Tuesday, July 24, 2012



Good morning Poprens! Where the sun never sleeps – and neither does anyone else!
Hey, I can’t complain….Well, of course, I can always complain, it’s in my genes.  Kvetching is perhaps at the heart of what it means to be a Jewish American princess (and Haitian-by-courtesy), yes?

But my friends  in the capital did their very best and we actually have a bed, and not simply a tile floor, - this here has a rug, well, a ratty rug. but a rug - to sleep on.  And, there’s water carried in, usually, a bokit and tin cup to bathe with,  and even a secluded double-header head!  Er, that is, a 2-seater latrine. 

Plus it’s very secure.  Check out the security:  coils of concertina wire even atop the walls of the compound.

It’s Vietnam all over again.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Le Monde de Morne Bouton: Istwa ap kontinye, Digicel ede pep nan Mon

Wi, papa! Konstriksyon lekol komanse, ak ed Digicel, Mairie, epi Bon Dieu li menm. In July, shortly after this video was compiled and set to music, that same old confluence of serendipity made manifest a miracle. You'll see the surprise in the last frame of "The Children's Crusade"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Le Monde de Morne Bouton: School Construction Underway!

Cement Blocks pile up at river's edge
School Construction Underway, a veritable Citadel for our Mountain Community!  Thank you, Digicel!
The school, a monumental structure to be the local equivalent of Henri Christophe’s La Citadel in northern Haiti, is under construction!  That is, thanks to Digiel’s CEOs and the unflagging efforts of Principal Dieudonne (aka “John”), to bring everything together, the building materials are literally piling up at the river's edge (the Momance), awaiting mules, people or…? Trucks ? For the long haul up...
Yes - a yellow bulldozer has started to dig a road up!  
It stopped after 300 feet.  
Only 3200 more to go...

Given the difficulties of transport and Principal John’s persistence, it appears that soon a road will be dug by a bulldozer (or two), to allow for trucks to bring materials to the school site, some 3500 feet up.  And, indeed, one bulldozer made an appearance last week, dug about 100 meters and stopped.

Out of gas!  Now, that's another wrinkle...

Here’s one clip showing materials starting to pile up at the river's edge (they crossed over to the Djon Djon side and stopped just where one must start the almost vertical hike up.  Goats do well here, even mules.  And, some people.  But cement?  Sand? Gravel?  Cement blocks?  Coils of wire? Stacks of rebar?  6 tons more of it?

Are things looking up for Zoranje zone's children?

A Children's Crusade, of sorts, starts with schlepping rebar up from the river's edge.
The clip shows the route followed some 200+ years ago  by newly freed slaves - who feared the French would return - to carry a cannon up to Zoranje zone.  This is the same route followed now by child and adult volunteers, who carry rebar and construction materials up to build a school, funded by Digicel.  This clip shows the day of the "Children's Crusade," an impressive effort by tag teams of children as young as 7, who participated in the "sevis kominote" (community service).  All received a huge meal of rice and beans after the work.  The school principal's wife is in charge of cooking and serving some 100+ workers - usually not on a daily basis however.  Folks need to rest!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Le Monde de Morne Bouton: Building with Digicel!

Deja vu all over again...
La Citadel, commissioned by Henri Christophe, was built between
1805-1820 on this mountainside by 20, 00 freed slaves.

A school is offered by Digicel Foundation for this mountain zone, 
Zoranje, 6eme seksyon 
Leogane, southeastern Haiti, 2011-2012.

A Conspiracy of Forces:  Pep andeyo, timoun lekol, la Mairie, Digicel, Letat (and mwen)

Mezanmi!  It appears that the Mairie of Leogane, Digicel and even Letat d’Ayiti may all be on board with the 6-room schoolhouse Digicel Foundation thought it might build! At least, it had been proposed last summer, for elementary school children in our remote mountain zone, Zoranje, 6eme seksyon, Leogane.  That’s “remote” as in “no roads.”

And as of today, it seems that the powers that be have agreed that, in order for the 7 tons of construction materials to appear at the school site, why, a road (a road!) will have to be constructed first.  A road!

How did this minor miracle come to pass? 

The usual confluence of serendipity that is Haiti, I suppose.

Thanks to a Haitian Facebook buddy, who works for Digicel, I was digitally introduced to then-CEO of the Digicel Foundation, Elizabeth Headon.  Then followed an astonishing in-person meeting of Ms. Headon with three of us mountain personae: Elisee Abraham (a.k.a. Toma), myself, and young Destin Louisjean, along for the ride and the education.

And what an education it was.  We were ushered into Ms. Headon’s glass-walled office - of course air conditioned – sat on cushy chairs and were served coffee (sans sik!) in tiny cups (porcelain, Irish) with shortbread (yummy, also Irish) and immediately handed color copies of the school building Ms. Headon was telling us about, in rapid-fire English (accent was Irish).  It would have 6 classrooms.  It would have a separate “biwo” (office).  It would have windows.  Even doors!  Desks!  Chairs!  A latrine!  Her list went on. Staggeringly on.

“Where do we sign?” I bleated.

Well, of course, not so fast.  Ms. Headon would have to visit and yes she’d make the hike up 3500 feet, of course!  But, even before that, a reconnaissance mission would be hiking up, to check the security of the trek and ourselves.

Pa pwoblem,” says Toma, and he and I discussed where the visitors might be lodged, should they need to overnight.

I, of course, did not believe that any of this would actually happen. 

Haiti’s funny that way.  The planned things, for one reason or another, do not come always come to pass (at least, not as you’d have liked them to have come to pass) but, as if an Almighty is seeking to balance the score, the most unplanned, miraculous, outlandish and unbelievable things (and people) do happen.  It’s all in the serendipity of Haiti.

Good things happen, all in good Haitian time.

“It’s a bit of a trek,” I share, believing in “truth-in-advertising.” 

“Bit” is a bit of an understatement. It’s almost 3500 feet of sheer rock face; even the mules balk.  Haitians can do it in under 2 hours, but then they’ve been in training all their lives.  The rest of us can, with good cloud cover and sufficient adrenalin, make it up in around 3…or 4.

There’s that river, the Momance, to cross.   Twice actually.  After that flat and shady part, it’s mostly straight up and on, until you are there.

Well, in truth, there’s actually no “there” there.  The zone consists of homes (huts?) and churches (and more churches) strung out along hillside paths that snake along mountain ridges, crests, cornfields and lakou (traditional clusters of more-or-less related families).  And churches.

The descent is actually more difficult.

“I can do it,” assures Ms. Headon, who looked to be maybe 40 at most.  I was certain she could make it.

The question was: would she?

Indeed, she did.  Read on. Photos in next blog post.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Istwa Watkliff: Story of Watkliff

Why not? Watkliff!
Watkliff in the beginning.
No, not Darfur - Haiti. 90 min. from Miami
Here are photos from 2008 taken 2 weeks apart.

The urchin in the "before" has been transformed into the student with his art work in "After."

After what?

See, I made a unilateral decision.

Definitely not kosher, and certainly not a first in the history of well-intentioned blan in Haiti.

I decided what Watkliff needed was: School and peanut butter! As he was not yet 4 years old, I had to plead his case with our school Principal, Dieudonne Abraham.

So, after not too long a time, we see Watkliff, in the summer school, and with 2 weeks of peanut butter under his belt, hands on math and art projects, Watkliff has found his metier...See him here, creating with materials he'd never seen and then, how proud he is as his teacher, Principal Dieudonne, looks over his work.

Haiti, here is one of your future engineers!
The photo just to the left here are a year afterward. Watkliff has been a year in the Brothers' Abraham School. Tuition is only $5.00 US for the year!

Principal and Teacher Dieudonne (John)explores measurement of length with linking cubes, (cubes and other stuff, all schlepped up the mountain on the backs of mules over these several years).

Watkliff is no longer a poster child for Darfur, he now has status.

In Haiti, his status, his social capital, is now that of a "student," a "schooled" child, one who attends school He gets to wear shoes - when he goes to school. Support from www.ifpigscouldflyhaiti.org has provided his family with a goat to raise. If they are successful, they can cover school fees and his shoes.  Ideally, this is less of a charity and more of a modest step in the form of "jobs creation" for education.

The following summer, I see the Principal and Watkliff interacting, and I observe Watkliff studiously at work. There, he holds a pencil, a colored pencil, grasping correctly and writing, copying. Here, he explores shapes and sizes of geometric blocks.

A future engineer!

Why not? Watkliff!