Monday, October 24, 2011

I explained in an earlier post a little bit about an organization that I have been involved in, and will spend a little more time explaining in more detail of what their objectives are. The official name of the organization is the Federation of Community Organizations, or the FOC. The FOC has a non lucrative and non political goal of taking care of the preservation and promotion of structure by imposing educative, cultural, intellectual and spiritual values on the Haitian population. Particularly those of the vulnerable communities.Their objectives to achieve this are the following:

  1. To promote local and national culture.
  2. To prevent population from risks and disasters, diseases etc.…
  3. To work on improving the quality of education.
  4. To promote the respect of Human Rights.
  5. To work on the environmental protection according to their laws.
  6. To promote the development in agricultural sector.
  7. To facilitate the local durable development by way of infrastructure.
  8. To help like auxiliary to authorities bounded by the realization of some development projects. 
  9. To help the population in making more wise and beneficial decisions.

They work to sustain existing, and up and coming community organizations who’s goals are to improve the Haitian populations life conditions in these ways. It comes as no surprise that in order for an organization like this to be successful they need support. That’s where I step in, I’m known as the International Representative in the meetings now, says so on my badge and everything—so you know I’m legit. While I am here I attend the meetings and will soon be going out into the communities of Leogane to help with the promotion of these ideas and values. After I return home I will bring with me a presentation that I am working on and will be able to show to various organizations, schools, families—anyone, to help them see that this organization is doing great things for their people. In doing this, I hope to inspire them to support this movement by ways of supplies, financial or volunteer support. Go FOC!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Two weeks ago I got my first case of  “Haitian Happiness” though I was thinking and feeling many things, happy was definitely not on that list. I must say that I have been somewhat expecting to get sick and  knew it would only be a matter of time considering the mass amounts of street food that I have been consuming. It may also have been due to me drinking some juice that had ice that was from the local water… but either way I was very, very sick all Friday morning. Our neighbor Madame Jimmy came over while I was having my episode and she came back with limes that she rubbed on my chest and had me smell and also a necklace that had cut limes and a clove of garlic strung through it. I felt like I was being initiated into some secret voodoo vampire hunting club, but the limes did help my nausea a bit. It wasn’t until I got a shot though that I was finally able to keep things down and in. After that I was finally able to relax and i slept for the better part of the day and drank large amounts of  liquids. Even though I was extremely sick I haven’t been scared away from eating the food, the next day actually, and almost everyday after for that matter,  I bought lunch from the lady down the street.


Last week was my nineteenth birthday and was celebrated Haitian style. I woke up and went to the market with Madame Jimmy and bought Soledad her birthday present which was school shoes. In Haiti in order to for anyone to attend school you must have a uniform and shoes, her family was able to afford the uniform but didn't have enough money to buy shoes—that was the only reason she hasn’t gone to school and she celebrated her twelfth birthday along with me. Not getting an education because of lack of money to buy the needed clothing is the case for the majority of kids in Haiti. Madame Jimmy bought the necessary ingredients for the meal she was planning to cook for us and from when we returned in the morning till about four in the afternoon she was cooking  the amazing dinner. Soledad came over and she was looking and feeling fabulous. When she came in I was listening to my head phones and she wanted to see what they were all about, after she put them on she started rockin’ out and they stayed on her head  for a while, I actually had to pull them off of her head a few times. The whole time the girl was all over the place! She cracks me up, she has the craziest facial expressions when she’s doing things and she would randomly start talking reaaally loud because she had the head phones turned on so high. She really is a funsize dark chocolate version of me. We ate dinner, cut the cake and she was so excited to open up her gifts. She was all smiles and I was so happy that we spent our birthday together.  When we walked her home after we were all done a bunch of the kids in the neighborhood sang us happy birthday—it was such a special birthday for many little reasons like that. In the evening my friends from All Hands took me out and celebrated with me, twas a great ending to my day.


Four days ago we received a baby girl who was on the brink of starvation and tested positive for HIV/AIDS. We tried to take her to the local clinics but everywhere we went would not except her because of the state she was in. The only option we had was to take her home and do what we could for her, and that's what we did. She would not eat or drink anything voluntarily and after putting a feeding tube in her, her body rejected everything that we tried to supply her with. It is impossible to convey the depths of my despair and hopelessness that consumed me these past couple days coming to terms with not having the power to do anything but watch while death slowly took her in front of my eyes. She spent her last days on earth in my arms with me doing all that was in my power to do, and that was giving her my love and affection. She was only on this planet for a year, and in my life for a few days of that, but she changed me. Unlike anything else. She was an angel sent just for me to teach me powerful life lessons that i could have only experienced through the days that we spent together. Tonight i look up at the sky and find myself not seeing stars but seeing her in Allahs hands dancing with her fellow angels. I thank God for you my Magarline, two nights ago you entered Paradise, but you live on on earth through my heart and spirit.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

This past Saturday was my first beach get away in Haiti. It was a picture perfect afternoon complete with my first float in the warm Caribbean waters, coconuts and it’s juice picked straight from the tree, and a sunset good enough to be on a post card. I was swimming in the water so long my skin got pruney enough that I could have passed as an eighty year old, or at least could  have gotten a senior discount or something. I hitched a ride in a hand carved canoe that was taking a little jaunt along the shore, I was enjoying the ride so much I was thinking of asking if we could just keep going till we hit Cuba. But thought against it when I figured I would probably have to take over rowing at least once during the trip and that just didn’t sit well with my lazy ass. So I just floated some more as I watched the sunset, which was perfectly fine by me.

The next day I attended my first meeting with the group that I explained about with my last post. And I will say that I really underestimated the potential of this group. I had someone there who new English who served as a translator for me, there was about eight of us sitting around the table and they were all taking turns introducing themselves and telling what they did for a living. In the mix there was the judge for Leogane, the ex mayor, a U.N worker, nurses, teachers and agriculturalist. The day before at the beach I had personally met with the mayor of Leogane, so there are definitely some fancy pants people that are pushing this movement along. But when it finally got to be my turn to introduce myself to them I felt silly and somewhat insignificant to say that I was still a student, but they were very welcoming all the same. After sitting in on this meeting I have decided that I will not only help out with speaking and meeting with groups across Leogane ( which consists of thirteen sections and is very large) but will serve as somewhat of a spokes person for it in the United States. Creating a web site and helping them raise money, needed supplies, volunteers—whatever. I even get a badge with my picture on it and everything, so official! At this meeting one of the things discussed and what needed to be decided upon was a logo for the foundation. They passed me a paper and pen and said that I should out some ideas down. After doodling for a bit while everyone was showing around and explaining there already made designs, I eventually showed mine… and the group decided on one of my designs for their official logo…! It felt so good I almost jumped up and kissed the old bald judge’s head, but settled with just a little jig in my seat. Will keep you updated on the projects progress as the days come.

Yesterday was suppose to be the day that Annabel was to be brought to the orphanage, the mother called us several times to confirm that she was bringing her but we waited all day and she never showed up. Some girls came over to play and I ended up meeting a girl who has the same birthday as me! Her name is Solidad and she acts just like I did (do??) when I was her age, just does outrageous things for the sake of attention and getting her friends to laugh—man I love libras. Obviously it made us instantly best friends and we are going to celebrate our birthday together, me turning a ripe old age of nineteen and for her a big fat twelve! Its her golden birthday so I want to get her something real nice, going to the market tomorrow.

Today was the first day of class that I taught to my girls. I had so much fun. They are all very bright and learning English very fast and well. After the lesson we went out to the back and played with some chalk and danced and listen to music. We had lunch and I taught another little lesson and then did an art project with them, I showed them how to make a fortune teller and they thought it was as cool as I thought they are. Which is great to know that I’m not a complete dweeb for being the only eighteen year old who still gets enjoyment from them. A neighbor also brought her goats over today and said that we could name them, I named a little black one Betty.

With all of the great things going on, I still struggle. For those who star gaze with me, thank you, it makes me teary eyed knowing that you are.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I’ve only been in Haiti for almost a week now, but it has been such an adventure already. On our arrival we were picked up by the owner of an orphanage that is close to ours in his truck, Ryan myself and another Haitian fellow rode in the back while others rode in the front. First off, people drive extremely crazy down here, there are no rules of the road whatsoever… but its so awesome! Dodging and passing, stopping and flooring it, weaving in and out of cars, motorcycles and elaborately painted tap-taps, coming inches away from people and animals who don’t even flinch! Then out of no where, we would go over kitty pool sized pot holes and I would literally be launched into the air and almost out of the truck along with all of our luggage! But the most exhilarating part of it all was my first view of Haiti and the town of Port-Au-Prince itself. The earth quake caused catastrophic damage throughout the country, beautiful architectures all or half in rubble or hardly noticeable behind the poverty that masks them. It is eerily sad, but in its own way beautiful at the same time. Tents shacks, and mounds of garbage are in your view every which way you turn, family's lining the streets selling anything they can to make a few gourdes to try and create at least an illusion of making a living. And all the time you could hear music playing. At one point during the drive we had to turn around because up the street was a huge riot we had to avoid. Eventually as we made our way our of the city and closer to Leogane, we began to feel a few drops of rain, then suddenly… it was POORING! Let me remind you that I was in the open back end of the tuck as well as all of our luggage! We were completely soaked in the matter of seconds. But before the fact that it registered in my head that our things were getting drenched, it felt amazing. I couldn’t help but out stretch my arms, close my eyes and turn my head up to the heavens thanking Allah. Already having steady prayers being muttered throughout the car ride, having the warm rain shower was so unexpected and liberating in a way, I felt like he was just giving me a preview of what is to come. Eventually when we got to the house and our things were all over the ground to dry, Nichole realized that a sum of money was stolen out of her wallet when her bag was left in the truck without any of us in view. The driver is/was considered a good friend. It taught me a lesson that I need to be very careful down here, everyone is so friendly and it’s in my nature to want to see and believe the good in people. But looks are deceiving, everyone is desperate here, and when someone is in conditions like this it makes even the best beings do bad things.

My first full day here we went to pick up Gup and Sota (the dog) at the orphanage not very far from ours. It was a nice walk, there are paths that go by and through peoples yards so I got my first real peek of Leogane and how it’s people live. Chickens and goats run free everywhere, everyone is outside sitting, talking, laughing, relaxing, no rush to do any thing… my kind of people. We would stop to talk to them briefly and continue along the path. Once we got to the orphanage, we saw sota and she was so very skinny. I met some of the girls who will be the ones that I will be teaching classes to twice a week starting next week. I have really been getting out and  meeting the people, they are all kind and some already know me by name, calling at me when I walk by. I am trying my best to learn Creole and there are people more than willing to help, there are two teenage girls in particular that live close by who always ask for me to come over just to sit and teach me. People like to touch my hair and pinch my little nose, but I really don’t mind. Since I’ve been here I have been to a total of three orphanages. My favorite thing to do is to just sit in the group of children and give them my love and undivided attention. Playing with them, hugging and kissing them until it’s time for us to leave, it is so incredibly amazing for me. I wish I could sufficiently explain the things I have seen and how it makes me feel, but powerful things as such seem near to impossible to put in words. And maybe that’s because they are things that shouldn’t be explained, but experienced by all. I also feel like that is going to be the case for many experiences that I will encounter in these months to come so bare with me if posts are vague.

We get around to places to far for walking by motorcycles driven by guys for money, they are everywhere and its about fifty cents American for a ride. I love motorcycle rides and it is so fun to see the town on one! The first night we went to eat in a restaurant, it is all outside and open with beautiful tropical vegetation all around us. It was my first taste of authentic Haitian food and I‘ve been a sucker for it ever since! A typical dish usually consists of either chicken, beef, pork or goat, (I’ve tried them all but the pork which I don’t eat, and the goat has been my favorite so far!) with a side of fried plantains, pikliez, (coleslaw looking thing that you eat as a topping that is spicy) and pate( pickliez with a meat inside of a dough patty). Haitian cooking has soon became some of my favorite food, they deep fry everything so I really don’t think I will have to worry about losing weight down here... I have had the pleasure of being able to walk just down the street for a full meal that only costs about two American dollars. It is so beautiful here, it is a paradise but it’s hard see behind such desperation and poverty. The plants and flowers are lush and green, sky’s the bluest of blues and almost every night a thunder and lightning storm that will light up the whole sky but will eventually clear off revealing the night sky and millions of clear stars. There all sorts of animals and insects that look and sound so different than the ones back home. But that’s not always a good thing…  I have screamed and almost pooped my pants countless times because of all of the disgusting spiders, rats, snakes and cockroaches! I’ve made an effort to remind myself to keep my mouth closed when I sleep… I’ve heard that things crawls in your mouth when you don’t know it and I certainly don’t want any of those yucky things up in my business. It makes me twitch just thinking about it!

The first night I was here I met a neighbor named Jackson who can speak English fairly well. He asked if I would be willing to help him with his English, and of course, I said I would. Yesterday was the first day that I went over for a “lesson”, he pretty much just needs to have conversations for practice and someone who can help him with words sometimes and pronunciation. I’m good at listening and even better at talking, so it went very well. But the reason why I am talking about it now is the topic that consumed our time. Jackson is very passionate about his country and his people. Haiti has had a devastating history of poverty, corruption and violence and at this point, the future is not looking different. The people have gotten themselves into a routine that has been passed down through generations. Jackson has a dream to change this  routine and he is making it his purpose to do so. He is creating a program with the premises of educating his people in ways that they can single handedly start to make this change, and showing them that there is hope for them yet. He is beginning this movement by first educating representatives from the thirteen areas of Leogane and having them go back into their community and spreading the vision of a better Haiti and that this vision needs to start with them, the people. If they may not live to see a significant change, then their children might, or their children. But it has to start now.  He really stressed to me that the people don't take into consideration the consequences that their actions are having on the environment and themselves. He says that it has been one way for so long that the people don’t know any better and don’t see hope for a better future. As he was telling me this, I began to get very excited and had a lot of input and ideas. He has asked if I wanted to help with the project and set up a presentation that I would be able to present to the people. I brought up the obvious problem that I barely know any Creole, but he said that was not a problem for he has interpreters for me. He said that having an outsider as a spokesperson along with the locals could really make an influence on the people. Jackson is a respected member in the community and he has ties with officials such as the mayor. I think this project has genuine potential because he is passionate and driven and he has the means that is making his project a reality. I feel like making his acquaintance, which led me to become involved in this, may be a part of why i felt this calling to Haiti. In just the few days I have been here I have fallen in love with it’s people. They are one of a kind and I feel great love and compassion for them. And if he thinks that I will be able to help make a difference, even in the smallest of ways, then damn it, I’m going to do my best to do just that. I hope that it will all work out. 

I’ve made it a habit of sleeping outside on a cot. It’s a bit cooler at night and its nice to see the nights sky and hear all of the sounds of the animals.I feel better outside, I think it’s because it’s really hard for me at nights already… and looking up at the sky I have to think that my loved ones are looking at it as well, and even though they are so very far away, it is the same sky none the less. To everyone back home, if you get the chance to lay out under the stars at night, please do, and know that I am thinking of and missing you. That way, in a way… we are doing it together.
Until next time…

Thursday, September 22, 2011

 It' beginning to hit me that this is my last night in the U.S... I can't stop eating the Chinese food my mom brought home as a "last supper" kind of thing. I mean seriously... I've had so much.. and i know it's due to the fact that I'm not going to be able to get any more for the next couple months. I'm feeling that way about more and more things as the night goes on. One minute I'm all cool, then the next minute I'm totally wigging out. I think that my biggest anxiety is that I'm going to be undertaking the biggest experience of my young life and i won't have any of my friends or my family's physical support. They all mean so much to me and to be honest, I'm kind of scared that I'm going to be seas away from them. But i do know that i have been guided to Haiti for a reason and i am so honored and excited to be given this chance to be a part of something bigger then myself. I continue to remind myself that Allah is good and he will be with me always. Everything that i will experience, the good things and the bad, i am meant to and it will only lead me closer to finding my way through life and to the women that i am ultimately able and suppose to become. And that makes me smile and my heart feel warm. I am ready for this. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses... the homeless, and the tempest-tost". Bring it on Haiti. I'm ready for ya.