Our Last International Stop – Haiti

Our Last International Stop – Haiti

Jul 11

Hey guys!

So, we left Panama for Port-Au-Prince, Haiti! Arriving in Haiti was really intense from the minute we stepped out of the airport.  It was super hot and there were ten guys immediately trying to grab our bags and help us for a tip.  Luckily our friend, Pastor Olrich was there to meet us.

On the drive home to his house, we really saw the damage of the earthquake:  people living in huge tent cities, buildings too dangerous to live in, and the Royal Palace in ruins.  While we stayed with Pastor Olrich we visited several schools.  We hung out with the kids and my dad taught an acting workshop.

After a couple of days, we headed to Jacmel on the opposite coast to work at The Jean Baptiste Dessaix Music School.  While we were there, we filmed a parade that the school band led, and worked with other volunteers from Boston.

I also had the opportunity of playing alto saxophone at the school.  It was really an honor to work with Gessait Pierre… a great teacher and also to hang out with such great musicians at the school.

On our day off, we went to Basin Bleu, a beautiful pool of water, 75 feet deep, that’s bright baby blue with a huge waterfall that you can jump off of. My dad also taught an acting class at a local theater called The Spare Change Theater Company.    We really enjoyed working with all the actors.  It was a lot of fun.

 

 

 

 

We had a great time in Jacmel, but after two weeks it was time to go to the Foyer Maurice Sixto School back in Port-Au-Prince.  The school was started by Father Miguel, a catholic priest.  It was created for kids in domestic servitude.  The school offers these kids classes in music, acting, dance and soccer. My dad did an acting workshop for both the students, and also a class for the teachers.  We were able to see performances, a band concert, a soccer game and were even able to visit a few different schools that they work with.

We will definitely be going back to Foyer Maurice Sixto.  We left for the airport after another painful good-bye and boarded the plane to Florida.

 

 

We spent a few days in Ft. Lauderdale to recover.  Now we are in Mississippi staying with family.  All of our family flew in to have a reunion.  It’s been really cool.

 

We begin working with two organizations here in Mississippi this week. More to come…

From Cusco to Lima with a Journey to Machu Picchu!!!

From Cusco to Lima with a Journey to Machu Picchu!!!

Jun 11

Hey guys! So we’ve spent the last three weeks at Casa De Milagros in La May, Peru.   Casa De Milagro is a home that was started by Mama Kia, a woman from the U.S. who came to Peru to save orphans from the streets of Cusco.  There are 25 kids living there now and it’s run by one of the first kids that came to the Casa, Michael.

The Casa is a big, historic house in the middle of The Sacred Valley with a view of the river in the front and a beautiful cliff with a waterfall in the back.  It’s a half hour walk into the nearest town and about the same by car to the school that the kids go to.

The youngest one there, a little girl named Soledad is five and the oldest, Michael is twenty.  There are twenty five kids, two dogs, and a cat living at the Casa.  While we were staying there we got to do lots of stuff with the kids:  play games, watch movies, break two piñatas, go to the local pool and go on hikes.

 

 

 

 

One day while the kids were away at school my dad and I hiked up to the Inca ruins at the top of the mountain behind the Casa.  On the way up, we had to hike through bushes, and then climb up a steep path to the top.  The elevation is extremely high in this part of Peru, and breathing in really tough.  The hike took us seven hours.  We saw the Inca ruins, a sort of mini Machu Picchu.  Then we headed back down to the Casa.

Our stay at the Casa was nothing short of amazing and I’m going to miss the kids there so much!

 

 

 

 

We took a train and a bus further into the Valley and actually visited Machu Picchu.  We spent the day there walking around in amazement.  It’s so beautiful and it’s shocking that the Incas were able to build this city without modern tools.  They had to move gigantic boulders, create sundials, and a very advanced water system.

It was all so amazing, until the last ten minutes of our visit, when I fell right off some very step stairs right onto a big chunk of Inca stone.  The Incas weren’t big on handrails.  I luckily didn’t get too hurt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards, we returned to the Casa and spent one last night before saying good-bye.   We spent a couple of days in Cusco, where we saw a beautiful show of traditional Peruvian dance with Mama Jenny from the Casa.  We also went to see the Cusco Planetarium where we saw close up views of the Southern Cross and Saturn!

Then we flew to Lima where we enjoyed being at sea level and saw this very cool city.  We got a 2am flight through Columbia to Panama City.  Now we are staying outside the city for a couple of days to check out the Panama Canal and prepare for Haiti.  I’m sad that our year is almost over but I’m really glad to be on the way home.  I write again soon.

Jackson

Antarctica and South America!

Antarctica and South America!

May 06

Hey Guys.  Since my last blog, we have flown to Ushuaia, the southern most city in the world. It was so great to step off the plane into cool air after a month in the outback of Australia.  While we were in Ushuaia, we arranged for our trip to Antarctica… the last boat of the season.

Because our boat didn’t leave for two weeks, we decided to head up to Buenos Aires to work with L.I.F.E., a organization that works with kids in the disadvantaged suburbs of Buenos Aires. We helped out with birthday parties, after school programs and did activities with kids in the homeless shelter.  The kids were really fun to work with.

I made a great friend of one of the boys, Brian, who adopted me as his big brother.  He was a really special kid.  It was really hard to leave.

Before we left, my dad found out his friend was in Buenos Aires who was on tour with Roger Water’s The Wall and we got invited to the show in a huge Futbol Stadium. We had 18th row center seats and got to go backstage before, during intermission and after the show.

We got to hang out with the band and actually go onstage right before the show in front of 60,000 people. It was awesome.

After saying good-bye, we flew back down to Ushuaia to get on our ship headed for the end of the world.  The trip was so amazing.  The first few days we crossed the Drake Passage and then made our first landing on an island.  On the fourth day, we stepped foot for the first time on mainland Antarctica.

Everything in Antarctica is so beautiful…  The snow covered rugged mountains, the gigantic white and blue icebergs, and the wildlife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We saw so many cool animals: leopard seals, fur seals, sea lions, whales, and all kinds of penguins.  I even join a group of people to swim in the ocean.  It was freezing, but now I can say I swam in the Antarctic. It was a remarkable experience.

The trip back through the Drake Passage was not so great. We hit a huge storm and most everyone, including me were sick as dogs.  The waves were so huge that they were crashing over the deck of the boat.   Overall, it will be an experience I will never forget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we got back, we had the opportunity of donating two bicycles to kids in need in Ushuaia.  That was really cool. Then we flew to Buenos Aires, saw an incredible music show in one of the oldest theaters in Buenos Aires and then got on two buses at midnight, overnight to arrive at The Refugio de Monos in La Cumbre to work with Howler Monkeys.

Working at The Refugio de Monos has been one of the highlights of my trip around the world.  We worked hard. Up early, picking leaves for the monkeys, hiking deep into the forest to feed them, observing the howler monkey groups, feeding llamas and pumas, and playing with the baby monkeys.  We also took care of dogs, cats, geese, wild horse and donkeys.  They were long days but ever minute was truly amazing.

 

We got to spend a lot of time with the director of the project, Alejandra Juarez who is a very cool lady.  She has been working rescuing and rehabilitating animals for many years.  I also hung out with her daughters, Mayu and Malen, who were both super cool.

 

 

 

We have just left the Refugio after spending three weeks there.  We are sad because it really felt like we were a family, working with the animals and spending time together.   Now we have just come from the salt flats in Uyuni, Bolivia which was really beautiful and tomorrow we head to Lake Titicaca (yes, it’s a real lake) and then on to Cusco, Peru to begin working with Casa de Milagro, an orphanage just outside of Cusco.

More to follow.

From One Land Down Under To Another!

From One Land Down Under To Another!

Mar 13

Hey Guys! When we got to Sydney I knew it would be hard to leave.  When we arrived we met with The Royal Flying Doctors Service in their main office in Sydney.

The Royal Flying Doctors Service is an amazing organization that rescues people in remote areas of Australia in medical emergencies.  They also do regular clinics in towns in the outback.  The really great thing about their work is that it’s completely free for their patients and nobody in Australia is more than two hours away from help.

The first couple of days we helped out around the office, putting together letters for donors and things like that.  The RFDS also arranged for a pilot to take us up to fly around the Sydney Opera House and up the coast, which was so beautiful.

After a couple of days, we got on the Indian Pacific train from Sydney to Broken Hill, the home to the RFDS base.  On the train we raised money for the Flying Doctors, carrying baggage and handing out information about what the Flying Doctors actually do.

We arrived in Broken Hill to the heat of the outback and went straight to the base to work.  We were welcomed at the front desk by Alex and Reta who were in charge of keeping us busy in Broken Hill.  We spent our first day getting a tour of the base and setting up our schedule.

The next few days we helped out wherever it was needed.  We helped a nurse get ready for a clinic flight, cleaned up the viewing deck of the hangar, cooked lunch one day and we spent two days cleaning out a storage room, so we could move files over from the old storage building.

We had a tour of the inside of one of the planes, which is just like a doctor’s office with wings.

One day, Reta’s husband, Ron, brought us out to a sheep station two hours outside Broken Hill, which was really cool.  We saw lots of Australian wildlife too.  Lizards, emus (kind of like ostriches) and kangaroos.

 

One day we visited School of  The Air.  It’s a remote learning school set up for kids in the outback.  They have a main office in Broken Hill where the teachers do their lessons on camera over the internet and the kids watch in their homes and follow along.  It’s pretty cool that they are able to do their school work from a computer in their homes in the most remote areas of Australia.

We also drove to a town called White Cliffs were we stayed in an underground motel.  It was so cool!  The place was literally dug inside the side of a hill.  Nearly all the houses in White Cliffs are like that because it is so hot above ground!  While we were there, we met a family who had an opal mine and they took us down for a tour.

We got down inside the mine by using a small elevator, one at a time.  The mine was just amazing.  There were tunnels everywhere, with bits of opal here and there in the wall, and everything had such a fresh, earthy smell.  Buck and I even got to mine a bit.

Another day, my dad went with some doctors on a clinic flight, and Buck and I got to stay in Broken Hill and attend the local schools.  I had a great time at the High School there, and I made a lot of friends.  We flew out of Broken Hill, wishing we had more time there.   Then back to Sydney.  We got to try another simulator, this one for a Boeing 747 that someone had set up in their house.   It was incredible.

After that we packed up our bags and got ready for a real plane…. for 14 hours to Dubai.

Dubai was a quick layover for 48 hours and was really fun.  It’s an interesting city.  It’s like an oasis city in the middle of the desert.  We visited the beach, and even got to go up the tallest building in the world.  We went up at sunset and the view was brilliant.

Now we are in Ushuaia, the southernmost tip of South America and it’s also the southern most city on the earth!  More to come……  Jackson.

Kenya is Awesome!

Kenya is Awesome!

Jan 28

Our plane touched down on the tarmac of the Dar Es Salaam airport right at noon, after the impossibly hard good-byes with our new family at Creative Solutions in Tanzania.  We took a car from the airport to the beautiful beach town of Bagamoyo, home to fisherman, artists, and the ruins of 13th century mosques.  We celebrated the holidays walking the small alleyways and markets that make up the town, the heat beating down on us, the smell of the ocean everywhere, and an overwhelming sense of sound:  cars, chickens, vendors, and the music blasting from all the shops.   I met an artist in Bagamoyo who did wood sculpting.  He gave me some lessons.  It was really cool.

After the holidays, and a cancelled flight that kept us at the airport for a full day, we made our way to Nairobi.  While there, we visited a boarding school for kids with HIV/Aids.  It’s run by Sister Mary who is a very cool woman.   After our tour, she sent us to a clinic in the Kibera slums.   There, the nurses invited us to go with them to check on some of the kids they help in the slums.

We agreed to go, not knowing how much of a shock we were in for.  The brick and tin huts were barely big enough for a family of 2, but somehow they make room for 7 or more to sleep at night.  The children, some who have malnutrition and are sick, run around through streams of sewage with barely any clothes on, the smell from the communal bathrooms not seeming to bother them.  The sun turns the tin roofed huts into ovens, and when it rains, water leaks in through holes in the metal sheets.

The slums are absolutely devastating and make up a large part of Nairobi.  The sight is sensory overload by itself, which only increases when you look up and see that it goes on for miles and miles.  Leaving Kibera in our rear-view mirror, we drove to Kisii in western Kenya with Don Howard of Rotary International and the founder of SCOPE (School Communities Offering Project that Empower)_.

We celebrated New Year’s Eve with a movie and sleep, after a day of checking out projects a SCOPE school had created.  The next day, we attended the first day of a three-day seminar run by my dad, for students from different schools around the area.  The seminar was to prepare these schools for a national theater arts competition.

The students arrived, quite withdrawn, and seemingly unable to look at anything besides the floor.  They were wearing sweaters that had holes in more places than not, and old shoes that were the wrong size.  Later we were told that some of the students had to borrow the oversized clothes for the honor of spending a couple of days at the seminar and to stay at the tiny hotel that SCOPE supplied for them.

Their shyness was slowly remedied by my dad’s crazy, loud acting games, and by writing and performing new plays and poems for the rest of the day.  The laughter was a welcome sound after them being so shy and quiet to begin with.  Everyone enjoyed the material they came up with over the three-day workshop.  They loved the performances at the end of the last day.  The kids had so much fun and you could see in their faces, and hear in their voices, how much braver they had become, compared to the first day.

The next week we spent visiting some of the schools the kids had come from. We met with the teachers and got a tour of their schools.

At each of the schools, the staff and students greeted us with songs and dances.  The visits usually started with a gathering in front of the school where the groups from Kisii performed their plays for the other students.  The performers stood out from the rest of the crowd because they weren’t afraid to be bold anymore.  After the applause quieted down, Don gave each school 5 soccer balls to replace the bottles and strings the students normally play with.  While the kids played with their new soccer balls, we joined Don as he met with the teachers and staff to make plans for the school; getting new books, planting gardens, new water harvesting systems, and new bathrooms.  When the meetings were over, we ran around with the kids in the sun, with everybody laughing and just having fun.

At one Masai school, the elders gave my dad, brother and I Masai robes called Shukas and presented us with our new Masai names.  Mine is “Olandoo” meaning tall.  Then more painful good-byes…

We spent three days on a safari with our friend Bo and Ed, who came to visit us from Charlotte. We went on a wild game drive. It was amazing.   We stayed in cool tents and drove through the Masai Mara seeing all kinds of animals:  Lions, hippos, gazelles, giraffes, jackals,

hyenas, wildebeests, elephants… etc.

Currently we are in South Africa and soon we will head to Australia to work with The Royal Flying Doctors.   They are a company that brings medical supplies and medical attention to people in the far reaches of Australia.

We were going to visit orphanages for children with HIV here in Cape Town but, both my dad and brother have horrible colds, so I think we are going to use our few days in Cape Town as down time.  We visited The Cape of Good Hope and saw tons of baboons. 

More to come…  Jackson

 

 

From Rwanda to Zanzibar!!!

From Rwanda to Zanzibar!!!

Dec 11

Hey guys!   We have just arrived on Zanzibar in Tanzania, but wanted to report a bit more on our journey in Rwanda as internet was scarce in our last few weeks.   Since my last blog we were in Musanze, Rwanda working at a primary school called, Mwiko.   It has no running water and limited electricity.

We stayed with our friends Francis, a teacher at Mwiko and her husband, Danny.  Mwiko is a school for kids in Grades 1-6 in the mountains about an hour outside of Musanze.   It sits up on a hill between two lakes and the drive there through the village is beautiful.  The kids were really great to work with.  We did an acting class and everyone had a great time.  We did lots of improv and games from my dad’s acting class back home.  We filmed alot of it and my dad put together a little movie with video of the kids talking, playing music and also a clip of Francis talking about the needs of the school.  We showed the students the film the last day we were there and they really loved it.  We really miss Mwiko.  It really is an incredibly special place.  The kids were so energetic and fun and everyone’s smiles just lit up the whole place.

After Musanze, we spent a few days in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city.  We went to the Genocide Memorial Museum which was really intense.  Nearly a million people were murdered during the genocide in Rwanda.  Really sad.  We also were invited to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda and got to meet his Excellency, U.S. Ambassador Koran.   He was such a great guy.  He told us some interesting stories of his work and travels.

 

While we were in Kigali we also did a 2 day acting workshop for kids with HIV.  It’s an organization called WeACTx.  The kids were very cool.  We danced, sang, and even played frisbee.  This is a picture of me trying to get the frisbee off the roof.  :)

We really miss Rwanda… it is a beautiful country.  But now we are on Zanzibar which is beautiful as well.  It’s an island off the mainland of Tanzania in east Africa.  The beaches are beautiful and the weather is warm.   We are working at a little art school in the village of Mangapwani.   It’s awesome.  More on our visit here to follow!   Jackson

In Rwanda!

In Rwanda!

Nov 18

Hey Guys! We’re at The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village outside of Kigali, Rwanda.

This is our second week here and we are having a great time!  It’s so beautiful here.  

 

It’s called, “The Thousand Hills of Rwanda” and now I know why. When we flew into Kigali, it was already dark so we didn’t get to see anything but when we woke up and went outside.  It was amazing.

Agahozo-Shalom is located in the middle of these beautiful green hills and there’s a huge lake near by.  Everything is so clean here.  And the air is so clean and fresh.   This school was built for kids that were orphaned from the genocide.  Nearly a million people were murder in the Rwandan genocide and many children were left without families.

We have written a play with the students.  There is actually no school for the performing arts in Rwanda, so the subject of our play is about the 1st High School of Performing Arts.  It’s sort of FAME meets Glee.   The school has three departments: theater, dancing, and music and they are getting ready for a huge international competition.   Everyone was a bit shy at first, but now they are all really excited about it.  We have put in all the traditional dance and music of Rwanda.  Watching them dance and sing is amazing.  It’s so cool to experience their culture through their music, dance and spoken word.  The kids here also really like modern music, so we’ve been mixing hip-hop which sounds really cool.

We had a great time in the rehearsal process and we performed the show last night. It was really amazing.  It blew all of our minds. They were fantastic and they all had the best time. What a great experience to watch the show start as just ideas and end up being a full show.  Wow!

The school is down the road from a little village called Rubona.  We walk down there and it’s really cool.  Kids who live in the area always follow us and laugh and smile at Buck.  We also visited the weekly market the other day where they sell clothes, vegetables, fruit, and food.  We ate Samosa there and they were delicious.   Here they mostly stick to a diet of potatoes, bananas, rice and beans.  They cook the bananas so they almost taste like potatoes.  We also have fresh grown pineapples here from the farm… so good!

Our time is coming to an end, because we are working at another school in Northern Rwanda for 10 days that has no running water or electricity. Should be a cool adventure.  I’ll keep you posted…   Jackson

The Nile, The Museum, and The Pyramids!!!

The Nile, The Museum, and The Pyramids!!!

Nov 03

Hi!  We’re at The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda.  After I wrote my last blog when we were in Cairo, we went to the Egyptian Museum.  It was so cool!  We got a guide and he told us about all kinds of artifacts, tombs, and we even saw some mummified pharaohs.   It was really interesting to hear about all these things from thousands of years ago.  We also went to the square where there were shootings during the conflict a couple of weeks ago.  That was kind of spooky.  Also saw The Nile.   Was amazing to think of the history of the Nile and we were right there…

After that we went to the Pyramids of Giza for Buck’s birthday.  It was so amazing!!!  The pyramids are so huge and impressive.  We got to go inside two of them to see the tombs.  The Sphinx is there too, right in front of one of the pyramids. We had a really great time.  I just wish I could’ve seen them back when they were built. 

We filmed some stuff there  for the website which should be up shortly.  The next day we saw some of the first pyramids ever built on our way to the airport. 

We flew all night and through the next day and now we are here!  Some of the kids arrived back from vacation yesterday and we are doing a workshop with them and writing a one-act play that we will perform before we leave later in the month.  Very exciting.   I have to go… I’m off to our first rehearsal with the students of Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village.  More to follow…