Mission Statement

Stone By Stone- building a road following God's chosen path.  Together with our brothers and sisters of Haiti, we strive to serve the cooperative of HASWEP through Listening, Educating, Supporting, Praying, Working, Advancing.

LESPWA means HOPE in Creole. 
We are full of hope for Haiti.

 

.

 FANMI LASANTE

CLINIC

Desab, Haiti

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Monday
Nov162015

Four Years Later...

This past October trip marks four years of travel to Desab for me. My first trip seems like just yesterday but also feels like forever ago, if that makes any sense. Every trip I learn something new, about the culture, about Desab, and about myself. I took a little time on the way home from this past trip to reflect on some of these things...

 

I have learned that I am ok drinking warm raspberry lemonade flavored water. I remember sitting at the table one day drinking this thinking, “This tastes good,” and then thinking, “It's actually kind of gross but I love it right now.”

 

I can do my entire morning routine using a plastic cup filled with about 8 ounces of water. Wash my face, brush my teeth, wet my hair, and sometimes have some water leftover.

 

I am surprisingly ok with the huge cockroaches in the outhouse. I just throw a rock at them and wait for them to scurry off. Part of my brain knows it's disgusting, but part of my brain is like, “It's an outhouse in Haiti, what do you expect?”

 

I don't love seeing patients in Haiti. This one took me awhile to realize, because I love love love my job in the US. I love seeing patients here. I will certainly see patients in Desab and will work in the clinic if we have enough medical professionals to have a clinic-oriented trip. But I have realized that, because that is what I do full time at home, I have found incredible joy engaging in other ways while in Haiti. I love providing continuing education for the healthcare agents and community health education programs. I also love meeting with the various community groups and learning about them as individuals and as a group, their passion for their community, their backgrounds, learning what needs they see around them. These meetings help me see what we need to do differently and make me want to work harder for them and for Stone By Stone when we get home. It reminds me of what a serious undertaking this is.

 

(with some of the healthcare agents)

 

I can go an entire week with baby wipes as my only form of showering. As long as I can wash my hair a couple of times, I'm good to go. I still love showering under the rain gutter, though. It's unbelievably refreshing.

 

I have developed the ability to have hungry children look me in the eyes and not feed them. This is difficult but important. I know we can't feed them all. We can't clothe them all. And it can be paralyzing if you don't move past that thought. Do I feed some of them? Absolutely. We always give our meal leftovers to whatever group of kids is hanging around, and if there are one or two kids with us on the porch, I sneak them a protein bar. But sometimes they look at me, tell me that they are hungry, and I just tell them, “I know” and hug them. It's heartbreaking, but it is another reminder to me of how hard we need to work when we get home and of what a serious undertaking this is.

 

I can ride in the back of a truck in road conditions that would make me freak the crap out at home without even blinking an eye while in Port Au Prince. I actually had a panic attack once while Adam was driving on the beltway around DC, but somehow Port Au Prince is ok for me. It's weird.

 

I am so American. If I am supposed to meet with the healthcare agents at 9am, I am sitting in the clinic waiting for them at 9am. When to they show up? 10:30.

 

I don't miss my cell phone, but I do miss Facebook. Maybe it's FOMO, but I'm obviously addicted.

 

I have developed friendships with people based on little more than four years of hugs, smiles, and basic phrases. (It's an introvert's dream.) They also know that I am there for them and that I am coming back. I listen to them and I don't make promises that I cannot keep.

 

I am so thankful for this journey that started in October 2011. I think about Desab every day. I pray that I never stop learning from them and from this experience and that I never stop working at this undertaking that we have started.

 

Nicole Pitzer

(president)

 

Sunday
Sep202015

“I got sick and felt like crap for 36 hours and I’d do it all again tomorrow.”

Yeah. That’s really how I feel. And I hate being sick more than anything else in the world. You truly cannot understand the hold Desab has on your heart until you’ve experienced it for yourself but I’ll try to give you a little look.

 

The whole thing started for me…and for all of us on the July trip…at a basketball game. I taught fourth grade math and science to Julie and Paul Rumo’s twin sons. When having lunch with one of the twins at school one day as a reward, he told me he was playing basketball against his brother that weekend in their league. I told him that if he let me know where and when I’d be happy to go if I could make it. (A chance to make TWO of my students happy by going to their extracurricular event on the same weekend in the same place…I’m in!) Paul emailed me with the schedule later that evening and apologized for what he thought was his son trying to force me to go…turns out it was really just fate. The next morning I found myself at the church gym where the boys played on Saturday mornings. I sat with Julie and Paul and we chatted. Julie mentioned that she’s always wanted to take a group of teachers to Haiti if I know of anyone that may actually be interested…….oh did I ever! By Monday afternoon I had at least two other people highly interested and was putting a plug in for more to join us…this dream quickly became a reality.

 

I’ve traveled and lived abroad before. I even lived with a natural family in a foreign country when I was an exchange student at fifteen. But I have never experienced culture the way I did in Desab. When I say culture shock…I mean put on your hat because you’re stepping into a whirlwind. As I look around my cozy living room in my small apartment right now where I sit, I am reminded that this is about the size of the average house in Desab that holds 4-10 people…or more. Not my whole apartment…my living room. I hear the football game on in the background with our large flat screen TV and remember that the cost of that TV sends a family of three kids to school for a year in Desab…not to mention the electricity that is an unthinkable luxury. I look at the air conditioner in the window and remember the 90 degree (plus) heat I lived in for a week that the people of Desab cannot escape. I see my dog, and my foster dog…both well fed…both sleeping comfortably on my comfortable couch and I think about the small, undernourished, but loved pets…or eventual food…of the villagers. I do not live a life of luxury for the United States by any means…but seriously…how privileged am I to have been born here? These thoughts run through my head constantly now…every second of every day. From finding myself flipping out about a man watering his lush green front yard and having to be talked down by my boyfriend in the car (yes that happened…the kids in Desab walk 2-5 miles to find water…often without shoes and carrying buckets on their heads—I just couldn’t handle seeing that) to introducing myself to my new cohort of third graders as “Miss Ward…I went to Haiti this summer and I can’t wait to go back”…Desab has a huge chunk of my heart.

 

While in Desab I slept on 2 inch mattresses, lived without air conditioning in sweltering heat, tossed rocks from one side of the center of the village to the other so they could be broken apart and then carried them back to be mixed for cement, tried new foods, carried a bucket on my head, hiked DOWN a huge mountain (this was the end of that 36 hour sickness I talked about---totally have to hike up it next time…the rest of my team were AMAZING for conquering this), went to the bathroom in the most primitive outhouse you can imagine, prayed for the dark to come sooner so I wouldn’t need to use the outhouse at all, showered out of a bucket, showered under a gutter (BEST. SHOWER. EVER.), rode on top of a truck and on the back of a motorcycle with three other people (sorry, not sorry, gram), witnessed an ultra sound, painted the clinic, let the girls braid my hair, attempted to speak some Haitian Creole, learned…loved…and, eventually…left. What this huge run-on sentence is supposed to show you is that not everything was desirable…not everything was “fun” but everything was meaningful. Every experience I had in Desab was enlightening, exciting, eye-opening, and full of love. Love, really, is what this village is all about.

I have never met a group of people more willing to work, more thankful, more understanding, more persistent, and more accepting than the people of Desab. When the materials came in for us to start building or painting or carrying shoes up a mountain, we had a huge following of Haitians gratefully ready to help. This is THEIR VILLAGE and they may not have the means to make the improvements and complete the projects they want and so desperately need…but when those means are available you can bet your butt they’re going to do anything they can to help and improve their village in any way they can. This was so inspiring to me…even when there were able bodied Americans bringing in the resources to make improvements and excited to do the dirty work themselves…the Haitians wanted to have a part…wanted to lessen the burden…wanted to take responsibility and ownership of their village and their lives…I love it.

A final story to show you the love, respect, and understanding that is instilled in this community (and is so often missing in our privileged lives here in the U.S. comes from the kids…of course! We brought hundreds of pairs of shoes to donate in Haiti. We were all so excited to hike up a mountain (A MOUNTAIN LET ME TELL YOU) with these shoes and deliver them to a village about 3.5 miles beyond Desab who had never received shoes before. No American group had come in to this village to offer support…we were the first…that in itself is amazing to think about. The kids in Desab…many with no shoes or at least shoes that here in the US if you sent your kids to school in would probably get you a call from the school counselor…at least….knew that we had all of these shoes in our possession the whole week. We (or rather my amazing team…I cheated and took a moto after vomiting and being extremely weak all day the day before...super disappointing…) gathered to start the hike with suitcases of shoes in tow. Along came the kids of the village…ranging in age from 6-15…taking bags and suitcases to carry for us….many on their heads. Ok that was WHOA moment number one. One girl in particular, Dinez, wasn’t wearing shoes, and carried a large size luggage suitcase up for us…more on her later. As everyone got to the village with the shoes the kids (from here on referred to as “our kids”) took a seat on the floor or in the surrounding areas and watched on…yes WATCHED…as we passed out hundreds of pairs of shoes. Remember now…many of them didn’t have shoes on or could desperately use a new pair. Toward the end of our stock, people of the village began to panic. You can understand and see where they were coming from—this was their first and only chance to get support and they…and their small children…were losing their chance at a pair of decent shoes because we were running out. People started to panic and run for what shoes were left or set their children into the room through the windows to budge ahead in line. This was classic fight or flight happening right now. Our kids who sat and watched us hand out so many resources they needed began to gather our belongings…our water bottles, our cameras, our phones, our bags, our everything…and put them in a pile in the corner. They began to surround the pile and stood to be sure nothing happened to our belongings. As things got a little more crowded some of the kids starting guiding us to our things to let us know our things were safe and offer a smiling, encouraging, and comforting face in the midst of a stressful situation. Our kids found us and our belongings to be important enough for them to be sure they were safe…despite carrying hundreds of pairs of what they needed up a mountain for nothing but love in return. HOW AMAZING IS THAT. I MEAN REALLY….HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU KNOW THAT WOULD DO THAT??? 6, 8, 10 year olds made that decision…had that respect…felt that love for essentially strangers…I am absolutely mind-blown and find tears in my eyes every single time I think about it…every single time.

 

Desab is love. Desab is hope. Desab is faith. Most of all…Desab is family to anyone that steps into that village. I know I’ll be stepping back into it soon and I cannot wait to once again feel its embrace. So what now? What now that I’m home? Yeah…I’m going back…but what do I do for the months until that happens? I help. Dinez…that amazing little girl I mentioned earlier…is brilliant. She is beautiful, brilliant, helpful, kind, and generous. She deserves the world. I cannot give her the world. But I can give her an even greater education than she is already graciously able to receive. I can get her English lessons to hopefully add another skill…another needed and desired business skill…to her repertoire. Not just as a villager in Desab…but as a girl…a young girl in a world where that is already a strike against you. I can give her education and education is power and that is what I’ll do.

Did this post warm your heart? Did it give you all the feels like it gave me just writing it? If so…what will you do with that? We can’t all do the same thing…we don’t all have the same means…but we can all do SOMETHING. Tell someone about Stone By Stone and the amazing work they do. Share a Facebook post about a fundraiser they’re having. Sponsor a student for an entire school year…it’s only $125…that’s a month’s worth of coffee…I mean really. Sponsor a teacher to help keep the school afloat until the teachers can start the business they so badly want to get off the ground to become self-sufficient. Donate your used shoes so the kids and adults that helped carry them but didn’t get any can have their turn…do SOMETHING. Don’t read this and everyone else’s posts and not help…we can all press share…we can all tell someone about what we read…we can all help. Up for a little more? Join us. Make a difference in the lives of Desab and I guarantee it’ll impact yours more than you ever imagined. Like I titled this post…I was the unlucky one that found myself very sick for 36 hours for no real reason at all (probably not drinking enough water that day, really) and I’m going back as soon as I can…I have to…I left a big part of my heart with the children of Desab.

 

~Christine Ward

 

 

Tuesday
Sep152015

Education In Haiti

This summer I had the most life changing experience I will probably ever have. I traveled to Desab with an amazing group of people, with one goal in mind: to help people and make a difference. Before I talk about the trip, let’s back track a bit to where it all began for our group. The way our group came together was pretty special. Six members of our group are all teachers who were working at the same school, and two of us had Julie and Paul’s sons in our classes. Julie approached Christine about wanting to go on a trip with teachers to work on education. Several of us expressed interest in going on the trip and the rest was history. Our group was made up of 6 teachers, a physical therapist (check out her blog post!), a photographer, and our awesome leaders, Adam and Julie!

As we began planning and preparing for our trip, we all had our own individual goals about what we wanted to accomplish while we were there but above all, we wanted to make a difference, with a focus on education. While in Haiti we worked harder than any of us had ever worked and immersed ourselves with the culture and the people and I loved every minute. We not only surprised ourselves with how hard we could work but the Haitians were impressed as well. One day as we were working, a Haitian asked Julie, “Are your sure they’re teachers? They don’t work like teachers, they work like masons.”  Yeah…we were pretty awesome.

Due to our common love of education we were all so excited to meet with the teachers to get a feel for what we could do to help. As we began our meeting we found out that the teachers in the village had been working, without pay, for 7 months. It broke my heart to find out that the school was struggling as much as it was and that it was on the verge of not opening for the students. We found out that for 7 teachers to get paid for 7 months that they were owed, it would be just over $7,000. It instantly put things into perspective for me. I am so used to hearing that teachers in America don’t get paid enough (and to that day I believed it too) but to find out that these teachers are making so little money, and continue to work, without pay, really reminded me why I, and so many people like me, went in to teaching. We understand the importance of an education and the value that it brings to a child’s life. The teachers in Desab have inspired me. My new school year recently began and when I am having a particularly tough day with my students or I am just exhausted, they are the people that come to mind and give me the strength I am looking for. All I need to do is think about the work that they are doing and I am reminded of why I do what I do, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

One of the wonderful opportunities that Stone By Stone offers is the chance to give the gift of education to a child in Haiti. For only $125, you can give a child a year of education that will help them to improve their lives. To put that number into perspective, that is less than the cost of my family of 6 to go out for dinner for one night, I think we can all afford to give up the calories and give that money to a student in need. Please consider making a small sacrifice of yourself to make a huge difference in the life of someone who truly deserves it.

~Mary Carley

(meeting with the teachers from Desab)

Thursday
Sep102015

I Made A Difference In Desab

Traveling to Haiti was the most challenging, rewarding and eye-opening experience I have ever had.  After the six days we stayed in the village of Desab you could literally see the work our team had done in the village.  A new classroom was ready for cement flooring and the clinic was brightened with fresh paint along with new benches.  There were also things you could not see, like the relationships made between team members and our new Haitian family.  Being with a group of teachers I could see their passion and love for the children of the village.  I was able to watch my best friend, Cassie, submerge herself in the beautiful surroundings when taking photos.  As a team we carried a load of shoes to a neighboring village up the mountain to people who had never been given shoes before.  I am proud to say I took part in carrying a duffle bag of shoes (Disclaimer: Only up part of the mountain).  It was one of the most rewarding events I experienced and a reminder to appreciate everything I have, every day.

My personal high of the week was visiting the home of Ivnalie and making a small difference in her life.  I was asked to join this group to meet Ivnalie and her family to help improve her chair.  Paul had done a fantastic job making a chair that was portable and supportive for her. Ivnalie has hydrocephalus, which is a build-up of fluid in the skull that causes swelling of the brain.  This condition is the cause of Ivnalie having an abnormally large head, which is consequently very heavy for a young child to suppport.  Ivnalie’s enlarged head and tiny stature is alarming to me as a Physical Therapy Student, it was difficult to see a child in her condition and not be able to get her better health care.  I could only do so much for her on this trip and our goal was to improve her chair, especially the head support.  Since her head is so heavy, and she does not have the postural strength to support it, her head would fall side to side while sitting in her chair.  I was able to use foam padding and a rolled up towel along with duct tape to form a head support.  The side supports were to help keep her head centered and the towel was positioned at the base of her head to improve upright positioning.  I added foam padding, from an egg crate for a bed, to the back where there was only a single piping piece to support her back and on each side to keep her from rolling out.  After I was finished we placed Ivnalie in her chair and she did not cry, which was a victory for me.  She was able to sit with much better support for her head leaving her noticeably more comfortable.  Her mother continually thanked Julie for our help. 

I wanted to become a Physical Therapist so I could help people and make a difference.  What seemed like a small act on my part was a dream come true for Ivnalie’s family for her.  Seeing how much my help was appreciated as well as knowing that I helped a young child was the most rewarding thing I could have experienced.  Going forward in my career this is something I will always looks back on for inspiration and a reminder of why I chose this path.

My hope is to return to Desab as soon as I can in order to continue to make a difference.  The beauty of Haiti cannot be captured in a photo and words cannot describe the feeling you get when you help someone who has so little.  So if you want to know what it is really like you have to experience it for yourself.

Kelsey Aldi

Saturday
Aug222015

Fixing Up The Clinic

     Last month I had the opportunity to be a part of a special summer trip to Desab. Julie and I led a Stone by Stone trip for a group of eight young women. Yes, it was me and nine women! Despite the significant teasing I received throughout the week, it was my delight to watch as they made themselves part of the community and accomplished some amazing things. The quick acclamation to a new culture by these women was immediately apparent as they immersed themselves with both children and adults. In addition to that, it was exciting to see them make a visible impact on the community as well, earning the comment from a Haitian, “Are you sure they are teachers, they work like masons.” Their 'masonry' included adding on to a classroom, building clinic benches, and painting the inside of the clinic.

 

     This blog post is to follow up on this hard work by the group. Originally, our plan was to paint the inside of Dr. Gabrielle's exam room. In order to do this though, we brought in a mason to examine several cracks in the wall so the work could be done. After examining the area, the mason informed us that simple patchwork would be a waste of money. He showed us that these were not benign cracks that can form in cement, but the cracks actually ran and extended the whole way down into the foundation. In fact, if these cracks are not fixed the corner of the building could break off.

 

 

 

We had budgeted money to fix up the room, but not enough for a structural project of this magnitude. Fortunately, for our group we were able to gather the materials for two other projects: painting the inside of the clinic and purchase and install a toilet. These projects were exciting because with the new paint we were able to both brighten the inside of the clinic and update the color scheme to Haiti's official medical facility colors (white and green). The toilet finishes off the septic tank project and means that our staff no longer needs to use a bucket to go to the bathroom.

 

 

 

     Unfortunately, we still must address the structural issues of Dr. Gabrielle's exam room, and do it soon as it is something we can simply not ignore. In order to repair this, two rebar supported pillars must be constructed on the outside of the clinic on each side of her window. The rough estimate of the budget we were given was:

  • materials, labor and paint - $1500

     It is very important that we continue to make progress on improving the clinic in both structure and appearance so we can present Fanmi Lasante to the local government for their approval. Please help us with this project. We definitely can not do this alone! All donations are tax deductible. Just write “Gabrielle” on your check or donation via PayPal. We are making great progress on the clinic and want to keep that momentum going!