This is a travel log of my experience in Haiti this past summer. What happened, what I learned, and how I felt in the process of attempting to change a culture – to transform a town – by implementing a vision I wanted to come to fruition.
Trip to Haiti – Summer 2014 — July 16 to August 25
Back to Haiti again this year! It took a lot of planning, hard work, and contacts to plan this trip. Finally the day was here, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. I was headed to the airport with two heavy bags. Thankfully, they were just within the limits after I took the tripod out of one of the suitcase. Went through security in no time and was at the gate at 6 am for an 8:45 flight. There were a few young Mormons on the plane. Not a typical religion you see in Haiti. I asked where their destination was. They did not know the specific place. However, they looked so determined and enthusiastic for their mission. Looking at me no one would know that I was going on mission as well. 40 days to be spent in the country. From conception, research, planning, writing of proposal and budgeting, this project was inspired on the needs presented by CORA to renew the town of Anse-a-Veau. It combines all my life experiences, abilities, and skills—organization, administration, teaching, community development, and advocacy. The project was approved by the organization’s executives, the instructor was hired but we don’t have a list of participants yet. It is a challenge I hope to remediate as soon as I arrive – a week in advance of the targeted start date.
Upon arrival into Haiti’s airport, the lines were very long to be checked in immigration. There were only three booths opened with two people in each cubicle. I didn’t understand the set up and the effective use of the personnel. The suitcases were taken off the carousel and passengers had to give a few dollars to an agent to get them from the cordoned area. Although I had a cart and a porter already, I did the same. I guess this is the way to have someone else make a few dollars. When I got outside, Sr. Martha was already waiting for me. She updated me on the activities of the Daughters of Charity while we drove to John Paul II School, Carefour Fleurio. I met the new principal who used to direct the school in Gonaives. I had lunch with Sr. Martha before I left to go to Anse-a-Veau with a driver Mr. Labissiere recommended. Mr. Batraville drove by the airport to go through LaSaline and we saw some youngsters come alongside the car. He was a little antsy and told them he had no money. They insisted on walking next to us while the traffic had really slowed the car. He said they were probably scoping the car and he had not brought a tarp to cover the suitcases. I told him I had some change and Haitian gourdes, he gave them some of the ‘adoken’ and finally they left us alone. Mr. Batraville stopped by a Digicel’s office so that I could get a new Sims card and minutes for my local phone. We filled up the tank, bought a container, and gas for the house generator. We did not get too much traffic except in Carrefour. We got to ‘Ka Jorj” around 7:30 pm.
In Anse-a-Veau, before we reached the house, we stopped by Mrs. Leblanc’s house where I met Monsignor Rebecca, the pastor of St. Anne Cathedral. I was introduced to the young caretaker of the house, Romel. Mr. Labissiere had a room prepared for me in his family’s house. While unpacking, I noticed that my bag had been searched. The Clorox bottle I had brought to “purify” the water was gone. Later Ghislaine, a lady from the town who has worked with the family for years, was asked to be a housekeeper and my companion during my stay. She spent the night in the house with me. Before we went to sleep I taught her the Divine Mercy chaplet and gave her a deck of prayer cards to share with others. It was hot, but thank goodness we had a fan in the bedroom. In the early morning, the generator had stopped working so unfortunately the fan stopped working too.
Thursday, July 17. A truck honked at 4 am, waking me up, but I stayed in bed until my alarm rang at 5:00 am. Thank goodness Ghislaine had brought a rechaud, a 3-legged stove, with some charcoal, I was able to make some coffee. I had also traveled with my coffee pot, coffee, and sugar. We went to mass – we had to use the stairway to go one level up from ocean level to the upper street, then up nan kwa, a rocky pathway to another level, where the church is located. Msgr. Rebecca introduced me to the congregants. We went around town, visited the Ervilus auberge, which is still being built. I also said hello to Mrs. Laurent, who sadly had just lost her husband. We went back to the house to have breakfast. We had instant oatmeal, rice cake, and peanut butter. Ghislaine was amazed how quickly this was done and I told her that I was ready for the day. I realized it was worth it to carry two heavy suitcases with essentials needed and liked.
Ghislaine had to go to the prison with a group of evangelical missionaries to deliver some goods and food to the prisoners. I wanted to take advantage of visiting the prison as I had heard from an American how dire this place was. To get inside special permission is needed and I did not know how to go about obtaining access. At first the group did not want me to join them because I was not a member of their church. I told them that I was really offended and that I was a fellow Christian. When they saw that my camera was on, they reluctantly accepted me to join them. However, I was unable to use my camera inside. The officers asked me to live it at the security desk. I complied. What I saw shocked me. You would never imagine this from the outside. There is an open square in the middle of the one floor building with cells all around. There were 8 of them approximately 10×12 in size. Each cell had 25 to 30 men in each except for one with 4 women. I walked around the yard to each cell. Young people piled one on top of the other. I asked how they slept; they replied by shift. They had two meals a day and one shower. Mr. McGuire had mentioned to me and the danger the prison represents for the town in case of a contagious outbreak. I did not imagine such inhumane conditions. I wanted to cry when the church members started to pray aloud for them and afterward all the inmates answered in chorus, amen! They received the toiletries and food that were brought for them on that day. Some of them called out: “come and take this note for me, I need help, please give me sandals so that I can walk when I go to the shower”. I was not allowed to go too close, the guards were very adamant about this.
After that visit, I went to Natcom to buy some internet service before returning to the house. Mr. Marius Nivose, the director of Ecole Polytechnique de St. Anne (EPSA), came to visit. We talked about the problems of getting the number of participants according to the age group I required for this project — the oldest limit of 28-29 to be accepted in the program. He felt that ‘youth’ could denote any age, stating “it is the state of the mind and openness to think in new ways”. Is he kidding me? In my experience a targeted age group means “within a certain age range (i.e.: 18-25), not a state of mind. He agreed to return and bring me the applications he had collected so far so that I could determine who would be selected. I had to really insist that he returned later today to bring them. He was telling me he did not want to go to the school to get the forms because he would be detained to do other stuff and he had somewhere pressing to be. As one administrator to another, I was flabbergasted. When would I have the chance to go over all these forms? I should have received them three months ago? At this point, we only had less than a week left before the program started. We set up Monday as the day to have interviews and finalize the list of candidates.
I walked to Mrs. Leblanc’s house to discuss and set up the food service for the program. She was also to inquire from Msgr. Rebecca about the house that was promised for the prospective instructors. Jimmy from Natcom had to come to the house and make the internet USB worked for me. Fortunately, the restaurant is a few doors away from the house, so I ordered a lanbi (about $6 U.S.). There was a lot of food. I wish I had a fridge to save some for tomorrow. Ghislaine was unable to stay with me so I had to stay alone in the house. As I had to input all the data on excel, I worked until 10:30 pm. I was so tired I went to sleep, but woke up at 1:45 am to use the electricity while the generator was still on. Unfortunately, at 2 am the generator shut down.
Friday, July 18. I woke up at 5 am and got ready to go to mass. Fr. Ernst celebrated mass. Afterward I went with Sr. Francoise to her place where I had some light breakfast. I talked about the Carine Bastien fund that was sent to her by Mireille for the benefit of the school. She was going to discuss the immediate needs of the school with the principal, Sr. Solange, and would tell me of their decision. I tried to visit Msgr. Rebecca but he had his personnel refer me to Fr. Enel for anything concerning EPSA. Mrs. Leblanc came to the rectory as well and the three of us discussed what was expected from EPSA to do the project. Fr. Enel said he had no idea about the houses for our personal lodging but he would do everything in his power for the classes. We had to go to the restaurant to negotiate a reasonable price and delivery of lunch on a daily basis at the School. We then drove to meet Fr. Enel at EPSA to choose the space we would use for the program. We had to ensure cleanliness and appropriateness for class and lunch area. We decided it was useful to buy a water cooler and five 5-gallons of treated water that will be placed in the office where there was access to the electrical outlets when the generator is on.
As there was no electricity in the house. I picked up my computer from Natcom and asked the restaurant manager to allow me to stay in the dining area to input the applications of candidates on excel. After a few hours and a meal at the restaurant, I went to the house. An hour or so toward evening, Bernadette and Rose, Mr. Labissiere’s sisters, came too. It was a pleasure meeting them. There was a lot of conversation in the house. I skyped my brother Martial and my daughter and I was finally able to access my emails after 3 days in the country.
Saturday, July 19. Bernadette and Rose slept on mats in the hallway to keep cool as there was no additional fan and no electricity after 2 am. As it was still dark in the early morning, I had to use my old Brooklyn Lanterns, one in the bedroom another in the kitchen, to provide light for me to move around. After coffee, I left for church. Sr. Francoise decided to use the funds received to paint the school not only to welcome the new Sister in charge but to provide the students a nice clean environment in the new school year. I had breakfast of spaghetti, water melon, and coffee with them. I joined a few villagers in cleaning the church in preparation for the feast of St. Anne. We swept inside and the stairs outside all the way to the square.
On my way to the house, I saw a peddler selling brooms. What a coincidence, we needed one for the rectory. I gave him a bill, he had no change. He asked, “Where do you live?” I said it was not necessary. He insisted. I did not have a number. I told him at the house of ‘Bòs Alfred’. He knew exactly where it was with this reference. He also promised he would deliver the broom for me at the rectory so that I would not have to climb the hills again. As he was trying to pull his donkey on the pathway, a young man came by. He called him and said here is the sacristan, he will bring it and place it in a safe place in the rectory for you. Later, the peddler did find the house and brought me the change. I told him he could keep it. He said no, he was simply so appreciative I bought the broom and the people in the house were his people. I learned that the sense of belonging is a strong bond in Haiti.
At the house, while Rose was sweeping. I helped fill the bathroom containers with water. Afterward did some laundry. Ghislaine made fish and plantains. That was my dinner. I am learning not to eat too much. I had a nap after reading some of the participants’ essays. At 5:45, I had to go to the church to conduct a parent workshop on baptism and the creed for Msgr. Rebecca while he provided penance service to some parents and children seeking the sacraments. After the meeting, I walked into town and talked to the Cuban personnel at the hospital.
Saturday, July 20. I had coffee at 6 am then at a few minutes before 8 went to the church. There were 9-11 communicants and about 10-15 infants being baptized. I distributed some Divine Mercy prayer cards to each of the families. At the house I talked to my daughter in NY via Skype. Ghislaine made some food: meat, plantains, white rice and bean sauce. I waited for Sr. Francoise who said she was coming to pick me up to go to Petit Troup de Nippes. She finally arrived at 1:30 pm. Sr. Francoise drove with her driver next to her. We visited a priest, who was assaulted a few days before while he was performing a wedding. He had asked the bride to cover up while she was in church because her dress was too revealing and the family, mostly her grown children, did not appreciate his request. They felt the priest was insolent and infringing on their mother’s right to do what she pleased. The son, a diaspora—meaning someone living abroad, smacked the priest.
The pastor had one of the young men in his parish climb a coconut tree to get us few fresh coconuts. They were delicious! We each drank and ate two to three them. Sister asked for some of the dry type to make ‘tablets kokoye’, sugary desert. We walked around the town of Petit Troup and then sat on the pier for a while with our feet dangling in the water. After this outing, I visited Mrs. Leblanc before going back to the house.
Monday, July 21. Went to church at 6 am. It was closed. I asked a few people around, they did not know if or when the church would be open. One woman approached the side door next to me and we prayed together right there. After the prayer, she knocked on the door three times and left. I passed by the Salesians sisters’ place there was no activity, I continued on to the cemetery. I made a chaplet for souls (P.O.W.). Then I called out Bòs Leclerc to find out if he knew where Henri Fouche, my father-in-law’s, tomb was. He did not remember. I returned to the house. Later on Bos Leclerc came to the house and said he had found a Louis Fouche. I knew it was not the grave I was searching for but I went with him to the cemetery anyway. It was a Louis Abel Fouché who had died in 1930 at the age of 51. He had died before the birth of my husband.
I went back to the sisters’ house and they were busy cutting the coconut meat out of the shell to do the tablet kokoye. I stayed and work with them to complete the task and clean up. I ate with them. I gave them the donation that Mireille had sent for the school. I proceeded to town to visit the hotel to see how they were progressing with the rooms. I reserved a double room for the 24th and 25th of July. I was given room number 7 facing the square. I needed to come back to give them a deposit. I visited Annuel’s house by the square. He is a member of CORA in NY. He was busy repairing his house. He walked me to the house downtown.
At 4 pm Mrs. Leblanc picked me up with her son, Ricot, to go to Brossard. We passed by a bridge and a dry river-rivyè blanch. We visited the Petits Frères de St Therese (PFST) construction site. Brother Camille told us that they had to modify the plan for the moulen a canne to include a shed for the materials they have ordered and needed to secure them. I saw a field with all the plants and other agricultural development they were achieving with the peasants in the area. Fr. Camille said they were not successful with the chickens as they had planned. They have very rudimentary tools. They gave me two coconuts from their garden. When I returned to the house, no one was there. Later Rose came in and talked a little about herself and family. She has a son who is unable to speak and is five years old. She herself was hurt by the earthquake in 2010. She is missing part of a foot and is unable to walk very long distance without feeling back pain and lower extremities. She is a survivor of this ordeal.
Tuesday, July 22. I woke up as usual at 5 am. Made coffee, prayed, and shared a cup of coffee with Bernadette. Got to mass late but needed to talk to Fr. Enel to arrange a meeting with the candidates for the Renesansavo project. Mr. Marius did not provide information needed to get that done. I did not hear from him since I last saw him last Thursday. I was getting frustrated. There is a severe lack of communication here and no information is forthcoming. We had been discussing this project since last year. What is the problem in getting things done on a timely basis? There seems to be tension between the people that used to or are currently at the helm of the institution. To remain focused, I had to remind myself of St. Paul’s writing “to keep my eyes set on the prize”: the mission.
Sr. Francoise and I went to Miragoane. She needed to go to the bank and buy the paint and I wanted to see more of the area. After having lunch with her, Sr. Solange, and Alexa, I returned to the school to finalize plans with Fr. Enel. He suggested I pay the custodian a stipend directly not through the school. I used the short cut to get to the house. While praying the Divine Mercy chaplet, I fell asleep. After the lighting and thunder abated, I visited Mrs. Leblanc. We discussed the expenses incurred for the water cooler, bottles of water that Mr. Batraville will bring for us from Port-au-Prince. He will also bring the diesel gasoline needed for the school’s generator. She suggested we pay the person who is withdrawing the monies from the Haiti account deposited by NY, because he is making a round trip to Miragoane. I couldn’t believe this. I wondered: Is the person a member of the organization? Has this been done before? Maybe the Haiti group thinks the organization got some grant from donors not another member of the association. It was a reality check. Not everyone has been blessed like me, I reminded myself. I vehemently refused that this fee be withdrawn from the Renesansanvo funds allocated so far. At the rate we are going with unexpected cost, we might go over the planned budget and available funds for this project.
Went back to the house through the Saline. I asked the DJ at the soccer game to announce the orientation meeting for the candidates for the program. I found some food that I ate gladly (rice, chicken, beans) that had been left there since noon. No fridge. Another reality check!
I had Romel put 100 gourdes for me and 100 gourdes for Rose for telephone minutes to call the candidates to come to the orientation meeting for the internship. I prepared all the forms in alphabetical order before going to bed.
Wednesday, July 23. I woke up later than usual because the mass was in the evening the night before. I had planned the orientation meeting at EPSA for 4:30 pm. I made oatmeal for Bernadette, Rose and myself. At around 9 am I called Marie Yolens to get an update on her event’s progress. She was still in Port-au-Prince, she would be coming to town sometime tomorrow.
I got ready and went to school at 3:00 pm. Two individuals were already there. While in the room, I interviewed some of the candidates individually before the appointed time to conduct the meeting. About 24 candidates showed up; some who had not submitted essays, and others I did not even have an application for. During my presentation of the project, some people had objections, such as the pay was too little for their travel expenses – the age problem, however, was not mentioned. I answered that one requirement was that the person lived in town or very close. I also explained that some people did not qualify because of age – youth for this project meant individuals up to 26. Each candidate had to write only one page in response to this statement/question: “In eight years (2021), Anse-a-Veau is going to celebrate its foundation 300 years ago. Consider the assets and history of the city. What would you like to see done to make it a real celebration?” They explained that most of them had not submitted one because the coordinator was waiting to have them all in a room at the same time and they never had a chance to do so. I reiterated that without the essay the application would not be considered because it would not be complete. I finally got most of the essays (we were supposed to have them submitted three months ago) to allow a committee to choose the qualified candidates. Now Myriam and I, when she arrives, will have to speed read through them to make a call on who will be admitted. Unbelievable!! Talk about last minute. I was glad that this orientation session was well attended. I have renewed hope that things will work out in spite of other “speed bumps” beyond my control.
When the meeting was over, I passed by the church, but mass had not started yet. I went back to the house to drop the bag of materials and the computer. Got back to church in time for the Gospel reading. I did not stay for the novena after mass because it was getting dark. While Bernadette was in the house, Ghislaine came to cook for her. I talked to Myriam Augustin who had arrived from NY and was in Port-au-Prince. She wanted to know how the meeting went and if there had been a good turnout. I was pleased with number of individuals who came but I don’t know if we will find enough qualified participants for the program. However, she was all excited to begin the process and teaching.
Thursday, July 24. I awoke from a dream at 4 am. Weird feelings from the dream. I prayed. When I finally got up, I had coffee with Jesus as usual (I read my ‘Magnificat’ that offers morning prayers and daily mass scripture readings and ‘Word Among Us’ a reflection on scriptures of the day). Myriam will be coming to the house instead of the hotel. (1) It is not finished and (2) Yole has many people and she needs space for them. She will use my reservation. I cleaned the house in preparation of Myriam’s arrival, mostly the room she would be sharing with me.
Yole came by to deliver the ‘droum’ containers we had shipped since May from NY, filled with all the necessary articles I needed for both personal and program’s use. Unpacking took a while mostly due to the fact that the Parmalat my brother wanted for his cereal exploded and stained many things: the notebooks, the sleeping bag, and towels. One of the buckets was destroyed because of weight placed on top of it. So was the thermos. I have to learn to pack better. Most everything else was ok, thankfully. I had to hire a ‘lesivyè’, a woman, to wash these items covered with the milk. She went to the river with the soap I had brought. But the smell could not really be washed away or evaporate. I now know never to ship such items even if they were well wrapped in several plastic bags.
I called some of the candidates who did not show up yesterday for the orientation meeting and had yet to give an essay with their applications. I followed up with the ones who fell within the age range I was interested to have. It is very late in the process to reading and evaluating the essays and calling the potential candidates. I do not like to operate last minute like this. If I had gotten more cooperation with the people here, everything would have been prepared in NY before my arrival. Applications would have been evaluated and confirmed by the team I had set up in NY. Badges and certificates could have been prepared ahead of time using the supplies in NY. Now my focus would be on preparing the venue and other important tasks for the program. Apparently, my Communication with the contact on the ground had not been effective because of internal conflict in the school. No one wants to take responsibility for this lack of response to enable the program. Reality check! If I were not determined to have this project done, I would have given up by now. Maybe the committee in Haiti and all the interested parties do not really believe this program will work or bring out any changes as stated in the proposal. I remembered St. Paul again in Hebrews 12:1 “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”
I had to bring the computer to Natcom again to install unlimited internet access for a month. Rico drove me to the store and back to the house. I went to church and had some cool water at the sisters and some labouyi. A few minutes after returning to the house, Myriam arrived. I acquainted her with the space. She did not bring many of the things I had given her to carry for me including the team’s gifts. I was disappointed. I showed her the kitchen cooler for when we have ice, how to fill the bathroom water containers from the vestibule water droum after we use the shower or toilet. She had to share the king bed in the one room I used in the house. She seems to be adjusting well to the situation and our limited
Friday, July 25. I could not sleep well. The heat and sharing a bed might have been the cause. I had to be careful not to toss around too much. We woke up and I made coffee. Myriam made oatmeal, and Ghislaine came early to do some food. I finished all the packing for EPSA. I had asked Ricot to come at 9 am to help us bring all the materials to EPSA. Romel helped load the car and disembark at the school. After that, Ricot dropped us at the Renesans night club to give a hand to Yole with her event “Haiti Love a Child Project – back to school bookbag”.
Myriam sang “Zanmi” and showed a small group how to sing: “Panama Mwen Tonbe”. I helped serve drinks, then placed the children in line to get food, then cleane up while they were getting the book bags. I read the song/poem by Jean Claude Martineau “Kreyòl”. Feeling exhausted after working in the sun and running around, we ate some food. I spotted Frantz in the crowd and asked him to drop us at the house after stopping by the school to find out how the work was progressing. Later I walked with Myriam to the end of the road to the water’s edge. The house is located at sea level. Then she went to the restaurant to buy some cold water which was in fact not cold at all. I went to church thinking it was so late mass must have been almost over but it had not started yet. While in church I received a call the driver had arrived with block of ice for the cooler at the house. He came to meet me by the church so that we could bring the water cooler, the water bottles, and the container of gasoline for EPSA’s generator. The custodian was there to open the office for us. I like this gentleman. He is professional in his care of the grounds of the school and always so cheerful. Mrs. Leblanc had also sent us her personal printer because the school had none for us to use. Then I returned to church. It was so late and dark I could not use the short cut pathway through the hill after mass. I saw Jean Philip Hubert who was visiting from NY with his uncle. I asked him for a ride as he lives not too far from the house downtown.
Saturday, July 26. Woke, had coffee, prayed, got dressed and went to church at 8:30. Today is the feast day of St. Anne. The whole town, Catholic and non-Catholics alike came to the cathedral. There were many officials, parishioners, people from out of town, and from abroad. The church was packed. Mass did not start until 9:30 am. The bishop of Nippes and many priests were concelebrating. I recognized several people from known families: Merores, Mallebranche, Paillere, Fouche, and Cassamajor. Afte rmass that lasted almost two hours and half. I briefly talked to Bishop Dumas. He asked Fr. Merosne to handle everything that I would need in town. I also saw Sr. Francoise who handed me a letter for Mr. Labissiere. Fr. Merosne said that the week-end retreat we had discussed for lay ministers could not be done but it would be best if Fr. Granjean managed it. Msgr. Grandjean wanted to plan a retreat for all the directors of chapel (150) for the same weekend we had talked about but it would have to start on a Thursday. I said I would not be available until Friday after 2 pm. This would require more funds than I had promised. I was not ready to spend the amount requested because of the Renesansavo project. Msgr. Granjean asked one of his priest to go get the check from me today because he too like Fr. Merosne would be traveling before this planned event. I agreed saying to myself: “Lord this is for you!” I was to make arrangements as well with Msgr. Granjean to get the lay ministry manuals to him as soon as possible.
There was a reception in the rectory after the mass by invitation only. The lines were very long. I asked Fr. Ulrik, former pastor of this parish, where I could find some water. I felt parched and dehydrated. I had not eaten anything either since I woke up. He said to go to the reception room. It was packed and I knew no one. Then I noticed Msgr. Rebecca and I asked him who could give me a glass of water. He pointed to a woman behind a table who had people clamoring all around her. I could not find anyone to give me a glass of cool water. I felt I was invisible to everyone. Some people in small groups were kissing each other or conversing with their friends and they were oblivious of this stranger in their midst. I really felt like an intruder and outsider at this event. Unsettled, I slipped away from this crowded rectory and went to the house. I was still thirsty and by now very hungry.
A few hours later, Fr. Ulrick and another young priest came to the house to pick up the check for Msgr. Granjean for the retreat. After the morning experience, I did question my motive to give the money. The amount was greater than my monthly social security payment. In the recess of my mind, I could hear my husband’s voice: “You are so naive.” Whatever the outcome, I know in my heart that I am giving it in thanksgiving for all God has already done for me. However, I sure hope I will have a chance to meet the lay leaders and to teach that is one of the reason all this had started.
Myriam and I read some of the essays to determine who would be chosen as participants. Doing this last minute took away from the time we should be planning and finalizing the process we would use to complete the program. In late afternoon, we went around town to Mrs. Leblanc and Mrs. Compas’ house, where there was a possibility to move to when more teachers would joined us, then we proceeded to EPSA. Fr. Enel came as well. He wanted to see if the locksmith had come to install the locks for the two rooms we were going to use. I had to promise to pay for the locks and labor. The locksmith said he could not do it today, he would come back tomorrow in the morning. More delays. Everything feels as if it is happening in slow motion. God! I am learning things happen at a difference pace here. This goes against how I was trained, to be timely and organized. Things function smoothly when timely and organized. I hope to teach the students the importance of this. Fr. Enel was going to install a computer on one of the 3 desks in the office. We could use that desk to store our office supplies.
We requested the custodian place a pail of water with a faucet on a table near the bathroom and a basin below to collect the dirty water for the students to wash their hands. The custodian will use the dirty water to flush the toilets. The faucets in the bathroom do not have running water nor the toilets. I also gave money to the custodian to buy a barrel of water to refill the pail. We ensured the 3-stall unisex bathroom had toilet paper and were clean and sanitary. We showed the custodian were we had stored hand soap containers we had brought. To dry hands, I realized I did not shipped the paper towels with the holders. I had a few small towels but for the number of people and logistics to have them cleaned in a sanitary manner every day were not available. I would have to hire a lesivyè (washer), buy water and soap that would be needed and lines to have them dried. Reality check. I had no one to inform me on this matter. I had to think of all these little details. Myriam and I had to continue the reading of the essays and compile the data in preparation for Monday.
Sunday, July 27. Woke up and after morning routine of coffee and prayer went to mass. When I returned, walked to Jacky’s to confirm delivery of the meals for tomorrow at noon. At 4 m. Myriam and I went to EPSA to set-up the rooms. We put away all the supplies for the office. Prepared the dining area, tablecloths, silverware, cups, plates, napkins, and serving utensils. We swept the classroom and dusted the desks. I set up the icon, candle holder, and the candle on a white cloth. Chalk, erasers, and markers were placed in the desk drawers.
Everything was in place for tomorrow at the facility. At the house, we alphabetized the applications, prepared the badge holders (lanyards/pouch), cards, permanent marker, and attendance sheet draft. We prayed that those candidates we had already picked and those we called to be interviewed would all show up.
Monday, July 28, 2014. I woke up at 5:30 am. Prayed, drank coffee. Myriam and I were out of the house just before 7 am. We got at the school, opened the office and the classroom. The tablecloths in the dining space were in disarray. I guess the wind did that. Myriam was doing the interviews of the “maybe” candidates and those who submitted essays that were not well written but expressed some good ideas. I welcomed the other participants.
I took the attendance. I prayed and lit the candle. I explained what an icon was. This particular one titled: “The Old Testament Trinity” was painted ca 1410 by the artist-Andrei Rublev. [Trinity depicts the three angels who visited Abraham at the Oak of Mamre – Genesis 18, 1-15]. I asked participants to describe what they saw because this painting is so full of symbolism. I also asked them which figure they think depicted who in the Trinity. We talked of God being community and how the artist left a space for us to join. The icon will be displayed at all times on our main desk.To give a bit of background, I want to share how this painting was chosen as our icon: I was attending a conference of women on March 23 titled “Mary Model of All Women” when Bishop DiMarzio, in his homily, described a woman in the painting “The Prodigal Son” by Rambrandt – which he had displayed as he spoke. I was really impressed how the art conveyed the message he discussed. I made a prayer and asked God to let me find an image, a painting that could explain what we want to achieve in Anse-a-Veau visually. I was given gifts of not one, but TWO icons: the Holy Family and the Old Testament Trinity that could convey the importance of unity or community. I walked out later to go use the restroom when I see a book on the exhibit table of St. Paul Publishing with the title: “The Hospitality of Ministry”. I purchase it – and lo and behold it was the icon of the God the Trinity which teaches us that we are made for relationships. Coincidence or divine response? I believe the latter.
I explained the purpose of the program created for CORA. We discussed the need for punctuality, good attendance and self-discipline to complete whatever task assigned to an individual or to a group.
I started with my story from birth to present and explained that everyone has a story that should be respected whether it is a beautiful one, a dramatic one, a tragic one; all stories make up the tapestry of the kingdom of God. In February while finalizing the calendar of subjects to be taught, I said, “Lord, what would be the most effective way to begin the day?” While in the shower (where some may say all great ideas are conceived), I could see my life unfold as in a movie reel. I saw the connectedness with other peoples’ lives, the Jesus story, the Old Testament history, the prophets and the church that all form God’s kingdom.
We encouraged everyone to write his or her story on various colored circle paper. We gave each person a chance to narrate their own story. Some of them were really dramatic and heart-wrenching. Many of the participants mentioned the sacrifice their parents endured, absent fathers, the efforts of single moms to raise them. After the presentations, we taped all of the circles of life together and made a collage.
I presented some elements for community development: defining problems, specifying requirements, brainstorming, planning and developing solution, communicating, putting into action, and reviewing/evaluating. The food was late but we had plenty for all to eat in an orderly fashion. Eating together buffet style is also part of the training process. We invited the custodian and Mr. Marius, the former administrator of EPSA and our trip coordinator, to share with us.
We formed the working teams: 1-culture; 2-food; 3-lodging transportation; 4-historical sites/man-made monuments; 5- natural sites (such as beach, lakes, and waterfalls). We explained their responsibilities in each of these areas.
In the afternoon, for our work session, we divided the 26 participants in two groups. One group was sent to the North side and the other to the South side of the St. Village to observe, ask questions, define problems, and listen to the people’s needs. When the groups returned, they had to report to us and to the whole class the findings of their observations/ research as well as submit the documentation of their outing. The participants were candid in their reporting. They noticed the following in the village: not enough trees planted; no faucets for water (potable or not); no space for the children to play; no electricity; the people are not managing the trash nor their waste; there seems to be no common effort among the villagers; some houses had some type of limited vegetable garden; the domestic animals being raised freely roam everywhere; there is no clear separation between the school and the village; the parochial building needs repair and there is mud and trash all around it; and the road leading to the village and the school is not paved and is really difficult to drive on. The participants knew about some of these issues but it is the first time they had to analyze them in this fashion as problems with possible solutions. They realized whoever had designed and built the village did not really plan an urbanized village.
After the day was over, Myriam and I had to go home with the silverware and dishes as we had no sink and water to wash them. Myriam did the dishes at the house. We dried them and packed them to carry them to the school the next day. Not having running water and adequate kitchen area at the school increased our workload.
Late evening, Mary Yolenss and Fanfan brought the suitcase with the uniforms that had come from Florida. My friend Evelyn Grant had sewed and embroidered all 30. We would have to carry those up the stairs and hill tomorrow too. Not having personal transportation not only limited us but placed a great burden on us. More work and literally too—more weight to carry!
Tuesday, July 29. I woke up early but did not do have to do much before leaving besides praying and drinking my coffee. We started the day with our routine: me leading prayer, then singing Zanmi, deep breathing, and the word of the day. I chose this song, published in 1975 in An Nou Chante Louanj Bondye, as an anthem for the Renesansavo project because I love both the music and the lyrics which calls for unity building and sharing love. Myriam is also used to singing it as it was a rallying song for our community in Cambria Heights where I met and work with her mother, Natie.
Myriam did most of the day teaching: the focus was the definition of identity and culture. We assigned who would be the leaders for each team and when on a rotating basis every three days. This is to ensure that everyone would have a chance to demonstrate their leadership qualities to their team and all of us. This is also a learning process to address some cultural misconceptions. A chosen or elected leader is at the service of the team to facilitate and guide in the assignments not to bully. Second observation that would be made is if the leaders follow up on what was done by the previous leaders and if these previous ones also trained or prepared the one who followed them to take over smoothly their roles.
Someone had asked earlier why and when I had left the country to go to the US. In the class session, I was unable to answer. While waiting for the food that was really late in being delivered, I recounted an event in my youth that had affected my life about the conditions of the country.
As a student in College Bird, I had lived the horror of the day of the attempted killing or kidnapping of Jean Claude Duvalier on April 26, 1963. I had heard gun shots and seen some people fall on the ground. We all ran for cover not knowing what was happening. After an approximately hour or more, I heard boots and I saw the men with their machine guns and dark glasses surround the school and entered the classrooms. We, the students, were made to lie on the floor of the classroom and told we would all be killed if Jean Claude was not found. I heard later that he was found under the bed of one of the Swiss professor. Mr. Lareur, a neighbor and friend of the family, while picking up his daughter also gave me a ride from school, passed by the burning house of Francois Benoit where 15 members of his family were assassinated, including a baby on his way to get his wife from work. We saw soldiers attacking Maitre Severe’s home at the corner of my own home Ruelle Cameau and Avenue Christophe. A few hours later Frank Simon was taken from the driveway between my house and his mother’s. Later that day Mr. Lareur himself was taken from his home down the street and no one have ever heard of these gentlemen again. Many others were killed or disappeared as well on that day in retaliation for the attempt on the president’s son’s life. My heart as a youngster was aching for my school mate, Jean Claude, as well as being so afraid and horrified by his father’s repressive regime which, unfortunately, he took over. Our families lived in fear of being reported of talking about Duvalier. The tonton makout on hearsay or dislike of someone’s attitude could get you killed or have you ‘disappear’.
I travelled to the US in 1967 to obtain my alien status visa from my mother and returned to Haiti for a few months, then permanently left the country in 1968 to live in NY.
We had several visitors that day while working: Mr. Cassamajor-notable of the town, Mr. Ceisier-CORA Haiti member, Annuel Morisseau and Marie Yolenss-both CORA NY members. One of the participants offered to do the dishes and took the silverware and dishes to wash at his home. Wow! Our first volunteer. I hoped by announcing this to the group, I would get a trend going.
At the house I met Rose’s son. He seems to have a handicapping condition – he is unable to talk and his attention span is very short but he responds with a smile if he is content. I read two of my books for him: Kabrit Mawon Kisa ou Wè? And Kabrit Nwa Kisa ou Tande? He seemed to have enjoyed them, so I gave him the books. During late evening the generator stopped working. It was not because of lack of gas. It seems to have a malfunction. It was on but there was no electrical power going through the house. We had to use flashlights and the lanterns. No fan, of course, so we experienced a hot night. No work could be done either since we had no access to the computer or internet.
Wednesday, July 30. We got to EPSA 15 minutes to 20 minutes before 8 am by walking through the short cut of stairs and hill pathway. After the daily routine, Myriam taught basic notions about first impressions, professional protocol, and personal etiquette, which includes personal hygiene, morality, conflict resolution, and team collaboration. Most participants seem to enjoy the teaching sessions in the morning. At the exception of one or two, they arrived on time and they participated in class discussions. At lunch time, we covered table manners. The food arrived earlier today but it was very skimpy. The participants complained about that. In the afternoon it took some coaxing and pressure to get them into their teams to go to work. Myriam and I chose different teams and participated in their field work. I went with team 5 to Gran Bakadè. We reached the beach with some difficulty. I asked if there were quick sand in the area. They laughed at me and teased me along the way. We pass some small body of waters and down hilly shrubbed area. The beach is a nice water enclave but rocky and wild. We could not figure how deep the ocean was. On the road coming back I shared with the group how important it is to do what we say. I changed the saying: walk the walk and talk the talk to WALK the TALK.
Ricot came after class to do printer/computer connections for our laptop and Fr. Enel’s. Marie Yolenss came to say goodbye and bring some materials she had left over from her project to be given to the Salesian Sisters’ School and EPSA’s high school.
The electricity was still out at the house. Rose and Bernadette left. One went back to Port-au-Prince before she returned to NY and the other went with her son to her mother’s place in Brossard. We called Romel and he said he did not know the cause of the generator’s problem. Another night in the dark and heat without respite. No computer work could be done and no communication with family via skype.
Thursday, July 31. Myriam and I have developed a morning routine. I wake up early, shower, refill the bathroom containers with water, drink my coffee, and pray. She wakes a little later, showers, eats a fruit or has a light breakfast. We are not in each other’s space in the one bathroom and same bedroom. For the program, after the routine, we review what was covered yesterday before teaching the subject of the day.
Today Mr. Antoine Dodo came to talk about “la petite histoire d’Anse-a-Veau”. We learned that the 3 big bells by the church had names: Maria, Anne, and Germaine. There were two major earthquakes: Feb 17, 1842 and one in 1952. Hurricane Flora happened in 1963. There were 8 floods and 19 fires in 100 year.
One team – the ‘food’ group – went to Brossard to work with the Petits Frère de St Therese (PFST). The other teams had to determine the objective of developing plans to become effective agents of change. CORA’s treasurer visited us.
At report time, I learned that the food team did not till the land and work with the brothers instead, they talked to them and took notes. I asked them if they understood the purpose of this trip — I had to pay two roundtrip motorcycle rides for the five of them to go there to learn to move the land, not take notes. It made me question if the participants understood the goals of the project.
I explained that this program was created based on internships my own children participated in. They worked at companies to gain experience and specific skills to enable them to become more effective workers and leaders in a chosen field. They had to be on time, spend the time (ie: 9-6 workday), pay their dues and do tasks assigned to them to the best of their abilities. I repeated that the Renesansavo internship was divided in two parts—morning learning session and afternoon physical work as and where needed. Apparently for some, it seemed the physical type of work was beneath them. They seemed to think this internship was going to be held in a classroom taking notes all day. I reminded them that they were getting paid an agreed stipend to spruce up the town and make changes to that effect. If they came for instruction (fòmasyon as they kept on saying), they would have to pay me. Some individuals started to laugh and others started to complain about different issues like the long hours (8 to 4:30), and the fact that they were not fed enough or the food did not come on time. They acted as if they were entitled to food and payment because they came to learn. How dare I ask them to do more?
I asked Myriam to take over and I walked out. I did not want the participants to see how upset I was. We were on day four and most participants had misunderstood the nature of what work and this internship meant. I was angry at myself for not having made it clear that the purpose of this internship was first and foremost work, with some personal training to know self, collaboration, and leadership.
The work day was over, I did not have to go back to face the group. It took me some time to regain composure. I talked with Myriam about this on the walk to the house. She told me someone had come to the office and reported that I was upset. To make matters worse, we still had no electricity in the house. I thought I had it all figured out. It took a while for me to accept that I am only a steward. God gave me a mission but He is the one in charge. I had to come to the understanding that the participants, like my children, must be loved unconditionally and dealt with patiently and firmly in conflicting situations. It behooves me to cover the importance of work and the positive attitude we should have in doing it. : “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Genesis 2:15 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people.” Colossians 3:23
Friday, August 1. Mrs. Leblanc came to bring me the money for the food and transportation. This is our first field trip. We had three vehicles: a jeep, a van, and a pappadap (open back jeep) to bring us to Karouk, Petite Rivieres, and Madian. I would not have chosen this type of transportation but Mr. Marius was the person hired to be our field trip coordinator because we did not know the locals and he was our point of contact since we were planning this program. The bus that the government usually provides to the schools for excursions needed a specific 48 hour approval and it would cost more money as it was being requested in the summer. Again a decision left for last minute although all these trips were an integral part of the project since its inception.
At Pointe Brigot, we talked to Rosaline and Gasner Leo. The beach is really beautiful but the people have no latrine so they use the sand area to get rid of all their waste. Disgusting and unsanitary, I know the participants took note about this and one group will investigate how to remediate to this problem. Without clean beaches and a sanitary environment no tourist would want to come here however beautiful the ocean is.
We also met Marc Michel, principal of the “Kindest Heart” Academy which was built and is sponsored by Dr. Patricia Nicolas of Miami, Florida they said. (Googled later, she is from NY). That school has about 250 students from grades K to 6, 10 primary teachers and 8 teachers for secondary. We wanted to know if the kids are taught to care for the environment in that school.
We visited The Egalite Restaurant/Hotel at the entrance of Petite Rivieres. Rita Calixte welcomed and gave us a tour. They have 16 rooms and they charge 1,500 gourdes per day including breakfast. The hotel visits are to allow the participant to see different facilities and how they are managed. This is to give them ideas of what is expected if they would like to see the same in their area.
After we proceeded to Manolo Inn, where Bedner Darius gave a tour of the bed rooms, conference room, and kitchen. The participants had to compare and contrast the reception and tour given by both hotels. They had to evaluate the manners and attitudes of the employees giving them the tour. How would they improve the tour if they were the guides? Were the people welcoming? Were the premises well maintained? Is this what they expected to see? Is this what they would want/expect if they were visiting a place as a tourist?
The participants were well behaved although the food was served at 1:30 pm. I asked the main driver, Florest, who was also the owners of the cars to present himself and talk about how he is managing this transportation business as an entrepreneur. The problems he encounters and the benefits of running his own business. He did a very good job. We invited both drivers and security detail to share our meal with us at our table. Cereste Pressoir welcomed us as co-owner of the Manolo Inn. After lunch, we went to Madian and the participants played games and visited the beach area before returning at EPSA.
Payroll was done. The participants got 5% of their pay on a weekly basis and would receive the remainder on the last day of the program. The money was in an envelope, and participants had to initial receipt of their stipend. Some opted to leave their weekly pay and get it at the end of the program.
Bòs Wilmy Jean Charles at the request of Mrs. Leblanc came to investigate the problem with the generator. He believes we need a new regulator. He put the electricity on for us. Mr Batraville came to deliver some supplies for us. I went through the side door, and Myriam followed me. The wind blew the door closed and we ended up being locked outside. Mr. Batraville had to go to Brossard to get Rose’s key to open the house. After about forty-five minutes, he came back. Within an hour, while starting to do some of our planning and typing reports, we had a blackout again. Can’t seem to catch a break. I had purchased a water cooler for the house but was unable to get a cool cup of water. Heat and no computer and internet access seems to be our daily routine.
Saturday, August 2. Mr. Batraville, our driver, came to pick us up at 7 am. We had to get the five empty 5-gallon water bottles from EPSA to go refill in the next town. Ghislaine, the cook/housekeeper, came with us. We went to Carefour Desruisseaux at Eue de Vie, water treatment facility. We visited the small facility so that we could show the pictures to the participants. We went to some 2nd hand thrift shops around town to get the regulator piece for the generator. We paid about $12 for this second hand gadget we were not sure would even work. We passed by Msgr. Granjean’s place to drop some envelopes for the Bishop. No one answered the door. We continued by the open street market of Miragoane but did not shop there. There was no room to park the car or move around because the streets were overcrowded with the sellers sitting practically on top of each other and the prospective buyers pressing on. The sellers’ wares were on the floor, tables, in barrels, baskets. Vegetables, meats, breads, and dry products all displayed under the sun in open air for all the flies to nest on. You hear the cacophony of high pitch voices, yells, laughter, arguments, and negotiation bids. Pickpockets and other well intentioned individuals are all trying to get their goods or bargain for a deal.
On our way back to Anse-a-Veau, we saw some peddlers and we bought two plastic basin we needed to wash the dishes at the school. We dropped Ghislaine at her house and picked up our suitcase to go to Manolo Inn to spend the night. We paid for a double room. We had a balcony with a view of the ocean with running water in the shower, sink, and toilet; a large ceiling fan and air-conditioning. For food we ordered lanbi (conch) and pochette de langouse served with plaintains and tomatoes. We had to wait a long time to get the food. I had brought my Ipad and there was wi-fi. I was able to skype my brother Martial, and facetime my daughter. I was able to show them the place and the ocean view. I was temporarily in heaven enjoying some simple commodities we usually take for granted back home. This experience is also an incentive to improve conditions for others right here.
We brought along both computers. I was able to work on the reports and Myriam was able to do research and prepare the classes. Not having electricity at the house I had been unable to type the reports. The second laptop I had to borrow from the Sisters—last year I had given them my daughter’s Gateway computer. My own laptop a Gateway too had a screen problem. At times it worked at other times it would freeze and the internet connection was poor. So annoying to be so limited.
In the evening we went to get some supper, we sat with the owner, Manolo. Manolo and I used to be schoolmates when we were in Roger Anglade Academy. He talked to us about the realities of Haiti and how he came to do this business in Petite Riviere in spite of doubters. He played nice “oldie” music for us. When we went back to the room, we worked until very late as we wanted to take advantage of the available power.
Sunday August 3, 2014. Woke up about 6 am and got ready to go to church at 7 am. While walking on the road from the Inn to the Church, I heard my name from a motorcycle rider. It was Fr. Enel leaving Anse-a-Veau and going to another area to celebrate mass. He was surprised to see me on this deserted road so early. I explained that I was staying at the Inn and was headed to the nearby church. When I arrived in church there were just a few people but it filled up pretty quickly. Mass was very long with readings in French as well as most songs. I walked back to the inn and went for breakfast. I had coffee and soup for breakfast. I skyped Pierre and my friend Alix in Port-au-Prince. Then Myriam and I stayed under the choukoun (Haitian like gazebo) to work using the electrical power in that area.
Mrs. Cereste Pressoir was available to do an interview for the benefit of the program. She is an entrepreneur and former mayor of Petite Riviere. Mr. Batraville came to pick us up at 1 pm. He came early because of the rain they predicted in this area and the hurricane in the north of the country. He looked a little annoyed. We purchased sugar cane for him and Myriam. We bought some ice for the cooler. Nothing was done for the generator.
We called the mechanic to come and fix it. Finally, in late evening, electricity was restored. Alleluia! We will have cool water to drink and the fan to keep us cool.
Monday, August 4. Woke up a little late. Went ahead of Myriam to EPSA. I did the attendance. Mr. Marius Nivose presented today about the reason why Anse-a-Veau is so neglected by its citizens and government. Mr. Marius believes racial tension is part of the general degradation of the town. Historically, the educated mulatoes were running the town and made it a successful place but did not provide opportunities for other groups to progress and with political upheaval, left the area. If this were true for a while, what happened since the noiriste revolution of 1946 and 1957? Where was the ‘class noire’ that always existed before that in Anse-a-Veau? I believe the real problem is that there is no unity. We want to get everything for ourselves and our own welfare. We don’t think community. We talk a lot about the past, our heroes and we are doing nothing about the present for the benefit of the future. We should really practice our moto (devise) “L’union fait la force” in unity there is strength. We should be saying in private and on roof tops: “Let us rebuild our country.” Ann rebati lakay! We are stewards of this land. We need a change of attitude, maybe, we should keep in mind Psalm 24 “The world and all that is in it belong to the Lord; the earth and all who live on it are his.”
Lunch was late again. We have to find a better way and a stricter schedule next year. This affects our work schedule as well as our stomachs. I visited Mme Yves Chery where the legs and feet of the crucifix of the Calvaire are kept. I took pictures to send to Patricia Brintle to find out how they could be repaired. Then Myriam and I worked on planning for the next day while each team went to their afternoon assignments and reported back at 3:30 pm.
When I got to the house, I Skyped Pierre. He teased me by calling me ‘Mrs. Astor’. I responded that I was re-appropriating my mother’s maiden name ‘cAstor’. Mrs. Brooke Astor had received and inherited a fortune from her husband, but I was only spending my retirement income on this project. I worked for forty years in some challenging jobs and made a lot of personal sacrifices to be where I am today. I felt more like the others who provided for them (Jesus & Disciples) out of their resources (Lk 8:3). I also knew in my heart that it was because of my husband’s unfailing hard work too, and caring support for the family that provided us with financial stability. His reliability facilitates my community involvement.
Tuesday, August 5. Woke up early. Dreamt that I was moving to a new place. All these activities are working on my psyche. Ate a slice of pineapple and a banana after my morning coffee. Unusual for me but I was feeling hungry so early in the am. I went ahead of Myriam because I was running late to do some printing before class. Wubenson, a participant that lives two doors away on our block, walked along side of me going up the stairway and hill path –Nankwa- I usually make a prayer for a soul when I go from one place to another in the am. I hope he did not feel too strange because I did make conversation with him. I sometimes like the quiet time to walk up the hills overlooking the lower part of town and going through the wooded pathway to the school. Todays’ morning session was on ‘power’- its definition and types. Abner Duportal, church musician, came to talk to the group to find out if he could accompany them with the two songs they were learning. He was reluctant to play with one of our participant because he said the base musician in the Protestant church play the base differently than in the Catholic churches. For some reasons, I don’t think he will help. We did not offer him any suggestion of compensation.
The food was delivered late again making us late for the work session. Mr. Marius was also late to pick us up to go to Brossard. I had to pay for 3 motorcycle round trips rides plus Mr. Marius to cover gas for his car. These payments were not budgeted. We have to find a way to have transportation planned for such outings.
When we got to Brossard, Brothers Camille and Sostene, PFST responsible for this mission, showed the teams the work to be done. One group did the compost – carrying water from the nearby brook, shoveling the animal manure, mulch, and other prepared mix as well as nutrients. The other team cleared an area from old banana trees and corn, spaded, delineated the planting area with stakes and strings making two to three (bed) raised flat strips 3 feet wide area separated by 15 inches strips to enable watering, drainage, and walking around the seedlings. We had to hoe, turn the land, till it, remove rocks, strong roots, weeds, and debris of all sorts. We also smooth some parts with the rakes. Time was up. These teams left and I told the brothers that two others teams would come Thursday with the other instructor to continue the work. Although it was physically demanding job, it gave us a sense of accomplishment. Some participants said they had no idea how hard it was to till the soil and they learned what went into making organic compost.
At 3:30 as usual all teams returned in the large group to do reports of their work experience for the day mostly afternoon work session.
I formed the protocol group asking each team to elect someone to represent them to organize the last day celebration and/or community forum.
Wednesday, August 6. I woke up from a dream a little unsettled. I saw a school with many children sitting aimlessly and doing nothing. No teachers, no games. I told the people organizing the school bunched around idle, it was a crime to keep the children there without at least reading to them and/or doing activities with them. Even in my sleep, I can’t ignore our collective responsibility. This is so reminiscent of men who were given talents and one did nothing (Mt 25:14-30) as well as the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31) who did nothing. This is considered wicked. However, I have to remind myself: ‘Be still” (Ex. 14:14). Things won’t happen overnight.
Morning instructional session was on entrepreneurial skills and environmental protection. The participants in small groups had to come up with businesses needed/lacking in Anse-a-Veau. I felt it was important to list them here: gasoline pump, super market, space for cultural activities, small local fruit processing plant, hen house, bakery, credit union, a well-managed hotel, electrical plant, water treatment facility, ice plant, beauty salon/barber shop, boutique, and morgue/funeral home. Some of these are necessary if we want visitors and tourists to come to Anse-a-Veau. Who will invest, who will take responsibilities to have these endeavors done? Who will be trained and how?
The food came late again. Myriam went to the house by herself. I was waiting to go visit Msgr. Rebecca to discuss the use of the parochial building at the entrance of EPSA. He called at 5:30 to cancel the meeting. When I got to the house Myriam told me that Sr. Francoise had stopped by. I called her and decided to go see her as she was leaving town early in the morning the next day. I also met the new sister in charge who will be replacing Sr. Francoise.
Thursday, August 7. I could not sleep well. I had nightmares. I just prayed. Whatever negative vibes trying to enter our environment, with positive energy it can be reversed. Ghislaine came and took laundry to be done for both of us. Gave money to Romel to buy oil needed for the generator. Msgr. Rebecca came to visit the group. He agreed to have the calvaire cleaned and white washed. He heard the participants sing our anthem song and Myriam also sang ‘Lè la Libere Ayiti va Bèl” konpozisyon Jean Claude Martineau (Koralen). Msgr. told about his life. He told them a story about his bag to raise the participants’ consciousness. [Valiz li an ki gen anpil lòt sak men yo tout vlope yon nan lòt, pou rive jwenn sa ki enpòtan an se pou ou devlope yo.] He wishes that each participant would look in themselves to see what is wrapped and needs to be unwrapped. A play on words from a people ‘anvlope’ to ‘devlope’.
A man from Joly, friend of Jean Marie Dely and Jackson Morrisseau, invited everyone including us to come to that mountainous area on Sunday to see their accomplishments with the youth program and culture development. Mr. Cerisier, member of CORA Haiti, dropped by to say hello and ask how we were doing in the program. He has a sick child, he could not stay too long. After lunch, the two other teams went to Brossard to continue the work we had started on Tuesday. I gave them the money for the 2 motorcycles round trip fare as well for Mr. Marius’ car. I have to make sure this is noted on our financial records to budget such expenses for next year. Myriam and I ordered lanbi from Jacky and we shared it. At the house I tried to type and finish some of the reports.
When we talked about development and the need to get organize to do so, the driver gave me these two sayings: “Nou mouri men nou pako antere. Dirijan yo ap jere les mò.” “we are dead but not yet buried. The authorities are directing the dead.”
What a defeatist attitude. I guess that is why we are oblivious about the trash around where we walk, live, sell goods, etc. In a cemetery, we are no longer concerned about the environment.
I want to shout, I want to scream from the top of my lungs and prophesy as in Ezekiel 37 “From the four winds come, O Spirit, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.” Their bones are no longer dried up, their hope is not lost… you put your spirit in them that they may have life, and you settled them on this land to care for them as your people and for them to care for it to give you glory.”
Friday, August 8. Again I was unable to sleep well. I woke up at 5:30 and got ready. Am I apprehensive or worried about the trips we are to take? Mrs. Leblanc brought me the money for the stipend and drivers for the trip. St. Yves does not have a restaurant facility so we had ordered the food for lunch from the same restaurant who feeds us every day. The food was to be delivered since 8:15. We waited for it. At 9:30, after several calls Mr. Marius and I drove to the restaurant. They were loading the car. We decided to take the lunch once and for all with us. Finally, we left the school at 9:45 am. We arrived in St. Yves around 11:30. I distributed the sandwiches with the juice and water to the participants, and drivers. Fr. Denis met us around his house and talked to us about his prison ministry in Anse-a-Veau. We went up the mountain to the waterfall of Sault du Baril. The first waterfall looked large and strong. We continued to the summit. I forgot I had the cell phone in my pocket. Like in a trance because of the majesty and beauty of this fall from its height to a clear pool of water, I went under the stream of water will all my clothes on. The massage of cool water flowing over my head and shoulders felt like a divine hug. It felt so good. I had no towel, or change of clothing. At 1 pm we went back down the mountain to get to the car. I got dry before we reached the school at 3 pm. We talked for a few minutes about our trip experience. Some participants never had the chance to go to the fall before, one or two did business driving their motorcycle as taxi for the pilgrims. All in all they were happy about the trip except for the food. They did not consider the sandwiches as lunch but a breakfast. Then I did the payroll before dismissing them. Again some participants chose not to take their allowance until the last day of the program. Mr. Marius dropped the basket and cooler at the restaurant for us. Myriam and I ordered a plate of food that we shared at the house.
At 5:30, Mr. Batraville came to pick us up. We stopped at the supermarket in Miragoane. I gave money for gas to drive to Aquin, my mother’s birth town which seems to be developing very well. We got to Aldy’s Hotel, my cousin’s place. He is one of the notable of the town who helps in outfitting the Hospital and sponsors an annual festival. We met a young French man, a carpenter named Vincent, who came to Haiti to train and learn from the Haitian carpenters how they operate without power tools. We also met a Canadian investor dining in the restaurant. He funds a project in the area. I was so glad to catch up with Aldy Castor . The last time we had seen each other was during his medical residency in NY some thirty-plus years ago.
We had a nice room with balcony facing the bay, a large bathroom with running water, and two double beds on the second floor. It was nice to get away from our one bed, one bedroom and buckets of water to shower.
Saturday, August 9. I had a decent night finally being able to toss around without worrying I would wake up the other person in the bed. Woke up at 4:45 to pray and get ready before the 6:00 o’clock appointment I had with Aldy and Vincent. Aldy, Vincent, and I climbed the mountain toward the native Taino village. The Taino were the first inhabitants of Haiti. Halfway, I gave up. I did not have sneakers and there was no pathway only a thin trail. The descent was more difficult. I had to call out to Vincent several times to help me. I was so scared I was going to slip off the cliff. My feet were slipping on the small rocks and I had nothing to stop me from going over. As soon as I got to the hotel, I went to get some coffee. I went upstairs, showered again, waited for Myriam and Mr. Batraville to get breakfast. Myriam had refused to go for the trek, she felt tired. Herring, avocado, corn meal, eggs, and coffee were served. Aldy gave me a tour of the hotel and gave an interview that I recorded for the participants of Renesansavo. He also drove us to his center. There they have a soccer field, 2 large halls for different activities and a shop for mechanics and other vocational training. He also has 2-3 computer labs for long distance learning. We went back to the hotel for a while then we decided to go to the beach. We went through a public area then decided to go to the private beach. We had to pay a fee for each person in the car. We went through a long pathway travelling from different fields before we reach the sandy beach. The area was clean and some choukoun were built to give us shade from the sun. Several young men in uniform came to show us were to go and offered to order food for us. We asked them to get us some fresh coconut. The only people on the beach besides us were a bus load of Minustah soldiers playing ball. Back at the hotel, I made arrangements with Nancy Comeau for participants’ field trip to Aquin for the following Friday. We wanted a festive day as it would be Myriam’s last day with the program. We added dessert (pen patat) to the food. Myriam offered to pay for it. Mrs. Comeau did not lower her price because she had to have staff on hand for that day.
I talked to Philip, my second son, via facetime to show him the place. I also tried Natalie. I did not get her until 9 pm. We had shrimp for dinner. I was so tired I easily fell asleep.
Sunday, August 10. Had another ok night. Woke up completely at 5:30 am. I started praying until daylight then I went outside to the balcony until Myriam came outside while I was doing my readings. We admired the view than we discussed how we planned the closing celebration and the list of people we should invite. We also discussed about cleaning the house today in preparation of Eddie’s arrival. We also talked about the participant’s self-evaluations and supervisor’s one. Then at 7:30 got dressed, drank coffee and Mr. Batraville drove me around the center town to drop me at mass. Fr. Borgella celebrated mass. He had just arrived in the parish and everything was done in Kreyòl. How refreshing and beautiful. I stayed until the distribution of communion and left because the driver was getting impatient. We had a good soup, fresh fruit juice, bread, and coffee. I paid for the food for all three of us and Myriam paid for the driver’s room. Aldy had treated us to a complimentary room. We stopped on our way back to refill 4 5-gallon of water for EPSA. Myriam bought some fruits on the road and some other items at the supermarket. We travelled through the new scenic road back to Anse-a-Veau instead of through the crowded streets of the town of Miragoane.
When we got to the house, we cleaned it. I gave Ghislaine some laundry. I typed up my personal expenses. Talked to Alix and Malou via skype and Ronald called.
Monday, August 11. I woke up at 5:30 am but I felt the air was dry during the night. I felt short of breath. I took a garlic pill to ward off any infection.
We don’t have access to the office because the priest changed the lock for reasons he did not tell us. The word of the day was discipline. While defining the word and eliciting examples from participants, some participants were going out and others coming in after I had done the attendance. To stop the traffic and understand what was going on I locked the doors. After I finish the discussion, I opened the door. Some were very upset. I told them that it was rude for people to walk in and out while someone was speaking. It is also disturbing participation. [I found out later that everyone was trying to get to an outlet to charge their phones while the generator was on.] For some participants it was quite acceptable to do that, they did not see a problem with that. They had to take advantage of the opportunity to use electricity that was available. I understand their circumstances now but I still oppose their behavior. Someone should have asked permission.
As Mr. Marius had arranged for us, we were to visit the prison in the morning as per the authority’s instructions. That is why we switched our day around. We consider this visit as work, and this afternoon we will have instruction. The guards were not ready to welcome us and the chief was not around. Another officer said he did not receive the official request for the visit and did not think it possible to let us in. Finally after an hour or so, Mr. Marius found someone on the phone that talked to the officers. Bureaucratic nightmare, lack of communication or incompetence? They said they would let us in if we made two groups. Each group would, sing a part of Zanmi, our anthem song, as a form of prayer before going toward the cells to converse with the prisoners for a few minutes. JMD, one of the participants, did not want to go in the yard with either groups and he would not give me any reasons. He advised me about this at the last minute. I even tried to get him to come by the door at the entrance of the yard, he refused. I told him if he had an objection to this activity, he should have asked beforehand to be excused. I would have given him another assignment or excused him all together. The purpose of the visit was twofold. One, to know the inhuman conditions that these prisoners are living in, and the health hazard this poses for the town in case of an outbreak.
Eddie Lherisson arrived this afternoon with Myriam’s friend Jean Robert who talked to the participants for a few minutes to encourage them in their training and assignments. Ghislaine cooked for us at the house. We had placed an inflated mattress, a make-shift dresser, and a fan in the living room to provide some private space to Eddie. Myriam and Eddie stayed late preparing lessons. I did some work and went to bed early.
Tuesday. August 12. Woke up and made coffee for Eddie and myself. Eddie did very well with her presentations on customer service. The participants seem enthralled by her presentation. They asked many questions.
After work, we walked around town. We saw the Depaneur, a little eatery run by Fernande Petit Frere and stopped by La Difference. Gave money to Romel to buy water to fill all 3 barrels in the house. I think this will last until I leave. Myriam took good care of her guest who had brought some items from Port-au-Prince for her.
Wednesday, August 13. We all walked together using the hilly pathway ‘nankwa’. Eddie presented again today. She covered careers in tourism and had the participants in teams write what personnel would be needed for a particular set up.
Team four worked on the Gerin tombstone to have it cleaned then started to clear the ‘roundabout’. A villager came and helped to show us how to use the ax. After we were done, we went back to the school he followed us until we got to the school. He waited for a while. I don’t know if he was expecting some compensation or wanted to know what was going on in this this area.
Thursday, August 14. I woke with my nose itchy and smelling smoke. I went out of the room and noticed that Eddie had gone out of the front door and had been smoking. She slept in the living room that opens to the street. We had mentioned that the owner’s sisters had told us to avoid using the front door because people in the neighborhood could see what was happening in the house and to be prudent at night. As a young person, she didn’t see any potential danger although it was 12:30 am and there was no electricity. She was alone out there and we were asleep inside. There is no 911 here.
We all walked to class together, Eddie had prepared her bag and stuff to leave today. Jean Robert Jolibois came and did a presentation on our heritage, ‘Patrimoine’. He shared his work as an architect and his experience in the renovation of ‘Citadelle Laferiere’, one of the most prized historical monument. He gave each team some suggestions to incorporate in their plans. I went with him and Eddie to Gerin’s tombstone and president Dartignave’s palace during the work session before he departed for Port-a-Prince. I met the ‘magistra’ of Anse-a-Veau today, we got her permission to work around the historical sites and public places. She promised her help in matter of paints. She called the person who had some fence material if he could spare some for our project at the ‘roundabout’. He agreed a member of the team went to get it. Team 4 including me cleaned the tomb’s area. We removed all garbage and weeds. We made a circle with rocks all around about a foot from the edge of the monument. We have to buy fence material to put around it so that people and animals would not walk all over the monument. We also hope the fence will encourage the people in the area to keep it clean. The villagers standing by just looked at us and made comments without offering to help. Some even questioned the purpose of sprucing up the monument. As this tomb is next to the Police office/prison called Commisariat, the police officer said to be careful of the pipes bringing water to their premises. The team also discussed how they were going about cleaning the ‘calvaire’.
In the evening, Myriam discussed how we were going to handle the evaluations. We went over some of the expenses to cover the stipend for the guest speakers and personnel.
Friday, August 15. Myriam and I walked together at 7:15 am to EPSA. We waited until 9:45 am for the expected pappadap (a small van) to arrive with a new driver. Mr. Marius’ excuse was that the original driver hired left to go to Port-au-Prince and called at 4:00 am that he had to do a run and could not come for this trip.
We had completed our routine and were still waiting for the transportation for our field trip. Myriam sang ‘Lè la Libere Ayiti va bèl’ in order for Kettia to make a recording. She loves the song and would like to practice it.
Our new driver, Guy, had quite an ego. He was telling us of all his accomplishments and how important he was as someone responsible for all the drivers and a union rep. He drove erratically. He went fast at times then would stop to say hello to someone or give directions to another person. Then he would start speeding again. I really had to do a rosary for my sake and for the participants in the jeep. Finally, we arrived in Aquin, we had the participants visit the hospital quickly. We went to the hotel where the other group was waiting with Myriam.
We took pictures and visited the premises before going to the cafeteria area under the choukoun where we were going to have our lunch. I noticed how our main driver/entrepreneur, Florest, was dressed in a black suit, white shirt, and lacquered shoes. I complimented him and he replied that he was wearing his wedding suit as he knew we were going to be eating in a fancy place. Vincent, the French carpenter, explained his project for Aquin to the participants who were very interested and asked many questions. After eating, they had a nice celebration of singing and poetry for Myriam as today is her last day with the program for this term. She has to go back to New York to prepare and classes at Hunter College.
We visited the activity center that Aldy sponsors. The male participants got on the field and played soccer over our objection that we needed to go visit a nearby beach to give us ideas on how to manage them. The driver did not want to go with us there although he had been playing cards with his friends since he left the lunch table. After several calls, he came in a rush to leave. The driver’s lateness and his attitude were awful. He picked a fight with the main driver with whom Mr. Marius had made a deal for the day. He brought us to the Miragoane station and told another unknown driver to bring us to Anse-a-Veau without even saying good-bye. The participants did not appreciate his services. We have to organize the transportation better for next term. The trip coordinator will have to ‘screen’ the quality and dependability of the drivers.
We made payroll. Myriam insisted that I penalized those who had not kept their part of the agreement to enforce that certain behavior would not be tolerated. 2 participants had $1 removed from their pay. They were understandably upset.
In the evening, Mr. Batraville brought with him water in big containers he had at home, the machetes he purchased for me, the ink cartridges for the printer, and the antifreeze for EPSA. Romel did not tell me that the house had no gas. So we had to go around town to find some. The two places that could have a gallon or two were out of them. So on the way back to the house the driver saw a hut with empty gallons. He asked if they had gas, the woman said she had a gallon. Mr. Batraville asked when they expected to get some more gas. She answered maybe around noon tomorrow. He asked me for money for seven gallons and gave it to them. No receipt was given. He said, I’ll pick them up in the afternoon. I asked why he paid for it in advance and would they remember he paid. He answered, “Of course, this is to guarantee that we will be served first from the supplies received tomorrow. They know me, I know them”. This is a trust system. Everyone knows everyone. Romel was with us, he said he would come back to get it himself. This is quite unusual for me. In the states, if you don’t have a receipt, there is no proof that you made payment.
In the evening, I took water for my blood pressure medication from the water cooler and it tasted like gas. I had to throw it away. Water and money wasted. In the US this would have been insignificant. Here every bit, every drop matters. Myriam finished the evaluations for each participants. She gave Anelio, Romel, Ghislaine and Mr. Batraville a tip for their services. She packed up and was all ready for her departure tomorrow.
Saturday, August 16. I woke up from a dream. Pierre came to me and said “accident”. I could not sleep after that. I prayed for my family and everyone around me. I had to call Romel to turn off the generator. So that I could use it later. We had to wash both 5-gallon water bottles because they tasted and smelled like gas. We had to use hot tea water to remove the smell. What a waste of good water.
Myriam left. I cleaned the house and redid the suitcase to pack what I am leaving here in Haiti. I had oatmeal. Now I finished the financial spread sheet to reconcile information with Mrs. Leblanc. Myriam gave Ghislaine 50 gdes to buy bananas for me. She gave me back the change of 20 gdes. That was so sweet. I already missed her company.
I prepared all the certificates for the participants. I also downloaded the videos both on the computer and on the USB then deleted them from the SD card and the video camera. I could not find out how to switch from the internal memory to SD. Access to the internet is very difficult, I could not google it.
No one called. I was alone in the house now. I did not go out at all. I found some sardine cans we had shipped. I ate one can with a banana. My diet is drastically different from when I am home. But I am grateful for packing/shipping these food items. I need to take note for next year of what to ship more of and to avoid altogether (no bleach or anything that may explode!).
Sunday, August 17. I spent the night alone with no fear of being by myself in an unknown area. I have no ideas who the neighbors are except for the custodian who comes to put on the generator. The electricity lasted until 4 am. I finally woke up around 6 am. Prayed, drank coffee, and walked to church at 7:30 am. The church was not open. Mass started at 8:15 am. Msgr. Rebecca mentioned my name and thank me publicly for service to the community of Anse-a-Veau. He announced that the director of chapels would be meeting from Thursday to Saturday. Mrs. Leblanc was at mass too. I took a ride with her. We passed by Gerin’s monument so that she could see the team’s work then she dropped me at the top of the stairs and I went to the house. I ate a banana, cheese, and crackers. I washed a few clothes and put them to dry on the inside line I had made up. Then I finalized the payments left to be done – stipend and restaurant. I did a flyer for the community gathering and a program draft for the last day celebration. Jimmy came to help me with the internet and I asked him to help me with the camera. He was unable to make it work.
Went to Mrs. Leblanc to finalize out financial discrepancies and compared notes. We reconciled all the expenses. Myriam called while I was on the way back to the house. Nicole and Pierre called me to know how I was doing.
Another can of sardines for dinner was good enough. I don’t like to put the gas stove on. I would not cook in the evening. It is enough to use it in the morning to make coffee.
Monday, August 18. Another night by myself. Woke up early in the am but stayed in bed until 6 am. Drank coffee then went to EPSA. I made a presentation on volunteerism. I stressed the importance of commitment. Same as for work, volunteers should strive for excellence in every detail and aspect; acquire capability in skills, knowledge, and experience; and remain dedicated in being dependable and reliable.
After the discussion and Q & A session, we had team 4 present its accomplishments and plans to the group in preparation for Thursday’s presentation to the community. Afterward, we had all participants evaluate and score the presentation for attitude/posture/collaboration of members during presentation, delivery of content, handling of questions/answers session, and benefit of accomplishments/project to the group or community as well as feasibility of proposed project(s). It was difficult for the participants to be objective. I admire team 4 for their efficiency, which is why I asked them to present first. They were the first team to submit a typed plan on the date requested. No other groups submitted on the due date. They had gone to the community and local authorities to ask for help and did take care of completing some of their projects. The other participants think that I favor Group 4 without realizing that particular group’s efficiency in working and remaining focused on the task to be done. I wished every other team worked so conscientiously.
Today’s food was okay, we had a sufficient amount. I had Mr. Marius and Fr. Enel discuss the problems they were facing in their work. I don’t think it made a difference to solve their disagreement. Both individuals fulfill an important role for the project here. I went to the Sisters’ house to deliver a container of sugar left by Yole and get the mouse for the computer. My laptop is not working at all now. Ghislaine came by the house to see if everything was ok. I had some gwayav konfiti (guava preserve) with cracker for supper. With so much lightning and thunder, I stopped all computer work. I thought the generator could stop working any minute. Pierre called on the phone because we could not skype although earlier I had talked to Martial. Myriam called from NY to let me know she had arrived home safely and inquired about how I was managing at the house and with the program.
Tuesday, August 19. Another night by myself. It was a little scary during the night. The dogs consistently barked for an hour or two as if something was disturbing the area. Even if there was an intruder, I would not know the difference I don’t know the people and as it so dark outside I would not see much. To go to sleep, I remembered who was in charge: “I am the Lord your God, who grasp you right hand; It is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13
Woke up as usual prayed, made coffee, ate a banana. Went to EPSA with the computer to print the participants’ certificates. Today we discussed the definition of ‘networking’ and its importance. Team one and Team five presented and were evaluated by their peers.
The participants asked Mr. Marius envelopes to give out the invitations for the ‘presentation to the community’. I had none. They needed money to buy them-about $5 for 30 envelopes. I could get a box of 50 for 99 cents in NY. Not only did I find it expensive I was against the idea that they were giving an invitation two days before the event (Thursday 4 pm). I gave them the money reluctantly and I explained why. I said if you are handing a letter that late you could fold it, talk to the person and give the letter as a reminder without an envelope. They told me that was not Haiti’s protocol to give an invitation without an envelope. I explained the real protocol should have been to give the invitation at least one week ahead.
I went to see the progress of team four with the roundabout and the Calvaire. I also tried to visit two other teams at the beach. I took the wrong turn on the road then when I finally reached the right path leading to the beach, they were coming back from Ti Bakadè. They were tired and thirsty, I could not ask any of them to go with me down the hill to the area they had cleaned. I would be left all alone in an unfamiliar area. I decided to return with the group. The leader of the group told me she had taken pictures of before and after. They were sorry I had not seen the work they had done.
After class, I asked Wubenson to bring a few things to the Sisters. Then I went to meet Msgr. Rebecca and Sr. Marie. I visited the House they are planning for Sr. Marie and her partners to live in and make a school. The house, the two classrooms being built in the back and garden space are enclosed within a tall wall and gate.
Wednesday, August 20. Woke up the electricity was still on. Prayed, made coffee, ate a banana and left the house at 7:30. After our routine, I covered what helps to establish good relationship mostly in a network: kòd (meaning rope) acronym for communication, organization, and discipline. The last two teams presented. Today is the last day for clean-up. A few members of another team joined with team four to complete the work on the Calvaire. Every other participants cleaned EPSA in preparation for tomorrow’s meeting. Mr. Marius left angry about something. I asked him to come back to get his stipend. The protocol team needed money to buy drinks, cups as well as for a sound system.
Talked a long time with Pierre and Natalie on Skype. Martial had shipped some tuna packets. Tonight, I had one for the first time with some lemon juice on it. It is was good.
Thursday, August 21. Woke up at 5 am. Started clean up and then went to EPSA a little later.
In the morning, Mr. Marius came by I gave him his stipend. He told me he would not be able to be at the event this afternoon. I said I hoped he would come to the celebration tomorrow. He seems too upset to respond to the invitation. The attitude seems to be: “if you are mad with one person in an institution or group, you have to be mad with everyone involved with it”.
I had the participants complete their self-assessment as well as elected a follow-up committee of five, one person from each team, to be liaison between CORA and all the participants within their team. Had each participants vote for which team did a good job so far in reaching the community and making Renesansavo’s project of renewal visible. Again, I believe, they manipulated the numbers not being completely truthful. They voted not for the hardest working group or which team gives them visibility, they voted a group that had popular members in it.
During lunch I went to the house to drop the computer and get the camera to film the event this afternoon. The team leaders had saved a plate of food for me. Thank goodness otherwise I would not have a hot meal for the day.
It was with a lot of pressure—pointing to the watch several time I finally got the participants to start at 4:30. Happily, in a style of a fair, we had planned to have the teams present individually.
We only had 10 people. (I guess the envelopes did not make such a difference.) The participants did their best to talk about what they had experienced during the past four weeks. Each team gave a summary of their proposed plan in the area assigned to them. They reviewed the purpose of the project: ‘Renesansavo’ is a community development and empowerment internship project through training in Hospitality and tourism.
Team 1: Culture: art, literature, music, painting, sculpture, theatre. This group proposes to use the fixed parochial facility to work with a youth group between the ages of 12 to 19. Through the afterschool, they will teach about culture and sponsor events using all the arts and calling on local people to participate.
Team 2: Food. Specifically of the locality – source (specialty of the area). This group proposed to start a vegetable garden. They require space not too far from water.
Team 3: Lodging and facilities/Transportation. This group proposed to have a public and communal ‘latrine’ built in a poor area by the beach and make all aware of the importance to use such facilities for self and environment.
Team 4: Historical sites & points of Interest (Man-made). This group proposed to spruce up all historical monuments and to add coconut trees and other plants in public spaces to make the town more attractive and inviting.
Team 5: Beach & natural environment. This group proposed to clean the beach of TiBakadè, to maintain it and to add appropriate vegetation to make it scenic.
Among the people present, a few gave compliments to the members of the project and thanked CORA for bringing such a program to Anse-a-Veau. Mrs. Leblanc was pleased with the outcome of the program although she said she had doubts about its realization when it was first proposed.
Right after the event, I packed up everything at EPSA. I was glad I was able to finish it all before evening. Anelio said he would put everything away in storage as instructed by Fr. Enel. I gave him a book bag and some items for his wife. He was so appreciative for the items and the stipend I gave him. He asked if I could remember his son who has to attend the prep school this year— and asked I could find a sponsor for him.
At the house, I started to put away some things I was leaving in the house. Prepared the payroll envelope for each participants. Feeling exhausted, I had to stop everything and went to bed.
Friday, August 22. Woke up and completed the cleaning of the house. I finally finished packing all my belongings. Recounted the envelopes because one was missing 1,000 gdes. I had put an extra one in another envelope. I had Romel close the barrel, help me sweep, and put everything in a corner of the house. I washed my hair, put on a dress and went to Jacky’s restaurant. There were some participants already present. Kettia complimented me for looking good. She usually sees me in pants and blouse. Sr. Solange and Sr. Myriam, Mr. Leblanc, Mrs. Leblanc, Magistra, Enel, Mr. Cerisier, and Judge—all members of CORA Haiti were our guests. I tried to record as many footage as possible of the event. Amilson Simon and his team prepared a plaque they made with construction paper to show their appreciation for doing this project for them. Some other members of the group recited poetry then the whole group sang the songs Zanmi, our anthem, and Nou Toujou Pare, our prayer.
I distributed the envelopes with the remaining stipend to each participants. By 2 pm everything was done, thankfully, because Msgr. Granjean’s nephew had come to pick me up. I had to run to the house to get my luggage and the computer with the mouse to return to the Sisters.
We drove to CESA where there were about 18-20 head of chapels who had come for the training not the 150 Msgr. Grandjean had planned to have. As I had arrived almost of the end of their retreat, I felt the easiest way to communicate with them was to find out what they had already covered since their arrivalfor this retreat. I had them seat in a large circle and I asked volunteers to tell me their names and one thing they had learned so far. They had mostly been discussing what to do to have a good liturgy, what pitfalls to avoid, and what was their responsibilities as lay ministers in charge without a priest to celebrate mass. After hearing the summary of what they had learned so far, I gauged that the best approach would be to find out if they had a personal relationship with God. So I spend the next hour or so discussing with them who Jesus is, his love and his mission and what He demands of his followers. I asked them to share their favorite Jesus story. My preferred gospel passage is when Jesus entered the temple in Nazareth and read from scripture (Luke 4:16-21), which stated his mission and ours as his disciples. I also talked about our responsibilities as baptized Christians (Matthew 28:16-20). We discussed sacraments and symbolism used in a baptism ceremony which again points to what we believe in. I reviewed the creed we profess at mass in five major points. During questions and answer, a question posed was: “How do we refute our separate brothers when they questions us? What should we do or say? I replied: “The best thing is to know your faith and live it. No argument is necessary. If you can, find something that binds you. Do it or talk about it. Pray and move on with your personal witnessing.”
I presented my devotions – Divine Mercy chaplet done at 3 pm and Medjugorje POW (Purgatory Oblation Warrior) Chaplet for souls and gave them each one that I had made with blue and red beads. I explained the content of the book from the Pastoral Institute which includes 10 sessions as well as the recordings done by Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq for each lessons. We played the first video, part 1 of session 1.
I concluded that we are agents of love. We should strive to love everyone as Christ did regardless of what they look like or their status, the language they speak. Our mission is to invite everyone to the banquet…invite to the feast whomever you find. (Mt 22:1-14). I sang: “Mesi Jezi o, Mèsi Gran frè mwen, mèsi poutèt ou kenben men m nan men w.”
After about two hours and half of exchange and prayer, Mr. Grandjean’s nephew dropped me at the Manolo Inn. I was getting at the entrance of the hotel, I met Mr. Jean Mirvil, who used to be coordinator of the bilingual program for district 29 while I was a bilingual teacher. We chatted until 10 pm. He mentioned the YMCA program in which he was just involved with in the North. He also asked me to look in CHF International. Getting tired, I went to the room. This time around I had a single room on the first floor.
Saturday, August 23. I could not find the driver’s money and I thought I had left it in the other suitcase in the house. I called the driver to see if he could pick me up on his way to Anse-a-Veau but he was already there. After 7, I got dressed and went to get coffee and pray by the ocean. How soothing and wonderful to look at the ocean and hear the sound of the wage.
Ordered eggs for breakfast while talking to Mr. Mirvil and Fr. Osias of NJ. I addressed a young lady waiting for breakfast. She is a member of La Croix Rouge. After our conversation, Marie Chantal Pitaud agreed to participate in the project next year by giving a session in emergency and first response. The president of the Croix Rouge, Dr. Guito Jean Pierre, already has an office for emergency response in Anse-a-Veau. There were two other guests in the restaurant Mr. St. Fleur and Nathalie Hermantin. I communicated the purpose of Renesesansavo to them and they said to let them know of CORA’s progress.
In the afternoon, Mr. Brataville came to pick me up to go to the house. I did not find the money but I was glad to leave some more things in the barrel. I don’t want to have too heavy a suitcase going back. Fr. Enel came to visit me. He had to wait a few minutes for me to return to the hotel. I ordered fruit juices for him and Mr. Batraville. He is willing to do all he can to assist in facilitating the project next year. When he comes back from his trip, he will send me the definite date we can begin the project—July 6 or 13. Went to bed early.
Sunday, August 24. Woke up in the middle of the night several time for no reason in particular. I guess I had gone to bed too early. Adjusting to a new bed or thinking too much. There was no water running in the bathroom until 7 am. I would not have time to make it to mass on time, so I decided to stay by the ocean and pray and do my daily scripture readings in ‘Magnificat’ and ‘Word Among Us’ as usual. I enjoyed as usual to sit by the ocean listening to the waves lapping at the shore. I felt God’s majestic and deep presence looking where the vast blue water reached the lines of the sky and the bottom of the mountain. I felt such peace and communion with God’s creation and environment. I would pitch a tent right there like Peter at the Transfiguration to stay in this ecstatic moment.
Afterward I called Pierre and Natalie via skype. Msgr. David stopped by to say hello. He could not stay because the seminarians were in the car. I was really happy he came by, his visit was encouraging. I thought I saw about nine young men in the van. I was very pleased because I pray for vocation daily and for priests in particular.
Msgr. Rebecca and Sr. Marie Saul came to talk about the different projects I had proposed. I ordered fruit juice for both of them. I hope they will consider at least the ‘Welcome House’ which will facilitate not only the Renesansavo project but become, in the future, a sustainable project for the development of the town and the church.
Mr. Batraille came to pick me up promptly at 12 noon. I had already paid for the room and food. I met a Ms. Ferrari who was taking a ride to go to Port-au-Prince. While in the car, Ronald called as he had done in the past two times to enquire how I was doing. I also had a chance to call Mrs. Leblanc and Mr. Labissiere. Mr. Batraville went by the caved in palace on Champs de Mars before reaching Tabarre at 3 pm. While I was in my room at the Sisters of Charity, I called Sandra to tell her I was leaving Haiti tomorrow. Sr. Martha and I had a good conversation about different issues. We had adoration at 5:45 pm followed by mass at 7 pm. I was really thankful that the Lord had allowed me to do this program with no incident. I was returning home in good health despite people advising me to cancel the trip because of the Chikungunya virus.
We had supper, washed the dishes, then I went into the room assigned to me in the seminary. I always enjoy the Sisters of Charity’s company and their work in Haiti is commendable. They sponsor schools and clinics in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul working with the poorest citizens. I wish more people would support their endeavors. I have described the different facilities I visited in 2012 in my previous year’s blog.
Monday, August 25. Woke up at 4:20 am waited until 4:30 then got my shower and went to the kitchen area to meet Sr. Josaphat. We went over what she had set up and prepared for breakfast. When we finished we went to the chapel where we had ‘laud’ and mass. Sr. Josaphat right after communion left the chapel to finalize preparation. Sr. Martha tried to print the boarding pass for me but we were unable to do so. I called Sandra and I asked if she could print my boarding pass. She said yes I gave her my password. Sr. Victoria who needs help with her adult/literacy program gave me her annual budget to see how the Ladies of Charity could contribute.
Sr. Martha dropped me at the airport. The lines were long but they moved. We had to pass security three times—downstairs and upstairs. I bought a box of Haitian rhum for Pierre and my brother. While waiting for the plane, I gave a tourist surveyor info about Renesansavo. I hope it would be reported to the tourism office. The planed was booked however we had a good flight. Waited to get my suitcases. When the plane landed, I took a taxi and got home. It was good to be home. My tomato plants had produced a lot. My daughter came from work just after my arrival. It was great seeing her.
Now is time to unpack not only the suitcase but the stories, the reports, the financial records, etc. I have to prepare the final assessments before starting to do research and prepare next year’s second part of the program.
I am also so thankful to all friends and family who contributed time, advice, and some contributions to make this endeavor become a reality. Thank you Lord for having prepared me for this project, inspiring it, and empowering me with ability and means to complete it. I followed your will, I will continue to pray and work on this assignment as you dictate that it may bear the fruits you intend to produce.
“Let the Lord God show us what way we should take and what we should do”. Jeremiah 42:3
Responses for Blog received by email:
Congratulations Marie! Thank you so much for sharing with us your very interesting and enriching travel log.
Despite all the obstacles, you were able to accomplish the first part of your project. Hoping you will see the big change in the community at your next trip. I am learning a lot from your experience that requires a great patience.
Hats Off! Maryse H.
Nov 11 at 10:01 P
I wrote on your blog to congratulate your effort to the community of Petite Riviere de Nippes. The beautiful site ho God they are marvelous. Haiti has a lot and a lot of needs and this is everywhere and every part of this country. Let’s pray to find responsible people that we can share project that we encounter for the generation to come.
Nov 11 at 3:22 PM
Ma Chère Marie,
Je viens de prendre connaissance de ton périple en Haiti. Je te félicite déjà bien que je n’aie pas eu le temps de l’approfondir. Ah! cette réalité que je vis au quotidian!
Félicitations Marie. Tu es venue, tu as vu et tu as dit.
Bon courage. Puisse le Grand Créateur de l’Univers t’aider à bien mener tes projets.
Nov 11 at 1:51 PM
It is an amazing experience. I am so proud of you for all the good things you do in Haiti. May God bless your activities and your benefactors! It is wonderful.
Nov 11 at 11:52 AM
Thank you for including me in your distribution list. It sounds like you had an interesting and worthwhile time. I hope you will see your investment bear fruit and result in improving the lives of the people.
Nov 11 at 7:53 AM