Friends of Messef

Supporters of Messef Orphanage in Haiti

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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.

New Year Hope for Messef

Posted by Linda Stapleton de Martinez on December 31, 2011 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Strangely, although Friends of Messef work for a better life for the children of Messef, this photo somehow represents to me my hopes and prayers for the future of those children.

Fritz, the man in the middle, is Pastor Altesse's older brother.  Both were orphans and given the chance of a better life by a loving family who gave them the key to a different future. They came to know God and to believe that it was possible to do something worthwhile with their lives.

Fritz takes care of the large vegetable garden at Messef.  Against the odds, with drought and poor soil, he manages to produce a quantity of food to feed the hungry mouths of the children and adults living at the orphanage.  Over a long period he has been building, little by little, the modest but delightful house behind him in this photo.  When it was ready, he married his sweetheart, the woman to his left, and they also care for her elderly mother, to his right.  This just touches my heart.

My prayer for our children at Messef is that they are learning similar values and won't have been spoilt by the visits from us, where blessings are poured upon them.  Compared to children in "our" countries, they still have incredibly little, but we want them to understand that  these things have been worked for by you and that they will have more value if they are able to produce them for themselves and their future families. 

This is why we are so keen to forge ahead with our Hen Coop Project.  Sandra, April, Posie and Stu will be arriving during the first week of 2012.  We will be constructing the hen coop here in the Dominican Republic, dismantling it and then taking it to Haiti to rebuild on site.  We will fill it with the chickens that many of you named in honour of loved ones in the Father's Day Appeal (more to follow) .  This has been delayed due to April's close-to-death accident, but God is good and she is now well enough to join us in this adventure.

Our next most fervent desire for 2012 is to move ahead with the Bakery Project.  Shay, who lives in the DR, is investigating everything necessary to help this project succeed.  We are a good way ahead in our fundraising, some of you having donated to this in lieu of Christmas cards etc..  We will then make some important decisions as to how best carry this forward so that the children can not only learn the value of work and the satisfaction of producing something for themselves and their younger "brothers and sisters", but to learn many other skills valuable for adult life.

We wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year.  Thank you for your support and interest in 2011 and I hope that you will still be with us in 2012, bringing all these exciting changes to fruition.  God bless you.

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.


Not Just Tourists provide a mountain of Meds

Posted by Linda Stapleton de Martinez on November 16, 2011 at 5:55 PM Comments comments (0)

After months of liaising with and visiting Not Just Tourists, an organisation which sends donated medicines to developing countries with Canadians travelling to those places, Posie Ross just sent us that great report on getting through the airport:

"I met Kay and Lisa at Pearson Int Airport today. We had meds flying across the suitcases. I wanted to take pics of the scene BUT Stuie had removed my SD card!!!! Lisa and Kay were too focussed on the caper to search out their cameras. So, as hard as it was...I let the pic idea go...for a moment.


As I was flipping around Kay's bag...there was a lot of rattling.... a guy near us curiously asked what on earth I had in the bag...when i said meds he laughed and said oh sure.....rolling his eyes...


Now is our turn to check in. We are called to move to the counter to check in BUT there is a big gang ahead of us...and a ruckus in progress. The airline staff were weighing EVERYTHING...including hand luggage...Air line staff were showing signs of wear and frustration (the people ahead of us were the FIRST people the staff were checking it did not bode well for the home team!!!) Kay and Lisa are madly shifting things...when another airline person came along and whisked us down to another line...THE ELITE check in!!!


When Lisa said she and Kay had Not Just Tourists' luggage...there was not a flicker of an eyelid. The bags were all checked (as in.... they did not have to fly standby!!!!!!) and WE were giddy with success.


We took some pics so when Lisa and Kay are home, I am sure they will forward to NJT and to Linda for the Messef site.


So thanks to all of you for making this was exciting. We appreciate all of your efforts."

I am just awed by how so many of you are working together to give these children a better future.  It's really humbling.  Thank you all.


Messef goes to Canada

Posted by Linda Stapleton de Martinez on November 16, 2011 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Barb Burkhardt, Minnie MacMillan and Carole Larche raising funds for our children

Last week the staff at the Ministry of Natural Resources, Timmins District, South Porcupine, Ontario held a Fundraising lunch, supported by Domino's Pizza, and raised over $450 for the children at Messef.

The organiser, Minnie MacMillan, is the sister of Lisa Hannah who is currently here in the Dominican Republic, with Kay Virtanen, two great Canadians for Messef, looking forward to a visit to Messef this Saturday, 19th November.

Our special thanks go to  Domino’s Pizza, Minnie MacMillan, Barb Burkhardt, Carole Larche, Margaret Orr, Eldon Springer, everyone who helped and who purchased 50/50 tickets, contributed to the donation jar and, of course, the ones who purchased pizza tickets.  We love you all!

More photos coming soon.

Keep up the good work, folks!

Bernadette and Rhonda bring blessings to Messef

Posted by Linda Stapleton de Martinez on October 3, 2011 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

We had a fantastic visit to Messef yesterday with long term Friends, Bernadette and Rhonda from Canada, blessing the children enormously.  They brought seven suitcases with them and must have bought up half of Puerto Plata in preparation for our visit.

We did a complete food run at the same time, so the bus was pretty low in the rear, believe me! Of course, it got stuck in the mud on the terrible road into Messef, despite us all getting out to walk, which is par for the course. Danilo, as always, did a magnificent job of getting us there and back safely.

The children now will all have new school uniforms made with rolls and rolls of fabric bought.  For those who know the school uniform saga, there wasn't an inch of dark green tartan to be found in the Dominican Republic or Haiti, the nearest allegedly being in Panama, so we opted for good old white.  That will have to be good enough for the government!  Bernadette also bought over 100 pairs of shoes, just to be sure that everyone had a pair to fit, so they should be fine for a while.

The children were also blessed with many new clothes, toys and sweets, with Bernadette and Rhonda nearly buried alive in the scrum.  Pastor Quirico gave them a firm lecture in manners and sharing afterwards but it remains to be seen if they will be able to contain their excitement next time we visit, as this is the only time they have any treats. After two big dishes of cornflakes and yoghurt each, served by Pastor Quirico’s and my own fair hands, the children still seemed a little peckish so we went on to the apples, another very rare treat.  It’s such a joy to see them enjoying things other children can take for granted.

There were one or two new faces, including the youngest new resident, a little boy of perhaps a year or so, by the name of Davidson.  His mother is little more than a child herself, an orphan, and now living at Messef with her son.

We were very pleased to learn that the laptop computer which Trudy and Ken brought from England earlier in the year was still in pride of place.  Although there was no power for them to show us it working, they say it is fine.  Huguette apologised that she hasn’t replied to anyone’s emails but she can’t get to the internet very often.

The next good news is that Jeanette’s perseverance on the compost front seems to be paying off….sort of! I was delighted to see that they are making compost instead of burning the vegetable waste or spreading it green around the crops.  Instead of building heaps above ground they have dug a big pit, but maybe that will work, although I would imagine the circulation of air is needed.  Anyway, it’s a start.  We have the money for the posts and wire, kindly donated by Martin,so will work on that when we go for a few days later in the year, now that we know they are interested in this.  There are still all kinds of foreign, non-compostable objects to be seen in its midst, but there was also a pile of plastic bags and all manner of filthy things next to it, so I think they are removing them bit by bit.  There was a new young man there, who spoke some Spanish and told me that he had seen them making compost in this way in Port-au-Prince, so understood the principle.  We have a way to go but I was so heartened to see that they are trying.  With some help, the gardener should be able to achieve still more and they have plans to cultivate saplings on an unused area to provide poles etc.  The crops were doing well with lots of yucca, maize (sweetcorn) and papaya visible.

Amongst the items we took, we also had donations of clothes and household items from Liz and Basil from England and Linda and George from Canada but now living in the DR, along with a large sack of rice from Linda and George.  Thank you all so much!

One of the most positive things about the visit for me (apart from spending time with the children, of course) was the chance to get to know Bernadette and Rhonda.  They have been supporting Messef in a major way for some time and visited for the first time on the same day last year. I have been in touch with Rhonda by email and she posted photos of their last trip on the website, but I had never met them before. They heard of Messef from very long term and most faithful Friends, Donna and Gerald from Canada.  This is how we can best support Messef; by word of mouth from people who have visited and know that their money is spent where it is meant to be spent, without any waste or misuse on our part. 

Finally, Bernadette boosted the Bakery Appeal with a very generous donation, so all in all it was a wonderful day. Home tired but happy, as always.  They are already planning their next visit.  I can't wait to see you again next year, dear Friends.  God bless you and your friends who also sent donations.  Please thank them for us



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