Thursday, 31 December 2020

Highlights from 2020

 Your probably reading the title of this blog and thinking how can there be any??? 2020 will forever be remembered as one of the worst years ever for many people but even in the middle of pandemic there have definitely been some highlights. 

We came into 2020 hoping for a more peaceful year for Haiti.  There had been political unrest on and off since July 2018 but really reaching its height in late 2019.  Schools were shut, people were scared to go out anywhere and we pretty much stayed at home for weeks on end.  By January 2020 the situation in Haiti was getting back to normal.  After months of school being on and off the boys were finally back in school, Emmaus was busy with visitors and I had just finished a wonderful 2 weeks with a PT team meaning we had loads of patients to treat. 

Then the first case of coronavirus was announced in March and borders, airports, schools all shut and well you know the rest of the story.  We made it home right at the end of March, naively thinking we would return to Haiti in August. 

Now we are in the last day of 2020 and as I look back, its been hard but parts of it have been good.  Here are a few highlights

- Cousin time - it felt like forever before the boys were  allowed to spend time with their cousins but finally it came and they loved it.  Our summers home are usually so chaotic and busy the boys really don't get to spend that much time together.  Plus wee Ben was born just after we moved to Haiti so the boys have really gotten time to know him much better during this year. 

- Christmas - Christmas has been hard for so many people and not all what it usually is.  For us Christmas was great, we were allowed to bubble with my family.  The boys spent their first Christmas ever with their cousins and grandparents.  We had so much fun seeing all the Christmas lights and one of my favourites, going to church on Christmas day, in English even though we took the service and we weren't allowed to sing. We were still there. We even got to see a little snow a couple of days after Christmas.

- Moving home - We moved house 3 times in 12 months and we are truly grateful for the 'missionary house' as its known in our house, where we stayed when we came back in March. We have a few places which feel like home to us but it was so good to move into our own home in August.  I have been sorting through all of our stuff and am thoroughly enjoying getting rid of a lot of it! Packing your life into suitcases and moving overseas definitely puts into perspective what you really need to live. Even though only Sam really lived here the boys are enjoying being in our own house.  

- Access to speech therapy - There is zero speech therapy in Haiti (SLT's something I would love to develop at our therapy clinic if your interested??).  By January we knew Jacob was really struggling with his speech and needed some help, we had tried a zoom session which was helpful but if you know Jacob you will also know there is no way he was going to sit by a computer, with a stranger and participate.   Jacob started speech therapy in July and is really making great progress. Not only has his speech improved, but his behaviour is much easier to manage, he is so much less frustrated and the other boys now think he is hilarious when he talks.  And the three of them have been playing together much better just in the past couple of weeks. We are really thankful for this extended time here and to have access to speech therapy. 

- Adaptability - To be honest, our boys have amazed us. Those first few months in  Bangor were hard.  Our kids had been told we were leaving Haiti the morning they woke up, they then travelled for more than 48 hours to a house they hadn't been to for a year.  We were not allowed to see anyone, we were not in our own home, all the places they associate with Bangor were closed, it was cold and we had no idea how long we were staying.  They have really done well, moved house, settled into a brand new school and pretty much took the whole thing in their stride.  They do ask often about going back to Haiti and are looking forward to going.  We always try to remind them of the many experiences they have which so many other kids do not get to have and we hope that we are instilling an attitude of gratefulness for those experiences instead of feelings like they missed out. Sams sums it up well 'When I am in Haiti I miss Bangor, but when I'm in Bangor I miss Haiti.' However their adaptability only goes so far, moving house / country is fine but they all explode if I make something for dinner they have never had before! 😂😂

- Food - at the risk of sounding superficial I'm going to put this in here.  There are so many foods we just can't get in Haiti and sometimes things are just a lot easier when you are able to throw something in the oven for dinner.  We just don't have that option in Haiti.  All meals have to be planned out and thought through.  I can't just nip out to the shop if I forget something. We are enjoying things like strawberries, blueberries, grapes, cheese (unrationed!), chocolate biscuits, sweet potatoes, crisps, sweets, parsnips and of course sausages.  I think we have eaten more sausages in the last 6 months that we have ever!! 

- Staying involved in our work in Haiti - We all may be feeling a little 'zoomed out' but the internet has enabled us to  not only stay connected but to be a part of our work in Haiti.  Bill has been able to continue his role at Emmaus through teaching online and going to meetings on zoom and registrar duties.  It's not ideal but its been possible.  Five years ago it would not have been possible.  I have been able to get stories, photos and information through whatsapp from Bethesda to update the social media accounts and send out monthly updates.   I have also had weekly meetings with Altidor and Echebert through messenger. It really is amazing what we can do with technology from the UK to Haiti. 

- Rest - although life is always busy with small kids, I do feel that we have been able to get some rest.  The past few years have been pretty intense,  and this extended time at home has taken off some of the pressures of cross cultural living and allowed us to relax a bit.  

I can honestly say that we have no idea what 2021 holds but the Lord does and well that's enough for me. 

Happy New Year! 

Proverbs 16 v 9 

The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. .

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Not where we thought we would be part 2!

 I couldn't write a post called not where we thought we would be and not give you a little update on where we are! 

When we left Haiti in March we had no idea we would be in Northern Ireland this long.  We literally walked out of our house like we were going out for a few hours and didn't get a chance to pack anything up!

When we decided to stay in Northern Ireland we talked about maybe returning to Haiti in January 2021.  We talked about Bill going on a trip or two and me going on a trip aswell.  We also talked about Bill perhaps going to Canada to do some speaking and help with our support raising.  With the US border still closed, even for transit to anyone from the UK none of those things have been possible.  We are so thankful for God's leading and guiding in making the decision to stay here in Northern Ireland until summer 2021. 

It has allowed us to really settle and get some stuff done we really needed to get done.  We have sent off Jacob's application for British citizenship to the UK home office, the guidance has told us it could take up to 6 months before we hear anything so we are waiting and praying that it will go through and Jacob will be granted his citizenship before we return to Haiti next summer. 

Jacob has now been going to speech therapy for about 5 months and has really made some good progress.  From saying just a handful or words he is now putting 2-3 words together, although it is funny what he has learnt.  He definitely learns words which he wants to say like bin lorry, drone, saurus rex and many words to do with toilet humour! (can you tell his has brothers.)  Being able to communicate has really helped with his behaviour and there is a lot less screaming in our house.  We are really thankful for this time for Jacob which he just would not have been able to get in Haiti. 

We have also been able to empty our storage unit, organise our stuff and move back into our house.  Our house needs some things done before we rent it out again next year so its good to be able to be at home and get those things done. 

So we are not where we thought we would be, we miss parts of life in Haiti and it is much more challenging to do our work from a distance but we are trying to make the most of this time at home even with all the covid restrictions. 

Jacob had his first birthday in Northern Ireland, Sam's first since he was 2 and now Joel can't wait for his birthday! 

It has been really fun to watch how the boys have adapted especially to the winter. When it first started getting dark early Joel just loved driving in the evening and looking at the street lights! Now you can imagine what its like with all the Christmas lights! He has changed his mind and decided that Santa might just be real!😀 😂 On Monday it was icy when they were walking to school and they thought it was the best thing ever and couldn't believe they could step on the frozen puddles without getting wet. 

We are just wrapping up, getting wet, embracing the weather (even though I really strongly dislike the cold!) and just going outside to meet up with friends. I'm pretty sure we have been to every playground, forest and beach near us!

This coming week is the last week of the semester for Emmaus so students are (hopefully!) busy revising for final exams, Bill is trying to get all his marking done so he can take some time off over Christmas.  Emmaus graduation, postponed from May, will take place on 18th December where there are 12 students graduating. 

Bethesda is open and seeing patients every day! The design for a new Bethesda is almost complete and we are praying and working for end of year giving asking the Lord to provide many funds so we can get started on construction.  Please pray with us for this. 

Even though we are not where we thought we would be we can look back we can see God's hand in bringing us back to Northern Ireland and thank him for what we have been able to do while we are here and are enjoying spending this time with family and friends. 

And Joel cannot wait for Christmas! 


 One of the things I was able to do on during my time at home in Northern Ireland during covid was some more training, specifically in paedi...