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Another miracle for Messef

Posted by Linda Stapleton de Martinez on November 22, 2013 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I am overflowing with joy and gratitude at how God works through all of you, time and time again, to bless the children at Messef.


Some of you will have read of all the challenges we have been having at the frontier lately and also of problems between the Dominican Republic and Haiti…but God is bigger than any of these problems.  When no solution seems in sight, that is the time to trust even more.

 We got off to a slow start with our Roof Appeal, despite a wonderful kick start from Lisa, who offered to help when we were ready, as she had done with the girls’ dormitory two years ago.  She faithfully kept her promise.  The extra drive on Orphan Sunday brought in some great support from some new and old Friends, but nowhere near enough to complete the project this side of Christmas.  I have to admit, I was beginning to get a little disheartened, but my mistake was in thinking that I had to rely on my own power, foolishly thinking this was down to me!

You will perhaps remember that we had received the wonderful gift of beds from Barrio Blanco Projekt  via our Friends Julienne and Deb at A Serving Heart Ministry.  They have been so faithful in helping us when they have an orphanage of their own to support further along the coast at Cap Haitien.  You can see news of this on the Newsletter but it meant that Lorenzo, who had been fundraising for mattresses, since seeing the appalling state of the beds, was able to reallocate some of that for other needs and the roof was one of them.


To cut a long story short, Pastor Quirico, Manolo, Cecilio and Lorenzo have just got back from Haiti.  With your donations and the wonderful gifts from Lorenzo and friends, they took a small food run, five more mattresses, fabric for school uniforms, materials to complete the roof when they return for the December food run, fixed the well which they found broken AND were able to resolve the visa issue for the frontier for Pastor Quirico, Danilo and Cecilio for the next 12 months, getting an unbelievable concession on the regular cost. 

We know Pastor Quirico has amazing negotiating and budgetting skills but this was nothing short of a miracle.  It took them about 8 hours of hard work at the frontier yesterday to get everything resolved (as long as a flight from here to England!) but they did it!  I am sure they will sleep well tonight and I for one will be shouting my praises from the rooftop. Photos to follow.

A huge thank you this time around to Lisa, Wendy, Akisha, Scott, Melissa and friends, Kristen, Mark, Crystal, Warren, Carol, Rebekkah, Lorenzo and friends.  You are all wonderful.  God bless you.


Visiting orphans and widows...

Posted by Linda Stapleton de Martinez on October 5, 2013 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)


I’m not sure if I should be writing this yet as I am still pretty discombobulated (great word, isn’t it) and frustrated after yesterday’s visit to Messef, but I have been praying for guidance as to what to write.

It was a terrible day and it was a wonderful day.  Terrible in that every time we make the trip and cross the frontier, the authorities on both sides make it more difficult and more expensive to do what we believe God has called us to do, to care for orphans – “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world”.  James 1:27.  Well, we are willing but we are being tested to the limit.  At least we have progress in that last month the food got across the frontier but we didn’t!  

There is a long history of animosity between the two countries (the Dominican Republic and Haiti) that make up the island of Hispaniola and it has once again come to a head recently.  It makes no difference, from either country’s point of view, if you are visiting to offer humanitarian aid (it is hard to imagine many people, apart from traders, going for any other reason), the only interest is in extracting as much money from you as possible. 

Danilo set out from his home at around 3.30 a.m., after less than an hour’s sleep, and we arrived at the frontier before 9.00 a.m…..and were still there at noon.  Although we do our best to go through each new obstacle the respective governments put in our way, each time they add a new one.  Having prepared ourselves that the Dominican members of our ministry would now have to pay the same entry and exit taxes as us foreigners, they have now enforced the need for them to have a visa to enter Haiti, at the cost of $200 a year per person, which gives no exemption from the taxes for each visit.  We just didn’t have this money yesterday and even if we had, the Haitian consulate, in charge of this, was not due to arrive at work until 2.30 p.m. (Haitian time?).  After a lot of hanging around and attempting whatever else we could, we decided to once again transfer the food to a motorbike and cart and take our chances on crossing the bridge and border on foot, along with the hordes going to and fro on market day.  After a fretful and hot walk, we all managed to get through and then proceeded to Messef on motorbike taxis as we’d had to leave the truck in customs.  If you are having trouble following this, don’t worry, I was having trouble following it and I was there.  Francesco, joining us for the first time, took all this in good humour, thankfully, but hardly a great introduction to the country he plans to volunteer in.

So, we arrived hot and bothered to be greeted by our beautiful children who were as pleased to see us as they were to see food again and all the frustration just melted away.  If ever I feel like throwing in the towel because the Haitian government just does not deserve for its people to be helped (which is fairly often nowadays), I just have to think of their needs and how much I love these children and I cannot abandon this unless I have to. 

Francesco fitted in immediately and we just left him to get to know everyone and find his way around, which he took to like a duck to water.  He has volunteered in orphanages in Ethiopia and Brazil before and when talking on our way home, he said the conditions are worse here, but the children perhaps more loving and he can certainly see how he can help when he returns in the near future.  So that was the wonderful part of the day, to know that there is some hope of being able to have a positive input in their lives on a more regular basis.

There are many changes at Messef.  There are new helpers again.  None stay long as Messef is unable to pay them a regular wage, just cover their living costs.  However, Eunice is now in charge of the orphanage children and hopefully will stay.  She is a Pastor, a single, mature woman with a quiet spirit and gentle authority, so please pray for her.  There is also a new Administrator, Pastor Esaie Elie, who has been accompanying Onikel to the frontier to meet us.  Pastor Altesse is still away in Port-au-Prince much of the time, preaching for the offering, to try to keep Messef afloat.  There is also another young man, Ephesian, also a Pastor (there are a lot of Pastors in Haiti!) who seems to have some drive and good authority with the children, so it was great to meet him for the first time.  He actually picks up rubbish and encourages the children to do the same!

So, the most important news – the children.  There have been many changes with them, too.  There are now no older girls at Messef, they have all gone to live with extended family or long lost parents.  The inspectors are carrying out their plan to reunite children with family members and this is presumably part of the process.  I was told that they were all happy to go but many have grown up at Messef so it must have been a wrench in many ways.  I will have to update our website as so many of our familiar and loved faces are no longer there and a lot of information has changed.  There are now 24 boys, aged from 3 to 18, and just 8 girls, from 4-13.

The most pressing needs are still to cover the monthly food run, putting a roof on the boys’s dormitory (we will continue our appeal to coincide with World Orphans’ Day at the beginning of November) and school uniforms.  Thank God, we have a promise of new beds from A Serving Heart Ministry, so that is a huge blessing.

The hen coop is still great, with the adult birds doing really well.  Unfortunately, they are not doing so well when they introduce young birds, probably because their condition is not so good when bought in the market on the frontier. (That word again!).

You can see the photos of this latest visit here.  Best to view them in Slideshow mode on full screen, then you will see the captions

So, please forgive my ramblings.  We have some hard decisions to make as to how we are going to absorb these additional costs.  As you know, we are all volunteers and only claim our expenses but they are becoming higher and higher.  If only we could devote all of this to the food budget.  You may ask why not just send the money, but we are commanded by God to be good stewards of what he puts in our care, whether personal or on behalf of you, and we believe we are best able to do that by delivering the goods ourselves, checking on the well-being of the children and giving them the love they so desperately need.  If any of you have any questions, comments or offers of help, please write to us at [email protected]

Danilo’s parting comment to me last night, as they dropped me off in the dark, was “Remember that we are here to serve, not to be served.”  I forgot that briefly yesterday as we were stuck at the frontier, as I was throwing up with a migraine on the way home, but it was only momentarily, we will continue to serve the Messef children, with your help, for as long as we believe that it’s God’s will.  Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement.


Walking through the hard times

Posted by Linda Stapleton de Martinez on November 19, 2012 at 6:10 AM Comments comments (0)

We needed to take food to Messef more than a week ago.  Due to delays in obtaining the permit to take the truck across the frontier, we had to wait and go at the first opportunity, which was Saturday, 17th.  There is a new administration and everything is more formal and more costly, along with the usual demands for "tips" every step of the way....but we will not be deterred!

Hoping for a relatively smooth run with the said papers proudly displayed in the front of the truck, we set out just after 4.00 a.m., hoping to make good time.  More than five hours later, having battled with flood, pestilence and hunger, we finally arrived at Dejabon and the frontier.  Due to flooding from a burst reservoir following days of torrential rain, we were forced to take a long detour and approach Haiti by a different route.  The roads were surprisingly good but, when natured called, we discovered that the area was absoluted SWARMING with mosquitoes.  Being the only woman on this trip, accompanied by the fearless Pastor Quirico, Danilo, Cecilio and Maximo, there are times when I wish I were a man and this was one of them....they have to expose less skin to the elements (and the mosquitoes) when nature calls!

Despite no-one from Messef meeting us, we got through the border with more ease than usual, although Danilo was called back with my passport and I prayed that they didn't confiscate it prior to my visit to family at Christmas.  It turned out an official had seen someone trying to pocket the fees without stamping my passport, which would have resulted in problems on our return, so fortunately that was resolved.  But, there are no accidents.  During this hold up, Pastor Quirico and I were approached by a young woman who said she'd been a Christian but had turned away and we had the opportunity to minister to her and pray for her, so all was for a purpose.  Having since talked to a friend who got caught in no man's land on the bridge on late Saturday afternoon because of a change in clocks and a difference in the time when the two sides of the border close, it could have been much worse.  He finally managed to get out when a US envoy was coming through, but it was touch and go.  I can think of better places to spend the night than in no man's land on the frontier!

When we finally arrived at Messef, no welcoming party, everything locked up....all very different to our usual homecoming.  We soon discovered that those left holding the fort were facing many challenges.  Pastor Altesse and Huguette were away preaching, trying to raise offerings for Messef. Dany, the new Children's Director who we spoke so enthusiastically of after the last visit, had burned her leg so badly on a motorbike exhaust pipe that she was hospitalized.  In the same hospital, a long way from Messef, was Kindlie, the lovely young wife of Joseph (the new couple who are also doing a fine job), whose baby had died inside her at 6 months and, due to the delay in realizing this, she is now critically ill.  So Joseph was left juggling trying to be with his wife and being with the children at Messef.  Fortunately, Onikel is not new to taking control, and the older children seem to be becoming more and more responsible, sharing the load, so they press on....battle weary but not beaten. 

We also found one poor little boy with the worst conjunctivitus I have ever seen in my life, so distressed with the pain and irritation.  It's a miracle that none of the other children appeared to have it is highly contagious.  They had nothing to treat it with (or thought they hadn't) so, like so much in Haiti, he was just left to get on with it.  Fortunately, I knew of a natural remedy of cherry juice and there was a tree with ripe fruit right on their doorstep, so God always provides.  I hope he's now on the mend.  We also found poor Gilet, our wonderful chicken keeper of around 15 years, recovering from mumps.  The swelling in his neck had gone down but he was still in agony in the nether regions.  Poor boy.  The dogs didn't look any better and had just produced more puppies.  Pastor Quirico insisted that they not be kept inside the orphanage as they can carry all kinds of diseases when untreated, but Joseph felt that decision could only be made by Pastor Altesse.  I'm an animal lover, but when you can't look after the children as well as you would like, it is not easy to also try to care for the animals....a sad fact of life in desperate countries.

As it was a Saturday, the school children weren't there, but apparently they have 350 already attending with enrolments still being taken (time is less important in Haiti) and they expect to be up to 500 as the year progresses.

Finally, on a positive note, the children were as loving and funny as ever.  I gave them all plenty of kisses and cuddles from you all, which they are desperate for.  They hadn't eaten since Friday lunchtime at school, so were very glad of the little biscuits we took and then the big pot of rice and beans that was cooked with great haste by the wonderful young man who is now the carer for the boys. 

The chickens are doing amazingly well.  In the photos you will see how well, along with a batch of eggs laid over recent times.  We took a roll of wire donated by Martin Bampied to extend the size of the chicken run adjoining the coop and the guys completed that job, along with help from Fritz et al, while we were there.  Thank you so much to Shauna Quinn for faithfully donating each week towards the chicken food.  If a few more of you could step up to help her with a monthly donation, we would have that covered.

We thank everyone who has donated time or money to keep us going with this.  You all know who you are.  We also thank Cliff Sturdy and Trudy Oliver for becoming regular sponsors in the UK.  Even if you cannot give a fortune, knowing that we have a set amount coming in each month is a huge relief.  We are taking less food than we used to because everything has gone up in price and it is running out earlier and earlier, but we do the best we can with your generous help.  We have a few irons in the fire to try to get more assistance and we are still trusting God that the Bakery project will finally come about but the wheels grind incredibly least in my timescale.

"Don't be lulled into a false sense of security"

Posted by Linda Stapleton de Martinez on October 7, 2012 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Trip to Messef - 5th October, 2012

“Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security” is my learning of the week.  I was delighted to leave home at 4.15 a.m., as planned, to take a much needed food delivery to Messef.  Pastor Quirico, Danilo, Cecilio, Jurgen (our great photographer) and a neighbor from Cabarete were already on board when I squeezed into the truck.  It was a bit of a struggle to add the extra items I had been given by generous Friends as we never go empty, but we managed.  We made a quick passenger swap at Puerto Plata with our neighbor leaving to catch a bus to Santiago and René Anderson joining us.  During the course of the seven or eight hours before we arrived at Messef, I learned that René was the person who originally knew Pastor Altesse in the Dominican Republic and introduced Pastor Quirico and several others to him.  He has been involved with Messef since before it was up and running, so another important piece of the jigsaw fell into place.  One thing he said which really touched my heart was that Pastor Altesse might not be the best Administrator in the world, but there is no question that he has given his life to the children.  Isn't that the truth!

You may ask what happened during the lost hours….without border issues we could make it to Messef in less than four hours, even fully laden.  There were problems with the papers at the frontier so we finally had to concede defeat after trying to win favour with the Haitian consul et al, and transfer the supplies to another vehicle and cross the river bridge on foot to comply with the regulations.  Going against the flow of market day traffic with hundreds, if not thousands, of pedestrians, overloaded wheelbarrows and motor bikes coming at you from all angles requires nerves of steel and I didn’t take my eyes off Danilo for long.  No such things as lanes of traffic in the chaos.  The fearless Jurgen, never missing an opportunity for a good photo, was still taking photos in the scrum and you can see the stunning results here.

When we finally arrived at Messef we noticed some new faces and missed a few old familiar ones. Some of the older residents have left and new children have been taken in and there are 55 living at Messef now. We also were pleased to see some new staff and the positive results of some new blood and enthusiasm.  Dany Noel, a qualified teacher, now has overall care of the children and we could see an improvement in the discipline and their behavior. It wasn't too bad before but there seems to be more structure in their lives.  A new couple has joined, Kindlie and Joseph,and they seem very warm and caring. Kindlie is expecting her first child in around 5 months.  There are also two new teachers and carers, one for the boys and one for the girls, who also appear to be a good addition to the team. 

Despite the overcrowded and stifling conditions and the appalling state of some of the mattresses, the dormitories were more homely than I have seen them before, with attempts made to make them more welcoming and attractive.  Now that we see the motivation, we will take pictures and little touches to brighten up the cement walls.  Mattresses and bedding are desperately needed.  21 boys are sleeping in eight single beds, with some of the smallest five to a bed.  Five older girls have moved into the previous visitors’ room, barely big enough for three, but they are happy to have a little more privacy etc.

The chickens are looking good and the excess males have provided a few special meals. Three lucky ones survive to live another day.  There are around 27 hens now, laying quite well.  Production depends on whether the food supplies run out before we make the next food run but they are holding their own.  Thanks to Shauna Quinn, we have some of the monthly food covered.  We plan to extend the pen adjoining the chicken coop next time we go to give the birds more room to roam and peck around.

(See photos of all these aspects here; if you run the slide show you will see the title at the top and a short commentary on the top right hand side.)

We were stunned to learn that there are 500 children enrolled for the next school year. I’m not sure where they are going to put them all but, fortunately, that is not my responsibility!

Thank you to all of you who helped to make this trip a success.  The children enjoyed a special treat of homemade yoghurt (to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving), funded by Glenda Weaver who “could not enjoy her own Thanksgiving without thinking of the children”.  A lovely touch of 100 novelty bread mice were brought along by Jurgen Warschun.  We were a few down after encountering hungry souls at the frontier but there were still plenty to go around. Corey Hildebrand sent a super supply of fresh fruit and school supplies. A huge thank you to Bernadette who pretty much covered the food run, so any funds donated later on in the crisis appeal last month can be carried forward for next month, getting us off to a good start.  Thank you to everyone who responded to that call for help and those of you who are now making a monthly contribution…you know who you are and we are so grateful for you!

Finally, thanks to Pastor Quirico, Danilo and Cecilio.  Those guys really are the hands and feet of our Lord on this earth.  I so admire their stamina, good humour, perserverance and love in this mission.




The Orphanage Man Cometh

Posted by Linda Stapleton de Martinez on April 14, 2012 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (1)

Taking their medicine

We made another visit to Messef on Tuesday and it was so good to see the children.  We had a lot of important business to discuss and achieve and our hearts sank when the Inspector of Orphanages suddenly appeared again a short way into our discussions.   Fortunately, he was after some other poor, unsuspecting soul this time, not us, so we were able to get on with the tasks in hand.  (There is an old Monty Python sketch in England called “The Tax Man Cometh” and I am beginning to feel like that about this guy….

We had some very useful discussions, including letting the folks at Messef know that we have been nominated for a prize in a competition and should be receiving one of three whole sets of bakery equipment donated by the Brazilian government (it’s a long story!).  We have yet to see how all this pans out and if the equipment will actually fall from heaven, like Manna, on a Brazilian military cargo plane  to Haiti, as promised, but watch  this space.  If this comes about we will be able to use the money donated so far to adapt some accommodation at Messef for the bakery and to invest in the training of some of the older residents, plus start off with supplies.  SO, whilst we thought that this project had to be halted due to the demands of the Haitian government, maybe God has other ideas. Watch this space!

The health of the children has concerned us for a long time and we have been plagued with delays and setbacks in administering the course of treatment recommended by the visiting doctors.  I had pledged that if  we didn’t manage this soon, I would personally take public transport to Haiti, if I had to, and get the medicine into the children one way or another.  Rhonda, Sandra and Tammy had leapt to the rescue with donations for medication as soon as the need was mentioned.  Fortunately, I wasable to give around 60 treatments of anti-parasite medication to everyone at Messef (without braving the frontier alone), making sure that they all swallowed! Children in Haiti amaze me in how good they are about taking medicine.  No fuss or tears apart from one little fellow who wasn’t sure how to swallow, but we got there in the end.  We had 14 measured doses of liquid, which is more expensive, for the youngest ones and tablets for everyone else and that proved fine.  Now we wait just under three weeks before we start on a course of vitamin and mineral supplements.  This is going to be an ongoing and expensive process but the only way of improving the health of the children in the absence of sufficient fresh fruit, vegetables, milk and meat.  If anyone is visiting, this is our top priority, so please get in touch to discuss what we need.

The chickens continue to be well cared for and eating and growing incredibly.  We hope they will start laying in a month or so and this will obviously be a great boost to the diet, BUT we need to feed them.  If anyone would like to help sponsor this, or to feed the chicken you named after your pa etc, we would be eternally grateful.  Just let me know what you could do, please.

We took a basketball set donated by Marilyn and this proved very popular.  It was a joy to see the older children with something to keep them highly amused.  Pastor Quirico showed a side of himself I’d never seen before, too! 

Marilyn and Linda, my neighbours, and a few other Friends, have a heart for Jeanette’s  project to keep the older girls supplied with monthly necessities along with a few extra treats and we were pleased to be able to include all eight girls in this programme again.  Trudy has also come on board to help, so we hope to keep this project going.  This is something that we take for granted in developed countries but makes the world of difference where there isn’t money for such “luxuries”.  If anyone else would like to get involved in this, just let me know.

We were also able to take a food run and a lot more school supplies, so thank you Gerald, Donna, Lorenzo, Gustavo and Friends.  We love you all!

We were especially grateful to get home safely.  The truck set fire on the way home but we, along with some visiting missionaries we were giving a lift to, all escaped safely.  We discovered that part of a cardboard box had somehow got caught under the vehicle and had set fire due to the heat.  After all acting as firemen, we live to tell the tale with no lasting damage to the truck.  Thank you, God!  If it had been running on gasoline instead of diesel I may not be writing this today.....

Here are the photos and videos of this latest trip.


Our Brush with the Haitian Government and Donna and Gerald

Posted by Linda Stapleton de Martinez on March 23, 2012 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (1)

Those of you who have had the dubious pleasure of crossing the frontier from the Dominican Republic to Haiti to visit Messef will maybe understand what I am going to muse on here.  You will know that chaos, self-interest, menace and profiteering are rife there and that seems to permeate every level of society, maybe less menacingly in the DR, but it is widespread here, too.

Now, let’s apply all that to our humble attempts to help Messef. If you have read the last Newsletter or are a member of our Messef Planning Group, you will know that the Government Inspectors of Orphanages have laid down some ultimatums – make 11 major improvements at Messef, or else!  Most of their demands are legitimate: the boys’ dormitory is abysmal, the dining room is pretty sad, the place is overcrowded, the kids cry out for a playground, we do need to have some regular medical input, qualified teachers in the school are vital etc., etc., but where does the money come from?  The government have made it perfectly clear that they can’t assist with any of this but they still threaten to close us down and find alternative places for the children (I hear you shout “where?”, we shouted “where?” when we had to listen, captive, to  all of this, but no satisfactory answers come. It doesn’t matter, shape up or ship out. 

As a group of supporters, our reactions to this vary – those of us who were there at the time tried to control our anger (helped by the prayers of Pastor Quirico for Jeanette and I to control ourselves and not make the situation worse).  We just about succeeded, with God’s help, but I see it as righteous anger on behalf of our children!  All of the following are legitimate responses and mine tend to vary between them all depending on my hope and energy levels on any given day:

1)     Some feel it’s all bluff – the men with pressed shirts and haughty opinions of themselves come and make a big noise and go away and leave us alone for another six months or a year, as they have in the past, so no need to take heed. 

2)     Others feel we should call their bluff and say “go ahead, close us down”. 

3)     Do nothing until we have absolutely everything signed, sealed and delivered in writing is another logical response but, remember folks, this is Haiti.   Apparently, written Rules and Regulations for Orphanages do exist and we are promised a copy.

4)     Yet more, and I tend to fall into this group most of the time, feel we should press on with our own priorities which, with the exception of the Bakery and the sewage system (which was strangely ignored although running water and toilets are abysmally lacking), are pretty much the same as the problem areas identified.  By doing this, we will incorporate most of the things demanded by the inspectors.  They have given us time to work on all this.

The things we know need addressing are largely the things that appear on the “men from the Ministry’s” list.  I wouldn’t close Messef down for any of them without knowing that the children have somewhere better to go, together, where they could be guaranteed improved conditions, care and love.  I would stage a sit in if need be, not that it would get me very far, but whoever had to carry me away may feel  the results on their back for a while to come!  Maybe a hunger strike would do me more good…  I digress.

I know Messef is very far from perfect, but I suspect there are many orphanages in Haiti that may have the coveted LICENCE that aren’t any better, or maybe even worse.  Maybe they have found other ways of procuring their treasured piece of paper.  I have to say that I haven’t heard any demands or requests for “incentives” to smooth the way so it would be wrong of me to imply this, but it has been known to happen.  I wonder how many orphanages in Haiti actually are licensed…another little piece of research for me.

In the meantime, take a look at the new heartwarming photos from Donna and Gerald's recent visit and remember why we do all this.  Thank you so much Donna, Gerald and friends for your faithfulness, sacrifice and extreme generosity.

I have just sent off an application for an "Extreme Makeover" for Messef and I am just plotting the next Father's Day assault, so watch this space.  If any of you have any good ideas for fundraising for the boys' dormitory, please let us know of your actions or ideas and we will back you in whatever way we can.

So we press on, battle weary but not defeated.  Please bear with us if you have contributed to the Bakery Project.  Your money is safe and we will return it to anyone who only wanted to support this project and to see it realized in the near future. We cannot legitimately start work on this with all these other needs higher on the list, in order to keep Messef running.  This change was beyond our control, as the worst types of change are.  We will keep you posted, but if you would like to transfer your donation to the general fund, please let me know.

This is one blog post  that I would really appreciate your comments on.


Operation Multi-Task

Posted by Linda Stapleton de Martinez on February 22, 2012 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

  Mobile Clinic

I thought we had set ourselves a tall order with our “To Do” list for last weekend, but add to that a number of unexpected twists and turns and I hope we can be excused for not being able to tick off everything we had hoped to.  However, we did manage to achieve the following during the time we were there:

Normal Food Run – Special thanks to Pastor Vasile Ratiu, Daniel Ratiu and the members of Philadelphia Romanian Pentecostal Church in Cambridge, Ontario, along with our usual faithful supporters.  A special thank you, also, to our DR church members, Pastor Justina Martinez (Milagros) and Maritza, who did an awesome job with the cooking.


Roof for Pastor’s House – A great team of volunteer builders joined us from our local churches in the DR to put a tin roof on the house which has been in construction for around seven years. Many thanks to Gerald and Donna Cole, for the donation of this money.  The house is one step closer to completion, which will free up extra accommodation. 


Father’s Day Chickens were brought home to roost and training was given in their care. Around 40 young birds (cared for with the utmost dedication by Jeanette Hall (helped by David) for two weeks in her home prior to going to Haiti – nurtured in her lounge and bosom, blow dried when they got wet, fed three times a day etc., in fact better nurtured and nourished than the children). So, although we can’t tell you exactly who’s who we now have the following chicks learning to chirp in Haitian Kreyol:  John and Marlene (the original "couple" now resurrected), Furbs, Matthew, Tom, Mal, Ike, Poush, the Sumner Boys (2), Ken, Rick, Ray, Greg, Muir and Sachel.  Thanks to the many people involved in this Project, including those who didn’t name a chicken, but donated. A very big thanks to Stu Ross.


Health Checks – We were accompanied by Dr. Frantzy Charles (Haitian but trained and living in the DR) and Nurse Reyna Maria Vilorio Garcia and helped by Dr. Kenel Pierre who volunteered to assist during our visit to Messef.  All children were examined, some diagnosed conditions were treated on the spot and tests taken for special concerns.  Dr. Frantzy will provide ongoing care, visiting whenever possible, and is working on a plan for preventative health.  This Team really was phenomenal and we cannot thank them.

Teachers’ desks delivered – Two beautiful desks, one for the future Director and one for Onikel (teacher) were gratefully received.  Thanks to Lisa Hannah for funding them and David Hall for making them with great skill and care.


Advice given on School Management and use of “free” resources – We were accompanied by Miguelina Salas, Director of our school in Cabarete, who has volunteered to advise on education.  Jeanette showed the teachers how they could make use of free resources such as bottle tops etc, and the children had great fun in the process.


Long Term Plans and Land Use  – Discussed future direction of Messef and organizational issues.

Frequently Asked Questions – Worked on answering as many of these as possible for a new section on the website.


Roll Call – Updated our records, matching names with latest photos.


Toys, Clothes and School Supplies Delivery – Some lovely items were donated from many local Friends of Messef, with items coming from as far afield as Israel and the Ukraine.  Thank you all!


Older Girls' Supplies – Distributed personal items, collected and donated locally, to the older girls and these were VERY much appreciated.  Jeanette Hall gave some useful guidance to go along with these gifts.  We hope to continue with this on a regular basis.


Meeting with Government Inspectors – Without warning, we were welcomed by two senior Government Inspectors of Orphanages when we arrived.  Our whole morning was spent with them, going over the needed improvements they have identified.  This was one reason why we could not complete all of our goals.


The Big Clean – Unfortunately, people here are not good at keeping their surroundings tidy and rubbish is a big problem.  Jeanette took as many children as she could muster to do a major clean-up in the vegetable area beside the school and we left clear instructions on keeping the place free of rubbish.  This is a work in progress!


So, we have a few things carried over for the next trip as there wasn’t time to do justice to them this time around.  However, we did manage to fit in lots of cuddles, fun and some teaching while we were there.  Once again, thanks to everyone involved in so many ways: donating goods and money, giving their time and labour free of charge and especially the pillars of our group, Pastor Quirico Diaz and Juan Gomez (Danilo), without whom none of this would be possible.


Two of the most faithful local members of our group, Jeanette and David Hall, will be away in England for at least six months.  Jeanette will be having back surgery, so we all wish her a complete recovery and look forward to welcoming them back here as soon as possible.  Jeanette hopes to continue working for the children whilst she is away and we thank both her and David for everything they have done for Messef to date.

Here are all the photos from this visit.


Operation Hen Coop - by Posie Ross

Posted by Linda Stapleton de Martinez on February 4, 2012 at 11:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Our Trip to Messef Jan 12-13, 2012


It is hard to imagine that we landed in Haiti on the second anniversary of the earthquake, but we did. It is fair to say that from beginning to end, it was an eye opening experience, impossible to forget.

Posie Ross and Sandra Wood at Messef

The notes that follow are from Sandra, April, Stu and Posie. It is a chance for us to share our experience and observations at Messef.


Outing “On the Town”

·       After group 1 left on Thursday, Pastor Quirico rounded up the children and me (Posie) to go to the playground in town

·       Children were VERY excited, got into the truck and off we went, children everywhere. In Canada an outing such as this  would be impossible because of a “safety first” mentality, but it was an experience I shall never forget. It was hot and you can imagine it was really close quarters but it was fun.

  Wagons roll

·       Music blaring, and children singing at the top of their lungs, off we wobbled. As we passed people, their faces showed disbelief, some waved after we did, others just smiled

·       Once at the playground, the children were dismounting and POURING out of the truck, Pastor Quirico said “Discipline”.  The children had a ball.


·       Many pics later we heard singing on the street. It was a Catholic Mass to commemorate the earthquake. They passed by the playground and then entered through the main gates. Immediately Pastor Quirico gave the signal that we were going. I am sure it did not take more than a minute for those children to load and off we went. Pastor Quirico did not want us to interfere with the service, but we still sang as we left

·       As we made our way down a fairly main street, a funeral procession passed by on foot. On we sang, giving someone a pretty great send off. Pastor Quirico was searching for ice cream. We went up and down the street and on one occasion came to several UN Trucks with men holding weapons. These men are WELL trained but when they saw us, you could see they were amazed. I waved, and sheepish smiles appeared on their faces as they gave a half wave. I expect soldiers with guns are not supposed to be waving and have their attention diverted by approximately 50 children. The UN, who are based in Haiti,  was especially visible for the visit of the Dominican President and other leaders on the anniversary of the earthquake.

·       After several stops and negotiations, we stopped and the children had treats. Some waited a fair while for theirs but they were VERY patient. People received different things. Some had ice shavings in water, some had a syrup over the shavings,others had a half an orange. Then Pastor Quirico served up meat squares. They enjoyed every morsel.

·       As the children were eating, there were boys that came over to talk to the older girls. After a while, I decided it was time to suggest they move along....they kept returning but they did move on.

·       Then back to Messef, singing all the way. Great outing.


Day 2


·       I dropped in while the children were finishing their lunch on Jan 13. Those plates were clean as a whistle. Even the youngest helped stack the plates. It is amazing with so many children in one place that the noise level is not an issue.

·       When I arrived, Pastor Altesse was in the middle of telling the children about the coop that was being built for the chickens. He told the children that the chickens were not for eating but laying eggs for them to eat. He taught them how of say “boiled eggs” in French. I think he told them if the chickens appeared to be going off the property the children should shoo them back by using their hands. He also talked about relationships, indicating that if any of theboys/girls at Messef fall in love they should talk to him, to avoid sin and follow the light.  (Not sure how this led on from the chickens, but I’m sure there was a logical link.  Linda)


The Hen Coop

·       Lots of interest and people over to watch the assembly.  Fritz (the Gardener and person who will be responsible for overseeing the older children with the chickens) watched the chicken coop being erected and was very helpful with the tin (yes, it was still there, Lisa).

·       Pastor Altesse asked me several questions about the chickens. We discussed the importance of regular feeding and that Danilo and Pastor Quirico would provide details re care. I asked Pastor Altesse where the previous chickens were and he indicated they are all dead. I didn’t get into the “why”.  (We will do our utmost to secure a better fate for the "Fathers' Day Chickens".  Linda)

·       The iodine mixture for the water will help prevent the chickens from pecking each other and seems to protect them from some diseases. The coop is not designed for more than thirty chickens and they will react if they are overcrowded.

  Coop almost finished



·       Stu and Huguette met a couple of times to go through the medications. They reviewed the Not Just Tourists offerings as well as some others that had been given to Messef

·       Huguette took notes and asked lots of questions. She seems very engaged in the process and gave Stuie her email as she asked him to look up a few things on line.

  Health Talk

The School

·       The classrooms are very dark. One large room is divided into 3 classes using wooden dividers



·       The main gates were kept closed and the young man at the other entrance was always there when we needed to go out or come back from “the coop”


Improving the Soil for Growing Food

·       Three soil samples were taken. One was beside the coop, the second was up the hill on the west side of the property and the third was by the mango tree. These will be analyzed in Canada to determine soil quality and any intervention that would be helpful.

·       Shay mentioned there are beans that are higher in nutrition and easier to digest  than soya beans so this will require further investigation depending of what Messef wishes to do with the land.



·       While Messef and those who lead it have strong religious beliefs, the leadership welcomed everyone, recognizing that we share the same values and want to help the children

If you would like to see more photos of this great trip, please click here.




Young and not so young working for Messef

Posted by Linda Stapleton de Martinez on January 13, 2012 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (1)

This is Ikey and his Mum, Natasha, counting money donated to Messef Orphanage following Ikey's 6th Birthday party.  As a way of trying to raise awareness of children less fortunate than themselves, Natasha set up a treasure hunt to find all the money in the house.  It was a little difficult to convince the 6 year olds that the money they had found wasn't to be kept but, with Grandmother Posie's "encouragement" they all were  finally convinced.

The following day, Ike took a Friends of Messef brochure to his school and gave a presentation to the children in his class in Show and Tell on what we are doing in Haiti to help the children at Messef.  What a fantastic thing for a six year old to do. 

This all resulted in the splendid sum of US$53 being donated for the children.  Thank you Ikey and Natasha.


Now, the mature generation has been serving Messef "in the field", with Stu and Posie just returned from two days in Haiti, building a splendid chicken coop to increase egg production for the children. I haven't spoken to them yet as we came back at different times but I had a brief chat with Pastor Quirico and I can't wait to talk to them, too. We chose to visit at a poignant time, on the second anniversary of the terrible Haitian earthquake, so that was very raw in everyone's hearts and minds, with a packed church remembering the dead and thanking God for their survival.

Posie and Stu were introduced to Messef by Sandra, their daughter-in-law, who visited us in April last year and has brought so many new supporters to Messef via Canadians for Messef on Facebook.  We were delighted that when Sandra returned this time, her daughter, April, who suffered the terrible road accident last year, was well enough to join us on the trip. 

We couldn't have built the coop without the phenomenal input of David, who at one point was building this with Stu in his and Jeanette's lounge, due to the rain.  We were also really glad of Manolo's help.  He is a member of our church in Cabarete and a faithful supporter of Messef, having led the team fixing the roof in December and several other projects.

Last, but by no means least, we were joined by Shay, on his first visit to Messef.  Shay is leading the planning for the Bakery Project and he has a lot better idea as to how to carry this forward now,  having seen the property.  Watch this space for more exciting news.  

When we have collated all the photos, we will add the pick of them to the website and hopefully one or two of the team may write up their experiences, but here is a taster of the start of the trip in these photos.

As always, Pastor Quirico and Danilo were fantastic, driving us there and back safely, translating, dealing with the border issues etc., etc.  During our visit, we even received a visit from United Nations troops on a fact finding mission to help Messef, so it was a very eggsiting time.  More news to follow shortly.

We passed on all your messages and everyone at Messef sends their thanks, love and prayers to you.  They hope to see you soon.

Christmas on Wheels

Posted by Linda Stapleton de Martinez on December 11, 2011 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (2)

Head Chef, Danilo, ready to start feeding the 5,000

Mission Christmas to Haiti started at 2.00 a.m. on Friday, when Danilo set off from home.  He picked up seven more of our team plus a mountain of supplies at our Church, Jehova Jireh, in Cabarete, came on to pick me up with another mountain of supplies and then on to the last of the fearless explorers, Jeanette, with…you guessed it. By the time the bus was loaded it contained Juan Gomez aka Danilo (driver, Ministry President, mentor and chef par excellence); Pastor Quirico Diaz (lawyer, diplomat, translator, spiritual guide, teacher, negotiator and waiter); Milagros Martinez (Pastor and superb cook); Martin (butcher, superb cook and aspiring hoola hooper); Rafael (Danilo’s brother and willing kitchen assistant); Manolo, Cecilio and Franciso (roofers extraordinaire); Jeanette (Pied Piper, children’s entertainer, clown, craftswoman, jeweler, agricultural adviser, health adviser and general motivator); yours truly (photographer, translator, general dog’s body, emissary for Friends of Messef and chief cuddler) and a passenger we managed to fit in who wanted to visit her father living en route. 

Then we had the supplies: a normal food run, Christmas on Wheels including two artificial trees, more school supplies from Jurgen, plus a multitude of other goodies…fortunately the pigs and the roofing materials were bought in Haiti, so we didn’t have to try to fit them in the bus, too.  It was pretty full, as you can imagine.  We finally set off from Jeanette’s house at 3.30 a.m. and were at the border by the time it opened at 9.00 a.m., fed, watered and toileted, ready to go through the long wait and wrangling with the authorities to try to minimize visa and customs fees etc.  Pastor Quirico did his best and we were through in record time, but Jeanette and I still had to pay US$20 each for the privilege of leaving the DR even though I have my residency…..everything is enforced here coming up to Easter or Christmas, as these “tips, costs and fines” are the only way people make enough extra money to celebrate the holidays…

Once at Messef, after a warm welcome, we set to work immediately. We were dismayed to find the two pigs still alive and well - we had sent funds for them to be bought in advance. Having seen them in that condition, I stayed well away for a good while.  They decided to spare the female to breed from and trusted that the male would be enough for the feast.  Then fire wood (leña) had to be found for the open fires on which to cook the food. Wood is in short supply in Haiti, everything being devastated and stripped bare in many places.  There is a stove but no gas and it would not have been big enough.  Large pans of rice with pigeon peas, bought fresh at the frontier, (this dish is called morro de guandules) were set to cook in enormous cauldrons and covered with banana leaves as lids.  Then the peeling and chopping began (remember, I’d steered clear of the meat department) and we set to on peeling tons of potatoes, carrots and onions for the Russian salad.  Danilo supervised this novice carefully, especially as I’m not used to using a large bread knife to peel spuds.  He was especially vigilant as, having only nine and a half fingers himself, he knows how easy it is to lose one or two.  Next was the shredded cabbage and other salad and finally the fresh pineapples, oranges, papaya etc. for the fruit punch/cocktail.  Grapes and apples were also served, but Pastor Quirico sliced those as we went along.

It was a miracle that all this food was ready and so beautifully presented by the appointed hour.  We had intended to serve the residents and the children who attend the school in Messef, as generously provided for by Donna and Gerald.  However, everyone in Haiti is hungry and the children brought along most of their families.  I'm really  not sure how many were fed in the end, but it felt like the feeding of the five thousand…and another miracle was witnessed as the food stretched to all those extra people,and the female pig still survives to grunt another day. 

We almost didn’t survive with the scrum and incredible noise but it’s a bit like childbirth, once it’s over it doesn’t matter how bad it was if all goes well. Pastor Altesse displayed crowd control skills worthy of an English football match of the worst kind.  If we do this again, we will need to think carefully about invitations and one way systems!  One to put down to experience but a superb time was had by all, which is the most important thing.  Rhonda kindly sent a donation to help with the Christmas party and many of the extras along the way and we are really grateful for that. 

We also thank everyone who has covered and helped with the regular food budget; I don’t know what we would do without you.

To finish on the Christmas theme, my neighbours, the residents of Coconut Grove, namely Linda, Glenda, Marilyn and Paula provided gifts, trees, lights, decorations and all manner of supplies to make everything festive and more comfortable in the months to come.  It truly was beautiful to see the children enjoying all these things.  The hoola hoops gave the children a chance to display amazing skills….none of the adults had the knack.  We went to the luxury of buying three gallons of gasoline so that we could have electricity from the generator for the evening, so the trees twinkled and sparkled, enchanting everyone…and the children somehow got to watch a rare bit of television...not sure where it came from!

During the day, Jeanette worked with the children producing beadwork, bottle top curtains, angels from empty toilet rolls, Christmas decorations and all kinds of beautiful crafts that they all enjoyed immensely, including any visiting adults who happened to drop into class.  I have never seen the children so quiet and so totally engrossed in what they were doing.  One little boy took great pride in sewing up the holes in his tee-shirt, I think with fishing wire, but he was delighted, and so were we.  Jeanette worked tirelessly for the previous week to gather and prepare all the materials and it was well worth the effort.  Supplies were left with Onikel (a Messef child, now teacher) who we hope will carry on the good work.  The older children’s regular sewing class went ahead as scheduled.  They are learning to sew their own clothes and we hope in future we may be able to add to the one existing sewing machine bought by Friends of Messef.

I had heard on my last trip that one of Pastor Altesse’s sons, Bethsael, suffers with asthma but had no medication.  We had been supplied with some from Not Just Tourists, so we took it this time and Jeanette was able to coach him in how to use it correctly and also in breathing techniques etc.  We now have a great relationship with NJTs, thanks to Posie and Stu, and they will be providing us with more medicines future…and Bethsael should be much more comfortable from now on.

The roofers worked like Trojans all day long and into the evening, removing the tea strainer roof and replacing it with new sheets of gleaming tin and then painting it with rust proof paint.  We ran out of paint a little short of the end but now at least the girls will stay dry when it rains.  The old tin will be used for the hen coop roof.  We have to wait to replace the boys’ roof as their dormitory needs to be rebuilt with concrete block when funds are available.  Thanks a million for this, Lisa

We also visited the proposed site of the new bakery, checked out the compost and vegetable situation and were glad to see 10-15 birds already clucking around happily waiting for their new home.  (More on all this on another occasion.)

On Saturday, before getting off to an early start, we gave the children a healthy breakfast of apples and grapes saved from the night before, plus a few sweets and lollipops…well, they are children!  The super gifts were distributed, accompanied by just a few squabbles and tears which we managed to resolve, and we were on the road again.  But not before a dance from Fadelin that has to be seen to be believed.  We set out at around 10.30 a.m. and I was probably home around 4.00 p.m., having stopped off for something to eat on the journey.  The exit was quicker and marginally less expensive. 

A very successful mission, tiring but hugely satisfying and made possible by the generosity of everyone who contributed. Photos in the gallery.

We also wish to thank those who have donated to the Bakery Project as your Christmas gift to Messef:  Vivienne and Bert, Lissie and Matt, Shay and Susan.  Together, we are giving the children the chance of a different future.  I took a photo collage of many of you who have visited Messef and they loved to see you all again.  They pray for you constantly and hold you in their hearts, as I know those of you who have visited do with the children of Messef. 

Thank you all.


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