Monday, February 18, 2008

Food Costs Rising Fast in Haiti, Donations Arrive

Hello Everyone,

Just a few things to update you on while I have access to email and before tomorrow comes with new happenings.

We sent Jean Ricot to the clinic on Friday to have his blood pressure tested as it has been constantly high with severe headaches since the motor scooter accident last April. ( see original post and update August post). They asked a few questions and ran a few tests, and found that he has malaria for the third time this year. He is about 5 feet tall and weighs less than a hundred pounds.

This persistent succession of illnesses takes such a toll on these young people. Apparently Jean has found a piece of floor where he can stay put for a while (with an aunt). Because he now has a relatively stable environment, Auguste and I are making a home visit tomorrow to see if there is enough space for a single bed and mosquito net. Everyone needs both, but due to cost, we purchase one at a time according to greatest need.

Sherline and Camiose are going on a school trip this week to Labadee to see the Fort ruins, etc. Thanks to our newly arrived shipment from NJ we were able to out fit each with running shoes and socks, and thanks to donations from Penn., they also have jeans and white Tshirts.

For those of you interested in the history of Haiti, there is an article in the January 2008 issue of The Smithsonian on my friend, amateur archaeologist Clark Moore, who has done much to advance knowledge of the history of Haiti. I stayed with Clark and his wife Pat 5 years ago before we found our current house.

Today, I unpacked the running shoes which arrived with the rest on Friday (Sherline and Camiose got me started). I put the cartons out back when we were finished unpacking. We always use them for something. Then Erzilia came in when finished work (she does food prep and distribution with Dieugrand) and asked if she could have 2 of the largest cartons. I remembered our visit to her one room shack which she shares with her 3 younger brothers. The room attached to theirs was separated by thin paper. It houses another family.

I asked if she wanted the boxes to make a new wall, and she said yes, the paper has been wet and dry so many times it has rotted away, so neither family has privacy. When I say that nothing gets wasted here, I mean nothing. I am reminded of the Haitian proverb: "Piti piti zwazo fe nich li" (Little by little the bird makes its nest). She is such an amazing young person -- holding a family together after the death of her mom 2 years ago.

If I am ever tempted to feel sorry for myself because I am ill, or on my own here, or go without many things I normally have access to, I look at anyone of these young people and am lifted by their courage.

This is the fifth day with no hydro, so without the refrigerator operating on hydro, food is wasted and money has to be spent on ice for the fridge. Finally today, we have solar power and a signal.

Five of the students worked yesterday and today finishing the backbreaking work of manually breaking up the cement on the room (see previous post) carrying it down stairs in buckets and then taking it by the wheelbarrowful down to the street to fill in some of the potholes. We had to through our list of students to figure out who was healthy enough to work. Everyone wants to but with so many ill, we have to be practical as well as look out for their welfare. The weekend is their only free time.

One of the boys who worked was Kenson, a 16 year old orphan (no siblings) sent to us by another program in Cap. Jack said he worked harder than anyone, and he was so thrilled when he signed the pay book and received his wages. Those smiles are my reward.

Dieugrand went to the market to purchase bulk food which he and Erzilia package for Sun and Thurs distribution. (We are moving Sun distribution to Monday as I really need time to myself). He returned with insufficient food, so every one received less on Sunday, and no cooking oil or cooking charcoal (chabon), as prices had risen so dramatically. Last week, rice was $270 Haitian (nearly $40 US): This week, $390 Haitian (about $45 US). A'gode' of rice which the poor buy -- 1 cup -- was 10 gourdes ($2 Haitian) at Christmas time, and 25 gourdes ($5 Haitian) on Friday, The new customs regulations are a nightmare.

It's getting dark and I can run only one light with the solar panels, so I will go and set up for the night. I am able to run the solar extension into the first bedroom, giving me a lamp for reading and a laptop if I want to watch a DVD.

Note : We deleted dictionaries and scientific calculators from the Things We Need list as sufficient arrived on Friday, and more have already been collected and are awaiting shipment. We do however need pencil cases, backpacks and pens in addition to the list I sent last week. Many thanks, everyone!


Haiti Well Water and Vehicle Purchase Update

Hello everyone,

In December, 2007, our well water was tested by a drinking water and wastewater expert from the U.S., who reports in part:
The test results indicate that the groundwater supply has been compromised by the raw sewage that runs in the streets. This is evident in the elevated nitrate levels; typically groundwater nitrate levels are below 5 mg/l. Nitrate is present in human urine at high concentrations.

Additionally, the presence of heterotrophic bacteria, coliform and particularly, fecal coliform, suggests the water is contaminated by human waste. Of all the wells tested during the assessment, the Starthrower well had the highest nitrate levels. This water quality typically harbors a number of waterborne diseases including typhoid. This well has also very high hardness and alkalinity levels which can scale and clog fixtures.

Presently, [Sharon] would like to supply the 60 children in her program with 2 gallons of water, 2 days per week in cleaned and disinfected jugs (240 gallons per week). Long term, this quantity could be increased to 2 gallons daily for the 60 children (840 gallons per week). In addition, the supply of the centre for normal water usage (drinking, cooking, bathing) at the home is estimated to be 200 gallons per day or 1,600 gallons per week.

The total estimated water demand is 1,840 gallons per week currently. The future demand is expected to increase to 2,440 gallons per week. Based on the well yield of 5 gallons per minutes, there is sufficient capacity to meet the needs of the centre. Quality : The treatment facilities will be designed to modify the water to US drinking water standards.
Currently we are spending about $10. US ($60 H) per day on potable water, and distributing about 25 gallons per day, a gallon at at time, to our young people. This is a relatively new project we began on January 1, 2008, so it's too recent to assess the impact as yet.

Thank you to everyone who is working on obtaining clean, safe drinking water for us and these young people.

Buying Used Cars in Haiti:

Last week, a neighbour (lawyer/policeman/used car salesman) came knocking with 2 vehicles for sale. It seems that buying a used vehiclein Haiti is a faster way to purchase, as it entails no trips to Port-au-Prince on what the UN troops call 'the road to hell'. We made an appointment for him to show us the vehicles for Friday at noon. He showed up instead at 7 a .m., saying he had to travel to Gonaive, but he was leaving one vehicle for us to inspect. He said it needed gas and that it has a flat tire. When Jack and Jud arrived at noon, we three took it to a gas station, then waited in line for 2 hours for a gallon of gas ($40 Haitian, or $6 USD). (Diesel is the cheaper way to go.)

We proceeded to the Boss Mechanic that Jud has used for 12 years, who is very well known and very well respected. He checked the car over thoroughly and pronounced it "gate" (very close to garbage): Suspension gone, undercarriage not salvageable, engine in need of a rebuild.

Jud phoned Saturday, saying he had found a much better vehicle. As I had been in town standing in line at the bank, then traipsing from pharmacy to pharmacy trying to fill prescriptions for 3 kids, I let Jack and Jud do the 2 hour line up for gas and the garage run to check out this second vehicle. Again, Boss-la said 'No way'. He is now going to look a used vehicle for us, so rather than one new vehicle we will go with 2 good used ones. It makes more sense, as we often send out several taxis in different directions.



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