Tuesday, September 23, 2008

No Celebrity Endorsements, No Aid Flowing in Sen Rafayel, Cap-Haitien Haiti

* * *
Hello Everyone,

There are times when I am at a loss for words. That doesn't happen often but lately, I have fewer words and many more moments of reflection. Wrackspurts, as J.K Rowling's character Luna Lovegood calls them in the Harry Potter series.

With the exception of last Thursday, we have had rain every night since Monday, September 15. The rain has added to the misery and danger in many places, including Sen Rafayel. [Ed. note: See this page on Hurricane Center for current storm activity.]

Dieumane's mom died yesterday morning in Sen Rafayel. She was 43. Her house was flooded when TS Hanna went through and she had been sleeping in a ditch ever since . She became ill last week, probably a combination of malnutrition, typhoid, pneumonia -- you name it.

Dieumane's dad was drowned in the river 2 years ago during a storm. The victim list continues to grow here. Many of our kids are still unaccounted for. News from Haitian radio this am brings word of more flooding last Wednesday as a result of the daily rains.

The village of Dondon is just south of Sen Rafayel. It experienced flooding, loss of gardens, animal, houses, people as well. San Michel above Sen Rafayel was all but wiped out. Sen Rafayel sits mired in debris, illness, hunger, and renewed flooding. And still no support.

A friend of mine said in an email last week, "Hope the aid is flowing and things are returning to normal."


I can only shout the message with capital letters and hope that awareness emerges. The only aid in Haiti is in the places that make the news, either by celebrity endorsement or misery caught on video.

Still no electricity or gas, ice
One tanker of gas arrived at our gas station in Champin on Sunday. The rest of the city was shut down. Vehicles were lined 3 abreast and police as well as private security were on duty. By Monday morning, every drop was gone. No ice anywhere. Apparently there is no gas for the delivery vehicle.

While we can do without ice and refrigeration, we cannot do without potable water. Let's hope that is not the next victim of this crise. Many stores are closed completely. Cost of a school uniform is doubled now as material is scarce, marchands unable to replenish stocks so doubling prices.

We will supplement for the kids who are coming in this week with results for State exams for 9eme. We are sending more to the clinics daily as hunger and illness grows but the Clinics are unable to perform many tests as generators are gas driven.

Cap-Haitien, Sen Rafayel roads to Port-au-Prince closed

We are completely cut off from the south now. The secondary route through Sen Rafayel and Hinche was extremely dangerous but people tried to navigate it. Another died trying yesterday so the route has been closed.

We have kids stuck in Port-au-Prince with insufficient funds, and we have kids stuck in Sen Rafayel who want to start university but they cannot get to Port-au-Prince.

The cost of a gode of uncooked rice (one cup) is now 40 gds ($1.00 US) up from 11 gds about a year ago. The same amount of charcoal for cooking it is roughly the same price, for a total of $2. US to buy and cook a cup of plain rice -- without oil, beans, spices, water, matches, cooking pot. [see convert USD to HTG info]

We will get through this. My mother always says that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. She was talking about her many cancer surgeries and treatments. She is one tough lady. But I digress.

Keep us in your thoughts . . .


Monday, September 22, 2008

Convert USD to HTG - U.S. Dollars to Haitian Gourdes

Since the Haitian gourdes (HTG) is not one of the world's most valued currencies, it can be difficult to find an up to date exchange rate online. I did find one source at Exchange Rates.org, which shows the following conversions to USD as of early September 2008.

Click on image to view larger size.

Since currency rates do fluctuate, please check the above posted site for latest information, or try this currency exchange rate site : XE.com conversion; keep clicking Additional Currencies on currencies menu until Haiti gourde HTG appears, then calculate.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

College Jean-Claude Mondesir High School in Cap-Haitien Haiti Fees and Post Secondary Sponsors

Hello Everyone,

Folks have asked about the cost of sending a youth to high school in Haiti for a year, so I am going to provide the fees and associated cost for one high school in Cap-Haitien, the College Jean-Claude Mondesir, at 143 Rue 23F, where we have 2 students registered and 3 more waiting for sponsor funds.

As you may recall, I've mentioned in earlier posts that high school fees vary according to grade level and school. These fees below are specifically for Marcellus and Rodney, who are in 3eme, which is the 4th year of high school. I hope this information is helpful.

The fees are listed in Haitian dollars (5 gourdes = $1 Haitian; about $7 Haitian = $1 USD)
  • Enskripsyon fee: $50.
  • Frais Scolaire: $950.
  • Iden. Card. $30.
  • Mois Sept. $220.
  • Informatique $300.
  • Ecolage $650 par trimeste X 3 trimeste =$1950.00
  • TOTAL --- $ $3500. Haitian OR 17,500 GDS OR $500. USD
Associated school costs include:
  • text books: 11 text books plus 3 dictionaries, about *$2500.H or *$357. USD
  • school supplies
  • uniform (including shoes and underwear) and hygiene products: about $700. H or $100. USD
  • medical
  • dental
  • housing
  • food and potable water
Total cost for 1 student, NOT including medical, dental, food, water, housing: Just under $957 USD per year.

*Text books costs would be much higher if not for our intensive textbook refurbish program which runs from July1 to August 31.

College Jean-Claude Mondesir is a medium priced school; for other schools, we pay more; for some, less. We have NO students attending any of the 4 top schools in the Cap-Haitien, as they are beyond our financial abilities. However, if we could afford to send students to the top schools, it would guarantee better teachers, equipment and placement in post secondary situations.

Special request for Post-secondary sponsors

Mechanique Auto-Diesel at Universite Internationale de St-Gerard.

Johnley P. and Danius J., our 2 boys from Sen Rafayel who want to study Mechanique Auto-Diesel, have brought in the pertinent information from Universite Internationale de St-Gerard.

This school has an American - Canadian affiliation, as flags for all three countries are displayed on the information page, and are shown in the photo of the university entrance. We phoned the university and spoke with the director of admissions. There are no entrance exams required, because proof of Philo (attestation; High school diploma) serves the purpose.

Fees and living expenses would come to close to $2000. USD per year, per student, which is a little lower than other post-secondary schools, as Universite Internationale de St-Gerard is one of the less expensive post secondary facilities. Classes begin October 6. This is a 3 year program plus a year of internship at the end.

Medical Technology Program

Frantzy has been accepted into a medical technology program with a demi-bous of half fee. He needs $1000. per year for 4 years (school only - help with living expenses would be appreciated).

Our other University hopefuls are writing entrance exams this week. Plenitude wrote last Saturday and has yet to hear her results.

Thank you all for your support with these students.

I am staying on in Haiti longer than planned so I can try to get the students settled. With the aftermath of the hurricane and severe storms, school opening has been moved from September until early October.

I plan to return to Canada on October 11 (Canadian Thanksgiving weekend) for a few weeks.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sen Rafayel Haiti News, Shortages and Storm Damage Reports


Bonjou tout moun (Hi Everyone)

Although we are still cut off from the South, Claudy and Louisena managed to make it down from Sen Rafayel on Tuesday. The 28 kms (17 miles) trip took them 6 hours, and the same to return home.

The bridge that is needed to facilitate the trip has been out for almost 2 years now. With this track record for road repair and maintenance, I fear for length of time it will take to repair or replace the other 3 major bridges that were washed away during the recent storms.

We are being told it may be months before they are restored. Meantime, traffic to the Dominican Republic continues as Haitians head there to get gasoline and vehicle traffic here has been trimmed to 'manageable'.

From Sen Rafayel, Claudy and Louisena brought news of devastation and loss. Claudy estimates that about a third of the houses in the village were completely destroyed, and that about another 25 percent sustained heavy damage.

He said that people are sleeping in the ruins, that gardens and animals are all lost. This is a replay of the devastation of December 2006 that took out the bridge.

Claudy had decided to keep the backpacks in the office and then distribute after the storm. Unfortunately the office is small, only one table. The 11 back packs placed on the floor under the table were beyond salvage. We have begun to replace text books etc.

Since the village spreads over a huge geographical area, we have no idea of the number of students who have lost uniforms and shoes. The good news is that the 3 students in Cap-Haitien who rewrote Rheto exams were all successful (bon).

Because Louisena is entering Philo this year, her work with us will finish next month. The school year work load is too heavy for her to also have work commitments. Her job will be taken over by Fabiola C.

Next year Claudy enters Philo so we will be looking for his replacement as the year progresses. In this way, these young people get a bit of training in administration and workplace practices, which can only help them as they move on through school.

Unfortunately the gas shortage is impacting on necessities. The Culligan water purification plant and ice making factory in Morn Rouj has not delivered this week as they have no gas for the trucks.

We have not pumped water for the house for 2 weeks as our generator is gas driven, and of course we have no gas. We have asked Jackson (our driver) if he can sell us a gallon of gas next time his brother brings some back from the Dominican Republic.

In addition to having no gasoline, we ran out of propane on Saturday. Jack spent 3 hours in town going from place to place trying to find a refill. Half of the businesses were closed.

He finally found one tank for which we paid $700 Haitian, or $100 U.S. This is a price increase of about 50 percent, but we desperately need a reserve. Propane is our main cooking source. We must boil all water before using. We are using rain water until the generator is working again.

We are still waiting for the miracle of electricity although the state sent a boat of gasoline which arrived yesterday. Apparently it is for police, electric company (EDH), government offices etc.

I will head in to town later this morning to try bank Fonkoze again. There are donor funds we could not access last week. I'll let you know how I make out.

Pi ta (later)
Update Thursday evening:

We have had fierce thunderstorms for 3 consecutive nights, compounding the misery.

Just back from town, and the staff has departed for the day. Fonkoze able to access account, so I have some money now.

Gas scams abound. Price for DR gas is now $120 Haitian per gallon (over $17USD a gallon). Folks are selling urine in gallons. Many abandoned cars because motors have been compromised by bad 'gas'.

No way can we purchase many foodstuffs with these high prices, but many kids are becoming ill. A lot of standing water so mosquitoes plentiful. I am waiting for the first case of typhoid.

Jack said his parents place (in Sen Rafayel) still half full (half empty?) of water and they are sleeping beside it. His damage estimate is higher than Claudy's; Jack has talked to family who say about 75 percent of Sen Rafayel homes destroyed. We await word on replacing uniforms etc.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Starthrower Students Haiti Home Visits in Cap-Haitien

Alexander P. is a student at King's University College in London Ontario Canada who travelled with friend and student Laura to Cap-Haitien Haiti to visit Starthrower Foundation. (See earlier post from Alex).

In this post, Alex writes:

On Friday, August 22, we visited the homes of five students who are currently attending school thanks to Starthrower.

Home #1 - Weby
The first visit we made was to the home of Weby. When we arrived, Weby and his father came out to greet us.

His father had to sit down right away since he has recently had several of his toes amputated and finds it painful to stand.

The doctor never explained to his father why he had to have his toes amputated, just that [the amputation] had to be done.

Sharon told us that after asking a few questions, it was evident that he had diabetes. Diabetes is an epidemic in Haiti since the only food that many people can find and afford is sugar cane and fruit.

Like a lot of Haitian homes, this one has three rooms with cement walls and floors and a corrugated tin roof. The first room, devoid of any furniture, functions as Weby's bedroom and the living room. Like a lot of Haitians, he sleeps on the cement floor.

The second room was his parents' bedroom; They are fortunate to have a bed and a mosquito net, but not much else. The third room acts as their kitchen. The family has put a great deal of effort into their home to make it clean and presentable for the family as well as for visitors.

Their water for washing comes from a contaminated well belonging to the house across the street, and he is able to pick up a gallon of clean drinking water from Starthrower everyday.

Outside Othanes' home in Cap-Haitien

Home Visit #2 and #3 -- Othanes and his sister, Willa.
The second home we visited belonged to Othanes. The place where he lives is the front room of someone else's house. The woman who owns the house lives in the back room with her children. They are fortunate enough to own a bed to share between them.

Outside the front door, there is a pool of sewage. When it rains, the sewage floods the front room where he sleeps on the floor (I can't imagine what his home would look like after a hurricane!).

Laura and I had brought two hammocks with frames from Canada with us on behalf of Starthrower, and we were able to give one to Othanes to get him off the floor at night.

He pays to get water from a tap across the street; they don't know where this water comes from and the source often dries up.

Othanes in sister Willa's house
Othanes then took us to his sister Willa's house; she is also a student sponsored by Starthrower. Her place was a small room that she shares with her friend and her friend's children; It is separated into a bedroom and a living room by a sheet hanging from the walls.

Sharon taking little girl to hospital

Home Visit #4 - Family with Baby
Our fourth home visit took some unexpected turns. The fact that nine people sleep on a floor that was barely large enough to seat four of us was not what captured our attention.

There was a 17-month-old baby girl sitting on a chair by herself. She was obviously weak, malnourished and ill; her head was bobbing up and down like she was about to fall asleep; moments later she passed out and did not regain consciousness while Sharon held her.

The student, whose name escapes me, informed us that this little girl's mother was in the market trying to earn money to take her daughter to the clinic. We knew this poor girl may pass away before her mother got home if she didn't receive professional medical attention immediately.

The student said he was planning to go visit his mother in Sen Rafayel but Sharon explained to him that he was the oldest in the house and he was, therefore, responsible for looking after the youngest; he was oblige as they say in Creole.

We took the student and the little girl to the new hospital in Cap-Haitien. Sharon paid for the girl to be admitted and gave the student some extra cash to pay the doctor once they were seen. Once we got there, the hospital was very busy and they had run out of numbered cards so the student would have to defend his place in line without one.

Sharon said he would probably be waiting all afternoon and maybe into the evening, and all we could do was hope that she received the proper medical attention before it was too late.

Guilene' mother, Mme Philippe, with children

Home Visit #5 - Guilene
Our fifth and final home visit for the day was part way up the mountains. We were greeted at a corrugated tin gate by Guilene, who was wearing her best pink dress to meet us. We were led into a small, crowded, dirt courtyard which was shared by several families.

Their bare, cement block home has one large room divided into two with a bed sheet. Guilene's mother, Mme. P, was sitting on the bed in the first room.

This photo gives you some idea of how little they had before the hurricanes took their toll, and now they have almost nothing.

As Sharon mentioned in her September 6th blog post, Mme. Philipe, sick and injured, came to the compound after hurricane Gustav passed through to ask for help since her family lost nearly everything.

Guilene and her brother lost their books, shoes and uniforms. Starthrower will replace these items and also sponsor Guilene's brother to attend school.

Visiting these homes of Starthrower's students was very enlightening, and made us realize just how fortunate we are to live in Canada where everyone experiences an ultra-high standard of living by comparison.

Sharon Gaskell and the Starthrower Foundation make a huge difference in the lives of these young adults, working for justice every day.

It is these young people who are going change the unfortunate situation in their country and ultimately the world.

I urge everyone to support the work of Starthrower in whatever capacity you can, especially in this time of need.



Friday, September 12, 2008

Haiti Gas Shortages, Soaring Food Costs in Hurricane Ike Aftermath

Bonjou from Cap-Haitien

The aftermath of Nature's devastation seems to take as much if not more of a toll on life here as the actual event.

Tense could best describe the tone of the past few days. As the 3 major bridges are still out, effectively cutting us off from the South and the capitol of PAP [Port-au-Prince], gas reserves dried up completely last Saturday.

Vehicle traffic is down to about a third of regular. Folks with a little gas and papers have started driving east to Ouanaminthe on the border and purchasing gas in the Dominican Republic. Some who wanted a quick buck cut gas with water, sold it for $90 Haitian ($13. US) a gallon and then disappeared.

Police have begun to crack down on street corner sales. Jack and I went by tap-tap to Champin on Wednesday to buy ice. Two tap taps (half full) refused to stop for us. The full tap tap that did stop had a riot break out as the collection boy insisted on charging 10 gourdes fare (in good times we pay 5 gourdes).

The woman across from me began swinging her baby, using the poor mite as a club. There is an air of desperation everywhere. Although the gas pumps were closed, the white gas (kerosene) pump was just selling its last drops.

Crowds were pushing and shoving, the one security guard was ready to fire his gun. In town for market, several stores we frequent are closed, as is the laundromat .

This morning I called Jackson to take me to the bank. He was not working but had a gallon in reserve for our house. As we stopped at our corner to navigate the mountain of garbage (fatra-a) the guard at the CAM money transfer place next door fired his gun and it was just a little too close for my comfort.

Once in town, our little bank Fonkoze was open but not working -- no gas, no generator, no internet, no access to accounts.

Will try again next week. Sogebank was open and working.

Here at home we sent 3 to the clinic today for Malaria testing (if possible). Everything needs gas to operate as generators are the staple of power here.

Alex, Rose-Martha and Esmann will come back Monday for results (we hope). All live in Petit Anse where the flooding was worse.

Slowly we are clearing away the detritus and resuming our lives. Jack is still burning branches and leaves. There is so much it is difficult to dry everything. We have repaired (not replaced -- none available) our wires leading in to the house.

We are now ready for the miracle of electricity. The huge tree which was struck down on our street has been cut away (hand saws of course -- took days!). We can now drive down our street but the mountain of garbage on the Rue Nasyonal is so large that there is a 2 to 3 foot space for turning onto our Impasse. One must drive through the garbage.

Still no word from Sen Rafayel and we are concerned. With the bridge out, the river up, no gas for generators or machines to ferry passengers, all we can do it wait.

Results from state exam rewrites are coming in slowly. Should have word by next week. Two more in who lost everything including back pack with new text books and new uniforms.

Kesner and Camiose were devastated but very accepting of the fact that this is life in Haiti. We start again. The delay in start date and the loss of textbooks means Rosenie and Erzilia are available to work, searching the market for backpacks and text books we need. Pencil cases are impossible to find. Good size backpacks are also rare but the kids will use anything in a pinch.

Don't know what will happen re: food distribution. Today Carmene priced rice at $540 Haitian ($80. US- we buy 3 a week) and a marmite of beans at $35. Haitian ($7. US). We buy 19 marmites at a time for our weekly distribution.

A gallon of oil was $80 Haitian ($11.50) We use 3 gallons per week. Then there is the cost of small sacks for each, large sacks for distribution plus the cost of transport. This puts a weekly distribution program over $400. US per week now. This would double if we added Sen Rafayel. We continue the water distribution program in Cap.

Staff getting ready to leave for the day - more later.

stay safe

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hurricane Ike Skims Haiti, No Water or Gas, School Opening Postponed, No Word From Sen Rafayel, Kids Sick

Hello Everyone,

It's Monday a.m. Weak sun, light breeze, very humid. Solar amps incoming less than 2.

Saturday p.m. I travelled to the airport with Jackson as Lynx had found missing luggage.

No gas anywhere. We are unable to pump water for the house as our generator is gas driven. All gas stations were closed, empty.

A few enterprising folks were selling reserves of 'gas' in dirty plastic gallon jugs for $80 Haitian (11.50 US) a gallon. Apparently, they were boiling zaboka (avocado) in water to get the color of gas, mixing with a small quantity of gas, and fooling a lot of people. One man's misery is another's opportunity.

The entire day was overcast. Wisky arrived for work at 6 p.m. He is working security here on the weekends from 6 p.m.- 6 a.m. We scurried around putting away everything that might lift off in a wind and IKE blew in about 6:20.

It was very fast -- no warning -- just overcast skies and light breeze all day. Wind and rain all night. Neighbours had been busy replacing tol (corrugated metal) pieces which had blown off roofs when Hanna passed through. All night one heard the tol ripping off and flying around.

Sunday -- overcast, light rain, no solar amps. Today we are back with all staff. Still no word from our students in Sen Rafayal after the initial call post Hanna re gardens and animals swept away. (See earlier post).

There has been a steady stream of kids in this a.m. with fever, diarrhoea, congestion etc. Our canal at the side of the house is still 'bouche' (stopped up) and the mosquitoes are multiplying.

As school now officially will start 6 October (thank goodness - if new funds come in we will be able to send more without losing our inskripsyon money), we will hire a few of the students to help clean out the trench. The owner cemented up the flow hole for some reason so we have to deal with that first.

Several people have stopped and asked if we can charge phones for them as they have seen our solar panels. Although our batteries are straining to fill half way, we are charging phones for those we know in the neighbourhood.

The gas problem appears to have no resolution -- no way to truck it up from PAP [Port-au-Prince]. Cost of everything has risen dramatically. We found phone cards after 5 stores and paid 50% more for them.

NO electricity as EDH [power company] uses gas generators. We are walking everywhere and using our trusty wheel barrow. We did find ice this morning -- that was a celebration.

Auguste is calling - he is alone in the office as Rosenie and Erzilia are in town trying to find textbooks.

More later


Saturday, September 6, 2008

No Gas, Shops Closed, Post TS Hanna Cap-Haitien Haiti Update from Sharon


Very little juice in batteries. Will try to track down missing luggage again today. No luck yesterday.

Went to town with Jackson for food and ice. He rose at 3 a.m. to arrive at the gas station at 4 a.m. to wait for his 3 gallons of gas. He was very tired.

We passed 2 stations with lines which had no end as well as hundreds gathered around the pumps with containers. Police were out in full force trying to keep everything calm.

Two other stations had no gas. Soon the reserve will be gone then we walk, I guess. Many businesses still closed. Yesterday was like Sunday from that perspective.

Out of the 25 kids who showed up yesterday, five lost everything in the flooding including new uniforms for the school year.

We pay inskri to hold a place, then we repair text books and prepare and distribute backpacks. At the same time we distribute funds for uniforms.

The last thing we pay is the frais scolaire, first trimests and any other fees the school might request ie student identification badge, September entry fee, infomatique (computers), mayo (school Tshirt), activity card etc.

In addition to the 25 students, one mom came yesterday. Alex and Laura (see this post) will remember Mme Philippe as they videotaped the home visits. She was the one sitting on the floor with the baby.

She had been injured and unattended. Had a scar from outside left knee to hip, broken bones not set. She came here in a nightgown (clean) using a very stout piece of wood for a cane. She probably weighs about 60 lbs.

What little they had was washed away and she was very sick with a fever and congestion. We provided food, meds, money for kamyonet and said we would also take on her son.

Her daughter, Guilene is one of ours. She lost uniform, shoes etc. Mom had scrimped to pay for son to attend lycee but his books and uniform were swept away. We will replace them and pick him up as well.

Yesterday we decided to take the rent money and purchase rice, beans, oil to do a one time emergence distribution. We are unable to restart our full food distribution program.

The kids are coming today even though we are closed. School opening has been delayed providing some breathing space for staff.

Joceline offered to help make sandwiches as everyone was busy. She started to make them one at a time. Having grown up with a mother who made sandwiches in quantity for any and all occasions, I showed her how to do a loaf at a time.

As she was leaving, she shyly asked if she could help Carmene in the kitchen as she would like to learn how to cook. First she learns to read and write, next a chef. It was really endearing.

I 'm in tears for just about any reason or no reason. This is just so overwhelming at times. However, staff and kids provide perspective. I 'm just tired.

Without the white noise of electricity, every sound is magnified in the night and sleep is elusive. Have decided to add security on the weekends starting tonight until I leave as desperation and robberies are climbing.

We are so behind now we can only go forward.

Thanks to Mme Cindy in Penn. for the running shoes on my list.
See also Hurricane Ike Map - will be passing north shore Haiti today and overnight.

See also previous post about TS Hanna Damage in Haiti


Friday, September 5, 2008

Hanna Does Damage in Haiti - No Hydro, No Supplies, No Gas

Hello Everyone,

I arrived yesterday (Thursday) about 2 p.m. Cap-Haitien time after a somewhat turbulent trip. The descent was made from a different approach necessitating a very steep turn. One could see the devastation.

Petit Anse looked to be half submerged. We have 15 kids there. Fosenmichel [Ft. St. Michael] was as bad - we have another dozen kids there. People were just wandering through the long grass surrounding the airport, or sitting in small groups. How much more 'mize' (misery) can these people process?

Gas Lineups in Cap
Jackson [cab driver] met me with his taxi but my luggage didn't arrive. After a trip down to Lynx to be told to call tomorrow [Friday], we headed for home. As we passed a line-up about a kilometer in length at a gas station, Jackson told me he had waited 4 hours in the morning to get 2 gallons of gas to pick me up.

Bridges Out
As the bridge to the south at Gonaives was washed away (our bridge to Sen Rafayel has been out for 2 years), we are essentially cut off from the south, so no supplies, including gas, are getting here. Traffic was greatly reduced due to the gas shortage. Driving through the streets was a navigation test -- greatly enlarged pot holes, tree limbs and whole trees provided the obstacle course.

Storm Damage from Hanna
Our street (Impasse Soeurs Missionaires) was cut off by a huge tree which had been uprooted. It had fallen across the street and rested on the roof of the corner house. Jackson managed to brush underneath it and we arrived at the house.

Inside the compound looked like a war zone. Our garden area was covered with downed branches as the staff had been busy cleaning up. The largest tree on our lawn had the top removed. It landed on our hydro wires in to the house.

There is no electricity anywhere so we'll try to repair today. Our banana tree was uprooted as well, and most flowering shrubs are gone. The water which came into the house entered the office and soaked the backpacks we had just prepared for Sen Rafayel.

School Supplies Lost
Mold and mildew are already growing so we will have to burn most. Replacement cost will be enormous and the back packs we just cannot get here. Although we have not yet paid school fees due to shortage of funds, we did inskri (register) many so had sent the first load of backpacks (with text books, notebooks, pencils, pens, erasers, pencil sharpeners, hygiene products) last Wednesday with Claudy and Louisena.

Haven't heard an update from Sen Rafayel as it is difficult to charge batteries with no gas for the generators. I had Jack charge our solar batteries to half using the generator in order to check weather this morning. Gas is almost gone so next update may be some time coming, unless we have enough sun to charge from the solar panels.

Hurricane Ike Coming
We had overcast skies and rain last night. Can only hope Hurricane Ike takes a hike north. Will try to get to town today for supplies as the cupboard is bare. So much clean up to be done and we need to try to check on our kids in the hardest hit areas. With no gasoline we may have to wait for them to make their way to us. Housing has always been a challenge and this will compound the problem.

Will touch base when possible.

Be safe

P.S. Deb and Stan In USA : So good to hear from you. Your shining faces were missed on the shuttle yesterday to the airport. Glad you arrived home safely.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

TS Hanna Battering Northern Haiti Flights from Florida Canceled

Hi All

A quick update as I sit in Ft. Lauderdale hoping to return home to Cap after a weekend of meetings here. Hopefully we can do an end run around TS Hanna [see National Hurricane Center for tracking map, and location of Haiti from east coast Florida]

It was good to see Alex and Laura's blog post. Another perspective is always enlightening for me. I look forward to their impressions of our home visit program.

I just talked to Lynx Air about the flight back to Cap-Haitien scheduled for this morning (Tuesday), and Lynx says to show up at the airport in any event, as no decision reached yet. Don't see how we can go, though, as all flight paths are contaminated.


Just talked with Lynx rep again. The flight is delayed and may be cancelled but I need to show up as per ticket. If cancelled, I will come back to the hotel.


Just arrived back to the hotel from the airport. Flight cancelled as Cap-Haitien is being hit hard by TS Hanna, and the Cap-Haitien airport is closed. According to one American with whom I am travelling, there are reports of bodies (10) floating in the street in Cap.

He had been speaking to folks in Cap who were waiting for his flight to arrive. They strongly advised against travel in the event the flight was not cancelled. Lynx is prudent and would not risk anyone. I have confidence born of 10 years of travel with them.

Apparently Artibonite and Gonaives flooded again as well. Will try to contact staff to find out how they are doing, and let them know that maybe tomorrow I can get a flight out.

[With the coming storm / hurricane] I think I am the only guest in the hotel so have the computer to myself. Will check in every few hours.


Just got through to the house in Haiti. I spoke to Auguste, who said they had some flooding at the house and they are cleaning up. The kids couldn't get home last night, so they stayed at the house; I told them to stay again tonight if necessary. They have had no hydro, and no solar, so soon, the phones will lose charges. Hanna is still blanketing North Haiti.

If I am unable to inform them of future flight change and arrival time, I will take my chances at the Cap-Haitien airport. Lynx not certain which day we will get out. Apparently, Ike and Josephine are following Hanna. I hope we find a window. I am glad the kids are safe (as far as we know).

Pi ta
Wednesday, Sept. 3 2008 update:

Hello again,

I will fly out on Lynx to morrow (Thurs) at noon. TS Ike is set to hit Haiti on Saturday, so that gives us a day on Friday to buy groceries, purchase cleaning supplies and help clean and repair as many ti kay yo as possible.

Here is the email I just received from Auguste in Kreyol, with translation. Reading between the lines, Sen Rafayel is again all but wiped off the map. This happened a year ago last Christmas too. They were just rebuilding and replacing animals etc Status quo has a very different meaning here.

Bonjou, Mme

jodia gen sevis internet paske gen piti soley. Dlo antre nan kek kay okap si tou moun ki rete Petit-Ance ak Fort-Saint michel.

Sen-Rafayel riviere desann li pran jaden ak bet.
Mesi, Bondye beni-ou.

Today we have a little sun so a little internet. Hardest hit with flooding are many of the houses where our kids live in Petit-Anse and Ft. St. Michel.

In Sen Rafayel the swollen river came down the mountain and washed away gardens and animals (once again)

Thanks - Blessings

Monday, September 1, 2008

Social Justice Peace Studies King's University College Student Visits Starthrower in Haiti

Alexander P. is a student at King's University college in London Ontario Canada who travelled with friend and student Laura to Cap-Haitien to visit Starthrower Foundation. On their return, they plan to produce a short video and pictures of their visit. Alex writes:
Laura and I flew into Cap-Haitian late Tuesday afternoon on a full seventeen-seat propeller plane. On the way over, one of the other four blanc passengers had said to me, "I read your T-shirts; I think we're on the same team."

He wasn't quite right however. Like many aid workers who come to Haiti from the Western world, he was with a group of other travellers who were part of a religious team coming to save Haitian souls. I was not.

From my perspective, Haitians don't need charity or saving. They need, and deserve, justice. The poverty and inequity experienced by all majority world countries is a form of modern colonialism perpetuated by the Western minority.

Ever since Sharon came to speak to my Social Justice and Peace Studies class at King's University College, I have realized that the Starthrower Foundation is an organization that understands the current world order more than most, and I that could learn a lot from them.

At the Airport in Cap-Haitien
Our senses were immediately assaulted as we stepped off the plane. The smell of pollution, garbage and human feces permeates throughout. The airport was a small two-room building with a bare light bulb and fan, neither of which were operational since there is rarely any electricity.

The immigration officer dutifully stamped our passports without making any record of our visit or asking any questions. The customs officer rummaged through the bags of donations that we brought and claimed a back-pack as duty.

Sharon met us at the airport with Jackson, Starthrower's trusted and reliable taxi driver. Our drive back to the compound was an obstacle course around holes in the road and piles of garbage.

All along the way, raw sewage either ran down the road or in small canals beside it. It was immediately evident that this is a country that has had its wealth sucked out of it.

At Lakay Fondasyon
Sharon told us that the staff was really happy that we were here to visit and to learn from them. When we arrived at the compound, it was evening so the staff had already gone home, but we were greeted with welcome signs Auguste had made, and Carmen [cook] had left a hot meal for us.

After our first glimpse at the poverty and conditions in which people live, we started to get an understanding of Haitian life. Despite these conditions, it was amazing to see the staff start work the next morning.

The first thing they did was go straight for the water cooler. Safe drinking water is a rare treat in Haiti, and cold safe drinking water is an even rarer treat.

You could immediately tell that these young adults were happy to be here and to have a job that pays well by Haitian standards. The first couple days that we were here, we were fully staffed and worked on reconditioning books for the coming school year. Now we plan to accompany Sharon on home visits. I will tell you about that in my next post.
Laura McIntosh travelled from London, Ontario with Alex to visit Starthrower. Laura writes:
This trip to Haiti is my first time placing myself in another country that's not as privileged as my own, and with a different language and different customs. How we ended up in Haiti of all places is quite easy to tell.

When Alex first heard Sharon talk about Starthrower's work in Haiti, he was quite intrigued by her passion and her ideals. At the same time, I was researching Haiti for a case study I was working on for school.

The idea of visiting and experiencing this wonderful country with its rich and powerful –- as well as disturbing -- history made my heart just jump. Sharon's organization sounded perfect for us; being activists, the chance to meet these people, not to help them but for the opportunity to swap knowledge and to get to know them are humans was really important to us.

Meeting the Staff
The Haitians I have met are some the most welcoming people I could ever meet. On my first morning with them, I was bombarded with names I couldn't pronounce and I found it difficult at first to communicate with them, besides Hello (Bonjou). I was amazed, however, with the speed and teamwork they presented when setting about their tasks.

The majority of them were working on the textbooks for the kids this year: cleaning them up, making sure they had the proper number of pages, and making sure that the books were securely held together (if not they fixed them with white glue), as well as many other things.

No one person was in charge; each one seemed to know which tasks needed to be done. They were efficient, and still managed to gossip and talk about everything, just like your average teenagers.

For the first little while, I worked with them in silence, studying them and learning from them what they were doing. Then body language took over and I would tell them what things meant in English, with them giving the Creole names. They found most of the English words funny to pronounce, and things went on from there.

Another group of students was inside preparing backpacks with pens, pencils, erasers, mathematic sets, paper, etc. Throughout the day, Auguste met with students, counseling them and seeing how they were and if they needed anything.

There was a separate group working on renovations to the house and the yard wall. It's almost a 24 hour job, just maintaining the house. Sharon was inside working on books and paperwork, as well as conversing with the senior staff about what needed to be completed and worked on; making sure she always received their input.

Haitians love to sing, so of course there was music. These students were like those everywhere, but I've never seen such hard workers. They may joke around, and sing and gossip, but they're productive and focused. They seemed always to show respect for each other and take pride in themselves.

For people who barely have a home, and certainly no clean water, they arrive every morning on schedule, washed and wearing clean clothes with smiles on their faces for everyone. It's all just amazing to me how these people do this day in and day out.
Update from Alex:
Fortunately, Hurricane Gustav missed us, but unfortunately Port-au-Prince was hit again. We had some dark clouds come our way. It has been overcast for the past couple days so we didn't get much power from the solar panels. Also, this is the first time we've had electricity in several days except for a few minutes or an hour or so in the middle of the night.

We leave today (August 27). We had hoped to send another update before we left for home, but it will have to wait. Laura and I have quite a few photos and some video which we hope to incorporate into a future blog post.


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