Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Message From the Embassy

Warden Message No. 134

Demonstrations in Port-au-Prince and Provinces

U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince issued the following Warden Message on November 30, 2010:

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince is issuing this Warden Message to alert U.S. citizens that there are reports of numerous protests throughout Port-au-Prince and in provincial areas of Haiti. In the upcoming days additional protests are expected in Port-au-Prince in Juvenat (near the KaribĂ© Hotel), in Petionville (near the CEP), and in lower Delmas, as well as in the downtown area near the state university campuses, Champ de Mars, the National Palace, and the Prime Minister’s office, among other areas. Protests have also been reported in several provincial cities, including Cap Haitien, Gonaives, Saint Marc, Port-de-Paix, Ti Goave, Leogane, and Les Cayes. These protests are expected to continue sporadically and may occur unannounced in additional areas in Port au Prince and the provinces in the coming days and weeks.

Such protests are often unpredictable, can quickly turn from nonviolent to violent, and do not remain in static locations. U.S. citizens are advised to remain especially vigilant and continue to monitor radio, television and other media.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Election Day

Warden Message No. 133

Border to Close during Elections

U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince issued the following Warden Message on November 26, 2010:

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince is issuing this Warden Message to alert U.S. citizens that the Government of Haiti has announced it will close the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, November 27, and that the border will remain closed until it reopens at 6 a.m. Monday, November 29. The Government of Haiti made the announcement November 26 and advised the border would be closed as a precaution during the elections. U.S. citizens are advised to defer travel across the border during these times.

The Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens avoid non-essential travel on Election Sunday (Nov 28th) and utilize the days leading up to Election Sunday to buy groceries, supplies, and anything else needed for Election Sunday. While there is no specific threat information at this time, historically elections in Haiti have been marked by violence. U.S. citizens in Haiti are advised to monitor media coverage and avoid areas where demonstrations have occurred. The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide direct assistance in the event of violent demonstrations is limited.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I am Thankful for...

I am thankful for the simple pleasures in life, like decorating the Christmas tree with a child...

And receiving "help" from Snoopy.

I am thankful for the child who reminds me the importance of perseverance as he tries to untangle the Christmas lights...

And completing the task with a friend.

I am thankful for the food that fills my belly...

And for the hands that prepare it.

I am thankful for the day that reminds us of the blessings we often take for granted...

And sharing this day with a family of friends.

...And Snoopy too.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Lespri fe viv.
Hope makes one live.

Youn bon zanmi pi bon pase fre.
A good friend is better than a brother.

Vwazinaj se fanmi.
Neighborhood is family.

Bondye bon.
God is good.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Okay nan Nwel...

aka Haiti's version of American Idol... Christmas style!

Almost as viral as American Idol, Okay Nan Nwel is definitely all it is made out to be.

Sponsored by Digicel and a car place (I forget the name), the winner of Okay Nan Nwel gets to take home a car!

Last night, Wilson and I went to Okay Nan Nwel which is held at a local church auditorium. The TV station was there (to broadcast live on your local TV station) and so were the lights, mics, judges, and peeps. For the small fee of two dollars US a person, we were able to participate in this sacred event that only happens once a year. Last night was the final round of the preliminaries... meaning, starting this upcoming Friday, contestants start to get eliminated. Intense.

Typical to the preliminary rounds in American Idol, there were the performers there hoping to find there 5 minutes of fame by making fools of themselves... dancing around with straw hats, grabbing themselves, making weird girrating motions with their hips. (why is it always the guys that make fools of themselves?)

Also typical to the preliminary rounds and more prominent than the "fool makers" were the people that think their voices are angelic, but really they are just kidding themselves... a few times I wished I had ear plugs.

For one hour we saw approximately 15 performances, and one performance that was disqualified after a countdown from 10-1 by the audience when he failed to show up. We got to hear the theme song to Okay Nan Nwel approximately 472,043,284,039 times, and learn the hand motions to do when we were being broadcasted-live-on-your-local-TV-station. And we got to see women go bonkers with their screaming when a Haitian Justin Bieber came on stage to sing his Christmas song...I really wished I had ear plugs.

Overall, I give the night a 10, and I am DEFINITELY going back on Friday to see who gets eliminated... and hopefully hear the Okay Nan Nwel song a bazillion more times.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Father Marc received a phone call this morning that Jah Roro caught cholera and had gone to the hospital.

All of the Les Cayes prisoners had spent over a week in the PaP prison due to TS Tomas. While the prisoners were there, or so they told me, six people caught cholera and died. Two of those six were from Les Cayes. When the prisoners came back, they were two less than when they left for PaP.

Knowing this, and being who I am, I went to check on Jah Roro.

The guards greeted me with, "Did you hear Jah Roro was sick?" and opened the gate to let me in.

He seemed weak, but not horribly sick. He said that the cholera was a false alarm (thank God) and he had just gotten a fever and case of diaherra.

More serious than Jah Roro was Jonas-

The guards only let me take this picture because I told them I wanted to show the color of his eyes to Dr. Jerry, our visiting doctor from Alaska.

Jonas is 17 and was brought back from PaP with the other prisoners. Every morning Jonas pees blood, and has abdominal pain. Dr. Jerry says it sounds/looks like hepatitis. I was able to bring a small dose of meds prescribed by Dr. Jerry that will hopefully help.

He is in a lot of pain. I cannot even imagine being sick with something so serious and being in these inhumane conditions at the same time.

Please pray for him and all of the prisoners.


By far the most distressed and devastating village I have been to thus far, Roche-Jabouin is located directly on the ocean in between Port Salut and St. Jean.

An hour of up and down red dirt mountains ended against the rocky water's edge and in the center of devastation itself.

The children of Roche-Jabouin are suffering. Most walk with bare bottoms and bare feet. By majority, the homes are made of sticks, very few seem strong enough to withstand forceful winds. They are surrounded by water, but the village is dry. They have no clean drinking water- the small well in the center of town has been contaminated since TS Tomas. They are hungry.

This small, forgotten town is like nothing I have ever seen.

The people were friendly enough to me, tired feeling. I didn't spend much time, half an hour at most. Daylight was fading, and we still had the long ride back.

I don't like making promises. I don't like promising homes, food, medical, clothing, sandals. I don't. Because, truth is, I don't know if I can fulfill them. Will I try? Of course. Will I spread the word? You bet. But for now, the most I can say...

M'ap vini.

I will be back.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The glass is half full, and washed with treated water.

I think the last I heard, the deaths by cholera had reached a head count of 1,000. Tragic and unnecessary.

What has come out of these deaths?

Well, yesterday I went up to Port a Piment, and on the way back we stopped to eat at a little restaurant. Unlike any time I have ever been in a restaurant- the server brought over a bowl of water, bar of soap, and towel to dry our hands.

In order to prevent cholera.

Also, you can't turn on the radio right now without hearing two things- 1. presidential campaigns. and 2. cholera prevention techniques.

Now, I know it is not a big step, but it is a step in the right direction.

What do you get...

when you combine a hurricane, cholera epidemic, hunger, and upcoming presidential elections?

On-Going Demonstrations in Port-au-Prince
U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince issued the following Warden Message on November 18, 2010:

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince is issuing this Warden Message to alert U.S. citizens that there are reports of demonstrations in downtown Port Au Prince on the Champ-de-Mars, and in Nazon and Lalue. Roads are being blocked, tires set on fire, and rocks are being thrown at passing vehicles. The Haitian National Police have deployed tear gas to disperse the crowd several times. The crowd continues to move in this area and regroup. All travel to this area should be avoided.

U.S. citizens are advised to maintain an increased level of vigilance when traveling in and around Port-au-Prince. They should be aware of their surroundings at all times and are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy. They can do so at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/.

Oh, Haiti.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Page Jean

This adorable little girl showed up today. Know who she is?

My goddaughter, Page Jean! She will be three on January 2, and she is turning into a beautiful little girl, isn't she?

Here we are in our first picture together back in January 2008. So cute!

Quilts and Coloring

Aunt Dee is here with a group from Minnesota. The spent the afternoon coloring with our little girls, and each girl was given the gift of a beautiful hand made quilt- a nice treat since the nights here have been cold for Haiti!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tomas Took it All

On Wednesday, we were able to take a day trip along the coast. We were only able to make it as far as Les Anglais because TS Tomas decided to leave the rivers overflowing, and stole some of the roads. Our purpose of this journey was to deliver emergency food to those in dire straights, but I quickly came to realize that a box of vitamin enriched food was really a joke compared to the real need.

As we made our way up the coast, the scene became more devastating. When we reached Roche a Bateau, I couldn't really believe what I was seeing. I had just been up the coast a couple weeks earlier, and the foliage was lush, green, and felt like the Caribbean. On this day, the landscape was the opposite. TS Tomas had beaten the trees to death. Literally. All of the leaves were brown, garbage covered the coast, and the lush feeling had washed out to sea.

Most of the homes along the coast in Roche a Bateau suffered from flooding. The general response to flooding is, "Ok, well that is not that bad. The water dries up." Wrong. I met a woman who was inside her home when the flooding began. "At 4:30 am, the water started to rise, and the wind started to blow. It got higher and higher, so high that someone had to swim into our home to save me and my children. We swam out and up to safety. When the water had gone down, we went back into our home. Everything was gone. Everything. We still have a roof, thank God, but we have no beds, pots, pans, clothes. My children lost their school books. Everything."

Even further up the coast in Chardonierre, the city before Les Anglais, things got worse.

This is Lajoie Osner and his home. He now has nothing but the thatched roof to his home. He is living in the local hospital.

This is Emilienne Flerjein standing in the doorway to her home- notice the cacti barrier in the foreground. The force of the rain and wind blew the barrier over completely.

This is Marise Lajoie and her home. The winds and flooding tore half of her home, and all of her belongings away. She and her two grandchildren are now living in the nearby hospital which has become a shelter to the recent homeless.

After our minimal relief service- a mere box of uncooked rice- we continued up the coast. When we reached Les Anglais, we were greeted by a rushing river of brown. Like many, our vehicle was not equipped to cross. The current process to receive goods on the other side of the river is to cross by foot, wait for another vehicle to pick up the goods, and then transport them. Unless the water goes down, people are going to start to go hungry.

We were hoping to make it all the way up to Tiburon. Unfortunately, that did not happen. From speaking to the people in the various towns along the coast, we determined that close to 1000 homes were damaged and/or destroyed.

Monday, November 8, 2010


The four cases of cholera in Les Cayes are from the SAME family that are from St. Louis du Sud. They came to receive health care in Les Cayes.

Cholera has not spread to Les Cayes water. Cholera was imported by a family.

The Ravine

Here is the main river that we pass to get in and out of Les Cayes. It is stories higher than normal, and at least eight times wider. Homes along the waters coast suffered some damage due to flooding.

We have family of our children that lost everything in Tiburon. Crops, homes, livestock- gone. We have heard that all of the homes along the coast around Les Anglais have been destroyed- meaning they are unlivable due to a loss of roof, wall, or flattened completely. We know of at least 250 homes that no longer exist. That is 250 new homes. 250 new families without a place to live.

I am hearing that reports are being given that only a small number of homes were destroyed, and that the damage should not be over exaggerated.

Let me ask you this- if your home even had a leak in the roof, or if your window broke, would it be considered an emergency? Let's put things into perspective people.

TS Tomas Hits

This post is unfortunately going up later than I would have liked. This is due to a combination of things. Either way, it is a story that is too good to not post.

The morning after Tomas, Mami Pompe showed up with her two grandchildren soaked to the bone. Bobby and Shekele both attend our preschool, and Mami's unfinished house is located right off our property. During the night, the force of the wind was so strong that it blew the roof right off of Mami's house. We took Bobby and Shekele, gave them warm "baths", fed them, and put them in warm clothes. Mami insisted on returning to her house in the pouring rain because she did not want her belongings stolen.

After the boys were happy and dry, and the rain had decided to give a slight reprieve, Mami came back for her boys. We drove them back to the house with the intention of talking her into letting us keep the boys for the next few days until the rain and wind was completely gone. This is what I saw when I walked into her house-

Of course the rain started up at this point. In the top picture, you can see Bobby looking up towards the sky as the rain starts to drench the inside of their house again. Her mattresses, chickens, clothing, pots, pans, and table were wet. Their dirt floor had turned to mud. I could not let them stay like this.

Tigre drove us back to the Quad where Sam from Shelter2Home was waiting with an umbrella. "Sam- can your guys PLEASE help Mami. They have no roof whatsoever."

Sam and I ran out to collect his team of "home builders". After listening to me explain the situation, Fritznel jumped up, obviously ready to take on the mission and shouted, "We work for Shelter. We work for all!"

The boys, with tarp and rebar, raced across the muddy field to Mami's rescue.

After about a half hour, the boys had rigged a roof that will last for now. Mami took my face in her hands and said, "God will repay you for this."

Really, I was just the voice that brought the problem to light. The Shelter2Home boys were the ones that did all of the work. I have talked about Haitian Hospitality in my past posts. There is also another thing called Haitian Camaraderie.

Sam, nice job sharpening the Camaraderie that exists in them. You should be proud of them. I definitely was.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Slumber Party

I went to the primary school to check on our kiddos.

To our younger ones, tonight is going to be a slumber party, and they are already getting started.

To our teens, they are NOT looking forward to being stuck in the primary school with the little guys.

I told our house mothers that we should have bought them all earplugs... either that or some grown up beverages...

On the Bright Side...

Sam gets to use the rain as his personal shower.

And Zanmi gets to wear a jacket hood to stay warm and dry.


The clouds are getting darker, and the rain is coming down sideways.

Around 11 this morning, we had a lull in the rain, so I took the opportunity to go to the prison to bring them emergency hurricane relief food. We have 25% of our food set aside for emergency relief purposes. Today we brought two weeks worth of vitamin enriched rice as well as cooking oil.

When I got there it was already flooded in the central courtyard. I walked around to each cell and told everyone about the high chance of strong winds and rains starting this evening. I reminded them to stay towards the back of the cell, and that we will all be praying for them. We will be stopping by next week to see how they faired in the storm. I feel like I am in prison being cooped up in the quad right now- I cannot even begin to imagine how they feel.

On the way back from town it started raining harder. We saw people begin to pack up their storefronts. The streets started to clear. The water at the main bridge has started to swell, and I worry about the homes along the shore. I have seen them flood before.

We are getting wetter and wetter out here at Espwa. Again, all emergency precautions have been taken, and we will be sure to keep everyone as safe (and dry) as possible.

Keep praying for those less fortunate than us. Those that are living in tents. Those that have no shelter whatsoever.

Update on Tropical Storm Tomas

We are safe. The children have been moved to the second story of the secondary school with a standby nurse, our house mothers, and some kitchen staff, and emergency food and medical supplies.

The quad is a circus...

We have 3 of our boys who work in the quad: Sam, Delince, and Gedna. 2 of our guys that live in the quad: Sonson and Enock. Wilson, Sam, and Fery. Nathalie. Her toddler, November. His babysitter, Gina. Me. Our director, Berthony. Dogs: Natalio and Snoopy. Cats: Patches, Batman, and Robin....

and a partridge in a pear tree.

I am not so much worried about the storm anymore... now it is whether or not we kill each other from living in such close, wet living quarters for the next 48 hours.

Wish us luck.

Keep the families in tents in your prayers.

Update on Jean Camy

Yesterday I went with Jean Camy to verify his story. He had said he was living on the streets, and sleeping in a bus by the ocean. He also had said a family would give him food when he was hungry.

His story checked out.

Below is a picture of the inside of the bus Jean Camy was sleeping in, along with the family that took care of him by giving him bits of food.

When we told them that Espwa was going to start helping him, they were overjoyed. "He has been like a family member. We are happy you will be helping him out now."

I asked Jean Camy if he was going to miss his bus-house and he said, "No. Now I have a real home."

After we returned, Jean Camy attended our literacy class we hold in the afternoons for staff that never had the opportunity to go to school to learn to read and write. He was thrilled- it was his first day of formal education.

After class, he stopped by to show me his very own book, notebook and pencil. His homework was to practice writing the numbers 0-9. He was so excited. I am going to be tutoring him so that we can see if we can catch him up and place him in a typical classroom setting in the near future.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Jean Camy

This is Jean Camy. I found him waiting to talk to me (with the ultimate goal of talking to Father Marc) outside of the quad this afternoon. I brought him in, sat him down, and listened to his story.

Mind you- my first instinct was to heave a sigh of exhaustion and tell him I was too busy. Every day I hear a story of a hungry child, a family in need of a home, a student that needs to go to school. Sometime I field them from Father Marc, sometimes he sends them to me, and sometimes we hear the stories together. In any case, no matter how tired I am (and today I was tired and grouchy) I have to remember- this is why I live in Haiti: to lend and ear and be a voice for those that have lost theirs.
On this particular day, I am glad I heaved that sigh and decided to sit down and listen.

Jean Camy is an orphan. He became an orphan after multiple tragedies. He is 17 years old, and has nothing: no home, no family, no birth certificate, no education. Nothing. A couple years ago, when Gonaive was hit by a hurricane his father and older brother drown. His mother, older sister, and another older brother moved to Port au Prince. Jean Camy’s family is from the poorest of the poor. His mother had to give him and his siblings up to become restaveks in hopes that they would find food and better living conditions. She stayed a beggar in the streets.

On January 12, after already losing his father to a natural disaster, Jean Camy lost his mother, older sister, and older brother. His other older brother lost both of his legs after a block fell on him while he was helping someone out of a building. They were lucky enough to find someone who gave his older brother a wheelchair, and Jean Camy became his brother’s chauffer. They remained children of the streets in Port au Prince until a month ago when a bus gave them a ride to Les Cayes gratis.
Upon arriving in Les Cayes, Jean Camy and his brother found that the streets of the south didn’t greatly differ from Port au Prince. The other street children beat them if they didn’t hand over their money they earned while begging. The shop owners beat them if they got too close to the store fronts for fear they would steal. And the civilians looked down on them, and if they were lucky gave them a bit of food or money.

Two days ago, a bus passed by the boys and stopped. A man told Jean Camy that there was a doctor in an unknown location that could help his brother with no legs. The scooped him up, put him in the bus, and “as the bus drove away we waved goodbye and cried.” Jean Camy has no idea where his brother is or if he will ever hear from him again.

Jean Camy sleeps in a broken down car by the ocean. A neighbor gave him a sheet to sleep with, but when Jean Camy’s clothes get dirty he washes them in the ocean and then wears them wet- they are his only possessions. He begged a taxi driver to help him, and the taxi driver took him to the entrance of Espwa. “If you want to find help- this is where you need to go.”

At this point, I am touched and a little skeptical. My heart is telling me that Jean Camy’s story is true, but my head is remembering all the times Espwa has been lied to in order to receive assistance.

“What do you want in life?” I ask Jean Camy.

“To go to school. All the children get to learn and go to school, and I am in the streets. I can write the letter “A” and the number “3” only. I can’t write my name. I don’t know my birthday. I know nothing. I sit outside of schools in the sun hoping to listen to the teacher and not be seen. When they see me they close the door and shoo me away like a dog. I want to go to school to learn.”

“What about a house? What about food? School is all you need in life?”

“If I can go to school I can learn something for tomorrow. I don’t mind sleeping in the streets if I can go to school.”

It sounds really cliché, but my eyes were watering. Jean Camy moved me. His entire demeanor is one that makes me think he is honest in what he is saying. I take him to our director to see if we can help him.

Now, we are in a pickle. Our rules now state at Espwa that at the age of 18 the children need to go back to their families… but what if they have no family?

We have a good relationship with Social Services, so we call them up and they come out to talk to Jean Camy. Like all of our children, we received authorization through Social Services to care for Jean Camy. Weather approving, he will start the first grade tomorrow.

Like I said earlier, I was tired when Jean Camy came up to speak to me. I had already talked to a mother with a starving infant and given her food, I had spoken to a young man who needed assistance with school, and I had dealt with the countless demands from our own kiddos for soccer balls. At that point, the only thing I wanted to do was catch up on computer work and make preparations for Hurricane Tomas.

But I am glad I sat down to listen. I am glad I was not a cynic, and I am glad I remembered that even though the stories sound the same, they are most likely true. The starvation, the homelessness, the lack of education, all of these things that get so exhausting to hear are why Haiti is broken itself. Even though each of these stories sound the same- the faces are different. The faces are what I have to remember and are why I am here.