2 weeks here!

14th May 2016

I’m in Haiti now 2 weeks and spent the last five days in Gros Morne, about 3 hours drive away. I had an eventful week, getting lifts to school and back on the back of a quad, along with two others. Matt, one of the volunteers currently living in Gros Morne with the Sisters of Jesus and Mary, Jackie and Pat, drove the quad while one of the teachers from the school and Geri another US volunteer and I got a lift on the back. It was my first time to ride on a quad and as the road surfaces are so bumpy I was hanging on for dear life! But the second day, I wasn’t quite so scared but held on tight just the same.

Matt said I’d probably find riding a motorbike taxi was actually easier but I’m not totally convinced.

[Read more…]

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First impressions of Haiti and Jean Rabel

 

The airport in Port au Prince was striking: its bare walls, lack of colourful advertisements, notices or placards enticing visitors to buy their wares, struck me forcibly being in stark contrast to most airports I have visited. Very few people were allowed into the arrivals hall to meet their loved ones and family and friends wait outside under a covered area.

A young man came muttering towards me gesturing that he would collect my bag, get me a taxi etc, but I was being met and didn’t need his services but found it difficult to ditch him. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful but really wanted him to leave me alone!

Thank God Sr. Rose arrived to greet me and was able to convince my ‘helper’ that we were OK and she knew what she was doing.

[Read more…]

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A week already!

Side view of my new home

New home!

6th May

Well, I’m here a week now in Jean Rabel, North West Haiti and it’s a busy place with lots happening. After a bit of a shock to the system on the first evening when visiting the ‘facilities’ on arrival, I have become quite settled and used to the cold shower (which has warm water if you wait till the afternoon to shower) and it’s so hot the cold shower is welcome! The toilets I thought would take a bit of getting used to, normal to look at but no flush on it, we just fill a bucket of water to flush down the toilet after use.

At this stage I’m well used to it and it’s not a problem!

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Dress to Impress!

7th May

Every day brings a new experience! Today we attended a funeral of a lady who lived quite close to where I’m staying and Sr. Rose and Sr. Nazareth (Naza) knew her.

Despite not being well off everyone who attended was dressed in their best clothes, much more respectable than generally seen at home! Looking at the congregation you certainly wouldn’t think the people were short of money, and there seemed to be a big coffin, which seemed to me to be spray-painted a lightish blue colour. The family of the lady who died were wealthy enough and one of the sons lives in Miami but had the body brought back to the home place for burial.

Just as well Rose and Naza had explained to me the ways of funerals in Haiti. The ‘wake’ goes on all night the night before, with lots of keening and howling and music, and we could here it right up to maybe 2 or 3 am as we’re close by. It was raining through the night and only for that the ‘wake’ may have gone on till morning.

At the funeral itself in the church the keening started again as soon as the priest finished the sermon, and spread among the womenfolk. Some of their singing drowned out the sound of the howling but not fully.

Afterwards a band leads the funeral procession to the cemetery which isn’t far away and the congregation walks behind, much keening and howling again, although the music is happy music and that’s important to the Haitians as they want to see their beloved ‘sent off’ happy!

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A day at the beach – Môle-Saint-Nicolas

 

Sunday, 15th we went to the beach, the exact location where Christopher Columbus landed when he discovered the Americas.

Mole-Saint-Nicolas

               Mole-Saint-Nicolas

It’s a little place called Môle-Saint-Nicolas and if it was anywhere else in the world I reckon it would be thronged with visitors, day-trippers and tourists on a Sunday, but not in Haiti.

Moll St. Nicholas, Northwest Haiti

A little piece of paradise founded by Christopher Columbus

It is a little cove where you can access a wonderful white sandy beach that leads to a most spectacular, turquoise, warm to the touch, tranquil sea.

I’ve never set out for a day at the beach at 8.00 a.m. before but due to heat later on that was the best time to go. It took us about an hour and a half to reach the beach, but it was well worth the journey – it’s a little paradise in the north west of Haiti and could be a gold-mine for entrepreneurs willing to set up shop in this location if access was better. As always in Haiti once you leave the immediate vicinity of a town, you have to navigate the rocky roads, rivers, mountains and pulverised surfaces to get to your destination.

[Read more…]

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Flag Day – Haiti

18th May was a national holiday here in Haiti; it is what they call Flag Day. And here in Jean Rabel the celebrations began the day before, with all the school children parading through the town to the sound of brass bands, drums and singing behind their flag of red, white and blue.

The Haitians love to sing and play music and can make a real celebration out of the little they have. Everyone was smiling, cheerful and proud on Flag Day, and rightly so, the Haitians have a lot to be proud of. Not only are they the first black nation to have declared themselves independent, in 1804, after tremendous abuse and slavery, they also have a determination and strength of character to persist and persevere in the most difficult of circumstances and tragedies that have occurred in the country since colonial times. [Read more…]

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Began Teaching the Ladies in the Workshop

Rose, Veronique and Benitha

Rose, Veronique and Benitha – the most dedicated ladies attending our computer classes in Jean Rabel

19th May: I began teaching the ladies in Sr. Naza’s workshop some basic computer skills today. I began with teaching them the basics of touch typing, as it was the easiest thing to do with not all the computers available being uploaded with the educational software we had received from Camara, an international charity that supplies old reconfigured computers to people throughout the world who otherwise wouldn’t have access to such technology.

The 6 ladies who came along showed great enthusiasm and a real interest in learning how to use the computers. Some I would say have had a little bit of experience but others haven’t. And in my very limited Creole, I got the impression from them that none of them was used to the Internet.

I believe once they get a grip on how to use these machines and see the potential for their own development through using them and with access to the Internet, their lives and those of their children will make steady progress. I certainly hope so!

They live in such a remote place here in Jean Rabel. Hopefully access to the Internet will be able to offer them a means they currently don’t have to make a living or augment their current income, which is very minimal.

These women deserve a chance to have access to opportunities currently afforded to us in the western world. One of the main things that restrict them at the moment is the lack of and cost of transportation infrastructure.

Currently, these ladies have no way to get their produce further afield than their local area – and they make beautiful hand-made goods and crafts in the workshop – the road system is really non-existent, taking at least a few hours to get to any of the nearest towns and 6 to 10 hours to the capital of Port-au-Prince, so exporting their wares is completely out of their reach.

But if they can progress in the area of computer office applications, perhaps there will be a way into the future where they can work from home or a designated area in Jean Rabel, for clients outside of the country. This would mean they could enjoy the good aspects of their local lifestyle and earn a decent income for themselves and their families.

This is the hope of the project here in Jean Rabel, that opportunities will increase and a better way of life will emerge for the youth of the area, where up to 50% of the population is under 16 years of age.

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Recycling for Development

Sr. Nazareth’s workshop in Jean Rabel is run on the principle of working with local people and the local environment.

The vast array of items created by the ladies in the workshop, from recycled local materials, include this little cross and hair grip both made from coconut skin.

 

Cross

Cross made in Haiti from Coconut skin

Hair Grip made in Haiti from Coconut skin

Hair grip made in Haiti from coconut skin

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Small bag made from sacking

Small bag made from sacking

 

 

 

 

 

Here is Sr. Nazareth holding a Marioneta                               made from a Tampico Juice bottle

 

This pretty rattle is made from local tree

seeds – calbase.

Haiti Handcrafts

Passport Bag made in Haiti by Sr. Nazareth’s Workshop, Jean Rabel

Local seeds are used to produce this pretty rattle

Rattle made in Jean Rabel from seeds from a local tree.

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New Computers Arrive in Northwest Haiti

25th/26th May

Computer Training from Camara

Colette gets Computer Training for Teachers

This week we had some training on the new ‘raspberry pie’ computers recently delivered to the Religious of Jesus and Mary school in Colette, by 2 technicians from an organisation called Camara from Port-au-Prince.

To me it seemed like we had visited Connemara in the west of Ireland about a hundred years ago, although the countryside in Colette is probably not as barren as Connemara. It was green, as far as the eye could see with hills and low mountains in the near-distance.

The school itself was up a narrow dirt track from the main road and you had to look very specifically to identify where people lived as the houses were not very visible on first inspection.

But on the second day I began to identify where exactly the homes were; many of them were hiding (as it were) under their ‘thatched’ roofs made from local trees. They are very tiny and from the outside look like they only have enough space for one room – but it is shelter from the sweltering sun and the rains when they come!

Without realising it, the Haitian method of building homes is ecologically friendly; they simply blend in with the landscape.

Computers in Colette

Colette Computers Arrive

So all of a sudden it seemed, from out of nowhere – to a land without widespread electricity or water supplies – came 15 new computers where the teachers would learn the fundamentals of computers and then impart their learning and experience to the children in the local school.

It was so new, so revolutionary and it created a stir in the area. The teachers were excited to learn what these new inventions could do for them and to see how they would transform their lives as they grappled with the rudiments of the latest computer technology.

Outside, life carried on as normal, the cocks crew, people with donkeys made their way into the town to stock up on supplies and the goats went about their business grazing in the fields. I thought of Connemara and the difference technology would have made to the Gealtacht areas had they arrived 100 years ago.

In 2016 it’s interesting to be present in this moment and ponder how technology, we in the West now take for granted, will impact the lives of the Haitians of Colette and the potential for development and improvement they will bring to the area.

Computer Training

Colette gets new Computers and training for teachers

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Arrived in Haiti

To get to Jean Rabel in North West Haiti is a feat of endurance! But I made it!

To say Jean Rabel in North West Haiti is remote is the understatement of the year. I’m told there are 30000 living in the town alone with maybe another 100,000 in the outskirts – that doesn’t seem remote, right but on Friday morning we left Port au Prince at 7.30 am and arrived here just after 5.00pm.
That’s how remote it is ; the road is like a mountain itself and we drove for at least have the journey on what I would call a mountain – no road but a pathway along rocks, stones, gravel etc. all the way. Very hard on the body, never mind the cars and bikes driving on such a surface.

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