Monday, June 30, 2008

Haiti Shipping, Killer Mangoes, Kidnappings, No Phone or Power or Running Water

Haiti has a way of granting a leave of absence, requested or not. The last 2 weeks have left us incommunicado and we are still without incoming phone service (international), electricity, and running water. We have an internet signal today, at long last, so Hi, Everyone!

Phone Calls To/ From Haiti
Apologies to those who have tried to phone or email. Incoming international calls have been going astray since the phone system was changed in the spring to accommodate the proliferation of cell phones. Internally, we add another digit, 2 for a land line, 3 for a cell phone. We have been assured that international calls use the original number, and however many of us disagree, the system is the system. Internally we also had phone problems last week. Very loud static on phone lines made it difficult to hear. Seems slightly reduced today. (We use Comcel for international / local calls and Digicel for local only.)

Internet and Water Supply
Very high winds affected satellite transmission ( at least we kept receiving error message 506 - satellite link outage). Water is another story. Our taps needed replacing (Again! They were replaced 3 years ago.) as our water had eaten through them. Illustrates nicely the toxicity of our water. Plumber finally arrived and changed them last week. About 15 minutes after he left, I had a major flood on my hands.

I contacted Jack who came and helped mop. We turned off the water and waited for the plumber again. He arrived Saturday at noon (after saying 9 a.m.), then worked for 3 hours and left. Another 10 minutes later, we had another inundasyon (flood). Thankfully Jack was still here so we turned off the water, mopped up, and still await a plumber. (Our regular plumber left town last week and there is just an apprentice doing the work.) We had to take apart and remove the bathroom counter as it was old wood and we couldn't get under it to dry or clean. What a nightmare when finally removed! The house feels much cleaner now. We will dry out the old counter in the sun, cover it with cilotex, then paint and use as a work station for our book program.

Text Book Recycle Program in Sen Rafayel, too
Every summer we clean, repair and recover close to 2,000 text books. The money we save by reusing texts allows us to support more young people. This year we have decided to try to do part of the work at our very small branch office in Sen Rafayel, as we want to do more there. So we sent Rosenie, Erzilia and Edwina by bus to check our the space. They have each worked on our book program previously.

Rosenie is from Sen Rafayel so was very comfortable going. Edwina and Erzilia are both orphans who have never been outside Cap-Haitien. It was a great adventure for them. We just have to purchase a larger table and 4 staff can be accommodated. Rosenie will be heading the program in both locations. We also asked the girls to check out the site re: viability of duplicating the potable water project. (now a program due to the dramatic results)

'Killer Mangoes'
When I mentioned Killer Mangoes in the previous blog update, I didn't fully realize how literal that was. Our growing season has been altered by the weather. A fierce windstorm last September destroyed what would be our January crop, and our usual July crop has just finished dropping about a month ahead of time. Mangoes drop with such speed that one destroyed the lid on our new plastic garbage pail, another mango went through the windshield of Jackson's taxi and 3 mangoes have punctured the tol (corrugated metal ) roof on our parking space that is used as a work station for the book repair program.

But other than property damage, mangoes literally can kill.: Katya would have been 14 on her birthday. She was diagnosed with diabetes last summer and spent a long time in a coma. Trying to regulate her blood sugar and teach the family the importance of the injection schedule was frustrating for those involved. When the mangoes came early, she ate too many. The result: diabetic coma and death.

When I spoke with her mom last week, she did not comprehend what had happened. She kept saying, "Li pa te gen anyen", literally, "She had nothing -- she was healthy." The mother truly never understood the severity of the diabetes. After Katya was discharged from hospital last summer, she was considered cured by the family. Education is a lifelong process and not just for the young.

Power Outages, Power Surges
We went from no electricity to too much electricity for 3 days last week. EDH gave us power surges starting at midnight; A 7-year-old in our neighborhood was electrocuted. These surges fried 10 of our newly donated energy saver light bulbs and one fan which had been left on. We are back to no electricity so have begun to dedicate the solar power to the fridge as we just did not have the funds to purchase the large amounts of ice needed for the cooler.

Sleeping can be hazardous to your health here, too.
Auguste came to work last week with a sore thumb. Apparently, a rat had bitten his thumb, right through the mosquito netting. We had some of the sticky pads here so sent them home with him , and they caught 3 rats the first night. Our cats do the job here at the house.

Precautions against Kidnapping
In light of the current increase in kidnappings in our immediate area, the staff now stop all unknown vehicles as well as bourets (wheelbarrows) from entering the compound. Any stranger making deliveries will stop outside the gate, and the staff will carry in from there. Auguste is also concerned about folks coming here seeking assistance. Students are not invited in until we have most of their family history and current school information. We can't stop the kidnappings, but we can be more aware.

Shipping News
One more item of interest. The supplies I sent from Canada in November 2007 were finally released by Haiti customs. Seven months is a long wait to get supplies to an island so close to America! We picked them up at CASCO. Although CASCO is functioning again, the time problem has not disappeared nor has the cost. Now, the customs charges (duty) will always be payable here after inspection and before goods are released. Apparently there is no set fee schedule, which slows the process.

Summer heat is upon us as is the humidity. Yet another challenge to keep us on our toes.

Be safe this summer
Ala pwochen

Sunday, June 22, 2008

No Hydro, No Internet, No Incoming International Calls in Cap-Haitien

Hello Everyone,

(This is Karen) Sharon phoned this morning and though the connection was not very clear, she did ask me to let you know that they have not had hydro at all for the past several days, nor internet connections, and that no incoming international calls are getting through. (I can verify that as I have been trying to phone her for some days, and the number won't even ring.)

If anyone is expecting replies to emails, etc. Sharon says to hang in there. If she still has no connection within a few days, she will try to get to a local hotel with WiFi and access emails.

Also, in today's Toronto Star, there's an article about Fixing the World by the Numbers that you may find interesting.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Back in Cap-Haitien Haiti - Update News

Greetings from Cap!

It is Saturday morning and Auguste, Marlene and I are working. They are composing an email in Spanish to the information department of the University she wishes to attend in the Dominican Republic (Sendomeng in Kreyol). Marlene has completely recovered from breast surgery and we have secured her passport: Both are major achievements in one year. After navigating the treacherous Archives in Port-au-Prince, all her papers for her application are in order.

Last Saturday morning when I arrived back in Cap-Haitien after being in Canada, Auguste and Jackson met me at the airport, and, when I arrived at the house, Jaccques and Wisky were working. It takes about 30 seconds to feel at home after a trip to Canada. English is now my second language. We then held a staff meeting over breakfast at the Hotel Roi Christophe -- a culture shock in itself for Starthrower staff.

Hydro has been in very short supply since before I left Haiti in April. No power during the day and only a few hours during the night. The hydro has since dwindled to nothing. At the beginning of the week we tried to dedicate the solar power to running the refrigerator. However, just a few cloudy days made us realize that was not possible. Even using the coffee maker depletes the batteries.

For those coming to visit, we are now using our Igloo cooler (which we purchased in the spring for using with visitors and on trips to Sen Rafayel) as our fridge. Better than the alternative which is no cooling. We have so far been able to purchase ice made from potable water. Good thing we have no leftovers!!

Seems to always be a trade off with the electricity. The few nights it came on at about 9 p.m., so the carpenter and metal workers across the street had their saws going for as long as the hydro held. With the complete cessation of hydro, I can now hear without interference the voodoo drums, roosters and feral dogs.

Thanks to Mme Jane who visited Cap in May. I am so sorry you suffered the Haitian hitchhiker flu upon returning home. The vitamins and energy bars you brought were distributed within 48 hours. We have been able to give each youth a 2 month supply of vitamins to see them through June and July. For the first time, we were able to include Sen Rafayel students as well.

Also, the financial donation allowed us to continue our food distribution in Cap during exams. Due to insufficient funds, the food program ends next Sunday, June 22. Unfortunately we were not able to implement a program in Sen Rafayel. They really do get the short end of the straw. With prices quadrupling on some items, it was all we could do to struggle along in Cap.

And according to Claudy and Louisena, our staff members in Sen Rafayel, two of our kids there -- Francois, who has been one of our kids for 3 years now, and Yolene, for 7 -- have dropped out of school and have since disappeared. Both those students told Claudy that they were unable to continue as there was no food and they were always sick.

On a positive note, we are going to keep the potable water project going as long as possible. Staff want to see the project become a full time program as all are heartened by the decline in illnesses due to waterborne parasites and pathogens among our young people. Also want to duplicate the project in Sen Rafayel although logistics are more demanding. More difficult to sterilize the gallon jugs for refill. Here we are able to boil water - no such luxury in SR.

I feel as though I should say THIS JUST IN
Jack , Auguste and I were to meet in Cap at noon to have the Boss Mechanisyen check out a potential vehicle for us. Jack just phoned to say 'don't come'. There is a huge demonstration in Cap and only Haitians can get in and out of town on foot.

Public transit is at a standstill. We knew of the demonstration after receiving a notice inviting all to come wearing black and white to a Mach for Aba kidnapping -- a walk or march to stop the kidnappings. This is particularly important to Jack, as he received word last month that his 5 year old daughter, Diateline, was the target of kidnappers because 'she is cute and he works for a blan.'

Although our staff receive very small salaries, they DO at least HAVE jobs and working for a blan (white, foreigner) translates to access to wealth. Jack has been taking her to school and picking her up every day. Thank goodness her school year in over. Kidnappings continue on an hourly basis here. Some are released after ransom paid, some never seen again.

Again we have a dental problem on our hands. It seems the dentist we were using is not as good as we thought. Four of our kids have had problems with teeth he repaired. When we sent them back, he charged us full price again.

Auguste interviewed another dentist recommended by a friend. We sent one of our boys for a refilling of the one that fell out. This second dentist charged us more than $100 US saying, "Se yon blan-li ka peye" ("It's a foreigner. She can pay anything we charge.") Surprise for him -- we are not able to pay anything. With our kids needing a lifetime of catch up for dental problems, we would have sent him a lot of work had he charged a fair price. This way he has one visit and we still look for a dentist.

We have lost Jhennie from our staff. She is missed. Her sister in Sendomeng is having a difficult pregnancy and Jhennie was dispatched by family to care for her (pran swen). This is a very common Haitian custom. One of our girls, Nandecie, came in yesterday asking to return to school in September. She had to sit out this year to care for sick a family member in Hinche.

As the school year draws to a close, those in desperate situations begin to find us. In addition to our 130 +, Auguste began a new wait list the first of June. There are already 40 names on the list. This does not reflect the numbers in Sen Rafayel. Every one has a story that is real and heartbreaking. One at a time.

More later on our Book Recovery Program and killer mangoes.



Related Posts with Thumbnails