Sunday, May 24, 2009

Haiti Storms, Food, Water and Book Programs, Peace Conference in France

Bonswa tout moun / Hello Everyone!

Last night I was doing something I never do in Haiti: Watching television. The 'crawl' on the bottom of the news channel read '11 Haitians dead as storms sweep through small towns in the North.' I had been waiting for news from Auguste before putting this blog post together. It had been 8 days without a report -- a very long time. This same system moved on to stall over Florida, and has been wreaking havoc there, too.

I had suspected there were weather problems, which would interfere with satellite reception and electricity, which is intermittent even in the best of weather. We subscribe to the NHC (National Hurricane Center) which begins sending updates when the first potential tropical depression/cyclone of the year makes its appearance in the Atlantic/Caribbean. In the past, these alerts have begun in June. This year, our first arrived May 18.

Food Program
Finally last night, I received word from Auguste. There had been a bank mix up (deposit had been made in someone else's account) which delayed the transfer of funds for the Food Distribution Program. Sister Rosemary was able to work with the bank to straighten out the problem. This initial transfer of funds to Haiti pays for the first three weeks of the program. Food purchasing and packaging were done last Thursday and distribution took place on Friday.

Sen Rafayel Food Program
Claudy and Fabiola came down from the village of Sen Rafayel to pick up food for distributing there. It took them all day to make the 28 km / 17 mile trip. As the river was running very high from the recent rains, and the bridge is still out from hurricanes last summer, they had to wait until the river water level dropped and they could cross. They left for the return trip to the village at about 4 p.m., and arrived back by midnight. Food distribution in Sen Rafayel was scheduled for yesterday.

Now that food is being distributed, more youth are coming to study. The rainy weather in advance of summer hurricane season is already triggering medical problems, like malaria, typhoid, and chest and ear infections.

Text Book & Potable Water Programs
Life at Starthrower does not stand still, nor does the need for support ever wane. Our programs are ongoing and often overlap. The Potable Water Program is still operating 5 days a week. The costs fluctuate, but currently we are spending between $75 and $150 USD per week to purchase clean drinking water for staff and students; the food distribution program runs its course (to the end of exams); and the Text Book Restoration Program is due to start.

During July, August and first 2 weeks of September, all text books used by our students for the past year are returned to us, and we hire about 2 dozen students to help clean, repair, rebind and recover these texts. We refurbish about 1500-2000 text books each summer, and so are able to use and re-use them for about 5 years each. This is much less expensive than purchasing new every year and allows Starthrower Foundation to work with job creation.

The director of our Book Program is a young woman named Rosenie. In addition to studying to become a kindergarten teacher (she still needs a sponsor), Rosenie is responsible for hiring and training staff for the text book program, maintaining lists and inventory, and purchasing any and all needed text books.

Peace Conference France
This summer will also be a great adventure for Rosenie, whom I have known since my second trip to Haiti about 10 years ago. Her mom died when she was born and her dad died several years ago. Since then, her brother, Yvan, has been her family; Starthrower, she tells us, is her other mother and father.

Last September, Auguste (manager) and I selected Rosenie to participate in a conference to be held in France in August. The conference, a major peace initiative sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph, is for youth age 21 to 30. Rosenie's attendance has involved securing her a passport and visa as well as preparation for the culture shock which will begin with her setting foot on an airplane.

Thank goodness Sister Rosemary has been there to follow through on this amazing opportunity for Rosenie! The Sisters of St. Joseph are sending a second delegate from Cap-Haitien, and so these two girls will travel together. Returning to Haiti will also be a major shock for them, but both girls are very grounded and will have support every step.

Thank You one and all!
To our Thank You list we add Maureen and Jackie: Thanks for your generosity! And thank you, too, to those who donated through Daniel and Nadia's Canada Helps Giving Page. To date, we have reached 2/3 of our financial goal for continuing the food program from now until July.

I know the universe will continue to unfold as it should, and we will be able to meet the need. Thanks again for supporting these amazing, brave young people. They know who many of you are, and ask Auguste to express their thanks to you all, time and again. That working together, we are able to make profound differences in the lives of these relatively few Haitians in need continues to amaze me. And for that, I thank you all!

While I am frustrated by my slow rate of recovery and frequent post surgical complications, I am encouraged by your support and the ability to continue to 'work' in Haiti via the internet. In his update, Auguste wrote the following, in kreyol:

"Ou pa la sevre, men lespri ou la ave'm. Chak fwa yon jen gen problem, li vini pale ak mwen, e mwen we ou kanpe anfas mwen w'ap gade ki repons m'ap ba-li'

"It's true you are not here, but your spirit is with me. Every time a youth comes with a problem, he comes to talk and I see you standing in front of me guiding the response I give."

Beni-w tout moun (blessings to all)

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