Monday, October 31, 2011

The un-hollywood side of LA

Barry and I have been in LA since wednesday last week and we have had the pleasure of staying with our very special friends Bob and Tracey their daughter Stephanie, Sarah O and Sarah D.

We LOVE our LA friends and we wanted to spend some genuine catch up time with them before heading down under. Our hosts have been gracious enough to take us around and show us many different parts of LA. We really feel like we have seen LA now and we havnt just passed through like our other trips.

We visited a few architecturally significant buildings in the city like the Disney Concert Hall and the Los Angeles Town Hall and Cathedral. All beautiful buildings built in very different styles. We walked through the occupy LA and the protests outside the Micheal Jackson's Dr's trial. My observation was that most of the occupyers seemed more interested in getting stoned then sending a message but anyway.

The beautiful Walt Disney Concert Hall

We have had many highlights but my favorite things we have done have all involved the wonderful work being done in and around LA. I want to tell you about a few of the organisations we had the pleasure of meeting with and touring their facilities.

Sarah D started and has been running a program called Kids Hope in a Elementary school in Eagle Rock for the past 5 years. Kids Hope provides mentors for 62 kids from Kindergarten through to 6th grade. They meet with their mentor once a week either during lunch or after school for one hour. The mentors are paired with kids after the children have been referred to the program. Sarah O has been a mentoring Megan for the past 5 years and they have a very strong bond and trusted relationship.

Sarah and Megan

It was a really wonderful privilege to watch the classroom full of mentors and students doing homework, practising maths playing games and reading books. Each of the students has a special story, some of the children have lost parents, have no english speakers at home, troubled homes etc most are having trouble in class and the teachers depend on the mentors to help them reach the children and help them along the way. One of the little boys is actually in the gifted program but was referred to the program as he only has female influences at home and needed the imput and mentoring of a man. Sarah's program reminded me of the quote "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." Frederick Douglass

 Barry and I had heard about the Dream Center many years ago and Tracy and Bob took us to tour the facility. The Dream Center, is a volunteer driven organization that finds and fills the needs of individuals and families they currently serve over 40,000 people each month. The building is an old hospital that they have renovated floor by floor adding to there programs and services as they go.

Services and programs offered include residential rehabilitation programs for teens and adults, a transitional shelter for homeless families, mobile hunger relief and medical programs, and a foster care intervention outreach. Educational development programs and job skills training for homeless families and individuals. I was surprised at my over whelming emotions when we where told of a new program they had recently implemented. They have established a shelter and rehabiliation centre for victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking is something we have recently seen in Haiti and it was really overwhelming to see a program to help turn around the life of trafiked women bought to the united states.
Dream Centre LA

Today we visited Home Boy industries. Home boy industries was started by Farther Gregory Boyle in down town LA. Father Greg had seen the terrible outcomes of gang violence. His philosophy was simple 'jobs not jail' There organization runs a two year program for ex gang members wanting a break. They offer gang tattoo removal, legal services, job placement, training and much more. They run a homeboy bakery and a home girl cafe. We ate brunch in the cafe today and then we toured the facility.  I was impressed, actually really impressed.

Meeting these men and women in another setting may be a scary encounter but you can truly see the difference father Gregs program is having. Last year becasue of the economy a number of workers had to be laid off as they simply didnt have enough money to pay them. The next day the laid off workers arrived at homeboy industries headquarters to work for free, becasue they simply have no other options and they are so committed to taking hold of the opportunity they have been given.

So if you are looking for a great place for a meeting or a nice breakfast or lunch venue then I recomend the home girl cafe its beautiful they grow some of there own vegetables and herbs, they have free parking and best of all you are helping to provide second chances or in some cases a genuine first chance.

Home Girl Cafe

So Halloween is not one of my favourite american traditions and I do hope that it doesnt get We also got to do some pumpkin carving but we made sure we stayed true to our aussie roots.

Just getting started

Pumpkin decapitation

We love Australia can you tell?

We have had a really great time in LA and we cant thank our fantastic hosts enough. Thank-you for lavishly loving us.

Get ready Brisbane here we come.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Most Excellent Joanna

Sad day in Haiti today.

Joanna Howard and one of the brand new bubs she has delivered.

Tomorrow Joanna leaves Haiti to begin her next adventure. For those that dont know Joanna she is an extraordinary midwife that has been part of Heartline for just over 2 years and has been with the Heartline family through the earthquake and beyond.

Joanna has been the chief architect of the Heartline Birth Centre and her hand prints are on the whole program. We have a saying in Australia when something is slapped together we say its "half arsed" and so many things here are just that band aids to very complex and not so complex problems.

But those words would never be used to describe Joanna and the way she goes about everything she does. At her going away party tonight Beth described Joanna this way. "She has set the bar really high for us and everything she does she does with Excellence" Thats definetly true of everything I have seen about Joanna and the Heartline Birth Centre.

When we first moved to Haiti I could not believe that God would hook us into a ministry with a birth center. I remember distinctly thinking "are you serious Lord what are you doing, you have to be joking" After our son Isaac died due to poor care and attention in a birth centre in the first world the last thing I wanted anything to do with was a birth center in the 3rd world. Seriously what are the chances in a country with some of the poorest maternal health statistics in the world. The majority of Haitian women have no access to a doctor or a midwife and give birth all too often on the floor in their tent or in a overstretched clinic with a bucket below them to catch the baby as there are not enough staff.

But as usual God knows what he's doing. Getting to witness what these midwives (or weird wives as they are lovingly refered to around here) do each day and the lives they touch is extraudinary. I have seen them save many many women and babies from certain death when they have expertly diagnosed serious complications and transported them to a hospital and paid for a ceasarian. A procedure that would not have otherwise been available to them.

The Heartline Maternity Center is not just a birthing centre its a learning centre and most of all its a relationship centre. Each clinic day there are chubby health babies everywhere because of the love and care pourded out on these women by Joanna and the team. Its no surprise that the women in the program rarely miss a day. They trudge miles and miles through rotten trash river when it flows, mud, rain and yet they still come. Because what Heartline provides is so different to the level of care they receive in any other part of their lives Heartline provides a maternity service of excelence and that is in no small way a reflection of the way Joanna has set the program up.

Joanne is one of the few people I can honestly say is doing what they where created to do. I have never seen someone love, I mean LOVE their job the way she does. She is most happiest sitting at the end of the birthing bed (her Dad Rick built) looking up a girls 'who who' waiting for the baby to pop out. For two years she has loved on these ladies and ensured every baby had the best chance of making it.

Thank-you Joanna I have certainly been blessed by your friendship and will miss you greatly. Thank-you for creating such a solid base for the maternity center to blossom from.

Thank-you for doing what you do best and for your friendship.

Many blessings for your next adventure.

You will be missed.

A Heartline Mum and her baby

As a tribute to Joanna could you please take a moment and clink on this link and vote for Heartline. they are in the running to win a $50,000 grant to be used for the maternity centre.


The Heartline Maternity Program provides Pre-natel care to all of the expectant mums in the program, Birthing facilities, Post Natal care for all the mums and their chubby bubs and also much needed family planning clinic for anyone that wants to come. The ladies take classes in anything from breastfeeding to STD's and everything in between. It truly is a remarkable place of excellence and love.

Thank-you for voting.

A recent addition to the Heartline Baby club