the breeze blows and it feels like a pleasant, late-summer day. Indoors, however, it can quickly become stuffy and even a bit sticky, despite the fact that it’s the dry season. The windows are small and set very high in the walls so the air is still and hot. We have a fan set on the tile floor of our room, moving the cooler air up and creating an artificial breeze, but without it, I think we’d be fairly uncomfortable. Our power source depends on solar panels during the day and a generator at night. We lost power in the middle of the night because the generator ran out of fuel, but the power was restored this morning when the sun was fully risen in the sky.

The dust is everywhere. It covers everyone’s legs as they walk around. It’s sand, but it’s the texture of silt. Rebecca and I were talking about it and we compared it to the difference between granulated sugar and confectioner’s sugar. The sand we are accustomed to is more like granulated sugar while this is like powdered sugar. It is amazing that it is not dustier indoors, but that is probably due in great part to the stone and tile patios and tropical trees surrounding the rectory. There’s no denying the beauty of this place, despite the dust and the poverty.

Father is calling so I’ll have to write more tomorrow!

 

 

Day 2

At this time yesterday we were sitting on the plane ready for departure. It is Day 2 in Haiti and we have a lot planned. After our arrival yesterday we unpacked all the shoes and Joni and I put them in numerical order to make it easy to find the pair we are looking for. Today, we plan on going through each one and making sure it matches up with the sheet we have. Prior to that we plan on going up the hill to the bakery to see how it looks and how they make the bread ( I am very excited to see the process).

Well I hope everyone has a wonderful day I know we will. Keep posted for more on our 2nd day in Haiti later this evening.

Arrived

Well we arrived…. 4 people and 12 suitcases later we landed in Port au Prince. Having battled a viral infection all week and being up for 48 hours its been quite a journey. However we are here – Father was in the baggage claim area waiting for us… and we were able to get out of Port au Prince as the ceremonies to mark the 4th anniversary of the earthquake were just gearing up. It catch me by surprise that it was the anniversary of the earthquake. Not sure if I block the date as I always think it was the 11th but it was the 12th. Its not like I have forgotten about it – I must think about that time and everything that followed at least once a week … it just pops into my head at the strangest times. The people here remember it and actually celebrate it. It seems a little creepy at times to me but I get that they lost so many that day and want them to be remember and not forgotten but still the same I would love to forget it. At a few minutes before five the bells all over the city and Mon Lopital began to ring to signify the time of the earthquake…. then Megan Samples IM’ed me… one person who also definitely remembers and relates. Four years later it still upsets me… maybe someday that will stop but being here has shown me that it hasn’t yet.

So here I sit on the roof looking out over Port au Prince… the music has stopped and it quiet and peaceful and very beautiful from here. Well tomorrow the bakery is baking…. the bakery is already flourishing. Father told me the people of the area actually wait in line and preorder the Mon Lopital bread. It sells out quickly. Its doing extremely well – so well they have their own accountant already managing the place. So we begin! Bread… biomass stoves…. and more. As soon as Diane finishes taking her cold shower I’m taking one myself. I was hoping to wait till tomorrow but I feel grundy from our travel day.

Well its time for an ice cold shower… the first of 7 that I will take this week…. 1 soon to be over ….6 more to go… its one of the toughest things about being here…. I hate cold showers! More soon

Rebecca

Hello Haiti!

Today we made it to Haiti! After a super early start we finally arrived in Port-au-Prince by around 2pm. As normal, we were greeted by friendly faces and the warmth of the sun. Now everyone’s sitting enjoying the breeze of the evening on the rooftop here at the parish and watching the lights reflect off of Port-au-Prince and into the Caribbean. After a delicious dinner of chicken, rice, goat, and fried plantains, Hind and I organized all one hundred and some shoes in order of number which we will be giving to the children of the village.

As we drove through the city on our way up the Mountain, we were stopped by a large circle of people in the street. We seen discovered that today marks the four year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti. I noticed flags were half-masked and later in the night we heart people in the village were singing songs about this tragic event.

Since my last visit to Haiti, I’ve seen some exciting things such as a new branch to the airport and more rebuilding in the city (less tents). Overall I think the country here is definitely moving in a positive direction, yet poverty is lurking at every corner.

Actually getting a little chilling sitting on the roof so I’m heading down to do a little more unpacking and get some sleep!

Until next time!

Joni

We’ve arrived!

We made it!! It’s been a very long couple of days. Since Rebecca and I were leaving the Shenandoah Valley at 2:30am to head to the airport (which meant that I left MY house at 2am), we each arose on Saturday morning only to stay up until it came time to leave for the airport in DC, and then begin a long day of travel. We are now closing in on 36 hours without sleep. [And no espresso this time, Teri!!] When we arrived my first impression was OH. MY. GOODNESS. It is HOT. Up went the hair and off came the sweatshirt hoodie, posthaste. My second impression was just how chaotic and crazy it was: people everywhere, cars everywhere, and no discernible system of moving about in an orderly fashion. Just then Rebecca and Father Roosevelt both commented on how calm and quiet it was because of our Sunday arrival. I cannot begin to fathom how any other arrival day might have been. The “Sunday Quiet” was overwhelming enough.

Father safely navigated us through the airport and to his waiting vehicle, where our many bags were tossed up onto the roof and secured with bungee cords. It looked precarious at best, and I admit a significant feeling of nervousness as my bag was the final bag balanced atop the mountain of luggage. We then began the drive through Port-au-Prince to Mon L’opital. I can see why Father is a man of God. You need nerves of steel and a lot of prayer to conquer the narrow, windy streets of the city. By American standards, the roads seem only wide enough for one vehicle at a time, but somehow two squeeze by each other with just millimeters to spare. If that weren’t harrowing enough, drivers on motorized scooters weave in and out and people walk through the streets, barely paying attention to the traffic narrowly missing them. If Father hadn’t already accepted his calling, he’d make an amazing, professional driver.

We soon left the potholed streets of the city for the sandy, rocky, pitted roads up the mountain to Mon L’opital. I realized then that the adventure had just begun. My face must have revealed that my heart was in my throat, because Father looked at me in the rearview mirror and laughed, “Are you frightened?” I paused and told him I was impressed (with his driving, with our survival, without causing the death of any of the many people we almost brushed up against as he drove – take your pick). Father is a driving pro, however, and we arrived safely, with my bag only halfway hanging off.

We loaded all the bags into the rectory and within a few minutes were invited to eat dinner. After our delicious dinner, we began unpacking the bags and organizing all the shoes for distribution. Joni and Hind tackled that as Rebecca and I organized the items we plan to take to the orphanage. With things well in hand, we finally made our way out of the hot house and up onto the roof of the rectory. What a difference! The view of Port-au-Prince is amazing, and the temperature drops as quickly as the setting sun. Relief! Today is the 4th anniversary of the earthquake of 2010 and there have been memorials going on all day. In fact, at one point the road in the city was completely blocked by families who gathered to remember lost loved ones and Father had to exercise an amazing display of reverse driving, all while honking at the traffic behind us to make way. Now, as we sit up on the roof, there is music playing and memorial speeches and prayers being made over a PA system just behind us. It is completely dark now and the city lights of Port-au-Prince twinkle in the darkness below us, and while the prayers are in another language there is no misunderstanding the emotions of the day. Our journey seems especially poignant this evening.

Just about ready!

This morning I was up bright and early to venture out into the frigid air for my 2nd Hep A/B vaccination. On the way home, I stopped at Target to finish out my list for Haiti. I stocked up on wipes, both plain and antibacterial, Purell, and travel size stomach and pain/fever reducer OTC medications. I found a nifty little light that can be clipped onto just about anything, but is bright enough to act as a mini-flashlight, in the camping section. I also bought a good-sized bottle of DEET 100 spray. Forget the natural, DEET-free products – I’m going for full on mosquito protection!

Just one weekend and a full week of work stand between me and our departure. I can’t say I’ll miss the cold weather while we’re away!

Happy New Year

Wow we are officially in 2014!!

The past month has been very exciting with all of the holidays and the end of another wonderful semester. As December was winding down we have been preparing for our Haiti Trip by packing and organizing everything we will need while we are there. The closer it gets the more anxious and excited I am for my first trip to Haiti. Having Joni and Rebecca has been very helpful in getting a feel of how it will be and what has to get done with an organized schedule so I don’t look like a complete rookie while I am there.

What I’m very excited for is being in a warm climate. The brutal winter of Virginia has been getting colder and colder. It feels as if every time I step outside my entire body turns into an ice sculpture.

I am officially starting the countdown for our departure date!!

January, and the Haiti trip, is almost here…

Whew! Life has been a whirlwind with end of semester finals, working until BRCC closed for Christmas week, and trying to get ready for my family Christmas. Thank goodness for online shopping or no one would have had anything under our tree this year. I even ordered a chainsaw for my husband online. I made one trip to Books-A-Million, but everything else was ordered on the internet. I love technology!

Things have been so busy that it was December 23rd before I realized I didn’t have anything for our Christmas dinner and had to make a hasty trip to the grocery store. Amid all of that, I’ve been preparing for Haiti. I received most of my vaccines one morning early in December, but I elected to take the oral typhoid medication as it lasts 5 years instead of the two years the injected version provides. Since the pamphlet indicated that vomiting was a side effect, I decided to wait until the morning of Christmas Eve to start taking it. I didn’t want to miss work or have it interfere with my family preparations. The oral medication is a series of 4 capsules taken with 8 oz of cool water on an empty stomach every other day. The first day I experienced some queasiness, but I think that had more to do with all that water in my empty stomach. Since then, it’s been easy-peasy other than having to delay my morning coffee a bit! One more capsule on Sunday and I’ll be protected from typhoid – or at least that’s the hope. I have one more injection to get on Friday, January 3rd, and I’ll be medically ready for Haiti. I also stopped at Trader Joe’s and picked up some gluten free granola bars to take with me. Just a few more details to go…

I’m nervous. And excited. And really glad I’m traveling with Rebecca, Joni, and Hind.

Haiti 2014

In just over a month I, along with two of my team mates, Hind and Diane, and our adviser Rebecca Evans will make our way to Haiti. We will leave the cold climate of Virginia and arrive in the beaming sun of Haiti. Two years ago, I had the privilege of working in Haiti with Enactus (SIFE at the time) and my eyes were opened to so many things. I came back extremely humbled, grateful and motivated to continue, as we say in BRCC Enactus, “paying it forward”. This year, I am more than excited to have the opportunity to work with the team that has been selected to travel to Haiti and carry out some very impactful new projects.

While I was in Haiti two years ago, I was a part of our Dlight (solar paneled lights) “test-run” and last year I helped coordinate our Dlight initiative fundraiser on campus. I am really looking forward to actually see the effects of a village that was once plagued with darkness lite with gifts from the sun; solar lights.

I have also included some photos from last time I was in Haiti. Looking through these photos brought back so many good memories and made me all the more excited to return to this captivating place in world.

Until next time! Orévwa!!!

Joni

E D C B a

 

Who wants a haircut??

I can’t believe is Thursday already! It feels like we’ve been here for several weeks. Our morning was a bit slow since we did not have a lot of things going on. Jessica and I put together new packages for the new trainees for our Haircut Training that will be starting this afternoon and…..we are looking forward to see how many girls will register for this training! After prepping all our supplies we had lunch in a restaurant called “el Fiscarral”. Apparently there is a war story behind the name of this restaurant that doesn’t sound really good at all. Once we got there and sit for a couple of minutes after walking in the rain, we saw Patch Adams coming in to the restaurant by himself. We invited him to eat with us and started to chat with him. He loves poems and recited some of them to us! We shared more about our projects in Belen with him and we also learn more about his vision and mision on this trip. Very interesting person to meet and personality too!
Our haircut training started and we had all 14 girls (the last one was added at the end). The trainers started to share their testimonies of how they started and right away they started the training. Jessica will tell you more about her brave decision as a volunteer! All the girls after watching the trainers how to cut hair and do various styles with some models, the girls were right on and did not missed a minute in practicing! They asked me if I wanted my hair cut, but nop!!!! I was a bit worry because they are still learning and I want to get home with some hair. They were all excited and thankfully each of them had a model.. starting with their daughters to their neighbors… all kinds of volunteers :). Our session was done for today and we could say that it went well. Natalia, one of the trainees, as we were leaving told me if we would come back in the future with more trainings, I told her that we would love to. Then she said, ‘ I know you guys will never come back again and we have gotten use to you that we will miss you a lot’. Her thought came to my mind and made me think that these people may not see anybody again when they receive help from other people.
After coming from our training we went to have dinner! We went to this restaurant called “Kikiriki”. It is a rotisseri chicken that people have mentioned in the past saying that they have the best chicken…so we decided to try! One thing all of us noticed were the servers. All of them waiting as if they were soldiers. Ready to obey a command..kind of weird, but funny at the same time. The chicken was great and yes…they were right! I’ll miss Iquitos a lot and especially their food and people.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped at the ‘Plaza de Armas’. This is the central park in Iquitos which is very famous and popular here. Landa is a street artist that every time we stop by and see his work amazed us with his talent. Rebecca has been getting some drawings from him that is amazing!! and this time he did something special for her…he asked her to draw her…and again he amazed us with his skills. We hope to keep in contact with him and maybe one day see him again!
One day less in Iquitos and the feeling of getting close to go home. Tomorrow we will have our last day of the haircut training and also say goodbye to those wonderful people we’ve met. They will be missed! Getting ready to go to bed and finish our week in Belen! Buenas noches!

Thursday in Peru

Well today Thursday was hair day…the start of the hair training. It was quite a day. It started pretty quietly as we slept in a bit and missed breakfast which is only offered to 9am. Now when I say breakfast we are not talking Cracker Barrel … the hotel breakfast included in this trip consists of two very small buns and a glass of juice. They do offer coffee but it is instant coffee, it tastes like dirt and they have no cream or sugar to help mask the taste. So today when we missed breakfast it wasn’t even a thought …. Now tomorrow is egg day as we call it. Every other day we get one fried egg. We call it egg day…. We keep track of which days are the egg days. We don’t miss breakfast on egg day.

We jumped into a motor taxi and went into town to pick up our super cheap vinyl Enactus stand posters we had made…. With the stand its costs only $44 USD. They came out GREAT with color and photos these signs would cost megabuck in the states. We designed three for BRCC Enactus projects and recruitment while here. Everything is dirt cheap but you have to be careful as alot is bootleg stuff and cheap.

We returned to the hotel dropped off our loot and the decided to go to a little cafe around the corner for lunch. While we were sitting there Patch came in. We asked him if he wanted to eat with us. He said he had planned to rehearse poetry but said sure So we combined tables.
It was quite a conversation about economic development, his hatred of capitalism, his model for healthcare, Gesundheit Institute, and just about everything else. He and I see many things differently. I believe that capitalism is not always evil…. He does. I believe that you need economic development to eradicate poverty he does not. His model for healthcare is interesting but in our country it is almost an impossibility. It was interesting conversation. I think at the end of the day we agree to disagree but we did open his eyes to what our teams does. He asked a lot of questions and actually seemed impressed. He ended the lunch by reciting his favorite poetry to us ….Mary Oliver. definitely a very different lunch.

After lunch we packed up all of our hair workshop supplies and loaded them into two motor taxis and we were off to Belen for the first day of our two day hair training. It’s been raining today so it was muddy and wet but at least it was cool. When we arrived at the training site we welcomed the returning students. Our two trainers arrived at 3pm. Luiz and Renato. These guys were the real deal. They are known throughout Iquitos for their work. As the workshop started Jessica told Luiz she would be his demonstration model if he would just trim her hair. Trim – my definition of trim is taking a little bit off the ends….Not Luiz. He started cutting and shaping and before you knew it between 4 to 5 inches lay on the floor. When Jessica reached for her hair a look of terror came over her face. She went outside and it took a few minutes for her to compose herself but to be honest she looks really cute and its not that short!

adRenato

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So as I sat there observing the training I was amazed that within 40 minutes the students were cutting hair….really cutting it. So much for 1 year cosmetology program …. These trainers had them Cutting, feathering, thinning and layering hair in 40 minutes. It was impressive to watch and those students were gutsy!

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After the training Jessica and Yenny worked with the students on accountability and how we will be tracking them over the next six months if not longer. I am impressed with the dedication and motivation of this group. They are learning and they Have been empowered. Tomorrow they will be learning how to straighten and blow out hair. Should be fun!

So every day after the workshop is over we have to catch a motor taxi to get back to our hotel. The problem is that motor taxis just don’t stay around in Belen …it’s too rough an area. So we have to walk up the street climb a billion stairs and then walk through the Belen market to get to the central part of the area where we can catch a motor taxi. It’s a bit intimidating but we are always escorted by two people from Belen. We also wear our clown noses and you can hear the people talking…. Oh it’s just the clowns. That silly nose is like a security blanket because Belen is an extremely rough place. So today we start our hike through the market and a lot of people are giving us (clowns) high fives and saying hi when a little man grabs my wrist and stops me. He tries to put a bottle of stuff in my hand which I know he wants me to buy. That guy would not let go and he was old!!! I finally pulled free and was able to move but it was a bit freaky.

Belen

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So tonight we ate Peruvian type chicken which was really good then Yenny and I went to the square to find Landa who is an artist that is wonderful. He did two charcoal drawing for me this week and I had to pick up the second. He is amazing. He told me he wanted to draw me…. At first I said no but Yenny told me to do it…. It took him about a half hour bit it Cane out looking just like me. He gave it to me as a gift from his heart. He would be a great artist to bring to campus he does not use brushes. He also paints the most beautiful paintings with spray paint. It is something that needs to be seen. Amazing artist.

Tomorrow we have a busy day we need to go buy a few last supplies from Artero, go to the market to buy crafts to bring home for our next sale, we have the last day of our training and then Sandro our biomass partner wants to take us out to dinner. He has been showing people how to make biomass briquettes all week and nows wants to produce the machine to expand the project …it’s only been about six days since we taught them how to use it.

So I think that’s it .. Saturday the Peruvian military is flying us back to Lima on a cargo flight at 7pm. From there we will be taxied to the airport. We will have about a 6-7 hr wait for our flight but that’s okay they have a 24 hr Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and wi-fi !

Rebecca

Snip, snip

A rainy day here in Peru but always a beautiful day in Peru. Iquitos is the new city that never sleeps in my book. There is a constant flow of moto taxi traffic, people walking, vendors, and restaurants/ bars open late into the morning. Moto taxis squeeze their way between one another, honking and suddenly braking to pick up customers or avoid hitting dogs in the street. Oh the dogs! One thing that breaks my heart is the amount of stray dogs in the street putting their nose in anything to feed themselves. Rebecca began collecting our leftovers from meals and giving it to the dogs in our area. We can’t feed all the dogs but we can love on them by feeding some. Let me say, we have definitely made their day with delicious Peruvian rotisserie chicken, bones, plantains, bread, etc. The Peruvians look at us like we are crazy when we are feeding the dogs. Crazy Americans! I get it though. They are still trying to figure out a way to feed all the people.

We had lunch with Patch Adams today. Patch is a very interesting man. He recited beautiful poems to us and we shared a few of our projects. He can recite over 4 hours of poetry by memory. The man loves poetry! He recommended some poets to read and I will take the advice. His ideas are radical and I can respect that. We can agree on the fact that we are both activists. We serve communities in a very different way however. A very cool lunch date with Patch!

Day 4 of Belen Rising began today with a new set of material, new trainers, and a new skill to be learned– hair dressing. Two men, Renato and Luis were the trainers for this part of the workshop. Rebecca and Yenny decided to step down as models for this part. Manicured and pedicures can be fixed/redone— hair cuts cannot. I learned this lesson first hand…….

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I decided I had long enough hair to be a model for the trainer and I could use a trim. I got way more than a trim! Before I knew it, Renato ( the trainer) was chopping pieces of my hair left and right. He was explaining to the woman how to cut layers, how to use thinning scissors, etc. I began to notice Yenny and Rebecca’s faces and then I knew this guy was getting crazy with his scissors. We are conducting the workshop at a school with very little inside so there are no mirrors so I had no clue how much he was cutting. I ran my fingers down my hair expecting my long locks but this was no longer the case. I thought to myself ” that’s it?!?!! Where is my hair?!?!” Five inches, gone! So much for a trim. I kept my composure while he finished up and had to walk outside to cool off. I haven’t had my hair this short since I was a kid. But hey, it’s only hair and it will grow back. It does feel very healthy. I’d say I took one for the team today!

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For dinner, we tried a new place called Kikiriki about 3 blocks from our hotel. The servers are all standing in the front of the restaurant in a line waiting for you to sit down. They look like soldiers. I guess each server has a section and are waiting for customers to sit in their section. It’s a random system but it may be working for them. We had rotisserie chicken ( Peruvian style), fries, yuca, plantains, salad, and a delicious natural juice called Chicha Morada. So delicious! I am going to miss the food of Peru!

Our friend and partner Sandro came by to see us tonight. It was such a pleasant surprise. He is a very sweet man and extremely motivated with our biomass project. The relationships we have built here are golden. The people are so accommodating and willing to open up to us. Sandro told us e everyone at school has been practicing with the biomass press. So exciting! He asked us if we could pleas translate the plans to produce the machine into Spanish so they can begin making more machines. A perfect way to end our night!

Today, one of the 13 trainees, Natalia, walked us out of Belen once we were done with today’s workshop. She was telling us that she was so accustomed to having us around and that she would miss working with us every evening. Natalia told us that this workshop has made her look forward to something each day. That really meant a lot to us. It’s those type of moments that make it all worth it. Tomorrow is looking like a full day for us. It’s the home stretch from here on out. Until next time friends! Smile.
God is love.

Another day, another task

Everyday has been a different day in Peru. Our workshop is constant–every afternoon from 3 to 6 but we always have little missions to accomplish in the mornings. We have a pretty tight schedule this week but I like it this way. When working abroad there is just no time to waste. Time flys when you having fun but even faster when you have work to do. Our local partners—better yet, our friends, recommended a place where we could have banners made. We went there first thing in the morning to design a couple banners to bring back with us to use as recruitment tools and for projects. The graphic designers here are impressive! They can create anything and are extremely perfectionist. Their fingers click away and ta- da! We have sent several hours alongside them creating banners for our team. It was worth every minute!

Thoroughly the day, we are hopping on moto taxis or walking through Iquitos to run errands. My mind is getting familiar with many of the streets in our area so it feels good to know my surroundings. Of course it begins to click 3 day before we leave. Belen, now that’s a different story. I have been commuting down there everyday this week and I could not tell you how to get around. The place is so crowded and busy that its difficult to see where you are going. More importantly, the streets are barely marked and they are very narrow. You have to be very familiar with the area to go down into Belen. Besides, it’s not the safest place on the planet. It’s a shame because the people of Belen are sweet, humble people but there is also a significant amount of unpleasant people who ruin the reputation.

Yesterday, we went to a fair called La Expo Amazonica that is held each year in Iquitos. Here, hundreds of vendors sell products that represent the Amazonian region of Peru. Anything from Amazonian coffee beans ( yum!) to embroidered textiles, to traditional meals can be found here. Yenny and I ate juane here. Juane is rice, spices, chicken, hard boiled eggs, olives all wrapped in a bijao leaf. The little bundle is then boiled and cooks through the leaf which gives the rice awesome flavor. It has been added to the long list of my favorite Peruvians foods. The food in this country is exquisite. I have loved every dish. I need to get back to the gym once I’m home. Peru is very prideful of its geography. Each region is well represented and honored for its riches. Whether its the mountainous region, the jungle, or the coast, each region is greatly valued and given its place. How awesome is that? There are also thousands of indigenous tribes in Peru and they are recognized and admired within society. I admire and respect that. To often, indigenous people are discriminated and taken advantage of. Shame on those who look at indigenous people’s as subservient to the rest of society!

We ate at one of our favorite lunch spots called Huasai. The place is homey, a local spot, clean, delicious, and you get a big portion of authentic food for 12 soles. That’s less than 5 dollars! Wow, I’m definitely going to miss this place.

The workshop continued today. Every woman receiving the training has a different story. I love the dynamic personalities in the room. The training is going very well. Most of the woman are motivated and focused. This skill means economic empowerment as we as a self worth boost. Today, Lucia came into our workshop with a couple of people from an NGO called Community Health Councils. Lucia wanted to show them what Enactus was doing in Belen. We met them briefly and conversed with one of the directors, Adam. He was really impressed by this project and we shared some of our other work in Haiti and Kenya. His eyes lit up and he told us he works in Haiti as well. Soon enough, we were exchanging emails and planning a meeting this week. We see a possible partnership brewing! Networking, networking!

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Once the training session concluded today, we explained to the women the importance of bookkeeping for their businesses. We prepared folders for each woman with blank spreadsheets for them to fill out as they begin their businesses. Something as simple as an inventory, expenses, net profit sheet is new to these women. They listened attentively and asked questions. One step at a time, the women are flourishing in this workshop– each day learning a new skill. We are just as thrilled as they are.

Time to sleep and listen to the heavy raindrops on the roof. Something about the noise of rain hitting the roof that soothes my soul! Perfect way to end the day. Hasta mañana amigos.
God is love.

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Manicure training….done!

I’m sorry for posting this late, but these two days have been busy for all of us!! Yesterday Tuesday we started our day sort of early. We decided to visit the Expo Amazonica since we’ve heard so many things about it. Jessica and I went and we thought it was not that big of a place, but it was! They had several stands with various regional products. Some of them had jewelry, food, and local companies adversiting their products. It was actually bigger then what we thought!!! Also we tried one of the regional dishes from Iquitos called Juanes. Juanes has the appearance of a tamal in a triangular shape which is made of rice and chicken. That was really good!!!! We left because it was just too hot and we did not find a lot of things we thought we could get.
Back in the hotel, we went to eat with Rebecca to the Huasai. Our typical restaurant we usually go because it is really cheap and good too!! Most of the food we’ve been eating here has a unique flavor which I enjoy that a lot. I love trying new things and this place is just the right place to be!
Before going to our training, we went to buy a few supplies we did not have for the girls. We had to get hydrogen peroxide and sugar. Sugar may not fit in the picture of manicure/pedicure but it actually has a great purpose. Since some of them don’t have an exfoliant to apply to feet and hand, they combine sugar with some moisturizing soap and it becomes like an exfoliant. I did not know that, but it is a great idea! We decided to get those few items and go to our training sessions.
In our training we had most of the girls that came yesterday, but maybe only a couple didn’t show up. Mary explained to them the procedure of cleaning feet and applying nail polish including designs. Some of them struggled at the beginning, but most of them were ble to go through the training. Mary took the time to explained to them each procedure and what kins of things the client would expect from them. It was a great session!!!
Today Wednesday was the last day of our manicure/pedicure training. We went early to do some errands and started to get ready for the afternoon. We got to the Pecesitos early and had the opportunity to interview some of the girls. All of them shared their experiences and said that this training would be able to help their families. Which is really great! Especially those that want to help and teach others with the same motivation and be an example. At the end of our session we explained to them how to go through their inventory and bookkeeping. While I was explaining this to them, most of them nooded and didn’t say a whole lot. But at the end they thanked us for everything. We took pictures with the trainees and trainer as well. Those women were extremely happy. We mentioned our second training and said we’ll be there!! Such a nice group of people!! I think I’ll miss them :(
Tonight we met with Lucia and eat dinner. She took us to our restaurant we did not know that was close to our hotel..that btw the food was good. Also, spending time with her was nice and getting to know her more is fascinating! her family and activities she loves to do! Great person!
The clowns had a “talent show” we decided to go tonight, but started too late that we only stayed for and hour or so. We saw a couple of shows…and they were fun and interesting! Ready to go to bed and to start our new haircut training tomorrow!! I can’t wait!!! Good night!
Yenny

Nails nails nails

Sorry to not blog last night. Once again it was raining and when it rains…. No Internet. So yesterday was pedicure day and I tell you those two girls who worked on my feet gave them more attention than I have ever had. They buffed every toe! Over and over again! We were short on models so each girl got one foot…. It was crazy. But the girls ( Katherine and Carla) were the girls who both worked on my hands the day before so it was like expected … So I sat down and they went to work. I tell you when Carla was pushing with that cuticle pusher I almost screamed but after I jumped a couple of times she softened up on her approach. Then they let me select the color. I didn’t want more hot pink and stripes so I directed them to red with white flowers. I have to say I love my toes… So cute.

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These girls are really really learning and they want to learn. Mary the nail teacher is great she works the classroom and she is very skilled so when she shows them how to create a certain design or how to do any part of the manicure or pedicure they listen.

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The classes are going great and all the local people we tell what we are doing are in awe of us. They said that it is nice to have people do something that is going to create change. Lando – a magnificent local artist told us the clowns that come are all fun and sure they paint but once they leave the people of Belen are right back to where they were before the Gesundheit clowns arrived. He loved our projects and said that this is what is needed to be done to help the people of Belen better their lives. They need training, education, and jobs.

So that was Tuesday. Wednesday (today) we got up early and went into town to get two more Enactus signs printed. It is sooooo cheap to get things printed here we wanted to take advantage of it. We spent like 2.5 hours with the graphic designer and bought two more 8 ft stand up signs with stands for like $88 USD, they are plastic and we loaded them with lots of photos …they will be incredible for recruitment and to promote our team. We get to pick them up tomorrow morning.

By the time we got back to the hotel we had about an hour to grab lunch before heading back to Belen for the final workshop on nails. My two girls (as Yenny calls them) were waiting. They took off the hot pink nails and tiger stripes they did on Monday and proceeded to redo my nails. It was like an exit exam. Well they started with a light pink this time but them decided it was too light a color so they took it off and put on a dark red. For decorations it’s white flowers this time.

Cute but they didn’t get a chance to finish them because we had a session on Bookkeeping and inventory control. They had to focus so my nails are not complete….but still cute.

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At the end of the session the women were allowed to bring their training kits home… It was Christmas in Belen. They were so happy and surprised that they were able to keep their kits. We took a group photo…. It was crazy …one was with just the students and then one with all the helpers, models, and kids.

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Tomorrow starts the workshops on hair…. This should be interesting to watch …..we have two trainers hired who are supposed to be fabulous…. All the women told us they would be coming tomorrow……we told them to bring their own models ;-)

It’s been long days and late nights this week. We have two full days left in Belen … We leave for Lima Saturday….. Tomorrow we give the the Pay it forward plan and also our lecture on the cost of the start up supplies we are giving them, accountability, and how we will be tracking their progress, etc. Should be an action packed day!

Chao
Rebecca

Manicure day..

Hola a todos!! We started a new week and ready to share what we did today. We had breakfast as usual and kind of surprised that we were served right away. Not very common in this hotel! We needed our supplies to be taken to Belen, so Jessica went with some of the clowns to drop off everything in a pick up truck. Otherwise it would have been difficult to take it where we needed. Also, we finally met with Lucia and the trainers. Mary is the trainer for the manicure/pedicure and Renato and Luis for the haircut training. Only Mary and Renato came to the meeting this morning because Luis had to work. Both of them are really nice people and willing to help these girls. We coordinated everything and we started prepping for this afternoon workshop..
Ready to go to our training, Carla which is Lucia’s daughter came with us so we don’t go by ourselves since it’s not safe at all for the three of us. At the workshop location there were already people waiting to start the training! And more came along until we had our 13 girls to start everything! We had girls from different ages…a range age from 15 to 27 yrs old. You could tell that hey wanted to be there. Once we started the training, we introduced ourselves and explain to them why we are here for. Also, Mary the trainer shared her personal experience. She motivate them and explain to them that this kind of business can really help them a lot….especially to those that do not have an income.
The training started and we were all excited!!! Natalia which is one of the trainees that was working with me ( I was a volunteer) was kind of nervous at the beginning, but I tried to encourage her if she felt she couldn’t do it right that it was the first time…with practice everything gets better! Mary was excellent..she made sure she went to every single step and tell them to be careful with their clients when doing any service… We went trough the cleaning process, how to file nails, and then the fun part…getting our nails with nail polish with any decoration we wanted… I’ve never had it before so I could not wait what Mary was going to be teaching the girls. All of us got flowers with different styles…will post pictures later to show whatbthey did to me! Thankfully all the girls had someone to practice with and hopefully tomorrow will have more to come.
The night came and we did some shopping in the plaza! You can buy a lot of things there since there is a lot of variety..I would say more for the children. We went to eat and had a yummy supper!!! I’ve been wanted to eat anticuchos (cow hearts) it may sound nasty, but it is delicious!!! They grill them in a special sauce and leave them marinating for hours..then ready to eat! I enjoyed it a lot!! I’m excited for tomorrow’s day..we will be going to an expo that is popular in Iquitos and then our training sessions…will share more tomorrow!! Good night.
Yenny

Smile, it’s Monday!

Monday initiated the beginning of our primary workshop/ project in Perù. We will be workforce training 13 needy women to become manicurist, pedicurist, and hair dressers. The women were selected by each of the 13 committees in the area of Belen. Enactus strives to involve influential, community groups to help us target people in need in order to avoid favoritism and jealousy. Monday through Friday, the 13 women will be trained on giving manicures and pedicures. When we met with our partner, Lucia, we had brainstormed starting a sewing/ knitting businesses in Belen but she told us Belen did not have a market for that. Instead, she advised we consider manicure/pedicure/ hair dressing business. Apparently, women may not have much money but they want their nails did! ;) This proves that asking the locals of your targeted area is essential when initiating a project. As outsiders, we truly do not know what it is people need in Belen but having that partnerships with a local is a key for an effective, sustainable project.

The Gesundheit staff told us they would transport our material to Belen on their truck but one of us had to go down with it because once it’s in Belen, it is your responsibility. I went down to deliver the supplies to our workshop space. This also meant I would be clowning at a workshop because once you’re down in Belen, you stay in Belen until everyone is done with their workshops. Rebecca and Yenny stayed to meet with the trainers who will be teaching the 13 women during the workshop. On the way down into Belen, people looked out of theirs houses and herds of kids followed the bus yelling, “ya llegaron los payasos” ( the clowns are here).

Once the supplies were safe in our workshop space, I felt at ease and headed to a clown gig. A group of clown from Brasil were leading a workshop where they taught the kids about different emotions through clowning. About thirty little hands linked together in a circle when I arrived to the room. Immediately I jumped in my clown persona and joined hands. Kids looked at me and giggled. Soon enough, I became the translator the Brazilians needed. They speak some Spanish but their Portuguese accent is very strong and the kids could not understand them well. I look pretty American so they were shocked to hear me speak Spanish. The kids were thrilled to be there although some are shy. For the most part, they are wild and want you to hold them and play with them. If I sat down, within seconds I had kids jumping on my back and into my lap. It shows they want love and attention. Its so bittersweet. Little girls, probably 7 years old carried their siblings around acting as their mothers. They are taking care of their siblings while the parents work. It breaks my heart to see children taking responsibility of another child. Every child deserves to have a childhood! We wrapped up the workshop and headed down to our meeting place with the rest of the clowns. Belen is a hard place. The filth, smell, and lack of infrastructure baffles me. I have seen extreme poverty but Belen is tough. There is so much water streaming into the town that creates thick, stinky mud. Not to mention, the water is deadly! Belen has NO sewage system so all of the water from the river is contaminated with waste and trash. The people of Belen use this water to shower, cook, wash clothes etc. There is a lot of work to be done here in Belen.

Our afternoon was dedicated to the manicure/pedicure workshop in Belen. Carla, Lucia’s daughter came to pick us up to make sure we were safe in Belen. The trainer was there when we arrived and the women began to stroll in. Once all 13 seats were full, we began the class. We introduced ourselves and explained who we are as Enactus members and why we were there. The women are humble and sweet. Most of them do not have any income or very little income. This training is preparing them for their own business and opening the doors to many opportunities of economic growth, increased self esteem and self worth. Mary,the trainer shared her testimony and introduced herself as well. Mary shared that she started with little supplies and no formal training. Now, she has been in business for 3 years and has stable income. This was awesome to hear! She became a role model for them and inspiration that they too could be very successful. The 13 women have a huge advantage due to the hand up Enactus is providing for them. This is what we do. We work side by side with people in need to help the reach their full potential.

Each woman was given a full kit of supplies provided by Enactus. Mary began instructing the girls on how to use each tool. All 13 trainees had a practice model to work on. They were thrilled with all of the new supplies they were receiving. Some women caught on faster than others but little by little they were totally focused. After much practice and nail polishing, the first workshop came to an end. Things went very smoothly and the women seem motivated and eager to begin workshop # 2 tomorrow. I am just as eager to be their guinea pig and get a free pedicure out of it! The perks of being an Enactus kid!
Also, I tried cow heart today. It is called anticucho in Peru and it is delicious! The food here is exquisite!Its time to catch some zzzzz s and tomorrow will be another full day for us here in the amazing Perù. Hasta luego amigos!
God is love.

The first real day

Today was the start of the real part of Belen Rising. We started our training classes today and it went exceptionally well. First thing this morning Jessica went with the clowns down to Belen. We had a lot of supplies to bring to the school we are working in so the clowns loaded them on the pickup and took them down for us. In the meantime Yenny and I met with the trainers. They seem like great people. After all the details were finalized we met Lucia’s daughter Carla who was sent to escort us to the Belen School. Belen is not a place to be by yourself … You HAVE to be with someone who knows the area.

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These are photos of the area around the school we are working at.

By the time we arrived there were already 4 women there waiting. By the time the workshop really got underway we had 13. It was a full class. Mary the trainer was great she told them about workplace etiquette, about being on time, all the little things that are necessary to be successful when dealing with the public. We distributed all the nail supplies to the class then it got interesting. They needed models to work on. Well we had 13 students and only 12 models….. So I sat down with two young girls Katherine and Carla and they each took a hand….and this went on for about 2.5 hours. First they had to clean the nails, soak and massage hands, push and cut cuticles, trim and file….then the polish. I motioned to them that I would like this nice calm neutral color…. But they picked up hot pink and showed it to me. I said okay. After the hot pink base they added stripes, glitter and flowers. They worked so hard on them I told them both I want them to both do my pedicure in the pedicure training tomorrow. My feet need it. Here are what my nails look like right now.

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I really think so far this is a great success. We still have four more days of training but the women who range from the ages of 15 to 33 really loved it and learned a great deal. Only 4 of the 13 have any income and the ones who have a job earn about 25 USD a week. I can’t speak Spanish but when I looked around the room during the training class I felt a connection to many of these women. They would smile and nod and I think they really see Belen Rising as a turn the road of life for them onto a better path and greater sustainability. More tomorrow. Below are some photos from today’s class.

Rebecca

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Quistococha zoo!

This weekend was fun and maybe a bit long. Saturday we decided to go to Quistococha a zoo in Iquitos with Sandro’s family. His wife Rosanna and son Franco came along with us. The zoo is huge and had lots of animals from the area…It kind of remind me of the zoo in Lima, but Quistococha has a more jungle style. Walking around the zoo we saw lots of monkeys….some very little and others sort of funny ones. Also, they had some white alligators and black ones. I really wanted to see them really close and found a big step that allowed me to see them closer to take pictures. To my surprise I did not know that they could jump up to two feet, so after seeing them for a couple of minutes taking pictures of them, I realized that where I was standing was not the best place to be.. Thank God someone that works there said: if I was you I would not be doing that…So…I jumped down immediately…scary!! There was also a beach that looked nice…maybe a good time to go and relax! Walking away from the beach..I heard Sandro saying to me: “Are you ready for the Anaconda picture?”.. I was like sure let’s go!!! Believe me when I saw it, it was bigger than what I thought. I thought I was going to be the first one taking the picture, but I didn’t do it…Rebecca, and Jessica did it before me and it was my turn…it took me a couple of minutes, but finally I did it!! I was so nervous holding the head with one hand and tail with the other one!! But at the end it didn’t go as bad as I thought…. The rest of the zoo had birds and more monkeys, but there was a show we wanted to see.. It was about a pink dolphin called Bufeo. He was really cute!! part of the show was to kiss the bufeo and play with him! Before leaving the zoo there were two Huacamayos – birds that looks like parrots, but really big and have different colors..beautiful!!! One of them had his chest almost without any feathers..and sort of joking I said.. that one doesn’t look very good… he started looking at me like he was about to attack me.. funny!! I think all of us enjoyed our day… a bit sweaty, but it was nice. We had a yummy lunch at the Mijano which btw it was really good. Most of the food here in Iquitos is delicious!! Will miss it when we leave!! We though at night we would be going out, but things changed. It was pouring so hard that we stayed in our room. Not only that, but we had a leak in our room…other people got affected by it too! Not a very good night for any of us!

Today we stay longer in bed than other days….the rain stopped around 5 or 6 a.m and thankfully we did not have a big flood in our room. Other people had to change from room because it was so bad!! Water everywhere that even some of them had to use the bathroom with an umbrella!!! That was just something else… We had a yummy lunch as always and decided to work on our Belen project. We put together the supplies for all 13 girls and ready to be given tomorrow at the training session. I’m excited and looking forward to start this project. Also, we started to work on our needs assessment which we did get most of the info we needed. Tomorrow will be a good and productive day…and ready to start working with the girls in Belen!! Ready to go to bed and have a long rest!! Buenas noches!

Challenges

Sorry so late on my blog… It was pouring down rain last night and since they use satellite for their extremely slow Internet…. When it rains there is no connection. I have never experienced so many challenges on one trip as I have on this one! I have come to the conclusion that Peru may not be a good match for our team….but time will tell. There have been some good moments on this trip but some of the challenges are blowing my mind.

So Friday was a good day we went to a school and taught about fifty children and many parents and teachers how to use the biomass machine. Not only do they intend to use the machine they want to reproduce it. They showed us where they are currently burning charcoal to use for cooking and told us to keep it burning longer they use Petro and burn plastic bottles. Talk about a health nightmare. When we told them how unhealthy burning plastic was they were speechless… They had no clue. They swore to us that they would send photos of them cooking with biomass. Very cool!

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After that was complete we went to lunch at Husain which is a great affordable Peruvian Restaurant…. I been trying many different foods of this country and so far I have loved it all. Really love passion fruit ice cream it’s incredible They also make a salad with shredded hearts of palm… Which is excellent!

After lunch our mission was to find three items we need for our workshop….. Small hand towels, foot buckets for pedicures and quick dry coat for manicure. We found the towels and buckets. But the top coat was very expensive so we decided to return to our favorite store and favorite sales person Aureto! We knew we could get the top coat there… We just thought we could find it cheaper elsewhere which proved wrong. When we walked into the store it was hysterical all the sales people automatically went and took over for Aurtero with his current customer so he could wait on us. He was so happy we were back and quickly helped us. Even the cashier who was a bit distant on our last shopping adventures smiled and welcomed us back. It was cute. Once that task was complete we headed back to the hotel! Job done!!

Now on to Saturday ….. It was a good day to start. Sandro who is a friend of Lucia … Our partner and who is also the Principal of the school we taught biomass at came and picked us up. Yenny told him she really wanted to have a photo of her holding an Anaconda so Sandro was going to take us to the zoo where this wish could be fulfilled. It was fun. I loved the monkeys the best…the little monkeys were so funny Jessica gave them a goldfish and they loved it ….then they kept putting out their hands for more. The birds were also fascinating. They had a cage of parrots and Huacamayo which look like parrots but have beautiful large tail feathers…. Gorgeous. While standing there I noticed a parrot on the outside of the cage… He was not one of them but wanted in… They had just been fed. He climbed to the top of the cage and then found a hole and got in…. I watched him slowly go up to a piece of corn that had fallen. Slowly he pulled the corn and flew up to a branch and began eating it. I felt happy for him.

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Yenny got her wish. We hold the Anaconda … It cost 3 soles or about $1 to hold it so you can have your photo taken with it. I went first …cause the others were scared :-) that snake was heavy and he kept trying to get his body around my neck. I know why… I had my photo taken and got rid of that thing ASAP. Jessica went next and she loved it…Yenny who wanted to do this…. Screamed and screamed but finally had her photo taken.

So after lunch we returned to the hotel… We had to attend a meeting of all the organizations represented here during this trip which they call the Belen Festival. After the meeting Gesundheit had rented out a bar down the road for a clown exclusive – Belen Festival party. Well it started to pour… Like hurricane pour but no wind. It poured from 9pm to 5am …. Is the Amazon and when it rains it pours…. No kidding. It was raining in our room leaking from the windows… Pouring in at times…. This hotel makes Motel Six in America look like the Hilton. The girls decided to stay in and skip swimming to the bar. We thought we had it bad but another group in another room told us that it was leaking in their bathroom so bad they needed to use an umbrella to use the bathroom. He told us it was hard to pee holding an umbrella. This place is such a dive. I can’t believe that they use it and they do year after year. Another group of girls told us they came back from the bar and their bed was wet from the leaks in their room. Again I spell dive D-O-R-A-L I will post on TripAdvisor next to post a warning. The walls are so thin here that I am sitting here listening to the woman in the next room arguing and crying on the phone… Yenny is listening and translating the argument. Icing on the cake is at since I have been here I have had hot water to shower just once.

Today I awoke to another cold water only shower…. And a rainy cool day. The rainy cool weather was refreshing – we slept in and then got up and when to Husain to eat lunch. During the afternoon we organized all of our workshop supplies, Bookkeeping supplies. Completed a needs assessment and came up with the name for the women’s project in Belen. ……. Belen Rising correlating the rise of the Amazon River which is a major factor in Belen and the economic rise of the 13 impoverished women we will be training starting tomorrow.

Tonight we found a very sweet jewelry vendor in a park square up the road who had very cool trendy jewelry … We told him to meet us in the park tomorrow night with his inventory…. He is one happy excited little man.

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So tomorrow we start our main project here in Belen….Belen Rising. We have to send ur supplies to the school at 8am…. The clowns are taking them for us. We meet with our trainers at 10:15am and then the workshop for Monday (manicures and pedicure training lasts Monday through Wednesday. Hair cutting Thursday and Friday) start at 3pm. I, sure we will have updates to post tomorrow so check back.

Chao from Iquitos
Rebecca

Spreading Project Biomass to the Masses

The clock strikes 7 am and the alarm goes off promptly. The snooze button is my best ally in the morning. 7:30 am rolls around too quickly and I know I must get up for a full day of work at a school in Peña Negra. Friday’s mission was to visit a community about 30 minutes from Iquitos to pilot our biomass project with them. We met a man named Sandro Monsalve when we met with Lucia in Washington D.C. He is a good friend of Lucia who accompanied her to our meeting in reference to the beauty business project in Belen. During this meeting, we shared information about other projects our team works on. Sandro was immediately intrigued by our biomass press because he could relate to it’s purpose. He is a principal at a school in an area where the is an abundance of trash, leaves, etc. on the floor much like Haiti and Kenya where the biomass press is revolutionizing trash disposal, improving health, and saving families money spent on fuel sources. After exchanged emails, we agreed to bring a biomass prototype to his school and conduct a workshop to discuss the benefits of the biomass machine, and to show the students, parents, and teachers how it works. I was thrilled when I knew we would be working with kids on this project! There is something about kids that makes me melt. It’s ironic because I didn’t really care for kids when I was younger.. 13-15. Now, it’s what makes me happy, what makes me feel alive. Not only are they the cutest little people ever but they represent innocence and they are the future of our world.

The night before, we assembled the biomass machine in our room. I used a drill for the first time ever and I have to say I’m a natural. I was drilling screws, holes like I knew what I was doing. Rebecca and Yenny laughed and let me do all the drilling because I was that excited about it. I think I’ll buy a drill when I get home. They seem quite handy. Who said only men can use drills? Silly boys, drills are for girls.

At 8 am Sandro picked us up to head to Escuela Maria Antoineta where we would be working on the biomass project. The car ride was scenic and awesome in itself. We are in the jungle, Amazon region of Peru so it’s lush and rich in greenness. We arrived at the school and as we approached the gates I could see a crowd of people gathering curiously. They were holding signs that said “Welcome Friends” and “Thank you for helping us”. I was so humbled by that. I could see that they wanted us to feel welcomed and that’s always comforting.

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Sandro introduced us to all of his colleagues and showed us the room we would be demonstrating in. We began to work as soon as we got there. We set up the biomass press in the middle of the room, hooked up the drill and prepped the other parts of the press. We asked the kids to help us break up the pieces of cardboard being used for the compost to get them involved. Of course ,they were thrilled to help.

We explained to the group the purpose of the biomass, why its an awesome tool, and why we had chosen to pilot it in their community. As we spoke, I saw many heads shaking in agreement while others looked at us with confusion. It’s always so interesting to see their initial response. Yenny and I are both fluent in Spanish so we led the workshop with no issues. Now more then ever I realize how fortunate I am to be bilingual. Thanks mom and dad for always enforcing the “Spanish only at home” rule! I must admit that I must study my language more in depth. There are several technical terms that I could not translate and that’s not cool. I would say my Spanish is very good but I challenge myself to improve. Just like any language, there is always more vocabulary to learn to communicate more effectively. Yenny and I have been teaching each other! If I don’t know the word in Spanish, she knows it and if she doesn’t know a word in English, I know it. Each day I am learning more about Yenny and I couldn’t imagine being in Perù with anyone else. This is her homeland so she feels at home. Let me tell you that here, she is not the quiet Yenny we know in the States. She’s totally in her Peruvian element right now and I Iove it! All my love and respect to you Chiqui !!!

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We demonstrated how to make the briquettes to the crowd and asked some to try to make them too. They were shy at first but wanted to learn. The teachers, parents, and kids were all involved. The community was fascinated by the project and thanked us for coming to share this with them. All paper that usually would be thrown in the streets, all dry leaves, all vegetable skins, and manure will be converted into cooking briquettes in this village. We advised them to begin at the school where all the supplies would be and to begin expanding when they felt like biomass professionals! We left the plans to make the machine with them so they could produce more.

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The community told us they burn plastic and light petroleum to cook meals. Toxic! Toxic! Toxic! That’s worse than charcoal! This pilot program has the potential to grow and impact so many people in Peña Negra. Next, Sandro gave us a tour of the school. He showed us a hut where they cook and said he would begin replacing the charcoal and wood for briquettes! A little boy named Alberto lingered around me and all he wanted was me to hold his hand. Alberto became my personal tour guide of the place. He pointed about trees, fruit, plants, seeds and explained them to me. He must of been no more than 8 years old. I love moments like these where you connect with a child. I became his student asking him many questions and he answered them. I knew he felt empowered to be teaching me and I was humbled by that.

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Our visit was coming to an end and we handed out some goodies. This was a different experience than the one in Haiti. All the kids formed a single file line to receive gum! I was very impressed to see this because I am used to kids swarming me. They were so well behaved and sweet. I sat down in the courtyard with two little girls on my lap. They had been following Alberto and I and I wanted to give them love and attention. They played with my hair and laughed at my horrible voice as I sang songs to them. Soon enough I had a crowd of kids surrounding me. I asked what they were learning in math and they said multiplication. I began to quiz them and prized the first to answer with a piece of candy. They loved this!!!! All so eager to answer and I could hear all of them whispering their multiplication tables softly to themselves. It was another one of those moments where I felt like nothing else mattered except being right there with these sweet kids.
God is love.

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Biomass day in Pena Libre!

Friday, August 9
Today I can say it was quite different and special day! We met with Sandro, a very good friend of Lucia that we met in our first meeting around May of this year. Sandro Monsalve is the principal of an elementary and high school in Pena Libre, San Juan. In our meeting with Lucia, he heard about our projects in Haiti and got very interested in the Biomass Machine. He told us at that time that not only the school will benefit from that project, but also his community. So we told him if he would like us to take our Biomass machine we would pilot it there. He got very excited!!!! When he found out that we were in Iquitos, he came as soon as he could and talked to us. You could tell that he was really happy in seeing us and worry to see if we still remembered him. Of course at this point he has no clue that we’ve been planning and thinking about him througout the months in taking the biomass with us to Iquitos. I told him that how could we forget him if we wanted to help him and knew the need in his school. He was even more excited!!! Today we went to his school around 10:00 a.m. First thing I saw once we got to his school were children holding signs saying “Welcome to Pena Libre” and “Thank you for helping us”. I was really surprised to see such adorable children waiting at the entrance of the school yelling what said in the signs. All of them came immediately to us and started to hold our hands, hugging us, and showing us their beautiful smiles. We were introduced to all the teachers and cook of the school. All of them friendly, but curious at the same time when they saw us carrying the Biomass. At the time to explain what the Biomass was, they helped us getting the supplies needed which were water, carboard, and a bucket. We showed them step by step and the final result – the first briquette. They asked us several questions about the briquettes to see if they can get the same results with charcoal.. They were amazed!!! They could not believe it at first, but the more they asked us the more it made sense to them. Also, we explained the children about the impact they can be doing to the environment and they were also amazed! At the end of our presentation the teachers and children thanked us. One teacher asked me “Who are you guys an institution or work for a company that comes up with projects?”. I explained to her that nobody is paying us nor we are an institution. We explained to her who we were and what Enactus is. We shared our personal experiences and how this is a volunteer job that we love to do and serve others. She was really impressed and wished us the best. She encouraged us to continue doing these kind of projects.. Before leaving the school Sandro showed us were the cook usually fixes the children’s meal. It is all based in charcoal and wood. Thankfully, the Biomass will replaced all that. Also, he gave us a tour around the school and showed us their tomatoe plants. It looked really nice and neat! The teachers usually come with their students to teach them how to grow plants and take care of them which is a great idea!! Unfortunately we could not stay longer and had to leave. Saying goodbye is not always pleasant, but we’ll remember them!! This was the highlight of the day for me. Great feeling to help others and knowing that small things we can do, can become great for others! Tomorrow we’ll be going with Sandro to tour around Iquitos and hopefully go to “Quistococha” a zoo around the area to take a picture with an anaconda! Sounds crazy, but coming this far and have that chance to do it, I will not waste that opportunity!!
Yenny

Laying out the foundation. Building relationships.

The longest Wednesday I’ve ever lived through happened here in Iquitos. It was the kick start of networking and organizing our projects in Belen. First, we met with Lucia and her daughter Carla so we could all go down to Belen to visit the space we would be conducting the workshops next week. It was my first time in Pueblo Libre, Belen. This is considered the most impoverished area in Peru along the Amazon River. Our clown group, Yenny and Rebecca had visited Belen the day before to begin the Belen Project festival. This is our introduction to the 2 weeks of workshops and work ahead of us in their community. It is a crazy, festive, energetic, compelling parade of clowns down the streets of Belen. The people of Belen anxiously await this initiation because it is the catapult of 2 weeks of aid, love, and support for their community.

Unfortunately, I was unable to participate in this parade because I got pretty sick. A combination of dehydration, exhaustion, nausea, and dizziness led to my afternoon of drinking lots of water, Gatorade, medicine, and sleep. To be honest, I was so bummed about not being able to participate in the parade but I physically could not go forth. I got decked out in my clown gear and headed down to the park where all 110 clowns gathered before the parade. That was wild enough! Music, dancing, tricks, and clown play filled the park. I tried to convince myself that I could do it but my body was not allowing me. I felt extremely dehydrated, weak, and dizzy. Eventually, I gave in and walked back to my room. There is another parade before we leave on SAturday so Ill be able to participate in one parade which makes me happy!

Belen is in worse conditions then I imagined and seen in pictures while researching. The streets are filthy, covered in trash and sewage. In the upper part, there are many vendors selling produce among other things. We were riding down in a moto taxi so it is open and you can see all around you. Fish, chicken, beef, and all sorts of vegetables and fruit are displayed on tables, under the sun, and flies linger around it. I’ve seen this in other countries I have traveled to but it never ceases to make my stomach turn. Maybe one day when I take on working in Africa ,I will not have a choice but until now I will not be eating from the Belen market.

All houses are built on stilts because of the heavy flood season. When the Amazon rises, Belen floods completely. The flooding is a direct cause of many of the problems in Belen. Children ran rampant, cutting in front on the moto taxis, playing, or running errands. Their hair is dark, tan skin, beautiful high cheek bones,and for the most part they have small, raisin shaped eyes.. they are adorable. I wish I could take some home with me! Most of them malnourished, unbathed, and with torn clothing…some very little clothing and barefoot. These are the things that break my heart but also my motivation to keep doing what I’m doing. I may not be able to tend all children or help every child in need, that’s impossible, but I can surely impact a group of them. And you can too. One of my favorite sayings says: I cannot help everyone but everyone can help someone. Try it!

We met with the teachers and elders of the school who are allowing us to use their space to work in. It’s always awesome to meet the influential, elders of a community. We sat and figured out logistics in order to conduct fluid, effective workshops. They are just as motivated and excited as us and that makes us feel optimistic. Lucia is our partner in all of this. She is well known and highly respected in Belen because of her dedication there as well. I have learned that you must gain the trust of the people you are going to aid. Many times they are cold and untrustworthy and I have learned to understand this idea. Once they can trust you and believe your help is genuine, they warm up to you and you can establish an ideal partnership.

We settled on dates and times for the training of the 13 girls. Once the meeting ended, we headed to a place called Hechizada where they sell beauty, hygiene, etc products in bulk. To say the least, we were there for 6 hours buying materials for the 13 girls’ beautician businesses. It was longest shopping trip of my life. We never expected it to take this long but it did! A little guy named Arturo helped us for all 6 hours. He was so patient with us and although he cannot multi task, he was awesome help. His sales sky rocketed that day and we were contributing to the Iquitos economy which is important. By the end of the day, I felt like I knew Arturo for years. They treated us well and even gave us little gifts of appreciation for buying so much stuff from them.

After a day like this, I needed to try the famous Ceviche of Peru. You cannot come to Peru and not eat Ceviche. That’s like going to New York and not eating pizza. Non sense. Ceviche is an authentic dish of this region in Peru. Fresh fish, lots of lemon, red onion, a little spice, yuca, choclo, and a little sweet potato to soothe the intense flavors….absolutely delicious.

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It has been a challenge to initiate things but all good things begin with challenges. Being an Enactus kid has helped me see past the challenges and see the possibilities instead. It feels great to be here in Peru laying out the foundation for new businesses and projects that will impact the people and our planet. Peru, you have been good to us…. So far ;) More to come!
God is love.

Shopping day!

Thursday blog!
What a long day! It was really exhausting. Today we were able to accomplish several things related to our projects. Starting with our morning, we went to eat breakfast in our hostal which btw was not the best, but it was enough to survive. Then, we met with Lucia which is the lady that is helping us to meet with the people in Belen and getting everything ready to start up our trainings. She is a wonderful lady, extremely dedicated, and you can tell that she is passionate in helping people in many ways. Also, we went to Lucia’s job which is approximately 10 to 12 minutes from Iquitos. She is the administrator of a Dialysis center and showed us around the clinic. Everything was so neat and clean! I say this because in Iquitos not everything looks like Lucia’s job. Her staff was very friendly and it seems that she works with dedicated people like her too! After visiting Lucia, it was time to meet the lady who gave us the space to do our training sessions in Pueblo Libre, Belen. It is a kindergarten classroom called “Los Pececitos”. Chavela, the lady who is in charge of the kindergarten classroom was excited for us to do these trainings and help the people in the community. The streets of Belen are undescribable! and not the safest either.. Talking with Chavela and other teachers that help her in the classroom, we found out a strong interest about our projects. They shared with us the needs in Pueblo Libre and what kind of people we may be dealing with. It was inspiring for them to know that we are willing to help these young girls that we will be working with and also looking for ways to expand more projects. Once we set up the days and time of our training sessions with Chavela and her team, we went to shop the supplies for both trainings. We thought that shopping wad going ton be fun, but trust me I wanted to leave or run away from there. It took us around 6 hours to shop most of the supplies. However, not everything was bad! Our salesperson “Arturo” had lots of patience. We bargained what we could and what we couldn’t we tried :) The other employees will look at us tired, sitting in the floor waiting for our order to be done while Arturo running around the store to get all the items we needed. We heard some of the ladies yelled at his name so he can hurry up and us copying them doing the same thing so we can leave asap. The whole time shopping will be unforgettable! :) After finishing with all the things we had in mind we had a nice meal at “Mitos y Cubiertos” and tried some of the typical food from Iquitos. I tried “Paiche” which is a fish that is only found in Iquitos with lentils and patacon…it was delicious!!!! we order a traditional drink Camu-camu that was muy rico!!!! The food from here is sooooo good!!! At the end of our day we went for a walk to the Plaza de Armas Jessica and I. We saw neat things and a guy that paints pretty much anything with color sprays. What a good talent!!! Done for the day and waiting for tomorrow!!

We are Enactus! Peru style :)

Peru, Peru querido. As intrigued as I was with Peruvian culture before this trip, I knew that being here- living here, interacting here, clowning here would be beyond all things that I read about it . Although world work is my passion, my engine, I have to admit this was my first experience as a clown. There is a range from newbies like me to professional clowns here. Hours of research on Peru and The Belen Project could never really engulf the magic that happens here; yes, magic! What is magic anyway? Lets look at the big picture. Magic isn’t just disappearing objects and card tricks. Magic is a feeling that ,if unleashed ,makes one believe that the moment is surreal. This is the kind of thing that happens when individuals who care so deeply about “being the change they wish to see in the world ” (Ghandi, that’s all you!) feel. As Enactus members, our primary mission was to conduct needs assessments of the communities, to carry out projects, and after that we would clown with the group.Everyone on this trip believes we can aid the people of Belen– increasing their quality of life, giving them unconditional love, creating change, and stepping outside our own barriers mental and emotional barriers, to make someone feel special- Iike they matter because they do. They are gold.

I apologize for the delayed blog ( Nelly and Belkis, don’t kill me. I love you guys!) but jet lag slapped me in the face last night. We have been going and going and last night I desired nothing more than my little, bunk bed at The House Project hostel and a shower.

The House Project is where we are staying while in Lima. It is an adorable, little hostel in Miraflores, a county of Lima. The rooms were not too small but packed w 2 sets of bunk beds and a full bed where Rebecca slept. The patio is the common area. There are 4
hammocks hanging from palm trees, bean bags, and a table to play chess or drink coffee. I think the place is adorable and the staff reminded us we could ask them for any type of assistance. There are tons of local hostels for travelers in Peru…. Natasha, I see a backpacking trip in our near future!!!!!!

Next ,was orientation for our entire group– 110 eclectic, sweet, unique, off the walls energetic people. To say the least, it was 4 hours of information about the origin of The Belen Project, Belen as a region, workshops, tips, and dancing. We were split up into “families”. Each family has a mom or a dad who leads family discussions and looks out for us.. Each family is about 8- 10 people who meet every day, at the same time, at a common place to talk about the days events, thoughts, expectations, special moments experienced that day,curiosity, etc. My “momma” is Cara, an awesome girl from Brooklyn, NY who works for an app company but who’s passion is clowning all over the world but her heart is here in Belen, Peru.

Anyways, after we all introduced ourselves to live beat boxing, we danced to wrap up the meeting. My partner was a girl from Mexico who I had met earlier in the day. This is her second time on the trip. She is sweet, humble , and full of energy. I will remember her and her tips on engaging the people of Belen as a humanitarian clown.

We found this packed, sandwich joint called La Lucha on our way back to the hostel. The line was insane but the staff was so efficient! We found a tiny table right outside the mobs of people and ate a delicious, Peruvian style sandwich. My new favorite thing( condiment) is a typical Peruvian sauce called aji amarillo, I put it on everything! Also,we drank a authentic Peruvian drink called Chicha Morada. It is a plum colored drink made from purple corn. It may sound different but it is refreshing and packed with Vitamin C. Ah, Peruvian food is scrumptious!

Later that night, we slept at The House Project for the last night. We were to be ready at 4 am to take a flight to Iquitos where we will be staying for the duration of the trip. The Peruvian Air Force offers to fly us from Lima to Iquitos. It was the loudest plane ride I have ever been on!! Imagine 110 clowns on a plane, cheering and being clowns. They are so good at what they do.

All of the Air Force soldiers looked at us as if we were crazy when we landed on their base. 110 clowns stepping off a plane in the middle of a military base, we must of looked insane.

We landed in Iquitos and the weather difference was a 360 degree change. We went from chilly winds in Lima to scorching,hot sun rays in Iquitos. Walking out of the Iquitos airport was awesome. It is in the Amazonian, jungle region of Peru. The streets were lined with palm trees, venders filled the streets, moto taxis ( dirt bikes converted into taxis) dominated the roads– I noticed there are no cars here. Everyone walks or takes a moto taxi which is usually around 3 soles ( Peruvian currency) which is a little less than a dollar. Iquitos reminded me of a city in Honduras called Comayagua where my family lives. On our way to our hotel, I shed a couple tears because I felt like I was back in Honduras on my way to see my sweet grandma but that wasn’t the case. Next year Ill be there grandma, I promise!

We unloaded everything from the bus into the hotel lobby. El Doral will be our new home for the rest of the trip. It’s not the best hotel on the block but it’s suffice.

Next on our agenda is meeting with Lucia Ruiz who is our partner in Belen/ Iquitos, our support, our caretaker, our guide, our mediator. She has to be one of the sweetest woman I have ever met. She is so heavily involved in her community and in Belen. Lucia works with several initiative groups trying to bring positive change to Belen. She is truly an inspiration and a role model for me.

So far Peru has been a whirlwind of new experiences. We are working with unmarked territory as Enactus. This is our first time working here so we are adjusting to the culture and assessing the needs of the people here. We are building relationships and partnerships with the people in order establish a trustworthy relationship for future projects in Peru.

We miss the rest of our Enactus family in Virginia. All of our dedicated, fearless teammates, our college who supports us 100%,our community as a whole, we are thinking of you!

I am playing catch up with my blogging so that sums Monday and Tuesday. Pictures are coming! Internt connection is slow so it may take me a little. Until next time, friends.
God is love.

First Two Days in Iquitos/Belen

Sorry no blog last night but I was exhausted. Early mornings, military flights, clowns, kids, dust ,heat…..it’s was crazy yesterday. Yenny pretty much wrote about going to the military base before dawn even began and our very unusual flight from Lima to Iquitos. The highlight of the day was the Belen Festival Parade with the clowns of Gesundheit. When I tell you these people are clowns…. I mean it ….the are totally into it, obsessed even. But the people of Belen love them and trust them.
At 3 pm we all met to get ready to ate busses into Belen. My clown outfit was pathetic compared to these other clowns. The are serious about clowning.

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At 4pm we loaded to busses with 100 clowns and drums,saxophones, tambourines ….etc. We drove into the edge of Belen and already it looked like the worst part of Haiti Cite Solie which are the slums. Yenny and I stayed together and it was fun to watch her get into her “clown” as they say. At first she was walking and waving by mid parade she was rocking to the drums and had kids attached to her.

The smell at times was overwhelming there is trash everywhere. I was taking photos until I decided to blow bubbles…that was it …kids keep wanting bubbles but what struck me more waste older people who were waving at us. They love the clowns just as much as the kids.

Toward the end of the paradeI found myself walking next to Patch Adams who asked me if this was not the best class on international relations I had ever seen. I told him it was and he proceeded to tell me about Belen – the city of children as he calls it. This man is definitely what we call unusual…but very intuitive and he has his finger on the pulse of this poverty stricken place. He told me no where in America would 1000 children just run up to 100 perfect strangers. I watched him clown around with so many kids…..it was watching a perfect example of love. Even with his dead fish he was holding. When the parade was finished we climbed back onto the busses complete with the Peruvian Military Band…..exhausted, filthy but happy.

Today we met Lucia at her place of work and then went to Belen to check out the spot we will be holding our workshops all next week. It was in Belen and as soon as we got there they rushed us up into this “school” which is on stilts. As son as we sat down to talk to the teachers about our projects I felt this rolling and thought the building was moving…. I had earthquake PTSD and asked if anyone else felt the building moving…. Lucia laughed and told me all buildings in Belen moved all the time. Makes sense but I was ready to jump off the building. They calmed me down and told me is was normal. How normal is that…. When the buildings you occupy sway constantly because they are flimsy and on stilts.

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After the meeting we then headed into Iquitos to the supply store we would purchase all our workshop supplies from. We had our soles, we had our lists. I thought we’d be done in an hour or two…six hours later!!!! They even kicked us or half way through the day because they close for a couple of hours for siesta…..unbelievable. First you tell them what you want..then you look at the choices…then you see how many they have and most time you have to go back and make another choice because they didn’t have your first choice …then you negotiate a price and them you start all over again with your next item…. It was exhausting. The best part is when your doe you have to wait for them to gather your items from their supply area. .. This may take an hour…you have to verify the number of each item with the girls checking the items off the receipt and then they box it ……brutal!!!!

In this day long event that should have taken maybe an hour and a half….we worked with Artero…. Not a multi tasker by any means but patient and cute…. We bought so much stuff the management gave us freebies when we left as prizes. Too funny.

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Well so now after a long day and ice cream tonight….I sit here still dirty as there is no hot water till they estimate 2am and I just don’t feel like taking a cold shower. Yenny tried it a few minutes ago and the noises she was making told me to wait for hot water…..

Tomorrow is a full day working with children and their parents on a biomass project….completing a village needs assessment…picking up the last three items we need for our workshops…. I’m sure I will have more to report tomorrow!

Till then enjoy your hot water showers and safe drinking water!
Rebecca