“Fast and furious” adequately sums up Camp Jake Director Tom’s trip to Haiti last week. Not unlike our wheelchair assembly and distribution in June / July 2011, he arrived on Saturday afternoon and left on Tuesday morning, packing in numerous meetings in and around Port-au-Prince. Considering the first and last days were exclusively for travel, in the remaining two days Tom was able to finalize many details in preparation for the first session of Camp Jake and we'd like to share some of the highlights with you.
One day was spent visiting Kaliko Beach, the location for the first camp. The hotel has managed to capture some of the former beauty of Haiti, known as the “Pearl of the Carribbean” in the 15th and 16th centuries. Beautiful rocky beaches, blue water, and palm trees create an ambiance that one would think impossible only 1.5 hours away from the dusty, trash-strewn streets of the capital city. What a beautiful change this will be for the students!
At the hotel, Tom secured the sleeping quarters for all campers, counselors and St. Vincent’s staff as well as the other facilities that we will be utilizing for our programs. He evaluated areas for wheelchair accessibility and ensured that the grounds are well secured. Different areas of the facility were mapped out to house various activities for the campers based on their individual abilities and strengths.
St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children
Many hours were spent with Fr. Sadoni, Director of St. Vincent’s, discussing the list of attending children and their physical challenges, transportation to and from the beach and other logistics. Conversation covered camp activities, that will include sports, creative arts and social experiences. We are thrilled that Fr. Sadoni shares The Red Thread’s excitement for the camp. He has been most gracious to us, giving us his time and any assistance we need in cementing the final plans for Camp Jake.
Physicians for Peace
Tom was also able to meet with Mary K from Physicians for Peace who was also in Haiti visiting St. Vincent’s at the same time (small world!). They spoke at length about the upcoming camp as well as The Red Thread’s long-term vision for Camp Jake, which includes extending the camp’s reach beyond fun and recreation to incorporate vocational training into the programming. We look forward to years of partnering with this great organization!
Last, but not least, Tom was able to spend time with Mike, a long-time friend of St. Vincent’s and veteran of providing assistance in Haiti. They reviewed preliminary drawings for the rebuilding of St. Vincent’s and discussed the challenges of the project, including utilizing better quality materials as well as providing a more accessible space to better accommodate the children and their various physical handicaps. We are blessed to be a part of this process.
All-in-all, it was a great trip, successful on so many levels. We are excited to offer these exceptional students a new experience in another part of their home country. January 2012 is right around the corner!