Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sen Rafayel, Kinston, Some statistics


Although this keyboard lacks  accents and  punctuation marks, I'm certain  you get the idea. Am brushing up what little Spanish I have --we're heading for Santiago in the Dominican Republic with  dental student, Rose-Guerlande. We travel by bus, a great way to see both countries as this will be her first trip outside of Haiti.

She will settle in with medical students Elorge and Marlene for this trimeste. Saturday we'll purchase a bed for her and  check on Jhennie (completing 2nd year Bus. Admin., UTESA). We'll also shop for erasers, pencil sharpeners etc. The quantities we need are easier to find.

Sen Rafayel

Sunday we arrived back from Sen Rafayel about 6 pm., not so fresh from our second trip this week. Although we still await results from the Ministry of Education, we were advised Friday that reinskripsyon  for all other grades took place last week at the Lycee.  Our new co-ordinator paid a visit to the school and requested an extension. They know us, now they know her, and no problem. Before we pay school fees, we meet with students for the purpose of reading and signing the student contraact. Auguste and I worked all day Saturday revising the contract  as well as preparing payment envelopes for each grade level.
Auguste distributes contracts and answers questions. Students are sitting in
what will become covered study/parking space.
In the middle of the job, a call came in from M. Franck, Mme Carmene's husband. They have become surrogate parents for our orphans Dina and Inea. The cyst on Inea's thyroid was swelling and she felt unable to breath. Could we please do something?  Hospitals and clinics do not function weekends and this was a long weekend  as August 15th is the Celebration of the Patron Saint of Cap-Haitien.  Patronal feasts are long and loud, with expats returning to celebrate, filling hotels and closing businesses, banks and hospitals. As we couldn't take her to hospital, I sent some Rescue Remedy by taxi with Auguste and it seemed to calm her panic  and the sensation. Work resumed.

In addition to supplies for inskripsyon, we packed much needed shoes/ work boots which arrived from Mme Cindy this week and baseball caps and sunglasses which arrived from Peg in Virginia via Cindy in PA. Thank you both so much. One of the boys working on our center was wearing runners held to-gether with wire. Shudder.

New hats-Djohn, Jack.New shoes-Wilno, Thony. New septic- everyone.
While Auguste and I met with center staff and the students, Jack and the team worked on the fos pedi (septic tank) as daily rain delays again plagued construction efforts. We function regardless of circumstances: inclement weather, no building...  For the fourth consecutive visit, rain sent us down the mountain. We are becoming abitye sa-a (accustomed to it).

After securing lists, Sen Rafayel staff phoned with book lists  so we began the second half of our summer program. The repair phase of our Book Program is winding down and we move into  preparing personalized backpacks from school lists and searching for,  and preparing books new to lists. We had planned a visit for Guerlande here to work with Auguste in the office however as of this writing, our truck is out of commission as is the pump in our well, so no transportation, no water. We have been trying to find a plumber since Thursday and now the toilet is leaking as well. There has been no electricity for several days but we have solar power which operates the fridge (alas not the fans).


In Cap we are also starting reinskripsyon for those who have results. Home visits are an integral part of our school program. As we did not visit him last term,  Friday we visited Kinston, after driving around for 45 min. looking for potable water to purchase as well as air for one of our tires.  Although we have visited zone Konasa with other students, this neighborhood was new to us and vice versa, so there was a great deal of interest in our presence.

The parade which followed us into Grann's tikay
Wood in corner to build security door
Kinston and his cousin live with their Grandmother. Grann is a survivor. At the age of 87 (or thereabout) she has buried all family with the exception of 2 grandsons. She wants to come and visit us someday. Auguste and I have talked about putting to-gether a day celebration to honour the caregivers who do their best  to provide for our young people in the most dire circumstances.

Kouzin, Grann and Kinston
I've never watched  reality television. Interestingly,  a cousin of mine once accused me of coming to Haiti to escape reality. I wasn't available for enough family functions. While it's probable that family functions  provide fodder for 'reality' shows, life doesn't get more 'real' than Haiti  -- it is unique and original, filled with  heroes like Grann. She is a hero - making a home for her grandsons in a dark 6 x 8 shack which lacks windows, water, toilet, kitchen.... Somehow she manages to feed them once or twice a week -- yes, a week not a day.  The difference here being nobody swoops in with supplies and a helicopter to  airlift one 'off the island'. 

Our farewell party
And in closing...

Kesner hunts for Gregory's letter in the cache
In keeping with the reality we live, last Tuesday's visit to Sen Rafayel brought a surprise -- a drawer filled with 150  letters requesting school support, received during July but somehow misplaced during the move from the old office and the transition to a new coordinator.  If I hadn't stopped to talk to a young man sitting beside the office (Gregory) I would never have found them. When asked about his letter, I consulted my list.  His name was not on it.  Kesner remembered receiving it so we began hunting.

Of the 300 plus letters we received in Sen Rafayel in July (same volume in Cap) I was able to whittle the list down to 171, moving requests for university, trades and transfers to Cap-Haitien schools to other lists. Of the remaining 171: 
- 38 both parents deceased
- 61 father deceased
- 24 mother deceased
- 13 had been sitting out of school for at least a year
- 14 had lost parents to kolera which began end of October and continues to tear apart families and the community.

In this small sample,  72% have  at least one parent deceased, 22% with both parents gone. There are still 98 names on our list from Christmas, plus we provided support for 170 during the school year. 

Now I'm really closing...

Two weeks ago I sat in the back driver's side of a taxi heading to town for groceries. In the front another female passenger. The driver stopped for a young girl holding an umbrella to shade her baby. She was going to the medical centre just a few blocks away so they made a price and she got in beside me. The passenger in front took the umbrella as Haitians are helpful in the extreme.

 I looked at the child she was holding and started to make a comment. After several seconds I realized the baby was dead. He looked like a perfect doll, no breath, no movement, just a  lifeless doll.  Instead of commenting on the baby, I told the girl she looked too young to have a baby. She replied that she was 15.

With that, the taxi drew up to the centre and she left, being careful to arrange the umbrella over the infant. It continues to play over in my mind night and day. I'll never know her story, but if we can provide support and encouragement to one more teenager to allow them the opportunity to grow with dignity of choice, they will change their lives by the decisions they make and the ripples will spread. Sunday as we bumped along over the mountain track up Granjil, Auguste mused on how  totally his  life has changed since knocking on our gate 7 years ago. One at a time.

Thank you for your partnerships
Lape (in peace)

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