The Advance Party – Week Four – 3rd December 2012

Week four sees Ailish referee a volleyball tournament, be boarded by UN troops and celebrate Christmas with the children of Isle a Vache.
‘The work out here is all team effort, this week especially with Damien, Calix, Chavanne and I working on the Fete Noel. We had 50 presents to sort and wrap and all of the food, drinks and Christmas party supplies to prepare. Plus there was the Christmas concert, the tree, the crèche (manger) and all the decorations to do. On top of that Calix and Chavanne had a football tournament running in the village on Friday and Saturday. This was on top of all the usual day to day project activities and the pre-Christmas rush of trying to get everything organised before we head home.
By mid-week my bedroom was full with the presents, the sports gear, the drinks, paper plates, cups etc. Tada, Angelie and Peterson sleep in the area outside my bedroom door so they were monitoring the comings and goings all week. Each morning I could hear them all whispering outside and telling them all the latest news, from the sounds of it they missed nothing and the excitement was high!
On Wednesday we had a home visit to a family on the mainland. The absolute best thing was being able to show a family a picture of their baby brother. It was the real icebreaker and the visit went very well although tinged with sadness for what this family have been through. We will be following up with them again soon. The absolute low point was a young boy in the village with what we think is a cleft palate that has developed a tumor. We took details and we will do what we can. In the meantime they will still have to manage his condition. It’s a harsh reality in the midst of all the other stuff going on here.
All the stuff included a huge UN operation; helicopters and Special Ops everywhere. While everyone is happy that the drug smuggling is stopped the UN have a very bad attitude towards the locals. Unfortunately we picked the same day to do the Christmas shopping in Les Cayes-you know for those last minute presents and food for the party. Halfway out the boat was boarded and searched and all our bags checked. We were not sorry to see the UN depart the island. Back on IAV we pushed on with the work and the decorations went up Friday evening. The tournament was nearly rained off but the Haitians love their football and the semi-finals went ahead as planned.
On Saturday morning we made costumes for Mary, Joseph, our shepherds and our Wise Men. Everyone else got to be angels, halo’s included. The DJ supplied a microphone and we found a budding singing star in Yveline who did a solo Silent Night (Creole version) when her companions all got stage fright. Calix had made a manger and purchased a tree and Sr Flora produced life size figurines out of some storage location here somewhere so we had a stage set and everything. Damien was stapled into a made-up Santa suit for the present giving and party after the concert. The photos will be on line so it is best to leave it to then for you to understand the dire need for a Santa suit next year.
The football was a serious affair with not only the Cup at stake but also one year’s bragging rights, the result was a fair reflection of the game. I ended up refereeing the volleyball. A heated debate followed one particular controversial decision but luckily the right team won in the end by a single point. After the prize giving the music ramped up and finally our star guest Trish arrived to a great welcome. She brought her own cake- sent down by the lads in the Irish Embassy bar in Port-au-Prince. It was the perfect finish to what had been a great day of laughter and celebration.’

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