Sunday, September 14, 2008

Starthrower Students Haiti Home Visits in Cap-Haitien

Alexander P. is a student at King's University College in London Ontario Canada who travelled with friend and student Laura to Cap-Haitien Haiti to visit Starthrower Foundation. (See earlier post from Alex).

In this post, Alex writes:

On Friday, August 22, we visited the homes of five students who are currently attending school thanks to Starthrower.

Home #1 - Weby
The first visit we made was to the home of Weby. When we arrived, Weby and his father came out to greet us.

His father had to sit down right away since he has recently had several of his toes amputated and finds it painful to stand.

The doctor never explained to his father why he had to have his toes amputated, just that [the amputation] had to be done.

Sharon told us that after asking a few questions, it was evident that he had diabetes. Diabetes is an epidemic in Haiti since the only food that many people can find and afford is sugar cane and fruit.

Like a lot of Haitian homes, this one has three rooms with cement walls and floors and a corrugated tin roof. The first room, devoid of any furniture, functions as Weby's bedroom and the living room. Like a lot of Haitians, he sleeps on the cement floor.

The second room was his parents' bedroom; They are fortunate to have a bed and a mosquito net, but not much else. The third room acts as their kitchen. The family has put a great deal of effort into their home to make it clean and presentable for the family as well as for visitors.

Their water for washing comes from a contaminated well belonging to the house across the street, and he is able to pick up a gallon of clean drinking water from Starthrower everyday.

Outside Othanes' home in Cap-Haitien

Home Visit #2 and #3 -- Othanes and his sister, Willa.
The second home we visited belonged to Othanes. The place where he lives is the front room of someone else's house. The woman who owns the house lives in the back room with her children. They are fortunate enough to own a bed to share between them.

Outside the front door, there is a pool of sewage. When it rains, the sewage floods the front room where he sleeps on the floor (I can't imagine what his home would look like after a hurricane!).

Laura and I had brought two hammocks with frames from Canada with us on behalf of Starthrower, and we were able to give one to Othanes to get him off the floor at night.

He pays to get water from a tap across the street; they don't know where this water comes from and the source often dries up.

Othanes in sister Willa's house
Othanes then took us to his sister Willa's house; she is also a student sponsored by Starthrower. Her place was a small room that she shares with her friend and her friend's children; It is separated into a bedroom and a living room by a sheet hanging from the walls.

Sharon taking little girl to hospital

Home Visit #4 - Family with Baby
Our fourth home visit took some unexpected turns. The fact that nine people sleep on a floor that was barely large enough to seat four of us was not what captured our attention.

There was a 17-month-old baby girl sitting on a chair by herself. She was obviously weak, malnourished and ill; her head was bobbing up and down like she was about to fall asleep; moments later she passed out and did not regain consciousness while Sharon held her.

The student, whose name escapes me, informed us that this little girl's mother was in the market trying to earn money to take her daughter to the clinic. We knew this poor girl may pass away before her mother got home if she didn't receive professional medical attention immediately.

The student said he was planning to go visit his mother in Sen Rafayel but Sharon explained to him that he was the oldest in the house and he was, therefore, responsible for looking after the youngest; he was oblige as they say in Creole.

We took the student and the little girl to the new hospital in Cap-Haitien. Sharon paid for the girl to be admitted and gave the student some extra cash to pay the doctor once they were seen. Once we got there, the hospital was very busy and they had run out of numbered cards so the student would have to defend his place in line without one.

Sharon said he would probably be waiting all afternoon and maybe into the evening, and all we could do was hope that she received the proper medical attention before it was too late.

Guilene' mother, Mme Philippe, with children

Home Visit #5 - Guilene
Our fifth and final home visit for the day was part way up the mountains. We were greeted at a corrugated tin gate by Guilene, who was wearing her best pink dress to meet us. We were led into a small, crowded, dirt courtyard which was shared by several families.

Their bare, cement block home has one large room divided into two with a bed sheet. Guilene's mother, Mme. P, was sitting on the bed in the first room.

This photo gives you some idea of how little they had before the hurricanes took their toll, and now they have almost nothing.

As Sharon mentioned in her September 6th blog post, Mme. Philipe, sick and injured, came to the compound after hurricane Gustav passed through to ask for help since her family lost nearly everything.

Guilene and her brother lost their books, shoes and uniforms. Starthrower will replace these items and also sponsor Guilene's brother to attend school.

Visiting these homes of Starthrower's students was very enlightening, and made us realize just how fortunate we are to live in Canada where everyone experiences an ultra-high standard of living by comparison.

Sharon Gaskell and the Starthrower Foundation make a huge difference in the lives of these young adults, working for justice every day.

It is these young people who are going change the unfortunate situation in their country and ultimately the world.

I urge everyone to support the work of Starthrower in whatever capacity you can, especially in this time of need.



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