Wings of Hope Neighborhood Christmas Party 2016

Wings of Hope Neighborhood Christmas Party 2016

For many years the Wings of Hope residents have held a Christmas give-away for children in the neighborhood, first in Fermathe and now in Jacmel. The event consisted of designated children (a day before the event the Wings kids and staff walked around the neighborhood giving out tickets) coming to Wings and receiving a couple of cookies that the Wings kids had made and a couple of small toys. It was an outreach to the neighborhood kids from the Wings kids and we hoped it would give the neighborhood kids a positive experience with people with disabilities. This year the Wings kids and staff did something different. And it was AMAZING!

On Dec. 16, 2016, the Wings kids opened their home to 150 kids, and their parents. Again, you needed a special ticket to enter. But this was no simple cookie give-away. Instead the Wings kids and staff planned a Christmas party to top all Christmas parties. The kids and their parents started to arrive before the 10 am start time. They knew they were in for something special, as they were wearing the best clothes they had. They were greeted at the front door by Josephine, and at the entrance to the building by Vilner.

At 10 am, the staff started giving their guests tours of Wings, showing them the classrooms, bedrooms, and the living room/dining room. In each place the tour included an explanation about what the room is used for and the importance of the place being beautiful and welcoming because the Wings kids deserve the best. After the tours, the celebration started with songs, led by Gary.

Then Gephte spoke to the crowd about the Wings residents, and what it means to have a disability. He talked about people with disabilities being the same as everyone else, and that they need to be treated with dignity. At one point he hugged Teddy and told them, you can touch them, you can hug them, you can play with them, they are just like you. Then Teddy made the sign for “love” and told the crowd that the Wings kids love them. The neighborhood kids and their parents were all very accepting of these messages. It was wonderful.

Then the Wings staff and kids presented the Christmas pageant. It was INCREDIBLE! They always add something new each year. This year it was Reginald acting out the part of the star that the kings follow to Bethlehem. Of course, it also included the slaughter of the innocents and the death of Herod. The crowd loved it. There were lots of cheers. After that there were a few games while the Wings staff set up the gift table.

There was a huge selection of gifts – most of which came from the kids and staff. The Wings kids gave up some of their own toys and the staff pooled their money to buy toys for the neighborhood kids. It was so incredible to see. The Wings kids happily helped hand out presents and never asked for anything for themselves.

After they got their toys, the neighborhood kids then went to the dining room where they each got at bag of popcorn, a bag of Cheecos, a sandwich, crackers and candy. There were also coolers of Kool-Aid for people to drink with their lunch. The Wings kids were great hosts; they even picked up all the trash after the event was over – without being asked!

It was an incredibly amazing CELEBRATION A profound experience of community, acceptance, generosity, and love. The Wings kids and the Wings staff made so many people happy and I’m sure changed the way that people with handicaps are perceived. It was a perfect way to celebrate the season of love and light.

More photos available on the St. Joseph Family facebook page!

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2016 Wings of Hope Christmas Tree Decorating

2016 Wings of Hope Christmas Tree Decorating

The Wings of Hope family has kicked off the Christmas season with their annual tree decorating ceremony. There were reflections on what the Christmas tree symbolizes, singing of Christmas carols, and the decorating the Christmas tree. It’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas!

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Update on Jonas!

Update on Jonas!

In November we posted about a new member of the Wings of Hope family, Jonas. Shortly after we introduced Jonas it because clear that there was more to his story then we knew. His mother and father had two boys, Jonas and his brother. The mother apparently didn’t want to care for a child with special needs and abandoned him at the Missionaries of Charity home in Jacmel, then left town with her other son. Jonas’ father, however, very much wanted his son. He searched for days at all the orphanages looking for him. Finally he went to the authorities to file a missing child report. They knew about the little boy who had been abandoned and came to Wings to pick Jonas up and return him to his father. All of this happened on Thanksgiving Day in the US, which became a Homecoming Day for little Jonas. We are sure his father is glad to have him home, given all he did to find him. We are thankful for the short time that Jonas was in our lives and we wish him and his father well on their journey together.

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Reginald’s Legacy Story, Part 2

Reginald’s Legacy Story, Part 2

Read Part 1 of Reginald’s Legacy Story.

His trip to the United States was quite the adventure. The first adventure was getting a visa from the United States Consulate and permission to travel for the surgery, which was not easy. There were a lot of firsts, starting with his first plane ride. A few days after he arrived in the US, Reginald celebrated his ninth birthday. He had his first big American-style birthday party. A little boy who lived across the street from his host family invited his entire Cub Scout Pack and they threw Reginald an amazing party. They didn’t speak the same language, but when little boys have soccer balls and Matchbox cars, that is common language enough.

Reginald spent several weeks in the United States for the surgery and recovery. All the time his days were filled with much laughter and fun as he explored, had adventures, and made new friends. He became a great ambassador for the St. Joseph Family and Wings of Hope. He spent time at the schools of his new Cub Scout friends, was featured in several newspaper articles, and brought his exuberance and joy everywhere he went.

But, his Wings of Hope family was never far from his thoughts. As Reginald was showered with gifts while he was in the US, he remembered his friends, and began setting aside some of his toys for them. He asked to buy special gifts for certain friends when he and his host family were out shopping. By the time he returned to Haiti, Reginald had a special gift bag prepared for each and every one of his brothers and sisters at Wings of Hope. The day he arrived back home at Wings of Hope was filled with much celebration and Reginald got to be like Santa Claus and he gave out all the gifts he picked out for his friends.

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Reginald’s Legacy Story, Part 1

Reginald’s Legacy Story, Part 1

Reginald had a hard start to his life. His mother died during labor and the doctors amputated Reginald’s left arm near the shoulder to get him out of the birth canal and save his life.  He was Photo of Reginaldborn prematurely and was small and had health problems. His challenges didn’t stop there. He was also very much alone. With his mother dead, no one in his family stepped up to care for him, or even visit him in the hospital. He was cared for by the hospital staff for several months. There was a woman who often came to the hospital to pray with the patients. After seeing little Reginald there on several of her visits, she began to ask about him. She saw this little baby for more than the disabled and abandoned child that he was. She saw something in him that made her see him as her son. Eventually the woman was able to take Reginald home. He lived with her for several years until tragedy came to little Reginald’s life again when his adoptive mother died. The woman’s neighbors loved Reginald, but none of them could care for him, so he was taken to the Haitian department of social services, who then brought Reginald to Wings of Hope. He was only five-years-old.

Reginald was a happy, adventurous, and energetic little boy. He blended in well to the Wings of Hope family. Because he was physically disabled since birth with the loss of his arm, Reginald learned to cope to be able to do everything he wanted and needed to do with one arm. He was always very independent and worked hard to make up for his missing arm.

“I loved living at Wings,” Reginald said. “I loved playing with cars and spending times with the people who would come to visit us. They would take us to eat at the Baptist Mission. That was fun.”

photo of reginald after his surgeryOne thing he couldn’t get past, however, was the pain that the amputation caused. Because the amputation was not done correctly, as Reginald grew, so did the part of the bone that was left in his upper arm. It protruded through the skin and would cause painful infections. If he bumped it or it got hit with a ball when he was playing, it hurt and tears would roll down his cheeks. Thanks to generous doctors and a hospital in the United States, when he was nine-years-old, Reginald went to the US for some life-changing surgery. The doctors fixed his amputation site so that it would stop hurting and be infection-free, allowing Reginald to run and play without pain.

 

 

Read Part 2 of Reginald’s Legacy Story.

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Welcome, Vilner!

Welcome, Vilner!

For several years Vilner attended classes at Wings of Hope as a day student. He lived in an orphanage near Wings of Hope when Wings was in Fermathe. That orphanage did not have any programs for kids with disabilities and Vilner flourished with the opportunities he received at Wings of Hope. When Wings moved to Jacmel the other orphanage recognized that Vilner would have many more opportunities living at Wings of Hope, so they transferred him to Wings. Vilner is now a full-time member of the Wings of Hope family. Vilner has a physical disability and uses a wheelchair. He also likes to get out of his chair and crawl. He has a speech problem and cannot speak clearly, but he has no problem communicating his needs and wants in other ways. He is a very intelligent, funny and personable young man. He loves to interact with the other kids and can often be found pushing a line of wheelchairs across the Wings courtyard. He likes to help the other kids any way he can.

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Exercise Fun!

Exercise Fun!

One of the women in our group brought a large aerobics / games mat with her to Wings of Hope, and it was put to use immediately! The idea is for each player to take a turn rolling two big foam dice. The number on the dice corresponds to a “station” on that mat, such as: push-ups, sit-ups, raising your arms or legs, etc.

Emmanuel, the teacher doing physical therapy, made it a point to include every child, regardless of their physical limitations. His patience and enthusiasm made this class not only beneficial for their health but so much fun.

Wheelchair, verbal or not, every child was able to participate and they loved it!

— Kim

Frank Ely doing situps

Josephine does situps

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New teachers at Wings!

New teachers at Wings!

The move to Jacmel has been such a long wait, and such a beautiful ending! Moving the facility to a location hours away meant having to leave some of the staff behind, but now there are many, many new teachers for the Wings of Hope students! These teachers are clearly excited and very eager to learn how to better serve their students with such a variety of mental and physical exceptionalities. Having received training from visiting teacher groups, they’re armed with a plethora of new information and pounds and pounds of school supplies! Seeing how deeply the new teachers already care is a wonderful testament to the community that the Wings of Hope residents have created for themselves.

— Kim

photo of new staff at wings

new wings staff

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Ice, ice, baby

Ice, ice, baby

Staying cool during the hot summer days in Haiti can be a challenge, but not at Wings of Hope! Throughout the summer, visitors have been bringing various water toys and implements, for use in the (now tradition!) Wings water fights.

Hearts with Haiti board member, Julie Wade, was no exception. For her trip, she brought along an inflatable POOL! Now, anyone who has been to Haiti knows that water is collected from the rain in big cisterns… that sit in the hot sun all day long. So, the water isn’t exactly cold. That’s great if you’re taking a shower, but if the point is to cool off… not so refreshing.

Not to worry! Julie and the Wings Family know how to degage! Julie purchased a bag of ice, and voila! the water was, well… less warm.

The pool (and the ice) were a wonderful gift to all who have enjoyed these blessings! Thank you, Julie!

Photo collage of the inflatable pool at Wings

Photo credits: Renee Dietrich, Copyright 2016

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Wings is COOL!

Wings is COOL!

How do you stay cool when daytime temperatures soar into the 90’s and electricity, much less air conditioning, is a rare treat? Head to Wings of Hope! The Wings staff, visitors, and residents have created a new summer tradition … water fights!

Visitors each week bring their own supply – and their own flair. Whether it’s water balloons, water guns, super soakers, or an inflatable pool, each group has brought and shared their own style of play with the Wings family.

Check out some of the photos below… and be sure to stay posted by “liking” the SJF and Hearts with Haiti facebook pages!

Collage of photos from water fights at wings

Photo credits: Renee Dietrich, Copyright 2016

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