Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pre-election Violence, Self-esteem and self-definition

As we move into the final week of  candidate stumping, violence is again on the front burner. Election run-offs will be held next Sunday Mar. 20th.  Auguste and Jack headed for town after work Thursday, Jack because he lives there, Auguste to look for a USB flash drive. Enroute they encountered folks who told them to avoid the downtown core as violence had broken out during a speech by the now government backed candidate. She is not the people's favorite, so travels with a large security force as well as PNH officers. (Police National D'Haiti)  Auguste turned back, Jack lives in town so continued.

A visit by people's choice candidate late in February had been met with crowds large and small, sometimes cheering always listenening and notable for the absence of violence. This week his pictures were torn off walls, ripped out of the hands of supporters, smashed off vehicle windows. Jack witnessed several people being beaten because they  indicated support by holding a flyer with his picture. He reported that candidate's  official vehicle was destroyed by rocks and bottles, the driver fled with his life. A climate of fear pervades life again, adding to the misery.

Violent acts affect us here at our sant soutyen (support center). We will close the days before and after the  elections to eliminate the need for travel by staff and students. Food and water distribution will be truncated. Tuesday we hope to be in Sen Rafayel. This depends on the 'temperature' in the village. We made the decision to cancel this week's visit due to the climate of unrest following the death of a PNH officer who responded to a fight last  Monday 7th.  To restore order, a larger contingent of  police moved in, keeping everyone in their homes. While the village is 'cho' (hot), we stay put in Cap-Haitien.

What does pre-election violence have to do with self-esteem?  Everything. The contributions you make to the lives of these young people cannot be measured in dollars. The support you so generously provide is a direct contrast to the violence and misery they have witnessed most of their young lives. While I thank you individually, I don't do it collectively.  Thank-you to each of you for supporting our young people in whatever way is available to you. I know that often your lives are  not  ' a piece of cake', I have a foot in the first world as well.   In looking back over the past 13 years, the difference your support makes has been summed up quite nicely by Adriana Trigiani in her novel Big Stone Gap (Ballantine Pub., 2000). The character of Ave describes an impoverished teen she has supported:

"Something good has finally happened to (her). At long last somebody believes in her...she has gained the tools with which she will build her self-esteem: she has been chosen and she has security. Maybe this is all a person ever needs to succeed. (She) has been picked and that has begun to define her." (p.109)

Auguste and I talked about this in the truck coming back from market. We have one young man, Kinston,  to whom we have never paid a home visit. Like Talien, he came to us from another organization. He had 'outgrown' their mandate. There are not many organizations here working with teens and young adults, but those which do often stop all support at age 18.  Auguste explained why we have not visited: "Li pa gen kay directaman" (He doesn't exactly have a place to live..) "He stays with different friends from time to time. His mother is dead, his father has disappeared.  He used to be in the gangs, causing trouble. He has left that behind, now that he goes to school."  As of this blog, we  have 152 young people receiving souyten.

Here are just a few of the reasons they  thank you:
Secondary school diploma,  university education
and learning to budget

Eye care, glasses, school uniforms

Birthday presents, someone who remembers and 
celebrates  ( Kinston)

School fees paid, text books and a place to study

Newspapers and the gift of reading


A place, a meal, time to gather
(Edwina,Esmann, Lusnot, Jimpson, Kinston, Micheline)

A diploma and a career
Soccer balls and a place to kick them

Research, internet, computers, knowledgeable staff
Valon, Auguste, Evains, Dieugrand

First aid, medical referrals, clinics, careers
Jhennie, Micheline

New skills,confidence,part-time jobs (Myriame, Sherlyne)
Food sacks, gallon jugs, potable water
Jack and Rosema

During each time of upheaval, these young people have received your gifts, which translate into the tools  to build self esteem.

With violence and disorder all around, their self esteem continues to grow, they make choices which show the influence of your support.  They  are beginning to define themselves and find their voices.

Knowing that you are behind them, they will take the future and own it. Now that is a gift for which there is no pricetag.

To each of you
On behalf of everyone

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