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!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Day Trip With Friends

This day trip is making it onto the blog a little late... but better late than never, right?

While Nancy and Sandey were here, we took a day trip with our Espwa Children up the coast to Aux Coteaux. The trip was to celebrate a job well done for our children that participated in the Espwa Nan Nwel Christmas Show. It was such a great day, and something that we are not able to do very often with the children. My favorite part about this trip (being that I am a teacher, so by default a natural learner) is that we didn't take the children on a field trip to the beach to play and sunbathe, we took them on a field trip to educate them.

Aux Coteaux is up the western coast, about an hour and a half away from Les Cayes. The city is relatively small, but one of the larger in that area. There is a monument there called the "500 mach"- the Five Hundred Steps. This monument is literally 500 steps built into the side of the mountain that leads up to a statue of Mary and Jesus on the cross. Along the way are signs with religious "food for thought".

Once we finally reached the top... Nancy and I were a little slower than Sandey and the boys... the view was unbelievably beautiful and peaceful.

I am also happy to announce that though they are not pictured, all of our Children and Chaperones made it to the top as well. Some of the little ones even ran up barefoot! (When I asked them why barefoot they said it was because they didn't have the shoes to hold them back... whatever.)

To celebrate making it to the top of 500 steps, we had a huge soccer match/cook out at a local school yard- complete with DJ Tigre (our driver). Some of the older guys decided to take on the "locals"... and of course won!

Overall, and I don't think Nancy and Sandey will argue, it was a really, really great day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In a Good Mood

I'm in such a good mood, and haven't been able to figure out why...
I just realized... wouldn't you be in a good mood if you got to see these little faces every day?
Sandey, Farrah and Gerda miss you!

Our Little Superstar

If you don't recognize this face- WAKE UP!!
This is Platel. Our little superstar singer/songwriter. He is 11, and wrote an absolutely beautiful song about his country. It is on YouTube, so check it out if you haven't. (I would attach it but the Internet won't let me.)

Platel has so much talent that he has even turned a few heads in the States. My dear friend Mikey is working on teaching his music students his song, and also composed the music to go with the song. We are trying to get his song to turn some major heads... Usher? Wyclef?...

My only requirement for this to happen- he is not allowed to become a child pop star and forget about the country he wrote about.

Copy and Paste this link to see his video:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Website Update

Many of you know, and some of you don't...

Amanda and I started our own non-profit organization last year- EDUplus Inc.
Our main purpose is to assist Pwoje Espwa Sud, especially in the areas of education and transitional youth.
We are still small, and hope to stay that way for the time being, but we are proud of it.
We have some amazing friends, and friends of friends, that are supporting our cause and helping us launch our new endeavor.

I updated the website today- please check it out, and make a donation if you wish. ALL of the money goes to support the organization we know and love- Pwoje Espwa Sud.



I am going to take a minute to piggy back off of Sandey's latest blog post ( about the prison and Baby Doc.

Honestly, I am confused... and I don't think I am the only one. I am confused about why Baby Doc is back in the country. I am confused about why he decided to come now. I am confused about the positive reaction he is receiving from some people. And I am confused about the non-reaction he is receiving from even more people.

Like Sandey said, there are thousands of prisoners right now rotting away inhumanely in the prisons all over the country, serving an unknown sentence for crimes that don't even compare to his, and Mr. Baby Doc just waltzes right back into the country like Haiti actually missed him... and the thing is... some people act like they have! I don't get it.

Take a look at the picture above. Look at the beauty Sandey captured in setting sun in Haiti. Think about the beauty in the setting sun right outside your own door. Imagine if someone took that away from you. Took away the simple pleasure in enjoying the fresh air and the sunset. Or what about the sunrise? Imagine someone took that away from you. Baby Doc did that to tens of thousands of people during his regime. He took away the sunrise and the sunset. He took away life. And life is still being taken away right now, as we speak, while the prisoners slowly die inside a box.

I love Haiti. I love the people. I love the countryside. I love the food. The music. The work. But sometimes, I just don't understand it.

But it doesn't mean I won't stop trying to understand.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Want to help these guys... (pretend I'm not in the picture)
transform these containers...

into housing for our young adults? Make a donation at and 100% of your donation will go to the Upcycle Living Container Houses at Pwoje Espwa Sud.

Jason and Ashton, business partners in Upcycle Living have committed to building permanent housing for our young adults at Pwoje Espwa Sud. They just spent the past few days here surveying the land, getting to know the children and Pwoje Espwa, and are excited to get the process rolling! I will keep you posted on progress.

Monday, January 17, 2011

TOMS at Espwa!

Lots and lots of happy little feet this past week.

We finally launched our distribution of TOMS Shoes here at Pwoje Espwa Sud. Close to 400 Espwa preschoolers (residents and outside students) received a new pair of school shoes. This is a huge gift, as many of you know from past posts, because shoes are a very costly expense, and not all of our children own a pair of shoes. With this wonderful gift, children are guaranteed to at least have a pair of shoes to wear to school.

This was a family effort- distributing to the Espwa preschool.

Here is Father Marc finding just the right fit for one of our little guys.

Berthony, our Executive Director, puts a new pair of TOMS on Estanley.

Here I am trying to get one of our neighbor girls properly fitted.

Gifts from the Heart

Oftentimes the most meaningful gifts are not extravagant, expensive, and they can fit in the palm of your hand. But they are the most meaningful because they come from the heart.

When I was in college I taught preschool at a little center in Ahwatukee, Arizona. I made quite a few little friends there, but over the years, through no fault of our own, we lost touch. Well, while I was home for Christmas, I was so blessed to be able to reconnect with a couple of my little students- who are not so little anymore. Emily and Claire were 3 and 1 when I last saw them, and now they are 10 and 8, and have become even more beautiful and thoughtful over the years.

Over dinner with the Caviolo family, we talked about Haiti, and my new little friends. Emily and Claire were both so moved by the fact that our little girls here don't really have any toys to play with. They both jumped out of their chairs, ran to their rooms, and returned with handfuls of "Squeenkies" (the next Beanie-Baby I am told). They insisted that I take their cherished Squeenkies (even a couple sparkly ones) back with me to the Espwa girls. They assured me they would be a hit. They were right.

The joy our little ladies felt when they got their small little pets was priceless, and what made it even more special was that they came from little friends in Arizona.

Thank you, Emily and Claire. I promise you your Squeenkies are in good hands. :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

January 12, 2011

On January 12, 2010 I was in Arizona, but my heart was in Haiti, breaking alongside the rest of the country.

One year later, both me and my heart were in Haiti, grieving, remembering, and celebrating the trials, tribulations, and successes of the past year.

Unlike 2010, January 12, 2011 passed with family and friends gathered close to one another praying and giving thanks to the life we, the human race, have. Yes, we cried. How could we not? Haiti as we knew it forever changed one year ago on that day. Lives were lost, lives were changed, and hearts were broken. But life went on.

Not one person was left untouched by the day that put Haiti on the map. And not one person has forgotten the suffering felt in the months that followed. Still, our brothers and sisters suffer.

But they also live. We all do. And we forever carry the tragedy with us. But even as we carry that tragic burden on our backs- we grow.

On January 12, 2011, Pwoje Espwa Sud gathered as one. We grieved and celebrated together. We felt the spirits and prayers of our loved ones lost, our friends and families around the world, and Him with us all together in that room as one. We were all moved to tears.

As the years go on, and we continue to grow and live, we will never forget that first anniversary of the day that changed Haiti.

Nou pap jamn bliye'w.

Photos beautifully done by Sandey Tenuto.