Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sen Rafayel, Haitian Students, Fullness of Life

In my spare time here in Cap-Haitien, I read.  I have always been a voracious reader.  I have been reacquainting myself with Jon Kabat-Zinn's profoundly insightful guide to living "Wherever You Go There You Are".  I can spend time with just the title.  Saturday found us very present in the village of Sen Rafayel.  Staff put out the word that we wanted to meet with each student, to update photos and information.  Most were waiting in school uniform when we arrived.

We departed Cap-Haitien at 7:30 a.m. with a cooler full of iced bottles of water, and arrived at about 11 a.m..  The 28 km trip was the maiden voyage for our truck.  The route threw every conceivable challenge at us - work crews (state and private), huge puddles the size of small lakes and mud, mud, mud.  But the bridge between Dondon and Sen Rafayel was repaired.  Under Jackson's watchful eye, Auguste drove up the mountain and Jack drove the return.

Once there, there was no time to scour the village looking for a latrine, just get to work.  Auguste sat in the single, windowless room, filled with flies and mosquitos, taking information while I stood in the sun trying to coax smiles out of everyone, burning (although covered with sunscreen) and swatting the same critters.

As usual, our presence attracted a crowd of curious.  The younger ones had often been put in their best dresses in the hope that we would be able to provide support for some wanting to start school.

Many of ours presented with multiple problems - Wilsaint needs a hernia repair, a great deal of dental work and the tikay(little house) he shares with his frail aging mother, 3 brothers and 2 sisters is in ruins, destroyed in the Jan. 12 quake.  They are living amidst the rubble.  Illiomene has an untreated stomach condition and dental problems, and the tikay she shares with neighbors was destroyed.  She is an orphan with no siblings.  Just two of the many.  Kabat-Zinn writes "We have got to pause in our experience long enough to let the present moment sink in; long enough to actually feel the present moment." (pg xiii).  Although there are always demanding crowds of all ages, there is a sense of time standing still.  Sen Rafayel does that to me - forces my attention on the present.

Leaving is always a challenge - in addition to those for whom we currently provide support, there will be several who catch my eye and I am again in the present moment with that young person, listening to their compelling story, receiving their painfully written note of hope presented on precious scraps of paper.

One of those, Consienne, wrote "... m pa gen moun ki pou ede m paske manman avek papam avek. Mwen te gen yon fre ki t'ap ede'm li mouri konnya....manman pa gen possibilite pou ban nou mange.." Trans: I have no one who can help me because my mother is blind and my father is blind.  I had a brother who was helping but he's dead now. My mother has no way of feeding us..."  I left Auguste and headed for her house to meet the parents and check her birth certificate.  Her brother was helping the whole family, and was killed in the quake in Port-au Prince.  A brother and sister are stranded in Port-au-Prince unable to get home to Sen Rafayel.  She is one of too many.

The trip home was thought provoking - debriefing, exclaiming over road conditions, drinking in the scenery.  Upon arrival, a truck to unload, animals to feed, Sunday food distribution to prepare for.  And Sunday morning - a victim of the mountain terrain - a shredded tire which somehow got us home before giving out.  Monday morning I couldn't help but laugh as I noted how many staff members it took to replace a tire - 4 humans and 2 dogs.

Then the trickle began - Danius with Malaria symtoms (positif), Mary Modeline with Typhoid symptoms (positif), Edwina, Camiose and Christamene for the first day of our book repair program, which began by unpacking the texts books picked up in Sen Rafayel.  The office and house have piles of books everywhere - each one with a note explaining its purpose and placement.

Tomorrow we will pick up boxes just arrived from Pennsylvania, Sunday attend Paulaine's graduation and in between, the fullness of life.  It's true - wherever I go, there I am.

Kenbe pa lage

PS - We are waiting for a technician to come from Port-au-Prince to repair our solar set up. As it is 'enpan' (not working, needing repair) and hydro is very intermittent, emails will require longer response time.

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