Saturday, July 20, 2013

Haiti through the Senses

Hi all

On July 7th, teacher Monica McDonald, from Laurelwoods Elementary School in the Orangeville area, came to visit us. You may remember her from an earlier blog (Make the World Awesome). While here, she did everything from wash dishes to accompany staff to the vet with sick puppies. Of course the truck broke down numerous times as well, but she took any and all negatives (including cockroaches) in stride. Before she left , she pulled to-gether some impressions of her time with us. Here it is.



Anpan - Monica's first (but not last) breakdown. Auguste is becoming
quite the mechanic.

It is my last night in Cap-Haitien of a 12 day stay in Haiti. I will attempt to use words to describe the sights and sounds and smells, taste and "touch" of what I have learned in Haiti. Parting words of advice from a loved one in Canada were to come to learn about the Starthrower Foundation, yes, but most importantly about the people and life in Haiti. I have certainly done that.

The Assault on the Senses

Life in Haiti is happening all around you. People are living in close quarters and lives are interwoven. Children crying, music blaring, dogs barking, choir singing, church bells ringing, roosters crowing, funeral mourners wailing, voodoo drums pounding, loud protests over lack of hydro,  men rejoicing over soccer, fighting over dominoes and children laughing. To drive anywhere is to have a moving glimpse into life unfolding. Horns blaring, motorcycles weaving, wheelbarrows darting and people walking arm in arm, sweat dripping, drenched in the smells of open cook-stoves, coal,  spicy rice and raw sewage. Women getting their hair braided, children toting water, heads carrying supplies and sugar cane. There is joy, yes. There is also determination, resilience and misery. The faces of Haitian people have struck me as noble and hard but also able to readily break into a smile. Life here is difficult. It is difficult to witness.

Home Visits

The above is a home visit with Tamara who is sponsored by Pam Michels and the Gr. 6 class at Laurelwoods E.S. I am so proud of the work they did and feel privileged to meet Tamara who so readily brought me to the home of her aunt where she lives. I love how people in Haiti walk hand in hand or arm in arm and think nothing of draping themselves over you to look at a picture or word in a dictionary. Tamara was no exception and as we left, she grabbed Sharon and I in a hard hug and said in beautifully pronounced English, "thank you, thank you, thank you". 

This is a visit to Marc Arios' house many kilometers past the Foundation on what you can barely call a road (that was an adventure in itself!) where he lives with his mother and other family members. The walk would take hours. Unthinkable really and to think he does it both ways daily is humbling. It speaks to how important education is to the students. As Sharon quoted from one of the student letters, "please don't allow me to live with the shame of not attending school". I hope to be able to help Marc improve where he lives and the bike program, partially funded by the Laurelwoods Gr. 6 fundraiser will go a long way in making the trip to school easier. The energy the students will save getting to school will be better served in school!

The Bike Program

Painting the garage that will house the bikes!

The Interviews

Ilna is 13 years old and both of her parents are dead. The interviews with potential students at Starthrower were heartwrenching. It is one thing to view pictures of students but nothing speaks to listening to the kids in their presence. She was demure, polite, quiet, reserved, hopeful and so very sad. I sat in on approximately 10 interviews and although I don't speak Creole, their stories were understood loud and clear. 

The Dogs!

Three gorgeous puppies that reside at the Foundation along with two others blessed me with a greeting that befitted a long-lost relative! I was anxious about missing my own faithful canine companion at home but these darlings certainly helped in that department. Unfortunately, these healthy pups truly are a rarity in Haiti. One of the most difficult aspects of the trip has been to hear the horrible yelps late at night of a dog being mistreated and the skeletal frames of the countless street dogs. We perhaps err too far on the other side in our culture where dogs are sent to daycare and to salons to be pampered. However, I have to believe that when the people of Haiti are able to meet their own basic needs consistently, their treatment towards and mindset about their dogs will change. 

The Staff

I painted, did some accounting, helped with dogs, washed some dishes, pulled some weeds, went to the vet, tagged along to get mangoes and water, played some Haitian cards, ate some delicious food, discussed hair with the book club girls and had some giggles while fighting those damn "foumies" (red ants).This was all under the vigilant care of the wonderful staff and Sharon at the Starthrower Foundation.

I know that I haven't yet processed all that I've seen, heard and felt and don't know exactly how I will use what I have learned. What I do know is that all life has value and the people of Haiti are as deserving as anyone to have the basics of life met. Healthy food, running water, clean latrines and an education have to be a start.

Pi Ta


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