Haiti/FIDA-PCH


The earthquake of January 2010 brought to our living rooms, in the rawest of terms, the plight of a poverty stricken nation that was now dealing with a natural disaster of the greatest magnitude…and at the time it incited me to share with my world my own history with Haiti, which I wrote in the form of a letter to Haiti,  which began at the impressionable age of 12, and in some form or nother continues on to this day.

Jack Wall, FIDA founder, flanked by family members that participated in the 2010 event...

Yes, my parents enlightened and awakened, in each of their children, a sense of outreach, that went beyond what they already experienced as the off spring of parents that opened up the family home to serve as a group home for countless teens that needed refuge and a place to feel safe and loved. You can read in greater detail, in this past blog post, my history.

My contribution to this year’s golf tournament was nominal…donating a Chinese ” art deco desk” for the auction and offering my time to help, wherever needed, as the event unfolded…which by the way, was expertly executed by my niece Alexis.

Close to 120 people paid to golf that day and just as many stayed on for what was

Founder Jack Wall/Granddaughter Alexis

a sumptuous buffet, including amazing dessert, so proud of myself for not going back for 2nds!, and participated in a silent auction with over 60 items, and a live auction. The event raised more than 30,000 for the work of FIDA in Haiti, which in and of itself is phenomenal.

This is the 2nd year that I’ve been able to attend/participate in this fundraiser and, as before, I left feeling humbled and touched by the growing numbers of people that are drawn to support the continued development work of FIDA in Haiti…and like so many that attended that day, wanting to contribute in some form or another.

And as humble as this may be, I offer this missive as my personal testament to what I know to be a committed vision to “help the Haitians help themselves”….to work WITH them, to empower them, to UPLIFT them, and to do this in the context of their very real HOPE and FAITH that God will not abandon them as they contribute to improving their own lot in this life they have been given.

FIDA continues to gain international recognition for the model of development they insist on, drawing in and partnering with other organizations that want to make an impact that really and truly counts for a people that have been “helped” beyond measure, and to do so in a way in which they can maintain their dignity.

Grateful for this recent opportunity, to share with the many supporters of FIDA, a day that was fun yet purposeful.

Ruth

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about the work of FIDA in Haiti, do visit their website, and drop them a line…they’d love to hear from you and would many suggestions on how you could help…

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…..OR, “From Whence I Came”.

60 years of marriage for my parents, Jack and Anne Wall.

Jack and Anne Wall, on the occasion of their 60th wedding anniverary.

That was the reason that close to 200 family and friends gathered at Lutherwood, in Waterloo Ontario. Phenomenal…particulary for my father, who as we have all repeatedly heard “had one foot in the grave and the other on the banana peel” when he married my mother what is now 60 years ago. In fact my father who just turned 86, after decades of severe health issues related to asthma, has never been healthier. And my mother, now 84, suffered a stroke several years back, may have troubles walking but all else moves along at a rapid pace. So, yes, quite the event to celebrate and was glad that I was able to participate with my 3 siblings and….

….so many aunts, uncles and cousins, some that I haven’t seen in too many years. And people that I’ve known along the way…people that  knew us and worked with my parents in the various organizations that they founded and worked…Craig Wood Boys Farm, Parkhill Girls Home, Ausable Springs Ranch, Big Chief Camp, Merry Hill and Chateau Garden Nursing Homes, and Foundation for International Development Assistance….those being the “keynotes” that roll off the top of my head…there were others.

With my Dad at Ausable Springs Ranch/House #1 circa 1964

My parents were married 10 years when I, their 3rd child was born. They were running the Parkhill Girls Home and I was 2 when they moved on to start the “Ranch” where the mix of kids that came to live with us was now co ed, and the average number of mouths to feed was 12. And I worked as a teenager at the Big Chief Camp and also at various nursing homes, and as a college graduate went to Haiti, as a volunteer, ..so yes, in a very intimate way my life was touched by that of my parents and the “mission” they lived as their life appeared as a continuum in mine.

And so for the longest time I was certain that my future would be that of a social worker, standing up for these disenfranchised children that were slipping through this world, unloved and uncared for. I grew up with these kids. I knew them. I understood them….it made sense. But then, as I was working my volunteer stint in Haiti, I came to realize that I had an impact on the people that were under my care. (My job was “public relations” related, as I worked to sensatize our mission tour groups, to the plight of the Haitians, and thereby make them more responsive “givers” to the relief organization I worked for.) Studying for my MSW became replaced by wanting to study Development Education. I was all afire! Yes, I was my father’s daughter, but yet another twist in the road would find me diverting….same road, different path.

Moved to Haiti, at 60 years of age!

1985. Preparing to leave Haiti after 3 years. (And yes, my parents, who were in their early 60’s had just moved there…father to start FIDA, and mother to support it by way of establishing/running a guest house for missionaries) Just on the verge of the Revolution. I decide I want a “summer fling” before leaving. No, I ‘m not the summer fling kind of gal…but it sounded fun….nor was Mark Olbrych, the object of my affections.  You got it. We were married a year later and pregnant shortly thereafter. Haiti in political turmoil and I pregnant, we felt it right to relocate….

After I moved from Haiti, my mother helped me on with my little business, Kado D'Haiti. (you don't mess with her!)

But my dream to help the Haitians by educating Westerners to “help them help themselves?” Gone? No. Reworked. Kado D’Haiti, my first business venture was born.  By marketing their handicrafts I was able to help them directly. I was thrilled at this new bend in my road. More on this in later blogs…. and  carried a torch for my little handicraft business as  we moved from Haiti, to Boston and to Cambridge Ontario, all in the first year we were married.

1990 found our now family of 5, moving to Asia, where we would spend the next 8 years, first in Bangkok Thailand, and then in Taichung Taiwan. Full time mom/expat wife….and might I add, consumate party giver,  kept me hopping.

Zach, Ari, Avery and Ruth...from whence comes "ZAAR"

1999 we moved our family of pre teens from Asia to New Gloucester ME. Husband took a hiatus from corporate and jointly we plunged into the entrepenurial vein….the rest you know…Antiques by Zaar was created and became that which supported our family this past decade.

2010. I have spent the past year learning all aspects of my business as my husband returned to corporate. I am thrilled beyond belief that I am, later this month, celebrating 10 years since my first online sale.

But what I’m really here to say, and hope I haven’t lost you yet, is that there is a fire lit under me for this business, and it’s sister, ZAAR Design Center…and I do know from whence it comes. For, one thing my parents have, and continue to show me, is the value in giving to people.  Another is that of living and working against the odds, never giving up, having a dream and with all the passion and fervor you have, making it a reality….AND getting others ignited by the fire that lit their Soul.

My parents have made themselves the official welcoming committee @ their home, and Dad, self appointed chair of the Puzzle Room...proudly here by one of his creations.

I am the child of Jack and Anne Wall. I have had the example of a faith filled, visionary life set before me.  I see them in thier home Lutherwood, an assisted living facility fashioned after the model my father pioneered in the early ’80’s, where it’s like they are drinking from the fountain of youth, as the daily social mixing that they do with those that live in and around them is, as much as anything, keeping them healthy and vibrant and very much alive.

Antiques by Zaar/ZAAR Design Center, is the vehicle by which I can “let my light shine” and I look forward to seeing my world continue to grow in brightness as it is continually enriched by those that touch me and which I hope I too can touch.

If you have read this to the end, you have given me yet another reason to smile on this my 50th birthday.

Life truly is good and welcome to my world.

Ruth

The connection.
1985, my fiance, Mark and I, hosted his youngest brother as our guest in Haiti, that time one just following the Revolution where the dictator “Baby Doc” had recently been ousted.

FIDA, the organization my parents founded, the work which touched my brother in law Luke...and many others following

Part of our program would naturally include a visit to my parents, who were running a guest house that supported the work o FIDA, an agency my parents had founded in 1984 (read story here), building up an infrastructure in rural Haiti using the cooperative model.

Not quite sure on the timing that Luke returned to do a short volunteer stint in Haiti, with FIDA, but was not long following that initial impressionable  visit.  What is more relevant is that more than 2 decades later, the committment to the work of FIDA would be renewed in response to the January 2010 earthquake that shook that tiny impoverished company with yet another (not political this time) blow, and Luke would reach out.
and so… in Belgium, (where he’s been living the past decade plus)
on March 7, 2010….  
a fundraising event in his home would be had.

The host Luke and Marie Therese, the talented artist, friends working together for the cause, HAITI, through FIDA.

featuring his close friend… opera diva/soprano, Marie Terese  (who we had the absolute pleasure of meeting at Lukes on more than one occasion, including his 2008 wedding) who offered her talent towards the end of…

supporting the work of  FIDA….
where more than 40 guests would grace the home of Luke and Mircea on that spectacular night, with many more, unable to attend, nonetheless sending their support by way of cash donations towards the cause….each adding to the more than 20,000 raised!
a first hand account would be offered by  Gerlant van Berlaer,  (doctor and  member of B-FAST) , who had just returned from Haiti, offering a slide show presentation bringing the current situation ever closer.
 I like how I feel that I served as a  link.  The raison d’etre for why Luke even ever went to Haiti. And a part of why, 25 years later, in Belgium, he passionately responded to the most recent devastation struck

My sister Betsy, carries my parent's torch, as does her daughter Alexis.

upon this country… hosting a grand event to raise money…   (and awareness) for Canadian based FIDA…which his Belgium friends would not otherwise be acquainted with.

I am proud to  be flanked by these members of my family, from far off regions, working together towards such a worthy humanitarian cause….and I just wanted to share this with my world.
Yes, many have been touched by Haiti. This is just one story of one connection…many such connections continue to grow and flourish…each one counting and each one making a difference.
God Speed.
Ruth
If you would like to support the work of FIDA, click here to visit their website.
Other blogs I’ve written  on Haiti:

I find it coming at me so often these days….images, places, words, stories, feeling……all that bring me back to the many impressionable visits and the 5 years living there as a fresh college graduate.

 I know that this is happening with the many others, as evidenced by an email I received yesterday morning with the subject line stating “Haiti is on my Heart”.

Thought maybe it was a response to my earlier blog, but no…it was from someone that knew me from another life, from Haiti, from back in 1985, from my final months serving as “cultural liason” to groups visiting Haiti. Marty has graciously agreed that I share this with you…

Hello Ruth,
My heart is so heavy as I continue to follow what has been happening  
in Haiti.  I stayed at the guest house in the summer of 1985 for  
about 3 1/2 weeks, it was an incredible experience; when I came, I  
brought with me three teachers and a high school student, we came to  
learn. 

Your Dad told me that Haiti would never leave me, and it  
hasn’t.  Your parents were wonderful to us, and we had a lot of fun  
with you.  The Haitian people touched my heart.  I just wanted you to  
know that I remember, and I have not forgotten.  I am contacting your  
sister, Betsy, to find out the best way to donate to the guest house/ 
FIDA.
I just wanted to touch base and send my love to you all,

Marty Romero Brickley

Marty reminding me of how I introduced her to FIDA  (well, I did the first bit by having them stay at the guesthouse….let my Dad take it from there :)) has spurred me on to update my readers/followers/customers and friends on part of my life most haven’t known about…until now.  The time seems ripe.

My Parents: Founders of Wall's Guesthouse & FIDA

The time also seems ripe to introduce you to  FIDA, the organization my parents founded,  (and ICC, where I served as volunteer for 3 years) as two orgnaizations I have personally been involved with and acknowledge as serving well the people of Haiti….should you be looking for a place to direct your contributions.

I’ve been so touched by Marty’s reconnection with me after almost 25 years. It reminds me that you can never underestimate the impact you may have on someone and how that can take hold and serve in the future….as it does here for her to connect/contribute to Haiti via FIDA.

And so…..as noted in my most recent blog, my sister and niece were in Haiti when the earthquake hit. Click here  to see her letter to FIDA constituents that have been hungry for information on what happened, how everybody is and what they can do. Sharing here with my readers, because that is one thing I can do!

Ruth

P.S. I was indeed curious as to how Marty found me, for when I worked with her group I wasn’t yet Ruth Olbrych, (as she reminded me I was dating my now husband) …so, I asked. She said that she simply googled, Ruth Wall Haiti, and there I was at the top of the search, leading her to the About Us on our website where I recount my life (well, only from 1985 on…actually thinking of adding to that, for those that may be interested. I’m told it is interesting, even pre Haiti/Asia lives…thanks to my visionary parents.)

Peace…

Haiti Cherie, 

January 12, 2010 You are once again garnering  the attention of the world. This time it is a natural disaster by way of a massive earthquake that has brought You, this tiny impoverished country in the Caribbean, to the forefront of all. 

The children...thier smiles, thier eyes, they reach right through you...

I was introduced to the plight of Your people at an impressionable age by my father, who, in the early ’60’s got involved with International Child Care, a group of caring people that worked to relieve the ravages of tuberculosis in Your country. I was 12 years old when I made my first trip to Your beautiful shores, and determined that I wanted to do something to “make a difference.” And this sense of mission would intensify and evolve as I grew in years. And so not a surprise that  I would work to spend a summer volunteering at Grace Children’s Hospital, as a college student. And following that positive experience I would be further enticed to return as soon as I graduated from college, to serve as a volunteer for a 2 year term that I would extend to 3. I truly felt I had been “groomed” for my role as “constituent services coördinator” for International Child Care, as I  served as their guide/cultural liason for the “mission tours” that were organized through various church groups throughout the states and Canada. It was with great passion that I would take on this role, hoping to make said constituents furthered warmed to the cause they were supporting and at same time dispelling myths that they had held about Your country/people. 

The land as beautiful as the people.How many times did I visit the Citadelle in Cap Haitian, the Albert Schweitzer hospital, The Baptist Mission, Kenscoff Market, Boutilliers, Cite Soleil, Iron Market, Jacmel, Ibo Beach, Presidental Palace, just to name a few of the regular stops on our “tours”. And what great friends I would make with the many regulars/vendors that anticipated my visits with my entourages? And how I loved chatting up in Creole, maneuvering the roadways (and sometimes excuses for roads)  participating in the craziness behind the wheel, and simply enjoying a life, appreciating/respecting that I was merely a guest, learning every day something from You. 

And when I finished my 3 years I couldn’t let go of the impact You and Your people had on my life…still wanting to do “something”. As much as I thought my work through International Child Care would continue stateside, such would not be the case. But another opportunity would avail itself with the support of my fiancé, (my now husband of 23 years) that I did indeed meet in Haiti, by way of bringing  the fine works of Your artisans to an outside market. 

Tree of Life, made from recycled oil drum, was very popular.

How wonderful to work with so many of Your gifted artisans, buying a selection of what I thought I could sell on Your behalf. It was with self-same great passion that I created and worked Kado D’Haiti (gifts from Haiti)….buying sisal handbags, paper mache crafts, bead necklaces, banana bark greeting cards, hand painted iron work, carved ducks, wooden apples, and a range of vibrantly painted boxes, trays, and other “knick knacks”. 

1986, after 5 years living on Your island, and following a dramatic time with the effects of the Revolution just in their infancy stages, my husband and pregnant self moved from Haiti….first to Boston MA and then to Cambridge Ont (yes, all in the course of our first year of marriage) carrying along my small inventory of crafts that I was determined to sell….somehow. 

…and I did. Yes, I did. First at craft shows in New England (for the short time we were there) and then in Ontario, hosting home parties, setting up shop at the St Jacobs Farmers Market, knocking on doors of stores and then growing the business through exposure garnered as exhibitors at the Toronto Home and Gift Show. For 5 years I would lovingly work this business as my family grew from 3 to 5. The joy I received from knowing that I was able to support those people that I had come to love and respect outweighed the fatigue I felt as my days melted away with 3 pre schoolers underfoot. 

The 1991 move of our family from Canada to Asia would require me to pass on my little business to the hands of others.  I truly felt I was leaving a part of myself behind as we boarded a plane to Thailand, but was thrilled that my younger sister would take on Kado D’Haiti, and carried it until a struggle with cancer would require her strength and attention. 

Need for more rooms had my folks lease a 2nd house to accomodate guests. A hole in the wall makes for easy access between the two houses.

My mother and father had followed their hearts to Haiti as well, and, at the age of 60, in 1984 would move  to act on this. (Yes, a little overlap with me living there…) My mother would support the work of my father, the development organization he established, that being FIDA, with the income earned from a guesthouse they started in Port-au-Prince for missionaries/relief workers that were looking for an inexpensive (but cozy) place to stay while in Your country. (Story here. )And my elder sister would take over the running of this organization as my father retired at the age of 80. 

She would carry on my parents work with the same passion and committment that fueled their pioneering efforts. And a hands on approach would find her making regular trips to Your shores. I have to believe that there was “something” more than chance that she landed on Your fair shores this past Tuesday, just before You were so rudely visited by an earthquake which doesn’t even have a name. We are most fortunate to have news that she and her daughter (who started working with her last year) are safe. Images that we see on TV they are experiencing first hand. I know this to be a life changing experience for them. Frankly, a mere visit to Your nation has done that for so many, as I witnessed  …living through this tragedy with Your people will be impactful beyond belief. 

Those eyes again...And so again, You are available, fully available, to receive the aid of others. In fact, as the situation stands, You simply cannot do without. Your people have suffered immeasurably over the decades, with political oppression and subsequent violence, and with “the” mother of all earthquakes now bringing You to a new low. So there is this huge opportunity for us to come to Your aid…a people that have had so little for so long that now have even less….and we are coming Your way, from all corners of the earth. I hope it is enough. I hope that it makes a difference. I hope it counts. And I hope that by way of our outreach to You that that many more people can be touched, as have I, by the warm Spirit of Your people….a people that has a strength of Spirit and fortitude that is out of the grasp for many of us. You have much to teach and show us.

Help coming from all corners of the world to this ravaged nation.

Yes, I have known for a long time that  You would give to me more than I could ever give to You. And this feeling is brought to the fore once again…that the balance is off and I need to find a way to give back to You and Your people…again/more. And so with this letter, I am making a committment to do that.  I know that there are many out there that have a connection to Haiti. Let me know about your connection. If you have an organization you support, let me know and I will post on my site and in my blog. Spreading the good works of many in Haiti is my starting point…so, give me something to write about. And stories. I know there are stories of how lives have been touched by Your people and their indomitable Spirit and Faith. Let’s not let this fade. Let’s not let the plight of your people slip away from us…ok, from me. Yes, I am still learning from You and Your people. 

…. may I serve well as an ambassador on Your behalf. 

God Speed to all…. 

Ruth