Monday, May 2, 2011

A Home in Sen Rafayel, Visiting Myriame

When I began working with the youth of Sen Rafayel, there was no thought of a permanent location. But as we have grown, so have our needs. The rental spaces we have occupied   have reflected the market. Our first office (biwo-a) was one room - about 6x8. Last summer we moved into a 2 room space. Each time, structural repairs and several coats of paint were needed to make them presentable, if not exactly safe.  While they put a roof over our heads, there was no room for programs, study, homework, reflection, relaxing, staff development,  no water, no toilets...

Last year we moved up to 2 rooms

Since the New Year,  I've made reference in these blogs to looking at land. We have been searching for many months. Last month we found a little piece of heaven, right in the village. It's a big step - purchasing land and building an education support centre is a commitment to the village and its youth. While we will be able to reach more young people, we will need more funds and more fundraising.  It means more staff and more travel. It also means a place to stay for staff and visitors. For our students it means a place to study before school, after school, in the evening. Imagine, a study hall with lights, a resource centre, project room,  potable water to drink, toilets that flush and a sink to wash your hands.

For several years Starthrower has grown, thanks in large part to the generosity of The Jasmine Foundation, Inc (Canada).  Last week thanks again to the moral and financial support of founding directors Diane and Benjamin Plett, we purchased that little piece of heaven and begin building immediately. This is BIG!! Yesterday Jack travelled to Sen Rafayel with a well technician. Jack cleared the land while the technician set up equipment to dig. We hired several of our students to help clear. Jack phoned and said they are so excited about the project they wanted to start digging the foundation once the land was cleared. They're also talking about a soccer match between Cap-Haitien and Sen Rafayel students. It's already making a difference. As I head to Canada to-morrow, our well will be becoming a reality.  How remarkable is that?

Land owner looks on as notary checks the deed. I  present passport.
But I digress. As I had indicated I wanted the land surveyed, the notary left with staff, tracked down the village 'apante'  (surveyor) returned for the land owner and Auguste  then documented the process on video. I thought some of you might be interested in the process. I learned a great deal.

In the clips you'll see the landowner digging holes with a machete and carrying fairly large rocks in his hand.They are called 'born',  markers identifying purchased land. The owner places them on the property lines in the holes.  Jack can be seen cutting down pieces of 'raket'  (cactus which is used as a fence). A piece of raket is then laid across the borns, and the surveyor uses his instruments to measure the property using the markers set down by the owner. Once he finalizes measurements he puts his mark on the borns. Our new home is 51 x 79 ft. Back at the office after the survey,the apante was paid for his services and  will now complete a form prepared by the notary. All  paperwork will be finalized be the time I return.

We left in high spirits, but 15 minutes outside of the village, a 'reso' (spring) running the length of the undercarriage broke. We called Danius, our university student/mechanic who came by taxi moto. Using a machete, he fashioned a splint out of 2 pieces of hard wood and tied them to the broken piece. Although late, we arrived in one piece. Wednesday morning the notary and landowner arrived at our place escorted by Jack from the station. We finalized the deal, signed receipts, and as the deal was in cash, everyone counted gourdes.

Double checking currency at our dining room table.
Sometimes I have to shake my head. The landowner's son came with him to help his dad sign his name and deposit most of the funds in the bank. He is in Rheto (second last year ) in a Cap-Haitien high school. Before he left, he approached me, holding a bag full of money, and asked if I could pay for him to go to school . I turned him over to Auguste. As Director of Education it is his job to handle inquiries and he does it so professionally.

Although that was the  BIG event, it was one of hundreds that crowded our week. Our medical students Marlene and Elorge came home for a quick visit , as did Jhennie also studying in Santiago, DR (Business Administration). In addition to purchasing land we delivered school supplies, hygiene products and potable water.

Wensky tests his kalkilatris siyantifik
(scientific calculator)

Text books and a backpack put that
smile on Dahendie's face.
In Cap we're trying to get in as many home visits as possible. Auguste has been working 7 days a week so to-day he stayed home and I visited Myriame's home alone. She is within walking distance. She has also been working part time in the office and proving to be invaluable.

Myriame (top left) with her dad, 3 sisters, 2 brothers and mother. One sister was absent.

Myriame is an anomaly in Starthrower. She has 2 living parents, both reasonably healthy. Her dad is a photo journalist but there is no work. The family is from Sen Rafayel, now living here. Myriame was going to school in Port-au-Prince, staying with an aunt, uncle and cousins. Everyone was killed in the earthquake except Myriame. In her letter last Aug. she wrote "I saw life end for me after I saw the catastrophe of Jan 12 which happened in front of me. By chance I did not die, but the ones looking after me did it seems my life is over. ...I was born in a poor family. It's misery which lives there."

Her mother told me to-day that Myriame still does not sleep well and has panic attacks when a large truck goes by, causing the ground to vibrate. Their home is what you see - one room.  Although there is a fan in the corner there is no electricity, no running water, no bathroom, no kitchen - one room. Myriame and brothers sleep on the floor. If the temperature outside was 120 today, it was 20 degrees hotter in the small dark room. Sweat was pouring off everyone. The smell of mold and mildew permeated everything and marengwen and mouch (mosquitos and flies) swarmed us.

On the way back to the house Myriame was more talkative and animated than I have seen her. She was working to-day so we took 30 minutes off, leaving the house in the hands of Joceline, Sherlyne and Rosema. Like Viola's aunt on Thursday, Myriames's parents thanked me for coming and taking an interest in their daughter. I am so privileged to be welcomed into these homes. There is so much to learn.

Well, that was our week - how was yours?

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