Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Hello Everyone,

First hydro in 10 days this morning. I tried sending email for 2 hours last week, only to have the [computer crash] each time, and it was not possible to save any of it. I went over to the Azile yesterday and asked Brother Benedict if I could come once a week to use his computer. He thought I could, as we purchased their textbooks for them last summer. (Of course, they need hydro too, but they are located in a different kartye). He also said I may charge my cell phone there. Hallelujah.

Re the offers of help: Anything coming in from Labadie would be WONDERFUL. Also, I can go to Bel Air as it is not far from the house. We currently need 24 scientific calculators (scientific ONLY), multivitamins, backpacks and pencil cases. (Thanks to the donors who have come forward to help with the vitamins and back packs. We always need those.) We always need shoes, socks, Tshirts and jeans, too, but customs charges more than they are worth to release them from cargo. School supplies, they allow me.

Our most pressing need is money for food and supplies. Every week, we are distributing one 110-lb. sack plus one 50-lb. demi-sack of rice and 3 gallons of oil, plus the bags to package each student's portion which allows them enough for 2-3 days. As well, we have to pay for the taxi to transport it all home from the market. Total cost $100US per week. It is better than their only eating once a week or so. With more funds, we could provide a meal a day. People need to know HOW HUNGRY everyone is here, and [that's] why we distribute food sacks weekly. Mme Carmene made mamba (peanut butter) yesterday, so everyone gets a bottle. We also need empty containers with lids for mamba and oil. Currently, we are using anything we can find and sterilize.

It would be great if someone made a one-time donation of $5000 US earmarked JUST for a used vehicle. Then we could get to Labadie and Bel Air. The vehicle is about staying alive, not just for transporting goods. [There was] a murder Friday morning -- a young woman [who was] getting on a taptap. Someone behind her cut her throat and took her purse. If she uses a taptap, she isn't wealthy. Then on Saturday morning, the taptap I was on nearly hit the body of another robbery and murder victim -- a money changer -- that was still lying in the middle of Rue L. It's becoming increasingly difficult to exchange currency. The money changer we used to use was robbed and shot last summer. Then last night, there was another gun fight near our kartye.

I paid for the funeral [see previous update] out of the rent money for March. I did this to keep Williamson, the older brother, out of prison. In Haiti, unpaid debts have a grace period of a week or two, then jail. The prison in Sen Rafayel is one of the worst for human rights abuses, according to a UN inspector with whom I spoke at Christmas.

Tutoring is happening on a daily basis here. Jocelyne PRINTED her name in the pay book for the first time last week. I took a picture of the event, then cried. She just beamed. Abel is a natural teacher, and it's a blessing to have him here. School did reopen on Monday. Christemene and Dieugrand have malaria. Jack broke his toe working in the garden. Esmann came to ask if we could help him make a new uniform (he sings in the church choir). He worked during the holidays for money to purchase material, then had the uniform made, but now the cockroaches (ravets) have eaten much of it.

Yesterday, Rene Preval (former president and current presidential candidate) came to town. Amazing display of music and chanting and dancing. I heard it all, but of course I did not leave the house. None of our staff attended, either, as the threat of violence is palpable. The main street was closed. We are unable to purchase paint to freshen up bedrooms as shopkeepers are staying closed for fear of robberies.

I am coming home Feb. 11 for 4 weeks. I have retreats scheduled, as well as speaking engagements in London and Windsor. When I come back in March, Laura, a 2nd year Grade 12 student, is coming with me [while she is on March Break]. Mme Carmene cheered when I told her we might have a visitor in March. She only gets to cook once a week for me as I eat little.

Blessings, Kenbe,


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bonne annee, everyone!

Abel (the student we sponsored for auto ecole) started working full time here at Lakay Fondasyon last week. He is looking after visitor intake at the security gate (portail), record keeping, tutoring, food purchase, packaging and distribution.

This means that Starthrower Foundation is now able to continue distributing weekly food packages even when I am in Canada. And, when we purchase our truck, we will have Abel as a chauffeur. He is a great help, since I am a blan (foreigner), I am at greater risk of harm when I use public transport. Abel is also tutoring Jocelyn, our laundress (lesivye), who is learning to read and write. In the process, we discovered that we have an incorrect last name for her, but do not know how to spell the correct one, as she has no birth, baptismal or marriage certificates.

Starthrower also covered the burial costs for Joseph's family and added the names of all his siblings to our list of those eligible for medical help at the clinic in Sen Rafayel. Unfortunately, the clinic closed this week so our 80 or so kids in the village are without medical care.

Mme Joseph continues to cook for the students in Sen Rafayel (St. Raphael), although it is not possible to provide her with food sacks due to often violent civil unrest and we cannot offer any security. Elorge and Deles came down the mountain from Sen Rafayel last week for supplies. The high price of gas has raised the price of a return bus fare. It is now $40 Haitian (about $5 USD) for a round trip. Three years ago, it cost $5 Haitian (less than $1USD). [The average daily wage in Haiti is $2USD.]

The country was closed Monday for a general strike (grev), and because of the increasing violence leading up to the nnational elections (now due to be held on February 7, the original inauguration date), the schools have remained closed for an extra week. They might reopen next Monday, January 16.

Plumber (Bos Plombye) came on Tuesday and changed our bathroom tap. We now have running cold water as opposed to dripping cold water. No, that's not true -- the tap still drips as well.

We have 50 people on the list for weekly food sacks. We also provide a sandwich, some fruit and a drink for everyone who comes to the house. We also need more multivitamins. Everyone is taking them faithfully, and I think it will make a difference. We are making peanut butter (mamba) this week. We try to give to each person a jar to supplement the rice and beans.

My time at the internet cafe is almost up. Good to have the opportunity to touch base.

Kenbe, Sharon


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