Archives for posts with tag: Haiti


The team with some of the Indiana cheering section

The Greatest Softball Game Ever Played on La Gonave was in fact the only softball game ever played on La Gonave and it was played last Thursday at 4:00 in the afternoon on the Wesleyan Mission compound. The young members of my high school English class had their final exam on the field. The umpire was Dr. Robert Vermaire and he was assisted by guesthouse manager Met Johny. The final score was Team Taz-Well –10 to Team Angelica–8. Three innings of softball bliss on a sunny afternoon. Every final exam should be so easy to grade.

In April, right around the opening day of baseball in the U.S., Taz-Well wore a NY Yankees cap to class. I asked him if he knew what the NY stood for on his hat. The whole class said New York. Yes, but what about New York did this specific NY represent? No one knew. I explained it was the logo for the NY Yankees baseball team and that it was baseball season in the states. I told them that lots of kids their age play baseball and softball at this time of the year. Some had heard of baseball but no one they knew had ever played it. My mission was clear.

Angelica Angelica at practice

We began our unit on baseball the first day after Easter break. The most important lesson that day was that everyone on a team needs a cap. Thanks to my nephew Tony, I had a big supply of Yankee caps for them and each student picked his or her favorite to wear each day of class. Each one carefully chose color and size and we were off to a happy start. Next they learned the fundamentals of the game: throwing, catching, pitching, batting and how to score a run. Our vocabulary unit was based on all the lexicon of the game: three strikes you’re out (their favorite phrase), fair, foul, home run, on base and go home. The last is my favorite because, and this is true, the first time I yelled that at practice, a student took me at my word. Betchiama was on third base during a lesson in which we practiced scoring runs. Bases were loaded and the next batter singled to right field. Betchiama stood on base unsure of where to run and I yelled “go home, go home.” The compound gate was open and off she went down the road. I had to send her brother out after her and thus the class learned the expression “go home.”

It was not long before I was having excellent attendance in class and attracting many spectators at each practice. Some of the biggest challenges were: not running with the bat to any base once contact with the ball was made, realizing that someone needs to chase after the ball once it rolls out of the infield and not running ahead of the runner in front of you! But, ti pa ti pa, we made progress. In one class we learned the words to Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Another class had them memorize the terms first base, second base, third base, home plate. In others we practiced batting, fielding and catching fly balls.

Dr Bob giving pointers to Leon  DrBobPractice

Friends in South Carolina donated a couple of softballs. We received gloves and bats from Oregon and Canada. And a team from Colorado Springs made three bases and a home plate from scrap wood. They rounded the edges and sanded them nice and smooth since the students often played barefoot. June 18th was set as the big game day. Notices went home to all the families. Dr. Bob and Met Johny agreed to ump.

Taz-Wel in his pitching stance Pitching

Visitors from Indiana made cheering signs for each player and we were set for your day of days.

The game was a three inning whirlwind of excitement, but I’ll do my best here to recount the play by play. Taz-Well’s team took the field first with Taz pitching. Boaz, Angelica and Leon all reached on singles, but with bases loaded the next batter hit right to third baseman Dilanka who threw to first for the out. ( We never really practiced the play to home.) One run scored. Taz struck out the next batter. Two more runs scored before the final strike out, and Team Taz came up to bat down 3-0.

Betchiama and Dilanka each grounded out to first. Jaron reached on a dropped ball and finally scored on a series of errors and over throws. 3-1 at the end of the first.

Taz-Well held Angelica’s team to one run in the top of the second and it was time for the 1 1/2 inning stretch. Everyone–players, visitors, parents, hospital staff, spectators–stood for a rousing version of Take Me Out to the Ball Game with my students giving extra punch to the line “three strikes you’re out.”

In the bottom of the second first batter Taz hit for a home run which energized the whole team. Despite a double play when Espirantha flied out to first which caught Jaron off base, they managed to score six more runs. 4-7 at the end of the second.

Bodely came in as relief pitcher for the top of the third. Angelica, normally the strongest hitter on her team, struck out trying to swing for the fences. However, a grand slam by Jean left Taz-Well’s team down a run for the bottom of the third. With Jean as relief pitcher for Boaz, it didn’t look good for Team Taz. But Dilanka, Jaron and Taz-Well all hit for singles and the bases were loaded for Bodely. Three runs scored on his long line drive. As no one had any desire to end the game, we played until the third and final out when Betchiama struck out swinging and the final score was 8-10. Team cheers and high fives were followed by two gallons of gatorade, home made cracker jacks (recipe below) , five dozen chocolate chip cookies, lots of pictures and hugs. “Really Teacher,” they asked, “this is really our final class? Net, net?” Yes. Here are your certificates. Now go before I’m sad.

BoasOnDeck Boaz “on deck”

We plan a lot of grand events in life, but it’s the unexpected joys that are most remembered. When people ask what was the highlight of teaching English in Haiti I believe I’ll say that it was the day we played the greatest softball game on La Gonave.

Cracker Jack Recipe:
Cracker Jacks-Pop 1/3 cup plain popcorn. In a small saucepan combine 1 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup honey, 6 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons water and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and simmer about 5 minutes (to 250 degrees). Take off the heat and whisk in 2 teaspoons vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. In a large bowl gently combine the pop corn and caramel mixture. Add a cup of roasted peanuts and continue to coat all. Place on a couple of baking sheets and bake at 250 for 20-30 minutes or until evenly browned. Cool completely. It will hardened as it cools. Break up into cracker jacks!


Holding baby Kristia, born Tuesday night. Her mama,”the sea shell lady” was selling crafts at the little market. Lucky me got to hold the baby while mom made a sale. Exquisite!

Bon swa — it’s the afternoon of a busy morning, one that began with a medical team performing surgery (chiriji) on a ninth month old girl who had a webbed hand. The fingers on her left had were fused together. She was with her family at the hospital several days ago because an older sister was sick . Someone on the medical team noticed that the baby had this hand abnormality. The doctors heading the team were Dr. Paul, a pediatrician, and Dr. Tim, a plastic surgeon. Good combination. 

 They scheduled the surgery for this morning and I asked if I could watch. The medical teams are always welcoming of observers and they often have med students with them. At 7:30 we headed over to the hospital. I was given a mask and a paper shower cap and was told I could stand anywhere. Nine month old Sachin was already in her little hospital gown that said “sleepy little tiger.” Mis Vero (nurse Veronic) was having no luck finding a vein for the IV. The pediatrician tried, no luck. The team’s pediatric nurse finally got the IV started after six more tries. After the needle was taped down, they needed to make a little arm board for her as there were none small enough. One of the nurses tore off a piece of cardboard from a box and, degaje, a splint was made. Little Sachin was crying, yes, but not kicking and wailing the way you’d think she would. Her tiny face and bright brown eyes searched the faces that were peering over her as if to say “are you all OK with this?”

After that she was taken into the OR and Mis Vero gave her an anesthetic via syringe up her nose. Sachin began kicking at this and a few of us held her and talked to her until she fell asleep. (my favorite part of the procedure) Then Dr. Tim injected lidocaine into her tiny hand. He took a slender scalpel and began gently cutting away at the webbing. There was quite a lot of blood, but the nurse continually swabbed the area with q-tips as he worked away at the hand. One of the pre-med students held the baby’s hand in the correct position. It was her first surgery. Pretty soon she began to sweat and sway, but Mis Vero got her a stool to sit on and she composed herself beautifully. The doctors joked that before long she’d be able to see a bloody surgery and go out after for a steak.

Once the webbing was cut away, Dr. Tim cauterized and stitched the wound between her fingers. It was amazing to see big hands perform such delicate sewing. And it was done. The medical team had one more surgery to perform before catching their boat at 10:30. These guys hit the ground running when they’re here and don’t stop until they’re on the plane going home. Last night they were called to the hospital when a woman in labor came in. She was hemorrhaging tremendously. The fetus was already dead. Med students and nurses began donating pints of blood. The woman’s blood pressure dropped to near 0/0. The Haitian doctors stepped away from the table unsure of what to do next. One of them called his brother-in-law who is an ob/gyn. He said to do a hysterectomy. With the assistance of the two American doctors (a pediatrician and a plastic surgeon remember) and the donated blood, miraculously, the mother was saved. I saw her this morning and she looked in good health as her family surrounded her in support.

Little Sachin’s surgery was nothing so dramatic or life saving, but it was life altering. Without the surgery she could not use her left hand. There are no modifications in schools for children with disabilities. And in Haiti there is little tolerance among children or adults for those who are disfigured. People with obvious differences are often ridiculed or ignored. This was simply a case of the right people, in the right place, at the right time performing a small surgery that will have a big impact on Sachin’s future. Glad I was able to see it.

A little foot note to the story is that Sachin’s big sister Aslande is now enrolled in my high school English class. I’ll be able to keep up with her recovery over the next few weeks. Her parents have invited me to visit them at their house. I actually saw them all walking home from the hospital this afternoon. Sachin was resting on her mother’s shoulder, her bandaged had tucked under her chin. I think she’ll sleep well tonight. You too–pase bon nwi. —–Nancy

Bon jou friends– After being in New York for a few weeks, I was eager to return to the work here in Haiti. For Bwa Chandel, this past week was a busy one.  On Tuesday we held a Community health clinic at the church, and for many people there it was the first doctor they had ever seen in their lives. The entire day was made possible by the generosity and inexhaustible patience of Dr. Anna and Nurse Gail (of Cornwall, CT and Stanfordville, NY) and my good friend Daniel and his South Carolina team. While our goal was to leave the hospital compound at 7 a.m., I felt that rolling out of here at 7:30 was not bad for a country where no clocks work. Twelve of us piled into a truck along with the medical supplies and we began the nearly two hour ride up the mountain to where the road, such as it is, ends. Then the mile hike into Bwa Chandel. Met Benito, the school principal, met us with a couple of teens who helped carry the supplies. I think everyone was struck by the simple beauty of the view: the steep hillsides, the sea far below and the tiny church in a clearing. 

Once there the mob of people waiting to see a doctor was at first overwhelming. Form a line? Out of the question. However, Mikenson and Met Yves, our translators and community health professionals, were able to organize the crowd with numbered charts. Little by little over the course of the next five hours about 30 people/families were seen by the doctor. As is always the case in these clinics, people at the end of the day are turned away. But the good doctor left  medicine for specific people who needed things she did not have that day and extra vitamins, iron and pain meds for those in need. Which leads me to Sunday. 

I thought that Sunday would be a good day to distribute the medicine Dr. Anna left since people would be at church. And that was true for the most part. I had gone to mass at 8:30 and left for Bwa Chandel at about 9. I thought that by the time I got there church would be just about over. Not exactly. In fact church was just getting going. A beautiful young mother was leading the group in prayer. I stood in the back. The pastor insisted I sit right up front.  

Perhaps we should take a moment to look at the contrast. Bwa Chandel is a poor community. Children have very few clothes and they are well worn; they are often barefoot or only partly clothed. But in church it is a different story. Everyone was well dressed: men in suits, women in outfits with hats. And the children, who far outnumbered the adults, were gorgeous in party dresses and frilly socks, the boys with their shirts tucked neatly into their pants and sporting little dress shoes.  I, on the other hand, had ridden up on a quad and was in dust covered khaki pants, a frayed orange t-shirt and boots. No hat. 

 The beautiful woman ended her prayer, picked up her tambourine and led the church in a rhythmic and energetic hymn. She was accompanied by a man playing a long metal cylinder with holes in it like a cheese grater, washboard style. Those simple instruments along with the voices and clapping ( and not plain clapping; I mean syncopated rhythm clapping) filled the mountainside with a joyful noise. The song had a million verses which everyone knew, but I am getting to where I can at least join in on the refrain. But when whitey stood and clapped with the congregation the dust wafted off her like the dirt aura around Pig Pen from the Peanuts cartoon. Of course the kids around me got a kick out of the whole thing and just when I felt my stupidest I saw my little friend Wubens, the bad boy of Bwa Chandel. He gave me a shy smile and later sat with me on my lap making me feel more  at home and less conspicuous.  After the song they asked me to say a few words. I did my best to say good morning, I was happy to be with my friends in Bwa Chandel, I had medicine for some of them after church and I hoped God would bless them with a good Sunday. And then, and not for the first time since I’ve been coming to Haiti, the whole crowd shouted Amen.

                  And the work on the little school continues.

Enough money was donated for water so that the wall footings can be built. This is done by mixing sand, dug from the ground, and cement to make mortar which is used between big field stones. The outer foundation is finished, flush, even and solid. The field stone pattern is like a mosaic. So a big Mesi Anpil to everyone who has helped to get the school this far. And, si Bondye vle, we’ll be able to continue. As haitians often say “ti pa, ti pa, ti pa, nou rive.” Little step, by little step, by little step, we arrive. Ain’t it the truth.   Lots of love to all–Nancy




I’m starting this blog for my sister, Nancy, who is on her third trip to Haiti helping at the Weslayan Hospital on La Gonave, an island in the Gulf of Port au Prince. As you can imagine (or if you don’t know my sister, this is ‘c’est normale) Nancy has made many friends there, from the youngest to the eldest.  Well, these are her stories. They are beautiful, wonderful, heartwarming and sometimes heartwrenching; all are a very personal view, as only Nancy can tell. This is for all of you.–Adele