Thursday, August 30, 2007

Back to School in Haiti, With Your Help

Hello Everyone,

We have had a very busy two weeks. Our visitors from Canada were here for 10 days working with the staff and travelling into town. It's a good thing they've had wilderness training as the pipes around the house were completely "bouche" (plugged up), so David and Mark helped dig up the cement and the old pipes, then lay the new pipes, and mix and apply new cement. They also travelled to our 'home' hardware store to purchase supplies. They had some culture shock,but I will let one of them elaborate about that.

Kat (Kathleen ) jumped right into helping clean, repair and recover our textbooks for September. She also travelled by taxi with Auguste to inskri (register) some of our kids at school. Our reservoirs on the roof are on their last legs, especially with the extra people using the system every day. We had to pump water twice daily. The day after the visitors departed, the connection sprung a leak so we have just been filling pails for washing.

Our rental agent came in yesterday; he had been away for 5 weeks. He will ask the owner for the funds to purchase a new holding tank for our water. The plumber dropped by today to tell us that he has recommended changing the entire system of drawing our water as it is 'ansyen' (old). We sent Jean Ricot to the hospital in Milot on Friday to see if they could help him. He has had a constant headache since the motorcycle accident in April. Apparently, there is a piece of 'fil' (wire) inside his right eyebrow that is holding things together. The doctor recommended removing it, so that is on our list of things to attend to. We have to get him there and back, as well as find someone to travel with him by public transit. It may be Christmas holidays before that happens.

Deles and Robert travelled to Limbe on Friday to get the results of their entrance exams to study agronomy at the university there. Both were accepted. Micheline has applied to the institute in Vaudreille to study medical technology. Marlene, Elorge and Frantzy will head back to Port-au-Prince the second week of September to write entrance exams for medical studies.

I say this calmly but with a sense of pride in them, and in our progress: These young people represent the first of 'our' students to graduate high school and go on to university.

All of this is happening with the hope that people will open their hearts to help these amazing young people realize their dreams. We have another 140 waiting to start the school year, and we only have enough funds for about 40. That's only 100 to go.

Jack travelled to Port-au-Prince on Sunday with Jud and another driver in a large rental vehicle to pick up a donation of meds from Canada. The trip back took them nearly 9 hours. They travelled through flash floods in the Artibonite and half the cargo was soaked with mud although the truck was canvas covered.

I had asked some staff to come help 'debarke' (unload) the vehicle once they finally arrived back here. They arrived at 6, the electricity arrived at 6:15, so they sat and played checkers and cards on the gallery. Due to the storm, the load arrived at 8:30. The travellers were exhausted and promptly left.

We began unloading and quickly realized that the wet cartons needed to be opened immediately. We worked until 11 p.m. placing the dry cartons in our covered parking space, opening the wet cartons and individual containers, wiping off the mud and piling everything on the table on the gallery,and placing others inside the living room. This being Haiti, the staff were all too frightened to go home at that time of night, as public transit had stopped. So we found a place for everyone to sleep (after eating). The hammocks make great beds.

Everyone was up when I rose at 5 a.m. The boys were sweeping the compound, and Rosenie was opening the gates. After breakfast, we worked all day sorting meds and making space for storage in case of more rain.We will try to distribute them before new visitors arrive next week. We donated some to a small local dispensary today, making many trips with our shiny new (red) wheelbarrow (bouret-la). Our old faithful wheelbarrow died a very ungraceful death while our visitors were here. We are looking for a place on our lawn to bury it full of flowers. A fitting end.

Every year, after paying inskripsyon (registration), I pay only the first trimeste fees. Usually there is not enough money to pay for the full year, anyhow, and sometimes the students cannot complete a full year due to illness or worse. When 'the worst' happens, we are not obligated to pay the remainder of the year. It sounds harsh, but it's a fact of life down here. There have not been many students in that last category, but enough to underscore the wisdom of paying for just one trimeste at a time. The average cost per trimeste is about $300 Haitian ($40 USD) per student per trimeste. Each student also needs a uniform and black shoes (they are not allowed into school without those). This required clothing costs $400 Haitian ($55 USD) per student.

Additionally, each student needs text books, back packs, notebooks, pens. While we recycle many textbooks, we always need to purchase some new ones. Then, by the end of September, we need money for rice, beans and oil, as that's when we begin weekly food distribution on weekends. And so many of them need eyeglasses. As well, all of these activities require staff.

The bottom line for Right Now is we need $10,000 USD, which allows about $100 USD per student times 100 students.

Ala pwochen
P.S. See the updated list of Things We Need.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Haiti School Waiting List and Registrations

Hello Everyone!

It is now almost 6 a.m. and I have been up since 4 a.m. -- my normal rise and shine. The electrician and plumber are both supposed to be here at 6 a.m. so the coffee is ready. We have had no water in the house since Saturday morning. I guess the calcium (kalk) in our well water has stopped up (bouche) our plumbing. I really miss the usual cold trickle of a shower.

Our guests from Canada are already on their way -- they arrive tomorrow -- so am hoping their camping experience works for them here. I have managed to arrange for a driver to meet them at the airport when they arrive. Rosemary is out of the country, but gave me permission to hire their driver and their vehicle for the airport transfer. I really appreciate this, as their driver's work load doubles when she is away.

I realize that I often write things to friends which really should also be presented to all of you. In an earlier communication, I mentioned we had a wait list of 40-plus, and that last Thursday, Claudy and Louisena had come down the mountain from Sen Rafayel, and we spent the entire day putting together lists for Sen Rafayel. I sent back with them the funds to register (inskri) 48 students in College VIncent Oge, Lycee Charlemagne Perault, College Bon Berger, College Roi Henri Christophe, The Nouvo Lycee and Sen Jozef.

Yesterday, Auguste and I spent (tried to spend) the entire day preparing a master list for registrations. We ended up with 107 names on that list, using last Friday as our cut off date. Remember, we had 80 from last year to consider, as well as some we were still in touch with from last year's wait list. Registration only holds a place for these students, until scolarite and first trimeste fees are paid. Only then does a student know whether or not she/he will attend school. We also make certain our young people understand that registration does not mean we will have sufficient funds to pay for the year.

Due to lack of transportation, we have only been able to make three home visits. Our young people are scattered throughout Cap-Haitien and Sen Rafayel, which makes it difficult.

Yesterday alone, we had 20 students enter the compound. They came to ask for school support, bringing with them all necessary documents. We turned away another 12, asking them to return with their Acte de Naissance (birth certificate), kane de payman (payment card), denye kane-a (last report card) and atestasyon (official state document, which is purchased after successfully writing state exams for Certificate (to enter high school), or 9eme (end of 3rd year high school) or Rheto and Philo.

The twenty who came yesterday are at the top of our second wait list. As I said in an email to a friend last night, this is a flood, a flood of desperate young people who believe that education is the only answer. One young man said to me, "When I lie down on the floor at night to sleep, and I feel sick and hungry, and I'm sad because I miss my mother, and the rats and cockroaches are clicking away near me, and I am afraid to go to sleep, I know that everything will be better in the morning because I get to go to school. I think I would die if I didn't go to school."

Given the large number of students seeking help, and that the waiting list is constantly changing based on whether or not they pass or fail, makes it very difficult to keep the waiting list on the web site up to date. The school system here is far from perfect.

For example, Paulaine was denied entrance to write Rheto as the state said she had not written 9eme. She brought in her atestasyon for 9eme proving her eligibility, but no matter -- her year is lost. Now she wants to enter a trade.

Modeline successfully wrote 2eme (after having surgery for a tumor in April); however, she is now being denied entry into Rheto as she did not pass 9eme three years ago. The school she attended knew this, but had encouraged her to go on rather than retake the year, so she went on. Now she is stuck with the only option available -- she must retake 9eme, write the exam, and only then go into rheto the next year.

We work with one young person at a time here, and it is never simple or straightforward. Each youth deserves to be heard, even if we aren't able to support them. We had to turn down a young man in Sen Rafayel because he was 30 years old, and just starting his first year of high school. He had an average (moyen) of 7.9 out of 10. We realized he would be almost 40 when he finished high school, and probably married with children. These types of difficult decisions are excruciating. If we had a large fund base, we could offer more financial support, and that young man and those on the wait list would all have 'possibilite'.

I write out of frustration this morning because you and I know that there is enough money in the world to feed, clothe and educate all 4 million of Haiti's orphans. Please help us do more. It is NOT an impossible dream. Together, we can make it happen, but we need to start now. Don't let these amazing, brave young people languish as you plan your next car purchase, house upgrade, vacation. To those who are currently supporting these young people, a big Thank You on their behalf.

The bosses have arrived -- the work day has begun.
Pi ta (later)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cap-Haitien Exams, Sponsor for Medical School

Hello Everyone,

GOOD NEWS ! Marlene has a sponsor for medical school! Everyone is so excited for her. She is studying night and day. That means all of the ones applying now have sponsors, provided they are successful writing entrance exams. Now to find sponsors for the two in Agronomy.

The Not-So-Good news is that Marlene just arrived back from the hospital. She is anemic and has a UTI infection. Sometimes, every day is filled with minutes like this: Good news, bad news, good news.

Esmann also arrived to say that Alex did not come to work this week as he has a fever and needs to go to the hospital. Once again, having a vehicle is so important. I wish the bicycle had a trailer attached.

Auguste dropped in yesterday, taking a study break. When they rewrite next week, it is 8 hours a day for 4 consecutive days. I believe it is the same for university entrance. Then today, when he arrived to work, he told me that yesterday he went past the Department of Education to double check that Monday, Aug. 13 was the date to begin rewrites. When he got there, he saw that the dates had been changed without them informing anyone.

Rewrites now begin Monday, August 20, since Wednesday August 15 is the Feast of Notre Dame. So, if the kids finish writing by August 23rd, we won't have any results before September, which means all bets are off for school opening first week of September, uniforms won't be ready etc...

Sherline just arrived and she is dezole -- she missed her pass by .2 points. She attended Boukman, the high school that was closed half the year because the teachers were on strike because the state didn't pay them. Rodney arrived in tears also -- he missed his year by .1 point.

What a roller coaster! Jack's uncle died this morning. He was 31 with a 6 month old. Auguste and I visited his tikay on Thursday when we made our home visits.



Thursday, August 9, 2007

To and From Port-Au-Prince and School News

Hello Everyone,

It seems as though the electricity and satellite signal have joined forces to keep me from communicating. By the time they arrive in tandem, so much has happened I can't remember what I wanted to tell you. I know -- I should write it down, just too busy!!

Last week, I travelled to Port-au-Prince in search of a truck, as well as to track down a shipment of donated meds. Auguste and I travelled with Rosemary, Jud and Sofo in their new Mitsubishi truck. Unfortunately, NO vehicle is comfortable on that trip! It's 250 km / 155 miles (much of it up and down mountains) and it takes 7 to 8 hours on a good day (no accidents, no robbers, no rain).

That same week, Elorge, Marlene and Frantzy travelled to Port-au-Prince by bus to register (inskri) for medical school. We still do not have sponsors for them, but I know the support will come. This was their first time through the country to Port-au-Prince, as it was for Auguste. For them to be able to see their capital city -- priceless! They will travel back the first week of September to write entrance exams. The first 120 applicants are accepted.

Last Friday, Deles and Robert travelled to Limbe to write entrance exams for a 3-year university program in Agronomy. Again, there's no $, but it will come, in bits and pieces. Robert was so excited because the results for Philo and Rheto came out the same day, and he was bon (pass). Elorge was also bon, Frantzy and Auguste were ajourne -- they have a week to study then they have to rewrite everything. Jhennie was ajourne for Rheto, and Julia, Micheline and Rosenie were elimine (fail).

We received 179 young people in July (we are not open weekends) and added 43 to the new waiting list: 20 are from Sen Rafayel with 8 from last year's waiting list.

Our tutoring program in Sen Rafayel was a great success. Everyone passed, most with an average of 7 plus. Most of those that Deles worked with daily were those who were not passing, who had averages between 3 and 4.5. Deles is a natural teacher, but because of the poor pay, lack of job security and lack of respect, he has chosen instead to study agronomy. Perhaps he will teach at the University one day.

Claudy and Louisena came down the mountain from Sen Rafayel yesterday. We sent back lists and money to register 48 students at 6 different schools. Results for 9eme came out yesterday so we will begin to register next week. We preregistered a dozen last week in Cap-Haitien. Rosenie is holding down the office and overseeing text book prep as Auguste is studying.

Next week we also begin to prepare backpacks as the book lists will be ready. We have the students -- all we need is the financial support.

Boss Elektrisyen is here today installing a light above the new door which now allows us to access and use the roof as another space. I ate dinner up there last night. It is about 15 degrees cooler up there! I dare say our guests next week (David, Kathleen and Marc) might want to take the hammocks up there and sleep. I bought the hammocks before leaving Canada, and they (visitors) will be bringing them here for me. If the hammocks are effective, then they will make for an inexpensive bed, with a bonus -- no place for the mice to make a home.

I reported eye infections for Jhennie and Dieugrand. Both also needed glasses. Dieugrand has his now, and we pick up Jhennie's on Saturday. This means she will have them to write exams on Monday. Hopefully, no more headaches for her!!!

We're still without a vehicle. We saw a couple of new trucks in Port-au-Prince. However, they last on the lot about as long as it takes for the paperwork to dry. Without the money to buy them on the spot, you're out of luck. Our work is very restricted while we must depend on public transit. This summer has been particularly difficult as more and more drivers refuse to pick up blans (non-Haitians).

We have visitors coming in Sept., and next February and March. March should be particularly interesting, as two groups arrive at the same time. Anyone have any bunk beds we could set up??

As well, a long term visitor will probably travelling back here with me in November. She is a friend of Sister Rosemary and will travel to the Nutrition Centre each day.

As many of you know, we had to discontinue the food distribution program as of July 1, in order to pay for text book prep. Maybe next year we can feed everyone AND provide summer employment for a few. We have to do it this way as text books are too expensive to replace yearly. We get about 4 or 5 years out of our books.

Re: The Arrogance of Charity: I received some great questions about what happens here in Haiti when well-intentioned people send items they think are necessary. Unfortunately, most of the time, when goods that are available here are shipped from abroad, it hurts the local economy, which adds to Haiti's woes. Goods such as foodstuffs and clothing can be purchased in-country.

Haiti does have some farming, as well as rice paddies, coffee plantations, and a spaghetti factory, and here at the house, we make our own peanut butter. So, when these items are purchased elsewhere and sent to us, local growers and merchants cannot compete, and the cycle of poverty deepens. Sending money is always the most helpful response. And when we need something that's NOT available in Haiti, we let you know.



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