Saturday, May 14, 2016

Catching up -- a thank you

My mother always said that good things come in small packages. This week it was a piece of paper torn out of a notebook with a note from a student we took on last year. We receive many handwritten notes - usually asking for something we are unable to provide -- safe housing, a new roof, a weekly stipend for food, a bed, a mosquito net, screen, windows, solar lamps...

No one asks for things that would be considered luxurious or outrageous. While the requests are reasonable they are not within our budget and I am at times overwhelmed with sadness. Knowing the situation of this family of 4 teenagers looking after a 9 yr. old orphaned cousin, and the havoc recent heavy rains have brought, I expected a list. This is what she wrote:
Good day Mme. I feel that today is a great day for me because I am saying thank you to you.
The reason that today is a great day for me is because today the (school) director sent away ( retounen) students who had not paid their fees for the rest of the year.
I remember when I didn't have a contract with the Foundation. I was in the same situation as all those (who had to leave school).
I tell you thank you, thank you so much because you are helping me with education which I think is the biggest gift one can give me in my life.

These young people know that it is not my money that keeps things going. So this letter is for everyone of you who allow me to distribute your funds. Thankyou.
As the school year begins its end-of year activities, schools will not allow students who haven't paid in full to write exams/receive a report card.  We too are finishing this year's business. Although home visits were finished in January, many have moved and three were ill so we are still 'visiting'.  When we arrived at Nerlie's 'hill' I had to laugh -- I also asked our visitor Kathy to make the visit with Auguste. Crutches were not designed for mountains. In addition to the climb, Nerlie has a 2 to 3 hour walk into the village to get to school.
These young ladies thought it was very funny that I couldn't
climb with '4 feet'. They wanted to try the crutches (bekin)
but were apprehensive.
Up on the  'ti mon' (little mountain) Kathy and Auguste were doing a stellar job.


Back in the village on level ground the crutches can do their job. Following Melane to the one room she shares with cousins. As usual, bed is the floor and there is a kitchen space. No toilet here and a sick, malnourished dog named Patience. (Pasyans in Kreyol)

A two family house
The kitchen with memories of the last meal.
No next meal in sight.

Moving on with Doudeline. She is new this year and has recently moved in with her cousin Youseline, also new this year. Because she wasn't living with her cousin on our first visit, we come back to the same tikay for a different person. Like her cousin, bed is the floor, but it's better than outside. Kathy had the opportunity to meet and visit her sponsored student Youseline, who has been waiting since the quake in 2010 to finish high school.
Doudeline is now staying with her cousin Youseline.

Youseline and sponsor Kathy.
One of the noticeable  differences between mountain village and city living is the amount of space available. Although our young people live in the smallest of rooms, there is room to build and grow if one has the funds. Claunise moved down from Sen Rafayel last year thinking life would be better. She has moved 4 times and hopes she can stay put to finish high school with her older sister and her family. We climbed six steep, narrow flights of stairs as the apartment is in the heart of down town Cap-Haitien. When we arrived at the top, I was grateful that the crutches had been put away. 

Following Kathy -- 2nd of 6 flights

Following Auguste -4th of 6 flights

 Finally at the top -- the welcoming committee!

The chairs are stacked at night and the floor
becomes her bed. No toilet no water -- 6 flights.

Like Claunise, Fritzman and his brothers came down from Sen Rafayel hoping for a better life. Oldest brother Jean-Woody graduated last year. Fritzman and brother Raymondson will finish this year. They have also moved every year, trying to find a stable, safe environment where they can stay to complete school. In contrast, they are now back in the country but in the city. The floor space they call bed is a 3 hour walk each way for school. To get to our drop in center, add 2 hours. We do provide funds for tap taps and taxi moto to get home but they still have to change and wait for available vehicles 3 times. They are with a cousin, her husband and children. The husband did not seem happy with the arrangement so they will probably return  to Sen Rafayel when finished. Fritzman is happy because there is a dog and he keeps rabbits and chickens as well.
 The dog was malnourished and covered with sores
so we sent cream and dry food.

 Kitchen for 11 people. No water - no latrine.

Rabbits and chickens -- not pets

 Back in town just outside of the downtown core, we followed Orina  to the room she shares with 2 older sisters. Like many, her parents are dead. She left the village as well.
 Following Orina, dodging the puddles.

Inside the only room on her bed. Behind the curtain,
an older sister, very ill with H Pylori symptoms.
Orina was recovering from the same bacteria so we sent meds.

With the recent rains, we will redo several visits as flooding means damaged/destroyed uniforms, shoes, text books, not to mention mattresses, cooking implements . Inea has been through this in 3 different locations. The solution is to find a second floor apartment for her and Carline.
Inea has been through this many times - it never
gets easier.
In addition to the girls, we have heard from 4 families in Cap so far with extensive flooding. In Sen Rafayel it's the mud as well as the swollen river. Those living on the other side are cut off from everything.

This week Auguste and I head up the mountain to talk to those affected and do a quick inventory of necessities for life and finishing the school year. Talk to you asap --til then

May you be safe
May you be healthy
May you be happy
May you know peace.

                                                                                                 (Monica A. Frank PhD.)
                                                                                                                      Loving Kindness Meditation


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