Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lists explained, About my JOB

Eliczara Augustin was buried in Sen Rafayel last month. She had just turned 26.  I remember the letter she wrote last year asking for help to return to finish the last 2 years of high school. She was on our waiting list. Her letter asked for support because she wanted to be a "fanm itil nan sosyete" ( a useful woman in society). With an average of 300 on our waiting list every year (not carried over from the previous year) it is difficult to remember the faces and the stories. But Eliczara and I shared a birthday - July 13 - that I remember. Her cousin Rose Magda-Alina told me  Eliczara would sit in front of our Jasmine Center in the hope that we would find the funds for her. According to her brother, she had a ''pwoblem goj' (throat problem) and was dead in 2 days. It could have been anything from Strep to Thyroid. I don't have her picture because she was on our waiting list and would have been dropped from it this month, replaced by new hopefuls.

Two of us travel weekly to Sen Rafayel - sometimes myself with Auguste, sometimes coordinator Lusnot or Myriame, a senior student who works in the office.  Beginning July 1st we hold interviews our Sen Rafayel coordinator Edeline sets up, working through the more than 500 requests for secondary school support we received in the month of May. By noon on the first day of May, our Sen Rafayel office had already received 146 letters.  Of the 500 letters we received, 300 have been sitting out at least a year for economic reasons - everyone a student unable to attend school for at least 1 year. About a third have both parents deceased, more than half have one parent deceased. Those who still have a living parent are often the caretakers, as the parents are ill and unable to provide for their children.

A trip to Sen Rafayel wouldn't be an adventure without a mountainside breakdown. And of course, no matter where the breakdown takes place, there will always be an expert who appears on the scene dispensing advice (for a gratuity, of course).Big news on the truck front - stay tuned.

Always an expert on hand to advise Auguste - even on the mountainside.
Note the water pump action in the background.
After cooling down and watering the engine, we continued without further adventure until we arrived at our corner. Our corner was no longer there, taken over by work crews under a deadline to finish the road surfacing before the start of school. Students Consienne and Adolph were waiting for us at what used to be the corner with our wheelbarrow (bouret la) . Our branch coordinator Edeline had hobbled down to help as well, her painfully swollen right foot encased in a tensor bandage. This is a recurring condition which none of the medical personnel in the village can diagnose. With no lab for analysis, most diagnosis are guess work.

Student Consienne waits with the bouret (wheelbarrow) as our corner is
getting a facelift.
Unpacked and settled, the business of interviews starts. But it's not that easy to find a quiet place.
A game of dominoes on the gallery...students from Cap-Haitien visiting family
mix with Sen Rafayel students, new admissions and returning
4th year university student Weby-Schneider prepares a group for Reto in the
'Chanm Devwa' (Homework Room). This week it's Chemistry.
Always readers in the library (Gasnel and Clenie)

Interviews get started a little early as those who have an appointment are always early and those who do not have an appointed 'rendevu' show up in hopes that we will have some extra time. There aren't enough hours in the day but we work late into the night to accommodate as many as possible. School is life to these young people, the reason they get up every morning.
Auguste questions Junior J. about his family
I frequently use the term 'waiting list'. We have two. The lucky students for whom we have general funds are admitted to our program, and their fees etc.. are paid from the general pool. They are on the 'Waiting for Sponsor ' list. If and when they are connected to a sponsor, those general funds are freed up and we can take on another from our 'Waiting for Admission" list.

Junior, pictured above with Auguste, is on our 'Waiting for Admission' list. These are some of the 300 faces I see, most of whom we cannot admit, due to limited finances. Junior is 17 and wants to start high school. He has been sitting out for 3 years, since he passed his entrance (Certificat) exams. . His father, a farmer, was killed in a random machete attack on their house when he was in Grade 4. He remembers it vividly. His growth is stunted from malnutrition, but his eyes sparkle when he talks about what going to school would mean for his whole family.
Ancito D., 15, waiting for Admission

Ancito is 15, also waiting for Admission. He was in Grade 7 at the Lycee, paid for by his mother who sold items grown in her small garden in the local market. She became ill with Kolera on a Saturday afternoon before Christmas. She was dead before midnight. His school days ended. 

Cassimilia, 14, waiting for Admission
Cassimilia is 14. Her father contracted Kolera last spring and died the next day. She had been enrolled at the Lycee but failed her year.Like many, she didn't have any of the required textbooks. Anyone who fails the Lycee is put out and private schools are more expensive.

Her mother has had 2 operations 'on her head' (diagnosis unknown to us) and is unable to function. Now Cassimilia is parent to her 3 younger brothers, one younger sister and her mother. 

The term "waiting list" seems impersonal to me, devoid of emotion. The young people who comprise our waiting lists are very real, so I wanted to share a few of their stories with you. Even though we do not have the funds to say yes to everyone who applies, our staff does an outstanding  job of making each feel listened to and welcome.

While we are in Sen Rafayel, our Cap-Haitien office functions smoothly. Our book repair program which cleans and recovers between 1500 and 2000 text books every summer has just finished. We needed room in Sen Rafayel for our pilot 'Ready for Reto' program (requested by the students) so the job was completed in Cap. First year nursing students Edwina and Sherlyne have returned to help us and seniors Myriame and Camiose complete the team. We learned Sunday that Myriame and Camiose were in the minority of students who wrote Philo state national exams who were successful. 80,000 will rewrite next week. Congratulations to both. They hope to head to University to study nursing.
Cap-Haitien office - while we are up the mountain -
Camiose, Edwina and Sherlyne shelve cleaned text books

In spite of the heat and dryness, Dieugrand maintains the yard (lakou-a).
Isn't our hibiscus (choublak) beautiful?

Mme Carmene drops in for a visit and shows
Myriame how to mend a tear.
Once admitted, students head off to have their picture taken for school records. After they deliver the 
pictures to us, our staff meet with the various school  administraions with pictures, birth certificates and proof of academic standing to register. 

That complete, students then come in to sign a contract which allows them to  access both of our drop in centers and lending libraries. Everyone takes signing their contract very seriously - new and returning students. 

New student Fatia signs her contract

Returning senior Carline

Returning senior Stephan

New student Norceline

Norceline, 22, has been sitting out since the
earthquake in 2010
New Cap-Haitien admission Norceline signed her contract while we were in Sen Rafayel. She lost her parents, brother and sister in the earthquake of January 2010. She has been sitting out for the intervening 3 years.  It has taken us months to secure  papers for her to return to complete high school, as all her records were lost. This week we succeeded. One Starfish at a time....

'What is my job on the planet with a capital J? What do I care so much about that I would pay to do it?" Author Jon Kabat-Zin (Wherever You Go There You Are  Hyperion, 1994) challenges the reader to ask oneself over and over 'otherwise, we may wind up doing someone else's job and not even know it." (p206)

"You can start asking this question any time, at any age. There is never a time of life when it would not have a profound effect on your view of things and the choices you make....Interconnectedness is a fundamental principal of nature." (ibid) How fortunate to realize what that JOB is.

The most difficult part of this job is not doing without the basics, the amenities. It is not the hazards of travel. It is saying "Sorry we can't help you" because of what in the grand scheme of things amounts to a few dollars.
Last interview finished but paper work remains
No electricity or running water - no problem.

Author Deepak Chopra, along with many others, believes that the primary aim in life is to be present. Being here is enough. At this stage of my life I am in agreement. Having found my Job in the universe, I just have to remind myself every day to be present. That way, when  a moment of joy occurs, like Wisline C. feeling so accomplished when figuring out a Chemistry problem that she does a spontaneous twirl and  bow, I not only capture it, I appreciate it and share her joy.

Concial W.  - a little twirl and a little bow for Chemistry understood

Be of service to-gether

Share wisdom to-gether

Become a community in spirit.

The only service I can provide for Eliczara is to tell you about her.  And be truly present to those who come after so that their stories can be told.


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