Sunday, September 19, 2010

Visitor, School supplies, Sen Raphael, Home visits

Last week brought 2 visitors to Lakay Fondasyon, Daniel our website administrator (aka webguy) and ELECTRICITY!  For the first time in 12 years there was electricity daily.  Admittedly it was intermittent, not strong enough to pump water from the well, provide internet access, freeze water or run a fan, but it was present.

The first day of Daniel's visit, we took it easy as the humidity of summer still lingered.  It takes awhile to acclimatize.  Dan jumped into every activity, travelling to town to pick up and then unpack a box of supplies from Cindy and company, weeding our garden, meeting the many new faces which kept arriving for school support, a little chat, food, medical referral etc...  In short, it was a normal day.  The staff carried on its usual jobs.  We have had a surge in Malaria and Typhoid cases over the last 2 weeks, averaging a new case of Malaria daily.  Fortunately, we have been on the receiving end of a wonderful gift - a carton of the natural supplement Allimax donated by the CLM Health Group in Mississauga, Canada.  Dan picked them up and brought several packages.  We have found that it cuts recovery time from Malaria in half.  Many thanks Heather and all staff involved in the donation.  You're generosity is improving quality of life.

Tuesday, we went to town to pick up supplies and check on bank transfers.  I'll try to pursuade Dan to share his impressions of the traffic circus which performs daily in downtown Cap-Haitien. (DAN:  I'll do better than that and post a video... It's not the worst that I've seen there but it will give readers an idea of the madness!)

With supplies purchased, it was time to fill the Igloo cooler with bottled water and Tampico, and pack everything for the Wednesday trip to Sen Rafayel.  Wednesday at 5 a.m. we made sandwiches after daily chores finished and Auguste, Jack, Daniel, myself and our driver Jackson headed up the mountain of Grand Gilles. The 28 km trip took us 2 and 1/2 hours - including a 5 minute stop in Dondon to purchase bananas (fig yo) - AND we arrived intact.  First up - visit Sister Ginette and catch up on the convent and clinic news.

Then on to the office to deliver a brailler and manual typewriter to Guilene.

The originals, also donated from Pa, were destroyed in the January 12th earthquake which also trapped Guilene for 6 days.  The guys took Guilene home to check her ti kay (house) for appropriate space to house the machines.

We began to distribute back packs and text books to the new crop on 1st and 2nd year high school students.  Then we began interviews in response to letters received from prospective students.  Lunch break at 12:30 saw everyone crammed into one room.

No rest in Sen Rafayel - lunch over, Dan left with the staff to take a look at village schools and some student houses.  Auguste and I had just begun the next round of interviews when Consienne (July post) came in, very quietly announcing that her father had just died (pictured below).  What was she supposed to do? 

With Auguste to handle interviews, I left for her house as Consienne's mother was on her own and she is blind.  I sat with her in the small, dark, musty room furnished only with a single bed, mattress made of old clothes.  Mme was desolate.  Her husband had a fever for 15 days.  She had taken him to a local hospital and asked them to treat him out of compassion, but care was refused.  He was 62.

With the help of staff, we found a villager to perform the ritual bathing of the body (benyen), secured his birth certificate and went to the local magistrate for the death certificate (deklarasyon).  Of course, the office had closed at 2 p.m. so we would have to wait for a day.  Then we found a carpenter to make a coffin (bwat), agreed on a price, then returned to the office, packed up and headed home.

Thursday and Friday were spent doing home visits, showing parts of Haiti not found on a map of tourist attractions.  Gabriel's rented floor space (he does not have a room) is in a house built on a garbage dump (photo below).  The dump was created to stop up the salt water marsh (bouche) which is a breeding ground for so many sources of misery.  Unfortunately, the salt water always wins, eating through the garbage and the houses built on top of it.

At Paudeline's ti kay, our visitor treated neighbourhood children to the 'magic' of instant replay. 

We check everything on home visits - sleeping space, study space, kitchen facilities, latrines (if there is one).  On another home visit, Althega's rental space has an outdoor kitchen but no latrine.  Plastic bags are used and discarded in a not so empty lot across the street.  There is a soccer field built by well meaning visitors but no ball, no shoes (see video below).

Saturday morning, upon returning from depositing Dan at the airport, the electricity we had celebrated was gone.  "Where," the staff asked jokingly, "did he pack it - back pack, pocket, or suitcase?"

Our internet at the centre has been suspended so I am writing from the dining room of the Hotel Roi Christophe.  Am hoping to have it restored before I leave for Canada next week but first have to track down the donor for account information.  It has been such a wonderful gift and now a necessary part of our lives.

Every one of the young people mentioned here is in need of a sponsor - from Guilene who will resume studies in Port-au-Prince to Gabriel entering 2nd year university to become a teacher.  To those who support so often, many thanks.  If you're thinking about it - please take the leap.  We have almost 400 on our waiting list between Cap and Sen Rafayel.  Please spread hope.

Ala pwochen


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Challenges, Changing Seasons, Victims

Communication is always a challenge here - sometimes its the language, an expression new to me, sometimes the equipment with which one communicates.  I have made many attempts to write this update, each time thwarted by either lack of internet access or electricity or solar power.  Perhaps to-day.  The SIM card on my cell phone gave up the ghost as well, taking with it all of my contact phone numbers.  There is consolation however, I have been able to keep the same phone number.

Seasons are beginning to change - the exhaustive summer heat is beginning to level off, mangoes are dropping at a slower rate (Stephen pictured gathering mangoes from our tree), avocados (zaboka) have begun to drop and our book program has moved into its second phase.  We've paid inscription for those with year end results which provides us with book lists.  We have begun to prepare backpacks .  This means a change of staff as well.  The book repair staff have finished and the list preparation staff have begun.  Micheline has a month off from her Medical technology program, so we are able to use her expertise.  She had a successful year and is looking forward to the final year of her program.  State results are trickling in - will update next week.

Sen Rafayel continues to challenge as well.  Our visits bring out hundreds of young people hoping to continue either secondary school,  enter a trade or go on to post secondary.  Often the noise drowns out our interviews.

(Sharon conducting an interview)

Although we work with teens and young adults there are always surprises - Michaella (on the left) is 11 and needs support for high school, Adminada (below) is 29 and needs support to finish the final year of a couture program.

And the letters continue to touch me - Widlen writes in Kreyol: "Neither my mother nor father are alive.  It was a cousin in Port-au-Prince who was paying for me and he died in the earthquake.  M tankou yon zwazo san branch (I'm like a bird without a branch)."

Myriame wrote also in Kreyol: "I saw life end, passing in front of me in the catastrophe of Jan 12 in Potoprens (Port-au-Prince).  By chance I did not die but those who were responsible for me did die, so it seems my life is over."

Marrion wrote in English, I'm certain with dictionary in hand. The mistake she made was so profound - heart in Kreyol is Ke, earth in Kreyol is te. She wrote: " My father died in the heart quake 12 January 2010.  I'm obliged to address you...could you please help me with this situation."

It was a heart quake - breaking the hearts of everyone here.  And the victims continue to surface.

I have been concerned about one of our girls.  She has been even more withdrawn over the past several months and I suspected pregnancy.  She came to see me Sunday morning.  She was raped by 3 young men in February, returning late one night from Sen Rafayel because the taptap (bus) had broken down on the mountainside, delaying arrival.  She had no money for a taxi and public transit had stopped.  There will be no school for her this year.  She's terrified, frightened, angry - both her and the unborn child victims of violence that continues.

On a final note, I received an email from an American nurse I had met in Leogane.  She had been teaching an intensive course at the nursing school and prepared a beautiful video of her memories of Haiti.  Hope you can take the time to view it.  She has included our young people.  Thanks again Jamille.

Beni tout moun

PS. Many thanks to Jackie, Peg and all those who responded to the letters last week.


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