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!)



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