6 News reporter Josh Ault kept a journal while in Boucan Carre, Haiti, in April 2010.
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Monday, April 12, 2010
We're Haiti Bound!
I learned Sunday morning that I would be traveling with a Catholic group from Knoxville. It has been a whirlwind. Currently, I'm in a small jet headed to Miami, Fla. We will then catch another flight to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Let me fill you in how I got here in the first place. Back in January, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti. It devastated the capital city and killed thousands of people.
I did several reports at work about groups from Knoxville going there to help. One group said I could go with them on their next trip.
I got really excited and rushed to get my passport. (I had never been outside of the country before.) I was able to get it in nine days by going straight through the U.S. State Department.
After I got my passport, missions to Haiti started to slow down, and the group I was planning to go with didn't work out. I had almost given up on going.
Last week, my news director at WATE asked if I was still trying to go. When he said that, it got me motivated to try to go. I sent out some emails to groups I had worked with. One was the Haiti Outreach Program, that is affiliated with Sacred Heart Parish. I had done several stories with them about helping a small rural community outside Port-au-Prince.
I got an email Saturday from Ben Johnston, the chairman of the program, saying they were planning a trip Monday to Haiti. He said they had an empty seat because someone going had canceled.
Sunday morning I found out I would be leaving Monday to go to Haiti. I had only a few hours to prepare to go. Ben gave me a list of stuff I would need, so I ran to Walmart.
If you're going to Haiti you need the following: flashlight, bug spray, suntan lotion, and an umbrella.
I meet Brian Englestead, WATE's chief photographer, at the TV station Sunday night and got all the gear I would need. I would be shooting all my own video for the trip. I'm taking two cameras, lots of batteries, and plenty of tapes.
I meet Ben Johnston at his home in Knoxville at 6 a.m. We packed my stuff and then dropped my car off at the Knoxville Diocese. We then picked up Dianne Durand at her home. She's the Haiti Outreach Program's Finance Chairman. This is her second trip to Haiti. This is Ben's 28th trip.
A total of six people, including me, are going on this trip. The others include: Billy Stair, John Stone, and UT student Jarett Beaudoin. This was Jarett's first trip to Haiti too. Billy and John had been numerous times.
We took an 8 a.m. flight from Knoxville to Miami. We are currently in the air at 30,000 feet. This flight is a hour and 45 minutes. I will write more once we get to Miami.
"Welcome to Miami!" is how a woman working at an airport store greeted me. She said it while I was buying a hat.
Our flight to Miami was smooth. When we landed we had several hours to spare, so we ate at one of the restaurants here. I enjoyed beef, veggies, mashed potatoes, and cheesecake. It was good.
Our flight will be boarding pretty soon. This should be an adventure. I will write more once we get settled into our place in Haiti.
We made it to Haiti. It's what everyone said it would be. I'm too tired to write tonight. More tomorrow.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
I'm sitting in front of the rectory right now. It has been a busy morning.
To fill you in what happened last night, we arrived at the Haitian airport on a full flight. There were groups from all over the states coming to help. I saw groups from Oklahoma and Washington.
When we got to the airport you could see the damage. Windows were broken and cracks were all over the walls. They took us by shuttle bus to a new building that was built after the earthquake. It took a long time to get our bags. It was very hot with only fans blowing. When we got our bags, we left the security of the airport onto the streets of Port-au-Prince.
All these men were gathered outside to help with our bags. They wanted tips. It was a little overwhelming.
Ben had hired two men to drive us to where we were going. Both vehicles were 4-wheel drive. We quickly got our stuff loaded and left. I was in a vehicle with Ben, John, and Bobby. We had a Haitian man drive us. He spoke really good English.
Driving through the streets of Port-au-Prince is crazy. Laws don't seem to apply here. It was packed with people on buses, motorcycles, and cars. Some people were barely hanging on.
You also had to watch out for all of the pedestrians on the side of the road.
It was bumper-to-bumper traffic until we got out in the country, near the mountains. The European Union had just finished paying for a new road, so for awhile the drive was smooth. The new road stopped at Mirra Bailas, a city with a population of around 100,000.
For the rest of the trip the roads were very bumpy and uneven. Without a 4-wheel drive there is no way you could reach the community of Boucan Carre, where we were headed.
It was already dark when we arrived, so it was hard to see anything. There is no electricity in this park of Haiti, so it is very dark.
We are staying at the rectory, beside the Catholic church. A family cooked us a good meal when we got there. It consisted of chicken, rice, and pasta.
After getting some interviews, we went to sleep. There was a big spider by a bed I was going to sleep on, so I moved to another one.
There is no running water here and you can't flush the toilet.
Now back to what happened today.
Before the sun rises here the roosters start crowing. It really wakes you up.
At 5:15 the bell at the church is rang to let people know it's time to gather for mass. At 6:00 mass starts. There was only a handful of people there this morning.
After mass the secondary school started. Hundreds of kids came in front of the rectory for the raising of the country's flag. The students sang a welcome song to us.
I got some video of the outdoor classes and interviewed a couple of students. I was surprised how many of the students knew a little English. In Haiti they speak Creole, which is similar to French.
Bobby, Jarett, and I decided to walk around town. Most people use donkeys to get around. In Boucan Carre, I only saw a handful of cars.
Homes are very simple, but everyone dresses well. I've already seen five people washing their clothes in the river.
We are waiting for them to get out of a meeting right now. Then we are headed to the medical clinic. The weather isn't too hot.
I meet my first Voodoo doctor today. He actually had a human skull, Voodoo doll, and some scary looking dolls. There are ten Voodoo priests here in Boucan Carre and one actually works at the hospital. (I met him too.)
Right now we are siting around a table on the rectory porch. It is humid, but cool. We are having goat for dinner. Yum!
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
It has been a busy day so far. This morning we figured out how the shower worked, so I finally got clean. I made sure not to get the shower water in my mouth. They say it can make you very sick.
After a breakfast of eggs, bread, and french fries, we went to the primary school that was built by the Haiti Outreach Program. They also fund its operation.
It was amazing to see 1300 students, many very young, sing. I set my camera up on a staircase to get an aerial shot.
After the singing, each class came in to sing and perform for us. It was neat. We then went to the kitchen. The ladies had big pots of rice, and beans. They feed the students one meal a day.
When they first came to Haiti, 11 years ago, many of the children had orange hair due to the lack of nutrition. Since the lunch program started at the primary school that isn't a problem.
After visiting the secondary school we stopped by the Baptist school. Their school building is very old. Actually it's just a shack. They are starting a new one, but need more money to operate it. Ben Johnston is trying to get the one of the Baptist churches in Knoxville to help them.
After riding in the back of the truck, we went to the bank and got some Haitian money.
They are having a budget meeting now. One of the main missions of this trip is to plan the construction of a new secondary school. Money was donated from a Knoxville company to do that.
I asked our translator to write something in my journal. This is what he wrote:
Bonjour. Koman au ye. Mulen pa pi mac mulen bijen Meci bon siva oreviva.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Still in Haiti, I'm now sitting in the airport lobby of Port-au-Prince. We had to go through three metal detectors. Our flight leaves in 45 minutes. This morning we got up early -- 6 a.m.
It was a bumpy road back to Port-au-Prince from Boucan Carre. It was cool to see everything in the daylight. On the way up it was all dark. Billy called it "no pants day" because of lot of little kids were not wearing pants.
This is a trip I will never forget. I will write more once we get to Miami.
Still Thursday, now I'm sitting at the Miami Airport. When our flight from Haiti arrived here, we went to a Cuban restaurant to eat. We are now waiting for our flight. It leaves at 7:30 p.m.
This has been a great adventure. It really hit me looking at a gas station here in Miami how lucky and blessed we are to live where we are. It is very important to serve others.
We got back to Knoxville around 11 that evening. Family and friends of those who went were waiting for us.
I cannot wait to show everyone in Knoxville the work that has been done by the hard work of this group. I hope it makes a small difference in the big world we live in.