Sunday, November 2, 2014

WE'RE OKAY! , Back to school, Elanie

"I'm Okay!" If you haven't seen the You tube video of toddler Tristan in minion Halloween  costume (what's a minion you ask -- I have no idea) falling on his face and reassuring the adults that he is not hurt, take a minute. But only if you need a laugh or chuckle. During a recent phone conversation with my sister, who is going through a major health crisis, she asked if I had seen it. Her description alone started me laughing and I laughed even harder when I saw it. Laughter - good medicine.
Click here to see video. 

And the message "I'm Okay!" to everyone who has asked about the long time between blog posts. When I returned to Canada 2 weeks ago, I left behind 142 students and 20 staff members, 7 dogs and 1 cat.  Our numbers are down from 160 as we had 18 graduates this year (20 last year). Of that number, 65 students and 8 staff members were/are infected with the mosquito borne Chikungunya virus (myself included). Only 1 student has recovered. It is the gift which keeps on giving. Six of our students are repeating the school year as they were unable to write final exams due to the infection. It changes lives but one adjusts and copes with the joint pain, stiffness and swelling.  In addition it destroys appetite and thirst, causing the body to lose strength rapidly, as seen in Carline, Inea and Claudine.  BUT WE'RE OKAY!




Last week Starthrower received a generous donation of Allimax capsules from the CLM health group, thanks to the collaboration of their web admin Jennifer and company president Kate. CLM has been helping us since 2010. We are so fortunate. This will go a long way to help build /rebuild immune systems. It will travel with me when I return to Haiti in 2 weeks. 

In my absence, Auguste is doing his usual admirable job holding down the fort. All high school students and university students in the Dominican Republic are in school and attending classes, while the remaining 4 nursing students will begin classes and hospital placements this week. Our nursing graduates Brunie, Gaby, Wisly and Alland are back taking classes in preparation for writing State licensing exams, which will complete their nursing degrees. Brunie has asked if we can find the funds to help her continue her studies as she wants to specialize in Obstetrical nursing.

After a grueling 5 years of university, Brunie
wants to continue her studies and  specialize in

 In our Cap-Haitien center, Auguste searches for Philo text books for Viola,
 while Lusnot (who is much taller) coaches from the floor.

In Sen Rafayel, staff members Danius, Sabine and Angelene sort text books and prepare
packages according to grade and school. (Lakay Jasmine, Sen Rafayel)

The 1500 plus textbooks we repaired and recovered between our 2 drop-in centers in the summer have been distributed and our shelves are bare. However we still have a list of more than 200 textbooks needed as schools made and continue to make changes to required reading titles. No such thing as a final list. We will be hunting the market place until first term exams begin. 

Not everyone chooses high school graduation.  Monese is entering her 4th and final year studying cooking and sewing at Sant Professionel Sen Jozef in Sen Rafayel. It will give her skills to help support her 9 younger brothers and sisters. Rosema has just begun a 4 year program at Fondasyon Vincent to study construction. He will come out of the program as a licensed Contremet (Foreman), able to facilitate all aspects of a building project from planning to final touches.
 What would we do without our truck?
Senior student and part-time staffer Rosema arranges his new drafting table and
chair, hand made by his professor at Fondasyon Vincent .

In spite of the challenges: too many young people on the waiting list, insufficient funds, roads closed, schools closed, protests turn violent, gunfire at our gate, no supplies, no electricity, no water, no ice, too many disease bearing mosquitos..... WE ARE OKAY!

Recent trips up the mountain had everything from an unadvertised detour to road surfaces sabotaged with burning barricades and large holes which required waiting for dump trucks filled with gravel to fill in before passage. Like Chikungunya, a new norm.

Unadvertised road closure - in order to get to the mountain base
we blazed a new trail through the nearest field.

After losing a morning being turned back by bridges roped off
we followed police vehicles and gravel bearing trucks. 

Regardless of the late arrival, whether Cap-Haitien or Sen Rafayel, first on our list is finding water.
It is now nearly a year since our well dried up in Cap-Haitien. When we have the resources to purchase pump, storage chateau  and generator we will have our own water supply in Sen Rafayel. We are accelerating the hunt for property in Cap-Haitien, which will also give us a new water source.  But in the meantime,  WE'RE OKAY!
Everyone  pitches in when we return victorious from the hunt
for water. It is taking longer and longer to find it.
Last week I began packing my suitcase for the return trip. I'll repack until I leave to get the weight acceptable for the airline. Tucked in the suitcase liner I found a letter from one of our girls in Sen Rafayel. She had written it in August and delivered it to the center. I knew it was there but forgot about it. It was written by Elanie , who lives with her widowed mother. Manman Elanie (Elanie's mother) suffers from debilitating asthma.

 This is a translation from the Kreyol.  It is addressed to Madame Sharon and the object, she writes, is thanks (ranmesiman).

"Today with honour and respect I say hello to you.
The reason I am writing is just for me to say thank you for your help, your support,
your courage, your counsel, your guidance in my new school life.
And I say thank you also for the support you have given towards my mother's health.
I thank each member of the center staff who encourage me and give me counsel."

What a beautiful young person - no prodding from anyone, just a spontaneous expression of gratitude. Her gratitude is intended for everyone who supports her activities. I'm just the catalyst.

Chikungunya also causes fatigue so intense it is too difficult to hold a book let alone read. I know I'm on the mend because I'm reading again. I recently borrowed The Tao Of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff (Penguin Books USA, 1982) from my Naturopath.

Much of it resonated with me. I couldn't help but think of Elanie and her letter, and the rest of our students and staff as I read this passage:

'Do you want to be really happy? You can begin by being appreciative of who you are and what you've got. Do you want to be really miserable? You can begin by being discontented. As Lao-tse wrote "A tree as big around as you can reach begins with a small seed; a thousand mile journey starts with one step."  Wisdom, Happiness and Courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they're part of a continuous cycle that begins right here. They're not only the ending but the beginning as well. (Hoff, pg 137)

Wishing each of you Wisdom, Happiness and Courage

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