Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Naomi's Village

While I'm here in Kenya I am helping my friends Bob and Julie Mendonsa with their orphanage, "Naomi's Village," by taking photos for them to help promote what they're doing...

Bob and Julie Mendonsa

Here is the is nearly finished but additional funding is needed for it's completion...

For more information about Naomi's Village you can check out this video...

Naomi's Village

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kitu Kidogo

Kitu Kidogo...which means "Something Small" in Swahili typically refers to bribery...but when walking through the IDP camps I had Obama on my side...or on my backside that is...therefore bribes weren't necessary...

My time in Kenya thus far has been full of: chapatti, beautiful kids, land cruisers, bumpy dirt roads, British accents, long skirts, good friends and more chipatti...

Kenya has been wonderful and beautiful-- it's really as if I never even left...It's great to be back with Bob and Julie Mendonsa. Bob and Julie have started an orphanage called "Naomi's Village." It's been fun taking photos for them...

Here are some of the kids that I met down at the IDP camp...

Martin has gorgeous eyes...

Mumbi...or Princess Mumbi as she is often called, loves to chase me through the camp, tugging at my skirt, demanding attention...

Mumbi again.

This little guy loved to hold my hand...

Mumbi yet again...

This is Ashton...he hopped right in my lap during movie night. We put up a projector on top of a landcruiser and played the movie "Madagascar II" for the whole camp. A wonderful night with the exception of the riot which happened over popcorn.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


On Monday I headed to Port-au-Prince with Tim to drop off supplies for some of his building projects. I was amazed by the cracks in the road and just all of the rubble everywhere.

In this case pictures do more justice than words...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Haiti Day 2

Waking up at 3:30am is not easy by far...

But driving for 20 hours through the mountains of Haiti is even harder...

I know what you're thinking...20 hours. Come on Jillian, that's being pretty dramatic! Nope, its a fact. 20 hours up in the mountains. We left at 4:10am and returned at 12am the following day.

I have often held myself to Burundian statements such as Burundi has no infrastructure. Burundi is ridiculously hot. Burundi has the worst roads...

That was until I came to Haiti...Haiti has the worst roads. HANDS DOWN. No competition. I wouldn't even call them roads...they are more like large footpaths covered with large white rocks and boulders. I have no idea how we made it through with only 2 flat tires--Yes, let me take a moment and pause there. We had two flat tires by 10:20 am, within 20 minutes of each other: There were flat tires, a broken side mirror, trekking through a foot of mud, driving through rivers...need I go on.

Quite the adventure.

Well let me hone it in on a couple of highlights from the trip.

We will start with coconuts.
I drank my first coconut. And lets say, drinking a coconut takes skill and I didn't have it. I was dripping the juice everywhere, down my face and into the mud. The whole village was watching and laughing at me. Tim told me that the guy who had given them to us had asked if it was my first time. Laughing stock...that's what I was. Perfect.

Cans of beans.
When you're on the road in the mountains with no street food one must provide their own means to eat. For us, this included cans of beans for dinner. I have to say, the three of us were quite a sight sitting in the truck, opening cans of beans out the window and trying to keep them from plopping out onto our laps as we hit the continual rocks and boulders...


When 11:30pm is approaching and one has not slept in 20 hours. Driving can be rough. Therefore, what is the solution to stay awake? A ridiculous game of I-Spy. Now understand, the 3 of us were completely tired and really half asleep...but statements went from:
I spy something small and I spy something deadly and invisible...

We were laughing at ourselves and really made no sense as we did not spy anything outside as it was pitch black. Still it kept us awake until we reached the gate to the Reinhard's compound.

African thoughts noted:
* There is no traditional dress in Haiti. (This is due to the fact that Haiti historically, was made up of slaves and were not aloud to bring their culture--hence traditional dress material--with them).
* I have not seen an AK 47 anywhere (UN Peacekeepers are the exception here), this compares to Africa, where they are everywhere you look.
*Women in Haiti have long hair as opposed to most women in Burundi who have short hair.
* Babies are not with their mothers, traditionally women would leave their children behind at home instead of taking them with them--which again is not like African culture.

Quote of the day:
Tim: "Jillian do you know what marijuana smells like..."

Saturday, May 15, 2010



A lone UN Peacekeeper and his Blue Beret standing "watch". [I chose those words very carefully].

UNHCR Tents lining the fields around the airport.

[Note to self: Haitian makeshift airport in old warehouse: still nicer than Burundi's airport...]

Mobbed by crowd upon leaving the airport...[therefore turn around, head back in and grab the Brit who had come in on my flight, ask him to wait with me until I find my driver.] Outcome: New friend made and restricter of all the men grabbing at me. Check.

Finally after hunting down an airport worker to use their phone, I called Tim, he called the driver he had hired for me and eventually said driver found me and drove me to another airstrip where I would catch a small flight called Tortug, to the coast.

[Find driver in mob during hot sweaty afternoon. Success.]

12 hours after leaving JFK airport I arrived in Les Cayes, Haiti to my friends Joan and Tim Reinhard.

African thoughts noted:
The heat is the same as Bujumbura.
People still want to talk to you and pretend they know you even though they dont. [Hence taxi drivers saying they had come for me, when in fact they were lying and hadn't...C'est la vie.].
The joyful and not so joyful smells...oh exhaust fumes how I've missed you...
Coke in a glass bottle is a beautiful thing no matter the location...

Classic first day moment and I quote...
Joan: "Tim already has a trip planned for you."
Tim: "Yeah we leave tomorrow morning at 3:30am and will head up through the mountains...We should hopefully make it back sometime late in the night...
Lord Willing." Unquote.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Change to Make.

There are some things that change you forever. Once you go through it, there's no going back. Once you've seen something, there's no erasing it from your mind. That's what Burundi has become for me. It is the underlying theme for all things cultural. It's become this huge revelation to me in my Social Work classes here at Columbia. When we talk about social issues, people, diversity, poverty etc. I think about my time in Burundi. How could I not?

There is no going back, there is no re-doing it, but there is a sense of re-living it. Moment by moment in my mind as I think back to all of the things that I saw. All the things I experienced. All of the things that I cant solve. All the things I would want to solve if I could snap my fingers and make Burundi a better place...

The best question I was asked when I returned to the States was, "If you were to invest in one Development area what would it be and why." My answer without hesitation is Education.

Education could help with so many other concerns: AIDS, Clean Water, Disease, Agricultural terracing, Infrastructure, Gender roles, Domestic violence, violence, war, genocide etc. I could go on...

So here's a question for you. Think of a Country that tugs on your heart. Maybe it's Burundi, Kenya, Guatemala, Croatia or China. What Development issue would be your top choice to solve for that country/region and why? It's a big question.

Which leads to an even bigger question--once you've chosen said life changing issue, how would you implement that change? Easier said than done, but possible right?