Birthday's always give me pause -- not just mine but anyone's birthday. Our young people are amazed that we make and display a list of their birthdays every month. Most of them do not know their date of birth. It is the most frequent mistake on letters of application to us. When they come for intake interview, we check papers. The first is proof of date of birth. As most of our young people are orphans, papers documenting their lives are often lost, misplaced, destroyed by flood, fire, mold, insects, rodents...
We learned very early in our existence to ask for other forms of proof -- baptismal certificates, State photo receipts issued to write National exams for Gr. 6 and 9, Kat D'identite (government issued).
71 isn't an especially auspicious age, although it is a milestone... every year is. Maybe that's why I felt the urge to dig out photo albums long forgotten, which in turn led me to take a stroll through photos that for some reason I didn't see fit to put in albums. A treasure trove.
In the beginning before Starthrower had a name or a home, I had already fallen in love with the country and it's people and was growing to co-exist with the absolute poverty that still makes my heart hurt as my nephew used to say.
Although I had no home base, there were always brave souls who traveled with me. I say brave because it takes courage to walk into what you know will be an uncomfortable (to say the least) situation. From my first trip as a chaperone til finding a rental and receiving charitable status in July 2004 there were always adventurous souls.
|David and the gang creating Lego sculptures|
at the nutrition center
What has always amazed me about our visitors is their willingness to enter into the situation. Tanya traveled with the next year then Adrienne. Ashley and Shannon.
|Tanya at the nutrition center|
All experienced both Cap-Haitien and Sen Rafayel as I was already being groomed by Sr. Cecilia to take on the village. I just didn't know it yet. I was still a visitor as well, taking advantage of the hospitality offered by Sister Rosemary and Sister Cecilia. The 3 girls and I traveled to and from Sen Rafayel by public transit (a bus with the seats ripped out, many chickens and no standing room) . We stayed overnight in a guest house in Doctor's Ann's compound. These girls did not know how courageous they were.
|August 2004 - Marj with Lucy|
Having a home base made a big difference. Pat came with Marisa and Amy followed by Laura the next year. The Rayjon gang came from Sarnia, made home visits with us and gave our office a coat of fresh paint. I don't have any pictures for about 2 years as the hard drive on that computer fried (spontaneous combustion?) and I had no backup. If anyone has pics I'm missing could you please share? Here are a few of our visitors over the past 12 years.
|Mark, David and Kat visited and helped unpack|
supplies from Pennsylvania
The next year Alex and Laura visited from Canada. During that time, student Rosema's manman gave us 2 puppies (Joli and Tisab) to thank us for sending her son to school. Timing is everything. I had no experience with dogs and Laura worked in a Pet store and had vet tech experience. Thank you universe. She taught us so much. Visitors are an exchange program..learning from each other.
|Mme Cindy from Pennsylvania|
In 2009 I was a visitor in my own home, having been airlifted to Canada in October 2008 after emergency surgery which saved my life and left me with a colostomy and more surgery ahead. The surgeon performing the 3rd surgery allowed me to travel to Haiti for a brief visit prior to the operation. Marjorie is a retired nurse so the ideal travelling companion. Doctors Jerome and Coq who to-gether had saved my life came to visit, along with my private duty nurse and good friend Sr. Rosemary.
While recuperating from the third surgery, 2 catastrophies. My mother died on Nov. 11 and the earthquake struck on January 12. I couldn't return fast enough. Shortly after we bought our first vehicle which meant we could take visitors up the mountain. No more public transit up and down.
|Move to 2 room mudhut -- a step up from 1 room|
Our 2 room mud hut was a step up from the one room shack we had been using. Here we played host to Daniel our website administrator. Pictures please Dan?
|Sponsor Mme Yvonne came to visit her high school student |
Sherlyne. Sherlyne's aunt had taken her 2 nieces in after
the death of their parents.
|Sometimes it seems like monopoly money..|
If a visitor is also a sponsor it is an opportunity to meet the sponsored student and see where they live. Home visits are ongoing throughout the year, and it's really helpful to have a fresh set of eyes on the situation.
|Nico came to meet his sponsored student John and|
fell in love with every student he met. Here on a home visit .
|Monica visits Tamara at the tikay she shares|
with her grandmother.
Laundry Haitian style
|Visiting Youseline -- sponsor Kathy|
There are at least another 500 who have not been lucky enough to have their letters processed and receive an interview. There are another 10 or so trying to reconstruct their history with birth certificates and old report cards long destroyed.
My job is to collect information, verify that which is possible and make choices. There should never be a choice. Education needs to be a right.
This is the world we share. Welcome to our world.
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