Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Haiti in the time of Cholera

Tomorrow we head up Sen Rafayel.  We have 2 active cases of cholera that we know of - Illiomene (student staff) and Suzanne.

Vaudre has recovered and we are going to pay his hospital bill to get him released. Thank you to everyone who donated money to help us fight the Cholera crisis and also to get Vaudre out of the hospital.

Alex was in today - his aunt died this morning in Sen Rafayel and he needs travel money.  We just can't do it with so many dying of Cholera.

Paudeline (mother predeceased) lost her grandmother and father to Cholera on the weekend.  Last week Talien's grandmother and brother died (parents already deceased).

And Carline has Typhoid, Rosema Malaria, Edwina undiagnosed.

Our university students in Santiago, Dominican Republic (Jhennie - Business Administration, Elorge and Marlene - Pre Med ) have already been apprised of the reality of border crossing.  If they come home for Christmas they will not be allowed back in the Dominican Republic.  We will arrange fund transfers.  This eliminates their ability to work and make much needed money for living expenses as they are not allowed to work in the DR.

Thanks Cindy in Pennsylvania for the 2 boxes which arrived yesterday.  Carmene is baking cookies from the mix you sent as I write.

Intermittent electricity at the house - Boss working there now as our refrigerator has been leaking small rivers.  Danius (2nd year Business Admin) came out Friday and serviced our truck. What talented students we have.

Sunday was a lock down day due to elections - frequent gunfire and very angry crowds outside our portay - bottles and rocks being thrown. The voting location in Sen Rafayel as well as all ballots cast were burned.

We still await official results.  Anger still simmers.

More later,

Daniel here - Sharon has a lot more informations she would like to share but could only send out this little update from a cybercafe in Cap-Haitien.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cholera, Internet, Donations

Hello everyone, this is Daniel, the french Canadian "web guy".  Sharon phoned me this morning from Cap-Haitien and because she has no access to Internet, told me this message over the phone.(Typos and bad sentence structures all mine).

Things are not well over there.  Cholera is spreading fast, all the kids are scared of catching it.  Some carry bleach with them to wash their hands, some have put bleach in their nose to prevent the germs from going in.  Misinformation is everywhere.
Because of the manifestations, schools in Cap-Haitien are still close and Sharon suspects that's going to be the case until after the elections this week.

Starthrower Foundation has no Internet access anymore and Sharon was able to go into town to "Hotel du Roi Chistophe" for their wireless service and other Internet cafe but not anymore.  On this note, if someone would be able to help with the Internet Provider monthly fees to unable Sharon to be back online, that would be greatly appreciated. (Update - found someone, thank you!)

Now to the big problem, cholera.

One of our student in Sen Rafayel, Vaudre, caught it and got treated at the Hospital.  No clinics in Sen Rafayel are accepting people with symptoms of Cholera, the only place they can go if they don't want to die is the hospital, but it cost money.  As I'm writing this, Vaudre is cured but the hospital won't release him until he pays the medical fees, which stands now at $170 US.  And that amount will grow everyday that he stays there.  If he doesn't pay, he will go to jail.  Students are telling Sharon that they would prefer to die from cholera than to go to that jail, which is notorious for human rights abuse...
That is the same hospital that refused to admit Consienne's blind father because he had no money. He died a few days after.

Hospitals in Haiti are not like here.  Vaudre doesn't have a bed.  Vaudre sleeps on the floor.  If he brought a piece or carpet with him, he's using that to sleep on.  Food or water are not provided.  A family member has to bring him food and water.  As far as I can tell, he's being help "hostage" until he pays (that's my angry reaction, not Sharon's).

In the news, wherever you see medical responses to the cholera outbreak, it's provided by NGO's like "Doctors without Borders".  In Cap-Haitien, "Doctors without Borders" have a free clinic in a school's gym.

There are no NGO's reaching Sen Rafayel.  We are worried about Vaudre and our students.  More will get sick and could die before this is all over.  Starthrower Foundation is the only NGO in Sen Rafayel and we don't have enough money to deal with this crisis.

Sharon is asking for your help.  She needs new funds right now for treatment of cholera for our students and their families.  We are asking all Starthrowers out there to donate what you can. 

The panic is very real.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BBC update on haiti

Daniel here - Sharon has asked me to post this news article from the BBC.

16 November 2010

UN agencies expected a significant increase in the number of cholera cases after a nationwide review.... Cholera is now present in all 10 of Haiti's provinces."


UN peacekeepers kill demonstrator amid cholera protest

At least one man has been shot dead in clashes with UN peacekeepers in Haiti, amid a continuing cholera epidemic that has killed more than 900 people.

UN troops fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators throwing stones and blocking roads in Cap Haitien.

Some Haitians have accused peacekeepers from Nepal of introducing cholera to Haiti for the first time in a century.

The UN says it has found no evidence to justify the accusation, but the cholera strain matches a South Asian one.

A demonstrator was shot and killed by a United Nations peacekeeper during an exchange of gunfire in Quartier Morin, on the outskirts of Haiti's second largest city, Cap Haitien, the UN mission said.

"There was a demonstrator who had a weapon and fired at a soldier, and the soldier returned fire in legitimate self-defence," said Minustah (UN mission in Haiti) spokesman Vicenzo Pugliese.

Hundreds of protesters threw stones at UN peacekeepers, set up burning barricades and torched a police station in Cap Haitien.

Six UN peacekeepers were injured in the clashes, the UN said. At least 10 people were also injured.

As well as calling for UN peacekeepers to leave Haiti, demonstrators accused the government of "leaving the people to die", the AFP news agency reported.

Protesters also clashed with UN troops from Nepal in the central town of Hinche.

'National security'

There have also been protests against the location of cholera treatment centres, which some people fear will bring the disease into their neighbourhoods.

The UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Haiti, Nigel Fisher, said the demonstrations showed the cholera outbreak had gone beyond a health crisis to become "an issue of national security".

He added that UN agencies expected a significant increase in the number of cholera cases after a nationwide review.

"It is spreading and we have to try to contain the number of cases and we have to try to contain the number of deaths," Mr Fisher said.

Cholera is now present in all 10 of Haiti's provinces.

Aid agencies are battling to contain the disease in the capital Port-au-Prince, amid fears it will spread through camps housing 1.1 million earthquake survivors.

President Rene Preval addressed the nation on Sunday to implore people to use good hygiene to prevent infection.

But many Haitians lack access to clean water, soap and proper sanitation.

The UN has appealed for $164m (£101m) to tackle the epidemic over the next year.

A woman carries a relative suffering from cholera into a temporary hospital in Port-au-Prince The UN expects the cholera outbreak will get much worse

The worst affected area remains the central province of Artibonite, where at least 595 people have died.

In Port-au-Prince - which was badly damaged by the earthquake in January - 27 deaths have been recorded, most of them in the slum district of Cite Soleil.

Earlier this month, Hurricane Tomas brought heavy rains, which aid agencies say contributed to the spread of the disease, as rivers burst their banks.

Up to 200,000 Haitians could contract cholera, the United Nations says.

Cholera itself causes diarrhoea and vomiting, leading to severe dehydration. It can kill quickly, but is treated easily through rehydration and antibiotics.

Presidential and parliamentary elections are due to take place in two weeks, on 28 November.

Civil Unrest - a different day in the life.

Tuesday morning, 10 a.m., Comfort Suites, Providentiales, Turks and Caicos.
The plan was for me to be picked up at the Cap-Haitien airport at 9 a.m.  Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men...

Going to Haiti for an extended stay means routines - pay the hydro in advance, put the phone on seasonal service and pay it in advance, prepare and deliver rent cheques for the upcoming year, deliver a cheque to the insurance rep., who will fill it out and notify me of premium.  Prepare and mail all tax receipts for donations received to date.  And of course some things just never go smoothly.  For example the eight automated phone calls I received informing me I had to be at home for a telephone service rep to come out and put the phone on suspension.  After three phone calls to the company, the automated messages continued and I left it in the hands of the universe.

Then the actual trip preparations: purchase supplies needed, pack, weigh suitcases, always mindful that Westjet (until Jan 2011) allows two suitcases, but Air Turks and Caicos only one at 50 pounds.  Any overage is $1USD per pound.  So contents of that second suitcase better be worth the amount charged.  I probably pack and weigh 4 or 5 times before I finally walk out the door at 6 a.m. Monday to meet the taxi I had booked the previous day.  I'm flying into Provo on a Monday as the Saturday flight is mayhem - 4 large carriers arriving within minutes of each other, creating long lines for customs, longer waits for luggage, and being jammed into a taxi van with 9 others, all going to different resorts, each person charged the same amount, $26USD. Monday proved to be not such a great idea, as traffic from Orangeville down to the airport was bumper to bumper, forcing the driver to take the toll road to arrive in decent time.

But I did arrive, printed my own bording pass (soo proud of that accomplishment), stowed luggage and settled in to wait.  As I sat in the lounge a young woman arrived with twins.  Of course I had to see them, had to ask how old (1 month) and complimented mom on her courage flying already.  But she was't going on a holiday - she was Haitian and her and her husband were returning to St. Marc where he is a pastor.  We switched to Kreyol, making me feel at home already.  I didn't see them after boarding but the flight was smooth, as was the customs line.  Same crowded taxi but no hardship.

By 3:45p.m. I was settled in.  As the hotel in Provo has wifi in the rooms, I decided to check emails before heading out to purchase potable water.

One new email, from the airline, time stamped 3:37p.m.  It reads "Good afternoon, please be advised that flight PLS/CAP has been cancelled due to CIVIL UNREST in Cap-Haitien. Please call to rebook".

You must be kidding.  And of course no one was in the office to answer my call, nor did my email receive a reply.  So I kept the taxi reservation for 6:30 this morning and went to the airport.  The airport in Cap is closed, I was told.  Call us.  Yes, and someone will really answer?  No thank you, I asked to speak to someone who could help.  I don't travel with money to burn.  The manager arrived about 8:30 and very gently said that this was an act of God (news to me) so the airline would not provide vouchers or reimburse any expenses incurred.

So I am back in room 103.  Thank goodness it had not been cleaned, it feels a bit like home with my half gallon of potable water waiting.

This is when I realize how necessary the internet and inverter/solar set up are for our home in Cap-Haitien.  I cannot reach the staff.  The phone doesn't ring in.  Auguste would have to go to town to find a functioning cybercafe to find out what is happening. From the sound of it, going into town is not such a good idea right now.  Being self contained once again is the goal.  That has become the priority.

I will make the best of this enforced stay.  I would rather be home in Cap but it will come.  We have endured frequent "Civil Unrest".  Let me know if you have any further information and I will do the same.  As the Haitians say "Demen si dye vle" (to-morrow, God willing).

Will update asap.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hurricane Tomas, Student sponsorships,

My Scottish grandmother always said that no news is good news.  I, on the other hand, would rather have the news, no matter the quality.  Auguste was able to send news via email twice this week.  He is tenacious - no electricity, daily rain, yet he managed to find a cybercafe with a signal.  Good news to me.  Cap-Haitien has had rain every day since Siklon Tomas (Hurricane Tomas) went through last week.  No surprise as the north coast has a rainy season from October to May, followed by hurricane season from May to October.

A week of rain means mold and mildew.  It also means that everyone is cold - Auguste did mention that.

As our centre is made of concrete blocks, it holds the heat in the summer and the dampness in the winter.  Apparently we have also sustained some water damage from the hurricane.  Staff will be back to regular hours and jobs this week, so we'll tackle the problems.  Interior painting was on the agenda anyway.

Good news from Léogâne.  The road to Ti Goave is passable again (which can mean so many different things) and our nursing students are re-scheduled to begin their hospital practicum (staj-la) Monday 15th.  More good news.  One of our nursing students, Gaby, has been sponsored for the remainder of his program.  Daniel and his wife Nadia have started a campaign called "Starthrowers in Action", an invitation and a challenge to make every dollar work. They have gathered a group of friends who have pledged $10 or $20 dollars a month. This group of donors is giving Gaby "possibilité" for a lifetime, and giving Haiti a well trained, dedicated nurse.  Awesome - in the truest sense of the word.


Daniel here - we have since expanded the campaign to everyone interested.  Here's the "pitch":
Many of us would like to help sponsor a Haitian student through Starthrower Foundation but cannot afford to take on the full cost of the sponsorship. I don’t know many people who can afford $220 a month to sponsor a nursing student, or even $55 a month for a high school student. However, many of us can spare $10 or $20 a month, but we often don’t donate thinking our small donation won’t really make a difference. So this is where “Starthrowers in Action” comes in. The concept is simple.  Individually, we feel that we cannot make much of a difference, but TOGETHER, we can make a BIG difference.
Go to our website (which was built under Sharon's supervision) for more information.


Daniel made the trip up to Orangeville this afternoon (Sunday) to bring gifts and cards for staff and his sponsored student.  I leave tomorrow (Monday) morning and will be home in Cap-Haitien early Tuesday.

Repairing storm damage will be first on the list.  As the weather is changing, our "drop in" meal for the kids will change as well.  We'll be back to making large pots of homemade soup with bread, a beverage and piece of fruit.  Carmene's cabbage soup is a work of art.  Sometimes study and eating go hand in hand.  Our centre in Sen Rafayel doesn't have the luxury of a kitchen so we will continue to distribute crackers and cheese with potable water.  Our students are welcome to drop in Monday to Friday for a snack.  Both centres are a brief respite from the reality of home life.  Photo:  Wilsaint's house in Sen Rafayel damaged by the earthquake.

Jack has been scouting for new batteries to bring life to the inverter.  As we are back to no electricity again, the solar panels will become our life line.

Cindy phoned from Pennsylvania with good news - her Fed Ex account has been reinstated, so supplies will again be able to flow into Cap-Haitien from Pennsylvania. We're looking at a variation on the Christmas package program this year.  Versatility is the hallmark of a Starthrower.

The coffee shop is closing in 5 minutes so I will send this abbreviated post to Daniel now.  More next week from Cap-Haitien, when I find time to get into town for banking and internet.  Special thanks to Sproule's Drugstore in Orangeville for their donation of hand sanitizers.  It will be more important with the spread of Cholera.

Beni tout moun (blessings everyone)


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Going Home

This is the third concerted effort to put to-gether an update.  The first responded to the cholera outbreak, the second the impending Siklon Tomas (Hurricane Tomas).  As we no longer have internet service at the centre in Cap-Haitien and the supporting solar/inverter is in need of new battteries, communication with the staff has been sporadic and frustrating.  To send an email, Auguste must first of all call in staff to cover for him.  No easy matter over the past week as I have been unable to get a phone line into Cap.  Then he makes his way to town and searches for a cybercafe which has a signal, functioning generator or EDH (Electrique d'Haiti).  While we never took the gift of internet/solar power for granted, we are acutely aware of its loss.

The first and last communication came Thursday.  I had sent a list of jobs to be done before the storm hit, including filling the water chateau and tying down anything that could be lifted.  Below - Jack on roof with water chateau and solar panels.

Prior to Hurricane Tomas passing through, we were concerned about finding the funds to continue to support our post secondary students.  Now after seeing reports of the flooding in Leogane, thoughts again are in survival mode.  No mention in news reports of how the North fared.  I will be so glad to be back next week.  Although communication will remain a challenge, there is peace of mind being on the ground and knowing where everyone is.  The rainy season will be upon us, heightening the potential for rocks and mudslides.  Thank goodness for our 4 wheel drive vehicle. Below - the road to Sen Rafayel during the dry season.

Daniel here: I've taken the liberty of including sketches from my sketchbook that I did in September on our way to Sen Rafayel.  Sure was a bumpy ride...

So many things on the list for November but again we wait to hear from everyone, begin clean up and if necessary start again.  The patience of the Haitian people seems to be rubbing off - what a blessing.  Will send a post script as soon as I hear from Cap.  Packing is always a reflective exercise for me.  As I pack, weigh, repack, reweigh, those with whom I have crossed paths during my stay come to mind. 

Many thanks to Jeff , Pete and Signe of 'In The Hills' magazine for the time and conversation.  I appreciate being included in the upcoming edition.  Thanks also to Don and the Optimist club for a warm welcome and insightful questions.

Last year, Diane, owner of Achesons in Orangeville, opened her doors for a fundraiser and this year has jumped in again to support our young people.  Thanks Cindy S. for your organizational skills and for assembling a great team.  I know the day (Dec.2) will be a success.  Although I won't be in the country, Starthrower will be represented by our web administrator Daniel Lafrance.  He will be there signing copies of his graphic novel "Starthrower in Haiti".  As he is fresh from his visit to us, he will be able to personalize the work we do in both Sen Rafayel and Cap-Haitien.

Thanks also to those who have commented on the new web site. Your feedback is important.

And last but certainly not least, thanks to Deb, Sue and Janie, owners of Mochaberry coffeeshop.  On more than one occasion, they very graciously let me spend long hours over my sandwich and coffee while working with Dan to get the new site up and running.

More later as I hear from staff.


PS. I have just received emails from Alland in Leogane and Auguste in Cap-Haitien. They are safe. As of this writing, the road to Ti Goave which our nursing students in Leogane must take for their nursing practicum at the hospital is impassable because the river has broken over its banks, flooding all in its path, forcing road closures.

We have had no communication with Sen Rafayel as of yet, nor have we heard from other students in Port-au-Prince, Limbe, Cap.


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