Monday, February 18, 2008

Food Costs Rising Fast in Haiti, Donations Arrive

Hello Everyone,

Just a few things to update you on while I have access to email and before tomorrow comes with new happenings.

We sent Jean Ricot to the clinic on Friday to have his blood pressure tested as it has been constantly high with severe headaches since the motor scooter accident last April. ( see original post and update August post). They asked a few questions and ran a few tests, and found that he has malaria for the third time this year. He is about 5 feet tall and weighs less than a hundred pounds.

This persistent succession of illnesses takes such a toll on these young people. Apparently Jean has found a piece of floor where he can stay put for a while (with an aunt). Because he now has a relatively stable environment, Auguste and I are making a home visit tomorrow to see if there is enough space for a single bed and mosquito net. Everyone needs both, but due to cost, we purchase one at a time according to greatest need.

Sherline and Camiose are going on a school trip this week to Labadee to see the Fort ruins, etc. Thanks to our newly arrived shipment from NJ we were able to out fit each with running shoes and socks, and thanks to donations from Penn., they also have jeans and white Tshirts.

For those of you interested in the history of Haiti, there is an article in the January 2008 issue of The Smithsonian on my friend, amateur archaeologist Clark Moore, who has done much to advance knowledge of the history of Haiti. I stayed with Clark and his wife Pat 5 years ago before we found our current house.

Today, I unpacked the running shoes which arrived with the rest on Friday (Sherline and Camiose got me started). I put the cartons out back when we were finished unpacking. We always use them for something. Then Erzilia came in when finished work (she does food prep and distribution with Dieugrand) and asked if she could have 2 of the largest cartons. I remembered our visit to her one room shack which she shares with her 3 younger brothers. The room attached to theirs was separated by thin paper. It houses another family.

I asked if she wanted the boxes to make a new wall, and she said yes, the paper has been wet and dry so many times it has rotted away, so neither family has privacy. When I say that nothing gets wasted here, I mean nothing. I am reminded of the Haitian proverb: "Piti piti zwazo fe nich li" (Little by little the bird makes its nest). She is such an amazing young person -- holding a family together after the death of her mom 2 years ago.

If I am ever tempted to feel sorry for myself because I am ill, or on my own here, or go without many things I normally have access to, I look at anyone of these young people and am lifted by their courage.

This is the fifth day with no hydro, so without the refrigerator operating on hydro, food is wasted and money has to be spent on ice for the fridge. Finally today, we have solar power and a signal.

Five of the students worked yesterday and today finishing the backbreaking work of manually breaking up the cement on the room (see previous post) carrying it down stairs in buckets and then taking it by the wheelbarrowful down to the street to fill in some of the potholes. We had to through our list of students to figure out who was healthy enough to work. Everyone wants to but with so many ill, we have to be practical as well as look out for their welfare. The weekend is their only free time.

One of the boys who worked was Kenson, a 16 year old orphan (no siblings) sent to us by another program in Cap. Jack said he worked harder than anyone, and he was so thrilled when he signed the pay book and received his wages. Those smiles are my reward.

Dieugrand went to the market to purchase bulk food which he and Erzilia package for Sun and Thurs distribution. (We are moving Sun distribution to Monday as I really need time to myself). He returned with insufficient food, so every one received less on Sunday, and no cooking oil or cooking charcoal (chabon), as prices had risen so dramatically. Last week, rice was $270 Haitian (nearly $40 US): This week, $390 Haitian (about $45 US). A'gode' of rice which the poor buy -- 1 cup -- was 10 gourdes ($2 Haitian) at Christmas time, and 25 gourdes ($5 Haitian) on Friday, The new customs regulations are a nightmare.

It's getting dark and I can run only one light with the solar panels, so I will go and set up for the night. I am able to run the solar extension into the first bedroom, giving me a lamp for reading and a laptop if I want to watch a DVD.

Note : We deleted dictionaries and scientific calculators from the Things We Need list as sufficient arrived on Friday, and more have already been collected and are awaiting shipment. We do however need pencil cases, backpacks and pens in addition to the list I sent last week. Many thanks, everyone!


Haiti Well Water and Vehicle Purchase Update

Hello everyone,

In December, 2007, our well water was tested by a drinking water and wastewater expert from the U.S., who reports in part:
The test results indicate that the groundwater supply has been compromised by the raw sewage that runs in the streets. This is evident in the elevated nitrate levels; typically groundwater nitrate levels are below 5 mg/l. Nitrate is present in human urine at high concentrations.

Additionally, the presence of heterotrophic bacteria, coliform and particularly, fecal coliform, suggests the water is contaminated by human waste. Of all the wells tested during the assessment, the Starthrower well had the highest nitrate levels. This water quality typically harbors a number of waterborne diseases including typhoid. This well has also very high hardness and alkalinity levels which can scale and clog fixtures.

Presently, [Sharon] would like to supply the 60 children in her program with 2 gallons of water, 2 days per week in cleaned and disinfected jugs (240 gallons per week). Long term, this quantity could be increased to 2 gallons daily for the 60 children (840 gallons per week). In addition, the supply of the centre for normal water usage (drinking, cooking, bathing) at the home is estimated to be 200 gallons per day or 1,600 gallons per week.

The total estimated water demand is 1,840 gallons per week currently. The future demand is expected to increase to 2,440 gallons per week. Based on the well yield of 5 gallons per minutes, there is sufficient capacity to meet the needs of the centre. Quality : The treatment facilities will be designed to modify the water to US drinking water standards.
Currently we are spending about $10. US ($60 H) per day on potable water, and distributing about 25 gallons per day, a gallon at at time, to our young people. This is a relatively new project we began on January 1, 2008, so it's too recent to assess the impact as yet.

Thank you to everyone who is working on obtaining clean, safe drinking water for us and these young people.

Buying Used Cars in Haiti:

Last week, a neighbour (lawyer/policeman/used car salesman) came knocking with 2 vehicles for sale. It seems that buying a used vehiclein Haiti is a faster way to purchase, as it entails no trips to Port-au-Prince on what the UN troops call 'the road to hell'. We made an appointment for him to show us the vehicles for Friday at noon. He showed up instead at 7 a .m., saying he had to travel to Gonaive, but he was leaving one vehicle for us to inspect. He said it needed gas and that it has a flat tire. When Jack and Jud arrived at noon, we three took it to a gas station, then waited in line for 2 hours for a gallon of gas ($40 Haitian, or $6 USD). (Diesel is the cheaper way to go.)

We proceeded to the Boss Mechanic that Jud has used for 12 years, who is very well known and very well respected. He checked the car over thoroughly and pronounced it "gate" (very close to garbage): Suspension gone, undercarriage not salvageable, engine in need of a rebuild.

Jud phoned Saturday, saying he had found a much better vehicle. As I had been in town standing in line at the bank, then traipsing from pharmacy to pharmacy trying to fill prescriptions for 3 kids, I let Jack and Jud do the 2 hour line up for gas and the garage run to check out this second vehicle. Again, Boss-la said 'No way'. He is now going to look a used vehicle for us, so rather than one new vehicle we will go with 2 good used ones. It makes more sense, as we often send out several taxis in different directions.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Donations for Starthrower in Haiti Ongoing Needs

Hello Everyone,

This post is for anyone who will be visiting us before the summer months, and so can bring in their luggage, or for anyone who is planning to donate goods, once shipping issues are sorted out. These are ongoing needs:
  • IAMS tinned cat food and Purina One Natural Blends Dry/ and Purina One Special Care (Sensitive Systems) dry: all our cats tolerate these and vomiting stops when we can provide these brands. We need healthy cats as they are very efficient at keeping the rat/cockroach/mouse population at bay.There are more expensive Natural brands - these are half way and they do the job.
  • Hand sanitizer large refill size
  • Multi vitamins (chewable if possible)
  • Vitamin C (chewable if possible)
  • Sensodyne toothpaste and dental rinse (or any paste for sensitive teeth) All our kids have dental problems
  • Tylenol and Ibuprofen -- all strengths
  • Empty containers all sizes -- prescription vials with lids, peanut butter jars with lids, film cannisters etc. If you are bringing empty peanut butter jars with lids, consider filling them first with something like pencil sharpeners or erasers or cotton balls or small treats or watches etc
  • Protein powder
  • Cough syrups Yes they work for some things and we have quite a few.
Thanks on behalf of all who will benefit from your generosity.


Valentine's Day in Haiti : Cookies, roof repairs, new vehicle,

Hello Everyone!

Electricity this morning (Wednesday) -- the first in many days. Lately, we have been having a bit oif hydro between midnight and 5 a.m. Carmene is baking chocolate chip cookies as a treat for tomorrow -- Thursday -- which is our busiest day, as it's food distribution day, which means everyone comes and reads, plays, rests, studies, asks for consults etc. Mme Cindy in Penn. sent us packages of cookie mix in our Christmas boxes. Carmene loves the mix as it is so time saving. So today we bake in bulk.

Last summer, I asked the rental agent to fix the roof properly as kitchen, dining room and first bedroom leak every time it rains. He has been sending the same mason to make the same patchy repairs for 4 years now. I made the same request in November. He insisted patching was sufficient and supervised personally. The next week the rains came and again everything leaked.

So M. Franck (Mme Carmene's marye) is a mason whom we hired to complete our staircase addition -- you have to see to understand. I asked his advice on the roof and he said break up all patches with a pick, carry off garbage and resurface. (As we originally requested) So we are paying out of pocket yet again to make the house safer. Monday and Tuesday, M Franck and Jack worked 8 hours each day breaking up the cement. What a din! Also, under the cement was a small swimming pool for bacteria. It dried quickly in the sun but had been there since the last rain many weeks ago.

This morning Jack and Franck arrived with sore backs and fingers. I have always told the staff to change jobs when the body complains. So today we have some relief from the noise and will finish the addition (hopefully). This is more backbreaking work as it means mixing cement by hand (actually by shovel) and carrying upstairs by bucket. It also means reconstructing a rickety scaffold (for which I always ask reinforcement and its never enough). I have suggested hiring students to complete the pick work on the weekend. They can always use a little money and it will save a couple of aching backs. Also means we are working 7 days again.

Thanks to amazing generosity, we received a Christmas present of funds to purchase a new vehicle. Now that my health is improving -- what a gift to have enough energy to work a full day! -- we will continue the process to buy a vehicle. This is the background.

Two years ago, I secured what, at that time, were the requirements for purchasing a vehicle in Haiti:
  • a Canadian police check
  • fingerprints
  • bank statement
  • cash payment
  • letter of request
  • passport & photocopy for a permis de sejour
When we travelled to Port-au-Prince last summer to look at vehicles, the sales agent said the government was phasing out the requirement, just needed a Kat d'identite (Haitian identity card) and a declaration Des Impots Generals -- which means 'pay taxes'. With the news of this donation, I travelled to DGE in Cap-Haitien to be told that:
  • a) now the permis IS necessary and
  • b) the requirements have changed. I now also need my original birth certificate and
  • c) I must return to Port-au-Prince as the director in Cap-Haitien has disappeared (apparently with funds) and has not been replaced.
So I have contacted a friend at home in Canada, and asked her to locate my birth certificate, copy and send to a friend in the States who will visit Cap-Haitien at the end of February. Then I can go to Port-au-Prince and see if they will accept official documents which are outdated. However, if my friend in Canada is unable to find my birth certificate, all will wait until I return to Canada in mid-April.

So many hoops to buy a vehicle. Not enough to have the funds. We have been without a vehicle for 10 years. This is the first time it has been viable, so a few more months is quite doable.

To those who have items they wish to send, customs is still at a veritable standstill. One container was processed and the rest sit on the dock. This is why we face a food crisis -- both human and feline. Anything sitting on the docks month after month will certainly suffer some damage if is doesn't end up with feet (Kreyol expression meaning 'walking away with someone else'.)

Adelyn (male) just came in from the clinic with a diagnosis of scabies and sepsis. Jhennie is out trying to find the meds. We are still unable to make an appointment to test Magalie (female) for microfiliares and Marlene travelled to Milot by kamyonet today to once again see about a surgical appointment to remove the lump on her breast. This started last summer. It is always a wonder that these young people stay alive.

Two religious communities have approached me here, and asked if they can send young people here to the center as we do such a fine job of providing 'soutyen' (support). The communities continue to pay the schools and we do the rest. Both the young men they are sponsoring are orphans with family responsibilities. They were shy at first but are now fitting right in.

On the upside - the sun is shining and there is no snow in the forecast !
Ala pwochen

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ontario Canada Volunteers Needed To Raise Funds

Two Starthrower-benefitting fundraisers (Ontario, Canada) can use your help -- one by attending and having a good time; the other by working at a hockey arena.

Starthrower Foundation supporters in Southern Ontario Canada may be interested in attending a fundraiser in the Kitchener-Waterloo area this Friday night. See ABS blog site for details and ticket information.

The second initiative is in London, Ontario: Anyone who has some time to donate to help raise funds can contact board member Dave Materiuk, London, On, who writes:
Starthrower Foundation is looking for a few people who can commit a few nights (dates below) from 6:30-10:30 p.m. in March/February who can sell food and drinks at the JLC concession stands during Knights hockey games. A portion of the food sales will go to Starthrower Foundation.
  • February 12, 2008 Orientation
  • February 24, 2008 6pm Knights hockey game
  • March 8, 2008 2pm and 7:30pm Monster Jam
  • March 9, 2008 2pm Monster Jam
  • March 20, 2008 7:30pm Foo Fighters
There will be more nights available to us during playoffs. Please let me know ASAP! Thanks, Dave (email via form)


Related Posts with Thumbnails