Monday, March 5, 2012

A Sponsor's Impressions

On Feb. 3rd, Auguste and I picked up Sherlyne's sponsor, Yvonne, at the Carib Tours bus station in Cap-Haitien. She had come from British Columbia, Canada to meet her sponsored student and spend some time at Starthrower. By the end of her visit, she was staff -- complete with 'official t-shirt'.  Now back in Canada, these are the thoughts she shared.

Cap-Haitien staff: Lusnot, Yvonne, Joceline, Auguste
Starthrower Visit 2012

After meeting me off the Caribe Tours bus, Sharon and Auguste took me directly to  Lakay Fondasyon, which is fortunate because I don’t think I would ever have found it on my own. I was quickly introduced to staff and dogs, and later to a miraculous Allimax and citron cure for the upset innards I had brought with me from the Dominican Republic. Before retiring for the first night, Sharon warned me to check my sandals before putting my feet in them ... in case a monster spider/milliped/cockroach etc had got there first: however, in preparation for my arrival, staff had cleaned in every nook and cranny, and I am glad to report that I had no encounters with spiders or ti bet yo (little critters) of any sort during my stay.

We made a home visit to Sherlyne, my sponsored student, accompanied by several curious youngsters: it proved too much for the youngest on-looker, who found our pink faces quite as scary as any monster spider and let out appropriate wails of horror. 
Now what are those
two blans up to?
With Sherlyne and her aunt, in their home
The tidy one-room home (divided for sleeping with a sheet of Silotex) that Sherlyne shares with her sister and aunt has a lean-to kitchen with charcoal recho (burner) and barrel for catching rain water: there is no latrine, no water source – no electricity. The alleyways between houses are very narrow: there would be no chance of evacuating the area in a hurry. Sherlyne is too thin and I am too fat -  in the photo we look like Jack Sprat and his Wife -  however I think we average out to a good pair and I am hoping to partner with her through post-secondary.

En route to San Rafayel, hills denuded of their mahogany trees
On Sunday, August drove us up the rocky Granjil Mountain road, in a truck loaded with cement and tiles for Lakay Jasmine, at San Rafayel. It being wash day, washing was everywhere – all along the cactus hedges, stretched out on rocks and rooftops, strung up in trees, and even on the occasional washing line. Some of the dwellings we passed were made of concrete blocks but most were of wattle, some covered in plaster, others not.  On the hills beside the road, there were a few chickens and the occasional goat searching hopefully for food. Two solitary solar-powered street lamps, erected by local magistrates, were the only lights on the way – 28 kilometers- you wouldn't want to travel that road after dark.  
One of two solar street lamps on the road to San Rafayel: there is no electricity service here 
We passed several small waterfalls - hopefully a source of clean water for the locals. 
Up on the roof at Lakay Jasmine, Sharon showed me where her second-floor bedroom will be: it will give her a view of tree-tops and mountains, and be a peaceful refuge from the bustle and noise of Cap Haitien. The centre in San Rafayel is a real boon for the local Starfish as it has several rooms suitable for meeting, study and tutoring – to say nothing of working toilets, and a supply of snacks and potable water.  Sharon even has plans for a small on-site dispensary.
Student staff at the new Lakay Jasmine, San Rafayel 
I came away with an appreciation for how much effort is involved in getting even the simplest thing done in Haiti. Sharon and Auguste are busy non-stop with scheduled activities out of which arise many complications, and dealing with crises as they occur; to say nothing of switching the electricity source once or twice a day, and pumping water up to the rooftop “chateau” before the electricity dies again. There is never a dull moment!
Thanks, Sharon for being there in Haiti: it is your tireless hands-on efforts that make it possible for the rest of us to make contributions in the knowledge that our money goes where it should. Collectively we are indeed making a difference, one life at a time.

Yvonne Parti

Sharon here. As Yvonne gave permission to use the documents she sent, I have culled a section from  a second report on her visit ot the orphanage Maison d'Espoir in Gressier ( in the South ) pertinent to Starthrower and our work. Yvonne wrote:

Haiti’s poor have no purchasing power, and yet many of life’s necessities cost as much, or more, there as they do in Canada. Haiti’s minimum daily wage is $3 – not enough to feed two people, and then there are rent, clothing, hygiene products, medicine, transportation and children’s schooling to be paid for. 

In Cap Haitien, Starthrower Foundation pays high school, and when it can find sponsors, post-secondary, education for very poor youth. These young people, who do not have the “luxury” of orphanage care, generally can afford to eat just twice a week: as a consequence they are quite malnourished. Their housing conditions may involve sleeping on a bare concrete floor and/or having no safe water supply, and/or no kitchen and/or no latrine, and certainly no electricity. As you can imagine, these students have no reserves of health to tide them over when they get ill, as they often do. In many ways these youngsters are worse off than youth at the Maison d’Espoir orphanage, but they are more self-reliant., having life skills that the orphanage kids have no opportunity to develop. The foundation does its best to improve the students health so they can succeed at school – giving out sleeping mats, mosquito nets, clean water and nutritional supplements where the need is greatest. It also provides senior students with much-needed part-time employment - as tutors, night security, and person-Fridays. The two modest buildings in Cap Haitien and San Rafayel offer students a quiet refuge for studying, reading newspapers, and receiving counselling, first aid, snacks and potable water. 

I can quite see how the earthquake caused so many deaths. Not only does lack of money lead to cutting corners in construction, but throughout the cities, single storey dwellings have become two and three storeys high, without due respect to the original building’s capacity to hold the extra weight – a little shaking and of course the whole structure collapses. While those few with money are no doubt rebuilding to higher standards than before, the reality is that the poor (most of the population) can hardly afford to rebuild at all so they will continue to cut corners and risk calamity

Thank-you, Yvonne, for your time, energy, support and courage. Thanks to all sponsors who enrich the lives of our young people with your support and encouragement.



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