Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Some of Joe's Photos...

What We've Learned


Another final thought!

Personally, I’ve gained perspective on my place in our world and my responsibility to our global community. This awareness will undoubtedly help me in my classroom as well. I see now, more than ever, the importance of a global, empathetic, and critical-thinking based education for our students. In a world that’s more connected and accessible every day, our students need to be able to relate and think outside their comfort zones… - Mackenzie

Go Big Orange !

One of the most surreal surprises of the trip was this group of boys who broke into "Rocky Top" out of nowhere. After a little investigation, we learned of the previous trips and benevolent help of a number of Tennessee folks, who have certainly left their mark- in quite a few ways.

Lafond School, Haiti

Lafond School was destroyed in the January earthquake. Since then, the 200+ students have been going to school in tents next to the soccer field adjoining the old building. Each mornng, the students bring out the tent canvases, desks, blackboards, and more in order to get the school day started. It was a lesson in humility, appreciation for what we take for granted, and a renewed understanding of the resilient spirit of the people of Haiti- David

Memories of Haiti and the DR...

Random Lafond Shots

"Exposure is an integral part of education and perhaps, the only means of reconciliation in our world. This journey opened my eyes..."

Final Thoughts...

"So many wonderful memories... My homestay family- I was so nervous and I fell in love with them. There was so much kindness and hospitality wherever we went. I also fell in love with Lafond- the mountain, the children, and Bertin's family..."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reflections on LaFond

I find myself thinking about LaFond all the time. I am quite sure my friends will grow weary of my exclamations at the beauty of that community on the top of the mountain and the people who live there. When I think of my time there, I remember the shiny eyes of the children in their uniforms--girls with a zillion red ribbons in their hair and boys carrying backpacks. I think of the long walks around the mountain, hearing the stories about their lives and the work they are all doing to rebuild after the earthquake.

Three of my favorite memories involve children. One night, two sisters quietly watched me as I attempted to read a book and knit at the same time. When I offered to teach them to knit, they quickly learned and took turns at the needles. They were surprised at how easy knitting was and were intent on doing it right. Another time, I left the work site for an hour or so and visited the school which is now meeting in tents. I hated to cause a stir, but that was impossible. I talked to the teachers about what they were teaching their young students (ages 3-6) and was able to observe their lessons which were not so different from the lessons I will soon teach to my students. Finally, every day at the work site we would hear children crying. It was kind of getting to me when Joe explained that the house adjacent to the site was a day care center. The moms who were working at the site would hear their babies cry, walk down, nurse them, and then come back to work. When I visited, I saw young children holding babies and giving them all the love they needed while their moms were working less than fifty feet away.
There were times on the mountain that were challenging--the weather was less than cooperative, making sleeping almost impossible--but that's not what I will remember first. The children will always be first.
Urban Haiti, with the tent cities and piles of rubble in Port au Prince and Petite Goave, is a challenge that is beyond my grasp. But, those folks in that small community up on the mountain inspired me in a way I can not explain. Planting crops for the future, building a school for their littlest children, caring for one another, finding a way to rebuild after unimaginable destruction--those shining eyes and brilliant smiles fill me with hope.

Robin Smith, Ensworth School, Nashville

Half the Crew with Joe Jenkins, Lafond

Haiti- A Look Back

Bonjour Tous La Monde!

As we were without the web for the majority of our time in Lafond, Haiti, I thought it might be helpful for a few of us to put some reflections down at this point. Look for other participants to be adding their parting thoughts, as well. The Lafond community was an amazing place, and the highlight of the stay there was simply taking long afternoon walks around, meeting people, talking to them about the earthquake, and just getting to know a very special community. They are incredibly resilient, and to see the plight of those in this bucolic setting is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Once again, I'm reminded of a closing reflection from a student on a previous trip- who am I to say people are lacking because they don't have the trappings of our modern world? That said, Wyclef Jean's prediction that it will take Haiti 30 years to rebuild seems very much on track. It was all we could do- and all we needed to do- to pass a week in this beautiful location at the top of the mountain, working alongside the Lafond community and students, and sharing their sense of hope and seeing again the resilience of the human spirit.

David Maher

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Hello everyone,
I received an update last night from Bertin Meance, our Haiti coordinator, last night. He said the group is well despite all the rain. They spent the day yesterday working on the foundation of the school building alongside community members. Afterwards, they went on a walk with Bertin across Lafond to see living conditions of locals following the earthquake. It was a very moving experience that the group debriefed in the afternoon. Many more local Haitians want the group to visit and inspect their home, so another walk has been scheduled for today. The weather has cleared but unfortunately a new tropical wave is passing through and more rain is expected. Because of the rain, and the fact that this group is living in tents, we will probably make the decision to bring everyone back to Petit Goave on Sunday morning, where they would stay in homes of the Meance family. The group will then stay in hotels in Petit Goave on Sunday and Monday night prior to coming home.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wet in Lafond

Hello Everyone,
I spoke to David Maher, WLS instructor, and Bertin Meance, the Haiti country coordinator, today. After intense rains the last few nights, the weather today was foggy and the group was working on the site. The group is definitely having some bad luck weather-wise and it's certainly an extremely wet time to be living in tents. The gorup is extremely well supported not only by Dave and Bertin, but by our foreman Joe Jenkins, the Meance family, a cook dedicated to the group, and the entire community around Lafond. We are hopeful the storms will ease up as the tropical storm continues to move to the west away from the island. There is no doubt that this group is living very much in solidarity with other Haitians in this rural hamlet atop a 3,500-foot mountain, many of whom are still living in tents. We will update the blog as more news is available. Internet is extremely hard to come by in Haiti, even in the towns, so it is likely that we will continue to update the blog by phone updates. The group is in a safe spot and will continue to work towards its goals of building the first new buildings for the Lafond School!
Ross, WLS

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Doing well in Lafond

Hello everyone,

We spoke to Bertin Meance, our Haiti coordinator, this morning and he confirmed that the group is doing well and working on the Lafond School this morning. One of the things the group will help do over the next few days is talk to residents and help survey earthquake damage in the area.

There have been heavy rains the last few days in Haiti, and the whole Hispaniola island, and weather forecasts indicate the rains will continue through Thursday when the storm is expected to have passed over the island and moved onto the Bahamas area. Right now the group is enjoying sunny weather but rains are expected in the afternoon.

We will update the blog as more information comes available,


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Group Arrival in Haiti

We spoke with Bertin Meance, our country coordinator in Haiti, and he confirmed the group has made the trip from Port-au-Prince to Petit Goave, the nearest city to the Lafond School. The groups is now climbing the very bumpy, 23 km-road to Lafond, where they will spend the next week. Internet is non-existent but the group does have a satellite phone, which they will use to call in updates periodically.
Ross Wehner

Monday, July 19, 2010

Robin´s Report

Day 6 (Monday)

Well, we had a great day at the farm and the city! Being Sunday, it was a day of rest and church for the community. I hope we can get the photos uploaded, but please know that we are dealing with limited bandwith.

In the morning, we boarded a 4X4 truck and joined Cesar, an avocado and mango farmer for an exciting ride up the mountain above Cambita. It was a beautiful day, completed by Daniel showing off his baseball arm to knock down ripe mangoes. (Mackenzie and David confirmed their tastiness….and messiness.) Cesar, speaking slowly for me, told us all about his family history in the avocado business and the differences among the types of avocadoes. It was gorgeous up on the mountains and we all had many questions that Cesar was happy to answer.

After Cesar drove us back to the town, we headed out for sightseeing in Santo Domingo, an hour away. We were joined by some of our new friends from Cambita for this outing. We saw the oldest standing cathedral in the western world! We walked down the first paved road in the western world as well and still found time to shop, snack and bargain. On the way out of town, we had a guided tour of a museum dedicated to the indigenous people (the Taino) of the Dominican Republic.

And, if that wasn´t enough, we stopped at a LARGE market (think WalMart) and bought the makings for a community barbeque. Chef David and Nilsa, our in-country coordinator, hosted a wonderful evening full of good food and a card game with friends. (Get ready for a new, competitive team game, folks!)

After a full day´s work today, we will have a fiesta with all our homestay families to say ¨adios.¨ Rumor has it that my homestay mom is doing my hair for this occasion. Pictures to follow.

Tomorrow we fly to Haiti and we are unsure about the internet access in the mountains, so you may not hear from us until Monday. We will try, though. Hasta luego!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Carrie's Blog
Day 3

So, after multiple attempts, in multiple places, and despite random blackouts, we have finally connected to the Internet in order to post the first blog from the community of Cambita in the Dominican Republic! We have settled in with our homestay families (although “settled” may be a relative term for each of us), and begun work on the Escuela Hermanas Mirabal. All of the families have been extremely kind and welcoming. On our first day at the work site many of the children and community members came to help…and to play.
The people here are very excited to have us, and we are very excited to be here, though the language barrier is definitely a challenge (for some more than others). We continue to work together at our various levels of expertise to reach some middle ground of understanding.
My computer battery is in the red, so I’m wrapping up, but look forward to hearing from the others soon.

Friday, July 16, 2010

First Day of Work!

Hello everyone,
I spoke with WLS instructor David Maher this evening and he told me the group had a great first day of work. They are working in Escuela Majagual, which you can see in this video taken during our site visit to the Dominican Republic in March ( Everyone is enjoying their host families. I know they have been trying to post blogs, but the internet is difficult where they are staying. Please call if you have any questions, at 303-679-3412.
Ross, World Leadership School

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Arrival Confirmation

(Eduardo !)
Hello friends and family,
I just spoke to David Maher, instructor for the WLS faculty development trip to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and he reports that everyone arrived safely with their luggage. The group is now headed to a hotel in Santo Domingo before heading to El Cajon, where they will do service work and stay with home stays. Please call me at (303) 679-3412 if you have any questions. The adventure has begun! The group will try and update this blog every few days so check back for updates.
Ross Wehner