Friday, December 10, 2010

Reflections from Cap

3 a.m. and finally there is some calm.  Gunfire has ceased - outside my window the occasional mango drops, somewhere a dog barks, roosters crow, a child cries.

When I left Canada Nov. 15th I fully expected to be home in Cap-Haitien the next day.  When manifestasyon yo (protests) closed the airport for 5 days, precipitating a minor personal financial crisis in Provo, the universe put Lesline of Air Turks and Caicos and Cathy and Ian, Inglewood, On. in my life. Thank you - your compassion, humour, generosity and friendship are treasures I will store.

Once here the reality of life - a Monday trip to the bank meant a wait of 2 1/2 hours in line.  At one point I counted 184 people in front of me, just to pass the time. I forgot to bring my book.  Money transfer sent to Léogâne, currency exchanged, on to try to find supplies for the centre here and for the office in Sen Rafayel.  Everything from note books to propane is scarce.  Prices reflect the limited supply.

Our refrigerator died , twice, was revived by 2 different technicians.  The water chateau on the roof started to leak - a 500 gallon leak. The brakes went on the truck and it took us 2 days to find new parts. Our propane tank (cooking) came up empty.  The inverter proved to be a hungry beast.  Initially operating on 4 batteries (albeit ineffectively) we purchased 6 only to be told by Danius that we needed 8 to operate the house.  Our precious bank acct. dropped perilously low but the house can function now without EDH (Haiti's hydro company).  The handle on the faucet outside broke off, no replacement to be found.

Meantime Auguste and I were busy looking after students who continue to need medical attention, school supplies and dental work.  Carmene and Joceline (below) sterilized bottles and filled them with dry ingredients for 'sewomoral' (sugar and salt to be added with water when needed) to treat 'kolera' (cholera).  Jack's wife Angeline was the first to use our homemade product to fight cholera. She is much improved this week although still weak.  We spoke briefly by phone yesterday.

Wednesday, Dec. 1st, we travelled to Sen Rafayel to deliver potable water, the dry serum ingredients to fight cholera, staff pay envelopes, Kesner's sewing machine (picture below) and to make home visits long overdue. 

We witnessed 7 funerals in the 4 hour visit.  The boss who made the coffin for Consienne's father in September has died of Cholera, so his apprentices are now in business for themselves.  Our landlord's wife and children have died.  A dozen students have left bills for medical services rendered, each one exorbitant. The Red Cross (Kwa Wouj) is sending text messages to all phone holders, directing those with cholera symptoms to go to the nearest treatment centre.  For those in Sen Rafayel the nearest centre is 3 hours down the mountain over what passes for a road but is really a mountain track too narrow in places for vehicles.  What should be a compassionate, humanitarian response has become big business in our little village.

More unpleasant surprises - College Vincent Oge (one of the village's oldest schools) and College Roi Henri Christophe (one of the newest) have closed.  Declining enrollment (declining numbers of those able to pay) means teachers do not get paid.  The directors of the schools used our first trimester payments for teacher's salaries so there is no remittance coming.  We now have to find schools willing and able to take on Fabiola, Mary-Rose, Severe, Thony, Illiomene, Benouse, Evaldine and Mika.  I say 'able' as 5 are in the pilot program 'nouvo secondaire' the government started and very few schools were selected to participate.  This also means we pay again for the first trimester in order for our students to have the opportunity to write Christmas exams.

And the hours fly by - a meeting with Consienne to pass on her sponsor's stipend and Christmas gift, pay staff, distribute hand soap, phone cards, explain how to use  the natural supplement Allimax,  and finally lunch to-gether.

As we prepare to head out for home visits a convoy of marked UN vehicles heads past on the way out of town.  We had played tag with them coming up the mountain.  As they whiz past, I begin to take pictures and call to Auguste to bring the video recorder.  Djohn begins to count the vehicles (kontwole).  He starts in mid-parade and gets to 37.  We are told by those in the know that the visit had been to verify that the polling station and ballots cast had been destroyed by fire.  Two questions came to mind - how much precious fuel did those vehicles use getting up and down the mountain and why did the powers that be not send life-saving 'sewomoral' (to fight cholera) in each vehicle?

We deliver Kesner's sewing machine (thank you David in New Brunswick) then on to visits.  First Elines.  Mother has been dead for 10 years, father is partially paralyzed from an accident and stroke.  The house is full of huge holes and provides no shelter.  It was also damaged in the earthquake. (pictures below).  They have a piece of land but no funds to build on it.  Not one of the students we visit has access to a latrine or running water.

Elines is in his 5th year of high school and wants to study medicine and become a doctor.

(Daniel  here - Elines is one of our students in the "Starthrowers in Action" group sponsorship program and he only needs another $25 a month to be fully sponsored.

Any Starthrowers out there willing to help him? )

To another house where sisters Fabiola, Adminada and Rose-Evenia live with their mother and dying grandmother (98 years old).  We support these 3.  Mother has some motor impairment from a stroke.  Other siblings are in Cap-Haitien with an aunt.  Like the ti-kay (small house) of Elines, the walls are cracked and fill of holes, the 'tol' roof (corrugated metal) leaks like a sieve.  They also have a piece of land but no 'moyen ekonomik' (financial means) to build on it.
Fabiola in front of their house

Main room. Bed for her mother. Fabiola and her sisters sleep on the floor.

Our final visit to Illiomene (student staff).  She is alone in the world - parents deceased, no siblings.  The family with whom she has been staying has asked her to leave, as the owners have died of cholera and their children are being cared for by an aunt who has her hands full and needs the floor space Illiomene takes up when she sleeps.  Illiomene is of most concern.

Sleep is elusive in Haiti - so many ups and downs in a day.  The violence of Wednesday (Dec. 8th) underscores the need to stay the course - access to education is vital.  Some good news - Althega was successful getting into the medical technology program at Ecole Polytechnique du Cap-Haitien.  He began classes Monday. Post-secondary institutions are operating through the chaos.   Like Micheline, he needs a French Medical Dictionary and a complete Glucometer Kit.  Anyone who can help with these please contact me for shipping details.

There are many to thank as usual.  I'm always concerned about leaving someone out - if I do, please don't be offended. The universe knows .

Thank you Jackie, Benjamin and Diane, Cindy W., Cindy S., Betty Lou and each of the amazing sponsors who have come forward to support these courageous young people.  Until the next...


Kembe pa lage


Update 1- As of Friday, Dec 10th, 2pm.  Street manifestations have started again (in the rain).  Burning tires and gunshots.  Staff won't be able to go home if it continues.
Update 2- Fabiola and Illiomene are in the hospital in SenRafayel, both being treated for Cholera.

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