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.