Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Home Visits

Haiti has night sounds unique to her culture. Voodoo drums and death wails are frequent but last night they were joined by the sweet sound of RAIN.  It didn't last as long as the death rituals but was a welcome addition for the duration. The April rainy season never did appear, leaving us here in Cap-Haitien still without water personally, (dry well we are told) and the village of Sen Rafayel without water as the community tiyo (pipe) is not only still closed but has been vandalized. It takes about 2 hours of driving around each week to find a spring, or springs (sous) to fill enough buckets to maintain our drop in center.

On last weeks home visits, the water crisis was visible everywhere. We saw many children of all ages bathing in as little as a cup of water. This little one (who didn't know how old she was) allowed us to take her picture.
Bathing is  a ritual when you have very little. Self sufficient
at very young ages as often no parents.
Of the 9 home visits we made that day, 8 students had both parents dead. The statistics on orphans and average age in the country are still staggering after 16 years here. No one had water, even in a bucket.

Lakay Jasmine coordinator Edeline follows Adeline
into her tikay. This is row housing.

Edeline, Auguste and student Adeline talk about the difficulty finding water.

Possessions for 5 people
Adeline's parents are both dead. She has 2 brothers and 2 sisters. Their belongings hang from the ceiling where possible. Rats, mice, cockroaches, foumi are constant problems, even when one does have proper storage space. The next visit was within walking distance, so we left others waiting in the truck while we walked to Ema's. 

It was a short walk to the house of Ema's maternal Gran, responsible for Ema's younger brother and 3 sisters also. Ema's parents are both dead. Gran talked of the sadness of losing her daughter and son-in-law. The house has a tol roof which is full of holes. When rain does come, everything is soaked.

Ema and her Gran at the kitchen door

Gran proudly showed  the rice and beans (diri ak pwa)
she was cooking for the only meal of the day. They don't have the luxury
of eating every day.
The family pet - a one-footed duck.

Back to the truck for a bit of a longer drive to Lilia's, although still in the village (bouk la). Like the others, Lilia's parents are dead. She stays with an aunt and uncle who are not related by blood. The ti kay was neat and tidy. 10 people live here, all sleeping on the floor. Lilia had been sitting out of school for 2 years when we admitted her with General Funds. Every one of these young people would benefit greatly from a sponsor.
Auguste and Lilia talk about her family
Although no beds, there is a prayer table,
complete with Bible and Hymn book
Although no water, there is a shower - no door.

Although we have no electricity today, I am hoping the laptop battery will hold out to finish . I have stopped 3 times because of very close, rapid gunfire not too far from our center. Center coordinator Lusnot has stopped work each time as well and we stand in the courtyard waiting for the next volley. Student Rosema just arrived to eat and tells us the protest (manifestasyon) is at the end of our street and is in response to the lack of electricity. He saw several guns so just ducked his head and scurried up to the center.

Our coordinator in Sen Rafayel has taken it upon herself to find out where our students live. With no streets or street names/numbers it is a daunting task. It helps a great deal as in the case of Myrlande who had just had a second cyst removed from her leg and was post-op at home. An uncle paid for her to travel to the hospital at Milot but had no money for meds. We keep a small dispensary so were able to take enough to make her comfortable. Will have to find a supplier for basic meds in bulk once our clinic has an opening date, probably September.
Like most, Myrlande's bed is the floor so I sat on the side
of her bed and we talked medication and hygiene.

Kitchen supplies for 5 people
Myrlande's mom and dad are both dead. She has 3 brothers and 2 sisters, 4 of whom live here with her aunt. There is no latrine, no kitchen - this one bedroom/livingroom/storage room is it for 5 people.

As we are heading to a different zone in the village, it's back to center to pick up the rest of the visitees. Imagine my surprise to find that we had visitors waiting. Ti manman, the dog we have been feeding and watering for many months, brought her brood out of hiding and presented them at our front door. Feeding her paid off, as the pups are healthy. 

Ti Manman trusted us enough to bring her pups

Front end
Back end -- Too cute for words

The gunfire has arrived too close to the house for comfort, so I'm going to split this blog in half and finish tomorrow - with luck.



Sunday, April 13, 2014

Up the mountain: work, play all in a day

Two weeks ago, I arrived back in Cap-Haitien to a raucous welcome- 5 dogs and 1 cat doing joyful, delirious dances, each vying for attention. Were they excited because the plane was on time AND my suitcase had arrived as well? Or  perhaps they were trying to tell me we had a new boarder. It was about 10 minutes into the reunion when the new resident mouse poked out from under the fridge. We were probably making too much noise. All energy turned into evicting him and then we got down to business. Auguste updated information while we unpacked supplies.

Our Cap-Haitien center had been without water for 2 weeks. The thinking was the generator wasn't doing it's job. If only ... It took 4 days to find a competent technician and to get him to make a house call. Good news - the generator is working. Bad news - THE WELL IS DRY. I've mentioned the lack of rain, the low water table on the river and the water being shut off in Sen Rafayel. Climate change is here. This presents major challenges. 

We have been without electricity since before Christmas. It does appear during the night sometimes but I just acknowledge its presence and stay in the relative safety of my mosquito net.The good news is the electric company has not forgotten about us. We received a bill for last month from EDH - $256.USD. If we don't pay, the counter will be cut off leaving us with no potential. 

Our inverter, which picks up some of the slack, had developed leaky batteries, although they were only 2 years old. Danius came down from Sen Rafayel, went shopping with Auguste, showed him the difference between new and recycled batteries, helped  purchase 8 and installed them. They give us about 6 hours of electricity a day, dedicated to the fridge and freezer. We will add another 4 at month end.

Two of our pups, Ti Jo and Sablo had developed a skin rash so we worked in 2 emergency trips to the only person with veterinary training in the North of the country. 

Last Monday morning, Jocelyne and I were working in the kitchen getting ready to cook for Sen Rafayel when the propane stove exploded into flames. We were startled but unhurt and managed to contain and turn off. It took the rest of the day to find a technician, replace worn parts and finish what we had started at 8 am. 

From time to time I do ask myself if I'm having fun yet.. Everything cooked, truck packed and gassed up, we head up Granjil mountain. So much had gone wrong in such a short space of time, everytime we passed a spot on the mountain where our old truck had broken down, Auguste would say "Mesi M. Benjamin, mesi Mme Diane" (donors Jasmine Foundation).  Our new truck continues to provide safe travel and although purchased in July we still do not take it for granted. 

Upon arrival at Lakay Jasmine, we had not yet unpacked the truck when coordinator Edeline rushed Auguste into the depot to look at the bouret (wheelbarrow).  Although newer than the truck, it came with no warranty or service plan,  so we had to find someone to repair it as it is the only mode of transportation if we are not there with the truck.

Edeline points out the problem with the bouret
to Auguste.

Meanwhile assistant coordinator Adelaine and I unloaded the bananas, kasav (flat bread), cheese,  peanut butter  and boiled eggs we had delivered and set out to cut the slabs. She had a hungry group waiting to eat in between morning and afternoon exams.
Adelaine prepares kasav.

Lunch between exams for those in uniforms.
Those out of uniform are finished exams.
As soon as Adelaine finished her preparations, nursing grad Gaby moved into the Chanm Devwa (homework room) with his study group (revizyon) for Retho. Chemistry. Not only do we use every bit of space we also use it every minute. Scheduling is very important as everyone wants extra prep for exams.

Gaby is a natural teacher
Everyone has the opportunity to ask
(Consienne - sponsor Daniel)

Chemistry student  Wilnise (sponsor Patricia)

Gaby is prepping for his State National licensing exams for Nursing which he will write in June. In between trips to the university in Leogane for course work, he has been staying with his parents in Sen Rafayel. Good for us - he is available.  Each day he arrives well prepared, dressed for success in long sleeved shirt, dress pants and shoes. 100 degree plus temperatures do not get in the way.

We stress the importance of balance for our students and breaks for recreation are built into our study groups. Each group has a different idea of what it means to 'take a break'. 
Although our  lakou (courtyard) is small we can still play
ball. The am group likes movement. (Consienne, Angeline, Wilnise)

The pm study group prefers a game of cards and dominoes.

I am most happy when everyone forgets the camera is there and goes about the business of living. In the pm group, Angelene seems to be struggling with this Chemistry equation. Love the facial expression.
Angelene (sponsor Marilyn) wants to be a nurse.
Knows Chemistry is a requirement.

Gaby with Marie -Tonnie - one on one quality time

These are the smallest groups we have. The rest have between 8 and 12. Without exception, however, each students says that they never feel left out or outnumbered.

Our director works too many hours but knows when to zone out. With every room serving multiple purposes, he takes to the truck for a well deserved nap.

Auguste uses the truck for a nap.
Adelaine takes a minute to straighten the 

The am groups are fortunate because they start classes at 1 pm so arrive for breakfast at 7:45 followed by group from 8-10. or 11. They are always fresh. The afternoon groups arrive for revision from 3-6 pm after sitting in class from 7-2. Although the upcoming week will be Easter break, everyone has asked if groups can continue because there is no homework pressure. We are accommodating. 

Each morning at 7 and each afternoon at 3 one student and one staff member head out for a walk with our security dogs, Ti ke and Granjil. They look so healthy compared to the dogs in the katye ( neighborhood). We have been feeding the female dog you see here as she has a litter stashed somewhere. We do the same in Cap. with our neighboring dogs. The idea of a doctor for animals is completely foreign to most Haitians. We are desperate for veterinarians to visit. Please spread the word.
Granjil (lt) and Tike  wait for their walk. They practically
put on their own leashes.
We give TiMama food and water every day. She is
beginning to fill out.
Next morning it begins again, different faces, same passion to learn. It's such a gift to be able to give these young people breakfast to start their day. They never leave without saying thank you.

We already have a new list of supplies needed, so its down the mountain early. In addition to no electricity and a dry well, my computer has been out of commission since I arrived. It will not connect  the 3g internet drive. Thank goodness for the student computer. 

We have no television here nor do I have tv in Canada. I did catch a clip from the show NCIS on You Tube which caught my attention because of the background music. It was a song by the group The Alternate Routes, called Nothing More. It spoke to me so l'm leaving you with this simple lyric.

To be humble, to be kind
It is the giving of the peace in your mind
To a stranger to a friend
To give in such a way that has no end.

Chorus: We are love, we are one
We are how we treat each other when the day is done
We are peace, we are war
We are how we treat each other nothing more.

To be bold to be brave
It is the thinking that the heart can still be saved.
And the darkness can come quick
The dangers in the anger and the hanging on to it.

Tell me what it is you see
A world that's full of endless possibilities?
Heroes don't look like they used to
They look like you do



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