Thursday, July 13, 2006

July 13-15, 2006 Cap-Haitien

Hello Everyone,

There's still no electricity. When there is a breeze or it's windy, it feels like you are standing in front of a hot oven. The water pressure in our well (not safe for drinking water) is low so we are pumping very little each day. We are buying and consuming up to 20 gallons of potable per day. I think that should be the daily level for the summer.

The mosquitoes seem to be worse this year, not from standing rain water, but from the pooled raw sewage that makes and ideal breeding ground. I mention this because my legs look like hamburger from the bites from the mosquitoes that seem to live under the wooden carels in this cybercafe.

We're still scraping the house and security wall and plan to begin whitewashing next week. We will need to increase the security here at Lakay Fondasyon for when I return to Canada. I've had two reports of intruders in our compound during the day when no staff are around. I will add one security staff to the day shift. I also had an intruder the second night I was here. Someone entered the compound by the parking space. I thought at first it was a just a cat, but cats don`t carry flashlights. I frightened them off.

Frandy, Jean Ricot, Marlene, Julia, Jhennie and Micjeline have come to work with us. We set up 3 stations for text book preparations. At the first one, set up in the parking area, we use white out and erasers to clean them up. In the corner, we repair them using scissors, glue and material scraps for binding, then cover each book with plastic. At the third station, on the gallery, we do the final inspection. Abel has set up a chart so that jobs are rotated daily.

Friday is a wonderful day at our compound. Only the full time staff work, not the students. The students and I actually sit down and talk with each other. Over coffee at 7:45, I learned that the students who work conserving and preserving text books would like to have aprons to wear over their clothes to protect their limited wardrobe from ink and glue. Then, those who work in the garden first change into sandals, shorts and baseball caps. They chimed in, and said they want a uniform, also. Belonging to something is so important to these young people.

(NB: See 'Justice' at Starthrower Foundation home.)

Jud repaired our sewing machine, so we are busy making curtains for the house using donated remnants. In addition to Dieugrand's tailoring skills, Jhennie is proving an able seamstress. Please tell Mme Cindy that I am still trying to contact [person] in St. Raphael about the braille machine. [Person] is ill (it sounds like malaria), so it may be a while.

Abel brought in a newspaper that is printed in Port-au-Prince, that showed pictures of Wyclef Jean [Haitian musician] at the World Cup. Abel wants to email him to ask him to visit us here in Cap-Haitien, reasoning that he would help us if he knew of us. And Dieugrand asked it he could email the [Haiti-born] Governor General of Canada, Mme Jean, to ask her to visit us, too. Dieugrand still has Mme Jean's picture in his shack from last summer. Why not? Can't hurt to ask. This is why I say Fridays are so great.

M. Carlos (administrator of State university satellite campus in Cap-Haitien, and a lawyer, videograher, photographer) is a neighbor who helped us so much our first year here in the house. He came to ask for summer work, so now he is making ID badges for each employee to wear when representing Starthrower Foundation in the community, like when Abel goes to pay school fees, and Jacques, for when he's interviewing prospective bosses about apprenticing our kids. They cost about $1.5 Haitian each (about 20 cents) and the staff are thrilled and so proud. Carmene asked for one for when she shops in the market every morning. The badge is yet another symbol of being part of something, and so important for boosting a sense of self worth. I am also going to ask M. Carlos if he will work with us for two days to videotape home visits, so that I can show everyone what it is that I am talking about [in my updates].

Markendy came one afternoon with his report card. He asked if we would pay for apprenticeship with a barber as he is quitting school. I was surprised to hear this, as he is eligible to enter Rheto (6th year of high school), and I knew he wanted to graduate then train as plumber. When I asked him why the change, he became very subdued and thoughtful, saying, "Peyi-a two dur [The country is too hard]." He is the oldest, although he has a twin sister, Nandecie. His Dad is dead, the family does not eat daily, and his mom is ill. He needs to find a way to take care of everyone. He is 23; he started Grade 1 at age 13. The decisions these young people have to make are so painful. I don`t want to see him give up on his dream because once he leaves school it is so difficult to go back.

On my way to this cybercafe today, I walked past a young girl in the market. She was about 14 or so, I think. She was holding a dirty piece of plastic that must have been wrapped around something wet, as it was covered in moisture and she was licking it. The entire country is thirsty.

I reiterate my awe of Haiti's people, and this country. There is such beauty and dignity, if you take the time to look and listen. I curled up under the mosquito net last night and listened to the house choir that was practising across the street. Such amazing joy that I am speechless at times (I know some find that hard to believe), and so very thankful for the opportunity to serve here.

I will keep in touch whenever possible, but enough for now. I am taking of advantage of the satellite signals whenever I can to let you all know what is happening. Who knows? My next email could be tomorrow or next month.

Kenbe red (hang tough)!


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