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!


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