Sunday, January 12, 2014

Up the Mountain, Down the Mountain

Friday, January 10

Happy New Year to one and all from Cap-Haitien.
At the moment, the hum of electricity is in the air. 2:41 am is the time for sleep. But not to-day.

Someone died at 2:41 a.m. I know the exact time as funeral wails (pete vey) began, penetrating sleep, making me instinctively reach for a time source.  Wild dogs and roosters soon joined in with expressions of support and elsewhere Voodoo drums began to pay tribute to another who had passed on. So sleep will return to-morrow night, perhaps.

Both our drop in centers  have been non-stop busy throughout the school break as we scramble to get kids ready for second term. Schools resumed in Cap on Tuesday, following most of the country. In Sen Rafayel, school opening has been delayed until after the 4th anniversary of the earthquake of Jan. 12th (tramblemandete)
Dialine, in school uniform,picks out a
new backpack. (Cap-Haitien)

Ednie and Carline (Philo) choose backpacks, while
Sherlyne and Edwina (2nd yr University) eat
John-Steevenson (from Sen Rafayel) came down the mountain to visit
his aunt and paid us a visit.He has an extra week of holidays.

We are having difficulty finding backpacks this year.. We still have 60 students who need replacements. In order to take in new students, we did not replace backpacks for returning students, so those who went without at the beginning of the year are in desperate need. Everyone needs new shoes as well as the mountain tracks shred even the toughest soles.

This is also the time we see our senior students, fresh from the challenges of the competitive university world, budget (bilan) and receipts in hand. Rose-Guerlande and Lusnot review her expenditures for first year Dentistry in the Dominican Republic.


The change and maturity in her is difficult to process. I keep seeing this awkward, sad, pig-tailed 15 year old who arrived with her aunt in 2006. Now she is a confident, competent young professional, thriving on the challenges of pursuing a degree in Dentistry in a language not her native tongue.

Rose-Guerlande in 2006.

Weby-Schneider - 4th year
Civil Engineering
Elorge - 5th year medicine
Camiose - 2006
Camiose and Myriame - first year university
(Nursing program)

Home visits continue for new admissions. In Cap-Haitien, coordinator Lusnot made his first visit with me to Claudine's tikay. She was within walking distance - just 30 minutes, she said. She should have added If you are part goat.  The first 30 minutes took us through the katye popile beside us then - well take a look. I have learned that not only does the camera add 10 pounds, the angle of the camera adds another 10.

After the sewage of the 'interior', a 30 minute walk over
fairly decent roads. I thought we had arrived. We had, sort of.

Trying to find a handhold through the chicken wire.
At times there was just nothing to grasp, just
slippery sand underfoot
Look at the shoes I'm wearing, and the strappy plastic sandals
 Claudine is wearing.. 

I can't imagine climbing/descending that hill with a pail of water or a backpack full
of textbooks.
Claudine's assistance is welcome.

I had started to think we were never going to arrive.
Going down was even more fun - I sat down  and slid.

Not pretty but safe.
Nearly there - talk about a cardio workout!
My personal trainer would be proud.

Claudine stands in the doorway of the one room tikay she shares with Mom,
little sister and 2 cousins.
Claudine had been sitting out of school due to lack of funds when we admitted her to the program in September. Her mom has never gone to school. It is a regret in her life. She sees education as the answer to the problems in the country. There is no toilet, no kitchen, and the only water source (untreated) is miles away and is carried  a bucket at a time on the head up that small mountain. (ti mon)
Lusnot talks with Mom and makes notes while little sister looks on.
Each one of the plastic chairs was broken,making sitting a perilous activity.
They had been rescued from a garbage dump and washed.

The concrete floor is Claudine's bed.
We did not know at the time that Claudine was sick. The next morning she appeared at the center with a list of symptoms - stomach pain, headache, joint pain, vomiting. We made her comfortable, gave her herbal tea, Gravol and started her on Allimax. As it was too late for clinic, Lusnot saw her home and next morning after a consult at the corner clinic (nurse only no doctor)she returned with diagnosis in hand. As I had diagnosed the day before, Typhoid - severe- and Urinary track infection. Other analysis performed will have results later to-day. In the meantime she is comfortable and receiving medical attention.

Lusnot's job now after securing diagnosis and medications, is to follow up with a visit to the school and a letter of explanation re: Claudine's absence. If we had the resources ie staff, space, funds - it would be beneficial to expand the adult education program we offered Joceline as some parents want to participate in the school experiences of their children, but basic education is needed.

It is now Saturday, Jan. 11 and electricity has returned after a 24 hour hiatus.  Unfortunately not soon enough as everything in the freezer and freezer compartment of the fridge had time to melt. Good reason to do a major clean..That's our Saturday chore.

Tomorrow we begin tutoring programs for those who received report cards this week. Sen Rafayel is another story, so I am splitting the blog in 2 as 'Up the Mountain' needs its own space.

And tomorrow we will remember what we lost in that life altering quake 4 years ago, and be grateful for the blessings which have come our way in the intervening 4 years. Thank you for being part of our lives.

Frandzy Voyard
22.01.86 - 12.01.10
Always missed - n'ap sonje.


PS If you are interested in the reconstruction, information can be found at Just translate if you do not speak French.

Saturday, January 11

Leaving Cap-Haitien to travel up Granjil mountain to our center in Sen Rafayel is something I look forward to every time. True, preparations can be lengthy and frustrating, but it's always worth the effort. Sen Rafayel has a different speed. Auguste, our Director of Education, calls it a 'konje' (holiday) as time seems to slow down.

Getting there is an achievement. While packing the truck, a 10 minute trip to buy ice cubes for our coolers proved to be 10 minutes too long, as a neighborhood cleanup had begun, blocking our street entrance with garbage while we were at the store.  We were able to finish packing and get away while the pile could still be traversed.

Getting onto our street - empty 10 minutes before

Once the truck is packed and ready to go, there is of course the usual traffic with which to contend. 
We have to stop anyway to purchase locally made kasav,  a flatbread  (gluten free) made from the manioc root.

Traffic snarls any time - day and night
 Soon on our way past the Milot cutoff, we ran into a snag. A hole in the road which was being carved out to stop traffic. In the days since, the hole has grown in length and depth and is piled high with items large (trucks...)and small (tires...)which are ignited and burn most of the day. Although  Minustah, UDMO and PNH troops were all on hand, yesterday the taptap on which staff member Dieugrand was travelling had to turn around and go back to Dondon. He was returning from working security at our center. He had been allowed to pass on the way up Wednesday but the protests have escalated. He got off the machine (losing his fare) walked miles through the brush until coming out down the road. Eventually he found a taximoto, for which he paid dearly. The day before, Auguste our director of education had been stopped for the better part of a day and had to pay a ransom as well as get out of the truck and move boulders for passage.
This hole in the road has grown to make any passage
impossible. Protests (for electricity, running water etc)
are escalating as patience in wearing.
Last week's trip brought home the reality with which those on the mountain live. Every time we passed the river, I was struck by how low the water table had fallen.

                                          I could count the stones on the riverbed. No rain for 
                                                 months has precipitated a crisis yet again.

When we arrived at the village (bouk-la) of Dondon, again evidence of drought. Our vehicle is usually surrounded by dozens of marchands selling offerings from the field. This trip just a few selling bananas -very expensive bananas as they are so scarce. No tomatoes, no avocados, no pineapples, no mangos, no peanuts...
Auguste pays for some bananas (fig) but we couldn't find enough for 
more than one day at the center.

If you sit for just a few minutes, you get the idea that Haitian village life is very busy - people are moving, working, travelling, communicating, somehow surviving.

After a year of road disruptions and no place to leave our vehicle, one now enters Sen Rafayel on a stretch of smooth concrete. It doesn't extend into the village, but it makes an impressive entry. A crowd was gathered around the main water source for the village, hoping that this day the water would gush forth, but  not even a trickle.
This 'tiyo' (pipe) is the main source of water in the village.
It usually carries water from further up the mountain. It has been turned
off for weeks due to water shortage..

Our staff has been searching all over the village to find enough water for basics. With the donated Aqua tabs, it does the job. No water at all , even untreated water, is a frightening situation. In Cap, we went this entire week without water as the water level in our well is so low that our generator has been unable to mount it. We have the luxury of being  able to purchase 5 gallon bottles. Not many have that kind of money. The last heavy rainfall we had in Sen Rafayel was the first week of September, when I snapped several pictures of this little guy (ti neg) catching the run off from our roof. He had 5 or 6 empty jugs lined up. Since then - dry, drier, driest.

Why walk to the village well when the neighbor has
a seemingly unlimited supply. Abundant water now a memory.

Arrival at our center, Lakay Jasmine, always surprises me. It is never without business and staff have never had to ask anyone to leave because of inappropriate behavior. 
Always a full house - outside and in.
Reading, studying, eating, playing games - in
a safe environment.

Due to the almost daily violent protests on the way up, I stayed behind this week and worked with our Cap coordinator Lusnot, while Auguste took coordinator Edeline through several home visits. A visit to Madarine's tikay showed another very real side of the parent/child story in the country. 

Madarine had been sitting out of school because her father is dead and mother suffers from a form of dementia. Now that her younger sister and 2 brothers are older, she has been able to return to school, thanks to your support. The child has become the parent to siblings and her mother.
Coordinator Edeline follows Madarine. The truck can only take us so far.
The tikay  is not theirs - it belongs to a 'friend of their fathers'. How long his goodwill lasts is anyone's guess. He does not make repairs nor do they ask, fearing to be put out.
Edeline, Madarine and her sister in front of the 1 room tikay.

Like many of the dwellings, the tikay is one room. Madarine and siblings sleep on the dirt floor. There is no kitchen, no toilet/latrine/ no water source nearby. Manman sleeps on a bed made of twigs and sticks. It does not have a mattress. The roof leaks whenever it rains. They eat when they find food, like most of our young people. This is why it is so important to offer food and safe drinking water at the center.

Madarine, her younger sister and mother sitting on the bed.
I have no advance knowledge of when the rains will come . Usually when it happens, it is either too little or too much. Nothing is easy here, but these people have such courage, it seems natural to be here sharing part of the journey.

Tomorrow the country will stop for a moment  to remember Jan. 12, 2010. Then the work of surviving will begin again.

Beni tout moun



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