Sunday, March 8, 2015

Letting go

Travel  still amazes me. One day I'm battling disease bearing mosquitos, or being dive bombed by Fred the bat or finding a giant-to-me spider on the bedroom wall in Haiti and the next I am trying to restore my hearing after two international flights which deposit me in the land of ice and snow. Leaving Haiti means letting go of what happens - giving the outcome completely over to staff and the universe. Not an easy feat for a control freak ( so I have been labeled by family and friends)

Fred the bat in our Cap-Haitien car park

This unnamed exotic beauty filled the
gallery corner in Sen Rafayel

Letting go can only happen when trust and confidence are present - trust in the decisions the staff will make and the confidence to let go, knowing that I cannot be in two places at one time and for the time being I have to be here. Spring in Canada means income tax return preparation. Also a time for wellness visits - dentist, MRI, Naturopath, Chiropractor, RMT. And most important, catching up with friends. It is a busy time but a different busy from Haiti - no truck, no animals, no kids, no staff - just the silence of this small apartment.

Before I left, Starthrower received and accepted a letter from a student in Sen Rafayel. We accept letters for the upcoming year in May but there are always emergencies and exceptions. We try to be sensitive to each situation. Rose-Michelle's father had died before Christmas and her mother was not well. We heard from another student that the school had put her out and she just cried all the time. The staff and I discussed the letter and the situation. As the letter contained the required information, I left the country and the decision as to what follow through would happen to the staff.

Auguste discussed the letter with Cap-Haitien coordinator Lusnot, then travelled to Sen Rafayel for a few days with our newest staff member, RN Gaby. Upon arrival Auguste met with Lakay Jasmine coordinator Edeline and together they decided to give the candidate an appointment. "Bouche" is the most effective communication tool in Haiti. Just tell one person and they will know one person and next morning Rose-Michelle appeared at the appointed time with her birth certificate, last report card and payment card.

Rose-Michelle - candidate
for admission

Interviews are always difficult as there is a very real possibility we will say "Sorry, we are unable to help you." The reason may be financial, or perhaps it would be better academically for the student to sit out and start the year over with all text books etc.. Sometimes there is just no fit between student and foundation. We ask every student why they want to attend school. It is very telling. If it is a question they haven't asked themselves, we make a second appointment and give them a little time to reflect on the question. There is no right or wrong answer but it always provides us with information which helps us make the final decision.

Coordinator Edeline talks to the family during
home visit last week. Rose-Michelle is in the doorway with Manman.

Auguste and Edeline were in agreement with the paperwork and 'fit' for our program, so proceeded to the mandatory home visit as Auguste was on site. Edeline is well known in the village so did most of the talking. The house is one room, no kitchen, bathroom, running water, or electricity. A solar lamp will be a must for study purposes. We also plan to install solar panels, inverter and batteries when I return. We are going to light up Lakay Jasmine!

Rose-Michelle signs her student contract with the input
of coordinator Edeline (seated) and assistant Adelaine

Upon returning to the center, Rose-Michelle was offered our one year student contract. Although students do not have to rewrite their letter, they do have to renew their contract each year.
Staff are now searching the marketplace to purchase textbooks and school supplies Rose-Michelle has been doing without. Now that she can drop in to the center whenever she has time - to eat, drink safe water, receive basic meds and vitamins, tutoring - she has a very good chance of succeeding. In her mind she has already succeeded because she has been admitted to the foundation.
Rose-Michelle's journey with Starthrower is beginning. Others have spent many years with us and have moved on. When Alland, Brunie, Gaby and Wisly passed State National exams for Philo in 2009, everyone did the dance of joy. Then the four set off together in September that year for the university at Leogane. Each survived the earthquake and successfully completed their nursing degrees at the top of their respective classes. Alland ( married I am told) and Wisly are working for NGO's in Port-au-Prince in the area of community health and Brunie is preparing to return to university for a 2 year master's degree in Sante Publique (Public Health) specializing in Obstetrics. Gaby just returned from Leogane in January after working for 4 months at the hospital where he had done his student practicum.  He has opened our 'Klinik Premye Swen" (First Care Clinic) at Lakay Jasmine in Sen Rafayel.

Sept. 2009 - Alland,Brunie,Wisly
and Gaby set out for University in Leogane.

It is easy to lose sight of where these young people came from, when I see the confident young professional in front of me. But they do not forget their roots. They are all giving back, enriching their families and communities.
RN Gaby takes inventory in the clinic.

Gaby visits with his parents - the house where
he and brother Lusnot were born.

And the journey continues for dental student Rose-Guerlande. Last week we received  news  from Santiago, Dominican Republic.  Rose-Guerlande  was forced to drop out of school in January as the university increased fees significantly and we were unable to find the extra funds. As she is on a career track, she would normally have to sit out a year. However, due to the high number of students in the same financial situation, a make-up semester is being put in place for the April-July term.

Sept. 2006 Orphaned 15 yr old Rose-
Guerlande admitted

After the deaths of her mother and father, Rose-Guerlande's aunt brought her to our Cap center and asked if we could help her finish high school. Her siblings had been scattered throughout the country and the aunt was financially unable to cover school fees. Our new student was at the top of her class and received partial scholarships for the next 3 years - unheard of for the poor to receive assistance. Even then she told me she wanted to be a dentist. She had suffered dental pain herself and had seen many others suffer.

2010 - High School Grad heads to Port-au-
Prince for passport and student visa

Her focus has never wavered. The challenges of studying in another country and another language are many but she continues to rise above them. She used her semester off to study intensive Spanish.
Her program is five years, each day consists of half day clinic, half day classroom.

Rose-Guerlande at work in the clinic - Dec. 2014

A dentist for Haiti, the career of a lifetime
for Rose-Guerlande.

In addition to Gaby opening the clinic, Rose-Michelle being admitted and Rose-Guerlande preparing to return to classes, Starthrower staff looked after the other 154 students registered this year. And it happened without me. Letting go.
Animals know how to let go - from a very early age. And they never lose the ability. Another lesson I can learn from the animals. It must take a great deal of repetition for me to actually grasp a concept - why else would the universe have given us 10 dogs and a cat along with many wild and feral who come daily for food?

Alice and her buddy know what to do after a play
session - let go.

Letting go

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