Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Starthrowers in Action, A Wedding

English is now my second language, supplanted by Haitian Kreyol. Back in Canada means the challenge of thinking before I speak, finding the appropriate words. It also means becoming accustomed to hot and cold running water and electricity 24 hours a day. Add to the list the availability of dentists,doctors, a personal trainer to get me into shape, and grocery stores packed several shelves high with most things money can buy. Time in Canada also means the freedom to walk everywhere and telephones which disconnect when I decide. Culture shock and adjustment.

However much time I spend in Canada, the old adage is true - you can take a person out of the country but you can't take the country out of the person. Haiti, her young people and their wellbeing are always uppermost on my mind. The price increase for fuel announced in March has created tangible hardships everywhere in Haiti.  Starthrower is no exception  as we have never had the luxury  of  a reserve fund. The ripple effect of this increase has spread from the marketplace to the education system. In addition to our students  paying more to travel by public transit, new fees are being levied by schools - some now require payment for each exam students write, not just state nationals, post secondary as well as secondary. One school has levied a fee for the purchase of library books, others a mandatory fee for class excursions,  fees for preparatory courses for state exams, fees for notes distributed...the list seems endless, is very creative and unfortunately obligatory. When the fee is not paid, school ID badges are taken and students are not allowed back in until payment is received. If this creates hardship for us, what does it do for those with no means of support?

Starthrower's in Action Revisited
The  Starthrowers in Action program was designed (by webmaster Daniel) to provide support by groups of individuals, and it works well so it's time to revisit in light of the recent above mentioned deluge of new fee requests. Incoming support no longer covers expenses, so new donations are being directed to cover the shortfall. There are some young people who are receiving partial support by 1 or 2 Starthrowers with the rest of needed funding being drawn from general funds. With the all pervasive price increases, and attendant need for more funds,  these young people who are not fully sponsored are in danger of losing their placements for the upcoming year.

As an example,  Nicoly has 1 sponsor for $20 a month.  His program, a 5 year university degree in Agriculture (Agronomie) requires approx $330 per month (this included dormitory and cafeteria 5 days a week). For Nicoly and any student entering a post-secondary institution, the need for sponsorship funds preceeds classes. It costs us approximately $500. US per student for the application process.  Every student needs original papers from every year of high school, which means archive searches in Port-au-Prince. The cost of travel plus meals plus fee per search plus fee per paper is just part of the process. Then a medical certificate and police certificate are required. When all are assembled, the student travels to the school, pays a registration fee and a fee to write entrance exams. If they are not successful, and choose to apply at another institution, the process must be repeated, as papers are NOT returned and schools only accept originals  . Nothing is refunded and nothing can be used again.

Nursing students Brunie and Wisly, with 2 years remaining of a 4 year program need more sponsors to provide full support and allow them to enter third year and complete their programs.

 Although Nicoly has not yet begun classes,  we have begun the application process. Similarly, those with no sponsors such as Rose-Guerlande (dentistry), Evains and Valon (Medicine), Louisena and Lunise (Nursing), Edeline and Althega (Medical Technology) and Osner (Agriculture)  have all begun to secure the necessary transcripts and certificates.  We have been sending Rose-Guerlande to school to study Intensive Spanish and have also secured the necessary extrait d'archive for her passport as she will study dentistry in the Dominican Republic.  This alone took nearly a year and many trips to Port-au-Prince.

If you have not already done so, please consider the Starthrower's in Action program and help these young people help themselves. You will never receive a better return on an investment.

A Wedding Courtesy of a Starthrower Extraordinaire

While many of the requests which pass my desk are unusual, this is a first. Paulaine C. was a Starfish throughout her high school years, then a 3 year sewing and cooking program. Thanks to David in New Brunswick, she received a treadle sewing machine and  has been self employed since her graduation last July. Work has been sporadic, depending mainly upon the demand for school uniforms but she manages (l'ap degaje).

Shortly before I left for Canada, she dropped in to invite us to her wedding this summer (late June) and to ask if we could help with a wedding outfit. Traditionally in Haiti, one without financial means goes into debt to rent  a wedding dress, no alterations allowed. While we have no funds for a request such as this, I put out the word. Last night our friend Cindy in Pennsylvania  phoned to say that she had found and purchased the entire ensemble for Paulaine. She is able to arrange for shipping. Starfish growing up with hope and possibilities thanks to each of you. Our community growing. Mil mesi Mme Cindy.

And in closing

In my absence the land for our new 2 story, 2400 sq ft. 'sant soutyen edikasyon'  (education support centre) has been cleared, the huge ancient mango tree has been successfully removed, and we have a healthy well supplying water. Testing  will take place upon my return. The centre will facilitate new programs -  potable water distribution, daily healthy snacks, a place to do homework, group projects, read a newspaper, study, receive tutoring...
As we begin to build our centre, sisters Adminada, Fabiola and Rose-Evenia are being put out of their 2 room mud-construction tikay. They received housing from a cousin in return for looking after their grandmother. After her death March 20th, they were told they had to leave as the shack will be torn down. Their father is dead and mother lives with the challenges resulting from a stroke.

We were able to find a room for Illiomene to enable her to complete her Philo year in the village, but there are so many -- Elines, Wilno, Darline, Vaudre, and Vilsaint to name just a few -- living in uncertain and unsafe conditions.

These are examples of the multitude of challenges faced by our young people, and the frustration we experience being limited in our ability to respond. Their courage and commitment to being totally present to life everyday is a constant reminder to me to respond to the Starthrower challenge of adding one more, then one more, then one more...

In closing, last Friday I had the privilege of meeting with students from grades 4-6 inclusive at Golf Road Jr. PS in Scarborough, On., Canada.  The visit was facilitated by The Girl's Club. They provided an amazing lunch with dishes from every country they represent. Thank you girls, thank you Nancy for taking the time to join us, Mary for your support, Linda for the invitation and organization , and school administration for allowing the visit.  Thanks also to Ingrid our wonderful volunteer bookkeeper who took the day to get me there and back. The present and future of Starthrower is in good hands.

With Girl's Club at Golf Road Jr. PS

Jouk pwochen -an (until the next time)

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