Saturday, June 15, 2013

Time for Goodbyes

My time in Haiti flew by. Although there were times when I felt like I had not been home in ages, I think this was mostly because I had grown so accustomed to life in Haiti amongst the Volunteers. Deacon Moynihan, his family, the Volunteers and all of the Staff at LCS made my transition into life at the school go so seamlessly that I never felt like an outsider on campus. Having become a true member of the LCS community, today’s goodbyes were difficult.

After one last Morning Prayer I was able to get one last picture with all of the Volunteers. This would be the last time that we were all together, since graduation preparation was in full swing, and I wanted to make sure that I captured the moment. I would say goodbye to them all individually later on, but I knew from that moment on the day would be hectic.

Thanks to the help of my translators, I was able to complete all of my surveys! After one of the translators returned to the first business that I visited there were still a handful of surveys to be completed. As a result, another person who has been helping me was able to make a few phone calls to former LCS students make sure that they were all completed. I am so grateful for all of their help! Without them, I definitely would not have completed half of the work that I did while I was here. Due to all of their hard work, I was able to spend the morning inputting the last of the data from the surveys into an Excel Worksheet to analyze later on. Although we were unable to survey a population of unemployed Haitians, I am interested to see what the surveys reveal about the other demographic populations of Haiti. This analysis should not take too long, and hopefully will be completed over the next week or so.

The rest of the morning was spent making sure that everything was taken care of for my departure at 11:00 AM. I packed up the rest of my items, made sure that I had my passport available, and finally, I said goodbye to the Volunteers. While some of the Volunteers will be returning to LCS to complete a second (or third) year of service, others will be returning home to the United States to begin the next chapter in their lives. I know that wherever they will be come September they will all be successful, as throughout my time at LCS they served as excellent examples of hard-working, loving, and dedicated individuals.

The ride to the airport was uneventful. I was accompanied by Deacon Moynihan, who was nice enough to walk me into the airport and make sure that I was checked-in before he said goodbye. We both separated ways hopeful about the future of the relationship between PC and The Haitian Project. Who knows, maybe next year LCS will receive another Smith Fellow!

The Port-au-Prince Airport is fairly small, so I was able to easily navigate to my departing gate. I was about two hours early, so I headed upstairs to grab some food at one of the cafes. It was nice to sit down and reflect on my experience as I watched other travelers sit with their families and friends to do the same. There were so many people in the airport who had gone down to Haiti to do service, but it was incredible to sit there and think about just how different everyone’s experience could have been. While in Haiti I learned so much about the problems plaguing the people, while also meeting incredible young people who were ready to change their situations. I will never forget some of the students that I met, the smiles on some of the children when they waved to me across campus, and the unbelievable community that I found at LCS.

After two hours of waiting for my flight, I got pretty anxious and had to start moving around. Since the terminal was small and there were two flights going out at once, I decided to forfeit my seat and go stand to wait the remaining half hour til I boarded. My plane took off about forty minutes later than expected, but I did not mind the delay once I boarded. It was great to sit and relax in my seat knowing I could fall asleep for the next four hours. However, that plan was immediately interrupted when I noticed the man next to me had the hiccups. At first I did not mind, but after an hour into the flight when I noticed that the hiccups were there to stay, I decided to abandon my plan to sleep. As a result, I spent the remaining time on the plane thumbing through the magazines, solving some of the puzzles, and attempting to fix my headphones so that I could block out the noises coming from the man next to me.

When we finally touched down in New York at around 7:00 I was excited to see my family and escape the presence of the hiccupping man. It took a while to reach our gate, and by the time we were finally allowed off the plane I practically sprinted to Customs out of excitement to be reunited with my parents. Once I grabbed my luggage, I found my parents and best friend from home, Paige, waiting for me outside! They greeted me with flowers and balloons, and I was truly ecstatic to be in their presence after a long day of travelling. We headed straight to dinner as today was also my parents’ twenty-seventh wedding anniversary, and we had double the reason to celebrate! It is great to be back.

Although I am happy to be home to spend some time with my family, I could not have been happier with the last twenty-five days of my life. I cannot thank the Father Smith Selection Committee enough for awarding me with this unbelievable opportunity! My experiences in Haiti have taught me about the power of the Catholic Church, the value of education, and also a great deal about myself. This journey has been unbelievable, and I could not be happier that I was able to complete it as a representative and extension of the Providence College community.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wrapping Things Up

Although I never miss a deadline or arrive unprepared to an exam, I do have a tendency to finish projects or preparations at the last minute. I am not a procrastinator, however I do take a while to arrive at a finished project as I like to ensure that I put hard work and effort to everything I do. As a result, it did not come as a surprise to me that on my last full day in Haiti I would still be finishing up surveys for my project. I had already completed the secondary school students, university students, and non-professional staff surveys, but this morning when I woke up I only had about half of the necessary professional staff surveys completed. While I had spent a great deal of time preparing to administer the survey and speaking with those that I surveyed, I realized today that I might have to speed up some of my work in order to get all necessary surveys completed before I left the country.

With this in mind, I left LCS with my translator as soon as possible this morning. By 9:00 AM we were back at the factory from yesterday, speaking with Deacon Moynihan’s friend about any remaining employees who fit the criteria for today’s survey. At 10:00 we had completed all the surveys we could at the factory, and discussed the plan for the day. One of the people who has been working closely with me on the survey and who had helped translated would go to the business that we went to last week to finish up the remaining surveys there while I travelled with Deacon Moynihan, my translator, and THP Board Member, Mark Bamford, over to Pétion-Ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, to speak with someone from Sogebank.

Thanks to Deacon Moynihan’s connection of Robert Moscoso, Chairman and CEO of Sogebank, we were able to speak with Jean Bordes Châtel, General Controller of Sogebank. As an insider of the banking industry in Haiti, Robert Moscoso was able to answer many of my questions early on about how banks in Haiti function. He was also kind enough to defer some questions to Mr. Châtel who is also very knowledgeable. Mr. Châtel not only arrived at the meeting with typed answers to my questions, but he also brought with him some statistical data and a few presentations to reference. His preparations proved to be fruitful as I gained a clearer picture of the spending and financing habits of Haitians.

In an article written by Bill Clinton and elsewhere on the internet I have come across statements that claim that only 10% of Haitians have bank accounts. While Mr. Châtel confirmed that this may in fact be true, he pointed out that this is a percentage of all Haitians and not adult Haitians. When the category is narrowed to just include Haitian adults, the percentage is closer to 45%. This percentage was much more reassuring, and it also seemed to validate the answers that I was receiving on my survey. With almost half of the adult population having a bank account, the presence and potential for mobile banking can be viewed in a different light.

After this great meeting, we headed back to LCS’s campus. As I mentioned yesterday, the Boys’ Varsity Soccer team had their second and final match of the season today. After a quick change into shorts and a t-shirt, we left for the game. When I was in high school, I was a Referee for a recreational soccer league. I played travel soccer for about seven years, and I loved spending time around the fields watching games. As a recreational soccer Referee, I was required to be officially certified by FIFA, or the international soccer league. After about nineteen hours of a course, I knew the rules inside and out. With this experience, I offered to assist in the refereeing of today’s game. Since I left my lovely yellow uniform at home (I cannot imagine why I did not think to bring it), I was assigned to be a sideline Referee. Once at Saint-Louis de Gonzague, a boarding school in Delmas—another suburb of Port-au-Prince, I was able to meet the fellow Referees. With a little bit of a language gap, communication would be difficult, but luckily the FIFA rules are universal, along with the hand signals in order to make a call.

The game was incredibly competitive. As I mentioned yesterday, the two teams are rivals, and I could immediately sense the degree of intensity on the field. I was also glad that I do not understand Kreyól, as the boys on the opposing team were definitely trying to give me a hard time as a female Referee. From the way in which the boys carried themselves on the field and on the sidelines, it was evident that the LCS players had a better understanding of how to conduct themselves properly and of the concept of respect. The opposing team had a lot to say to the center Referee, and after a minor shoving incident on the field, there was a period of about five minutes in which members of Saint-Louis de Gonzague were arguing a call. As I had no clue what they were saying, I stayed out of it, and was thoroughly impressed with all of the LCS players for continuing to handle themselves in a respectful manner. Despite all of this excitement, LCS WON!!! The final score was 2 – 0, and I was happy that all of their hard work paid off (even though I could not show favorites during the course of the game). Definitely a great way to finish up their season!

After the game, I headed over to the Moynihan house for dinner along with another volunteer and Mark Bamford. Dinner was delicious as usual, and afterwards the rest of the Volunteers joined us for a little while. It was great to spend time with everyone one last time, but I unfortunately had to leave early to track down the remaining surveys and pack my suitcase.

I am so blessed to have been welcomed into such an amazing community, and I cannot believe that my time here is coming to an end. I will leave campus around 11:00 AM tomorrow to head to the airport, and it will definitely be a bittersweet moment. With my busy schedule here, I am shocked at how quickly these three and a half weeks have gone by. Although I am excited to return home to my family, I do not want this amazing experience to come to an end.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


No, that is not acronym. It is the Kreyol word for water. Another something new that I learned today. I also learned from this same lesson that I am terrible at pronouncing words that have letter sequences that are not common in English. In case you were wondering dlo is pronounced like the word "blow,"  but with a "D" at the beginning.

This brief Kreyol lesson came this afternoon as I was sitting with my Haitian translator waiting for people to take my survey. This morning I headed to a local factory, owned by a friend of Deacon Moynihan to speak with his employees from the unskilled labor category. I needed to speak with 78 people from this category alone, so I knew in advance that I was going to have my work cut out for me. However, with the help of my translators, the day went smoothly and I was able to meet my quota.

Everyone that I spoke with today was so receptive. They asked questions about my survey and willingly participated. I am also especially appreciative of the man in charge of the factory who let me speak to his workers and the woman who helped organize the almost steady stream of people coming into the interview room. When we were able to speak with two or three people at a time we flew through the surveys and after about 4 hours of work we were completely finished. 

Deacon Moynihan and a member of the Board of Directors for The Haitian Project stopped by to bring me lunch and accompany home from my long day of work. On the return trip home we were able to talk about what I learned so far today and where this information fit in with the rest of my data and project. Although I had not yet entered the data into a spreadsheet it was clear to me from the results that I received that these workers were spending less on their cell phones than university students. This comparison was very interesting as it calls into question the spending habits of university students on their phones.

When I returned to campus, I spent the rest of the night inputting today's surveys into Excel and briefly analyzing the data. The Volunteers had spent the day preparing campus for the Graduation Ceremony, and when I returned they were working on putting together the student's diplomas. It is getting to be very exciting here on campus as everything comes to a close. The Philo Class has truly been working hard in preparation for their big day, and it is clear that they are more than prepared to take on new challenges in the near future.

Tomorrow I have another busy day, so I will be heading into bed shortly in preparation. On the schedule for tomorrow is another visit to the factory to speak with a few members of Professional Staff, a trip to Sogebank (one of the major banks in Haiti) to speak with someone about trends in the banking system, and a soccer game. I will be reffereeing the last Boys' Varsity Soccer game against their rivals, and I am hoping that my previous experience as a refferee will help me out tomorrow! If not, at least the players will not be yelling at me in English!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

They're Back!

Today the Rheto and Philo classes returned to campus for the day to prepare for graduation. It was weird to see the students back on campus, but their presence was definitely welcomed!

After Morning Prayer, we started work on a few projects before the students arrived. We started off shoveling and sifting rocks that needed to be moved. Once we finished going through one of these piles we headed to the backyard to work on piles of cement rocks. We have to sort these rocks by size, so that we can figure out which pieces can be crushed to be used later on to make more cement. It is great to witness the transformation of an unusable object into a useful tool.

Next, we worked in the trench that the PC group helped make. This trench is actually a French drain (a trench filled with gravel to redirect water) located next to a bathroom, so today the Maintenance Staff worked on knocking down a wall next to the trench. Once they knocked down pieces of the wall it was our job to sift and sort through the cement. Although relatively easy, sifting rocks and lifting wheelbarrows is exerting, and after a few hours you definitely start to feel like you have been working out.

In between helping out with cleaning up the remains of the wall, I also worked alongside a few of the Volunteers and students cleaning up the classrooms. After a full year of use, the desks, chalkboards, and some of the walls needed to be cleaned. Even though the walls were not that dirty, it is amazing how much cleaner they looked once they were washed down with soap and water. Although we did not get to all of the classrooms, it was nice seeing a noticeable change in the few rooms that we were able to get to.

In the afternoon I was able to look at my survey results again. Tomorrow I will be going to a few different businesses to survey their employees, so I went back and analyzed the results I already have just to see if there have been any noticeable trends. The amount of money that university students spend on their cell phones was shocking to me, according to my results, of those surveyed, cell phone spending is equivalent to one third of the per capita income of Haitians! This is an incredible amount of money when you consider what else that money could be going towards. I cannot wait to see if these spending habits are also shared by the workers that I will be interviewing.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Just Another Great Day!

Another busy day! With Graduation around the corner and with the Volunteers scheduled to leave Haiti shortly afterwards, there is a lot of preparation to be done around here. This morning was spent cleaning and reorganizing the house, so that everything is ready to be used come the fall.

I spent most of my morning cleaning out the kitchen. From all of the cooking from the past year, a lot of the cooking oil has collected in the area surrounding the stoves. My job was to clean up the window panes in that area. Working next to other Volunteers, the morning flew by and before I knew it, it was lunchtime. The music that was playing while we worked also might have contributed to how quickly the time flew!

The afternoon was spent working on smaller projects throughout the house. Some of the time was spent finishing up projects from the morning. Also, many of the Volunteers took this time during the afternoon to pack. I helped out with smaller projects when needed, but also was able to spend some time working on my paper. As a Finance major at PC, I have not yet had to use footnotes when writing a paper. While I have written plenty of papers for Civ, none have required me to do the kind of research necessary to use footnotes. As a result, footnotes are a foreign concept to me, so I spent most of the afternoon figuring out the correct use of such citations – it was definitely a learning experience!

On Monday nights we have labouyl, or porridge, for dinner. We had a few extra bananas in the kitchen, so the cooks for the night were able to add them into the dish as a little treat. As usual it was delicious, but that was not our only surprise at dinner. It was great to have a little something different along with dinner, and it was also a great taste of home.

At evening prayer we had time to reflect on today's Gospel and its meaning in our lives. The Gospel referenced the Beatitudes, which were nice to keep in mind during a hard day of work. During this transition period before Graduation and everyone's departure, it is nice to remind ourselves of the true meaning of our work and to reflect on the time that we have spent here. Life here is very simple, and it has been an eye-opening experience to see the hard-work of those motivated by their faith.

Every day I remind myself how blessed I have been to receive this opportunity to travel to Haiti and see the inner-workings of the Catholic Church abroad! I am so grateful to have been granted a Father Smith Fellowship, and thus the opportunity for this once in a lifetime experience!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Screaming Kids

With a little more time in yesterday’s schedule than usual I was able to sleep in a little before I started my day. Even though I could only will myself to sleep until 6:30 it was nice to get a few extra minutes of sleep. After a delicious breakfast, I went straight to work on my paper in the computer lab.

Not much after I settled down and started writing, I got distracted by a noise coming from the driveway. It sounded like yelling, crying children – which was weird because all of the students had left. After about two minutes of continuous screaming, I finally realized what was happening. What I was hearing was not the screams of human children, but of the goats that were being delivered for next week’s graduation. Definitely not the type of kid I was expecting.

Just some screaming kids!

The goats will be prepared, along with chickens and possibly some other animals, towards the end of this week for a celebration after Saturday’s graduation. In the meantime, the goats are currently tied down on the soccer field next to a few classrooms. Something I never imagined I would see in my lifetime, I took a picture as proof of this experience.

After that excitement, I spent most of the day working on my paper. I took a few breaks to do some leisure reading and relax, but otherwise I was focusing on the paper. At 6:00, Father Isaia, who Deacon Moynihan has celebrated Mass alongside the past few weekends that we went off-campus, came over to celebrate Mass for the Volunteers. This time though, everything was in English! I was excited to hear one of Father Isaia’s Masses in a language that I understood, although I did enjoy witnessing a typical Haitian Mass. The Mass was truly beautiful. I am not sure if I mentioned it before, but all of the Volunteers have beautiful voices and some of them are musically talented, so listening to them perform at Mass reminds me of being back at a PC Mass.

Mass was followed by a regular Saturday night dinner – ham sandwiches, which are always good and satisfying. After dinner, we had another movie night. Some of the Volunteers made some popcorn, and then we all gathered together to watch Silver Lining’s Playbook – which is such a great movie.

None of us really cared that the movie ran late because this morning we were actually able to sleep in. My internal alarm clock of course would not let me sleep past 7:30, but it again was nice to not be in a rush this morning. (I should mention that I have not slept past 7:30 for about a month now, which is somewhat of a minor miracle for me because I love to sleep in late).

Today was a really relaxing and productive day. One of the Junior Staff members had gone out and surveyed one hundred University Students for me, and he returned the results to me today. Most of my morning and afternoon was spent inputting this data, but I was able to do this outside at one of the tables in the shade. There was a nice breeze today, so once I figured out how to hold down all of my papers, I was pretty comfortable. I also was able to finish what I could of my paper. Although I still have a lot of data and analysis to include, as well as some conclusions to draw, I am glad that I have completed a large chunk of my paper.

I felt so accomplished after all of my work today that I actually went for a run by the basketball courts. Just to put in perspective how big of a deal this is, I have to admit that the number of times that I have stepped foot in Concannon Fitness Center these past two years is less than one. So, this was a huge deal. I was not able to run for a long time, but it was great to exercise. For some reason I thought that going at 5:00 PM that it might be a little cooler, but my logic was definitely flawed. Although the breeze from earlier was still there, it was still hot and humid. When I came back and checked the weather it was 84 degrees out, but according to it felt like 94 degrees (I would definitely agree). Taking a cold shower was absolutely wonderful after that.

We just had dinner here, and now we are headed to watch a movie again. I think we might be watching Miss Congeniality, a movie I have not seen in years!

Friday, June 7, 2013


I do not think I have ever given Physical Plant at Providence College the credit that they deserve. This morning we cleared out all of the dorms, collecting any trash that we could find and placing it in the incinerator. While the students tried to leave as little behind as possible, it was evident that there was a lot of work to be done. Although I always try to leave my dorm room at school as spotless as possible when I leave, I never truly appreciated the work that Physical Plant does when cleaning out the dormitories. And I especially appreciate my family for cleaning out what they could of my dorm room as I was on my flight to Haiti!

For about three hours this morning, we swept trash down the stairs of dormitories, placed it in wheel barrows, and brought it to the incinerator for some of the Volunteers to burn. I give the Volunteers working at the incinerator a ton of credit because I was only helping out over there for about twenty minutes and I could not handle the heat that it was giving off. By the time we were done cleaning out all of the dorms, we were cheering for what we had accomplished.

After showering off the dirt and dust from the dorm rooms (with limited grass and trees, these two accumulate quickly in Haiti), we all started to make a dent in our other work. All of the Volunteers got to work grading their exams and filling out paperwork for the end of the year. I was able to help grade a Biology exam so that one of the Volunteers could grade some of her other exams.

After a delicious lunch prepared by the cooks, I headed to the computer lab to get some work done on my paper. Although I was trying to stay focused, I was having a hard time making any progress because I had a terrible headache. Whether it was from the heat or my allergies I am not sure, all I know is that the Advil that I took did not seem to be doing the trick. Regardless, I made sure I kept hydrating and tried to get as much done as I possibly could.

By 4:00 I was feeling a little better and I was able to help some members of the Haitian staff with the preparations for tonight’s fête, or party. As a way to celebrate the end of the year and all of the hard work of the Volunteers and Staff, the Dean of Academics decided that we should throw a party in our house. Everyone was really excited for the night’s events, so a whole bunch of us decided to pitch in and help out the cooks where we could.

On the menu was fritay, or basically fried everything. It takes a long time to make, but it was totally worth it! I helped chop the carrots and the beets for the salad that we would have. It was unbelievable to watch everyone at work in the kitchen, especially with there being so many little details to worry about. Plantains needed to be cut up and smashed, dough needed to be made then fried and refried, and all different types of vegetables needed to be chopped into small pieces. After three hours of preparation, the dinner bell was finally rung at 7:00!

Here's a picture of all of the delicious food before it disappeared!

Dinner was absolutely delicious. Members of the Junior Staff and Staff were all in attendance, and it was great to see the whole community together in one year. Even in the few weeks that I have been here I have been lucky enough to witness the hard work of all of the members of the community here. Everyone seems to give their all to whatever they are doing, whether it be teaching a class, directing a student performance, or working in the office to make sure the day-to-day operations of LCS run smoothly. The entire staff truly deserved tonight’s party to celebrate all that they have accomplished this year!

The party was so much fun! A lot of the staff stuck around for a while. It was so much fun hanging out with everyone, listening to music, and dancing! By the time we had cake and cleaned up, we were all in need of a shower and a good night’s sleep!