Monday, December 10, 2012

Visitors, visits, another pair of eyes

Monday morning at 7:45 am the school in our backyard called its students in with loud speaker recordings of Jingle bells and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in English in 95 degrees.  At the moment there is electricity and sunshine. Hopefully enough solar power to recharge inverter batteries. Hydro woes continue to plague us although our visitors last week were content to use the solar powered lamps we keep on hand. They were also very patient when truck breakdowns delayed planned activities. I should know better than to plan.

After a flight delay which gave us time to change a flat tire at the airport, Marjorie (Sarnia), Marilyn (Guelph) and Kathy (London) arrived with loaded suitcases, transporting French books, Aqua-tabs, dental products, and computers which Marilyn had picked up at my apartment in Orangeville. Thanks to Eugene, Nico and Sylvia for the donated items and also for delivering them to Orangeville. We have established a system (of sorts) which eventually gets everything to Haiti.

After unpacking, Kathy and Marilyn joined Camiose and Myriame processing the books they had transported, and all were ready for Sen Rafayel by the end of the work day. Mme Joceline, who does our laundry, had assured me that she could also cook. She was right. Her rice, beans and legume could become legendary.Our first meal to-gether was a success.

Camiose, Kathy, Myriame and Marilyn - work and Kreyol lessons

Mme Marjorie - trip recovery

Mosquitoes, rain and power outages also greeted our guests but we set out for home visits next day in spite of the weather. Brunel and Dialine were first on our visit list . They arrived punctually at 1 pm. Unfortunately our truck was again undergoing emergency repairs in our driveway and we didn't set out until close to 4 pm.  Brunel  had changed locations so needed a revisit. His brother-in-law appears to be over the death of his wife, Brunel's sister. He put Brunel out as he was in the way, so he is now staying with an acquaintance of his father. The lady is giving Brunel floor space to sleep but he is not allowed in the living room, nor does he receive meals. There is no toilet or running water. 

Brunel shows us where he studies on the roof  - no shelter from rain or sun.
Dialine's home visit had to be aborted as every avenue was flooded or knee deep in mud. By the time we arrived at Mona's, daylight was waning and the rain was starting again. Home meant prepare for Sen Rafayel - make sandwiches, pack the truck. 
Sandwiches for Sen Rafayel. Every job was tackled with enthusiasm
as there were no expectations of "what am I going to do"

As advertised, the mountain track up Granjil proved to be a jolting experience for everyone. But the machinery held up and we arrived without misadventure. 
Impromptu Kreyol lesson in Sen Rafayel

I learned a great deal from our visitors. Most significant - there are no language barriers when one comes with an open heart and a sense of humor and wonder.

Library corner in Sen Rafayel  - Furmancia, John-Steevenson, Dahendie and Sterlin(photo courtesy M. Couture)
As electricity has not yet reached Sen Rafayel and we have no solar power until the roof is completed, all food is packed in 3 Rubbermaid insulated hampers, along with copious quantities of ice. Making ice is a challenge when the hydro keeps playing hide and seek.  I wasn't certain how much 5 people needed for 3 days but there was still ice left on day 3.  After setting up the library corner ( the shelving we had purchased in the market arrived without a scratch) and lunch, we set out for the first of 12 home visits. Four were accomplished late the first afternoon, then four next morning and 4 in the afternoon. Exams are starting in the village to-day. In Cap-Haitien, our young people will finish exams Thursday.

Home visits are about more than the students. They are about the oldest in the home and her prized possession, a bible. They are about the youngest in the home who has never seen white skin. They are about the children in the neighborhood, doing their homework on a piece of warped Cilotex or rusting corrugated metal.

Prized above all -- a Bible in Kreyol

Is it the glasses or the white hair?

Homework on a dirty, stained piece of Cilotex.
Photos courtesy of M. Couture. It is eye opening to see my day through 
someone else's eyes. Thank you, Marilyn.)

Visiting Andreus - meeting younger brother for whom he is responsible

Visiting Carline - so malnourished. First on list for sponsor.

Visiting Ducadin and sister Medanise - distributing Aqua Tabs
Note solar lamps charging.

On each home visit, we meet everyone in the house, check for study space, kitchen facilities, water source, bathroom facilities, sleeping arrangements - everything which contributes to a healthy life and success at school. So much is lacking yet these 'everyday heroes' get up in the morning and move through the day with dignity and grace.

In between home visits, visitors painted chairs, walked the village and again made friends by exchanging national anthems. It was very moving to hear O Canada sung in that little center and to watch the reverence with which our young people sang their national anthem. 

Under the supervision of Mme Marjorie, the workshop was efficient and fun.
Our chairs are now fit to sit on.
Another jolting trip down the mountain, a good night's sleep then a day in town visiting Sant Sakre Ke (Sacred Heart Center) begun by our friend Sister Rosemary and still functioning. It was an opportunity to renew old acquaintances, make new ones and share a meal.

New acquaintances at Sant Sakre Ke(photo courtesy M. Couture)
A final photo then a trip to the airport. 

Marilyn, Kathy, Marjorie, Lusnot, Auguste
Note the camera in Marilyn's hand. She was never without it.
It is now 3 pm . The electricity has come and gone at least 3 times. This time the end was in sight so have marshaled  the reserves of the inverter and calling it a day, posting before all is lost.

Upon arrival home, Kathy penned a lovely brief reflection of an experience here which encapsulates all. 

Imagine someone taking away all but two rooms in your house.
Now imagine those two rooms shrinking to 5’x 6’.
Your furniture is gone, including your bed.
Your painted drywall and hardwood floors have morphed into damp, cracked concrete and your ceiling is a ripped plastic tablecloth.
Your door is a 25 year old curtain.
You have no toilet, but there is a hole in the dirt behind your house.
Your parents are dead and you are barely more than a child, but you look after your five younger brothers and sisters.
A lovely 16-year old girl walks into a classroom, her uniform crisply clean.  She’s thin, but her eyes are lively and bright, her hair is neat, and her smile is contagious.  She carries her textbooks in a backpack and explains that she is in “deuxieme” – our equivalent of 11th grade.  More than anything, she wants to be a teacher.

 Do these images seem incongruous?
She is real.  She has a name.  She’s alive, she’s beautiful, and there are millions like her.
Won’t you give her a thought as you climb into your comfortable bed tonight?

Be well


Sylvia Vermeulen said...

Glad to hear you finally made it to Sen Raphael! Sounds like it was an enlightening visit for your friends. Take care. Sylvia.

Starthower Founder said...

Thanks Sylvia - so sorry we didn't connect here. Auguste is on holiday this week. When we head back to Sen Rafayel on the 18th we'll pick up the computer.

Mil mesi anko


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