Wednesday, December 19, 2012

RAISE THE ROOF! Mariott Lux Hotel? Roofing Tin for Rural Homes?

Marriott builds a new lux hotel - chapo ba!  It will mean 200 jobs for folks in the city with skills and connections.  

And Petionville gets a new hotel as well:

Meanwhile back at the ranch, er, lakou in the hurricane-ravaged mountains, our folks degaje as best they can to replace roofing tin.  Old rusty tin, plaited banane leaves, torn canvas, old clothes, you name it...

Can we do better than this? Come on,  Raise the Roof!

We're trying to get roofing tin to repair a few homes - at least, keep the rain out.  We're not aiming to completely rebuild - that would be nice - but just get keep it dry for a while, as we degaje for the rest.

Ten bucks, the price of a dinner out, from all our fans will help do this.  Honest.

Raise the Roof!  And never mind Petionville's new Royal Oasis.
Miami Herald Reports New Luxury Hotel: Royal Oasis

Saturday, December 8, 2012

They Need the Bread

No more tears! Food supplies reach our zone, and the laying of the foundations of the new school by Digicel are underway.  Peanuts are ground, flour is available. See below for recent photos.
Small pita-like loaves are now baked on Mon Bouton!
Dev, an innovator and entrepreneur, brought his stoves, manual bread rolling equipment and recipe, up to our zone.  He started his business in the old school building, moved to Madame Vab's old depot...He is now the fiancee of Michaele, Madame Vab's oldest daughter, and a biznis success. And: a daughter born last week.  Bon Dieu bon!
The foundation!

Two summer ago, we met with Digicel's CEO - who actually climbed up to visit this site!  And now, with a mule team of 20 mules, building blocks, cement, sand and rebar are being moved up 4000 feet most efficiently.  And yes, people are hauling and guiding mules as well - so this means paid work and engagement of our community.  On-site coordination is in the hands of Paster Dieudonne Abraham.  Below, one of our 3 school sites gets mamba ak pen, peanut butter and bread.
Old school, still in service
Like everyone else in the zone "If Pigs Could Fly - Haiti" must degaje - make do - with whatever we have available.  Good habit, and we save, recycle, re-use everything.

Our team "Mama's Making Mamba" - includes some brothers and fathers as well - makes and serves the peanut butter on bread as a morning meal.  We used to call it a "snack" - but the fact is, most if not all of these children have not eaten anything since the night before.  The bread and peanut butter is their first meal of the day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Talkin' Turkey in the mountains of Haiti

A day in the life of the lakou-a

Nelson chases the family pet, yon dindon while I fumble with the camera.  They have a wild chase around the expanse of lakou - and I had wondered why the earth around the home was so neatly swept... Ahhh, I understood: clearing away dindon droppings!
Chasing yon dindon 
I found the chase around the lakou exhilirating and funny.  Nelson laughing all the while running after Big Bird.  The smile!
Roosevelt and the other boys look on as Nelson grins and shows his prowess -
and that ain't all...
Ride 'em
Nelson will grip Big Bird between his legs and ride him like a hobby horse! The children are playing, horsing around - ahem - and challenging anyone else to outdo Nelson's antics.  There is a gaggle of girls and boys now, the boys sporting newly shaven heads (lice?  Grooming?  Church?).  A few wear sandals, most wear garish combinations of pepe - old well-worn t-shirts, (where? by who?) some with Disney characters, stripes with plaid or floral.

I bring out a bag of colored rubber bands and we play rubber band races.  Malaki teaches me, explaining the rules, while holding onto his machete with one hand, tossing a ribber band with the other.  Gosh, I sure don't want to mess with Malaki.  
Machete tucked in his underarm
Later, Roosevelt serves up a pot of red rice -- rice with a tomato Maggi cube thrown in.  The girls and a baby pile up on one bed with bowls and spoons to share.  Laundry is helter skelter on the other bed.  Kids are busy eating, scraping their bowls.  The baby manages well on her own, miraculously.  Nelson is cheerful, quiet, eating.

No one (else) seems to be in charge. 

All will wait.  We are a bouillon cube away from red rice - lunch.  Dinner.  Both?.

I wonder about the laundry, shirts and skirts, T-shirts lumped in a pile. 

Later, much later, a voisin, a close neighbor on Mon Bouton, shares with me that Nelson and his siblings lost their mother a month ago.  She, Viviane, had been a peddler of banane - to and from the capital, frequently. From lavil, she came home sick, returning to die. 

She was the one cholera death here in the mountains.   There were not many.  I am not sure who is counting, but that is what I was told.

In this way, Haiti happened...and happened to me.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Boy Next Door

Meet Watklif. Yup, nothing new under the sun. He could be the poster child for Darfur, Somalia, the you name the place malnourished child.

I know him. (So do you.)

Squatting there, watching him, “Why am I taking his picture?” I took it anyway, and a few others, then a short video clip. Objectifying him.

Not that I haven’t seen him and thousands others over the 8 summers and then some tthat I have spent in Haiti, agonizing over Haiti, agonizing with Haiti, living , among the farmers in remote mlountains.

Watklif is the boy next door; he’s Toma’s grand nephew or something. A grandson of Madama Karolis. 
Last summer he was the ugliest toddler, all large head, covered with scabs, flea bites. Now, he is an ugly child of maybe 3 or so. 

Nobody much knows or cares.

Suddenly, I do.

Will you?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Today's blog offers the schematics and assembly instructions for Solar Powered Water Pumps.  Please leave us comments, and we'll get back to you - hope you might join us for the installation?  Thanks.







And, here is the powerpoint, presented at the Haitian Studies Association Conference, NY, 2012, with some video footage in hyperlinks, and 4 min. music video with update, "Where we stand now" at the end.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Can I stay the tears of others?

I can stay the tears of others, if...

"I can stay the tear of others, if I can see myself as diminished of their sorrows.
I can hasten time when everyone will be able to rejoice in freedom." 
(Poem/text by Jewish Fund for Justice)

And if I can see myself as the companion...
And if I can see myself as the companion, of those fighting oppression,

I can honor the struggle of people everywhere
to gain dignity and deliverance from bondage.

I can honor the struggle...

"When I look in the mirror
who will I see?" 

When I look in the mirror...
Who will I see?

(This last, a photo montage by Amir Dread)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"What Woman Wants, God Wants: Voices from the Mountains of Haiti"

Here's an illustrated, virtual ethnography of rural women's responses to questions asking what they want for themselves, their families, what is important for them in their lives, what do they want for their lives.

Friday, October 12, 2012


"Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter. opens for me all the doors of life." - Pablo Neruda
Destin and Wozanna in 2004

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Water! Now! Livin' on a Prayer, friends

Sure, we have the plans, the materials, the nuts and bolts, (but not the steel) for installing solar powered water pumps - answer to prayers for a Haitian mountain zone that relies on girls and young women - and any boys and men willing and able -  for hauling water. 

All parts are there, except for some sort of hurricane-resisting posts and expertise to share with residents/users who want to learn about the technology.  We have diagrams, models  ready to be tweaked and work shared with residents of the zone (Kreyol only,but you may degaje with French and English and finger-pointing to diagrams).
You game? Please Give us a holler at Haiti Next Door on FB.

This is serious.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hello, God? Watkliff Here!

‎"Hello God? Wattkliff here! Great news from Mon Bouton! Yup, cement, sand, blocks and rebar continue to be schlepped up by us kids and parents for the school. Madam Vab is feeling better, thanks to To Fre de San Theres. Michaela is expecting, Wozanna has delivered. So, thank you, God!"

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Working" - Studs Terkel does Haiti

" Every man looketh that his companion should value him at the same rate he sets upon himself."  –Thomas Hobbes
In Memory of Mesye Dekles, my neighbor and friend.

Building a wall.

Madame Nelis ak tifi li.  In the house without walls.

Under construction.

Rigaud sekle zeb kote kay Madam Inez.
"Bam yon lot woch."  Let's have another rock.

Working to live, living to work.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bibla pou Jodi-a - Istwa Jakob, Leah ak Rakel

Jenez 27, 28: Jakob kay Laban

 " Ou se fanmi mwen, se re. Men sa pa vle di fok ou sevi m gratis pou sa. 
Di m konbe  pou m  peye ou?"
 Jakob reponn Laban:  "M'ap sevi ave ou set lanne pou Rachel, dezyem pitit fi ou la."  Se konsa Jakob pase setan ap travay kay Laban pou l te ka marye ak Rachel.

Aswe, Laban te pran Leya, pitit fi li a, li mennen l bay Jakob ki kouche ave l.
 Se pa koutim nou isit pou n marye ti se anvan gran se,  Tann senmenn lan fin pase...Apre sa, m'a ba ou Rachel, si ou dako sevi ave m pandan set lot lanne anko.

 Jakob tonbe dako.  Jakob kouche ak Rachle. Li te renmen l pi plis pase Leya.  Li sevi ak Laban pandan set lanne anko.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hurricane Isaac Strikes the Hill Country

The Momance overflows
Terraced crops - gone

The destruction to crops and already weathered, weather-beaten and water-leaking wooden housing in mountains --- NO TENTS HERE --- is...what can many of us relate it to, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"?!!  I don't have the soundtrack (yet).

Our team does have a plan for raising funds to raise tin for rooftops.  We have a pledge from local congregation already.  If you'd like to help with purchase of tin for roofing for this community, we are at

Friday, August 17, 2012

We will Sing, and Chase the Darkness Away

And the old shall dream dreams...
Below, scroll to hear Lisa Levine's "We Will Sing"

And the young shall have visions

And our hopes will rise...

Rise to the skies...

‎"KNOW HAITI WELL," ADVISES BILL GATES - INDEED. When the 28-year-old Hollywood star asked the computer billionaire if she should be looking at causes beyond just Haiti, Gates told her to scale back.
"He said, 'No, invest your time in Haiti and know your subject well,'" -


'trying my hand measuring out a "godet" of mayi moulin pou vann. M poko jwen klient, men...m ede Gran, Madam Andre, nan mache, Fort Kampon.

"Go to the people.
Live among them.
Learn from them.

Love them.
Serve them.
Plan with them.  Start with what they know.
Build on what they have."

Words by Dr. Y.C. Yen, found on the office wall of D. Larry Mellon

Update from Zoranje Zone - the Whole Truth

1.  ACCESS TO WATER - Our pumps and solar panels have been freed from Customs, and are finally in the hands of the Port au Prince team, ENERSA,  ,
that will be installing everything by mid-September (they say.)

2.  Digicel  (Haiti's ATT) has provided materials for the school. Unfortunately, the expectation that hauling the 6 tons of cement, cement blocks, rebar, etc., is not quite realistic --- given that it is 3500 feet of rock and no road.  Nevertheless the people - and children - of the zone are determined to make this happen, so they do this the only way they know how: human labor (and a few mules that have had enough grazing land to feed on...).

3. I was up in the zone as "Resident anthropologist" again  this past July.  I note that tons of materials are accruing at the river's edge, where the path to ascend to Zoranje Zone begins.  I will attach a short video clip.  Both children and adults have been recruited to haul the materials up; even with this, and all the mules (and their guides) that the entire zone could ever assemble (mules need to rest and be fed/grazed as well!), it is hard to say when, if ever, all 6 tons of materials will make it to the building site.  Here is the 4 min. music video which speaks  - sings - to that effort:

Pastor Djon (Dieudonne) has been scrambling motivating folks and doing whatever he can to get help and mules. He built housing for the engineers and construction team, and a place to secure materials.  He obtained more land, a better building site. In fact, there was once, briefly, a bulldozer that came to start digging a road.  Unfortunately, they coud not afford gas for the bulldozer, nor, it seems could anyone construe a way to KEEP getting fuel to the bulldozer as it made its way up the mountain.   Here's 3 min. of videotape of the children working
KQPgIE6yAYo- of course, for this, they get fed a huge bowl of rice and sauce pwa, and water.  In the morning, everybody had coffee when they made the descent, and water along the way carried for the workers by other childre.  

Folks are stumped, the bulldozer is gone.  I hear that, bit by bit, children continue to carry things up, adults too.

I am awaiting an update - from my local colleague, Toma, and/or the Digicel CEO, as to when the engineers might be able to start, and what, if anything, Digicel Foundation might do to ease the literal burden on these children and their parents?

The one minute video of materials accrued at the base of the mountain:

4.  All in all, it is at least testimony to the strength and dogged determination of the Haitian people of the mountains. In the face of all this,  I am humbled, and in awe.