Sunday, January 15, 2012

January 12th - 2 years after, Signs of the Times

The best laid plans - a blog post  for  January 12 looking at where we are 2 years after the quake is a few days late. One needs a steady source of electricity,  strong enough to fire up modem, router, and laptop. It has been a very quiet, dark week. No electricity - perhaps hoping to quell protests - it worked.  Schools were closed but no programs planned. Some closed the day before as well as the day after. Throughout the country, banks and many businesses shut down.  

Perhaps the continued absence of electricity  is an appropriate indicator of how far we've come in 2 years. Not far.  There are other more tangible 'signs'. The question to be raised -- is this progress?

Life without Cholera - always treat the water you use
with bleach tablets
Billboards are springing up everywhere, this one at our corner  sponsored by the Ministry of Public Health and a very high profile international NGO. The smiling actor is telling  those who can read and afford to purchase, to use  aquatabs to purify water for drinking purposes. It has been my experience that those who can read and can afford  aquatabs can in fact afford to purchase potable water. While not certain who the target audience is, I am certain that the funds for the soaring ad  would be more effectively used implementing a  door-to-door distribution program of free aquatabs. Just the view from the sidelines.

Aside from Cholera, has the quality of life improved? Are there jobs, you ask?  Well, not yet, but according to this billboard, in the first 20,000 jobs that are coming, there is one for you! Again  women, one discernable, the second a blurred image , head bowed in concentration over a piece of material - perhaps sewing t-shirts in a sweat shop  10 hours a day for minimum wage? Here that is   $3.  a day - not enough to feed a family of 2. 

Just because we could, Auguste and I stood under 2 different signs and asked those passing by what they thought the message was. No one had even looked at the signs until we pointed them out. Most looked, shook their heads and walked away without comment.

We're going to get a lot of business - get ready for your share

Opportunities are coming, get ready to grab them.

How is the housing market? I'm glad you asked. The January 12 edition of Le Nouvelliste was just delivered - a few days late,  like this blog. It arrives by plane from Port-au-Prince.  On the front page a picture of Canaan, earthquake tent city. ( Inside, articles on gifts for relocating 5000 families. Twenty million dollars to relocate 5000 families? I don't like the math. One can bet those being relocated are not from the ranks of the poor.  So in reply to your question, the housing market is stalled. Here in Cap-Haitien, Carmene and her family and Inea and her sister and hundreds of others wait for their homes to be destroyed for an airport/ hotel. Unknown numbers  have already lost their homes. We have had no luck finding housing for 17 yr. old Inea, and her surgery (Thyroidectomy) is scheduled for Feb. 4th. That doesn't mean it will happen that day, however, we live in hope. We're looking for housing for ourselves as well, but that's another story.

Sen Rafayel

In Sen Rafayel, work continues on our education support centre, Jasmine House (Lakay Jasmine) We finally have a home base from which to work. Last week we visited  2 of our senior students. Here is a short video which takes us from the newly paved main street (another sign of the times) into the neighborhood where Wislet and his family live. Dad died 14 years ago. Mom holds the family to-gether. We were delivering a sponsor's Christmas gift package as well as catching up on family comings and goings. Within our community, there are only 2 families which are intact. Due to space constraints, siblings and parents (if they are living) are  often separated for years without any news of each other.

Mme. M sits in the corner of the one room
tikay she shares with 3 of her teenage children.
The oldest boy is in Port-au-Prince.

Kitchen window

Kitchen corner - family of five

"Your living is determined not so much by what
life brings to you as by the attitude
you bring to life"
                                                                       Kahlil Gibran

The good news is, two years later we're still here,  stronger than ever. From our home to yours, beni-w. More later from the down side of Sen Rafayel.

Kenbe pa lage
Lakay Fondasyon
Cap-Haitien, Haiti

PS During the writing of this blog we lost and regained hydro 9 times.

PPS 10 times

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Good bye 2011, Hello 2012

Whenever we've been without electricity for a few days (in this case since last year!) I never know what to do first - the dance of joy? iron that pile of clothes? pump water?  toast bread? make coffee? plug in modem and router? write a blog?  As the duration is always a mystery, I usually take a couple of moments to savour the transition  - tonight from candlelight to bright lights and internet.  Although candlelight has its moments, give me electricity for work.

At the moment it's here and it's good to have the opportunity to touch base with you. New Year's greetings.

2012 arrived at Lakay Fondasyon  much the same way 2011 arrived - competing celebrations, each with amplifiers  which probably carry to Port-au-Prince, sporadic electricity and gunfire interspersed with  periods of rain. The rain hasn't stopped, playing havoc with our solar needs.

I had thought about a pictorial look back at 2011, but upon reviewing last year's photos, I changed my mind. Who wants to look at a dozen different pictures of us stranded on the mountainside?  Could we put out a calendar - is that a fundraiser or what?

Sad but true the fact that we were stranded an average of once a month on the side of Granjil mountain  --  our truck  losing the war the mountain wages against all trespassers. Granjil won the last battle - our truck is still out of action  --anpan -- and continuing heavy rains have kept our mechanic Danius from coming to Cap-Haitian  for repairs. It also prevents us  delivering construction materials and checking in with staff.

Dec. 28, 2011 - this patch job got us down the mountain
JUST  (Danius and Auguste)

In between the strandings, we did not stand still. As we received a generous grant from Jasmine Foundation for land purchase and building, 2011 began as 2010 had ended with us looking for property, both in Cap-Haitien and Sen Rafayel.  In March we found this little piece of paradise in the village.  After taking our time to check every inch and blade, we headed home, enthused and infused with the tranquility we had experienced from the land.

March 2011 - tranquility and home

Twenty minutes later, don't laugh. Okay - laugh. I did.

Our enthusiasm was not dampened and in April , after many negotiations, we purchased.  May we cleared the land and construction began in June.

June 2011: Staff and students pitched in as neighbours across the road
 wondered what was coming.

Dec. 2011 - first floor -- windows, doors, washrooms and privacy
It has not been an easy year. In August, Jack left our staff and the project. The learning curve has been very sharp and too brief.  Our staff grew as well, as Solange and  Edeline joined Fabiola and co-ordinator Guerlande in the office and Wilno and Vilsaint joined Kesner in security. What a team!

With staff comings and goings it seemed for a time that the only constant was change, but for a moment I forgot the grinding poverty.  Now there is a constant.

Thanks to Mme Cindy in Pennsylvania, every one of our secondary students received Christmas gifts, and thanks to the wonderful turnout at Acheson's (Orangeville) fundraiser Dec. 8th, everyone received rice, beans and cooking oil for Christmas day. Thank you Dianne and staff, Cindy S. and event coordination team and Danila and staff from Scotiabank. What a day. Thank you also to the many folks who came out to meet, talk, and purchase. Mil Mesi also to the wonderful new sponsors. It was delightful to have one-on-one time.

Lusnot and Myriame package rice and beans. Does the egg carton look familiar? 
It carried gifts from PA.

Edwina and Sherlyne bottle cooking oil.

2011 was a year of arrivals and departures --many new faces, among them Phana the newest member of our 'Vision' club.  She's ready for January term with new glasses.
Phana -new glasses for the January term
Evaldine and her sister Kencia lost their mom. Mme Clothilde died Sept. 1st., leaving the girls orphans, never knowing that Evaldine had just successfully completed Philo. She was 20 years my junior. 
Mme Clothilde with Kencia
Mme died Sept. 1st of tansyon (high blood pressure)
Inea and younger sister Dina wait - wait for the bulldozer to break down the tikay we've been renting for them since July. Their tikay has been marked for demolition by the state in conjunction with the new airport.  

A disconsolate Inea sits on the 'galri' of her tikay, built in July,  soon to be demolished.
 The number on the wall says everything.

Approximately half of the houses (katye) in the marked zone have already suffered demolition. We are looking for new quarters, however UN presence has inflated both rental and purchase prices. Two weeks ago we looked at a beautiful property in town for our home base. The price of the land, no negotiating, was $100.000. USD. Location, location, location? Small shacks with no services are several hundred dollars US per year. Our young people cannot afford a roof over their heads.  We will lose a portion of rent paid but many are losing much more. 

Inea still has thyroid surgery ahead of her, and the hospital lost her dossier. They have no record of her visits/ diagnosis. We pulled to-gether  receipts for all diagnostic tests and notes we had sent since July in order to help the hospital reconstruct her history.  She goes back the second week of January for a consult  as visiting teams are expected in during February. Surgery could be rescheduled for that time period.

In the meantime the cyst is growing, presenting swallowing difficulties. As well, her internal thermostat is malfunctioning due to fluctuations in hormones. She doesn't complain. She is one of many. There are over  100 on our secondary school list this year, each one with unique needs. I thought my parenting days were behind me.  

As of to-day, Mme Carmene is on indefinite leave, under too much pressure not knowing when her home will be destroyed (her house has been marked too). The thousands affected by this thoughtless, unnecessary bureaucratic nightmare are all trying to find new places and new ways to double and triple up in the homes that remain standing. The challenges continue. Housing is always a priority.

While the revelry which takes over the upper and middle classes for two weeks beginning Dec. 24 continues, Edwina spent Independence Day  (Jan. 1st) in the emergency ward at Justinien Hospital. Auguste didn't want to disturb me on my one day off so he spent his holiday in the hospital with her. It will take until to-morrow to get the results of lab work.

Nursing student Brunie dropped in although we were closed,  as she is writing exams this week and just has  no other time. The day after exams she begins her practicum at the hospital here and needs new shoes and uniforms as well as travel expenses.

Jhennie, Elorge and Marlene were in from Santiago for second term fees. All are in third year.

Saturday we sent Rose-Guerlande back to Santiago to write entrance exams to study dentistry. She went with a new lap top donated by Eugene in Ottawa. Although Rose G. is without sponsorship, something will materialize.  Haiti needs dentists as desperately as clean air.

In closing, the staff and I wish each of you the blessing of beginnings - may this year be the start of whatever you most need for healing, health and happiness. From the steps of our new Jasmine Centre in Sen Rafayel n'ap swete w bon ane. 

Staff members:Kesner,Fabiola, Guerlande, Edeline, Solange
Wilno, me
Danius, Vilsaint
A New Year means renewal, and I choose to begin 2012 with hope - and a commitment to continue changing the world in whatever way I'm able. How about you? Everyone who reads this has the ability.  What is your path?  Jack Layton's letter to Canadians, written Aug. 20 just 2 days before his untimely death says it so eloquently:

                              " Love is better than anger.
                                   Hope is better than fear.
                                   Optimism is better than despair.
                                   So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.                            
                                   And we'll change the world."

Lakay Fondasyon (Foundation House)


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