During our first trip to Haiti, our family got to see how the kids living in Canaan were lacking simple materials for the school such as pencils, markers, and books. Once seeing their passion for education and their diligence in school, our family decided that the next time we would visit Haiti, we would bring supplies for the children. After returning to the U.S, we had the idea to use the materials we would receive from others to create books written and illustrated by the 5th and 6th graders in the school in Canaan that we visited to give to the younger kids. We started off by collecting pencils, colored pencils, pencil sharpeners, markers and stickers. We put up posters around my sister Hannah’s and my high school as well as posting updates on our online communities. By the end of 2 weeks we had collected more than enough supplies to bring with us to Haiti. When we went to Haiti again in the spring of 2018, we brought all of our supplies for the children and explained to the principal what we wanted to do with the children, and she agreed that was a great idea. The 5th and 6th graders loved coming up with a fantasy or real-life story and wrote in beautiful cursive. A favorite story that was written was one of them going on a field trip to the National Museum in Haiti in Port-Au-Prince called Musée National d’Haïti where they learned about the culture and history of Haiti. My sister Hannah and I helped the kids to decorate their stories that turned out beautifully. After our 1 week trip where we were able to see so many different stories that they had written for the younger grades, it was time to go home; however, we knew that we wanted to grow the idea of writing stories. After a few months, we got the idea to find and bring stories from the U.S that would be translated to French for the kids in Canaan, Haiti. From the start of our organization, we wanted to incorporate seniors of our community, and we realized that this would be one great way of doing so. Our hopes before our next trip in the spring of 2019 are to visit with senior centers each weekend to listen to the life stories and lessons that the seniors have learned throughout the years to make them more involved with our organization and including all generations into our cause.
During the Haiti trip of 2017, I encountered 15 Canaan couples who were going to be married in December. Hearing their stories inspired me to bring them the symbol of hope and love, wedding rings!
As a jewelry designer and a previous studio member of Metalwerx (school and community studio for jewelry making in Waltham, MA), I shared this opportunity with the director of Metalwerx, Lindsay Minihan. She was so thrilled that she took charge of the logistics to make it come true.
On November 22, 2017, right before Thanksgiving, 12 jewelry artists gathered to complete the project with donated gold scraps. The project was led by Metalwerx board member and master jeweler, Jeff Georgantes. From testing the donated items to melting and pouring metal into ingots and rolling it out to make the half round wire, the volunteers completed all of the milling processes. Afterwards, we each selected one or more Haitian couples from photographs …By the end of the day, all 15 rings had been fabricated, polished and packed up to send to Pastor Arthur.
I revisited Canaan this past spring and was met by the married couples in a surprise party. It was so heartwarming, I wished all those ring making volunteers were there with me to receive the deep expressions of gratitude. One woman expressed how proud she is that these rings were mostly made by fellow women since the job of a metalsmith in Haiti is masculine work.
This was truly an amazing sharing of community work with the spirit of giving and gratitude!
Women in Canaan are eager to vary the menus they can offer their families. They have wood or charcoal fires for cooking in their homes, but we used the newly installed electric stove in Canaan’s health clinic kitchen for a cross-cultural cooking class. Ji Hwang selected 2 dishes with ingredients to which the Haitian women would have access, one actually passed down from her grandma.
The Haitian women gathered excitedly from around the area, having heard about the class from friends, poised with pencils and paper. Ji discussed the recipe ingredients and demonstrated the methods with someone translating into Creole. We combined the ingredients, tasted the delicious, sweet red bean paste, kneaded the dough for the buns, placed the mixture in the middle of each piece of dough, carefully wrapped them up, and arranged them in the large steamer we had devised from the available cookware.
The women learned about the second recipe as they waited for the steaming process to do its work. The pancake recipe involved finely chopping up vegetables to put into an egg mixture. Hannah and Jina Hwang and I had done some chopping prior to the class to shorten the time needed for accomplishing this step. We fried the pancakes, prepared the dipping sauce and waited eagerly for both dishes to be ready.
Finally, we relished eating the yummy pancake wedges served warm with the dipping sauce. It was satisfying seeing the women bite into their hot, red bean steamed buns, smiling as they enjoyed both dishes. We hope the women might include these recipes later in their cooking repertoire along with the chocolate chip cookie recipe that Hannah and Jina taught later. Sharing these experiences enriched all our lives.
You can find the details of making these two recipes here: