Monday, March 3, 2014

A blog for Jennifer - visiting Emania and Norceline

Earlier this week I arrived in Canada - currently land of icicles, snowbanks and subzero temperatures. But -- also land of running water, electricity and garbage pick up. Additionally,  we boast dentists, chiropractors, registered massage therapists, personal trainers,  family doctors, walk-in clinics.....

My town of Orangeville has all the luxuries, including a public library system which operates 7 days a week. Yesterday I went with the idea of borrowing a book or two. Upon entry, I was called over to the circulation desk by Jennifer, one of many warm, welcoming staff members. She leaned over the counter toward me and said in her quiet librarian voice  "Sharon, I miss your blogs." No one has ever said that to me before, so this one is for Jennifer.

Each time I leave Haiti, I experience what I call a heart squeeze, a physical sensation which reminds me that for my heart,  my roots are there although my feet may take me elsewhere. Sciatic pain has been plaguing me since November so the expert care of a chiropractor was called for.  Unfortunately not available in Cap-Haitien.

When I am in Canada,  Auguste  keeps everything running smoothly. Both drop-in centers are overflowing. Lack of rain is still affecting quality of life. In our village, the community pipes are still turned off. Despite the lack of water and 100 degree temperatures, our young people look fresh and crisp every day, while I'm wilted by 7 am. How do they do it?

2nd yr. nursing students Edwina and Sherlyne pick  up travel
funds for their hospital placement. Uniforms are mandatory for classes and hospital placements.
(Cap-Haitien office, coordinator Lusnot)
Coordinator Edeline distributes funds for new shoes for 2nd term.If shoes
are scuffed, students are sent home. (students Angelene and Marie Tonnie)
(Sen Rafayel office)
Although brothers Jean-Woody and Fritzman attend
the same school, Jean-Woody's long sleeves and tie mark
him as a Philo student (final year)
New backpacks finally. Some I purchased in Provo, the rest in the
marketplace in Cap-Haitien.
The day before I left, Auguste and I were able to fit in 2 home visits in Cap-Haitien.  Emania and Norceline attend the same school and had a half day holiday. So they shed uniforms and came to the center to eat before our visits. Both Emania and Norceline lost their parents in the 2010 quake. Norceline lost her siblings as well. Both have not been able to attend school. We helped get papers and registered both in Semi-Lycee Anacaona.  After the quake, Norceline made her way to Cap and found a cousin, with whom she currently stays. Emania made her way to Sen Rafayel to friends and we tracked down an older sister in Cap-Haitien and after meeting with the sister, delivered Emania down the mountain. It was a healthier situation. She was being treated like a slave in the village.
Emania and Norceline out of uniform for home visits.
Following Norceline- raw sewage is everywhere
Norceline waits for us as one unfamiliar with
the interior could easily get lost.
Norceline unlocks the home she shares with
her cousin and cousin's husband.

No windows, just a false door at the far end.
She sleeps on the floor.
A piece of tol shelters their cooking space.

Auguste takes notes in the doorway, the
only light source.

Backpack sits atop only furniture
Uniforms and backpacks are usually placed at the highest point in a tikay (little house), away from cockroaches, mice, rats, foumi and rising water, mildew and mold. Emania and Norceline live in the same zone, which is low. That means when the much needed rain falls, they have to move out, with everything they own . Finding temporary shelter which is not filling with water is nearly impossible.
This is the second room but even during a dry spell water
bubbles up through the concrete and cannot be used.
Following Emania into the interior
There are always onlookers who tell me I'm white.
'One'(honour) Auguste says, asking permission to enter.
'Respe' (respect) replies Emania's sister,

giving us permission.
There is little or no privacy, houses built on
the wall of an existing house.
Auguste sits on the only chair but he cannot see to write.
No windows, just cement blocks with decorative holes.
The light is better outside, so we move out to 
talk and make notes.

Emania and Norceline share the same problems. They do not eat every day and our centre is too far away for them to come on a regular basis. They start school at 7 and finish at 3.  By the time they would get to our place, it's at least 5 o'clock and we are closing. Although they have not been able to attend school since the quake, both passed first term exams. They both complain of headaches, eye strain, dizziness, fatigue. 

Student housing is needed, for Sen Rafayel as well. However finding a clean, safe space is like finding  the proverbial needle in a haystack. If we did find it, it would cost a fortune.

Here is a sample of a house for sale.
'For Sale' signs are scrawled on the side of buildings.

When I look at where our young people are forced to live, and the lack of water, sanitary conditions, private space, I am in awe of their ability to arrive at school in spotless uniforms, to do required homework with no light or workspace, no food to fuel their work. I am humbled by their courage and commitment. 

Author and teacher Thich Nhat Hahn recently revealed in an interview that the hardest thing he practices in 'not being overcome by despair'. 

If these young people, who have nothing, do not let themselves be overcome by despair, how can I do any less? There is  much to learn but an unending stream of teachers. Each one brings something unique. Talk about abundance.

Community - creates itself.
Wilbrode and Jonathan
Rose Magda-Alina
How those puppies have grown - Senkyeme, Sablo, TiJo. 




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