De La Mennais Brothers: Weaving A Tapestry Of Relationships Like Jesus

De La Mennais Brothers: Weaving A Tapestry Of Relationships Like Jesus

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Haïti 2015 - Day 5 (25th)

Day 5 in Haiti... a day at a private beach 50 miles to the north (paid for by our group, the beach is attached to a property owned by a former pupil of the Brothers in Haiti). For most of the Haitian children it was their first time on a proper beach where it was safe for them (and us) to go for a bit of a swim (with me as lifeguard).

We were joined by the five Haitian Novice Brothers (first year of training to be a Brother) who will be making their first vows in a couple of weeks.

A bit of bartering with some local fishermen and before we knew it we were bringing 5 fish + 2 large crabs back with us.

Haïti 2015 - Day 4 (24th)

On day 4 we decided to use a different strategy with the children and start with the team games (basketball, in particular) in a partly shaded playground area of the secondary school part of the campus, the idea being to then do the arts and crafts activities at the start of the afternoon... activities more conducive to good digestion and more suitable for the peak heat of the day. However, we did not count with the young Haitians pestering us to have another full size football match in the afternoon once the craft activities were finished (today paper aeroplanes). However, our young Scousers found this second match in 2 days much easier to cope with heat-wise, their bodies probably getting more used to the heat and humidity. Good use was then made of a tap, a hosepipe and a bucket to cool everyone down.

Having put together a Haiti 2015 playlist of upbeat songs to accompany our activities (requests coming from the team members during our pre-trip preparation meetings to supplement Team Win! standards such as Rain Down, Don't Stop Me Now, Waka Waka and Happy Song) certain songs have been on heavy rotation and look like early leaders in the race to make the tour film soundtrack: Cheerleader (Omi - with a hat tip to SFX teacher Mr. Trainor :-), Shake It Off (Taylor Swift - a Max dance special), Summer (Calvin Harris) and Shut Up And Dance (Walk The Moon).

"Messi", clearly an "alpha male" in the making complete with "Staff" t-shirt, demonstrating his whistle blowing technique.

The ever-popular elimination game of ball-through-the-legs.

Max's Shake It Off dance routine made him an instant hit!

Team Win! psyching themselves up pre-match, looking mean and moody... or maybe just very hot (we actually split up and went 2 on each side, Bro James joining whatever side started to lose, scoring a particularly eye-catching goal with a run from his own half, a one-two and a blast past the keeper! 'Ave it!!!!

Team Win! post-match having given themselves the bucket treatment, smiles of relief.

Bro. Jacques, again match referee, looking typically unflustered, very glad to be back in the country where he spent 3 years as a young Brother 40 years ago.

Coincidentally, the classroom we've been using in the primary school to store equipment and do some of the arts and crafts had a display of the Royal Family on the wall next to a picture of our Founder.

Max teaching his Shake It Off routine to the rest of the group.

Bro. Francis leading the way back to our accommodation at the end of another day of activities with our precious sports bag of balls, raquets and bats.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Haiti 2015 - Day 3 (23rd)

This was our first day of activities with the 25-30 or so primary school pupils aged 11-12 years who had been invited by Bro. Lamy (until this summer the Head of our primary school here in Delmas) to take part in our mini-camp. Our first impressions that day have been confirmed on the subsequent days: they are very polite, friendly and delighted that we have come to spend some time with them. There are also some real characters among them (Gabriel aka "Messi", Alex, Brian, Youri, "Donald Duck", etc...). They seemingly love all types of sport and take the matches of football and basketball VERY seriously. They have also got wholeheartedly involved in our arts and crafts activities and picked up our dance routines quickly and enthusiastically (YMCA, I Am A Music Man...).

Here are some photos from Thurs. 23rd's activities.

Before long our teens were being challenged to a sprint.

Max and "Messi"... when we played football in the afternoon he changed into a Barcelona kit with Messi's name on his back. Despite his best efforts his footballing skills were more "messy" than Messi!

Lunch in the cafeteria of the St. Louis de Gonzague primary and secondary schools. Rice is a staple of their diet and is generally part of the midday meal in most places. The meals we've had so far have nonetheless been varied and very tasty. No problem eating your fill, especially if we get the fresh mangoes to round things off.

Trust me, Aaron did get involved, but this first attempt at afternoon sport proved challenging to all of us given the extreme heat (37C) and humidity. However, by the second day our teens were coping with this much better. Many thanks to Bro. Jacques for his offer to referee.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Haiti 2015 - Days 1 (21st) + 2 (22nd)

Day 1

 Arrival in Haiti... hot, humid but happy! Temperature of around 35C and high humidity... not ideal conditions, but previous experiences in similar climates (e.g. Togo, W. Africa) tell me that the first night in (or rather on) bed is normally the worst in terms of trying to get to sleep and that the body can get a bit more used to it after a few days, as long as you keep well hydrated.

Bro. Jacques in the back of a van with Bro. Lamy, my good friend with whom I did my first year of training to be a Brother 25 yrs. ago (with Bro. Romain from Togo). We will be running activities for pupils from the primary school of which he has been the Head these past few years in Delmas, Port-au-Prince.

Our first meal at the Brothers' community in Delmas.

Day 2

We spent the morning of our first full day resting from the journey, settling in to our new surroundings and getting some of our equipment and resources ready for the beginning of our "mini-camp" with the primary school children tomorrow. 

The Brothers' community house at Delmas.

From tonight onwards our teens have been given permission to sleep in an air conditioned computer room in the school building where they had been given a classroom to sleep in for the first night (not an easy one given the humidity and heat).

The school building where our teens are staying. The whole property, school and community house is guarded 24/7 by a site management team (with guard dogs) that ensure that unwanted visitors are kept away. We certainly feel very safe here.

One of 6 hutches full of oh-so-cute rabbits... that are not kept as pets! ;-(

Brothers James + Francis relaxing in the Brothers' house.

Bro. Jacques likewise.

In the afternoon, Bro. Lamy took us on a driving tour around the capital, Port-au-Prince, to visit various sites, including the site of what was, prior to the 2010 earthquake, the Brothers' flagship secondary school, St. Louis de Gonzague, which counts numerous former Presidents and high ranking officials as former pupils. The only building that still survives is the school chapel (as big as some cathedrals!).

In traffic jams - just like in many parts of Africa - children and adults hang around potential traffic jams junctions offering to wash your windscreens, sell you food, water, phone cards, etc...

In the Brothers' van.

Bro. Lamy took us down what used to be the main commercial thoroughfare in Port-au-Prince which, post-earthquake has become a rubble and rubbish-filled jam of destroyed buildings, African-style improvised pavement market stalls selling anything under the sun (and a lot more besides), multi-coloured "tap tap" taxi vans, recycled American school buses and very few privately-owned vehicles, the whole place crawling with people. Most of the buildings that had existed have not been rebuilt or replaced. Though on one level this experience was rather distressing, one could not help but admire the resilience of this people, their willingness to improvise a living somehow and also - just like in Africa - the fact that in the midst of such chaos and apparent poverty the people still take such pride in their appearance with their colourful clothing and bright jewelry. The people certainly look fit and healthy for the most part... one does wonder how they manage this.

A more normal road elsewhere in the capital.

The former school chapel of the now destroyed St. Louis de Gonzague secondary school.

Inside the chapel.

Visiting another of our schools in the capital, one where Bro. Jacques taught for 3 years 40 years ago. It was rebuilt after the earthquake.

Two naughty pupils

The school entrance. The ruins of the capital's former cathedral can be seen in the background.

A neighbouring plot that the Brothers have purchased which is being transformed into extra playground space.

The ruined cathedral.

Another place on our tour around the capital... the community house of the head De La Mennais Brother in Haiti (the Brother we call the Provincial).

A Brothers' retirement community.

The site of the Brothers' training houses for young Brothers and young would-be Brothers (Juniorate, Postulancy and Noviciate), also used as a spiritual retreat centre and place for meetings. A gorgeous property up one of the small mountains that surround Port-au-Prince, ideal for discerning one's vocation away from the hustle and bustle of the city, before going back to cities, towns and villages to work as Brothers.

The chapel of the training houses.

At the training houses, Bro. Francis meeting for the first time in 60 years a Haitian Brother, Bro. Andre Nicholas, with whom he did his initial training to be a Brother in Jersey.

A mind-blowing sight... a shanty town up the side of a mountain with houses seemingly perched one on top of the other.

Drinks and refreshments, including succulent mangoes and other less well-known fruit (for us Europeans at least)

Aaron polished off a whole pile of these.

The Novices (first year of training to be Brothers), 2 weeks away from their first vows.