Friday, April 29, 2011

Catching up, Visiting Viola

Time flies here. Another month gone and Monday I'm back in Canada for a few weeks. In the intervening weeks we have travelled to Sen Rafayel 3 times, and our truck was 'anpan' twice. The mountain track is unforgiving.Supplies were delivered and payment deadlines met.

Easter break arrived and with it dozens of our students signed up for extra courses to help prepare for state national exams. In Haiti, a holiday means you go to school.  Those who preferred to take time off came to watch videos (Harry Potter in Spanish and French) on a laptop computer,  share a meal, play dominoes, read a paper.

Summer arrived with temperatures of 50 C. in the shade. Want proof?

Yes - 50 celcius

And as always, letters arrive daily.  Yesterday we visited Viola. Here is a translated portion of her letter. (original in Kreyol) After reading it and making an appointment, we interviewed, checked papers and set up the home visit.

Meet Viola, age 20,  Grade 9 (3rd year HS)
 " I don't have mother or father - my mother has been dead since 1995, my dad died in the earthquake 12 January. My parents left 5 little ones, 2 girls, 3 boys, I'm the oldest. I have an aunt who has made an effort to help. She has 10 children who count on her and her husband just died  so she is no longer able to help."

Her dad was a mason, in Port-au-Prince when the quake struck, on his first job in a year. The uncle died of kolera just before Christmas. The longest portion of the home visit was getting to the house, built on the salt flats (lamer), which means when the rains come, although an attempt has been made to dig a canal, the salt water rises  making travel extremely difficult through the morass of mud, and creating a haven for mosquitos.The salt also eats away at building materials making all houses in the area temporary.  When the dry season is upon the land, everything is baked, desert-like in its heat and intense, eye watering glare, a salt crust covering everything. She walks across this every day to and from school, where she has been sitting in on classes with no supplies.

We walked for miles across the salt flats.

Checking out school uniform - she grew, it didn't. Matant looks on.
The house is one room, divided with curtains to create sleeping space for the 2 families. No electricity, no running water, no toilet, no kitchen. A small lean to serves as cooking space outside,  and the embers of a fire are kept burning as starting a cooking fire is costly. The house is spotless, her aunt a gracious, tired lady some 15 younger than me. She thanked us for visiting. Dan has put to-gether some raw footage, so when you have time, come along on the visit.

Although school funds have run out, we found enough in the centre fund for Viola. Registering her at school was an opportunity to talk with a group of primary children who were intrigued by my lack of colour. As a former kindergarten teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed the time.

White hair and white skin proved to be an event.
In addition to school fees and uniform funds,  we also paid registration for state national exams, written at the end of Gr 9, Rheto and Philo. This year, for the first time in her school career, she will have text books and the right to enter the exam room. Another starfish with  'possibilite'. One down, 10,000 to go.

BIIGGG news to-morrow


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