Haiti Pilgrimage 2016: in summary

A reflection by Dani Scoville

A group of 13 travelers from the diocese of California went on a holy pilgrimage to Haiti. We were there for two reasons: to learn as students from the people and place of Haiti, and to continue to nurture the relationship between our diocese and the diocese of Haiti.

For a summary of days 1 and 2 of the pilgrimage, click here. Slow internet connection in Cap-Haitian kept me from live-blogging like I had hoped to, so below is a summary of the remainder of our week-long pilgrimage in Haiti.

On Tuesday we woke up early to hop a bus from Port-au-Prince to Cap-Haitian. We drove for 6 hours through Haiti, seeing many different kinds of landscapes: from bustling cities to expansive country side. We saw beautifully painted cars and “tap-tap”s, well-dressed Haitians walking down the road, and also a lot of need. The bus ride itself was an experience: the driver sped down crowded roads and narrow turns expertly, honking the horn to let other cars and people on the street know the bus was coming. Once we arrived at the hotel, most jumped into the ocean, while others read by the beach.

Bishop Marc, Canon Stefani, and the Rev. Dr. Joe Duggan stayed behind in Port-au-Prince to visit and teach at the Episcopal Theological Seminary. Bishop Marc taught on the Cosmic Christ on Tuesday and the Rev. Dr. Joe Duggan taught on Anglican spirituality Tuesday through Thursday. Bishop Marc then flew to meet our group in Cap-Haitian Tuesday evening.

Wednesday we drove to Saint Barnabas, a 2-year college program where students graduate with a certification to become agricultural technicians. We learned from Dan Tootle, St. Barnabas’ program manager, that the school currently has 16 students, 9 professors, and 7 laborers, and that they are ramping up fundraising efforts to expand the school to have 6 buildings and capacity for 250 students. Maggie Keet, from the development office of The Episcopal Church, joined us since her main focus is on supporting Haiti programs, such as Saint Barnabas. Deacon Willy Banna, CASB director, took us for a tour around the campus to see the vegetation in various stages of growth. We had some time with Saint Barnabas students to take turns asking each other questions about their training and our visit to Haiti. After lunch with the staff, the students taught us how to dig holes and plant Moringa trees. The DioCal pilgrims then got to help plant the trees, with supervision from the students.

After Saint Barnabas, we went to the Grand Bassin village, one of the communities supported by Food for the poor. The kids from the village welcomed us at the van with hugs. We were then guided into a room where the students sang and danced to further welcome us to their home. Kayla Leveque had brought clothing from St. Paul’s, Walnut Creek and the staff from the program passed out the clothing to the kids while Elie Chery, the director for Northern Haiti program for Food for the poor, gave us a tour of parts of the village's programs: a mill and cooking area for the villagers to bake and sell bread, gardens where the villagers grow crops (like hot peppers for selling and various vegetables for meals), and a communal rabbit husbandry space. It was a full day and in the evening when we were back at the hotel, we had rich and thoughtful reflections during our daily debrief. We each were lulled to sleep by heavy rain on our roofs.


A St. Barnabas graduate showing us his garden at the village

Thursday we were guided by an expert guide through the Sans-Souci Palace and rode small horses up a steep hill to the Citadelle Laferrière. We then rode down the steep hill and were welcomed to lunch by drummers, hand washing, and an incredible meal cooked by our tour guide’s wife. Many of the students are certain it was our best meal in Haiti. We then had the afternoon to rest. Two of the students built their own sand Citadelle complete with moat on the beach.

   

Friday we visited another Food for the poor program: Randy Taver school — an elementary school in a village where K-6th grade education is offered for free to the children of La Nativite village. The children welcomed us with song and dance, the head of the school said a few words, and we sang “Merci” back to the children. We got to watch a teacher masterfully run her kindergarten class: in between lessons the children would stand, sing, and dance — a brilliant way to help them express energy and then focus on the lesson. We visited the center for adult studies at the village that offered sewing classes (where they made school uniforms for the children) and cooking classes. The village is currently rebuilding their medical center. After the visit, we spent the afternoon resting, swimming, and spending time together. 

The next day we took a small airplane from Cap-Haitian to Port-au-Prince, and had dinner together at Oloffson house. On Sunday we worshipped at the Cathedral before the long plane journey home.

This was such a rich learning experience for all involved and we each left with ideas of how to partner with the programs already happening in Haiti. Want to know how to get involved with the work being done with Haiti going forward? Check out this next steps post from the Rev. Davidson Bidwell-Waite.

For a reflection from Emma Heaton, one of the high school students on the pilgrimage, click here

For more photos, visit the facebook album