Monday, June 27, 2011

Jean Raymond

He was given the gift of life,
A life lacking ease.
His cross to bare displayed on his face,
for the whole world to see.
He was given the gift of humility,
of tough skin and rose colored glassed.
He was grateful for his being,
so unique and unforgiving.

Miles apart. Generations between.
A doctor prepares to leave.
He was given the gift of a steady hand,
Of brains, of determination, of ease.
Blessed with this gift, he shares it,
with children of lives unforgiving.
With his gift he crossed the seas,
Eager to help a child in need.

A patient hand, a thoughtful word,
He shares with this child.
He was given the gift of life,
a life of normalcy.
His cross no longer exposed and bare,
but a distant memory.
Forever he carries his humility,
his struggles, his memories.
But now he can live happily,
Changed forever by one patient hand.

Many thanks to Smile Train, and the executive director, Tom Flood, who changed Jean Raymond's life.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Great News From Haiti

I just received word that finally, after nine months of pushing, begging, and planning... the prisoners (over 15) have had their hernia operations.
The wonderful people of Fond de Blanc have worked hard receiving approval from the Chief of Police, but their hard work paid off.
Last Thursday and Friday, at the General Hospital in Les Cayes, the prisoners and two Espwa members were able to receive their operations.

And while I am giving good news... Let me continue...

Remember Jean Raymond with the cleft lip? He and his mother will be traveling this weekend to receive his operation. We actually had two sponsors for Jean Raymond, so we were able to find another child in need of the same surgery. Because of your generosity, two children's lives will be changed forever.

Photos to come!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Phoenix Zoo.

Adam, Mikey, Wilson, and I went to the Phoenix Zoo last month. It was very nostalgic for me, as I have many fond, fond memories of the zoo with my Mom and sisters when I was young. Wilson thought it was really cool seeing all of different types of animals. But what got to him even more than the animals behind the cages were the wild birds.

"These would not exist in Haiti. They would have been killed. It is obvious that American birds are smarter than Haitian birds... they stay alive."

Dbacks Game.

Just a couple days after returning to Arizona, my good friend Shaun and our friend Crystal took us to the Diamondbacks Game.

Wilson was in shock with how big the stadium was, and how loud it could get. Though he had a great time, he did admit that baseball is probably not is favorite sport to watch.

Though it was April in Arizona, we both had to wear sweatshirts as the night went on. (Yes, we are wimps.) After being in Haiti, air conditioning is a foreign concept, and cool nights just don't exist. We both had to go out and buy sweatshirts the day after we got back.

Oh, Blog. How I've missed you...

It has been over a month, and I think I am starting to go through withdraws. With drawls from my blog. Withdraws from telling my stories. Withdraws from Haiti. And most of all... withdraws from the children of Espwa.

Wilson and I have both been in touch with Espwa, and they have recently had some great visitors- especially from OWU, Dr. Cynthia, and Sue. Work has been done on the clinic, the children are growing, the English program is progressing, and though it has been raining a lot, life is good. I heard from Peter today, and both he and Father Marc went to the prison. Jah Roro is still hanging in there, and the prisoners sent their love. I cannot wait to get back, and get back to work.

Though, I have to admit... time here has been a blast.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Tomorrow I head to Port au Prince, and then back to Arizona on Tuesday.

My heart is heavy because I always hate leaving Espwa, but I am excited to see my family, friends, and finally bring Wilson to see where I am from.

Please keep following my blog. I will still be updating about Haiti, but will also add a twist- A Haitian's first experience of the United States. We have some big plans- camping, Disneyland, San Fran, California, and hopefully a trip to the East Coast as well as Missouri.

Again- keep following. I can't tell you how much I appreciate knowing you are out there.



Friday, April 22, 2011


I think I saw the worst thing I have ever seen in my life.

On Tuesday, I went with a few visitors up to Tiburon to deliver food to our primary school. There had been word that a sixteen year old former Espwa child had been burned at his home in Tiburon. We investigated the situation.

Ezekiel had been sleeping on the ground while is family was cooking dinner. His father was taking the large pot of boiled beans off the charcoal burner when he tripped. The hot beans spilled. They landed on Ezekiel in one of the worst places imaginable- right below his belt.

By the time we made it to Ezekiel, it had been over a week since the burn. His thigh, lower stomach, and privates had third degree burns. His family tried a home remedy of herbal cream to help with the pain, but still, a layer of charred black skin had grown back. In some areas, there were pussy infections. Ezekiel was wearing his mother's long skirt because he could not stand the feeling of anything on the charred skin.

Ezekiel needed a hospital. We loaded him into the car, along with his mother, and took him on the four hour trek down the bumpy, rainy mountain to the hospital in Les Cayes. I don't know how he did it. My hinny was hurtin' by the end of the trip, I can't imagine if I had to sit and suffer the trip with third degree burns.

After spending the night in the hospital with wet bandages on the charred skin, Father Marc, Brother Robert, Johnny, and I went to check on his status. He and his mother both looked exhausted- she had to sleep on the hospital floor with not even a sheet as a cover. The doctor and a team of student nurses appeared to scrape the charred skin from Ezekiel's body, starting with his leg. Mind you, this process is done in the middle of a large room, stretcher bed, after stretcher bed. Ezekiel is completely exposed. Privacy in Haiti is non-existent.

The doctor proceeds to scrape. Ezekiel squeezes my hand and breathes heavily as layers of char disappear. Black away. First layer of pink gone. Raw, red skin appears. Ezekiel breaths heavily and squeezes harder. The doctor moves from thigh to more sensitive areas. I think my hand will break and tears threaten to slip over the brim of my eyes. I don't know how he isn't screaming. The sensitivity of the area is incomprehensible, and the process is tedious. After what seems like days, all of the charred skin is gone, and all that is left is red, raw skin.

Fast forward to today-

Ezekiel is here at Espwa staying in the Guest House. He has a nurse come and clean his wounds twice a day, while the rest of the day he lays in bed, naked from the waist down, unable to make big movements. The bandaging process everyday consists of scraping off the burn cream from the night before, wetting all the burns with a wet cloth, and then reapplying the cream and bandages. This is going to be a long, painful healing process. I don't know how he smiles. I cringe just seeing his injuries. I guess it is just one more lesson that has been taught to me.

The tolerance of pain and suffering here is unbelievable, but the rate of recovery and determination is unfathomable.

Friday, April 15, 2011


I feel so blessed because recently I have been working on our new sponsorship program. This program will allow people to sponsor individual children and their needs. I love this idea, and what I love even more is that I am learning things about the children that I never knew in all the years I have known them. For instance, Delince.

Anyone who has been to Espwa in the last year definitely knows Delince, if for nothing else, because he works in the Guest House. He has always been interested in Public Health, loves folklore dancing, and is becoming fluent in English. He is a popular face around Espwa, and has been for the past seven years.

But yesterday, when I was chatting with Delince, I saw Delince in a completely different light. I looked at him with such admiration. Where he is now, with the assistance of Espwa, and where he came from are two completely opposite ends of the spectrum.

Delince is from Camp Perrin. His mother and father were happily married when his father passed away in a car accident. Delince's father tragically left this life leaving his wife, five children, and a new baby in it's nine month about to be born. Delince's mother was at a loss. She couldn't work, couldn't support her children, and had just lost her husband. She had no choice but to give Delince up to be a restevek (child slave) at less than ten years old.

Delince can't remember how long he was a restevek. He was promised schooling and proper care, but those promises were broken. He had lost his father and was separated from his family with the promise of school, but instead turned into a mistreated child servant. After an unknown amount of time, someone brought Delince to Espwa.

This is where Delince was given newfound Hope. This is where Delince blossomed and came to be the Delince we all know and love. And Espwa would not be the same without him.

Many will say this story is not uncommon, and they are right. But though this story is a common one, it is his. It is his reality, and one we should listen to, reflect on, and admire him for overcoming.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jean Raymond Update

Thank you for the emails, messages, and interest you have shared regarding Jean Raymond. More than one of you have mentioned the organization Smile Train, and we have successfully made contact with them.

After a 45 minute operation free of charge, Jean Raymond will have a mouth he can feel proud of.

Smile Train will be in Fermathe (which is 45 minutes outside of PaP) in June. Many of you have asked how you can help sponsor Jean Raymond's medical expenses. Since Smile Train gifts the operation, there is no need to sponsor medical expenses, but we do need sponsors for Jean Raymond and his mother's travel expenses.

To sponsor Jean Raymond and his Mother will cost roughly $100 US round trip. This includes: safe transportation, meals, and lodging for the night.

If you would like to sponsor Jean Raymond and his Mother's travel costs, please let us know.

If we receive more than one sponsor, we can find other children like Jean Raymond to receive the same services.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Ray

Their life changed at 4:35 pm, January 12, 2010. Their hard work, accomplishments, and sunshine disappearing into a cloud of dust. The mementos of their lives spent together, for better and for worse, crumbled into a thousand pieces in a matter of minutes. Only a small ray of sunshine was left- their youngest daughter.

Not only did the Maxine family lose every single one of their material possessions, they lost their two eldest daughters, 12 and 10. A happy family of five turned to a family of three within seconds. The youngest instantly became an only child. Their smiles immediately erased. Their lives changed forever.

What was turning out to be a normal afternoon in Port au Prince ended in tragedy. Father Alabre Maxine had just closed his store for the night, and was headed home. Mother Maxine was out fetching water from the well while two oldest daughters where inside studying- one in the dining room, the other in her bedroom. Youngest daughter was playing in the yard, waiting for Mother to come back with the water to cook dinner and bathe.

Then the ground split open. The family store crumbled to pieces. The house pancaked to the ground. The three children were lost, buried under the rubble. When the ground stopped shaking, they ran. Home. Mr. and Mrs. Maxine were distraught. They screamed out their daughters' names. They clawed at the heavy cement, hoping to hear them. Hoping to see them- catch a glimpse of their long, dark hair. Their pale, beautiful skin. Silence.

They dug and clawed all night. Through the darkness they blindly clung to any glimmer of hope and chance, but they faded as the sun rose. Then they heard a voice. A mouse's cry of salvation under the rubble. In a space no larger than a bucket, their glimmer of sunshine announced her life. She squeezed out of her grave by the grace of God physically unharmed. Her sixth year will be followed by a seventh. They lost everything but one, tiny ray of sunshine.

But now they struggle, still trying to climb out of the ruins of their life. For the past year, Alabre Maxine, his wife, and his only daughter have been sleeping on the floor of kind souls' homes. They left Port au Prince in hopes of starting over in Les Cayes. They can never return to Port au Prince- the thought of it causes the child to panic and cry. She is petrified of Port au Prince, the city that stole her sisters. He tries to find a job, she tries to find a place to stay for the night. Their comfortable life gone. They have been reduced to homeless beggars.

They need assistance. They need support. They need something to get them on their feet again. A new ray of sunshine. Something to help them as they heal and attempt to start over as a family of three. Formerly a family of five.


There are thousands and thousands of little feet in Les Cayes and up and down the coast that will be protected from the mud, bugs, and germs. Thank you, TOMS Shoes.

Not only are thousands of children sporting TOMS, EDUplus was able to provide four young men with temporary jobs distributing the shoes.

Let's hope TOMS is as happy as we are and they send us some more. Let me tell you- there is a high demand for TOMS around here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Something to be said...

Three things to never ask a woman: her age, her weight, her bra size.
Three things to never ask a man: if a woman is prettier than you, to take out the trash, his "shoe" size.
Three things to just never talk about in general: religion, politics, the health care system.

Not going there...but I am going to make reference- to our health care system.

Take a look at this face. Jean Raymond's face.

Sweet, meek, mild, Jean Raymond came to Espwa today with his Mother asking for medical assistance. Jean Raymond has lived his nine little years with this lip.

When I saw Jean Raymond I immediately thought of my youngest sister. My baby sister was born with a syndrome that blessed her with a pharangyeal flap in the back of her throat instead of showing on her lip. Because she was born in the United States, at age two, she was able to have a surgery to close the pallet, and after speech therapy, she was transformed into a typical little girl. But not Jean Raymond. I can't help but think...

We complain, we make comments, we hate it. But what is the alternative? Nine years of discomfort and people looking at you funny?
So what do we do? We look for a doctor from the good old U-S-of-A to help Jean Raymond out.
A doctor from the healthcare system we complain about, but keeps our children from suffering fixable pains.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Esthere and Westerline Bien-aime are sisters who exemplify their name- Beloved.

At four and possibly six, the only stability the two have known is the stability of their Mother’s love. They have never had the stability of a breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They have never had the stability of laying their head down on a pillow at night. They have never had the stability of a roof over their heads. Growing up on the streets with their mother, their tiny eyes have seen too much.

Each night they searched out a new shelter- an abandoned lottery stand, a fallen house. Each day they foraged for food. Then they found Espwa. Because of her love for her daughters, Esthere and Westerline’s mother asked Espwa to provide her Beloved with security.

Now, Esthere and Westerline go to school, receive three meals a day, and have a pillow to lay their heads on every night.
Now, they have Hope.

Sweet Mr. President Micky

The streets were packed. The noise level would blow your eardrums. The stakes raised high. The pink photos flying.

And not a soul wore a frown.

It is still hard to believe that after a year of suffering, pain, and feeling defeated, the people's voices were finally heard. The people finally came out on top. And, man, were they flying.

I found myself driving home in the middle of a Ra-Ra last night, just minutes after the announcement the South has been waiting for was made. The energy was intense. Children and adults alike paraded and celebrated the answer to their prayers. Sweet, Sweet Micky. His music was playing on the radio- the thrill of kompa a soundtrack to the day. It was beautiful.

Not sure how many of you know this... but Martelly and I go way back. My first encounter with him at a Bay Klub concert in Les Cayes a few years ago. My skin color was like a beacon of light attracting the artist to make small talk before his show. Over the years we haven't communicated on a regular basis, but just enough for me to realize that he really does hope to help his country. He and I have spoke of his Foundation and of Pwoje Espwa. Of how we both want to help the South and the children of Haiti.

Well now Martelly, here is your chance. Here is your chance to prove to your people that your song and dance were not just a show- but a foresight into the future. Here is your chance to show your faithful followers, the ones who suffered for you, that you will prevail. Here is your chance to bring your country, the one we all treasure, up out of the rubble. And we will be here to help you. We believe in you. In change. In Haiti.

So, please Sweet Mr. President Micky- call me!

Monday, April 4, 2011


Today is the day the results for the next President of Haiti will be announced.

Many people assume that because Haiti is a third world country, they lack access to the technology we are so accustomed to in the U.S. and all over the rest of the world. Those assumptions are wrong. Technology has played a huge part in this election process. Along with messages being thrown across the radio and television airwaves, text messages have taken over telephones. Right now, text rumor has it that Madame Manigat won the election 51%.

IF this is the case, and IF these results are given tonight... I am thinking it is going to be deja vu of December.

This morning coming into work I already saw a lot of UN cars and trucks patrolling the city and main road. People that can afford it have been stocking up on goods... just in case. Most schools were closed, though we held classes this morning.

We will see what happens tonight, after dark. Keep Haiti in your thoughts and prayers.

I will update as soon as possible.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


While traveling through La Savanne (The town of misery)
we happened upon this restaurant, Bondye Konn Tout Bagay (God Knows Everything Restaurant).


I am.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

28 Years

Today I celebrate 28 years of life.

I celebrate the family that gave me life, and has watched me grow for almost three decades. The family that has shaped me into who I am. Has taught me to be independent, strong willed, and compassionate. The family that has gently guided me along my journey. Has shared in my successes, errors, and tears. The family that has given me roots. Grounded me, and will continue to grow with me for decades to come.

Today I celebrate the friends of past, present, and future- the ones who have taken other paths, the ones who still walk beside me, and the ones that wait for me up ahead, to leave an impact on my journey.

Today I celebrate and accept the gifts of life. With open arms I receive the truth. The freshly picked flowers. The birthday wishes wrapped in smiles and hugs. The gift of dance, song, and art. With all the thanks of my being, I receive these gestures. The gestures that cannot be bought, but only given by Him and shared by His children.

Today I celebrate the 28th year of my life in Haiti. I carry the love of my family and friends from home in my heart, and see the love of my family and friends in Haiti in front of me. I feel the strength of the two combined in my soul.

As I look ahead to the next day of my 28th year, I feel secure. Secure in who I am, where I am going, and what the future has in store for me.

Thank you world, for celebrating the past 28 years with me.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Walking in Your Feet

If I spent the day walking in your feet, what would I see?

Would I struggle?
Through mud, water, and weeds?
Would I feel pain?
From glass, rocks, and debris?
Would my feet become callous?
From cuts too deep, and bruises too fresh?
If I spent the day walking in your feet, what would I see?

If you spent the day walking in my feet, do you know what you would see?
You would see hope.
You would feel comfort.
You would persevere.

But your feet are yours.
And my feet are mine.
I cannot take away your struggle.
I cannot take away your pain.
I cannot remove your callouses.

But take my shoes.
I will walk beside you.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Schweitzer Made It

I have been convinced that my blog posts are sent out into space and seen by umm.... my Mom... but apparently (and thankfully) I am wrong. I do have a few followers out there some of them being...

Our friends from Missouri (remember the ones that were stuck here during the manifestations in December?) and they safely made it to Espwa a short while ago.

Tonight we will be celebrating their arrival with the ever-popular... Spektak. (Singing, dancing, and guitar playing by our artistic children.)

It is always good to meet new friends, but even better to welcome old friends back.

So.. to the Schweitzer group- welcome home. And to new friends thinking of coming... N'ap tann ou. (We will be waiting.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011


The following are purely my observations that I have made over the past week in regards to the election-

* Real Men Wear Pink (and are bald)
* 70 year old women like loud rap music as long as it earns votes
* "Subliminal Messages" in order to persuade voters consists of people screaming into megaphones
* Haitians are poetic and can compose more "You need to Vote" jingles than I have fingers and toes
* Candidates had better be photogenic because their face will be posted in obscure places
* When Haitians start to sing and dance, the UN starts to get nervous
* Tear gas does not scare Haitians
* Motorcycle parades can stop traffic
* Election day takes a lot of preparation- don't plan on shopping the day before
* Nobody is above bribery

Election Day Tomorrow.

The U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince issued the following Warden Message on March 18, 2011:

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti is issuing this Warden Message to remind the U.S. Citizen Community in Haiti of the potential for elections-related violence throughout Haiti for the duration of the elections period. Such civil disturbances can erupt quickly anywhere and without warning, and often are associated with the release of elections news. Disturbances may include attacks on government or private facilities, residences, and businesses. Violent acts are often politically motivated and while attacks may target specific people or interests, the potential for bystanders suffering collateral damage can be great. U.S. citizens should have plans for sheltering in place in the event that civil unrest limits their travel and access to transportation links and businesses.

U.S. citizens are advised to use the days leading up to Election Sunday (March 20th) to buy groceries, supplies, and any other necessities to be prepared should civil disturbances disrupt normal travel and commerce. The Embassy also recommends against all non-essential travel and outings on Election Sunday. It is expected that local law enforcement assets will be used to secure polling stations thereby diminishing their response capability for travelers in the event of an emergency. Please monitor your radio, email accounts, and SMS messages for any security announcements.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Election Time.

Well, the day we all have been waiting for is just around the corner.

A week from today, Haitians will vote on their next president. Who will it be? Former first lady, Madame Mirelande Manigat? Or popular international Kompa singer, Michel Martelly (Sweet Micky)? The campaigning has really picked up a notch the past couple weeks, and Ra-Ra's (parades) for preferred candidates have been spotted throughout the streets. One thing is for sure- Martelly is the candidate of choice here in the South. His bright pink "Vote for Me" signs are pasted everywhere from electrical posts to motorcycles to donkeys.

Last night, in an attempt to boost her supporters in the South, 70 year old Manigat threw a concert in Les Cayes... with Haitian Rap Kreyol groups as the performers. She also strategically placed extremely large trucks, sporting extremely large speakers, spreading extremely loud Rap/ Top 20's music until 1 am all over Les Cayes. Did I hear it? You bet I did... Manigat, bless her heart, placed one of said trucks directly across the street from my house... I felt like I was INSIDE of the speakers. (Think she was trying to win over the younger generation?)

Not my best night sleep. If I could, I would vote for "Tet Kale" (The bald guy) just because he did not disturb my beauty sleep.

So who do you think it will be? Madame Manigat- matron of Rap? ... Or #8, Tet Kale (the bald guy) Sweet Micky?

Stay tuned...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring is in the Air!

Kind of a silly post... but I couldn't help myself!

This morning a little brown goat came up to greet me while I was drinking my coffee.

"I am going to call you Chocolate!" I told the goat.

Not but thirty seconds later, a little white goat came up to greet me.

"And I am going to call you Vanilla!"

And wouldn't you know it... three seconds after that came the smallest of them all...



A child that holds a special place in my heart and my Mom's- Fery. Mom, this picture was ordered to be sent to you. Your Godchild turns 17 at the end of this month. Can you believe it?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Local TOMS Distribution

In order to assist with the distribution of THOUSANDS of Kiddy TOMS Shoes, EDUplus has decided to provide four Espwa graduates with an opportunity for a part time job distributing shoes in impoverished neighborhoods in and around Les Cayes.

Directed by Mackentoche, the guys have contacted the local mayors of the cities to gain their approval to distribute TOMS Shoes to children house by house. Every afternoon, the guys take their notebook, shoes, and head out. They are recording the neighborhood in which they distribute, the name of each child from each house, and the size shoe each child receives.

The response has been extremely positive. The community is excited to receive the gifts for the children, the children love their shoes, and the guys feel a sense of pride and responsibility for Espwa and TOMS. It has been great.

Below are a few pictures of the distributions in Fon Fred and Madame Comb.

We hope to continue to build a relationship with TOMS and allow for these four young guys to continue to earn a little bit of money part time. It's amazing the sense of community and togetherness that can be built with something as small as a pair of shoes.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I was in town the other day, and, like any other day in town, I was approached by a couple 'street kids'. I had seen them before, well, maybe not their particular eyes and smile, but "them"- the torn clothes that look like rags, the dust covered feet, the empty hand outstretched. "Them". Their presence can feel claustrophobic, their words can fall on deaf ears. Street kids.

When they called out "amingo" (friend in "spanish"), I turned, winked, and kept walking. I was in a bit of a hurry. Again, they did not seem familiar to me, as so many of them have come to be. The first one called out again and held up his rag. The second one told me to "give him one dollar". I shook my head and continued walking. As I walked away, the conversation between the two went something like this-

"Paige said don't ask for money. Paige said if you help someone, like dust off a car or carry a box you will get money. But don't beg. Help."


I guess I had seen those particular eyes and smile before. I guess my words hadn't fallen of deaf ears like their words often fall on others'.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Women's Day

To some, today means Tuesday. To others, it means Mardi Gras... Fat Tuesday... or Spring Break. In Haiti, today is Women's Day. Today we recognize the women of the world. The mothers, sisters, nieces, and daughters. Today, the women of Espwa celebrated with our sisters in the Les Cayes prison.

Bearing gifts of lotion, soap, and sanitary napkins, myself, Linda, our child care director Bernonie, and a team of young college girls from North Carolina loaded up our vehicle to celebrate the life of Woman. Our friend from the UN, Danielle, and a Les Cayes policewoman were able to arrange a small "party"- juice and an hour and a half outside of their cell- to honor the women incarcerated. It was a moment of solidarity. Led by an inmate with the face of an angel, we sang, danced, presented our gifts, and Bernonie gave a speech worth remembering:

"...Today is our day. Today, all women unite. The merchant women in the streets carrying baskets of fruit... The women at home caring for their children... the women working desk jobs... the teachers, the police officers, the prisoners. Today, we are one. Today, we remember our rights. Our rights that allow us to never be defeated. Our rights that give us the power to speak our minds. Our rights that will let nobody take advantage of us. Our right to say no. Today we gather together. Today is our day..."

Today, we weren't American women, Canadian UN women, Haitian policewomen, and Incarcerated women.
Today, we were just women.
Today, we were one.

Monday, March 7, 2011


This is Dikenson. Dikenson was a "child of Espwa" way back in the day- before I started coming. When he was a teenager, he decided to move to Port au Prince, and then the Dominican Republic. He was doing well in the DR as a plumber's assistant until his accident.

Dikenson's roommate had been fighting with his girlfriend, and as revenge, the girlfriend decided to go to her boyfriend's house and throw battery acid on him... only Dikenson answered the door, not the boyfriend. Thankfully, Dikenson had quick reflexes and turned his head, protecting it from the burn to come. The acid dripped down his neck, back, and shoulder, burning through him. (You can see some of the scarring on his neck.) After a year of surgery, skin graphs, and physical therapy, Dikenson has healed well. He is now back in Les Cayes, frequenting Espwa daily in hopes of finding a job.

He has trouble raising his arm, making physical activity difficult, but he is eager to work. Dikenson came back from the DR scarred and discouraged, and was welcomed by his grandmother and his seven nieces and nephews to take care of. He is struggling to help them, but is feeling defeated. I wish that we could offer him a job, but we are not in a place to do so right now. Sometimes, life here is extremely hard.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Got a phone call yesterday from the prison- they were out of food. Thankfully, we have a small amount of food on reserve right now, and I was able to jump in the car with Linda and Jhony to bring them 20 boxes of vitamin-enriched rice. This will last 2 days.

Upon arrival, I spoke to a friend who works with the Canadian UN at the prison. They are there in hopes of providing "training and assistance" to improve the police system in Haiti. Is it working? To quote my friend- "some days we take three steps forward... and then the next day we take four steps back." My friend said that the reason there is no food in the prison is because there are "administrative issues"... what does this mean?

It means that the administration in PaP is behind on their payments for the food and delivery company that delivers food to the prisons. So they are refusing to deliver any more food. The Les Cayes head chief of police went to PaP for a meeting today. He learned that they will not be receiving any more food until PaP decides to pay their outstanding bill.

This is RIDICULOUS!! Who is ultimately suffering here? Not the administrative staff who will go home and have a nice meal of rice and beans. Not the delivery company who will get to go home and sit around a table with their family. But the prisoners- the children, the women, and the men in prison are going to starve to death because of an administrative battle.

My friend from the UN said that even the head of police is purchasing food out of his own pocket to feed the prisoners. The UN is looking into other organizations that would be willing to send food to the prison. But... as we often find... who wants to help prisoners? They deserve to be suffering, right?... They deserve to starve to death in hell, right?...

Does anyone out there know a journalist who needs a story? How about this one- "Haitian Prisoners Starve Until Pockets Filled."

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Little Bit Goes a Long Way

There are many critiques flying around accusing organizations in Haiti of not quickly spending the funds that were raised after the earthquake last year. I love that I can say that that is not the case here.

A couple days ago I posted on Facebook that two students needed bicycles to make it to school on time. Bikes are very popular here, especially when you have to travel a few miles to and from work/school everyday.

Within the hour of me posted the request for $25 per bike- I got a response. Immediate action was taken.

Thank you, Shelly, for your generosity. Here is Ricardo with his new bike. (I haven't seen Mathias yet.) I wish you could have seen the smile on his face when I brought it out.

He sends a short message- "Thank you, and God bless you. You have given me, and my legs, a huge gift. Many, many thanks."

He rode his bike out of here with such pride (we even got him a lock so he can lock it up at school). And at what cost- $25. Thank you, Shelly.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Carnival... aka Haiti's Version of Mardi Gras

For those of you that would like to learn a little more about "Haitian Mardi Gras", I found this message from the Embassy pretty interesting. Haven't had much happening here in Les Cayes yet, but this weekend there will be a few concerts to start the kick-off.

The U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince issued the following Warden Message on February 22, 2011:

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti is issuing this Warden Message to inform the U.S. Citizen Community in Haiti that this year’s Carnival celebrations are officially scheduled to take place in Port-au-Prince from March 5 – 8. While these are the “official” dates for Carnival, traditionally festivities begin several weeks prior, running all the way through to the final day. This year is no exception, and Carnival celebrations have already begun on Sunday evenings. It is expected that all the carnival-related inconveniences (traffic, random “Ra-Ra” bands in the streets, road closures, crowds, etc.) will increase as the official dates approach.


As part of these celebrations Ra-Ra Bands will be out in the streets, with increased frequency on Sunday afternoons and evenings leading up to Carnival. Bands generally remain non-violent, but band members may crowd around vehicles, blocking them in, banging on windows, cracking bull whips, twirling knives and machetes, and making a lot of noise. It can be a potentially dangerous situation.

If while driving you should get caught in a Ra-Ra band, you are advised to do the following:

· Keep windows rolled up and the doors locked
· Put the car in park until the band passes. You will be in the most danger if you attempt to drive through the crowd.

Ra-Ra Bands will continue to be found in various parts of the city and countryside every Sunday through Easter.


This year’s annual celebration of Carnival is expected to bring tens of thousands of partygoers and observers who aim to partake in the fun these festivities have to offer. Carnival usually means large, raucous, crowds of revelers , many of whom are intoxicated. While Carnival can be a fun, it is also inherently dangerous. To avoid danger, revelers are advised to exercise good judgment and good personal security awareness.

Strong-arm robberies, assaults, and pick pocketing remain the most likely threats against those who are victimized by crime at Carnival.

Special care should be taken if visiting the area around Champ-de-Mars, which is the traditional Carnival area. There and elsewhere, we recommend the following security precautions:


· American citizens are strongly advised to take advantage of private or “controlled access” viewing stands or vantage points on private property as a means of viewing Carnival parades and festivities, if at all possible.

· When at all possible, avoid walking through, or stopping in the large crowds of people that amass immediately adjacent to, and along the routes of Carnival processions. Stay to the periphery of condensed activity, as these areas are to be considered safer in general.

· Avoid getting swept into “Ra-Ra” band groups. These spontaneous celebrations tend to be especially raucous and are prime opportunities for criminal elements to take advantage of the unsuspecting participant or observer.

· Travel in groups, and stay in groups for the duration of the event. Never leave any person alone in a large crowd with plans to “meet up” later.

· Keep a cell phone at all times at a minimum, with emergency contact numbers programmed. It is also recommended that you carry a flashlight.

· Avoid wearing flashy or expensive jewelry.

· Keep money and wallets in front pocket. Avoid taking purses or other bags, and refrain from putting bags on the ground or hanging loosely from one shoulder.

· Keep your identification on you at all times.

· STAY ON MAIN ROADS. Do not take “shortcuts” when walking to or from the event. Stay on the main roads AT ALL TIMES, even if it is not the most convenient route. Most crimes against persons at events like this occur before or after the event, when people wander onto dark side streets to get back to their vehicle.

· Anticipate gridlock. Ensure that you leave adequate time to return to your residence.

· Avoid confrontations of any type, and quickly move away from any incident of violence or overzealous behavior that might trap you or otherwise risk injury to you. Know your best route of escape and be prepared to move in that direction.

· Have a plan. In the instance your group is separated, have a pre-determined rally point, along with a drop-dead time to meet at the end of the night.

· In the event of emergency, call the local authorities and ACS or the embassy duty officer immediately.

American citizens must clearly understand that security conditions in Port-au-Prince can literally change in a matter of moments. While Carnival is intended to be a fun and positive cultural experience, some inherent threats persist. By adhering to these recommendations, American citizens can mitigate many of these threats, thereby allowing for a much more positive and safe experience in Haiti.

Monday, February 21, 2011


This is Jahson.

He is sleeping on a yoga mat on the floor beside me. He has exhausted himself from screaming all morning. He is, at least temporarily, our newest Espwa Child. He doesn't want to be though. He wants to be with his mommy.

To be honest, though we already love him, we would rather him be with his mommy too.

This is one of the hardest parts about living here- seeing the love in the eyes of families, seeing the suffering from lack of care, seeing the pain in the separation, and knowing there is nothing we can do but take him- at least for now.

Jahson's mother was crying when I carried screaming Jahson away. She is young, though she doesn't know exactly her age. She doesn't know Jahson or his siblings' ages either. She doesn't know when her late husband passed away. She is just trying to survive.

Because she loves Jahson and his brother so much, she is begging us to take him. She is not begging us to take him because she doesn't love him. There are a lot of people that don't understand the suffering that Haitian mothers go through. They mistake handing their children over as lack of love, when really, it is the greatest form of love that they know. It is the love and hope that their child will be happy, healthy, safe, and educated. It is not, I repeat, not because they don't care about their child.

I am positive that if you asked all of the mothers in Haiti that have children living in "orphanages", organizations similar to Espwa, or as restaveks, to choose between caring for their child at home with financial assistance, or giving their child up to someone else's care- nine out of ten would choose the former. Because nine out of ten don't want to be separated from their child. Can you blame them?

It bothers me so much to hear about "orphanages" that say that they are "saving children" by taking them away from their families. The last thing Haiti needs is another orphanage. What Haiti needs is assistance to keep families together- not pull them apart.

Espwa is in the process of working on a strong, effective sponsorship program. One that will assist students in need, children that are truly orphaned, and provide assistance to families that want to stay together but just can't afford to. Our goal is to get this program going in the near future.

After all, our reason for being here is to provide the assistance Haiti truly needs.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Say a Prayer

Fourteen months ago, my friend was arrested. He was arrested because claims were made that he threatened the life of another person. While under the influence of alcohol, he spoke loosely about this other person in a threatening manner. A few days later, the person's car was "shot at". Nobody saw the shooter, nobody saw the gun, nobody was witness to the crime, and nobody else was in the car.

Jah Roro was arrested along with a few other people. The other people were set free. Jah Roro is still a prisoner.

Now, fourteen months later, he still has not stood before a judge to receive his sentence. This is not uncommon. Most of the people in prison do not deserve to be serving the sentences they have received- assuming they have received a sentence.

For the past fourteen months, Jah Roro has been living in a closet sized cell with, at the least crowded times, 30 other "criminals". For the past fourteen months, Jah Roro's skin has become pale and ashy from the lack of sunlight. For the past fourteen months, Jah Roro's eyes have become yellow from malnutrition. For the past fourteen months, Jah Roro has been able to put his face to the sun for a generous hour per week. For the past fourteen months, Jah Roro has slept in shifts due to the lack of space in the cell. He has been stripped of his dignity- toileted in a bucket with no toilet paper. He has bathed out of a bucket, reaching through the bars of his cell to clean his rag and wet his soap. He has passed his urine through the bars in a cup to be dumped outside. For the past fourteen months, Jah Roro has seen an earthquake, hurricane, cholera, and election riots from inside a cell. He has watched prison-mates come and go. Some set free in the physical sense, others sent back to their maker. For the past fourteen months, Jah Roro has been living in hell.

Yesterday, Jah Roro felt his first glimmer of home in over a year. Yesterday, Linda and I met with a friend of hers who is a lawyer. He generously dropped his Friday afternoon workload, went to speak with Jah Roro in prison, and has agreed to meet with a criminal justice judge on Monday morning. Hopefully to set him free.

Until then, we pray. To whomever you pray to or find your peace in, please dedicate one of those moments to Jah Roro. Pray that he will be released from hell.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Farrah's Family

Remember Farrah from Father Marc's blog? Our newest little girl? Well, this is her family, as well as reality.

Farrah became an Espwa Child after Farrah's mother begged us to take her. She begged us to take Farrah, not because she was being a bad mother- but because she was being a good one. Farrah's "stepfather" (the man that employed Farrah's mother) became abusive. But only abusive towards Farrah, a child not of his blood. The three year old has two younger sisters, both products of the "stepfather", or more accurately, the Farrah's mother's employer.

Farrah's mother, age 33, is now homeless. She and her two youngest daughters left the man after Farrah became an Espwa Child. They are now living on the floor of a good samaritan in Les Cayes. She is desperate to find a job, rent a small space of her own, and get her life back on track.

It would be ideal if we could assist Farrah's mother from home, so her family would not be broken. But unfortunately, the ideal is oftentimes not the reality.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Beatrice Judith

Beatrice Judith was born on Tuesday, February 8 at 3 am.

Her parents asked Father Marc and myself to name her. Father Marc chose "Beatrice"- it sounds beautiful when said in Creole. I chose "Judith"- after my Grandmother.

I saw her today, her fourth day of life, and she is a healthy little one! She must not weigh more than 6 pounds, but boy does she like to "dance".

Welcome to the world, Beatrice Judith!

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Mother's Battle

Tears roll down her cheeks as she hands over the birth certificate. Singular because one is missing. According to the records, one child doesn't exist. But the child's four (maybe, she doesn't quite remember) young years say otherwise. She hugs the little angels in white dresses tightly as she speaks. She speaks of her struggles. Her losses. In her thirty five years she has been abandoned by a husband, buried her sixteen year old daughter, given up another child to a "godparent", and now struggles to hand over her two babies.

The little girls smile up at her as she hugs them while she continues to give him information. She wipes away a tear, but the love in her eyes remains. She hears the littlest' tummy rumble. The mother tries to remember the last time they ate. She can't. She stretches her neck. They slept on the ground last night. The roof almost covered their heads. But the rain didn't fall- something to be thankful for.

He sets down his pencil and says he will give her an answer shortly. The proper steps must be taken, though everyone can see this situation is desperate. The child's tummy rumbles again. He shakes her hand- the hand not wiping away a tear. She thanks him, and says she will be waiting for a response.

As she leaves her head and her heart battle one another. If she leaves them, they will have a bed to sleep in. But she won't be able to kiss them goodnight. If she leaves them, they will receive medicine when they are sick. But she won't be able to hug away the pain. If she leaves them, they will eat three times a day. But she won't be able to say grace with them. If she leaves them, they will go to school. But she won't be able to celebrate their success. Her head and her heart battle one another.

She knows that in order for them to have a better life, she must give the Hope. But giving them Hope will leave her with loneliness.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dylan DeLisle

One of my favorite things in the world is to hear about how Espwa makes other people feel.

Back in October, Dylan DeLisle visited Pwoje Espwa with her mother, cousin, and a wonderful group of friends. Dylan fit right into Espwa, and did a wonderful job leading CPR classes with her mother, Shelly, painting the girls nails, playing soccer with the boys, and possibly more important than everything else I listed- helped me take care of Snoopy. (If you look back on my blog in October you can see some of the pictures.)

Dylan recently sent me an email with a poem she wrote about Espwa, and I thought I would share it with you!

(Yes, that is Snoopy... and no, he is not still that small.... he is about 4 times that big now. He's my big, athletic dog.)


Sunlight pooled
Around the faded blue walls,
Making them look like
An oasis.

Children scrambled
Over the gravel stones,
Their textured feet giving
Them grip on
The jagged terrain.

Nearby a goat bleated
Fluttered about.

Green and yellow
Cement buildings stood
Surrounded by a high
Wall; barracks of
Brightly colored concrete.

Inside the walls,
More young ones
Sang as they
Jumped rope,
Their beaded string
Clicking the beat
Of their tune
Smoke pooled out
Of the kitchen
Into the bright
November sky,
Bringing the scent
Of roasted meat
To the gravel

Sights and sounds
Carried a sense of
And to the
This place was absolutely

Rang like a bell
Filling the surrounding
Structures with
Sweet music.

The establishment truly
Lived up to its name:

Pwoje Espwa.
Project Hope.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Preval's Last Day

Today is supposed to be Preval's last day...

This is how people are reacting in PaP and other areas. (Les Cayes is calm)

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince is issuing this Warden Message to inform the U.S. citizen community that there are reports of barricades and demonstrators on Route de Freres between the Petionville Cemetery and Delmas 95. Stones are being thrown at passing motorists. There are demonstrations and burning barricades also occurring in the following locations: downtown Port-au-Prince; Artibonite Department, on Rte. Nationale#1, in the area of L’Estere between St. Marc & Gonaives; and Northern Department, in the city of Cap-Haitien, on the bridge leading to the airport. These are areas the Embassy is aware of at the moment. However, U.S. citizens should be aware that protests and demonstrations may occur in other areas without warning.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Happy Sunday

Whether it be God, Buddha, the spirit within you, or the a star in the sky...

may the day bring you peace and joy.


Thursday, February 3, 2011


Tiburon is located about four hours from Les Cayes, along the western coast. It is a small community tucked into the base of a mountain. To me, Tiburon is the "Park City, UT" of Haiti. It's cobblestone streets and town square give it a quaint, friendly feel.

Currently, there are hundreds affected by cholera. It is hard for treatment to reach the small city because of the road condition. Once in the city, there are many, many small communities that can only be reached by foot making it difficult to mobilize the people that are suffering. At this point in time, the closest CTC (Cholera Treatment Center) is in Les Anglais, which is about two hours away via good vehicle on a dirt road.

Though the situation is beginning to stabilize, it is still sad. The last time I went to Tiburon, about two and a half weeks ago, we only had one third of our students in school. Their families were either scared to send their children to school, there is a family member that has cholera, or the child himself has cholera.

We have been attempting to work with an organization to get some immediate help to Tiburon for those in need. Hopefully I will have an update for you soon.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Again... really?

Warden Message No. 141
Potential for Elections-Related Violence

U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince issued the following Warden Message on February 2, 2011:

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince is issuing this Warden Message to remind U.S. citizens of the potential for elections-related violence throughout Haiti for the duration of the elections period. Such civil disturbances can erupt quickly anywhere and without warning, and often are associated with the release of elections news. Dates that could be flashpoints for public protests include February 2 and 7. On these and other dates related to the electoral process and the upcoming second round of elections, disturbances may include attacks on government or private facilities, residences, and businesses. Violent acts are often politically motivated and while attacks may target specific people or interests, the potential for bystanders suffering collateral damage can be great.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

EDUplus English Class Party

We recently celebrated one successful semester for the EDUplus English Class by throwing a small party. (The party was supposed to be in December, but had to be delayed due to the manifestations.)

The director and teachers planned the affair, complete with two homemade cakes and music. It was a nice way for the teachers to spend time with their students on an informal level, congratulating them for their hard work. Thanks to EDUplus donors for making this event a huge success!

Director and teachers happily serving pate, juice, and cake to their students.
From left to right: Director Sonson, Teachers Kens, Judex, Enock, Machentoche, Biondy, and Junior

The teachers singing and dancing with the students.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Building Codes in Haiti

This came up in my email from the State Department, and then I also was talking to some people here about how there is a new "building code book" in Haiti. The book mentions requirements that buildings will have in order to ensure the structures are safe.

Now the question is... Will people follow them? I know we will at Espwa.

U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince issued the following Warden Message on January 28, 2011:

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince is issuing this Warden Message to inform the U.S. citizen community in Haiti that it is difficult to verify if buildings here are constructed to U.S. or other international standards. Further, the resource capability of the Haitian Government to certify structural standards and to otherwise enforce particular building codes is very limited. Generally, the public must rely upon certifications by the builders and architects themselves, or third party engineering consultants.

Following the earthquake, the Department of State’s Overseas Building Office (OBO) performed limited visual inspections of certain private structures frequented by official and non-official Americans, to observe the condition of buildings following the earthquake and of any subsequent repairs undertaken by the owners. These visits were observational only and cannot be used to substitute for a formal structural evaluation process.

Neither the Embassy nor OBO has made an official determination that any school in Haiti meets or does not meet U.S. or international building standards. OBO is not able to make official determinations about the safety of foreign schools. In Haiti, as at other posts worldwide, OBO relies upon the owners of private structures, including schools, to certify the seismic and structural integrity of their buildings.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

TOMS for Consolation Center

Long time friend, Edy Constant started his own girls orphanage not too long ago. We partner with him as often as we can. We share food, clothing, and offer assistance in other areas when we can, and Edy does the same. Recently, we were able to provide his younger girls with TOMS Shoes.

Nancy, Sandey and I had such a great time with the girls. Nancy painted nails while Sandey and I "fit feet."

It's funny because there are so many people so eager to help Haiti, and yet, nobody wants to collaborate. Being here as long as I have, I have met many, many people, all with good intentions and hopes for Haiti. I have met people wanting to start a business in Haiti to boost the economy, I have met people wanting to work on the agriculture in Haiti, and I have met people wanting to start their own orphanages in Haiti. All of these people have big hearts, otherwise they wouldn't be here.

Unfortunately, the majority of these groups want to be THE group that saves Haiti. Unfortunately, the majority of these groups think they know what is best for the country and people of Haiti without really spending time learning about the culture, other than what they see and hear in the news or their short visits. Unfortunately, ego gets in the way of many of these groups, and eventually they fall.

The thing I love about visiting Edy and his girls is that he has vision. He works with the people in his community, as well as in the greater Les Cayes area, trying to connect others and collaborate. Much like Father Marc and Espwa, he doesn't have ego. He doesn't try to "save Haiti". He does what he can do as he can do it. And that is why he is successful.

"tet ansamn, n'ap rive." Heads together and we will prosper. That is what Haiti, and all well intentioned people need to remember.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Website

Check out the new Free the Kids website, and see these two little beauties and more!