Thursday, October 8, 2020

We're back in Haiti and getting settled!  Boy, are we glad to be back too. Don't get me wrong, it was wonderful to spend so much time in the States especially for the holidays. Still, Haiti is home now and Dorothy was right; "There's no place like home". True, we got back almost two months ago...but we're still a lot of people so getting back into the groove takes some time.  

While we were gone, the rodent invasion kicked into high gear! We've always had pest problems to deal with in Haiti. Roaches and rats, the occasional Tarantula, and more lizards than I'd ever seen before (exercising lizards always doing their morning push-ups on the ceiling, haha).  The lizards are harmless apart from distracting the dogs sometimes. We have the vehicles running, now we need to renew papers for some. Gymnastics is up and going, as schools begin opening here.  There is a lot of planning going for Sonis/Novell Terraine.  Everything is a process here, but life in Haiti is getting back to normal (at least Haiti normal).  

 

Regardless of all that, the rat king noticed our absence and unguarded palace. He sent in his troops to pilfer and pillage...to even set up camp ! Maybe he When we got back to Haiti, most of our food had been eaten by rats.  The plastic bins had been chewed through.  Mice and rats in almost every room.   We ordered some poison that is supposed to be safe for dogs, let's hope it works. We have been placing traps in almost every room. We mostly have the rats under control now--meaning they are staying outside in the yard. They have either moved outside or been caught. So many rats have been caught, that Naomi asks every morning to see the catch before it is taken away.

Linda has been very busy with Counseling, Gymnastics, and Training.  She continues to amaze me with the amount of energy she has.  Linda has met with the Haitian Olympic committee to discuss the possibility of training Haiti's first Olympic gymnast.  This could help to improve the perception of Haiti abroad. 




She has taken on a new project, with the same goal in mind.  She has been working with a US military contractor to setup training for search and rescue dogs for the Caribbean.  Being able to send help to other Caribbean nations during a crisis.  This is a long term and expensive process.  The expected cost to train a search and rescue dog is $25,000 plus, but the benefits could be saving a life. 



 

 

It is hurricane season, so that makes getting to Sonis more difficult. We are planning for when it is ok to walk in again.  We are planning a latrine project and some health training.  They are beginning school up there and we are hoping to provide some materials for the school.  The road is not completed to the village yet, we are hoping that it survives the hurricane season.  Some of you might remember that Hurricane Mathew washed out the road we were working on at that time.  It was not repairable and a new route was selected through the mountains.  

The current situation in Haiti is very tentative.  There has been some protesting and violence, but not all over the country every day.  You can still feel everyone on edge. A few business owners and some politicians (a very prominent attorney) have been executed on the street.  This violence is mostly political.

Covid 19 has affected life here, but not as much as in the US.  A lot of people here believe they have had Covid, however they are not being tested en mass.  The Haitian Department of Health has given guidelines for the doctors to diagnose without a test.  People on the street will tell you that if you have a fever and a cough, you have Covid.  I pray this does not come back to bite Haiti.  

There seems to be a lot of jobs leaving Haiti.  I recently saw a string of Facebook posts from an expat group discussing the number of NGO's that have left Haiti in the last year.  There is a government estimate that claims 85% have left, without plans to return.  Most of the expats in the discussion group agreed.  This means the loss of thousands of jobs for the Haitian economy, and the loss of assistance they were providing.  The government is also messing with the economy to try to help with inflation.  Since the Haitian economy is tied very closely with the US dollar, the government injected US dollars into the economy to affect the exchange rate.  September 1st the exchange rate was 115 gourdes for 1 US dollar (at the bank you would get 113 gourdes), today October 2nd the exchange rate is 65 gourdes for 1 US dollar (at the bank you would get 60 gourdes).  This means that it takes almost twice as much US money to buy the same item as last month.  This would be good for the Haitian people, if it didn't have such a drastic affect on the businesses here.  The prices on the street are starting to come down, but not to the same extent.  I have only seen prices come down about 10% not 50%.  Many Haitians are paid in US dollars or the Gourde equivalent, so they are now receiving just over half as much as last month (if they still have a job).  Businesses are also leaving.  Many business people are saying they will close their businesses and move to a more stable country (then they joke that the US is not stable right now).  The NGO's and businesses that are not leaving are mostly putting projects on hold, due to costs, and waiting for the exchange rate change.

300(USD) United States Dollar(USD) To Haiti Gourde(HTG) Currency Rates  Today - FX Exchange Rate

This chart is the international exchange rate, the exchange rate in Haiti dropped about 3 weeks ago.

 

Our hope does not rest in exchange rates, or politics, but in God and His sovereignty.  We do however, pray that God will heal this land.  Please consider signing up for our newsletter notifications on the right side of this page. We also ask that you prayerfully consider supporting us as we try to continue the work that God has before us.  God will provide. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Last November Linda and I decided to bring the kids to Oregon, due to the growing unrest in Haiti.  Linda and the kids arrived expecting to spend a few weeks waiting for the protests to pass. Then we traded locations back and forth for the first few weeks (keeping one of us in Haiti).  It was great for the kids to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas in the US, especially since Naomi had no real memories of celebrating either holiday here.  In mid January, I began planning to take the kids on our return trip to Haiti, but God had different plans yet.  By the end of January, we realized that concerns about the new virus might affect our ability to return.  In February the US even began suggesting citizens abroad to return to the US. We get to mid-March and Haiti reports it's first case of Covid 19! Immediately, the borders closed down locking Linda in Haiti. All flights canceled, some even returned to the US empty. It took almost a week, very little sleep, a lot of prayer, and knowing the right people to get Linda to Oregon.
It has been great to see our grown kids in Oregon.  Talitha, Billy, and Rose all graduated high school and will remain in the US.  We are so proud of our kids, but it is always difficult to see them go.  We're down to just 6 at home with us now. The family feels so small. Such excitement, filled with concern.  Please remember them in your prayers, as the transition back to the US and into young adulthood can be rough.

Linda arrived in Haiti less than a week after the country reopened its borders.  She reopened her gymnastics classes while trying to social distance and also give a sense of normalcy.  (note: this photo is from before Covid)

She has also returned to her counseling as well as her fitness training/bodybuilding.  She brought Cristof (the new German Shepherd family member) with her to Haiti.  He is going to dog training just as Django does.
 The village in the mountains (Sonis) is still working on the "road" (think motorcycle trail) to the village.  They are getting close to finishing it. However, it is now hurricane season and that will slow things down.  They are also attempting to get the school/church building completed in time for the school year.  We're still planning the water collection and storage system, but we hope to make progress once the road allows for transporting materials out there.

The six kids still living with us and I are going to try to go back to Haiti this week.

Please prayerfully consider supporting God's work through our family, as we transition back to Haiti.

God Bless,

Ron

Friday, March 15, 2019

Midwife Training

Greetings !
Living in a rural village like Sonis or Belot means you don't have easy access to basic medical care. Sonis, Nouvelle Terrain is a 3 hour hike from the nearest road (well, maybe a 4.5 hour hike if you're carrying a bunch of stuff....or you're Dad). We sometimes have mobile clinics to provide medical care in rural areas of Haiti. Sometimes we have trainings about the importance of drinking clean water. Regardless of the particular project, we try to involve the community so they take ownership of the work being done. Well, buckle in 'cause we're going to talk about a topic that gets a little bit heavy.

Last year, we were involved in a 12-week long midwife training in Carrefour Badio (near-ish Nouvelle Terrain where we're helping the community rebuild their church). Around 30 midwives from the surrounding areas showed up for at least some of the classes. Perhaps surprisingly to some of you, midwives in Haiti are mostly men. Women--especially in rural villages--are almost always too busy with daily household chores like washing laundry, cooking food, carrying water, etc to have a paying job.

Anyway, neither Mom nor Dad...nor any of us Sheppards here are midwives. But, a friend from the US who was a certified midwife lived to Haiti for a while; she wanted to help us out while she was here, so she hired a local midwife from Tabarre and they both taught the midwife course.

The training mostly centered around hygiene. The first picture is the midwives clapping their hands and singing a song about washing hands. I'm gonna say this part as PG as I can, but one of the midwives took it upon himself to carve some wooden models (fashioned after himself and his wife) to serve as anatomically correct visual aids during the class and that caused a bit of a stir. All-in-all, we chalk the training up to a big success.

Mom is doing many things here in Haiti, but a large part of what Mom does is in the field of mental health. Unsurprisingly, many Haitians have experienced significant trauma which effects their quality of life. Mom talks about the first three trauma factors too often coming into play in Haiti: Stressful pregnancy, traumatic birth, and early hospitalization. The majority of children born in Haiti aren't born in a hospital or with a midwife present (UNICEF said it was about 37% back in 2016). As a result, many children die before their first birthday. The infant mortality rate in Haiti is one of the highest in the western hemisphere (around 46.8 compared to 5.8 out of 1000 in the US). That's why it's so important that expectant mothers have access to prenatal care and a skilled attendant on hand at the delivery particularly in rural areas.

We are so grateful to have been involved in the midwife training. We were given a basket with vegetables as a gift of appreciation from the students. Another interesting thing, the mayor of Carrefour Badio showed up for the graduation ceremony to give a speech as did other important members of the community. It's great to know that we aren't the sole driving force trying to improve the community. They are picking themselves up and encouraging each other. We're just glad God has put us in a place to help them in the ways we can.

Please consider donating to help us with the work we're doing in Haiti. There are many projects we're involved in and many more we hope to undertake, but we can't do this alone. Thank you very much for all your support ! Tax deductible donations for this or any other project can be made at The Chance to Dream's website https://www.thechancetodream.com/donate

That's all for now. Talk at you next time !

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Our Work in Nouvelle Terrain

Woah, life's been busy since I've been gone. Hi everyone, my name's David and I'll be writing a few blog posts to update you on the goings-on here in Haiti :) Looks like the last post was about the volcano erupted in Guatemala and Linda (Or, as I call her, Mom) went there to help with the relief work. That was last June ! Sorry for the long wait between posts...I'll try to get the next one out sooner.

While Mom's busy with all her various projects, Dad's been chugging along with the rebuilding of the church in the village of Sonis, Nouvelle Terrain that was blown away during hurricane Matthew in late 2016. Nouvelle Terrain (which means, "New Land") is about a 3 hour hike from the nearest "road"...over a few mountains, down into a valley, and then up the side of another mountain. It's quite an adventurous hike for us...especially when you're carrying supplies. We've hiked in there for medical mission teams, for water safety education, and for building projects.

Hurricane Matthew was quite a while ago, you might say. How come it's taking so long to rebuild a church ? Well, we want to build something that will last and won't be blown away by another storm, it's difficult getting supplies to the village, but most importantly we want to encourage the community to help themselves. We don't want to build a church for them...we want to help the people of Sonis build their own church. So, the wood being used for the church are cut by a local wood farmer nearby, for example.

We've also had other projects going on in Nouevelle Terrain aside from the church building. We recently finished a 12-week long Midwife training with the help of a Haitian midwife as well as an American RN midwife. There's also a project going on to build a motorcycle pathway to the village. Dad bought shovels, pickaxes, and hoes to supply to Pastor Saint Pierre for this project. Finally, we have entered the "plannificating" (ie planning) stage of a new project to pump water up the mountainside using a special, homemade, water ram pump that Dad's built.

So, after two years of carrying supplies and plannificating this church building, the building process has started ! The foundation is finished and made of sturdy, rebar-reinforced concrete; the framing is also finished. We've got some pictures below to show you.

Great progress is being made and we're proud of the community, Pastor Saint Pierre, and all of you who've helped through prayers and financial support. Next up, we need to get a bunch of plywood wall sheeting and hike it up there. The sooner the better, otherwise the framing might get damaged by the mountainside winds.

Please consider donating to help us with the work we're doing in Haiti. There are many projects we're involved in and many more we hope to undertake, but we can't do this alone. Thank you very much for all your support ! Tax deductible donations for this or any other project can be made at The Chance to Dream's website https://www.thechancetodream.com/donate

That's all for now. Talk at you next time !

Monday, June 4, 2018

Devastating Volcano in Guatemala


On Sunday morning, Volcan de Fuego in  Guatemala erupted 30 miles from Guatemala City, the capital of Guatemala. It's been devastating for the country with crops burned, people buried and or cut off from rescue parties, and lives lost (ABC News article covering the eruption).

The Chance to Dream has been working in Guatemala to promote education, provide medical services to remote areas, and also work with the volunteer Bomberos (firefighters) for trauma training/crisis care for many years. What's more, the area affected by the eruption is where The Chance to Dream works with many of the fire fighters, organizes medical clinics, and has various ongoing projects. Many friends are on the scene working on search and rescue. Please pray for their safety!

Linda is now en route to Guatemala (despite the recent closing of Guatemala City's international airport due to the dangers the volcanic ash presents to fliers). She will be assisting in the search and rescue organization and providing much needed crisis counseling to the survivors.


In a country as poor as Guatemala, the fallout of this catastrophe will continue to be felt for a long time. Donations in order to purchase food and supplies for the rescue teams and those rescued are sorely needed ! We are relying on your help to alleviate what suffering we can in this difficult time. Please pray with us as we try to help the families and all the people involved.

To make a tax deductible donation online, please go to: https://www.thechancetodream.com/donate

Thank you for your love and support!!  
 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Eight "Teens" is Enough


Julia with Billy's niece
November was National Adoption Awareness month and as our life functions, we are generally a couple of months behind with just about everything in life! I can honestly say, we have been blessed to be the parents of 14 children, 12 of whom joined our family through adoption.

Domestic Adoption: Kenneth (24), Julia (19), Talitha (17)
Talitha with Naomi
Kenneth
Maliya

Phuong
International Adoption


Vietnam: Thào Phuong (23)


China: Maliya (22)



Billy, Steevenson, and Melissa in Haiti prior to adoption



Haiti: Christelle (18) Billy (15) Roseminique (15), Melissa (13), Steevenson (13)






Christelle
Melissa

Billy at Haiti Olympic Stadium



Jordan and Steevenson
Ecuador: Jordan (13)










Embryo Adoption: (Naomi 7).

Naomi


We are also blessed with two biological children Joseph (26) and David (23). Wow......

David translating in mobile clinic



Joseph
But I would not be completely honest if I did not also say that sometimes (maybe even often times), it does not "feel" like such a blessing at all. Many times the thought is: Yikes! What in the world have we done?


I'm not sure that I "fully" thought through the logistics of such a large family and especially a large family with so many children with significant trauma histories. At least three of them will need long-term help throughout their lives due to developmental disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy, or other medical or mental health needs. And somehow in the midst of it all, the Lord decided to plop us on the mission field that added complexities to what was already a "unique" family dynamic.

I want to be real with people without exposing too many personal details of our kid's stories. So many families contact me in pain on this journey of adoption. They are suffering through this "blessing" of adoption. I want to speak to that pain and say "me too". I feel the pain. I also do not want to dwell in the pain and problems, but have hope and confidence that God is bigger than all of the pain and suffering within any life.


At this season in our lives, we have Eight Teenagers (seven still in the home with us in Haiti). I feel like singing the theme song from the 70's TV show Eight is Enough. It feels at times like it is more than enough. Yes, there are blessings. Tremendous blessings and overall we have amazing kids, but any teenager is a bit of drama- let alone 8 of them. I am thankful that 6 of our kids have been "launched" into the world and seem to be doing well overall. It's not that they are gone though. We still have college details and finances and assistance in management of so many elements involved with transitioning young adults from life in Haiti to life back in the USA or elsewhere.

Teen Ministry: Maliya, David, Linda, Phuong
I also want to be honest and say, we are tired. Sometimes people have said to me, Linda....you guys have done enough. Just come home now (meaning the States). You've done your part. You've served and you've helped. Your life is so challenging. Come back to the USA where it is easier. Hmm....Is it?

Yes, Haiti is HARD. It's pretty brutal to be quite honest and the stuff we do here is not some walk in the park. But....living is not easy anywhere. Being a parent to teenagers anywhere is not easy. Being a parent to young adults is also not easy. Being a parent in general is not the easiest thing in the world.

I do believe that many of our teens are at least experiencing life with a focus not so much on themselves. They are able to serve alongside us and give back to others. Do they always love it- ummmm.....Nope. Are they good and mad sometimes about how they think they maybe got the short end of the stick? Umm....yes, we've experienced some of that. Do they say "Thank you mom" or "Thank you Dad" for taking us in and providing for us and giving us an opportunity in life? Umm....I'm not really holding much hope for that one to be honest. BUT they have started to consistently say thank you every time we go and do something (probably because I've lost my mind a time or two regarding ungratefulness and they realize if mom's not happy-nobody is happy)!

Some of our kids are overall thankful. Some of our kids do in fact appreciate adoption. Some of our kids are not currently angry about adoption or living on the mission field. Some of them though are angry (at life or the world in general). Some are hurt. Some are in pain and don't exactly allow others (including us) to love them. I guess we're all like that in different ways. There are seasons of pain and seasons of joy, but all is in God's plan.

"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (KJV)


We thank you for coming along side us on this incredible journey. We thank you for loving us in this process. We appreciate the prayers and support! There seems to always be a mountain ahead, but we know that we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

Please check on the tab above for our updated Christmas Newsletter. We are excited to see what the Lord has in store for 2018!

If you would like to partner with us on this journey, any amount is so greatly appreciated!

FOR TAX DEDUCTIBLE GIFTS
1. DONATE ONLINE

https://www.worldoutreach.org/index.php/missionary-support-2
(Select our name from the list and follow the prompts)

2. MAIL CHECKS TO:

World Outreach Ministries, Inc.
P.O. Box B
Marietta, GA 30061
(designate for Ron & Linda Sheppard #546)


3. BILL PAY - via your online banking

World Outreach Ministries, Inc.
(designate for Ron & Linda Sheppard #546)
P.O. Box B
Marietta, GA 30061

Friday, December 15, 2017

What's Up, Doc ?

I'm sorry that I don't get around to posting on the blog very often. It seems as though we're only posting when we travel or something...just from time to time. Life is a bit hectic and looney sometimes. We haven't been great at just posting the day-to-day happenings in Haiti. It feels somewhat cold and distant to pull out a phone and snap pictures with the people we're around day-in and day-out. And to be honest, we're really busy simply doing what we're doing without the photo-ops. On the positive side, we don't have administrative costs and overhead. Yet on the negative side, it's just us out here without the security of a big supporting organization.

Ron continues to assist with the rebuilding of the Church in Nouvelle Terrain. It's been a long process, but we're so appreciative of your prayers in that regard since its destruction during Hurricane Matthew. Everything is such a slow process and it seems there's just one disaster after another. It feels--at times--that Haiti simply can't catch a break. We've been blessed to receive an incredible donation from Operation Blessings to assist with the rebuild in Nouvelle Terrain. They had some leftover funds from their hurricane relief efforts. Praise God! I love that ministries can work together and help one another! It's something we don't always--or even often--see (unfortunately).

Linda continues to assist with medical care (within Haiti as well as Guatemala and Ecuador) and provide mental health services in a dizzying range of ways (She's doing so many things she's spinning 'round and 'round). We had a small group travel out to Nouvelle Terrain (this is the very remote village where we assist in Haiti) and operate a mobile medical clinic. There, one of the American CNMs (certified nurse midwives) in the group has agreed to help provide training to the matrons (the men and women who help with the births in the villages). The organization of this training is still in the works (pray for guidance!). We are often pulled into various medical things from HIV testing and follow-up treatment to simply trying to figure out what is going on with individuals in order to get them the help they need. We had one man in the village who was suspected of having syphillis, but it turns out that wasn't accurate and nobody could figure out what was going on. Unfortunately, a sad part of what we do here sometimes involves seeing people who we try to help die from "unknown" causes ("unknown" here with the limited testing available to us, but in the USA the causes would be so much more easily diagnosed).

The processes of so many things are incredibly complicated and time-consuming. For example, we assist with transporting some of the babies (and their parents) to a malnutrition center where they get excellent care and they generally recover, BUT....then there are long term details involved with assisting that family in developing a long term plan to increase crop production or with the village regarding their strategy for feeding their children. Otherwise, the children will simply return to the malnutrition center in the same condition (or worse) many months later. The resources are simply not there for the many elements where we see needs. Storm upon storm washes away crops in the villages, creates mudslides, causes homelessness, which in turn contributes to starving and severely malnourished babies and children.

On the mental health end of things, Linda still has her office in Pétionville 2-3 days a week and is in her office in Tabarre also 2-3 days a week. This makes for a busy schedule especially when a few days ago it took 4 hours to get home from her office. The traffic this month has been horrific. There's been an increase in robberies and kidnapping (you know how it is, things like that), so not only does that add some stress in the commute, but also an increase in the need for mental health services since many people are suffering from trauma and anxiety that live and work on the field.

We so appreciate your continued prayers and patience with us. If you don't see us posting often, know that we're working hard, and we're praying daily for strength and direction in what God's doing here in Haiti. One amazing thing that the Lord has provided for the 4 and a half years that we've been living in Haiti is the clear calling of being here. It's been tough and we've been tired and stressed, sad and mad, but we've yet to feel that God doesn't want us here. We are confident that we're exactly where the Lord has placed us to be. He doesn't say it will be easy, but He does say He will not abandon us (praise the Lord!).

Thank you for your financial support as well. We have no idea how God's going to work out the funding of each and every day. We are so very low on funds that I don't even know how to address that. We are praying for an increase in our monthly support in order to bring down some of the stress of the unknown on a day-by-day basis. We were so on-fire while moving here and just trusting in the Lord that He'll provide. We believed (and still believe) that we need to walk in Faith and not by Sight. We are doing that, but it also doesn't mean the Lord could not outline some of the resources in advance as well (pretty please? haha...).

If you feel called to assist even with a very small monthly donation, please know that we will use those funds to the best of our ability to help those with the greatest need. One of the hardest parts about living here is seeing the needy everywhere yet knowing we can't help everyone. We are so blessed by having World Outreach Ministries to handle our home office. This has allowed us to spend more time actually serving versus working on administrative details. Tax deductible donations can be made either one time or on a monthly basis in these ways:

1. DONATE ONLINE!

https://www.worldoutreach.org/index.php/missionary-support-2
(Select our name from the list and follow the prompts)

2. MAIL CHECKS TO:

World Outreach Ministries, Inc.
P.O. Box B
Marietta, GA 30061
(designate for Ron & Linda Sheppard #546)


3. BILL PAY - via your online banking

World Outreach Ministries, Inc.
(designate for Ron & Linda Sheppard #546)
P.O. Box B
Marietta, GA 30061



(if you don't like the editing, blame David *haha*)