Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mission (Almost ) Complete!!!!! Part Three

The meeting with the town Mayor went well. There were a total of three meetings that Steve Jones, Jeff Ashlock and I were part of. The final one was, for me, the most interesting and cool one. It was held in the Mayor's office and cool soft drinks were served in the traditional recycled glass bottles. Bottles aren't melted down and made into new containers in Haiti, they are washed at the factory and reused.

This last meeting was with all the town officials, secretary, treasurer, water council, and Mayor. After they made a formal acceptance of the plans and offer of assistance, we were given a tour of the Mayor's office. It was run on a solar power system and was quite spartan. There was a locked shipping container in the back, donated by the European Union to be used in case of a natural disaster. It had a communications system, rations, and medical equipment. The mayor was very proud of his post and his town. He is a very nice man!

Yesterday, I received the drawn up plans for the new system. I put my two cents in and reflected on the last few months. None of this would have happened without action. Stuff of this magnitude requires sacrifice, hard work, and determination. I couldn't have done any of this without my wife's love, patience, and hard work.

The money donated was incredible. I believe in the kindness of the human spirit. Another couple of thoughts that are constant mantras in the back of my head are:
-"God loves these people more than I ever could."
-"The answer is always "No" until you ask." (Thanks Mike!)

A couple of neat observations:
-The Save the Children clinic (which serve the entire community regardless of age) has a huge covered area with supplies that are for treating Cholera. There are fewer and fewer instances of this disease showing itself nowadays!

-The road from Port au Prince to one town from Maissade is paved! The president of Haiti visited that town (Hinche) and told the people that it will be completed all the way to Cap Haitien in the north. This means that the road may be paved all the way to Maissade and beyond by the time I get there next year!

-There is 3G wireless access in Maissade. I hope that this will bring about a change as far as communication so needs can be met on a more specific basis. I have already had facebook chats with some of my friends there and we have discussed the water system and did a little troubleshooting.

-May (my daughter) was impressed by the level of math these kids were doing. We stopped at an outdoor school at the edge of the town and they were doing everything on a chalkboard that May was doing in High School algebra. She was also impressed by the bi- and tri-lingual kids she met.

This is all for now. I will keep you all updated on the progress of the town well that should be drilled in the next week or two. The town is to buld the support columns and wall around it, the generator room, etc, in anticipation for the final team to come in June to complete it.

Praise God that the whole town will have access to clean water by June!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mission (Almost) Complete!!!!!! Part Deux

Next up, the feeding center. Previously, when the feeding center (my father being part of the team that built it), an 8'x8'x8' concrete cistern was built to store water from the well that was drilled later. Every day, a worker would have to drag the generator over, put about 50 feet of pipe together, and start the pump to fill the cistern. The water from that well is probably the best in town but it was stored in a semi-covered cistern. The kitchen staff would have to take a bucket to the cistern and use it to cook with and make the kids vitamin drink. The team buried the pipe and installed the tank on the roof. They then plumbed in the filter into the store room, to keep it away from the heat of the kitchen next door. A hole was made in the wall into the kitchen and a faucet was added. I was there on the final day to see the reaction of the kitchen staff when they used the tap for the first time! It was priceless. I like to be the first to drink the water to show everyone it's alright, but Tony, the manager of the feeding center, had the first one. He approved!

I'm gonna make a personal statement here: It is so gratifying to know that all of these children that we serve have access to clean, potable drinking water. I am moved to tears looking at the photos and knowing that God used me, a simple, imperfect man, to bring this about. To be His vessel is more gratifying than I ever thought it would be.

Okay, back to the original programming...

So, now all three sites that Converge Worldwide (and Pacwest) supports have access to clean water!

Next was a really cool meeting with the mayor of Maissade, Pastors Yoyo and Whitney, and Steven Jones, Jeff Ashlock, and myself. It was cool because they had been planning a town well and trying to find a solution. With the money we raised, even with what was spent already, their estimate is about what we have left over!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mission (Almost ) Complete!!!!! Part Un (one)

Yes, that many exclamation points! So proud of my team and our efforts and all of you that helped make this happen! This started as a prompting from God. I listened and made a small move. God had bigger plans now, didn't He?!

The team from MN got the filters installed at the boy's home and the school/Pastor Yoyo's house. They also assembled all 50 bucket filters. They could have got more done, but that was the week that the First Baptist Church was celebrating Pastor Yoyo's 25th year. They had 3-4 hour services every day! It can feel like an eternity during one service because the whole thing is in Creole. I know many of them were frustrated by this commitment, but God really blessed their efforts in helping the people of Maissade.

We, Team Two, from California and Idaho, had but two services to attend. I missed the first one (it was optional) on Saturday night. Sunday was the big service dedicated to Pastor Yoyo. It was long but a cool breeze was present. Actually, the weather the entire week was the nicest I had experienced in my five trips thus far.

Work started in earnest on Monday. We rehabbed a tank that was at the girl's house that had not been used in a while. Before, it had been hooked up the the on again/off again city water. The girls were having to take showers at the Boys house and use their toilets. Before we left on Thursday, the plumbing was done and the tower was being rebuilt, it only took something like two swings of the sledgehammer to bring the tower platform down. It was the only project that wasn't finished by the time we departed.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Final Preparations For Our Trip!

Today, at approximately 4:30pm, Week Two Team Idaho, will leave on the first leg of our journey! Hilary, Lindsey, May and I will pack into Linds' Subaru wagon and head on down to California. Our first stop is my brother Eric's house in Santa Clarita, CA. Visits and naps will be in order! He'll take us to LAX before he has to go to work, keeping the Subaru safe and picking us up upon our midnight return on the 17th. We will have about 8 hours in LAX. Yay. Oh well, could be worse, right?!

Our next leg will be from LAX to FLL, with a 35 minute layover. No rush, right! Yikes! We take off from Fort Lauderdale at 0635 and land in Port au Prince around 0830. The California group arrives around 0800 and will have to wait for us. We will then pile into a couple of vans/trucks and head to the welcome home to regroup before the 4 hour drive to Maissade.

This will be my fourth trip to Maissade and my 6th to Haiti. I know that May, Linds, and Hilary are looking at me for guidance and I pray that I will be able to take care of them and make them feel safe. My good friends from previous trips, Jeff, Brian and Steve, along with my father, will be there as well.

Maissade is where Jeremiah's family lives and where Sherri and I traveled to a year and a half ago to adopt him. It is a safe town with wonderful people trying to survive without half of the items we go camping with on a daily basis. Illness is an accepted way of life, hunger as well. We hope to change some of that with this trip.

Today, I will finish packing, pick up prescriptions, activate the global phone, etc.

Yesterday we had a scare. May woke up in excruciating pain, vomiting, and screaming. I was leaving work and got a text message from Sherri, telling me to call ASAP, that she was taking May to the ER. That kept me awake after a long night shift! I met them at the hospital and it turned out, after an ultrasound, labs, IV fluids and meds, to be an inflamed ovarian cyst. She's had one before, but this gave us a scare because it was the day before we were scheduled to leave. When I got the room and she saw me, she broke down in tears. This really put things into perspective for me. At that point, I realized that as much as I wanted to go, I wanted her to be okay. I was ready to forgo the trip, but then I realized I had a lot of others relying on me as well. The project would go on without me. It helped me remember that God loves May and the people of Maissade, Haiti more than I ever will. The cool thing is that God allowed this to happen to May before our trip and we were able to get meds for her if this happened again while we were gone.

Well, I'm off to pack and do all of the other things listed above. Prayers and kind thoughts always appreciated! Please follow this blog as Sherri will be updating it as I text her from Maissade.

Also, the good doctors from Saltzer Medical in Nampa upped their donation to $4400! I am so Lucky to be a part of all of this!!


Friday, February 3, 2012

Team One has Landed!

Yesterday, at around 4:50 Mountain time, Team one from Minnesota and a member, Tim from California, arrived in Port au Prince. There, they will spend the night and this morning, travel to Maissade, water filters in tow! What a ride this past few months has been!

I would love to personally thank each and every one of you who has helped out in this project, but I don't think it is possible anymore! There are so many of you! I'll just go with the recent ones: Mike T. from New England, Jake and Chanelle L. from church, Pastor Dave and our new church family at the Rock, Pam P. from Florida who also takes such wonderful care of the child sponsorship program in Haiti, Amanda L. and her church in Hawaii, Malherbe D. for translating into creole some of our instruction sheets for the filters, Roger at Copies Plus in Nampa, Dr Patterson and the rest of the physicians at Saltzer Medical in Nampa for being so generous, and Stephanie M. sister of one of my week two teammates!

That said, I know that this project is bigger than me. It's taken a life of it own, for sure. A very special thanks to my wonderful family, my wife, Sherri, who is a rock. I'm not the easiest person to deal with when I am preparing for a trip. This one was not an exception. I was put in charge of both teams in terms of logistics for the filters, so more phone calls, video conferences, emails, texts were made than usual. Sherri has been unwavering in her support! May, my wonderful daughter, who is going with me on her first trip outside the U.S., has helped get the young people excited about the trip. We both want to be gone already! It will be fun for her to serve with her daddy and poppa. My dad will be there for his 5th trip as well! Sam, my son, will get to go next year. Laura, our roommate and 'sister', has helped in ways that can't be counted. I'll leave it at that! Thanks, Laura!

I can't believe that this time, next week we'll be waking up in our beds (inside our mosquito nets) and getting ready for our first full day of service to the wonderful people of Maissade, Haiti.

If you are a praying person, please remember us in your prayers! I will update as technology and time allow. Oh, and please be one of the first to "follow" this blog. Just scroll down to the bottom of the blog and click the "follow" button. I would also love for you to share this as you would and leave some comments of encouragement. Thanks!

I love you all,
Steve Swihart

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Encouraging emails from sponsors of children in Maissade

I am loving the response from the Haiti One by One newsletter! Thank you all for letting me know you want to help! I just had a video meeting with Jeff Gauss from Epiphany Station church in Thief River Falls, MN and Jeff Ashlock from New Covenant in Fresno, CA. Gauss and his church raised over $10,000, Ashlock's group raised a few thousand, and so have I and our small gang up here in Idaho! We may have up to $20,000 when all said and done. Some of the money is going to a kitchen for the Boaz and Ruth Houses (the orphanages) and for other small projects, but the bulk is going to clean, safe drinking water. I have a Microbiology professor from Boise State that will analyze smaples that we bring back.

Our trip in February will be to bring filters for the School, the Orphange, the Feeding Center, and the surrounding hill country church pastors with instructions to make sure all that come to them are served.

These bucket filters will filter 99.99999% of the bacteria from the water. They can bring water from the river and pour it in and within minutes, have safe water to drink. The filters are Sawyer Point One's and can be backflushed and used again and again. One filter can do around 400 gallons per day if used continually.

While there, we will find the proper location and system to use for the entire town. Living Water is the group we will most likely be using, since they have a strong presence in Haiti already. The bulk of the money raised will go to this effort.

We still are encouraging donations. Please see previous post for ways to give! Thank you all for your encouraging emails!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New concert flier!

Our local, annual concert/fundraiser is happening SOON! Save the date, trust me on this! You'll be able to say you "knew them before they were famous!"