Friday, December 23, 2005

Hello Everyone,

When I left the internet cafe last week, I turned the corner on 12th Street and nearly walked into a riot (manifestation). It had gathered in front of Comcel (the phone company). Because the new owners are changing over one of the exchanges (431, the one we use), those who recently purchased phones are up in arms. Each day, 500-1000 people are packed in the street for 2 blocks in front of Comcel's small shop. Rocks are thrown, cars are overturned and people are beaten. I am going to wait out this mess and quietly purchase a new phone in the new year. Apparently ours will not work after March 31.

One of our girls on the waiting list for school died yesterday. Flaudna Joseph was 15. Her mom and dad are both dead. Her older brother, Williamson, is one of the students we sponsor. He has been trying to keep the rest of his family together, and we have been feeding them all, but it wasn't enough. He needed $1200 Haitian dollars (about $170 US) to pay for the funeral. Unfortunately, I only had $350 Haitian (about $50 US) at the house. I will send the rest in January.

If you remember, Benjamin Cadeau died last July in the same situation. I am going to put together something more substantial for these two families of orphans, but it is difficult to do 'long distance' -- I am still unable to travel to San Rafayel for safety reasons.

There are so many young people knocking on our door each day asking for support to attend school that I am going to hire Abel Auguste to work in the office with me. He is the young man who came last spring asking for help to attend Philo (school). We were unable to send him there, but we did sponsor him to Auto École. As he has now completed his certificate, we now have a chauffeur, although no truck or car.

Two of our cats have disappeared: Lucy, our fierce mother cat, and Charlie Brown, our big cuddly father cat.

Last week, when we had the first hydro since I have been here this month, I made my way into town via taptap to purchase an iron I had seen in a little store. When I arrived home, the hydro had gone out again, but it was back on two hours later. Jack and Dieugrand came in from the yard, Carmen stopped work, and Rosenie, Micheline and Marlene came in from the gallery to watch me iron (pase). Only Rosenie wanted to try it -- the others were afraid of the steam. I now feel quite unrumpled, although I had to iron at 2 a.m. yesterday when we had hydro for an hour.

I am by myself until Tuesday (December 27). It's the Christmas holiday for our staff.

Wishing everyone joy and peace.



Friday, December 16, 2005

Hello all

I arrived on Saturday, December 3, and began to clean, as the house has been vacant for several months. One of our kids, Dieugrand, showed up about 10 minutes later. He's so thin. He had been ill, and of course, not eating.

The house was overrun with mice. Jack arrived shortly after and began to clean kitchen drawers. A mouse ran up his arm, and then up the stairs. Upon closer scrutiny, we found a nest with three baby mice (ti sourit), and we dispatched them and their parents to the jungle behind the house.

All the kids are writing exams (yo kompoze), so we have turned Lakay Fondasyon compound into a study centre. There are kids on the roof, on the gallery, on the lawn. We almost have grass. It is patchy but coming along. Everybody takes a 15 minute break and eats a meal.

We have introduced the concept of physical exercise and have already distributed several large sack of rice, and one of beans, and three gallons of oil.

It is the rainy season, so we expect lots of mold and mildew, and we have it.

Thanks very much for sending along the emails from friends in Canada. I will try to respond but on this computer, it takes half an hour to get into my email account.

My time here at the internet cafe is almost up. I will try again when I get the chance. The hydro has been off since Monday morning, and even when the battery has a charge, there's been no phone service.



Monday, September 12, 2005

(by cell phone)

Hello everyone,

The hydro and phone service continue to be sporadic and virtually non-existant, so it is hard to keep in touch.

This is a very busy time as we are trying to get all the kids ready for, and enrolled in, school.

Last week the Haitian government announced it will be subsidizing the cost of textbooks, which is good news. Also, the principal at one of the schools has agreed to lower the tuition costs for our students, and I have been in contact with a group here that ships containers from Canada.

I will be able to explain more when I return to Canada in two weeks. See you then!

Kenbe, Sharon

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Hello! The students and Pat [Materiuk] have come, and gone -- they should all be home in Ontario today. We've had no hydro or phone most of the time they have been here [since August 3]. When the hydro would come on, we'd put the phone on to charge, then by the time it was charged, the phones would be out. And so it went. There was no internet either.

It was great to have Pat here, to 'job shadow' and see what we need to do here. I think she has a good understanding of just what is entailed now.

There have been manifestations (demonstrations) for the past two days, and a general strike, so no taxis etc. We've stayed in the compound, but got out yesterday to make it to the airport so they could catch there flight home. The manfestations continue, so I will stay in for two more days before going out.

The way it's been going this summer with the manifestations and the hydro, I may not be able to contact you again for quite a while. Don't worry, I just wanted to let you know I was all right.

Kenbe, Sharon (by phone)

Friday, July 22, 2005

There's still no hydro, no phone, though we had hydro for about 2 hours on Monday night, but only 2 rooms had current. Boss Electrisyon has been by several times but cannot ascertain problem without [working] hydro. Ditto the other Boss Electrisyon who services refrigerators. It appears that ours has 'died'. Without hydro, it is a very nice icebox. The temperature reached 140F yesterday, and the large blocks of ice we buy on the street last about 4 hours.

We have 15 students working at the house -- about 10 are digging a new garbage pit in the garden area and cleaning the security wall in preparation for whitewashing. The others are working on the gallery with textbooks. They have finished cleaning, repairing and covering the books, which are now ready to add to the backpacks that Pat, Amy and Marisa are bringing with them when they come in August. Then we can sort texts according to grade level and school. While that is going on, two others will scour the market every day with a list of the books we still need.

I have been able to purchase rice and beans in large sacks and I am distributing small sacks of each on Fridays, along with magi (spice) and a little oil. I travelled to Diegrand's house on Tueday to see it. He borrowed the money for rent and is working it off. He's so proud of the one room dirt fllo he shares with his sister.

Boss Plombier repaired our reservoir yesterday and we are able to pump water again. Boss Mason has almost finished the increased security wall. We are going to build a small patio in the corner of the garden when he is finished. (We need a way to use all the rocks the neighbours have tossed into our yard over the years.) It will be magnificent.

Many come knocking on portail daily asking for help to complete high school, each bringing the necessary supporting documents. We don't need to go looking for kids -- they are finding us. We could easily compile a list of 500.

Time is up - kenbe - Sharon

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hello everyone,

Today is the first working internet service since I arrived. There's still no phone or hydro. Gas costs $30/gallon now, and once again, the price of material for uniforms and for food are higher, with very limited quantities available.

A very sad day today, as we have just buried Djempson Cadeau, 7. His brother Kesner, 16, is one of the students we sponsor. Kesner is the head of this family of four. The mom and dad are both dead. Kesner is filled with guilt that he did something wrong as he could not keep his brother alive.

This family's situation underscores our mission to support students in school and at home, as well as pay for medical and dental when needed. It is not possible to pay for only for schooling, since if the other factors are ignored, these young people will be most likely be repeating every year. It is simply not possible to learn or attend regularly when you are hungry, sick or frightened.

Since robberies are on the rise, apparently, M. Brutus has installed a back door in the kitchen at Lakay Fondasyon, and he is in the process of increasing the height of our security wall which he will top with barbed wire. Another 'Boss' is coming to fix the roof which has been leaking. In addition, one of our reservoirs on the roof is leaking, and so I have been spending a lot of time hiring appropriate help, and purchasing and transporting supplies, as well as doing the actual work.

Local travel is very difficult as tap taps won't stop for 'blan -yo (foreigners) any more, and taxis are asking double the agreed upon fare when you go to pay. The people's anger and frustration seem to have reached the boiling point and with no other outlet for venting, we bear the brunt. Haiti seems to be a country holding its breath.

Kenbe, Sharon

Thursday, July 7, 2005

I arrived in Cap-Haitien on July 1, and I am busy getting the house organized for visitors in early August, when Pat Materiuk will coming down here with Amy and Melissa, both university students from Ontario on a poverty awarness/familiarization trip. They plan to be here for several weeks, and I will ask them to email reports to you all with their impressions and views on what they learn here.

Haitian young people continue to come to Lakay Fondasyon, on the average, about one new visitor every half hour. They seem to be aware of Starthrower's mandate to help high school age students with tuition, as all of them fall into that category. However, with limited funds available to pay for the students we currently assist, we simply do not have funds to help any others. All I can do is listen to their stories, and occasionally add a name to the waiting list, which is now at 20 students.

M. Claude Boucher, Canada's ambassador to Haiti, (Canada's Embassy in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti) hosted a reception here in Cap-Haitien for Canadians who are working here with NGOs (non-government organizations) and charities. It was very interesting to meet him for a brief chat before he was called away.

Until next time,


Sunday, April 24, 2005

April 24, 2005 Cap-Haitien

Hello! This is the first internet service in about two weeks, and yesterday was the first day in two weeks without rain. And because of the rain, the cardman was unable to work, as nothing dries, and the artists' market was closed as each stall leaks like a sieve.

The U.N. troops are still much in sight, heavily armed and patrolling the whole city. The Hospital Justinian is now entering the second week of a greve general (strike). They have the same problem with the national schools -- the teachers have not been paid by the government for months and so no one is teaching. We have about 10 students in the Lycee.

We have six kids showing up each day to eat. Keep in mind many of our kids have to travel on two tap taps to get to our place then on two to get back home. That is four dollars they do not have. Also there have been several large blokis (roadblocks) each day due to the mud washing out what remains of the road surfaces. This means a lot of time is spent sitting in a tap tap. It takes them about three hours to travel, eat, then get back home to change for school.

Our response to the feeding crisis in Sen Rafayel is going well. Mme Joseph is cooking each day and Gastel is working and therefore receiving a salary so that he can feed HIS family. In Canada, Pat Materiuk is busy preparing Amy and Marisa for their trip to Haiti when they come back with me on July 1. The kids here are very excited about meeting (Canadian) kids their own age and about taking them places like the market, the book sellers, up to Sen Rafayel, and maybe to Labadie.

The painting on the house continues, and we are building shelves, rearranging beds, washing curtains and hanging moustikes (mosquito nets). It's crucial we have the nets right now as this is 'M&M time' -- Mud and Mosquitos.

M'ap kenbe,


Monday, April 18, 2005


(by telephone)

Mud, mud and more mud -- it's been raining since Friday. Laundry that was done then is still not dry, and the satellite link for the internet cafe is still down. Many roads are giant puddles and everyone is covered in mud. You just can't avoid it. Usually it's around Christmas that we get this type of weather. It's very unusual for this time of year.

At Lakay Fondasyon, we're getting a steady stream of visitors as more people are becoming aware of Starthrower, and that we are here much more of the time now. The other morning around 7 a.m., an obviously malnourished woman came to the door. I offered her something to eat, but she refused, saying she didn't feel well. I asked her when she had last eaten and she couldn't remember. I asked if she was able to cook at home, and when she said yes, I sent some food home with her to cook later. I then asked her, "What do you need?"

She told me she wants to do commerce again, and that when she used to sell goods in the street markets, she had been able to support herself and her kids. (She must have done well -- it's not easy.) But years of carrying heavy loads on her head was hard on her neck and shoulders. I explained that we needed the money for the kids for school, and although I couldn't just give it to her, I would lend it, and she could repay us once she got going again. She signed the book, as they all do.

One of our students came by to say her father had died, and that she wanted money to go home. Then two of the mechanic apprentices came over. One of them, Jetho, said his dad had just died, but I explained we had no money to pay for his funeral. So many deaths every week.

And, they said, the owner of the garage where they were apprenticing was now in hospital. It seems the car he had been working on had slipped off the jack and landed on him. With their apprenticeships, in effect, over for the year, Mirabele, the other apprentice, asked if he could instead go back to school in September.

I'll stop by the internet cafe every day and keep trying to get through. Until then, kenbe.


Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Good news -- Soeur Ginette (the nurse who has been running a clinic here for 30 + years) has agreed to take on our kids in Sen Rafayel. We have given her a list of their names and some money to cover the meds she dispenses. I will settle with her in July when I come back here and travel up to Sen Rafayel. Anything she cannot handle, she is sending to the hospital in Pignon. This is good as we no longer will have everyone having to head further up the mountain for treatment when they are ill.

As you know, many of our kids are orphans and eat intermittently. One of our moms, Mme Joseph, needed rent and food money. She has started cooking for not only her own family but also two other families of 8 children with no parents. She receives a salary which means she can pay her rent. This is a pilot project for Apr-May-June. I will assess it on July 1. We are also starting a pilot project to put kids together according to grade level and subject strengths and weaknesses, like peer tutoring in Canada.

Gastel, another of our kids in Sen Rafayel, failed all his subjects, which would put him out of the Lycee. However, Met Directeur (the principal) recognized that Gastel was "malnouri" and kept him in school, then told Elorge about this, and Elorge then told me. We have created a part time job for Gastel so that now he can eat.

The psychological effects of poverty are haunting. When I travelled to Esmann's house to see about space for the new bed, his cousin with whom he lives showed me what they wanted to build and how much they needed. The house was spotless; she obviously works very hard. She must have said a dozen times "nou pa gen possibilite" (We have no choices). It would take less than $200US to greatly improve their quality of life.

Another woman, Mme Theopyl, came with pictures and school records for all 8 of her children. The youngest is 5 and has stubborn TB. She asked for help for the oldest boy to finish high school -- just $17US. The next day, a little woman came with her 3 childen. They were all wearing black, as her husband -- their father -- was recently deceased.

Each of these three women said the same thing in their own way, that is, "I do not want to 'mande charite' (ask for charity) but when you have children, sometimes you have to do what you do not like."

Two students, Julia and Daniel, are working part time at Lakay Fondasyon every morning from 8-11. They cover text books, eat, go to school. I knew they were not eating so created more jobs. Julia came out of the "douch deyo" (outdoor shower) and I asked her if she had water at her house to wash. She said no, she has to buy it for $2 a bucket. I asked the rest of the house staff about their water at home. Carmene pays $1 a bucket to wash and she has a family of 5. It costs her $30 a month for her family to bathe. The last person gets a little dirty water. And that is when they have money.

When you are poor, you must buy water to wash, and to drink and still need money to eat and buy clothes in "pepe" (market goodwill offerings). You also must pay to send your children to school, and because there are no jobs, you must find a charity and beg.

Denis Excellent came in yesterday afternoon. His 10 year old brother, Benji, had just died and was still in the house. It sometimes seems we have more funerals than kids in school.

The 2 card men came up with their "modele-yo" (samples). M. Wilson is making some for us. I bought some regular cards from M. Ronald as he could not translate the story of the Starthrower.

Kenbe pa lage

Sharon (somewhere in beautiful, downtown Ste. Phylomene)

Saturday, April 2, 2005

Had a productive week here (relatively speaking). I found a cybercafe at our corner and it actually works well -- 3 machines but I only need one. Having trouble finding a phone card, so I may have to depend on this for a few days. The hydro came on last night for about 8 hours, so we have some ice cubes today.

The house painting continues, and Mme. Carmene has started cooking. She is amazing -- she cooks, cleans and keeps everyone in check very quietly and efficiently.

Word of mouth is an amazing tool for communication. Many are at the door daily, as word spreads that we are here for the long haul. I helped one family with 8 children who had run out of money. We paid for 3rd trimeste for their oldest -- $120 Haitian. I don't want to see anyone lose a year of high school for $17US.

On Monday, I walked home with Jocelyne to take pictures of her children, as she had asked me to. (More pictures of Haiti) Thank goodness she walks me back to the road when our visits are finished -- one could easily get lost forever! Then I travelled to Esmann's house to see if he had space for that bed he wanted for himself and his siblings. It took us 3 hours to go and return, and 4 tap taps. We got caught in a blokus (traffic jam) each way as there was a large manifestation (demonstration) for Aristide.

On Wednesday, I tried to buy the bed for Esmann. I asked a neighbor who has a taxi to help us with the transport. We went to the first magasin (store) where I was told there was a bed. No bed, but picked up the owner who then took us to 8 different magasin-yo.

In 110F degree heat, one loses patience very quickly. We ended up at the magasin where I bought the beds for the house. When we arrived, I said in frustration, "If I had $800 to pay for a bed, I would have started here." Back we went to the 2nd store where miracle of miracles they now had a bed -- except it was just a frame for $250. So we bought it. We followed our guide through the market to the vendors of matela yo (mattresses) -- everybody wanted $500-800 for one. So we went back to Lakay Fondasyon and took one from the house. Man, do we need a container to ship stuff here.

On Thursday, Mme. Jacqueline, who does the embroidery, brought M. Ronald to the house at 6:30 a.m. He is a maker of those writing cards, and after some negotiation, he returned this morning (Saturday) at 7 with samples. A second card man came yesterday and will bring back samples on Tuesday. I told him the story of the starthrower and he nodded in understanding, then sketched a regular fish and asked if that wouldn't be better than a starfish for the card.

On Friday, I travelled by tap tap with Jack and Boss to buy ceramic tiles and cement as we are replacing the disastrous countertop in the kitchen. I hate to think of the microbes we unleashed when it was removed. We hired the taptap to wait and take us home with the supplies.

As I sat yesterday afternoon and shortened (by hand) a skirt which my sister had lovingly shortened by machine before I left (it needed to be redone as the hem had been chewed by a mouse), I was listening to the sound of 2 hammers pounding hundeds of little nails into the wood countertop to retain the new ceramic tiles, and smelling the garbage fire outside, and I couldn't help but wonder, when did this become the norm? Rhetorical, of course.

Kembe pa lage! (hang in there, don't let go!)


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter, everyone! Schools were closed for Holy Week, so the principal came from St. Raphael to bring me the list of students needing sponsoring for next year. Most of them are teenagers.

Every day, someone comes to the house asking for money to pay for a funeral, or to get someone out of jail who is there because they had no money to pay for a funeral. Every day, a couple of kids come in asking for sponsoring. I had to tell them that I didn't know how much money we would have, and I started taking a waiting list. But there were so many, I am now asking them to come back in the summer when we know how much money we have, and know how many we can sponsor.

We did more painting at the house this week -- a communal work group. It will take a long time, but we will get it done. There was some type of stomach bug going around this week -- everyone seemed to have it -- so I wasn't able to go look at the bed situation as I had planned.

I recommend a book I am currently reading about Haiti, The Serpent and The Rainbow, by Wade Davis.

Till next week, Sharon.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

There are still problems with the satellite downlink in the internet cafes, so I am using the owner's machine. I purchased paint and brushes last week and started to paint the house in preparation for our visitors in the summer.

As the kids here have conje (holidays), I have hired a couple to work. I've had 2 requests for beds from our kids so will go with them to their homes this week via several taptaps to determine how much sleeping space they have, and then come back to Cap-Haitien, purchase beds and somehow arrange to deliver them. I think that one double bed will sleep 4 of them. Right now they are sleepiing on the floor.

One of our neighbors is a charpent (carpenter) so I ordered 2 tables and 4 benches to be used as work tables to prepare the liv yo (books) and valise yo (backpacks). They were delivered yesterday and are well made and sturdy.

Walked home with Mme Jocelyne, our lesivye (laundress), last week to meet her family -- 7 children under the age of 10, her husband was killed in a marketplace accident 2 years ago. Their house is only about 6' by 6' for 7 people. She wants me to return this week to take pictures of the kids. She told me that what she wants most is to learn to read and write, so will we set up some sort of adult education program? This is out of my area of expertise -- help!!!

Boss electrician came yesterday (Sat.) and tells me that the wiring is now repaired and we can begin to pump water.

Ala pwochen (until the next time),


Sunday, March 13, 2005

I'm still cooking for 8-10 children each day. We've had rice and beans, soup, and one of the NGOs gave us a large can of pork and beans. I usually boil some eggs, and the kids can have a banana, a glass of milk or water, or coffee or tea, and a multivitamin.

I have been able to buy peanut butter in the market so I try to send some home with them. Jack says his wife can roast and grind peanuts into peanut butter for us a gallon at a time, but she needs the containers to put it in, so I'm saving the old containers.

This week, three students came from Cap-Haitien. They heard that a 'blan with a fondasyon' would help send them to school. I think if we ever open up our sponsorship to include kids from Cap-Haitien, there will be a flood of them coming in. But our mandate right now is kids from St. Raphael.

One man, a 30-year-old, only about 4-foot-two tall, came in with his kids, his birth certificate and his report card. He has been putting himself through school by working one year then going to school the next, and is now ready for his final year. The others were newly orphaned, and in need of help. A few parents came in, hoping we could pay for the funeral for their children, one for a 10 year old girl in grade three. I felt bad that I had to turn them down -- she was the age of many of ours -- but we need the money for the students.

Elorge and I were able to buy some notebooks, pens and dictionaries. This time of year here, they are a lot cheaper than they are in August when all the kids are getting ready for school. The satellite link for the internet cafe is down, so still no e-mails. It's still raining hard from time to time, and yesterday was blistering hot. the power is out again, and the generator is not pumping water. I could really use an engineer or a very handy handyman to help out.

Till next week,


Sunday, March 6, 2005


Almost immediately upon my arrival, the kids began showing up at Lakay Fondasyon (photo), hoping for food, mattresses and clothes. It's been raining all week, and, with no cook, I have been making pots of soup to feed about 8-10 children each day. It's not much, but at least I can give each of them a multi-vitamin. I had to ask them to not come on the weekends, as I have other work that has to get done.

I bought a small generator, finally, and it's now pumping water from the well. It's not big enough to supply power to the whole house, but it's a start. The wiring in the house continues to cause problems -- the entire compound has no power today -- and the landlord's electrician is here rewiring the house again.

I bought two beds that I can put together today. I had planned to buy three beds but the prices had gone up so much from last year, we will make do with these two for now. The price of propane is also much higher this year. What this means is that now the poor are even hungrier, and dying faster than before. It also means that the money raised so far is not going to come even close to meeting the needs.

Kenbe [hanging in there!], Sharon


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