Saturday, January 29, 2011

Following Andreas, Talien and Elines

Saturday morning 5 am - The rain is letting up, voodoo drums now have competition only from the roosters and the hum of electricity. With 'kouran' comes an internet signal and news that Andreas (FrostBike) has successfully completed his ride from Kingston to Toronto. WELL DONE, Andreas and team.

Many of our young people are close in age to Andreas and those who supported his challenge. How wise of the universal energy to bring them to-gether.

Andreas initially contacted us via email. Many of our young people here arrive with letters in hand, often from other NGO's unable to continue support. Sometimes the kids outgrow an organization, or it folds or leaves the area. That is how Talien arrived at our portay. After speaking with the referring agent and checking papers, Talien became a weekly visitor - quiet, shy, never asking for anything just using the facilities, eating and leaving. Then came kolera, and in November while I was stranded in Providenciales, his support system, his grandmother, died in the street trying to get past the fiery protest barricades to the cholera treatment centre.

He started to talk. Could we help with the rent as his grandmother paid until month end? Last Friday we visited. Our webadmin Daniel has posted a portion of that visit. I have the privilege of going where many etranje yo have never been. When I asked where he lived, he responded that his tikay was behind the gas station on Airport Road. Sounds uncomplicated. Take a look at the walk to his place (Click here to view video). Seems I have two modes of operation in Haiti, leading or following. I'm always following to get to a home visit. Interestingly, there is always a staff member following me.

Talien (school casual uniform) sits beside his possessions, cooking supplies

Only reading material -prized,tattered copy of Evangelists (French)

The squalor in which we often find ourselves always shakes me. His home is approximately 6 by 8 feet. That's it. No communal toilet, no water except raw sewage outside the door, no space to cook his meager meals, no furniture - infested with cockroaches (ravat-yo) and fire ants (foumi). His younger brother, with obvious signs of eye infection, shares the space. I asked how long he had experienced eye trouble. 8 years, since he fell out of a mango tree. He has been unable to continue school.
Younger brother Lusmond shares the space. Grandmother lived there also.
As we will pick up Talien's rent for the next 6 months,  I suggested looking for a place closer to school, preferably one with a window and a latrine. Not an easy matter. In the meantime, plans were made to send a team Saturday to work with him to clean and paint. The day prior to clean up, Talien arrived after school with a group of others. He presented Malaria symptoms so we started treatment, as clinics and hospital were closed. He said he needed to speak to me about an urgent matter. Obviously ill, he slowly made his way into the office, put his head on the desk and began. As the organization which sent him to school is unable to continue, how does he find help to attend university? He wants to study agriculture to help his country. I suggested we deal with Malaria first, cleaning his house next, getting him through the next 2 years of high school, then we'll talk university. This is a poignant example of the focus and drive which propel these young people. Life and school are about what you can do for your family, community and country.

In contrast to following Talien through the concrete jungle to his home, we've also posted a look at a home visit in Sen Rafayel - following Elines through the literal jungle (Click here to view video). His home is shared by sister Lunda (on our waiting list), brother Djohn (one of our staff) and father, disabled due to an accident which injured his leg. Broken bones are never set if you're poor. You either die of complications or live with the consequences. Mom died 10 years ago. Having watched his mother die and living with a disabled father, Elines wants to be a doctor.

School books (Elines) hang out of harm's way.

Following these young people to their homes is always humbling. Talien and Elines and their lives are representative of every young person we serve. For Talien in the city, there is a minimum 2 hour walk to school after leaving the concrete jungle. Two hours home again, usually on an empty stomach. How does one thrive eating once or twice a week? Elines as well has a long walk, hungry. Would I have made the same effort at that age? He also has an eye infection so we're making arrangements to get him down the mountain to the Opthalmology department at Justinien Hospital.

So many challenges just to go to school. Thank you again, Andreas for making a difference.
(Daniel here: Andreas's fundraiser raised $2,800)

More later.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sen Rafayel - tet anba (upsidedown)

Some days stand out because there seems to be an energy which gathers speed as the day progresses, hurtling one towards an exhausting yet anticlimactic finish. Those days seem indelible, as though written in the brain with a  permanent, bold marker. Those are what I've labeled  'awareness days'.

Yesterday was one of those days. Awake at 4 a.m., time for yoga under the net,  out of bed at 5 a.m., open security doors, light the gas stove, haul water, boil water, feed the animals, make sandwiches, coffee and tea for Sen Rafayel, check emails, load the truck with Jack and Auguste -- out of town before 8 a.m., leaving all in the capable hands of Mme Joceline and student staffer, Rosema.  Unfortunately the road up the mountain was slow and treacherous - we arrived in the village (28 km) at 11:20. The route was very dry - not a drop of mud. I always thought the  mud slowed us down. Mud seemed doable compared to 3 and 4 foot deep ruts which felt like concrete.

Djohn attempts a jerry-built causeway in front of our office
Sen Rafayel took us by surprise. We drove past our 'biwo-a' (office). It took a moment to realize that our neighbouring carpentry shop was no longer there and our parking space out front  was now a deep trench. This made the roadway considerably narrower. Thursday market exacerbated the problem. Two large projects are taking place in the village:  construction of a covered market place set  away from the main road  and canals which will hopefully stop the frequent flooding endured by villagers. Every year gardens and animals are swept  away and all too often drownings occur.

Jack and Auguste before the fireworks.
After backing the truck into a pile of gravel which did not block the road, Jack and Auguste began to unload provisions, when a truck marked POLICE skidded to a halt in front of us, effectively  blocking our exit.

Within seconds a parade of men with guns, women and children ran past us down the side of our office. Shots rang out, bottles and rocks flew everywhere,  and several voices shouted  " Mete Madam  machin-an" (Put Mme in the truck). Mayhem. (dezod)

Long story short - staffers informed us that the area surrounding our office was always prone to violence but this has escalated since prior to Christmas. Now I understand  why Djohn has been sleeping on the floor in the office nightly. The shop next door was destroyed by youths brandishing rocks and bottles. Our shared  latrine, which is 2 houses away, in the 'hot' zone,  is now off limits. We need the situation  to resolve itself quickly.  Short term we need a toilet, long term a safe place for staff and students so  we are on the lookout for a new space as the lease expires August 1st.

Francois D. - classe Rheto
 In need of a safe place to leave the truck, we imposed upon our friendship with  Soeur Ginette, parked at the clinic,  and walked back. Once inside, down to work. Pay staff, explain distribution/recording systems for supplies.  Revise student lists -  6 were left off although paid for. Auguste  worked with staff while I met with Francois, a Starfish who had dropped out last year to look after his ailing mother. As he is in Rheto, which means he will write state exams, he can begin without first term. We have at least 30 on our waiting list in the same situation. We just need the financial support. When I asked how his mother was (father predeceased) he said it was a miracle she lived as she is very old. "Konbyen ane li gen?" (How old is she?)  I asked. "Senkannzwit" (58).

Consienne dropped in to pick up the stipend her sponsor sends. In an email to a friend last week, I noted the difference observed in her sponsored student, Camiose.  I saw the same in Consienne yesterday. It is not immediate - I think it takes awhile to trust that the 'soutyen'  (support) will not disappear. Having a sponsor (or group of sponsors) is transformational. Every student with outside support has a new confidence. They present themselves differently, carry themselves differently.  It has been informative. Worth documenting  and following up.

Consienne signs the receipt book. Djohn, Auguste, Kesner

Roadside entertainment for 100 gds
So much to pack into a brief time - we're always late getting away for the return trip and I feel as though we rush everyone and every activity. There are always students left standing we did not get to. It was suggested on the way home, that if I can find a place where we can stay, it would be easier for everyone and we could accomplish more if we stayed overnight and began interviews etc about 6 a.m.  So I'm on it. The trip home was eventful, this time instead of funerals we stopped for entertainment. This gentleman  was playing homemade maraccas and performing a song and dance in honor of the Haitian flag.

No matter how many times I make the trip, entering Cap-Haitien is always a jolt - the difference between rural and urban Haiti  thrown into relief. The poverty of the village  has space - the poverty of the city has no privacy. Both are hazardous.

Above the gas station on Rue L (Barrier Boutey)-no personal space 

Home at last - 5:30 p.m. and Carmene and Joceline along with the dogs gave us a heroes' welcome. Again we survived Granjil as did our tires. Tired, covered in dust, thirsty , exhausted,  Jack, Auguste and I retired to our respective desks, brought log books up to date, then sat on the gallery debriefing the day. We returned with 51 new letters from students sitting out this year.
My day was not over until I had read everyone. In addition to many who lost support in the earthquake there were 3 who had recently  lost parents  to 'kolera'.  Today we've had intake interviews and this afternoon, home visits. On the weekend I'll translate and prioritize the letters. If it weren't for the fact that I'm retired, I would say that I have the best job in the world.
(Daniel here - You can read samples of student letters here.)


Market day - Sen Rafayel - room to move

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

School Strike, Frostbike, Another Mountain

While the macrocosm of the country continues to bubble and steam like a volcano threatening to erupt, the microcosm of Lakay Fondasyon chugs along, the little engine that could. School supplies are non existent - we have scoured the marketplace and stores weekly since early December.With schools opening (supposedly) this week, we increased the hunt.

Marie-Vonette unpacks notebooks
We can't find scientific calculators, back packs, pens, pencil cases,  notebooks.  We are out of and cannot replenish protein powder, multi vitamins and Allimax. We did find hygiene products in quantity.

Prior to the quake, notebooks were assembled in Port-au-Prince.  We found the last 4 packages of 96 page notebooks in Cap-Haitien at $ 12.US per pack.
We have more than 100 students in secondary - each one needs 8 notebooks, can get along with 5.  The 48 we found won't go far and upon inspection, the advertised 96 pages proved an exaggeration - each had 80 pages. Yes, we actually sit and count (kontwole) the number of pages in a notebook Then Satuday  (his day off) Auguste phoned from the market - he had found a marchand with kaye Miami (notebooks which came from the states) for $1.50 USD per notebook ($15. US per pkg.). She only had 23 packages but it gets everyone started.

Paudeline in school uniform.
Or so I thought.  Tuesday Paudeline arrived bright and early  for one of her little visits. The quality of  sewing on school uniforms is to be admired - - all hand made in very cramped, poorly lit spaces. She brought news that her school Lycee Boukman was on strike again (gen grev) as the teachers' have not been paid by the state for many months.

Unfortunately this is a regular occurance.

Which brings us to the announcement of new industry coming to Cap-Haitien. The answer to our problems is not more sweat shops which  keep the poor trapped in the entrenched vicious poverty cycle - a recently passed, fought over minimum wage  increase to $3. USD  PER DAY which does not feed a family, nor pay for schooling or put a roof over anyone's head. The industry needed would provide a just living wage in safe, sanitary conditions. This country is filled with talented, motivated, passionate individuals, languishing. I was hoping for universal health care, access to education and safe housing. Perhaps a  support program for post-secondary education. Seems quite doable given the largesse targeted for the country. Mr. Clinton, please come to visit us.

Of the 4 we sent to L'hôpital Justinien last week with eye infections, Mona and Mackdalene  need corrective lenses.  While we provide the money for eye exams, hospital consults and tap-taps for travel, these young people still must get up and arrive at the hospital before 4:30 am as the limited daily number of places (usually 15)  go quickly. We keep all cards on file here. There are  so many with eye problems we have a separate folder for the Opthalmology Department.  Students must come in for a referral form, consult fees and the original card. This expedites the process of finding their dossier at the hospital.   If no previous dossier, the process takes more time. Then they sit until the doctor arrives, usually 10 or 11 am. Thanks to you, the Starthrowers who support us, they will have glasses next week.

We're paying trimeste fees at each school in Cap  this week, setting up home visits (both here and in the Dominican Republic) In addition we're gathering supplies, revising lists and contracts  and filling salary envelopes as well as school envelopes with 2nd and 3rd trimeste fees. as we travel up  Morn Granjil to-morrow to meet with staff and students in Sen Rafayel. So I'm keeping it brief today.

Andreas on his mount, dressed for the occasion.
In closing I want to introduce you to a Starthrower who lives in Toronto, Canada. His name is Andreas Kloppenborg, a 4th year student in International Relations at the University of Toronto.

On Saturday, January 29th he will ride his bike from Kingston to Toronto (hence Frostbike) in frigid Ontario temperatures to raise awareness and funds for Starthrowers' secondary school program. Please visit his website and support this fundraiser. Tell one more person.

I'm in awe of the generosity and creativity exhibited by Starthrowers. I don't have the creative gene.  Andreas, you are one of my heroes.

As a final thought, if you have seen news reports, you know of the drama surrounding the return  this week of former dictator Jean Claude Duvalier, which continues to unfold. Where it will end and what impact it will have is anyone's guess. Auguste arrived for work Monday very subdued. I asked if he was ill. He replied "It's worse than that. It's another earthquake - Duvalier's here"  (Se pi mal ke sa-a. Yon lot trembleman te-a. Jean Claude te rive.).  Last week I quoted a Haitian proverb -  Deye mon gen mon. It's yet another mountain.

Plis pi ta (more later)
Beni-w (blessings)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jan. 12 - One Year After the Heartquake

There is unutterable sadness and weariness to life lived in absolute poverty. This was true before  the tranbleman te (earthquake) of Jan. 12, 2010.  How, I ask myself,  can something already so profound be deepened? There is also inspiring joy, delight and humour in the simple things those with privilege miss.

We are the privileged - I am - and perhaps you are as well. We've been to school - we can read . We have access to a computer, running water, a toilet which can be flushed, electricity for the dark times, and socks to wear to church and zip lock bags.

I have lived with these privileges and never thought to stop and thank the universe or wonder "Why me?"

That was before my Haitian transfusion, figuratively and literally after life saving surgery, strengthening me, reminding me of the sense of wonder and gratitude I once had but lost for a time.

Joy and pain are tangible here and so closely related.  Carmene, our cook/housekeeper, arrives for work every day with a smile on her face and a greeting for everyone.  Haitians do that - acknowledge every day and the people who pass through it. Her smile is gentle and genuine - concealing a sadness we can never enter. She is the face of Haiti: courage, wisdom, patience, and in her smile, teeth, blackened with cavities, which will never see the inside of a dentists' office.

Traditionally, the New Year is a time to remember those lost in the past year. There were many lost in Haiti last Jan.12 who will never be remembered publicly. The only newspaper we receive, Le Nouvelliste,  carries personal ads every printing, of those looking for loved ones not seen since Jan. 12th.  A year later the search continues. In recognition of those who still search and those unaccounted for,  I'm sharing our loss -  a young man who was the face of Haiti's present and future and now belongs to her past and the legacy of January 12, 2010.

This is Carmene's son Frandzy, killed January 12, 2010.
Frandzy V.  26.01.86 - 12.01.2010
I found some pictures of him in my computer a couple of weeks ago and asked Carmene if she wanted to see them or have me print them. She paused for a painfully long time, slowly turned to me with a look of  profound sadness and vehemently shook her head. "No" was all she said.

Too painful to remember, the second son she's lost in the service of  Haiti's terrible poverty. Frandzy was in Port-au-Prince in first year medical technology. He wanted to be a doctor because his younger brother Ernst died at age 13 of a simple ear infection, easily treated if you're privileged, fatal if you're poor. He wanted to help  improve the odds currently stacked against the poor.

He was intelligent, funny, thoughtful, studious and committed to being part of the change Haiti needs from her young people. His dream would have been realized thanks to Starthrowers like you. Others will do it in his stead and in his name.

I'm not a writer - Karen and Jeff are blessed with that gift. I don't have an eye for photography - that's Pete. And I certainly have no gift for drawing a story with pen and line - that's Daniel and my son Ken.

I can be present and I can tell you the stories - the minutiae and the mountains climbed by the young people who pass through Starthrower in Haiti. I think their stories are worth telling. I think we - the privileged with our computers and zip lock bags - need to know. Knowing their stories makes me a better person. 

Marrion F.
The New Year is also a time to look ahead. Last August 14,  Marrion F. (Sen Rafayel) wrote a letter to me. It was one of 73 letters received that day. That night, while tucked under my mosquito net, flashlight in hand, I made my way through all 73, saving his for last as it was written in English - a painstaking chore to be sure, probably written with  dictionary in hand. Saved for last because no translation was required. In it he wrote "My father died in the heart quake 12 January 2010. My mother is living but she is sickly. She can't help me continue with my classical education, I'm obliged to address you."  What a profound mistake - our hearts did quake, sometimes it feels as though our hearts broke.  While  reflecting on Marrion's letter, I recalled a line from a video I had seen last year.  According to the character of Jake ('Must Love Dogs ' 2005 Warner Bros.) after an experience which breaks your heart, the universe lets it grow back bigger, stronger, more capable of love. Words of comfort are often found in surprising places. The world needs bigger, stronger hearts.

Marrion is on our waiting list - one of the 300 plus. He is waiting to finish the final year of high school and go on to university.   He is also the face of Haiti - the present, the future, the 'possibilite'.

One year later we are coping, moving on - Martha has started sleeping inside again, Piterson and Guilene have recovered as much as possible from their physical wounds. Guilene, blind from birth, is back at school in Port-au-Prince. She still has pain from six days of confinement beneath the rubble of her former school. Piterson also has residual pain, but is writing entrance exams at the State university hoping to study medicine. Another survivor with guilt. He was at school with Frandzy. It was Piterson who somehow in all the terror and disorientation,  found a telephone and called us with the terrible news.  He has always wanted to be a doctor - more so after his experiences last Jan. 12th.

Gaby, Brunie, Wisly and Alland still don't sleep well when in Leogane, Plenito has found a new university  in Port-au-Prince but has to repeat last year. His survivor guilt continues,  he wonders why favourite teachers and classmates died but he didn't. Dieugrand and others still have difficulty entering large buildings.  Vaudre, Elines, Fabiola, Constance and many others continue to live in quake damaged homes. Repairing would be futile. They need to be torn down and rebuilt. And the list goes on.  We have repaired the structural damage to our centre  in Cap-Haitien although large cracks remain.  The 'structural damages' sustained by many of our young people are not visible.

 One year later we are coping, moving on - but always remembering - n'ap degaje, n'ap kontinye ,n'ap sonje.


PS An official announcement yesterday stated that three more bodies had been found  (on the exact anniversary) and that less than 5% of the rubble has been moved. One year later - still a heartquake.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mountains and Minutiae

"Dèyè mon gen mon" . Loosely translated, behind every mountain is another mountain. This kreyol expression  succinctly sums up life here.  We have literal mountains such as Morn Granjil which we travel weekly to meet with our staff and students in Sen Rafayel. One is surrounded by mountains and led by mountains.

Look at a map of Haiti - so many mountains there is very little space for people, farms, industry. There are figurative mountains - take 2010 for example. Major earthquake in January followed by  tropical storms, cholera outbreak, fraudulent elections, civil unrest  all of which impacted upon and in some instances forced closures of  schools , banks and businesses.  Seems there is always a 'mountain' .

In tandem with the challenge of mountains, we carry on with the minutiae of daily life . Perhap because of the inevitability of another mountain, we celebrate the small daily successes.

Weby-Schneider and Auguste review budget

This week we sent Weby-Schneider off to University in Port-au-Prince. He will be studying Sciences Diplomatiques (Diplomatic Sciences) at the Universite Americaine des Sciences Modernes d'Haiti.
We had sent him to the capitol in the summer to inskri (register) and he had secured a bursary. Then no news until last week. He had contracted  typhoid (tifoyid) in October and is just now on his feet again. This leaving will be hard for his mother. His dad died in the summer of 2009 and he is the oldest child.

I have to admit I really like the idea of a Haitian diplomat coming from the ranks of the poor. His place is still available at the school but the bursary is gone. There are relatives with whom he can stay, which helped us make the decision to send him.

Rose-Guerlande has been in almost daily, researching schools of dentistry. She is an orphan with 3 siblings, the only one to attend school. She stays with an aunt. Knowing the probability of being accepted at the state university in Port-au-Prince, we have begun collecting her papers for a passport, checked with the embassy of the Dominican Republic re: status of students, given the persistence of 'kolera' and this week enrolled her in an intensive Spanish program which will help with the language requirements (once we secure a sponsor or group).  She completed Philo in July. The final 4 years of high school she was awarded a bursary based on academic success. She wants to study dentistry because she knows the reality '"All students have problems with teeth. There are no dentists to help them. I want to."

Rose-Guerlande researches dental schools.

Our days are not all school related . Edwige came in every other day to have wounds on her hand dressed. Her sister, Sherlyne, was gravely ill (undiagnosed by clinic doctor) and when fever and hallucinations were peaking she bit Edwige. At least with kolera we are able to get a definitive diagnosis and we know the treatment.

Dressing wounds on Edwige's hand

On a lighter note, we received sets of  dominoes for Christmas from Pennsylvania. One we earmarked for the centre. What a joy to watch these young people relax, if only for a short time. When I asked Fabien why he was standing, he informed me that he was waiting for permission from his fellow players. So much to learn.
Alex, Weby-Schneider, Fabien, Esmann

 Carmene at work Friday

This week our focus was on placements for post secondary students, as secondary schools remained closed in anticipation of protests over an election result which never came.With an unanticipated week of holidays, everyone came almost daily for a meal, a gallon of potable water, read the paper, company ... Schools will remain closed this week to mark the first anniversary of the earthquake which devastated the country Jan. 12th.  Here in Cap-Haitien,  religious programs are scheduled followed  by a solemn march around the city. The political announcement is scheduled for Thursday.
 Our house is spotless thanks to Carmene, and our water chateau is full thanks to Jack coming in on his day off to-day.

To-morrow we get to start again. What a gift - a new week.

Beni -w

FYI Next blog post Wed. January 12/2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Independence Day, Ancestors Day - Part 1 & 2

At the moment there is electricity and an Internet signal. While preparing food for the dogs and cat at 6am, I was able to access  the  Scorpions  in concert  on YouTube-- 'Moment of Glory' and 'Winds of Change' with the Berlin Philharmonic. Listening to Klaus Meine  - an auspicious start to the new year - it doesn't get much better.

Sounds of Independence Day celebrations, which began Thursday, have not lost any energy. Unfortunately the new punctuation  for any activity in our area (katye) is gunfire (tire ak bal). Instead of a night time phenomenon, it has become an around the clock occurrence. Twice this week staff stayed late, because of the proximity and frequency mid-afternoon.  Monday morning on their way to work,  Joceline and Rosema passed the body of a young man one street above us in front of EDH (Electrique d'Haiti). Police were on the scene. Apparently he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Anger continues to simmer around broken promises of  definitive election results. Now scheduled for Jan. 5th, the potential for violence could keep schools from reopening. We're told schools will open perhaps Monday the 3rd.

As well we are seeing an escalation in drug/ alcohol use in the general population. On several  recent occasions we have been approached while in the truck by someone obviously high on something demanding money. Staff have been stopped  in the street. They also tell of street kids now into sniffing thinner (tine). If ever there was a time to not only stay the course but increase efforts it is now. Hand delivered letters with stories of tragedy, hope and potential continue to arrive daily from students seeking 'soutyen'.

On the good news front, after a two week drought, gasoline arrived in the country. Our generator which pumps water from well to house is gas driven, so it was an exceptionally critical period for us.

Lines for gasoline were long and frustration was evident.  Patience was thin.
Boxes arrived from Pensylvania with gift items for everyone, as did funds for Christmas food distribution. Our gratitude to Penns Valley Community Church, Rashad J., Paula W. and Cindy W.  Carmene and I unpacked, sorted, removed tags, then  divided into male/female then Cap-Haitien/Sen Rafayel. We wrapped  while Joceline and Jack prepared individual food sacks. Auguste kept the office going.

Many of our young people were able to get 'home' for the break. Everyone came to eat as well as  pick up food sacks, potable water, hygiene products  and gifts. Some came to research on the computers.  
Others came to read the paper, kick the soccer ball, talk, stretch out on the hammock, some for funds for medical referrals or  to replace school shoes worn down by  rocks and mud. . Although we were closed Dec. 24 thru 27, twenty-eight students showed up. Apparently the 'CLOSED FOR HOLIDAYS' notice was inadvertently not posted. Many showed up in their very best clothing. When I gently told Paudeline we were closed she said very brightly 'I know - I came to visit!'  (M konnen - m'ap vizite) In she teetered on  precariously high cork-platform shoes, someones cast-offs from another country and another time. It was the first time I had seen her since the deaths of her grandmother and father from 'kolera'.

Wisly, Gaby and Alland checking Kolera stats

Edwina reads Le Nouvelliste

Sherlyne and sister Edwige's shoes


( Sunday Jan 2 )

The good intentions to write a two-part blog yesterday were washed away by heavy rains, which interfered with the Internet signal, also delaying ( but not cancelling ) remaining programs for Independence Day.

Rain does not dampen enthusiasm here, and celebrations resumed within approximately 15 minutes of the rain moving out - about 5:45 am by my clock.  However, it was no longer Independence Day being celebrated, but Ancestors Day (called Heroes Day by some).  It is 6 pm and the programs continue. Joceline and Rosema worked a half day today, and assured me that all 'fets' (celebrations) would be finished by Jan. 6th and the 'norm' will resume. I would be hard pressed to describe the 'normal' to which she referred.

To-day, radio carried some school opening information for this week. One or two of the private schools will reopen Tuesday the 4th. In anticipation of potential disruption by protests in response to electoral announcements on Jan. 5th, most schools are delaying second trimeste until Monday Jan. 10th.

Good news as we received confirmation this week that our  students in Sen Rafayel who lost their placements due to 2 village schools closing (see earlier posts re: College Vincent Oge and Roi Henri Christophe) have been accepted at  Lycee Charlemagne Perault and Centre Classique le Phare. Djohn and Illiomene travelled  down the mountain Thursday for funds for both school fees and new uniforms for the kids. Village tailors and seamstresses work very quickly - they're used to a flurry of activity followed by long periods of no work.

We were unable to travel up the mountain this week as our truck (machin) was out of commission (anpan).  Illiomene has recovered from her recent bout of cholera (kolera).  She brought along a bill from the clinic which treated her early in December, clearing up a question. Her initial diagnosis in early Dec. was cholera, however she was treated at the clinic for typhoid (tifoyid). The cholera did not recur but set in after.

She is looking for a place to stay in order to finish her school year. We'll pick up the rent - it's just finding a place. She will probably still be sleeping on the floor with several others but it will get her through exams for Philo (last year of high school). If she is successful writing state nationals, she hopes to enter nursing in Leogane.

Djohn, Illiomene and Auguste prepare gifts
Once business was out of the way (salaries, new school fees, clinic payments, request letters...), we set to labelling and packing gifts. The timing of the gifts for Sen Rafayel means that they received New Year's gifts (etrenn or zetren yo) instead of Christmas (kado nwel).  Jack packed food sacks for the trip at the same time.

Staff will purchase cooking oil ( lwil) and charcoal (chabon) in Sen Rafayel . We try to put funds into each community. Our truck was ready to travel to the bus station  by the time they left, thanks to our mechanic Danius, who had also come down from Sen Rafayel to do repairs.

Monday our university and nursing students all head back after a stop here for funds and a meal.  Tuesday I'll head to the banks (with reading material to pass the time) and we'll resume the hunt for notebooks (kaye), pens (bik yo), and hygiene products. We've been scouring the city the entire month of December- everything is scarce. What we do find has often doubled in price.

Perhaps this week...

Thank you for the 'soutyen' in 2010.  Knowing that so many have taken the well-being of these young people into their lives lightens my load considerably. In partnership we will continue to  make a difference, one at a time.

Wishing you a  year filled with blessings
Bon ane 2011

Here are more pictures from this week:

Sharon, Auguste and the four nursing students: Seated Gaby and Brunie.  Standing Allan and Wisly

Dialine says mesi (thank you) for the kado (gift)

Fresnel comes for potable water

Rose-Guirlande researches schools of Dentistry


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