Monday, April 16, 2012

Lakay Fondasyon, Cap-Haitien

Met. Bazile died last week.  As often happens, cause of death is unknown to us. He had a headache and crashed his car, we are told. Met. Bazile was founder, principal, teacher and discipline of Centre de Formation Classique in Cap-Haitien, one of the best secondary schools.  He also taught at other institutions in lavil la (town).  We have eight young people in that school as well as some of our grads. They struggle with the death of someone who was not old, not poor, and had excellent medical care. We have been informed that there will be no report cards distributed by the school for the second trimeste.

Auguste counsels Jean-Ricot . Suzeline listens.

The funeral, which took place Saturday at the Cathedral, was a constant topic of conversation this week. They came in groups or one at a time to voice their concerns about the future of the school and to ask for money for the kouwon (artificial wreaths).  A banner has been strung across Rue A thanking the departed for service and promising to remember. Funeral street banners are common practice for those who can afford. They remain in place as long as the elements allow. Rosema just arrived for work with reports of the funeral. The downtown core was apparently completed blocked off and the cathedral had as many outside as in. Every school in Cap was represented. Nearly all travelled to Ouanaminthe for the interment and everyone sang all day. A first for Cap - a united education community.

Rosema, Jean-Ricot, Edwige and Jolie-  asking questions no one
can answer about the future and seeking  donations
for artificial floral tributes

Centre de Formation Classique (known to everyone as Tcho-Tcho) had a reputation, thanks to its founder, as one of the best disciplined schools in the city, with high academic standards. With the sudden departure of Met Tcho-Tcho, the tone of the school has already changed. Hopefully a new director will be found in time to maintain the status quo.

Kinston came in to study out of uniform. He sings in the choir and wanted to attend the funeral but his dress shoes fell apart, so he was not allowed in. His shoes were not only chire (finished, washed up) they were mouye (soaking wet). Sen Rafayel is not alone in the misery of the rainy season. Like so many,  the tikay of Kinston's  grandmother is flooded so he and his cousin cannot sleep on the floor. After eating and a brief rest, we put him to work then sent him off to purchase new shoes.
Kinston came to rest -- Grandmother'shouse is flooded --
 they cannot sleep on the floor.

Kinston and Lusnot  fill bottles with potable water
for freezing and distribution.
In Cap, third trimeste is just getting underway - but not for everyone. For the few who attend state Lycees, there are as yet no classes. Teachers have not been paid so students fend for themselves. Paudeline left Sen Rafayel to get away from an abusive father. Although her home situation is better Okap with her aunt (matant), she spends a great deal of time here reading as her school is a frequent site for teacher's strikes. Before the Easter break they were closed for a week due to strike. The state had not paid the teachers for 6 months. Everyone loses.

Paudeline - no teachers yet

For those who have resumed classes, study is the mode of operation, whether it's one-on-one with a staff member or in a group looking for chemistry equations. Cap-Haitien has the added advantage of internet access (upon occasion).

Reto state exams are just around the corner

Auguste, Lusnot, Myriame,Camiose,Jehnsen - Chemistry on line

We have several who have been felled by major illnesses recently.  Brunel, Marik and Venise are all recovering from Typhoid, Malaria and Anemia. Camiose and Jehnsen each Malaria and H Pylori. Mexene continues to have dental problems although we have sent him to the clinic at Justinien. The good news is we are in recovery mode. John-Steevenson came down from Sen Rafayel with us to consult in the Dept. of Opthalmology at Jusinien Hospital  for an eye infection and vision problems. Yesterday we picked up his glasses and the infection is clearing. It was his first trip to Cap-Haitien so we delivered him to all appointments. Public transit is unreliable at its best.

John-Steevenson -- first trip to the big city and
new glasses to start the term
Thanks to those who have inquired about Inea. Finally a surgery date on which an operation actually took place. After lying on a gurney for a day,  in the midst of demonstrations which became quite violent then being sent home for a month,  on March 15th, she underwent a left lobectomy, not a complete Thyroidectomy. 
We're hoping this means no hormone replacement although she is suffering fatigue and bouts of dizziness which are incapacitating. I say we're hoping  as the doctor with whom I  spoke immediately after the surgery spoke only Spanish.

Inea : post-surgery before the infection

Our  spare room was again a recovery room. It has been used by many of our students over the years with a senior student in the other bed to help. It's a job as well as practice for our future medics. Brunie dropped in for a visit, ever the nurse. Inea has returned to her tikay and Mme Carmene has been cooking and cleaning for her half days. Inea has returned to the hospital 3 times with Auguste only to be told at each appointment that there is no doctor on duty and the hospital has lost her file (dosye). The next appointment is scheduled for mid-month. The infection in the incision has cleared up and she is pain free. We just have to get a handle on the dizziness and fatigue. She has travelled far since presenting herself at our gate last July. I'll keep you posted.

Inea in our post-surgery recovery room

Student nurse Brunie makes a call
A new  trimeste means we purchase, package and distribute hygiene products, rice and beans. Everything is prepared here for both centers.  Sen Rafayel has a distribution advantage in that students all are within walking distance and the lakay can accommodate about 30 students comfortably at one time. In Cap, any more than 10 or 12 and we are full, using the roof  and  the covered parking space. But here we have the luxury of  grass, trees and flowers. Both locations work, because of the care we take in setting up programs and selecting staff.  Each student is known and our first rule is: Listen!!
Fresnel exercises Tigger or vice versa?
Each student comes for a different reason. Some, like Fresnel, come to exercise- kick the soccer ball, dribble a basketball, play with the dogs, some come for medical/dental help. Some like Kalandy don't know what the  problem is - he's  malnourished. In cases like that, and there are many, we increase food sacks and put them on a regimen of multi-vitamins, vitamin c, Allimax.

Lusnot distributes vitamins and information to Kalandy

Weather will continue to add to the misery. Rosema just reported that his house flooded last night and they bailed water all night. There will be others in the days and weeks to come. Our citron tree was a victim of high winds last week.

Our 'sitwon' tree - a victim of high winds
And so life goes on. My return to Canada comes at a good time - we're out of just about everything I purchased on my trip to Fort Lauderdale in February. With 150 young people, vitamins, etc seem to be finished before they're unpacked. Although never enough, we have to start somewhere.

Last month's 4.6 earthquake just south of Port-au-Prince caused new damage here. I've been in touch with the owner's rep and he will come to inspect when he returns to Haiti the end of May. In the meantime uninvited ti bet yo march in through the cracks.I thought this pic was rather telling - foumi (ants) with a selective palate - they completely ignored the cat food.

Discriminating foumi - they don't like cat food.

And sometimes our visitors are a little larger than foumi. I opened my laptop last week to find this  zandolit (chameleon)- sitting on the keyboard. He was obviously looking for the POWER button. I left him to his business and he eventually scuttled off, leaving me to mine.

The power button is to the left!!

Talk to you from Canada


PS Now that both blogs are finished I have to :

1) Return calls to Marjorie in Canada and Lakay Jasmine in San Rafayel

2) Prepare salaries for student staff

3) Check exchange rate for Dominican Peso/USD then

4) Prepare third term fund requests for med. student sponsors

5) Find and clean my suitcase

6)Check airline tickets and passport

7) Pack for to-morrow

8)Wash my hair

Yesterday's blog mentions my penchant for lists.

PPS Although the rain is too much or too little for the crops, our choublak  ( hibiscus ) flowers despite

Our choublak (hibiscus) in all her glory

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lakay Jasmine, Sen Rafayel

As with most mountains, Granjil is imperturbable, impervious to the lives which call it home.  We, on the other hand, are not - our lives intersect and we have developed relationships. Thursday's trip to Sen Rafayel, as per custom, was eventful.  Our trusty machine, resplendant with 2 new tires, came to a halt shortly after it began as the young man below, Franco,  had closed the road with boulders thrown down from the plateau during a recent protest which killed a policeman, wounded another, damaged several houses on the down side and sent our Auguste and Danius backtracking for cover for several hours.  Those who live between Grand Riviere du Nord and Dondon were protesting  the new road which will run from Hinche to Grande Riviere du Nord, leaving many residents out of the loop, cutting off much traffic and  public transportation. Assuring him we would pay on our return, he moved the rocks and we were allowed to pass.

Enterprise -- a toll road to continue up the mountain
Two more stops to deliver rice, beans, hygiene products and new baseball caps to our usual customers then onward and upward - so we thought.  Orphans Jimpson, Frandzy and Sony were without middle brother Wesly,  as he has been sent by guardian 'matant' (Aunt) to live with other relatives near Dondon. Matant was in prison for harboring a thief  last time we passed, leaving the boys unsupervised,  but has since been released. Every trip we make, the brothers, and further down the mountain,

Mountain dwellers - orphans Jimpson, Frandzy
and Sony. No school for them.

Lou and his family, pick fruit which we purchase. Lou's mother makes 'kasav' on occasion which she wraps in a dirty  pillow case. We launder the case and return it next visit.
Granjil resident -- 18 yr. old  Lou - supplies us with fruit and
occasionally 'kasav'. No school for Lou.
Five minutes later, another stop. This delivery machine (truck) had gone off the road. As we were unable to ascertain what had happened or who needed assitance, we continued the climb, sobered and hypervigilant  -  recent rains had added a new challenge to the already deadly road.

Skeletal remains of vehicles dot the mountainside --a sobering reminder.

Two more stops  - one to speak with a Red Cross rep. manning a Cholera treatment centre and the other to distribute frozen juice to these 3 guys (twa ti neg).
Mountainside Cholera treatment centre
Junior mountain dwellers

Slowed further by our load of cement and lumber as well as the  hundreds making their way to Sen Rafayel for market day, we finally arrived to a full house on a Thursday morning. In the village (bouk la) many of our seniors are writing exams for second trimeste, while others have resumed classes and are submitting report cards. Jasmine House has become a daily stop for homework, relaxation and an ear to listen as well as unfortunately, an emergency clinic although there is as yet no clinic on site. We've added 2 new staff members to provide coverage. Edeline was working alone when we arrived - Thursday is usually a 'slow' day.  In the 3 hours we spent on site, she had 36 students in, 4 of whom needed medical attention. 

In the chanm devwa (homework room)

In the bibliyotek (library) ALL hats courtesy of Mme Cindy, in PA
On the galri-a (gallery)

With so many needing so much, there is still never enough time - we just do the best we can. Currently we are responding to Cholera, Malaria, Typhoid, Staph and Strep as well as measles and assorted eye/ear/ dental problems. Everyone is anemic.  Auguste and I met with a student who has been sitting out since 2008. His papers were 'bon' so we'll send Ulysse back to school in September and in the meantime he has been 'admis' so has access to the centre and staff. Our home visit is scheduled for June. That interview was followed by a meeting with the Boss Mason for an estimate on construction of the second storey which we will begin end of May. Already we need the space. That meeting was followed by another meeting this time with the painter who left the work to an assistent who had obviously no experience. Not pretty. A story for another time.

In addition to some solar lights purchased in Haiti, Auguste demonstrated a compact single burner propane stove we delivered so staff can begin to purchase and boil eggs for distribution, in addition to the crackers, cheese and potable water currently on the menu.  We also took up third term packs of hygiene products, rice and beans which were nearly all distributed that day. The beauty of a centre in a village where everyone walks.

Rose Magda Alina wasn't walking however as her feet were very swollen. We drove her home and gave her funds to take a taxi moto back and forth to write exams. She was adamant that exams come before a clinic consultation.

Two other home visits were on the agenda - Clenie and Consienne. Clenie is next on our list for sponsors, and Consienne was the first of 8 students to let us know of damage to her house by recent winds and rain. So first to Clenie then to Consienne, leaving John-Steevenson sitting in the truck as we were delivering him to his Aunt in Cap-Haitien to followup with the opthalmology department and pick up the glasses we had ordered 2 weeks ago. There are another 6 on our list to come down to Cap to have eyes checked and probably glasses ordered. During a conversation about life and death, I once asked the staff how they would remember me when I am no longer here -- they said " Ah Mme - she made lists". Good one!!

I have always maintained  that home visits keep me grounded. I do not say that lightly --actually they usually bring me to my knees in humility. I am so in awe of the courage of the Haitian people, as I am privileged to witness it through the lives of our young people. Driving down the mountain from bouk la  (the village) Consienne's house was indeed a victim of the recent rains - holes large enough for an army of rats to pass through as well as water from the river which overflows it banks and moves with speed and force through the village. Mud and wattle construction, the mud was just about gone, but the interior was still wet, a breeding ground for mold, mildew and any and all bacteria and fungi in the neighborhood. Most of our young people are afraid to go to sleep at night, because the house could fall in on them.

Clenie's house is right in the village and has been marked (as Inea's was in Cap-Haitien) for destruction by the local government.  Owners are not reimbursed, making home ownership an illusion. There is no place to go. We moved her up on the list as she has multiple problems all stemming from malnutrition.

As we left the centre, Wislet, one of our senior students handed me a letter. He said he had written in English to practice. Everytime I see him he practices his English. (blog post January 15,  2012 Home Visit - Wislet M.)

We were so busy that there just was no time to stop and read a letter. His words are more eloquent than mine, so I'll let him speak for himself --

Wislet - eloquent in English

"The biggest thing that someone could do in my life help me with my school. For that reason in spite of all the bad moments that I suffer from my house I didn't want to tell you anything...Last was raining cats and dogs.. my house situation worsened. The house was flooded with water passing through ..holes that the rats and mice dig all over the foundation because there is no concrete base and the walls are not steady, so they can fall down at any time. When its raining cats and dogs and the house is flooded , we can't sleep on the bed, so we pass the night sitting or standing on feet....I write to you because my life and my family is in danger."

He asks for a mason, some sand and cement to:

' fix the holes and  some concrete so that our life situation can be a little bit ameliorated'.

He signs the letter  "Peace Wislet.. member of the foundation in San Rafayel" He belongs somewhere.

The rainy season is just beginning. As I write this at 5 am Saturday morning wind is howling and rain is lashing the house. Words fail me. I know what they are going through - this must be what it means to bear witness.  I am cheered by the knowledge that even real writers have times when words fail. Agatha Christie  (Dumb Witness, 1937) wrote "Nothing is more wearying than going over things you have written and trying to arrange them in proper sequence..." Oh Agatha, I`m with you.

Now that I've admitted again that I'm not a writer I'll go to my fall back - action planning. Although it is Saturday, this can't wait. So

1. Call Lakay Jasmine in Sen Rafayel and ask Kesner to count (kontwole) the number of sacks of cement we have in the depot for the second floor construction

2. Call Edeline at the office and ask her to talk with Wislet when he comes in. He`s there every day to study.

3. Call Danius in Sen Rafayel and ask if he available to work. If so, can he pay a visit to Wislet's tikay and assess damage - he can find him at the centre. Will patching with cement ameliorate the problem? --If so

4. Give him the go ahead to hire a mason for up to 3 days and order a truck load of sand. We will use the leftover. There is already gravel on site.

5. Ask Auguste to make a special trip to Sen Rafayel to check the work and document with camera

The staff is right -- I do make lists. And although Wislet is (at this writing) one of 8 with flood damage, we can start there. One at a time.



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