Saturday, June 14, 2008

Back in Cap-Haitien Haiti - Update News

Greetings from Cap!

It is Saturday morning and Auguste, Marlene and I are working. They are composing an email in Spanish to the information department of the University she wishes to attend in the Dominican Republic (Sendomeng in Kreyol). Marlene has completely recovered from breast surgery and we have secured her passport: Both are major achievements in one year. After navigating the treacherous Archives in Port-au-Prince, all her papers for her application are in order.

Last Saturday morning when I arrived back in Cap-Haitien after being in Canada, Auguste and Jackson met me at the airport, and, when I arrived at the house, Jaccques and Wisky were working. It takes about 30 seconds to feel at home after a trip to Canada. English is now my second language. We then held a staff meeting over breakfast at the Hotel Roi Christophe -- a culture shock in itself for Starthrower staff.

Hydro has been in very short supply since before I left Haiti in April. No power during the day and only a few hours during the night. The hydro has since dwindled to nothing. At the beginning of the week we tried to dedicate the solar power to running the refrigerator. However, just a few cloudy days made us realize that was not possible. Even using the coffee maker depletes the batteries.

For those coming to visit, we are now using our Igloo cooler (which we purchased in the spring for using with visitors and on trips to Sen Rafayel) as our fridge. Better than the alternative which is no cooling. We have so far been able to purchase ice made from potable water. Good thing we have no leftovers!!

Seems to always be a trade off with the electricity. The few nights it came on at about 9 p.m., so the carpenter and metal workers across the street had their saws going for as long as the hydro held. With the complete cessation of hydro, I can now hear without interference the voodoo drums, roosters and feral dogs.

Thanks to Mme Jane who visited Cap in May. I am so sorry you suffered the Haitian hitchhiker flu upon returning home. The vitamins and energy bars you brought were distributed within 48 hours. We have been able to give each youth a 2 month supply of vitamins to see them through June and July. For the first time, we were able to include Sen Rafayel students as well.

Also, the financial donation allowed us to continue our food distribution in Cap during exams. Due to insufficient funds, the food program ends next Sunday, June 22. Unfortunately we were not able to implement a program in Sen Rafayel. They really do get the short end of the straw. With prices quadrupling on some items, it was all we could do to struggle along in Cap.

And according to Claudy and Louisena, our staff members in Sen Rafayel, two of our kids there -- Francois, who has been one of our kids for 3 years now, and Yolene, for 7 -- have dropped out of school and have since disappeared. Both those students told Claudy that they were unable to continue as there was no food and they were always sick.

On a positive note, we are going to keep the potable water project going as long as possible. Staff want to see the project become a full time program as all are heartened by the decline in illnesses due to waterborne parasites and pathogens among our young people. Also want to duplicate the project in Sen Rafayel although logistics are more demanding. More difficult to sterilize the gallon jugs for refill. Here we are able to boil water - no such luxury in SR.

I feel as though I should say THIS JUST IN
Jack , Auguste and I were to meet in Cap at noon to have the Boss Mechanisyen check out a potential vehicle for us. Jack just phoned to say 'don't come'. There is a huge demonstration in Cap and only Haitians can get in and out of town on foot.

Public transit is at a standstill. We knew of the demonstration after receiving a notice inviting all to come wearing black and white to a Mach for Aba kidnapping -- a walk or march to stop the kidnappings. This is particularly important to Jack, as he received word last month that his 5 year old daughter, Diateline, was the target of kidnappers because 'she is cute and he works for a blan.'

Although our staff receive very small salaries, they DO at least HAVE jobs and working for a blan (white, foreigner) translates to access to wealth. Jack has been taking her to school and picking her up every day. Thank goodness her school year in over. Kidnappings continue on an hourly basis here. Some are released after ransom paid, some never seen again.

Again we have a dental problem on our hands. It seems the dentist we were using is not as good as we thought. Four of our kids have had problems with teeth he repaired. When we sent them back, he charged us full price again.

Auguste interviewed another dentist recommended by a friend. We sent one of our boys for a refilling of the one that fell out. This second dentist charged us more than $100 US saying, "Se yon blan-li ka peye" ("It's a foreigner. She can pay anything we charge.") Surprise for him -- we are not able to pay anything. With our kids needing a lifetime of catch up for dental problems, we would have sent him a lot of work had he charged a fair price. This way he has one visit and we still look for a dentist.

We have lost Jhennie from our staff. She is missed. Her sister in Sendomeng is having a difficult pregnancy and Jhennie was dispatched by family to care for her (pran swen). This is a very common Haitian custom. One of our girls, Nandecie, came in yesterday asking to return to school in September. She had to sit out this year to care for sick a family member in Hinche.

As the school year draws to a close, those in desperate situations begin to find us. In addition to our 130 +, Auguste began a new wait list the first of June. There are already 40 names on the list. This does not reflect the numbers in Sen Rafayel. Every one has a story that is real and heartbreaking. One at a time.

More later on our Book Recovery Program and killer mangoes.



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