Day 4 – Wednesday May 15, 2013

Sr. Martha and I went to Marie Madeleine to visit first the school ‘Ecole Frederic Ozanam’ under the leadership of Marielle Dominique.

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She has a three room school, a transitory or preparatory school to remediate the older students before they can be mainstreamed to regular school.  I read ‘Kabrit Mawon’ for a class and had them orally formulate additional pages for the book.

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The children from this school go to the Cantine of St. Catherine de Laboure located in the vicinity.  This center mainly provides a meal and entertainment for the elderly.  There are about fifty seniors who attend, and about 3 unable to come to the center who receive food at home.  In that facility they provide medical care to children for three days and others for two days. Sr. Mathilde from Italy has been doing this assignment for 6 years.  About 90 people show up on a daily basis to eat and chat with one another.

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In the clinic, Sr. Marie Rose takes care of those coming for medical care.  100 individuals or more come for services.

We proceeded afterwards to Cite Soleil.  I sang with the kids in the yard then we visited the facility with Sr. Monica de Juan, Sr. Servant, who has been in Haiti for the past three years.

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Me with the students in the school yard

The facility has 350 Kindergarteners, 750 elementary students, and 50 undernourished kids, plus 100 follow up cases.  The center works with the mothers and teaches them sewing under the supervision of Sr. Milagros who has been doing this for 40 years.
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The shop gets orders and sells the items—aprons, napkins, table cloth, cards done on material or banana leaves.
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Sr. Amelia from Paraguay takes care of the school– St. Louise de Marillac & Marguerite Nau. The facility has a high rate of theft, and the children get practically no support from home– some parents are illiterate, some too busy surviving, and others may be ‘chimeres’ part of gangs. The community in this neighborhood does not understand the need to protect the institution that is providing service to their children. The individuals’ safety and survival override any other concern for tomorrow.  The area is so dangerous even the MINUSTAH, I am told, refuses to enter these surroundings.

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Armed Minustah

[Side note:] Speaking of the MINUSTAH, I wonder why that force of heavy armed men is still in Haiti.  Whose interest are they defending?  It does not seem that they are providing protection to the citizens of Haiti who are not involved in civil warfare.  They are not there to help the people build anything, but spend money that could probably best serve the need of the poor people.  For the number of years they’ve been in the country, have they even trained a new police force to take over when they leave? Is there a plan and date for their withdrawal?

Many students come to school to get that one hot meal. The Haitian $400 ($80 US) a year for tuition provides: food, clothes, books.  The mission has about 42 employees.

While snapping pictures, a little girl told me:  “Please take my picture to make me beautiful!”  I answered: “You are already beautiful but I will take a picture to remind me of your beauty.”  She smiled.

In the afternoon, Sr. Martha and I drove around the different compounds sponsored by Rick Frechette.  We went inside St. Damien Hospital.  The grounds there are well manicured and immaculate.

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I had a quick meeting with the Director of the alphabetization classes, Jean Pierre Nau, who monitors The Rosalie  Rendi and Vincent de Paul schools.  There are 270 students.   The classes are from beginning literacy to 6th grade.  There are a total of 8 classes (2 Gr.1; 1 Gr. 2; 1 Gr.3;  1 Gr.4; 1 Gr. 5; 1 Gr. 6).  These classes use the same facility as Jean Paul II but in the afternoon.

Had a meeting with the Dame de la Charity (AIC).  Met:  Rosmene St. Hilaire (sewing), Micheline Cadet (prof 2nd), Mireille Medor (prof 3), Nicole Philipo (treas.), Kerline Laguerre (vp), Marie Solange Cenatus Eugene, Natacha Delegue (prof. KGB).  Group started since 1979.  The group’s mentor is Sr. Clara Martin, and the priest assigned is Jean Marie Mangoneau.  The group has about 30 members in Tomazeau.  I introduced myself and each person did the same.  I summarized the projects that the Ladies @ St. John’s take care of:  We do follow the principles of the Vincentian family & we strive “to serve rather than be served in simplicity, humility, and charity.”

Day 5 – Thursday May 16, 2013

It rained heavily during the night. Some roads were rendered impassable for driving, filled with puddles of water or mud.  While waiting for our ride I saw parents carrying their children in their arms, on their backs to avoid them from getting muddy and dirty their uniforms.  For an older child, I saw the father buy water for 5 gourdes to clean her shoes before she went to class.

Sr. Marcelle was unable to pick us up, she was stuck in traffic.  Some streets were closed due to flooding.  Sr. Martha agreed to drive me.  We had to go through the airport’s main road and get to Nazon, turn left on Lalue.  We could not find the entrance of the street to the school in Troue Sable.  We went around several times then found the parish of Christ Roi.  The priest, Roger Pierre, asked someone from his parish, Jean, to walk us over.  We walked through corridors in between people’s huts on the hill.   Without a guide we would have been completely lost.

When we arrived at the school, Sr. Marie France Paulemon welcomed us.  We visited the new building as well as the temporary classes.
A class made a short singing presentation to welcome me.

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A class in session

There are a total of 16 classes and 60 teachers for 567 students, plus personnel (3 cooks, 1 houseworker, 1 guardian).   I asked Sr. Marie France to prepare a budget and to send a report for money received as suggested by Forgotten Children.  She promised to follow up and send the first draft to Sr. Martha if she needs any help .

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A view from the school

In the afternoon, in Carefour Fleurio, I heard the children singing  “C’est Nous Jeunesse Etudiante”.  I wanted to join them.
Later, I heard the teacher explaining some of the sacrifices the heroes made to get us our independence and how we were under tutelage right now. He said: “Nous avons eut une liberation prematurée…”.  I don’t think I heard anything else after that, I was so incensed. I walked in the front of the class and said, “Good afternoon children.  I beg to differ with your teacher about a premature independence.  This is an affront to the heroes themselves.  The questions we should pose are what had we done with the newfound independence and what we are doing with it right now.   Freedom requires an obligation to be responsible individually and collectively to build a just country for all its citizens which has not happened often in our history because of personal greed and corruption.  Since Dessalines who became self aggrandizing in gaining power as an emperor and was killed, we have had most of our political figures trying to grab the presidency seat for personal gain not the benefit of building the nation.  ‘Ote toi que je m’y mette’ has been the mot d’ordre … giving lengthy speeches-‘pale franse’- to blind the people and doing very little to change the conditions and poor state of the country.  We always want to terminate the term of the person in office.  When a government is removed or disbanded, everything is destroyed – kraze brize – with no sense of continuity for progress. A true leader is one who brings people together around a vision and serves them to implement it for the benefit of all.
The teacher quickly dismissed me by saying: “thank you and have a nice day ”.

I completed some emails, my notes and Skyped home as I was not sure if I would have access to wi-fi.

In the evening, I started to pack.  I had a good time with the Daughters of Charity.  I lived in the postulants‘ house and on that last night I prayed with them and their mentor before going to bed.

Day 6 – Friday May 17, 2013

After prayer at 5:30 am and Mass at 6 am, we had breakfast as usual.  The community washes the dishes, wipes them dry and puts away all.  This is the usual routine.  This is done also for dinner @ 1:30 pm and supper @ 5:30 pm.  Everything flowed so easily and peacefully.
I enjoyed the scheduled events the past 5 days, especially the camaraderie and joy of living of the sisters. Once inside this facility in Tabarre, the ones in Marie Madeleine and City Soleil were all like oases–clean, tranquil, well maintained, and safe.

Today I was picked up by the “Little Brother of St. Therese of the Little Flower” (PFST).   Brother Lozama drove me to their home in Rivière Froide.
Brother Phred Bernadin, social science and religious education teacher talked to me about his years of preparation to become a member of this religious order (native to Haiti). These people possess the charism needed to live and work with the rural people on their land, teaching them better methods of farming and land management, while paying special attention to improve water and soil preservation.
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He also gave me a tour of the school buildings. There are approximately 800 students from preschool to 12th year in Notre Dame de Fatima.  The school is run by 3 brothers and 22 lay people.  The tuition is 400 Haitian dollars but 25 to 30 percent of students are unable to pay.
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Frè Bernadin also gave me a little history of the congregation:  it was founded by Brother Louis Charles on December 14, 1948 with the sisters.  Then he started the men’s group on February 11, 1960.  Their motto is “The Little Way”, doing “little things with great love.” — Confience, amour, abandon.

I shared the pastoral work I did under the guidance and leadership of Bishop Guy Sansaricq at Sacred Heart Parish in Cambria Heights and in the Haitian Apostolate since 1975.  I showed him the Baptism Booklet I had prepared as well as the Kolej Pastoral book I help the Bishop publish. Both are written in Kreyòl.

Frè Denis sat with us for a few minutes explaining his role as superior managing the brothers’ house and assignment, and the house’s financial matters.  Frè Wilfred Francois showed me the animals he is breeding—pigs, chickens, goats.

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What is amazing about him is that he has had no formal training in this area.  He has an instinctual care for animals and love of nature.

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Day 7 – Saturday May 18, 2013

Prayer is scheduled at 5:30 am with the brothers.  I woke up on my own.  Knowing that I was alone at a distance from the brothers’ house was a little scary, especially when I heard noises I could not identify.  Back home in NY the sounds I hear are of traffic and the occasional people shouting- but here, the sounds of the various animals both lull me to sleep and greet me in the morning.  It was pitch black outside.  Thank goodness I had my flashlight and my Old Brooklyn Lantern.

When I left my room to go to the Chapel, it was still dark.  I did not see the depth of the side step.  I stumbled but did not fall flat on my face (thankfully).  If my daughter was around, she would laugh and most likely say “no one saw that!”. I noticed in Haiti many houses do not have rails next to the steps or near landings. I was much more careful after that.

Br. Lozama first drove us to Cafe Lompre, after picking up Marie Joe.  We went through Carefour Dufort, Carefour St. Etienne, Nan Labapen.
At this site, PTFT have a professional center (ebenistrie, feronnerie, art floral, art ménage–couture, cuisine, broderie–catering to 96 participants.  The school: Immaculate Conception has about 250 students.   It takes three years to complete a certificate education and vocational training.  The PTFT hire 9 teachers for the elementary school and 7 for the vocational school.
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We also visited the construction site for the new school being built.  The German/Luxembourg group, who is contributing to the construction, had two members actually working along the workers.  Br. Frederique gave us some bread and coffee.  There I met Br. Jones Saintelia who is studying economics. He is in his third year at the university.

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Construction site

We went back in the direction of Rivière Froide and stop at Palmist a Vin.  There Br. Olizard had us visit his facilities.  We look around the ‘Auberge Theresienne’.  It can accommodate about 60 sleeping guests with refectory and a large conference room.  The cost is about 1,000 gordes per person for room and board.  Although, there was a convention going on we visited some of the rooms.
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This site also has a ‘transformateur’ to prepare liqueurs from fruits and ‘manyòk’ into ‘kasav’. At the entrance of the site, there is a storefront to sell the products produced in this area. I bought a few liqueur bottles for my husband.

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While there, I met Br. Ramongue who works at Beausejour which site I did not visit.  There under the leadership of four brothers, they manage a women’s group (total of 380); a professional center for sewing, cassaverie, pepinière, and corn grinder.
While at the auberge, I met Sr. Jacqueline Estama in the order of St. Paul de Chartres.  I also talked to Sr. Ghislaine Landry, Sr. De la Providence, who has been in Haiti for the past 21 years teaching and accompanying spiritually ‘postulantes’ who feel called to religious life.
Traffic was impossible at some points mostly on the return trip to Rivière Froide. Some part of the road was smooth but most of it was rocky, rough terrain.
The tap-tap or kamyonèt were frighteningly overcrowded with no regards for passengers’ safety. Some part of the road was smooth but most of it was rocky, rough terrain.
At supper we had another brother discussed vocabulary related to corn for one of my books.

Day 8 – Sunday May 19, 2013

I woke up at 5:30 am because mass was scheduled for 7 am.  I tried to fix my suitcases to accommodate some of the liqueurs, wine and ‘confiture’ produced by the PFST.
At home in NY, every morning I have the same ritual. I have coffee with Jesus. (Meaning, while having coffee I pray).  Since I was awake so early, I got the chance to do that before mass.
We were served soup for breakfast as the mass would start an hour later as it is the choir’s 25th anniversary.   It was impossible to charge the iPad in my room.  I had to go to the main office.

As I usually do when I enter a church for the first time, I make three petitions.  I thought of Maddie’s grandson and Lucette’s health besides my own family members’ intentions.
Mass was about three hours.  There were a lot of singing and speeches to celebrate the choir’s anniversary.
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At lunch time, I met the new ‘cure’ assigned to this region: Rev. Luc Philogne for Notre Dame of Altagrace located in Source Corossol.  He came with Dabady and Arnauld, both involved in the charismatic movement.
I wasn’t able to access the internet today.  Br. Wilfrid showed me his fields and had me meet two families he supports.

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One is a handicapped woman (who walks on cushioned stumps) with 5 children. She has a husband who does not provide for the children as he has another family elsewhere.  We talked with another man with 6 children.  The father was complaining he could not provide for all of them.  I asked him why he has so many children if you can’t provide for them?  He answered he had to find the girl to keep his clothes clean.  The expectancy to have someone helping them is incredible.  I did not dare ask: what are you doing to help yourself?   What do they hope or can accomplish for these children?  It is saddening to see so many children without opportunities to be raised with human dignity. Is it the reason I hear of the word ‘orphanage’ so much in Haiti? Has the ‘restavek’ problem translated into making Haiti an orphanage hub?

Besides the two families, Brother Wilfried is also responsible of a youth group.  These children used to be roaming the area and getting into trouble.  He meets with them on Sundays.
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Br. Frangue insisted that I visit the groups he sponsors. He had two youngsters locate me while I was visiting the families.  The first group of 150 children from kindergarten to upper elementary called ‘Rosignol de St. Therese’ sings at mass.  He would like to teach them floral art (paper flowers). They come on Sundays for two-three hours of activities.  They receive catechism before playing a sport or another team activity.  The vocational school has two components: sewing and cooking.  The participants attend for two years.  There are 3 instructors (2 for the sewing – one male, one female) and one for the kitchen.  The ‘Centre d’Education rentable de Fatima’ already has 20 sewing machines.  They don’t have enough materials and threads.  The kitchen still needs equipment.
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I spent some time with the kids.   They sang a welcome song for me then I taught them a Patriotic poem and read two of my books with them: Kabrit Mawon, and Kabrit Nwa.
They sang a thank you song, I concluded with a prayer.

Br. Frangue also invited me to talk to the group considering joining the vocational school.  Both parents and students were present.  I told them about my mother’s insistence for her children to learn something practical while we were in school and to do our utmost to become professionals to help ourselves as worthy citizens.  I had taken typing and secretarial classes while in High School.  Those skills allowed me to find a job when I came to the US.  After twenty years working in administration in a Bank I was able to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher. I also mentioned that whatever we do, we need to do it to the best of our ability.  Whatever the task we are handling God is present with us. We must be punctual, disciplined, and competent in the job we are hired for or agree to do.

Before supper, Br. Wilfrid drove me to the other side of the mountain to meet the Sisters of St. Therese.  Sr. Marie Alcin showed me the ‘dispensaires’ which provides services: Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  They consult about 30 individuals each day.  The handicap center tales care of 40 individuals.  There are 48 active nuns in this area in additions to 7 invalid ones in the infirmary.  The nuns were happy for the visit.
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In the evening I had a meeting with the brothers: Frangue, Wilfrid, Denis, and Lozama to discuss how to get funding for the youth projects.  They need start up money for their youth projects.

Day 9 – Monday May 20, 2013

Wake up time: 4:30 am.  Suitcase ready, room checked and off I went to the brothers’ house for coffee.  Brothers Lozama and Denis were ready.  I said goodbye to Brothers Wilfrid and Phred.  My suitcase is heavy because of the wine, liquors, and jams I bought.  I will have to give some to friends before I leave for the US.  Not too much traffic from Riviere Froide on the way to Morisseau.  Mostly going on terre batue as road through the mountain.  We visited the first community center Nanbonne with four bed rooms and a large room. The building not finished and right on the roadside.  It has some land no source of water close by.  Sorel Morisseau, Yves Decopin, two other delegates from the region and Fr. Thelemaque welcomed us to facilitate the visits.  D9-328 We then went to St. Rose de Lima parish where we had breakfast (fruits, boiled plantains, fish, salad).  The people of the region about a hundred or so who usually celebrates mass at 7:30 waited for us until 9:30 am to welcome us (Brothers Lozama, Denis, Olizard and his visiting friend from St. Lucia, Marie Joe and I). After the liturgy and words of welcome we traveled to the St. Rose de Lima School which has kinder to 7 grade with 150 students.  The tuition is H$80 with no ‘cantine’. Most schools now are not receiving funds nor any help to feed the children. There are lands around but no plan to use them to produce the food to feed the children.
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We went to the other site to look at the sale paroissiale.  It has a large conference/stage style room and two very small rooms, no bathrooms, no kitchen.  It has some land around with water from a possible well.  It is a nice interior location.
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It is also very close to the National School of Morisseau which has grades 1 to 6 with 15 teachers and 300 students.
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We continued through l’Azile, Marche d’Arnauld to go to Brosard.  There Mrs. Leblanc and Milio showed us the house.  It has about eight rooms, large land and the river running nearby at the edge of the property.  The yard had an old foundation of a broken down house and many fruit trees.  There is a sealed room for the owner.  There is a cracked wall, no bathrooms, no ceiling only the tin roof.  There is no gate.  Br. Olizard took good notes on all the sites we visited to write  his proposals for CORA which has requested the presence of the brothers in the Nippes.
DSCN0409 DSCN0402From Brosard, we continued to Anse-a-Veau.  When we reached the entrance of the town by Mrs. Leblanc’s house, President Martelly was coming to town too.  We were stopped until he and his entourage reached the bottom of the Cathedral where his stage was set.  We continued around the main center square to go to the sisters’ house where the brothers dropped me.  We had lunch before they returned home.  Sister Charitable and I went to listen to the president, Sr. Francoise was gardening.  I saw Fr. Ulrick listening to the speech as well.  We were not allowed to go through the steps of the church to go closer to the podium.  I made some pictures at a distance next to Amalia’ s ruins.  After his speech, the president threw some white and pink soccer balls for the school children.

D9-414I went back with the sisters to the convent.  We had prayer time before supper.  We talked for about an hour before going to bed.  I have a nice spacious room with a ‘moustiquaire’.  It is interesting to learn about a new religious order.  They follow the spirituality of John Bosco and Marie Dominique Mazzarello (1872).  Their goal is to educate honest and good citizens.

Day 10 – Tuesday May 21, 2013

I woke up at 4:30 am because I forgot to turn off yesterday’s alarm.  I went back to bed and tried to sleep.  Finally, at 4:45 am, I got up to go shower.  I noticed again in this home that there is no hook to hang neither a towel nor a robe; no shelf to place toiletries, and there are no shower curtain and rod.  In this particular convent, next to the room I occupy the amenities are built in three different stalls: one for the sink, one for the toilet, one for the shower.  This facility has no running water.  We have to use a bucket filled with water and a small bowl.  I had to use the lantern in the stalls.   I feel so blessed that at home I have the luxury of these comforts — a switch for electricity to be turned on/off at our will and pleasure; running water in the faucets with hot or cold according to our choice; a hook to hang towels; a rug to stand on while drying oneself; etc… the things we take for granted.

We went to prayer at 5:45 am followed by breakfast.  We had pineapple and spaghetti, Corossol juice, and coffee.  Helped wash the dishes and put them away.  I went in the yard and picked up from the ground the mangoes that had fallen during the night.  The sisters gather them in a wheelbarrow for the kids to take on their way home after dismissal.  I watched Sr. Francoise teach a catechism classes to the fourth graders.  The children first practiced some songs for the liturgy, and then she discussed the creed and sins.
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Buteau called to have an informal interview with me for the Haitian Apostolate internet radio Solidarite .  I recounted some of the events in the first few days of my trip and the coincidental visit of President Michel Martelly to Anse-a-Veau as we came in too.  There is only one main entrance into town. I also mentioned several emails and contact information I had sent of people I had met.  He would need to follow up with them for possible interviews.

I worked with Sr. Charitable, typing tests for the end of the 3rd semester on the laptop I had brought for her.  I used the Natcom jump to have access to the Internet.  I thanked the PTFS for my stay with them and copied Buteau so he could follow up with them for possible interviews about their projects.

I walked with Mrs. Leblanc and a student along a road behind the convent, passing by the cemetery to reach la Ville Basse.  The city is in the process of building roads there, from the square to the back of the church and the side of the convent by the cemetery to downtown.

Mrs. Leblanc mentioned how she is planting flowers and bushes along the road.  She is so proud of the work sponsored by CORA for the TiSese market place where the street vendors are able to sell their merchandise in clean surroundings.

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While walking some kids on the street will call me “blan sa w pote pou mwen?” (White woman, what do you have for me?” I know they realize I am not a local.  I say to them,  “Why do you call me that?  Don’t you see that I am Haitian like you?”  They look at me funny.

Two boys were walking on the road by the cemetery ahead of me.  One boy picked up a rock and said to the other “your name is written on it”.  The other boy asks why he says that.  “I tell you your name is written on it for me to hit you in the head with it to break your skull.”  When I heard that, I said:  “Poukisa ou di sa, sa pa bèl.”  He insisted:  “His name is written on it for that purpose.”  I said: “why don’t you think of something nicer to say or think about.”  He said:  “Maybe I will find a rock that will be made of gold.  Then I would become rich so that I can get a lot of spaghetti to eat for breakfast, and rice and beans for lunch.  Then I will leave this place.”  I did not comment as I had reached the convent.

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At 5:30 pm we gathered at church to recite the rosary, prayers in honor of Mary, followed by mass.  As soon as we get back we have supper usually a potage or labouyi.

Srs. Charitable, Francoise, Simonique and I worked on completing the budget for the proposal they had submitted to Mr. Labissiere requesting equipments and funds for the school.