Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Kanaval, Mariline, Clenie

It's that time of year  - Kanaval will wind up to-night  (Madigras - Fat Tuesday) with bands, a parade and clogged intersections. Mekredisann (Ash Wednesday) the madness becomes invisible once again. The mayor of Cap-Haitien is spending 3 million gourds ($75,000.USD) for bands, temporary stages and from what I have seen, a few t-shirt give-a-ways with his name emblazoned. What should be a one-day affair began here in January. Every Sunday, costumes are donned and traffic is halted until each vehicle pays for the privilege of continuing. Every major artery has its Kanaval bandits. Each group is spontaneous and may stop one vehicle several times depending on your travel plans.

A Kanaval reveller holds us up for money -
Dozens more surrounded the truck
Whips, machetes and guns are part of the scenario as are bodies slathered in dirty motor oil chasing folks through the streets, threatening to hug.  Crowds follow the excitement wherever it happens - in town or on the mountainside.

Revellers on the road at Milot cut-off - once they saw a 'blan' in the vehicle, we were surrounded
This hair-covered face demanded money while dozens surrounded
the truck. We could not advance or retreat. Again we paid.

The trip to and from Sen Rafayel took longer and cost more due to frequent stoppages, always accompanied by a demand for money to purchase Kleren (raw rum).  I would give with a happy heart if funds were going towards a program or charity, rather than adding to the drunkeness of the event.

Lakay Jasmine was busy when we arrived. I still marvel at the reality that we have a home base. Conversation and reading were evident on the galri, while Mariline and Clenie worked on a project inside.We had come to meet with the staff, distribute backpacks and hygiene products and make 2 home visits. Backpacks are distributed twice a year - September and again February for those who began with the Fondasyon in Jan/Feb/Mar of the previous year. Thank you Daniel and team for the great backpacks. It's an opportunity to catch up with several young people on the same day (21) find out how first term went, and take new pictures  to update website.
Sen Rafayel galri-a -- reading
Danius, Wendy, Tchawens, Guerlande
                                                                 Reading -Kesner, Damylee    (seated behind)

Mariline is recovering from the burns she sustained on both legs, which I reported in the last blog.  She reports no residual pain, just weakness.

Mariline F. - a smile and healing
Blisters gone, skin drying, healing
It was reassuring to see her with a smile. Thanks to those who asked about her - I appreciate being reminded that I sometimes begin a story in a blog and neglect to finish it. Clenie, however was not smiling so I took a few minutes with her. Her dad left the country 2 years ago to look for work and hasn't been heard from since - not uncommon. Mom has no work and no education, Clenie has 4 brothers and 2 sisters. She talked of being hungry all the time with the detachment that comes from having no emotional energy left. So we're making her a priority and putting out a call for Starthrower's in Action to help us provide more of what she needs to succeed.

Clenie L. Sept. 2010
Clenie - Feb. 2012
Staff meeting over, backpacks distributed, new pictures on board, tire changed - I forgot to mention that we arrived with a flat tire (kawatchou anpann), we headed out for home visits to Anne-Mercie and Lucia. More on those visits later.

In Cap-Haitien, the library is a big hit! Although modest in scale, I am pleased to report that half of our collection is on loan. Reading has become contagious - and I hope everyone catches it! Auguste is in Sen Rafayel this week working with the staff and Lusnot and Myriame are holding down the fort here.

Brunie stopped by for a picture in hospital uniform.

Brunie - a true professional

So I'll leave you with her smiling face.

Pase  yon bon semen  (Have a good week)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Building a Library, A sponsor visits, Hospital Crisis in Milot

The internet is a treasure trove. While looking for quotes on reading and libraries, I discovered that one could spend hours moving from site to site, and scroll through thousands of quotes. How to choose and when to say enough!!  I kept returning to this:

     " To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries."
                                                            (A C Grayling, Financial Times reviewing A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel)

Rosema, Edwige and Jean-Ricot  - Friday after school, reading
the newly arrived journal Le Matin

As a life-long insatiable reader, it came to my attention early on that sadly, our young people here have no experience reading for pleasure. There is just nothing available. When I take a few minutes out of a busy day to escape into a book, Carmene will invariably come up and ask what I am studying. I wanted to offer more to our young people and over the years carried with me a few books (in French not Kreyol).
Our library has been modest for many reasons - primarily lack of availability. The five Harry Potter (Fr.) books I had purchased several years ago have been up and down the mountain many times. Two have gone MIA.  Then last week, two propitious events. A donation to Starthrower specifically to purchase library books (thank-you Eugene in Ottawa). Two days later while standing in a pharmacy waiting for meds for a student, I noticed Jose, a self-labelled  'independent' book seller, displaying his wares for the owner. It happened to be a soft-cover set of Agatha Christie mysteries. Knowing there was a donation already in hand, I purchased the books he did not sell and gave him our address, should he have others to sell.

Edwina and Inea - fresh from a hospital visit in Milot , diving
into the books before they were processed
Of course he had others to sell. Two days later he was at our door with another 35 books and copies of the journal Le Matin, which we had been trying to find to balance what is printed in Le Nouvelliste. This book selection was delightfully eclectic: Toni Morrison, Daniel Defoe, Aldous Huxley, Edgar Allen Poe to name a few. Very quickly I went overbudget. All are in French although if we could find some in Spanish we would also add them. As French is one of the two official languages here, it is studied but not immersion style. The desire to read is so strong, they will  read with  dictionary in hand.

Camiose after school

Lusnot takes a break from work

With two education centers on the go, we hope to build a large collection, shelving half in each center, making one independent book seller very happy. We'll rotate the books to keep the supply fresh. This weekend we'll be covering and processing the rest. Fifty books doesn't seem like a library but it is a giant step in the right direction.

But adding to our library was only one of many activities since we last spoke.  Friday the 3rd we picked up our visitor at the bus station. Mme Yvonne had come from Port Alberni, BC to met her sponsored student Sherlyne. Saturday morning we made a home visit .

Sherlyne, sponsor Mme Yvonne, Sherlyne's aunt (her guardian)

After the home visit, to town to pick up the remaining tile and grout for our center Lakay Jasmine in Sen Rafayel, home for lunch, then a trip down the road to look at a piece of land in Vertieres then home to make sandwiches for our Sunday trip up Granjil. In between, we 'sandwiched' in several student appointments including Brunie, who came in to report on the mugging which cost her all of her identification and laptop.

Brunie recounts the mugging - several bystanders
did nothing - all feared for their lives.

After loading the truck Sunday, we headed up Granjil. True to form the mountain track tossed us to and fro. Like a veteran, Mme Yvonne hung in and hung on, praising Auguste for his driving skills. He is becoming very confident. 

After dropping off supplies, and eating with staff, we made 3 home visits - one to Mariline F. whose feet were burned when a pot of boiling water tipped over. We delivered ointment and pain meds

Then on to Marline J. and Herline J.

Marline's parents are dead and she has no siblings. She sat out the last 2 years as staying alive was more important than school. A woman in the village (who has a family of 10) gives her a small piece of cement on which to sleep.

Marline is very malnourished as the benefactor providing floor space does not have enough food to go around. We arranged for a sleeping sponge but will meet with Marline again at the office to get a better idea of what we can provide that she will be allowed to keep - bedding, stipend, food. Over the years we have met similar situations. Unfortunately, in our experience, whatever we provided was taken from the student and used for the family providing shelter.

Back in Cap, our visitor's stay came to an end Monday. We took her to the hotel where she continued her travels and arrived back here to find Inea waiting with her chest xrays and surgery date . She was to check into hospital the next day at 5 pm with surgery scheduled for 8am Wed.  We spent Tuesday arranging for the hospital stay - a senior student to stay with Inea's younger sister Dina, a staff member from Sen Rafayel to go the hospital and stay with Inea, then  purchasing, laundering and packing - sheets, pillows, nightgowns.

Nothing is provided in hospital here so all patients must have someone who can sleep on the floor and be on call when meds, syringes, IV poles etc. are needed. As we drove into Milot at 4:30 the road was blocked by large boulders and smoldering tires. Not a good sign. We waited in vain for an hour to check -in, finally headed for home, leaving Edeline from the Sen Rafayel office in charge, with our reserve cell phone.

Inea was given a cot in a room with 3 others at 10:30 pm. The next morning the pharmacy was closed when Edeline went to purchase the saline drip for IV. Apparently the pharmacy had been without supplies and Tuesday had been a day of protests, barricades and projectiles. An IV pole and bag of 'sewom' were borrowed - from where I have no idea -  inserted in Inea's arm and she waitied. Several phone calls later it became apparent the operation was not going ahead as scheduled. Police had been called as protests erupted again. Rocks went through the glass on the operating room door and the visiting surgical team halted all surgeries. We picked the girls up at 5 pm and brought them here, arriving about 7pm.  After a meal and a good night's sleep, Auguste dropped them off in Milot next morning (on his way to Sen Rafayel) to rebook the operation. She has an appointment March 3rd to receive a new date. Perhaps it will happen.

This morning we have a video morning - Harry Potter #1 and Sunday back to Sen Rafayel.

How was your week?

Kenbe pa lage

Friday, February 3, 2012

From Cap-Haitien to Santiago and in between

Hi All

I hope January was gentle for you. February arrived with good and bad news. Nursing student Brunie was mugged Tuesday night @7pm while waiting for a taptap after class. She is very shaken and lost her new laptop,case, textbooks, money, projects.

Brunie in school uniform.
Dan notified her  'Starthrowers in Action' sponsors yesterday. We'll replace what we can.

Continuing in that vein, Mexene (Sen Rafayel, school in Cap) was in yesterday for the first time since his mother died 2 weeks ago. She was 16 years younger than me. He has been suffering from dental pain for several months - we are presently without a good dentist for referrals. Rose-Guerlande's career path will provide some relief but 5 years is a long wait. We are preparing space at our new center (Lakay Jasmine) in Sen Rafayel for a medical/dental clinic so please contact me if you have a small team which can visit. In the meantime, many like Mexene, suffer.

Mexene - dental pain and the pain of losing his mother
If you've been following our blog, you are familiar with Inea's story.  Last weekend we began moving her, after 3 days of cleaning and painting (still not finished). She may be young and has suffered  much but she has learned lessons along the way which will serve her well in life. With her Thyroidectomy scheduled for some day next week (apparently they will let us know on Saturday) and her rental tikay (home) marked for demolition at any time, we charged her with the task of looking for a new place. We've been looking as well but we put in about 10 hours a day 7 days a week between Sen Rafayel and Cap-Haitien. Doesn't leave a great deal of time. She found two rooms on the main floor (step DOWN into) of a house much closer to her school than the current location, saving time and money for taxi-moto.  She negotiated with the owner and the price was acceptable although still high. All housing prices are inflated. Now the sisters have 2 rooms plus shared latrine outback and a small smoky room adjacent for cooking. Filthy yes but we found Lysol in one of the stores so better after the cleaning. There is no water for bathing or drinking but it can be purchased on the street.

Inea and Auguste check out new rental space-2 rooms! - before cleaning and painting
Moving Day - stopped in our tracks  (Inea)
The first wrinkle in moving Inea and Dina to the new location appeared when the owner kept putting us off with regard to turning over keys. Long story short no keys. So -secondary job during the move - find a place (or places) open on Sunday which sell locks and find a Boss available for working at short notice. Having found a carpenter available we loaded up the truck and headed for the new place - or so we thought. Couldn't help but think of The Beverly Hillbillies when I looked at the truck. Dieugrand sat on top as we were full inside as well.

Blocking the only road out-up to the axle in mud
Our 'we can take everything in one trip' turned into an adventure as the only road out was blocked. Pedestrian or 2 wheel was the only traffic getting in or out of the katye (neighborhood). The driver of this truck had tried to execute a turn and become mired. He was nowhere to be found.

To our right-only a footpath

To our left., the business of gathering water continued.
Note the homemade wheelbarrow - necessity IS the mother of invention.
After conferring with several folks standing on the sidelines, Auguste and I walked the narrow, winding  footpath through and around the blockage and decided that with him driving and the rest of us walking we could make it. I think we were all holding a collective breath as he negotiated the narrow spaces between houses and kept the truck out of the mire. The settling in continues.

Two weeks ago  we travelled to Santiago to check on our 4 university students. Crossing the frontier at Ouanaminthe/Dajabon is always an emotional experience, looking at the tranquil waters of the Massacre River, being reminded of the horrors perpetrated there. What a history between the two countries.

The Massacre River at the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic
- tranquil to-day
In Santiago, everyone was studying - Rose-Guerlande enjoying being part of the university now instead of the Language Institute. She was accepted into Spanish 2 at the university with 15 credits. As always, we are so proud of the accomplishments of our young people. While Auguste and Elorge searched for parts for our car (no luck) Jhennie and I had a quiet breakfast to-gether on the Saturday. She was limping with a severely infected toe so I sent her home and went shopping for Epsom Salts and Hydrogen peroxide to help it along. Unfortunately I had given away all of my Allimax supply the day before.

The return bus trip home was uneventful until we reached Haitian customs at Terrier Rouge. The young man who had installed our windows in Sen Rafayel was on the same bus and we chatted briefly. At customs, he was hauled off the bus along with the supplies he had purchased for window framing and arrested -- because he owed taxes we were told. We left him at the customs post. Next day in town we stopped by the store and he was fine although many dollars poorer.

Which brings us to Sen Rafayel and Lakay Jasmine (Jasmine House)

Security lights, a water cooler, signage -we're open for business
Tuesday we delivered the first load of tile and Thinset. Sunday we'll take up another load. Boss Jean has already begun to prepare the floors. We've also scheduled home visits to two of our students, Marline and Herline, who were sponsored this week. Yay! Guerlande, our coordinator, phoned awhile ago to tell us that one of our students was badly burned yesterday when a pot of boiling water (which sits on the charcoal all day) tipped over on her barefeet. We'll visit Mariline as well time permitting and take whatever we have in our small dispensary for burns.

Leaving Sen Rafayel is unsettling. The question always hangs over us - will the truck make it home? We had
t-shirts made for the staff as a New Year's present (zetren) and as a result we have a uniform - jeans and t-shirt with Starthrower Logo are a big hit.

Another instalment in the never ending saga of our truck's adventures on the mountainside
(becoming a legend I suspect)
Even stranded we can be recognized (Myriame, Lusnot, Auguste)

Descending the mountain, we came upon a group of young men kicking around what turned out to be a puppy,  like a soccer ball. It was crying and yapping - probably 5 or 6 weeks old. I always speak out when I see animal cruelty, even though it often falls on deaf ears.  As a result one of the pups was thrown in the truck with me. Because he came from Granjil mountain, he is aptly named Granjil - may he be as strong and tranquil as the 'mon' for which he is named.  It was my sister's birthday that day so he was her present in absentia. Rosema one of our student/staff  has been looking for a puppy so he received my sister's 'kado'. An appropriate gift as his mother gave us our dogs Jolie and TiSab 4 years ago as a gift for sending her son to school.

Smallest Starfish Granjil takes over the table
and the cat's dishes. Rosema looks on
Although we continue to function without interruption,  our rented centre here in Cap is experiencing major new cracks with each earthquake which shakes us - 2 last week 5.1 and 4.5 magnitude. Interior and exterior walls are compromised, in the house, security center, depot and privacy wall. Even small tremors send people into the streets. It is a fragile time.

Recent quake damage to exterior wall (Sherlyne)
We  always keep eyes and ears open for rental space/ or land for building. With the latest damage we have actively begun to find a solution which will benefit everyone.

Ala pwochen (til next time)
Kenbe pa lage  (hang in)


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