Friday, March 21, 2008

Starthrower house cats in Haiti earn their keep

Hello, Everyone,

House cats in Haiti may seem an indulgent luxury, but I can assure you, they are not. House cats earn their keep by controlling mice and cockroaches.

And everyone and everything suffers here, including the animals. For example, just last night, I was wakened by the sounds from a dog that had been crying in hunger for 2 days. Its owners had finally let her off leash, and she began throwing herself against our portail about midnight.

I woke to this din at the door, and realized what was happening, so I took some dog food to the gate, and put it through the bottom opening. The poor thing literally inhaled the food! Dog food is plentiful in the stores, as dogs are used (and abused) for security purposes. Cats, on the other hand, are eaten by a starving population, so there's no need to feed them.

It is now 2:30 a.m., and I can't sleep nor can our cats -- Lucy and Charlie Brown - so they are guarding me as I compose this update. We are desperate for cat food here. No amount of money will help this as it is just not available for purchase in Cap-Haitien.

Again I am asking all visitors to please help by bringing some cat food:
The cats tolerate IAMS brand dry and tinned cat food. The cats are constantly vomiting from the human food we try to feed them.

The problem goes back to customs and the recent, ongoing difficulties in shipping goods to Haiti: In November, I sent 6 months worth of food to Haiti. This cat food is still sitting on the docks in Haiti, though likely by now, it's been eaten by rats or carried off by thieves.

If each person in each group planning to come to Haiti to see us would PLEASE bring a bag and a few tins in their luggage, we would have healthy animals again.

I really need to have these 'live mouse traps' at the house. If any group is willing to purchase cat food and bring it here, in bulk, I will gladly reimburse all receipts. I have put out similar requests with only one person out of 10 recent visitors responding.

Thank you to our recent visitors Melanie, Shera, Kathy and Joan for your help with painting, preparing food sacks and helping staff purchase and transport water, charcoal and paint supplies, as well as for making home visits. Your courage is large.

Some thoughts in closing from Paul Farmer in The Uses of Haiti:
. . . illiteracy, poverty and disease constitute human rights violations. More specifically these are violations of social and economic rights" ..."The violations are not caused by Haiti but by its powerful neighbours . . . (p 351)

. . . without social and economic rights, political rights have no soil to grow in. The brutality in Haiti's streets will not be tamed by legal reform or by extralegal political action but by confronting poverty and disease. (ibid 372)
To order a copy of this book, see this blog post.

Beni-w and Happy Easter, all!


Haiti School News Sen Rafayel successes, post secondary sponsors needed

Hello Everyone,

This week, staff from Sen Rafayel hand-delivered 5 typed letters from our students there who are finishing Philo (high school) this year. That Sen Rafayel, a poor little village in the mountains, will have high school grads is unheard of!! We should be proud of our part to make this happen, and I thank you all for your support!

Each of these graduating students went to see Guilene (our blind student) and asked her to type on their behalf a request for assistance so that they may attend post secondary schools.

To Don and Cindy and everyone in Pennsylvania who secured the Brailler and typewriter for her, thanks! Guilene has become the village secretary! Bon dye va beni-w. (see website for pictures of Guilene)

The requests for financial assistance are from these students:
  • Danius and Jhonley want to become master mechanics, and so will have to go to Port-au-Prince to study study Genie Mecanique.
  • Brunie wants to become a nurse, so will have to leave Sen Rafayel, as the village has NO post secondary offerings.
  • Casimir and Osman want to study agronomy, so they will need to move to either Limbe or Port-au-Prince to study La Science de l'agronomie.
As well, other students need help with post secondary education:
  • Deles and Vincent, our first 2 university students, are completing their first year at the University in Limbe, and will need financial help to continue. Although we can spread our limited resources further for secondary support if we pool the funds, these post grad requests really require one-on-one sponsorship.
  • Jhennie is still waiting for a sponsor to send her to study Tourism Administration.
  • Frantzy needs a sponsor so he can study Medicine.
Sponsored students Elorge and Marlene will go the Dominican Republic to study intensive Spanish, and then Medicine. Both of their sponsors have approved their out-of-country study.

If we expand our mandate to see these young people through post secondary institutions, they will truly be in a position to affect change their country. The elite 1% still has a stranglehold on the country. That must change for Haiti to flourish.

For example, Marlene finally had breast surgery yesterday. We have been waiting for this surgery for almost a year. I received a phone call at 8 pm last night saying she had arrived home (by taxi; we had sent Daniel and Jackson to bring her from Milot back home to Cap-Haitien). The hospital in Milot was unable to keep her, as it is on short staff due to the Easter Holiday.

We recently purchased beds and mosquito nets for 3 of our young people -- Dieunet, Jean Ricot, Nandecie -- as each of them had suffered multiple bouts of Malaria this year. We do what we can one person at a time.

We will try to meet the demand, if possible, but housing, of course, is another, great challenge. Often in their ti kay-yo (rented rooms), there is insufficient space for a single bed. Dieumane moved into a new room this week, so she is next on the list for a bed. Auguste and I visited it last week with some of our Canadian visitors.

Her new room is just a cement box without windows, but at least it is out of the swamp she was in before this. Houses are available for purchase in Haiti, but (again) red tape and lack of funds make this virtually impossible.

These are the stats courtesy Paul Farmer, writing in his book The Uses of Haiti
There are 1.2 doctors, 1.3 nurses, 0.04 dentists for every 10,000 (Haitians), in the U.S., there are 27.9 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants; in Cuba, there are 58.2 doctors for every 10,000 inhabitants.
If you haven't yet read Paul Farmer, I highly recommend getting a copy of the Uses of Haiti. Another good book about Haiti and Paul Farmer is Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. If you buy more than one (get one for a friend) you may get special shipping rates in the U.S.


Haiti customs changes affect water, food prices, goods supply

Hello Everyone,

It's been along time since I was last able to contact you, but I have started these updates on 3 or 4 occasions only to lose hydro, signal etc. We have been experiencing higher than normal periods of blackout. Also, we've had about 10 days with no well water as our generator lost the ability to draw from our well.

It is an interesting phenomenon - even though our well water is tainted, it is still water. Being without a water supply is seriously frightening. Jud managed to coax it back to life and we are once again able to pump.

As we are, and have been, boiling all water, we are currently using much more propane than before. One propane tank used to last for about 8 months, but with our need to boil water, we now use one tank in about 2 months. Jack went to town Monday to refill the tank, and searched all morning, before finding only one tank available in all of Cap-Haitien.

Luckily, one tank was all we needed at the time. Three shops that sell only propane were all closed -- they are just one of the many types of businesses to be affected by recent Haiti customs changes. What will happen the next time we need propane is anyone's guess. Everything in scarce for the poor; the rich do not go without.

The good Water news : As you may remember, in January, we began purchasing 5-gallon containers of potable water, then distributing it by the gallon. This safe drinking water seems to be making a noticeable difference in the overall health of these young people. In the intervening 3 months, we have seen a significant drop in the number of cases of water-borne illnesses.

On July 1, when school finishes for the year, we will continue distributing potable water as long as funds allow. However, due to shortage of funds, we will stop food distribution at that time. Our young people will still be able to come the center Monday to Friday for a light meal and relaxation.

As usual, this summer we will hire as many young people as possible for our annual text book refurbishing for redistribution in the late summer, as well as for general clean up (painting, gardening). As always, Starthrower offers them the dignity of work (see donations in kind page).

Our food supply, too, is greatly affected as a result of the new customs regulations. As well, several shipping companies have closed their doors; they are suffering too. One year ago, we paid about $120 USD per week to fund our Cap-Haitien student food distribution program. This week, we paid almost $400 USD for the same goods. Prices rise higher each day, even as more and more people come knocking on our gate asking for food, work and help with school.

On Wednesday, Claudy and Louisena came down the mountain from Sen Rafayel with a handwritten request from a group of our students asking that we please find a way to feed them. It always comes down to sufficient funds. Thanks to all who have so generously supported them, and who continue to do so. Thanks to you, at least we are doing SOMETHING.

Please help us do more by telling someone about Starthrower Foundation, and help us address the great need in Haiti.

[see Donate for information on how to make a donation]


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