Yesterday afternoon, a Friday after a busy week, we decided to take a drive out in the Rhino to a nearby mission to check on friends who are visiting there. We needed to get out and it was the perfect excuse.
Duverger is about a 30 minute drive into the mountains. It is beautiful and very green right now. Because of the clouds and rain the distant mountains aren't visible and the tops of the nearby ones are shrouded in mist. There weren't many vehicles or motos on the road because of the mud but there were plenty of people on donkeys and horses, or on foot - yesterday was market day in our central village and everyone was returning home.
We visited the missionaries there for a while, saw their recent house improvements, and were surprised with a generous and tasty meal before we headed back before dark. Unfortunately, the visitors we had gone to see, the Loyola medical student team, had gone out on clinic and had not returned before we had to leave.
We had a blast driving on the roads and appreciated the adventure of crossing the river. We arrived home muddy and wet, and smiling. Sometimes things here get really busy and we don't leave the residence or our offices very often. It's times like yesterday that remind us where we are.
Copied from a St. Boniface website blog post.
By Ellen on May 22 2010, 11:20am
This past Friday afternoon we were visited by two wonderful organizations, The Walkabout Foundation and Whirlwind Wheelchair International. The visit was organized through collaboration with Partners in Health They came to give our paraplegic patients new chairs that will be sturdier and stronger for them to use on the rough terrain in Haiti. The chair, called the Rough Rider, was designed by Whirlwind. The visiting team included technicians, therapists, organizers and the designer of the chair. The fitted each of our patients with a chair and showed them how to safely use them. The chairs were well recieved and today the patients are putting them through their paces. Thank you Walkabout and Whirlwind!
More photos here
Take your pick:
What direction do your windows face? Can you see the sunrise? Sunset?
My bedroom/office window faces south. I miss the sunrise and sunset, but I can see all the action in the yard. That's not always a good thing.I also have a window that faces west, but the view is blocked by palm, mango, almond, lime, and banana trees. And chickens. And sometimes frogs.
Based on pre-earthquake and post-earthquake Haiti, what would you say has improved? I'm thinking not about just since the earthquake, but wondering about something that might have improved because of the quake.
The availability of medicines and healthcare has improved. We are well stocked and can refer patients to the foreign run hospitals in Port au Prince for free care right now. We can call for helicopter transport at this time too. No one knows how long this is going to last, but for now people have access to care like they have never had before.
What do you eat? What's something you like to eat? What's something that you don't really like but eat because it's available? Do you go hungry at times? Do you miss dulce? Is there anything like dulce in Haiti?
I usually eat a heavy bread made from unenriched white flour for breakfast. Lunch is very often rice or rice and beans with a fried meat of some kind - either pork, goat, beef or chicken. Supper is usually a cold repeat of lunch modified to make it more interesting, or we make sandwiches or pasta. I am very tired of the food but there's not a lot of options.
Surprisingly, we don't get a lot of fresh fruit, but some seasons are worse than others. Most of the time the fruit that is available is made into juice with too much sugar. Right now we are waiting for mango season to start. I love mangoes and that's a good thing because there are TONNES of them within on our property.
I don't usually go hungry unless we are on the road. I gain a few pounds when I go home, and they come off again after a month or so back in Haiti. I initially lost about 10 pounds when I first came and it hasn't changed any since. Too bad.
I like dulce but I don't miss it much. I haven't seen anything like it here.
How are your long-term patients doing?
They are doing great. They have struggles because their lives have changed so much, but they are happy to be somewhere where they are receiving good care and support. The support we have received from other organizations in response to our new patient population has been nothing short of extraordinary.
They have formed their own little hospital community here. They have a lot of fun together and the community has embraced them.
Is the coffee better than at home?
Does the roof leak during the rainy season?
I have a concrete roof on the residence where I live. Means it doesn't leak, but it also is a risk in earthquake zones. I try not to think about it. We get more leaking through windows and doors when it is really windy. We don't have glass windows or shutters, but have louvres we can shut.
Read any good books lately? Where do you read?
I recently read Cold Mountain because I loved the movie and it was the only interesting thing on the shelf. I don't do a lot of reading because I can't seem to stay awake long and the only chance I really have to do it is at night.
Are you seeing any tourists? Did you see any before?
Not a lot of tourists here. Most people seem to have a reason to be here and then take side trips to see places like Ile a Vache, Jacmel (before the EQ), and Port Salut.
Quoted in the article is Fr. Marc Boisvert, a friend of ours who has a large orphanage near Les Cayes and has shown great compassion in his years of work at the prison.
See more of Deborah's articles here.
Signs of a Cover-Up After Killings in a Haitian Prison
By DEBORAH SONTAG and WALT BOGDANICH
Published: May 22, 2010, New York TimesLES CAYES, Haiti — When the earth shook violently on Jan. 12, the inmates in this southern city’s squalid prison clamored to be released, screaming: “Help! We’re going to die in here".
Elsewhere in Haiti, inmates were fleeing largely undeterred. But here, where the prison itself sustained little damage, there was no exit. Instead, conditions worsened for the inmates, three-quarters of them pretrial detainees, arrested on charges as petty as loitering and locked up indefinitely alongside convicted felons.
After the earthquake, guards roughed up the noisiest inmates and consolidated them into cells so crowded their limbs tangled, former prisoners said. With aftershocks jangling nerves, the inmates slept in shifts on the ground, used buckets for toilets and plotted their escape.
The escape plan, set in motion on Jan. 19 by an attack on a guard, proved disastrous. With Haitian and United Nations police officers encircling the prison, the detainees could not get out. For hours, they rampaged, hacking up doors and burning records, until tear gas finally overwhelmed them.
In the end, after the Haitian police stormed the compound, dozens of inmates lay dead and wounded, their bodies strewn through the courtyard and crumpled inside cells. The prison smoldered, a blood-splattered mess.
By Beverly Bell
May 17, 2010
"A new earthquake" is what peasant farmer leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of
the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) called the news that Monsanto will be
donating 60,000 seed sacks (475 tons) of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable
seeds, some of them treated with highly toxic pesticides. The MPP has
committed to burning Monsanto's seeds, and has called for a march to protest
the corporation's presence in Haiti on June 4, for World Environment Day.
In an open letter sent of May 14, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the Executive
Director of MPP and the spokesperson for the National Peasant Movement of
the Congress of Papay (MPNKP), called the entry of Monsanto seeds into Haiti
"a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on
Creole seeds..., and on what is left our environment in
Haitian social movements have been vocal in their opposition to agribusiness imports
of seeds and food, which undermines local production with local seed stocks.
They have expressed special concern about the import of genetically modified
For now, without a law regulating the use of GMOs in Haiti, the Ministry of
Agriculture rejected Monsanto's offer of Roundup Ready GMO seeds. In an
email exchange, a Monsanto representative assured the Ministry of
Agriculture that the seeds being donated are not GMO.
Elizabeth Vancil, Monsanto's Director of Development Initiatives, called the
news that the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture approved the donation "a
fabulous Easter gift" in an April
Monsanto is known for aggressively pushing seeds, especially GMO seeds, in
both the global North and South, including through highly restrictive
technology agreements with farmers who are not always made fully aware of
what they are signing. According to interviews by this writer with
representatives of Mexican small farmer organizations, they then find
themselves forced to buy Monsanto seeds each year, under conditions they
find onerous and at costs they sometimes cannot afford.
The hybrid corn seeds Monsanto has donated to Haiti are treated with the
fungicide Maxim XO, and the calypso tomato seeds are treated with
Thiram belongs to a highly toxic class of chemicals called ethylene
bisdithiocarbamates (EBDCs). Results of tests of EBDCs on mice and rats
caused concern to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which then
ordered a special review. The EPA determined that EBDC-treated plants are so
dangerous to agricultural workers that they must wear special protective
clothing when handling them. Pesticides containing thiram must contain a
special warning label, the EPA ruled. The EPA also barred marketing of the
chemicals for many home garden products, because it assumes that most
gardeners do not have adequately protective
Monsanto's passing mention of thiram to Ministry of Agriculture officials in
an email contained no explanation of the dangers, nor any offer of special
clothing or training for those who will be farming with the toxic seeds.
Haitian social movements' concern is not just about the dangers of the
chemicals and the possibility of future GMO imports. They claim that the
future of Haiti depends on local production with local food for local
consumption, in what is called food sovereignty. Monsanto's arrival in
Haiti, they say, is a further threat to this.
"People in the U.S. need to help us produce, not give us food and seeds.
They're ruining our chance to support ourselves," said farmer Jonas Deronzil
of a peasant cooperative in the rural region of
Monsanto's history has long drawn ire from environmentalists, health
advocates, and small farmers, going back to its production of Agent Orange
during the Vietnam war. Exposure to Agent Orange has caused cancer in an
untold number of U.S. Veterans, and the Vietnamese government claims that
400,000 Vietnamese people were killed or disabled by Agent Orange, and
500,000 children were born with birth defects as a result of their exposure.
Monsanto's former motto, "Without chemicals, life itself would be
impossible," has been replaced by "Imagine." Its web site home page claims
it "help[s] farmers around the world produce more while conserving more. We
help farmers grow yield sustainably so they can be successful, produce
healthier foods... while also reducing agriculture's impact on our
The corporations' record does not support the claims.
Together with Syngenta, Dupont and Bayer, Monsanto controls more than half
of the world's seeds.8
The company holds almost 650 seed patents, most of them for cotton, corn and
soy, and almost 30% of the share of all biotech research and development.
Monsanto came to own such a vast supply by buying major seed companies to
stifle competition, patenting genetic modifications to plant varieties, and
suing small farmers. Monsanto is also one of the leading manufacturers of
As of 2007, Monsanto had filed 112 lawsuits against U.S. farmers for alleged
technology contract violations or GMO patents, involving 372 farmers and 49
small agricultural businesses in 27 different states. From these, Monsanto
has won more than $21.5 million in judgments. The multinational appears to
investigate 500 farmers a year, in estimates based on Monsanto's own
documents and media reports.9
"Farmers have been sued after their field was contaminated by pollen or seed
from someone else's genetically engineered crop [or] when genetically
engineered seed from a previous year's crop has sprouted, or 'volunteered,'
in fields planted with non-genetically engineered varieties the following
year," said Andrew Kimbrell and Joseph Mendelson of the Center for Food
In Colombia, Monsanto has received upwards of $25 million from the U.S.
government for providing Roundup Ultra in the anti-drug fumigation efforts
of Plan Colombia. Roundup Ultra is a highly concentrated version of
Monsanto's glyphosate herbicide, with additional ingredients to increase its
lethality. Colombian communities and human rights organizations have charged
that the herbicide has destroyed food crops, water sources and protected
areas, and has led to increased incidents of birth defects and cancers.
Vía Campesina, the world's largest confederation of farmers with member
organizations in more than sixty countries, has called Monsanto one of the
"principal enemies of peasant sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty
for all peoples."11
They claim that as Monsanto and other multinationals control an ever larger
share of land and agriculture, they force small farmers out of their land
and jobs. They also claim that the agribusiness giants contribute to climate
change and other environmental disasters, an outgrowth of industrial
The Vía Campesina coalition launched a global campaign against Monsanto last
October 16, on International World Food Day, with protests, land
occupations, and hunger strikes in more than twenty countries. They carried
out a second global day of action against Monsanto on April 17 of this year,
in honor of Earth Day.
Non-governmental organizations in the U.S. are challenging Monsanto's
practices, too. The Organic Consumers Association has spearheaded the
campaign "Millions Against Monsanto," calling on the company to stop
intimidating small family farmers, stop marketing untested and unlabeled
genetically engineered foods to consumers, and stop using billions of
dollars of U.S. taypayers' money to subsidize GMO
The Center for Food Safety has led a four-year legal challenge to Monsanto
that has just made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. After successful litigation
against Monsanto and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for illegal
promotion of Roundup Ready Alfalfa, the court heard the Center for Food
Safety's case on April 27. A decision on this first-ever Supreme Court case
about GMOs is now pending.14
"Fighting hybrid and GMO seeds is critical to save our diversity and our
agriculture," Jean-Baptiste said in an interview in February. "We have the
potential to make our lands produce enough to feed the whole population and
even to export certain products. The policy we need for this to happen is
food sovereignty, where the county has a right to define it own agricultural
policies, to grow first for the family and then for local market, to grow
healthy food in a way which respects the environment and Mother Earth."
*Many thanks to Moira Birss for her assistance with research and writing.*
*Beverly Bell has worked with Haitian social movements for over 30 years.
She is also author of the book Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of
Survival and Resistance. She coordinates Other Worlds,
www.otherworldsarepossible.org, which promotes social and economic
alternatives. She is also associate fellow of the Institute for Policy
1 Group email from Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, May 14, 2010*.*
2 Email from Elizabeth Vancil to Emmanuel Prophete, Director of Seeds at
the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture, and others; released by the Haitian
Ministry of Agriculture, date unavailable.
4 Extension Toxicology Network, Pesticide Information Project of the
Cooperative Extension Offices of Cornell University, Michigan State
University, Oregon State University, and University of California at Davis,
5 Jonas Deronzil's comments are from an interview in April. He was not
specifically discussing Monsanto.
6 MSNBC, January 23, 2004. "Study Finds Link Between Agent Orange, Cancer."
The Globe and Mail, June 12, 2008. "Last Ghost of the Vietnam War"
8* *La Vía Campesina, *"*La Vía Campesina carries out Global Day of Action
against Monsanto", Oct. 16, 2009,
9 Center for Food Safety, "Monsanto vs. US Farmers," Nov. 2007.
10 Andrew Kimbrell and Joseph Mendelson, Center for Food Safety, "Monsanto
vs. US Farmers," 2005.
11* *La Vía Campesina, October 16, 2009, Op. Cit.
12 La Vía Campesina, "La Vía Campesina Call to Action 17 April 2010 - Join
the International Day of Peasant Struggle," Feb. 23, 2010,
13 Organic Consumers Association, "Taxpayers Forced to Fund Monsanto's
Poisoning of Third World," Finland, Minnesota, *
14 Center for Food Security, "Update: CFS Fighting Monsanto in the Supreme
Court," May 11, 2010, http://truefoodnow.org/?CFID=23809091&CFTOKEN=67921769
I made a trip to Fonkoze yesterday to change some money for the programs I am overseeing. I took several $100 US notes and gave them to the clerk to change. She marked each of them with the special pen they use to test the paper to see if they are real or not. I was surprised when the last one came up as counterfeit. The marks did not stay colourless, but instead turned blackish. After examining it against the others you could tell that it felt a little different, and when it was crumpled it started to tear right away.
I'm not sure where I got the bill. I have four envelopes that I frequently change money between. I'm not sure if the counterfeit came from the US or from somewhere here in Haiti. I suspect Haiti, but who knows. As a result, the manager gave me some advice and also I was warned to check large gourde notes as well, as they can frequently be counterfeit too. I am going to be a little more observant from now on.
Haiti earthquake through eyes of artist
By Steven Sternberg, USA Today
For days, Hugues Larose lay quietly in his bunk aboard the Navy hospital ship Comfort, asking little of his doctors and nurses, a peaceful soul aboard a vessel echoing with the cries of shattered, tormented people.
Larose was one of the first patients brought aboard the Comfort when it reached Port-au-Prince eight days after the Jan. 12 earthquake. After a few days on board, he asked for a pencil and paper "to give birth to my thoughts." Using the aluminum clipboard hanging beside his bed, he began to sketch a woman crushed by a telephone pole, a survivor sitting dazed in the street, limbs jutting from pancaked buildings, frantic people pouring into the streets, and ships, including the Comfort, anchored offshore.
"My fingers are influenced by the earthquake, all collapsed houses and dead," Larose says. "Survivors look so different."
In an instant, the simple black-and-white sketch carried the Comfort's doctors and nurses ashore to witness the immediate aftermath of letremblement de terre— "the trembling of the earth" — that in a few minutes flattened Haiti's densely populated capital, killing 250,000 people and injuring more. It allowed them to experience the tragedy, not through a camera lens, but through the eyes of a survivor who happened to be an artist.
See article and slideshow here
Well, we got the news last week but I hadn’t written about it until today on the St. Boniface blog and connected to Twitter and Facebook. It’s a big deal for our community, and for me personally and professionally as it’s something I haven’t done before.
We received good news in response to a proposal submitted to the World Food Progamme and have had a large community feeding program approved.
What does this mean? It means we will be distributing rations to all children aged 6 months to 5 years, and to pregnant and lactating women in Fond des Blancs and Villa. We hope to reach 12,000 children and 7,000 women with the distribution, which will provide additional food to most of the households in our region. The program will last for 6 months and have a huge impact on the health of the community. In April we saw a dramatic increase in the admissions of severely malnourished children to the hospital. Programs such as this are meant to decrease the rates of acute malnutrition in these high-risk groups.
The rations we will provide will be Supplementary Plumpy (not the same as Plumpy'nut) to the children under 3 years, and a fortified flour made from corn soy blend (CSB) with oil and sugar for the 3-5 year olds and the women. The Plumpy is a peanut butter based ready-to-eat food, and the CSB will be used to make a nutritious hot cereal.
A program of this scale is a huge undertaking. We have hired some additional staff to assist and the community health workers will be involved in helping us identify the recipients and aiding us at each post. WFP will be sending us food for distribution on a regular basis. One large challenge for us has been finding the storage space. The 40-foot container received from Gethsemane Scholarship Institute is a blessing because approval of our program hinged on having adequate space to receive and hold the food.
We have never done a program this large in Fond des Blancs before, and are happy to be new partners with WFP.
My role in this program will be as a consultant to help with the technical aspects as we have hired Haitian staff to do the coordination and hands-on work. I am really excited to be involved in a program like this. There is a lot to learn, but I’m happy that our community will be getting fed and finally see some of the aid that they have heard has poured into the country.
Probably until this time next year at the least, maybe longer. I volunteered for most of the first two years. Now I receive a stipend from a generous private donor. At some point, I will need to have a salary but I believe things will work out.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest misconception about Haiti by the rest of the world?
Ok, 2nd question....what, from home, do you miss most? Besides the obvious - family and friends. We miss you.
When I was living with the rest of the world, there was remarkably little knowledge of Haiti to have misconceptions about, except that it was a violent place with demonstrations and dictators and coup after coup. After the EQ, most people now know where it is and and that it shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. And that Haiti and Tahiti are two different places (honestly). The news liked to emphasize the looting and the shooting, but while that is a true thing, it did not show the infrequency of it and how small a problem it was.
One thing I have learned is that people are people. Haitians are no different than anyone else in what they desire - food, health and security for their families and education and opportunity to advance with the expectation to work hard and make sacrifices to do it.
For the second question, I can honestly say there's very little that I miss as far as things. I am very fortunate for the living situation I have here. It's not fancy, but by local standards I have it pretty good. The food is good, but I must confess we get a little bit of food fatigue as many of the dishes we get are similar. What I do miss a lot though is the freedom to go anywhere I want. Travel is difficult here and it is hard for foreign women to take public transport. There are parts of the country that I would like to see but can't go until I have a way to get there and someone to go with. When you are used to just jumping in your car and heading wherever you want, it's very limiting.
Here we are in a photo booth at 14 years old. The attractive one with the lovely grimace is me, Elaine has the Princess Di haircut.
Our water system at the hospital and compound is fairly complicated. We have running water that comes from a main well. Most of our cisterns are small tanks, or chato dlo, on the roof that get filled when the generator comes on. The chato dlo is black plastic, so during the day the water will get warm and at night it cools to the same temp as outdoors. This means that in the morning the shower is refreshingly cool from April to October, and a little chilly in the winter. But on summer afternoons when you would like the water cold it has had time to warm in the sun and isn't quite so refreshing.
We have several buildings on the system and there are times that a tank will run dry before the generator has time to fill it. I've been having problems with the plumbing for my bathroom and have been without water frequently. Sometimes I have enough to trickle through the faucet of the sink and fill the toilet tank, but not enough pressure for the shower.
Thus, I've mastered the bucket bath. My shower stall is a nice large tiled area so I can splash the water around a lot. Believe it or not, there's a technique to it, and keeping the water out of your ears is the hardest part :) I've got it down pat and can bathe and wash my hair using only about 3 litres of water.
Believe me, I'm not complaining. I still have it much better than most. I don't have to work hard for the water, I don't have to carry it for miles but only from one residence to another. The water is clean. Although there is something simply beautiful about seeing people bathing in streams and rivers, something very basic and human, I am very grateful that I have the luxury of doing it in private.
I don't get away from the hospital compound much anymore, so I jumped on the opportunity when Nancy and Betsy said something about going to the beach. We live only about 8 miles and a couple of mountains from the beach but we rarely go for various reasons. Late this afternnoon when we had finished what we were working on, we hopped in the rhino and headed to Mouillage Fouquet. Didn't stay long, but it was loveleeeee.
"Do you feel your work is making a difference? What is the most rewarding aspect of your life in Haiti? What is the hardest? If you could wave a wand and make change in Haiti, what would your priorities be? CHOOSE ANY OF THE ABOVE"
I go through phases where I question whether what I do makes a difference or not. I love it here in Haiti, I've sacrificed a lot to be here, so I always come to the conclusion that I am making a difference - even if it's just to make myself feel good. That's an honest answer.
The times of real doubt come when you look at the ENORMITY of the problems, and at how unsustainable some of the activities we do are. By unsustainable, I mean what I do helps in this moment but what does it do for the future? It would be a long, long essay to get into it fully, which I don't have the energy to do, but food distribution would be an example. Part of my job is to give away food to hungry people. What I give them helps them for a couple of weeks, but they have to come back to receive it again. Distributing rations helps in an emergency, or when your children are malnourished, but what does it do to help the families sustain themselves later?
So I help with the hunger pains for a few days, but what do I really do to improve their lives?
That's where other activities of the foundation come in. I think I make a difference in the lives of the people at our elderly home. When I help educate mothers about better nutrition choices they can make within their means, and I see the light come on in their eyes, I know I've made a difference in the health of their child.
There's no shortage of hard things. It's hard to say "no" to people in need. It's hard to see how women are treated here. It's hard to see the things that people just accept and live with. But, in my personal experience, the hardest thing mentally and emotionally is the lack of trust that seems to be an inherent part of the culture, and comes from a history of brutality. In turn, I don`t trust anyone that I deal with. It impacts everything I do here and almost all of the relationships I have. That mistrust runs from being suspicious that someone is being nice to me just because they want something, to hiring someone to do something and having to make sure I`m not being ripped off. That kind of constant mistrust is very wearing, and depressing.
So, to answer your last question, if I could wave a magic wand to change anything in Haiti, it would be to change the way people treat each other. I think it holds everything back because it is such a fundamental thing. I would make it so that leaders know it`s not okay to be corrupt and only look out for themselves, that men understand the value of fidelity to their wife or girlfriend and vice versa, that teachers know it`s not okay to let your students cheat. I would change the dog-eat-dog mentality that is prevalent. So many people profess to be Christians, and I believe they are (who am I to question someone`s heart) but I pray that behaviours would become more Christ-like, more loving, less self-serving.
But I would also aim that magic wand at the rest of the world. Those issues are everywhere, they just happen to manifest differently in Haiti.
"What has made you smile lately?"
I'm not a big "children" person, meaning I like kids and love to talk and play with them - for a while - but I'm not the woman who's always saying "he/she's soooooo cute". To me kids are kids, and they're all beautiful. A lot of the work I do is for children, but I don't have any of my own and probably never will. I wasn't dealt that hand of cards.
So, there was a little guy who absolutely melted me yesterday. He is in our pediatric ward, came in with something like diarrhea and fever. Anyway, when I met him he was pretty well recovered, standing on the bed with his sturdy, chubby two year old legs, looking like a four year old Budha. Big boy. Big personality. Not shy. He saw me and started laughing and giggling, and it was an infectious laugh that got everyone in the ward going. I went to the other beds to see the other children, and as I was leaving he had a crowd around his bed and was still laughing, eyes sparkling. I left the room smiling and with a light heart.
Thanks for asking. This made me smile all over again.
Not really. It means that I'm having difficulty writing something that I think anyone would be interested in. I have attempted to write, only to stop after a paragraph or two and think "who would continue reading this?". Deleted.
So, just for fun, for some variety and my own amusement, I'm going to open the blog up to questions, assuming anyone has any. I'll answer the first 10 questions. I reserve the right not to respond if I find the question offensive or too personal to post on the internet.
Bonus points if you make me laugh :)
What I love about living and working here is that no one day is like another. Events come up that lead you in all kinds of different directions. It also means that almost a year can pass before you actually start something that you want to do. I always have a list of projects in my head. Things like doing in-services for the staff on various clinical nutrition topics, which I never seem to have the time to sit down and develop let alone schedule, and then deliver. I'm excited about this week because it is a time-to-breathe week, a waiting period that can be put to good use.
Anyway, all of this is to say that my project(s) this week is to look at what we are doing for our patients with diabetes (for food) at the hospital. This will entail looking at the hospital menu, which will lead to another project of planning a new menu, with diabetes options, and then some staff education. We have a new hospital population, our paraplegic patients, which means the length of stay is longer, so menu variety and fibre content needs to improve too. Many times when I start one project, it branches into other areas.
So, heaven only knows what will get accomplished this week, but I am sincerely hoping that I can check a couple of things off the mental list in my head. And am hoping that this week ends with some very good news - the end of a waiting period and the beginning of something big, new, exciting and terrifying :)
The problem with the article is that it just talks about food aid....in Port au Prince. There is so much else in Haiti that needs to be done with the relief money, things that will have long-term benefits. Things that will create employment - so people can buy food, clothes, and pay for school. Food aid is not a sustainable thing, it doesn't help people grow their own food. Clearing rubble, building schools, funding agricultural projects, integrating the relief medical system into the Haitian medical system to employ Haitian nurses and doctors, are all relief activities that will have long-term impact on the quality of life in Haiti.
Concord Monitor - Physical Therapist Finds Need in Haiti
I was about 50 miles from the epicenter of the EQ and did not see the initial suffering and shock first hand, and so was spared the nightmares and PTSD-like symptoms that so many people are dealing with. I'm realizing now though, that I wasn't left untouched. Every time I go into the basement depot I was in when the tremors started, I remember the thoughts that were going through my mind and my hurried exit to the middle of the yard while trying to stay on my feet and being afraid that the swaying dump truck was going to let loose and crush me. I remember my almost immediate fear for the people of Port au Prince.
We had an aftershock last night, just before midnight. It was a 4.3 and located in TiGoave, which is closer to us than the big one. It wasn't long, but it was enough to bring me wide awake with my bed moving and bookshelf rattling. I know that if a big one ever strikes closer to us here, and I am in my room, that I probably will not be able to get out before the building collapses. That's a thought that I've been living with since 12 January.
Like everyone else in Haiti, I fear when another one will come, but also like most everyone else, I know that life must go on, will go on and that I cannot let fear become my constant companion. I also know that I have no control over when my time on Earth is up, that it's in God's hands along with everything else, and there is a tremendous peace that comes with that. More than enough peace for me to go back to sleep.
Port au Prince is a wacky place. One of the things I like about going there is the entertainment driving around the city provides. It's a survival-driven city, full of people who work incredibly hard to get by. The EQ has intensified it, but it has always been that way.
There's not much going on for law enforcement of minor things, like securing loads on vehicles, or limits on loads for that matter. You see buses so top-heavy with goods it makes you shudder and then there are passengers sitting on top of that.
We watched a young guy the other day riding in the back of an open panel truck that had an upright refrigerator in it. He was lying on top of a couple of tires beside it, unconcerned as we went through the unpaved section of the city where the oil tanks are. The refrigerator was bouncing and dancing around, ready to fall on him. He saw us laughing and shaking our heads in the vehicle behind, so he continued to lie there, but did the splits and put one foot and leg up the side of the fridge to stabilize it. Not sure how that story ended.
The city changes every time we go in now. There are no long lines of women along the road receiving food in the mud and dust of the oil tanks and trucks. People are moving rubble around (not sure if it's actually making it out of the city) and traffic is bad because more streets have become blocked. We drove by the collapsed Palace of Justice the other day to see that everything had been completely removed, hardly a speck of dust left. We saw another place close to the port that was completely cleared too and I was told that it was going to be a new base for the American military.
Despite those few signs of progress, not a lot has changed as far as improvments for the people, particularly those who have been displaced. It is going to be very difficult to move people, as I think many of them have lost the thought of "temporary" housing, especially those who have set up thriving little businesses in their new location. They will not want to give that up.
Haiti's founding document found in London
By Damien Cave
There is no prouder moment in Haiti’s history than Jan. 1, 1804, when a band of statesmen-warriors declared independence from France, casting off colonialism and slavery to become the world’s first black republic.
A Canadian graduate student at Duke University, Julia Gaffield, has unearthed from the British National Archives the first known, government-issued version of Haiti’s founding document. The eight-page pamphlet, now visible online, gives scholars new insights into a period with few primary sources. But for Haitian intellectuals, the discovery has taken on even broader significance.
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I arrived back on Fond des Blancs last night and am really liking the warm weather. It was 35 degrees C in PaP when I arrived, which was a little too warm, but FdB is always cooler.
The trip back was uneventful, but have to say that the arrival procedure at the airport definitely takes more time than before - waited for my luggage for an hour and a half. There's no carousel, so the luggage retrieval is very chaotic.
Am back to work this morning. Happy to be home!
Frontline on PBS will be airing a documentary on Tuesday 30 March about the situation in Haiti called "The Quake". I think it will be very interesting but unfortunately, I won't be able to see it. I'll have to ask my friends to record it and send it down to us.
On the Frontline website is an interesting, short video clip about the economics that have arisen in the tent cities. I've seen and marveled at this when traveling through Port au Prince. People are doing what they can and life is going on.
Quake accentuated chasm that has defined Haiti
March 27, 2010
By Simon Romero
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The lights of the casino above this wrecked city beckoned as gamblers in freshly pressed clothes streamed to the roulette table and slot machines. In a restaurant nearby, diners quaffed Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne and ate New Zealand lamb chops at prices rivaling those in Manhattan.
This is the Pétionville district of Port-au-Prince, a hillside bastion of Haiti’s well-heeled where a mangled sense of normalcy has taken hold after the earthquake in January. Business is bustling at the lavish boutiques, restaurants and nightclubs that have reopened in the breezy hills above the capital, while thousands of homeless and hungry people camp in the streets around them, sometimes literally on their doorstep.
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