Friday, June 29, 2012

Carpentry Shop, Exams, Solar relief

We have discovered a stress relieving activity which can be done alone or in company with the added benefit that something tangible is created. Not Yoga, although that would also work - Woodworking! Everything we need for Sen Rafayel must be purchased in Cap-Haitien and trucked up the mountain. The open market in front of Customs offices on the boulevard is the best place to find treasures - albeit some look as though they have been buried treasures but we clean, sand, prime, paint, varnish with enthusiasm. There is a perception that cost of living must be very cheap in Haiti, however the opposite is true. No large buying base--high prices. The only store in town with a desk for sale (one model, not aisle after aisle) has it priced at 25000 gds, ($625. USD) In the market we paid 7500 gds each ($188.US) for a desk with six drawers  and a table with 4 chairs for the library. 

Sen Rafayel library gets furniture

The office gets a desk - finally
We've temporarily lost our weekend staff as State national exams are coming up -9eme beginning July 10th, Rheto and Rheto libre July 23, then Philo and Philo libre July 30th. Those who are rekale (rewriting missed subjects from last year ) begin Aug. 4th. Once they are finished we should have first results and those with near pass marks (ajourne) will have the opportunity to write again. It's often October before we know who passed and who didn't. Some schools have already started by then. It means that planning for next year or post-secondary applications are often delayed. At both of our centres it is study, study, study.  What impresses me in Cap is how these young people from different schools and different zones have come to-gether to form study buddies. Cap-Haitien (lavil la) has a distance factor -  very different from Sen Rafayel (bouk la) where everyone knows each other and everyone walks everywhere.
Kinston and Phana (Rheto) different schools (Cap centre)

Staff member Lusnot tutors Edwige and Mona (9eme)
(Cap centre)
Sherlyne, Venise (Philo) different schools
(Cap centre)
Study for everyone this term has been made much easier thanks to the funds raise by the Palgrave Rotary, Life after 40 and Women with Spirit. We were able to purchase and distribute solar lamps sold by a Canadian-Haitian company out of Port-au-Prince (Micama Soley). Everyone is thrilled with the products. No more kerosene,candle,matches.

Delivery day - Checking the solar lamps

Firefly solar lamp  at work in Auguste's tikay
Our two trips to Sen Rafayel this week showed students with the same commitment to study. In Cap the students in different grades don't mix but in Sen Rafayel, perhaps because of the luxury of time - no rush to catch a tap tap, a walk home with others leaving the centre, there is a grade mix in the study pattern. I have been astonished at the natural teaching ability of some of our young people.

Rheto and Philo study mix in Sen Rafayel
On the weekend we doubled the amount of board space in Sen Rafayel and tripled it in Cap-Haitien. A chalk board is just a sheet of Cilotex but it gets the job done. Chalk is one of the few items we are able to purchase here.
It is intake time for us. In May we received submission letters. In June and July we prioritize and hold intake interviews. Over the past 2 weeks,  Auguste and I have interviewed 45 potential admissions in Sen Rafayel. which includes checking their papers and verifying information in their letter. Thus far we have offered admission to 20 and have a final round of interviews on July 18. For those new to our blog, Starthrower in Haiti is an education support program. We do NOT have a school, rather we work within the Haitian education system, supporting local schools which we vet carefully looking at academic performance, staff performance, student comments... When we take on new students, (those who are in secondary and have been sitting out for at least a year due to financial distress) we offer them a choice of school from the list we have compiled for Cap-Haitien and Sen Rafayel. In addition to financial support, our 2 drop in centres operate 7 days a week for the kids providing a snack, potable water, study, tutoring, a game of dominoes,  newspaper etc...
Meet a few new faces ......



Sen Rafayel continues to challenge - changing but not in the most significant ways. There are now poured concrete roads and sidewalks. At what price? Houses being razed with no compensation. The poor get poorer. EDH has hydro poles and transformers in place but when electricity will arrive is anyone's guess.Who will have access - another thorny issue.  However, if you have 10 gourdes you can listen to a soccer match. And if you have 100 gourdes you can get a plate of rice and beans at this restaurant. Fortunately the last plate had just been sold.We made do with the sandwiches in our cooler.

This restaurant was take out only - and the last meal
was taken out before we arrived.

Advertising is alive and well in Sen Rafayel - for 10 gourdes
one can listen to a soccer match on a portable radio

In addition to paved roads there is a shiny new covered market, impressive to look at and jammed with throngs of buyers and sellers on Thursday's market day. The problem becomes apparent once inside. The rental prices for a few feet of covered space are just too high for a poor marchand and so the choice interior spaces sit empty while those who cannot afford to pay sit crammed to-gether under the blazing Haitian sun, hoping to make a few gourdes before the day is done. And there it sits - a testament to  someone with a great idea who didn't ask the poor what they needed.

Til next


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