A Heart for Haiti

October 12, 2016

A Heart for Haiti

I was all set to post last week about my trip to Haiti this summer and then Hurricane Matthew hit the tiny country of Haiti. It has devastated many families there with loss of lives and homes. I was in contact with our community in Port au Prince and while they did have rain and heavy winds they did not lose their homes and many lives as they did in Southwest Haiti.

To those of you who do not know me personally, I won a contest through my employer, RSM US, LLP, in January of this year. The contest 90-90-9 was in celebration of their 90th anniversary. All employees throughout the United States, which is more than 8,000, were given the opportunity to write an essay of 1,000 words or less describing their passion and how they would spend $10,000 if given the opportunity. There were 9 winners and each winner received $10,000 and an additional 9 vacation days to pursue their passion. This is a summary of how I spent my $10,000 and additional 9 vacation days.

While I’ve been to Haiti a number of times and have been working with Vision Hope for Haiti (VHH) for a while, my recent 90-90-9 trip to Haiti through RSM’s 90-90-9 program was eye-opening. I now realize the issues and circumstances we often worry about here in the U.S. are minuscule, compared to those in evolving countries. The clean drinking water, regular meals, and ability to go the doctor if we’re ill or injured are things we tend to take for granted. But these aren’t readily available to many, including those in Haiti. Something very important to Third World citizens, including Haiti, though – just as it is to most of us here in the U.S. – is spending time with family and friends, and helping neighbors.

My “passion” through 90-90-9 was to use the $10,000 from RSM to purchase land to be used to build a school that will allow children to attend for free. (Public school isn’t free in Haiti and while most children would like to attend, many families can’t afford to send them.) Since its warm year-round in Haiti, schools can be built relatively inexpensively. Next steps will include building a structure and securing sponsorships to pay for children to attend.

Our long-term commitment with VHH is to empower Haitian people with the tools they need to make better lives for their children through education, nutrition and medical care. Haitians don’t necessarily want the lives we have here in the U.S. And we respect their lifestyle, and marvel at how happy they are with what we view as so little.

Before we even left for Haiti, we were blessed with generosity. Through the gracious efforts from Delta Airlines and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Rochester, MN, we were able to get all our bags checked on the airline at no cost, allowing us to provide two wheelchairs, medical supplies, soccer balls, clothes, school supplies and more to Haitian children in need!

Upon our arrival, we were welcomed with open arms. Jonas and Dou Dou – the co-founders of ‘Vision Hope for Haiti,’ their volunteers and our Haitian “family” were at the airport to greet us. They loaded our bags, and we hopped in the back of the “tap tap” (a Haitian taxi, which is a small pickup with a welded canopy over the back and benches on both sides of the bed). I felt like I was home.

At the guest house, our hosts John David and Ann, along with their seven-year-old son Ralph, served us pumpkin soup, which is a special meal served usually reserved for Christmas and New Years in Haiti. It was delicious! (And this was just one of the many delicious meals we were served while there. Others included Asian rice, beans, goat and beef bouillon.)

The next morning, Jonas and Dou Dou picked us up in the tap tap, after being stuck in traffic for an hour. (Five million people live in Port au Prince, and I’ve only seen one stop light in Haiti, which also explains why you rarely see a vehicle without dents.) Our first stop was the grocery store to pick up bottled water, bread, peanut butter, jelly and chips. This would be our lunch for the week. We then drove to the church where they have a community program for children. We filled out medical forms for the children, listened to them sing, and “showed them some love.” Our first full day in Haiti was good.

Throughout the remainder of the week, we returned to the church (which had been leveled by the earthquake in 2010, and is slowly being rebuilt) daily to spend time with the children – making crafts, and teaching English, computer and singing programs. We provided basic medical checks; distributed toothbrushes and toothpaste; served meals; and visited a local orphanage.

Louisiane, who manages the orphanage, doesn’t speak English but she was so grateful for everything we brought, including enough food to last the orphanage quite a while, and some much-needed clothing. My favorite part, however, was when we placed Moses and Cassandra in their wheelchairs. Moses showed his excitement by making noises and clapping; Cassandra sat quietly in her wheelchair with a BIG smile on her face. She looked like a princess. I often wonder if Cassandra and Moses would be able to walk and talk if they lived in the U.S., where they would have access to medical care, and physical and speech therapy.

One afternoon, after the children were fed, families came in for a presentation about beginning an agricultural family assistance program. We brought seeds and Chaya and Moringa twigs to plant. I explained the importance of the Chaya and Moringa, as these plants have many nutrients that help prevent malnutrition, which is so common in Haiti.

Another highlight of the trip included watching local football club play soccer. Before last year, these children had not played in an organized league. In the summer of 2015, we took soccer balls, ball pumps and soccer shoes to the children. This time, we took more balls and supplies, as they told us that was what they needed. (The soccer fields in Haiti are not groomed like the fields in the U.S. The balls get a lot of wear and tear from all the use.) They have since formed the Santos Football Club, and boys at all age levels play. (To be able to play, they first have to attend practices and learn about being good citizens and the importance of education.)

The week passed so quickly. Before we left, however, we visited a memorial built on a site where more than 250,000 people were buried following the 2010 earthquake. Locals told us about how, after the earthquake, they would pile up the bodies at the end of their blocks, and dump trucks would pick them up to bring them to this site for a mass burial. The memorial isn’t completely finished but when you go inside, there is a feeling of sadness.

Each time I visit Haiti, it gets harder to leave. There is so much I would like to accomplish for our “family” there, so they can live without wondering when they will eat again, when they will have a job, when they will educate all of their children and when the orphans will have a safe place to live.

The people of Haiti have big dreams, and they work tirelessly every day with limited resources to improve their country. My goal is to continue to help by getting the tools they need in their hands so they can make the changes they would like to see in their country.

If you would like more information about our non-profit, Vision Hope for Haiti, please go to our website – www.visionhopeforhaiti.org You will learn about our current programs, see some great pictures, and can make a donation through PayPal. All donations go 100% towards the programs we sponsor to empower the Haitian families. You can also contact me directly if you would like more information or would like to make a donation.

Thank you for taking the time by allowing me to share my passion with you.

Haiti, Lifestyle, Travel

Life and Family Update – My Kids Are Grown

September 21, 2016

Welcome to my blog. When I saw that my last post was January 17, 2016 I could hardly believe it had been that long. Thank you for coming back and checking in with me. Here is a glimpse at what I have been up to for the last 8 months.

  • Visited my sister-in-law and her husband in Venice, Florida.  Also visited friends that have a house not too far away from there.  It was cold the week we were there but still warmer than Minnesota!
  • Our son, Nathan got engaged and the wedding is October 22 in the L.A. area.  We are blessed with another wonderful daughter-in-law.
  • I attended the wedding of my niece in the Dominican Republic.  All 4 of my children were able to attend as well and everyone had a fabulous time.  It was a great group of people and many fun memories were made.  I absolutely love any vacation that is close to the ocean.
  • Tax season!
  • Our son Ted graduated with his MBA from the University of Chicago.
  • My daughter Jill invited me to go to Aruba with her and we enjoyed touring the island together.  Definitely a place that I would like to go back and visit again.  I don’t get to spend a lot of one on one time with my daughter so this was extra special for me.
  • Our daughter-in-law Emily graduated with her MBA from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
  • I went to Haiti for week in July.  My next post will detail my trip and what we accomplished while in Haiti.
  • Family reunion in Branson, Missouri with a stop in Kansas City to visit our daughter-in-law Bella.  We were happy to spend the weekend with her.

These are just some of the things that I have been busy with over the past 8 months.  I can’t wait to share about my adventure in Haiti.

I haven’t been able to spend much time with my stamping this summer but just in the past week I have been busy making some cards for a Haiti fundraiser and I can’t wait to show you some of my creations.

Thank you for coming back to visit and I promise I will be back soon.

Haiti, Travel

Haiti Love

January 17, 2016

Sweet Children

My first visit to Haiti was in November 2013.  Anyone that knows me well will tell you that I fell in love with the people of Haiti.  I will make my 4th trip in June this year.  When our group goes to Haiti, we work with a Haitian non-profit group called Vision Hope for Haiti.   Their vision is to empower Haitians with education.  The co-founders, Jonas and Dou Dou and their staff inspire me to assist them in achieving their goal.  We recently applied for and received non-profit status for our organization in the U.S. by the same name – Vision Hope for Haiti.

I work for RSM, an international public accounting firm that is celebrating their 90th anniversary.  To celebrate this milestone, they held a contest to pursue your passion.  I decided to enter by writing a 1,000 word essay.  They are going to give away $10,000 to 9 people.  Well guess what, I received a call last week at work and I am one of 9 winners across the United States.  In the contest rules, it had stated that the winners would be notified in December with the announcement to everyone in the firm in January.  I just assumed that I had not won, so when I received this call I was in shock.  I was told that I could not tell anyone until the firm made the announcement on Friday and then it was delayed until Monday, January 18.  I haven’t let myself think about it too much because it’s hard to restrain myself.  They did tell us we could share it with our family this weekend.  It just so happened my daughter flew in from Boston for work and my son Ted and his wife Emily drove to our house on Sunday so I got to tell all of them in person.

Our organization’s goal is to buy land in Haiti to build a school.  The 350 children we serve when we are in Haiti cannot afford to go to school.  Public education is not free in Haiti.  Part of the money will go towards land to build a school.  We also visit an orphanage when we are in Haiti.  There is a boy named Moses that cannot walk so I plan on taking a wheelchair to Haiti so he can at least be included in the activities of the other children.  I can’t wait to see this precious boy again.  Here Moses is sitting next to me with a little girl at the orphanage named Gina.

Moses, Gina and Me

We are hoping to have a few nurses join us on our next trip.  If you are interested in going to Haiti, please contact me.  If you would like to donate to our nonprofit “Vision Hope for Haiti” or would like me information, please go to www.VisionHopeForHaiti.org

Jonas, CEO of Vision Hope For Haiti in Haiti, has an incredible story, one filled with hardships and faith. He started Vision Hope for Haiti when he was only 23. He has worked tirelessly for the people in his community and he seeks to reach all of Haiti with his vision to change its future.


My Haitian Son

My Haitian Son, Jonas

Dou-Dou speaks 5 languages. His passion and many skills make him a very valuable part of the team. He also keeps us laughing every day that we are with him.

Dou Dou

My Haitian Son Dou Dou

That is enough for today.  Thank you for letting me share my Haiti Love with you.


Happy New Year

January 10, 2016

Happy New Year!

Thank you for stopping by. I have many stories to share with you about 2015; however, today I am going to share my hopes for 2016.

In 2012 I began picking a word for the year instead of trying to make a new year’s resolution. The word is just something I would like to focus on. My previous years’ words were:
2012 – Simplify
2013 – Relationships
2014 – Frugal
2015 – Organization

And the word for 2016 is (insert drum roll) Kindness!! Because of worldwide events and things that I have observed, I just felt that spreading kindness in 2016 would be my mission.  I consider myself an introvert, so it’s a good reminder for me to act outside my comfort zone.  The amazing thing about my choice of words this year is that my daughter Jill, who lives in Boston, posted on facebook this week the idea that this world needs more kindness and she was going to strive to spread kindness in 2016. How amazing is this – neither of us had talked to the other about this before we each chose our words for 2016.

It is a cold day here in Minnesota; the high temperature today will not get above zero. The Minnesota Vikings play at noon today, so I will be in front of the fire in my toasty warm house for 3 hours. Go Vikings.

I am really looking forward to sharing my many passions with you this year. I work for a public accounting firm so my hours will soon be crazy. I will try to continue to post throughout the next few months, so please continue to check in with me.

Stay warm and be kind!


Welcome to My Kids Are Grown

December 27, 2015

Hello! I’m Julie, creator of this blog. Here are some facts about me:

  • I live in SE Minnesota.
  • My husband and I have 4 adult children (1 daughter and 3 sons) and 2 daughter-in-laws.
  • Our children live in 4 different states and we don’t get to see them as much as we would like.
  • I work for a public accounting firm and a solar company. This keeps me quite busy.
  • I love warm weather and the ocean.
  • I have a passion for empowering the people of Haiti.

Creating a blog has been on my bucket list for a few years.  My daughter-in-law Emily, created www.ditchtheheels.com for a graduate school class and she has helped me immensely on the technical side of creating this blog.  I could not have done this without her help.

Now that our children are grown and on their own, I thought I would have plenty of time to pursue my interests.  For some reason, I am busier than ever.  I just cannot find enough hours in the day to enjoy the things I love.  I hope that through my blog, I will be able to share with you the things that I love.

A few things I hope to share with you:

  • My love of rubber stamping and creating greeting cards.
  • Healthy recipes that are quick and easy to make.
  • My trips to Haiti and my love for the people.
  • My attempt to stay fit and active.
  • Organization in the home and frugal living.

Thank you for stopping by.  I am looking forward to this new adventure.