Saturday, July 31, 2010


(PBS Newshour ) - By Talea Miller

The tent camps of Port-au-Prince have all the makings of disease breeding grounds; thousands of people living in temporary shelters, in very close contact, completely reliant on aid for clean water and sanitation services.

But as the disaster response from the Jan. 12 earthquake nears the seven month mark, not a single large outbreak has occurred. It's a victory that that's been heralded by Haiti's president, prime minister and the many NGO actors in the country alike.

"It is truly one of the great successes of this response," said Julie Sell, spokesperson for the American Red Cross in Haiti. "It is really quite remarkable that something hasn't happened on a large scale."

That's not to say that the camps have been disease free. There are cases of malaria, dengue fever, and other illnesses endemic to the region, and an outcrop of typhoid cases required an intervention in one of the camps, said the World Health Organization Haiti office.

"We also see a lot of urinary tract infections and skin diseases because of the unsanitary conditions," said Charles Lor, an epidemiologist with the International Medical Corps in Haiti.

What hasn't happened is a widespread outbreak of any of the highly contagious illnesses like measles, diphtheria and water-borne conditions like diarrheal disease, which can be especially deadly to children.

Those results can be attributed to a massive effort to truck and pipe potable water to camps and provide latrines and sanitation services, a large vaccination campaign, and an early warning surveillance system for pockets of disease.

"It takes an incredible effort to prevent the disease outbreaks from happening in these kinds of conditions," said Judith Timyan, USAID's Haiti health program coordinator. "The situation was so bad even before the earthquake ... so we were dealing with a disaster on top of a very chronic problem with sanitation."

All of that effort has come with an equally strenuous price tag. USAID estimates it will cost a total of about $1.2 billion this year to provide necessary services to the camps.

And keeping the pontoon-sized, rubber water bladders in the tent camps filled is costing Oxfam, one of the largest providers of water and sanitation services, $160,000 dollars a month for 47 camps, and $42,000 a month just to empty latrines.

"That is a lot, it's expensive, it's unsustainable," said Raphael Mutiku, Oxfam's water and sanitation coordinator in Haiti.

The water cluster is working to connect more camps with Port-au-Prince's existing water system and make repairs to that system, in order to continue providing clean water and prevent the spread of disease.

A prime example of the other side of Haiti's disease control efforts can be seen at the Petionville Club tent camp, sprawling over a former golf course and tennis club.

It's the site of one of International Medical Corps' 13 clinics in the area, which have provided more than 118,000 patient consultations since the quake and offer free vaccination services each week.

Early on a Monday morning, there are always mothers lined up to have their children vaccinated and UNICEF estimates about 275,000 children have been immunized since the quake by all the partners working in Haiti.

"There have been campaigns to inform people of the importance. Radio, television, agents going around with loud speakers," said Linda Rimpel, the primary health care coordinator for IMC.

The clinic also monitors cases of disease it sees, and teaches camp residents about early symptoms to watch for. Each week the clinic, and all the other health providers in Port-au-Prince, sends a disease report to the Ministry of Health, which compiles the data to determine if there is an increase in any disease that would warrant further investigation.

"It's a joint effort with all the NGOs and probably one of the only things that is coordinated, it works really well," said Lor.

Investigation has occurred several times, but the upticks in disease were either found to be isolated, or in the case of the typhoid increase, measures were taken to stop the disease from spreading.

Despite the successes that have been seen, USAID's Timyan warns it is vital to start finding ways for people to return to their communities or move to new communities formed outside of Port-au-Prince.

"That initial high level of energy, adrenaline, high level of humanitarian outpouring to respond to an emergency is waning," she said. "It's very expensive to keep services up in these temporary camps."


(The Telegram) - By Ashley Fitzpatrick

Canadian doctor sees positive developments

It is hard to think of medical advancement coming from tragedy, but that’s exactly what’s happening with physical therapy in Haiti, according to a Canadian professional who has worked in the country.

Shaun Cleaver, co-ordinator of rehabilitation services development with Haiti’s Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) says physical therapy has become more recognized and respected among the local population since the Jan. 12 earthquake.

“Things have really changed,” said Cleaver, who was in St. John’s at the recent Canadian Physiotherapy Association national conference hoping to draw colleagues to work with him in Haiti.

“I’ve been there for a few years now and … I feel I need to preface this, because it sounds weird, the earthquake being an awful thing … but for physiotherapy and rehab, the needs have been there for years. They’ve gone unrecognized for far too long and at least this tragedy has brought light to things that existed, the problems that we had already that need to be addressed,” he said.

Both HAS and Cleaver’s community of Deschappelles are in the Artibonite Valley area of central Haiti. With its fertile valley used for rice growing, the population has traditionally been made up primarily of subsistence farmers. There are also some mountainous regions, less fertile and more difficult to reach.

“We’re responsible for referral care for about 300,000 people and then primary care for a smaller portion of that,” Cleaver said of the health organization.

“My job is to develop programs and to help facilitate local ownership, so that I can leave and go on to the next thing.”

Cleaver has been working to train physical therapists and develop therapy programs throughout the health organization’s coverage area.

It was slow going at first, he said.

“The key point to note is that there were not a lot of initiatives in rehab and physiotherapy, so it was really at the forefront of trying to create domestic capacity. And I did have the good fortune of having a few physiotherapy colleagues, primarily Americans, who had already started building things up, but most of them were there for short periods of time — two weeks, four weeks, six weeks,” he said.

“Their involvement was primarily in training, and the type of care provider we were looking at developing is called a rehab technician and that’s a nine-month program that has basic elements of physiotherapy as well as some other professions integrated, such as occupational therapy and speech therapy. The idea being, with there being a near absence of people doing our type of work, it was a level that we could train fairly quickly that could begin to start doing the type of work that we do.”

Yet the care providers and instructors were hitting a hurdle, Cleaver said, in that within the communities, there were few people to show the potential benefits of physiotherapy.

“The status quo idea in Haiti — with stigma related to disability and without there having been a presence of rehab — is that these people are either going to get better and be able to walk off the bed and go home, or they’re going to be damaged. It’s very polar,” he said.

Cleaver said physical therapy in some cases means saving lives. For example, potentially dangerous lung infections can occur after a spinal injury.

“If you spend all of your time lying down, you’re a great germ receptacle. And then, on top of that, especially if you’re injured from here up (he places his hand across his lower stomach), you don’t have the same amount of abdominal muscle function to help you cough. So once something develops, it’s a lot harder to get rid of,” he said.

“In that (early) phase, that’s primarily what we do, is to make sure bad things don’t happen. … Our status quo previous was though early things weren’t done, the potential for what people could do wasn’t introduced, so generally the medical problems would ensue, we wouldn’t be able to beat them and we would lose people within six months,” he said.

“Those are people, if given opportunities, even in our low-resource environment in Haiti, that could be completely functional,” Cleaver said.

“It’s a tough reality to swallow at first, but that’s where professionally the drive comes to stay involved and to know that there’s the potential to do these things better. That’s my motivation to recruit more of my colleagues to be involved in this type of work.”

Cleaver worked in Haiti for six months in 2003, for a year in 2004-2005, a couple of short terms in 2006 and 2007 and another year-long run in 2008-2009. He was not in the country during the earthquake, but heard what happened in his area.

“The key to our area is that we suffered very little physical damage in the earthquake. What we had instead was a flood of internal refugees leaving the capital, where they lost their house, lost family members, everything. So our 80-bed hospital had 800 in-patients two days after the earthquake,” he said.

“The public attention that’s garnered the increase in resources, that has been very valuable. I’d like people to know that we’ve made progress and if that awareness and those resources are maintained, we can do more.” - — Shaun Cleaver, co-ordinator of rehabilitation services development, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer

“The earthquake happened Jan. 12 and I arrived (back in Haiti) Jan. 30. So as far as the most chaotic time, I had the good fortune or the bad fortune — and I go in waves as to how I feel about it — of missing most of it. We were down to maybe about 200 or 250 patients when I arrived.”

That number is still over three times the people Cleaver had seen in the waiting areas in the past.

“It’s just the volume, sheer volume. We’d see a couple of major fractures a week in our normal operations. Well, now there are hundreds, all at the same time,” he said.

And the flow of people did not reduce quickly.

“The reality was many people waited for weeks with broken bones,” he said.

While there was a new challenge in the number of people needing assistance at the hospital’s main site as well as in the countryside, Cleaver said people were asking for therapists. The groundwork laid since 2003 channelled them to people who could help and additional resources flowing into the country were plentiful enough to allow for some distribution outside the capital.

“Now we’re seeing people in mid- to-late followup phase, however you like to call that. The biggest cause of stress are the spinal cord injury survivors and that’s a patient population we can actually treat far better now than we could pre-earthquake,” he said.

“I think people should be aware that the issues of disability and lack of health care are long-standing in Haiti. I think they should be aware that because of this tragedy, it’s brought them to light in the public perception and we’re making in-roads, but there’s a lot to go,” he said.

“The public attention that’s garnered the increase in resources, that has been very valuable. I’d like people to know that we’ve made progress and if that awareness and those resources are maintained, we can do more.”

Cleaver said another area for advancement in Haiti would be communication between medical providers and better record keeping, yet a few more working physiotherapists would be a fine start.


(Miami Herald) - By Trenton Daniel

Hurricane response for quake-devastated Haiti is among the mandates for the USS Iwo Jima.

ABOARD THE USS IWO JIMA, OFF THE COAST OF HAITI -- As the sun climbed in the Caribbean sky Wednesday, a trio of choppers picked up several dozen military personnel and civilians from this warship and deployed them across the waters into one of the country's most downtrodden corners.

But they weren't there for conflict. They were there for good deeds.

As the Pentagon seeks to broaden its mandate to include humanitarian missions, the USS Iwo Jima is anchored off Haiti's north coast to provide healthcare, ferry cargo for more than 20 nongovernmental organizations and offer training for the armed forces.

Its presence also serves another purpose: It will be the U.S. military's first response should storms thrash Haiti this hurricane season as it seeks to recover from a massive earthquake on Jan. 12.

Called the worst natural disaster in modern times, the quake killed an estimated 300,000 people and sent another 1.5 million into homeless camps constructed of flimsy tarps and tents that are poised to topple at even the slightest rainfall or wind.

The 844-foot Navy ship, equipped to swiftly move personnel and cargo by helicopter and landing craft, carries more than 1,600 military and civilian personnel, including medical, dental and engineering professionals from Canada, Chile, Paraguay, Germany and the Netherlands.

Humanitarian work will coincide with preparations for calamity.

``Disaster response is a primary role for this mission,'' Capt. Tom Negus told a small group of reporters Tuesday evening.

Negus couldn't say why the Pentagon opted to stage operations in northern Haiti, rather than off the quake-devastated areas of the Port-au-Prince capital and surrounding cities.

Military commanders planned the mission before the earthquake, he said.

While helping Haiti is a priority, the ship will also deploy personnel to eight other countries in the hemisphere as part of ``Continuing Promise,'' the fifth deployment in four years under the authority of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami-Dade.

Other destinations include the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Suriname.

The mission began the first week of July and ends the third week of November, after the height of the hurricane season has passed.

Although the ship will veer away from hurricane-prone Haiti for its deployments next week, military officials say it won't be too far should a storm take aim at the country.

``No matter where we are, we're a couple days away,'' Negus said.

Now a crew of 150-plus medical professionals is aboard to treat Haitian patients for cataracts, hernias and potentially cancerous lumps for eight days. The team is comprised of 50 doctors, dentists, and ophthalmologists and another 100 nurses and technicians.

Medical personnel screened the patients in the nearby seaside towns of Port-de-Paix and Saint Louis du Nord for cases they could treat before the ship's departure.

As of Wednesday, seven Haitian patients had received minor surgery. The same day, 14 more patients were brought aboard.

In some ways, the mission serves as a trial run, a way for doctors to realize what they need and don't need should a hurricane strike Haiti.

``I do know we're missing orthopedics,'' said Capt. Michael Hopkins, Iwo Jima's senior medical officer.

The medical facility is capable of holding 62 patients, but could absorb more should a disaster strike Haiti.

Among the patients who were treated was Innocent Charles, a 51-year-old whose worsening vision in his right eye threatened his livelihood as a mason. He visited mission surgeons in his hometown of Port-de-Paix, a coastal city 100 miles north of Port-au-Prince, after he heard about the program on local radio.

``After two weeks, I will be able to see correctly in my eye again,'' said Charles, sporting a smile and pair of aviator sunglasses to shield his eyes.

Lt. Cmdr. Catherine Hagan, a Miami native and ophthalmologist who lives in Ocala, treated Charles.

Ophthalmologists like Hagan are likely to treat hurricane survivors for torn eyelids and scratched eyes instead of cataracts and glaucoma, however.

``We're ready to do anything,'' she said.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Michael W. Smith sings a song called "Healing Rain". Pray that the rains that come to Haiti may be "Healing" rains. To watch the video follow the link to:


(ReliefWeb) - By The World Bank Group

PORT-AU-PRINCE - Amid the vast damage and suffering inflicted by the January12 earthquake, tragedy has also brought the chance of a fresh start for thousands of Haitians who have just been told their homes are safe to live in.

More than 100,000 families will be able to stay in their homes or leave behind shelters and makeshift tents, following a structural safety assessment of buildings completed by Haitian experts with World Bank technical support and funding, the institution announced today.

A team of 280 engineers, purposely trained for this initiative, evaluated over 200,000 quake-stricken buildings in the last few months to find that almost half of them were safe to live in needing only cosmetic repairs. An additional 28 percent of buildings assessed were labeled as safe pending repairs while 24 percent were tagged as dangerous to occupy, in the first phase of this ongoing initiative that will altogether tackle 400,000 homes in Port-au-Prince's worst-affected areas including Carrefour, Leogane, Petit Goave and Grand Goave.

A second phase will focus on technical assistance to reparation and demolition.

Experts stressed that the evaluation does not assess the buildings' resilience to future seismic events – a message that has been clearly conveyed to the Haitians- but it provides a blueprint for future planning and rebuilding.

"This initiative and its results not only promote the reoccupation of safe buildings while informing the population of dangerous properties, but also develops the starting point for recovery," said World Bank project leader Ross Gartley.

Structural Building Assessment Project in a Nutshell
- Assessing structural safety of over 200,000 buildings in worst-affected areas

- Creating and equipping a technical unit on building evaluations within the Ministry of Public Works, Transportation and Communication

- Establishing international standards for building assessments with a training package

- Training 280 local engineers to implement the structural building assessment as well as to supervise and coordinate repairs and demolitions

- Designing a set of national technical repair guidelines

- Establishing a national infrastructure database capable of identifying buildings to be cleared, while supporting the preparation of reconstruction operations

A walk through the quake-rattled streets of Port-au-Prince reveals the extent of the work done by evaluators. Buildings visibly bear colorful markings that determine their state: 'red', meaning condemned or risky to live in; 'yellow' meaning habitable provided repairs are made, and 'green' meaning the house is sound. Seen on an aerial map, the green and yellow pins form a lively army clearly defeating the reds, which experts hope serves as a metaphor to encourage people to return to their homes from camps –currently holding about 13 percent of the population.

"I left my home right after the earthquake for fear that it would collapse and I have been coming back only to do my laundry," said a woman whose house had just been given a green mark. "But now I feel safe to come back and sleep here," she added.

Color coding buildings this way enabled engineers to do their work in record time and made the nature of their job much easier to understand to Haitians occupying the dwellings. Damage assessment itself got a boost from cutting-edge equipment, such as hand-held devices used to store and analyze housing data on the spot, which allowed experts to process about 4,000 properties per day, said Gartley.

Now the United Nations-World Bank trained team of experts is getting ready for the second phase of this project that includes carrying out additional evaluations using the same modus operandi and preparing a set of guidelines for repair, retrofit and new construction norms.

Haitian officials have hailed the initiative as key for the country's reconstruction.

"The earthquake changed the capital's face, so we thought we had to start with an evaluation of the buildings. We thought that to talk about reconstruction, we needed some basic data, which is what we just completed with the World Bank's help and the support of the UNOPS to manage the office's function," said Haiti's minister of public works Jacques Gabriel.

Such "basic data" Minister Gabriel refers to forms the basis of a National Infrastructure Database that the Bank's project has helped create as part of the recently completed assessment. In addition to supporting day-to-day housing evaluation operations, this database will also support the preparation of comprehensive strategies for recovery and reconstruction, including national technical repair guidelines, noted Gartley. Other applications for the database could include addressing census and planning for urban services provision, he added.

The World Bank specialist stressed, however, that this is only a small step towards a much larger effort to rebuild Haiti in a safer and hazard-resilient way.

"Haiti is in a very fragile state and this project is just one element to promote the country's long-term recovery, and ensure that such disasters do not repeat themselves," said Gartley.

More than 230,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the January 12 quake, while 1.3 million were left homeless, and 600,000 displaced.

To help Haiti recover from the January 12 earthquake, the World Bank Group has pledged US$479 million through June 2011. Of this amount, more than half has already been made available. The Bank's earthquake response has focused on improving the lot of those affected while contributing to build the foundations for long-term recovery.

Emergency projects include: rebuilding the state's capacity to operate, clearing the city's drainage canals to avoid flooding, feeding school children, providing solar energy to displaced Haitians, assessing housing damage and rebuilding crucial roads and bridges for the delivery of aid.


(AP) - By Jonathan M. Katz

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Distraught parents mourned the loss of two children in a camp for Haitian earthquake survivors Wednesday, a day after rains caused a wall to collapse on top of a row of tarp homes.

The family's tragedy is another reminder of the perilous conditions of an estimated 1.6 million people living under tarps and tents on dangerous ground six months after the quake devastated Port-au-Prince.

Enrique Joseph, a 30-year-old policeman, was on the job downtown Tuesday evening when his cell phone rang with the horrifying news: After losing his home in the quake, he had lost his makeshift home — and his 8-month-old son, Kesnel, and a 2-year-old nephew, Kika Leus, were under the wreckage.

He raced back to the Terrain Acra camp in the Delmas neighborhood, home to tens of thousands whose tarp homes blanket a hillside owned by one of Haiti's wealthiest families.

He was too late. The boys' lifeless bodies already were wrapped in sheets.

"If we knew the wall could fall, we would have moved," Joseph said, his eyes red with tears.

Little reconstruction has been done since the magnitude-7 quake pulverized the capital. Piles of rubble and thousands of collapsed buildings remain where they stood in January. Even transitional shelters remain a pipe dream for most.

Donors pledged $5.3 billion for two years of rebuilding at a March donors conference but less than 10 percent has been delivered. On Wednesday, the U.S. Congress passed a bill to partially fund the administration's $1.15 billion pledge to Haiti and sent it to President Barack Obama.

The threat of hurricanes lingers halfway through the summer. The USS Iwo Jima amphibious assault ship is anchored off Haiti's north coast this week to train its sailors and Marines in case they have to respond to storm damage.

It took no more than an isolated squall that swept over Joseph's camp to soften the ground around a 10-foot retaining wall beside a tennis court.

Suddenly it gave way, sending bricks crashing onto blue and gray tarps. The boys were crushed to death in their sleep and the tattered remnants of the shelter filled with mud and rainwater.

"The material things don't matter. I lost my papers, I lost everything. But I lost my son. That means I lost my life," Kika's 25-year-old mother, Ketlanda Leus, said, rocking back and forth and weeping beneath a neighbor's tarp.

After carrying the boys' bodies to the morgue at Haiti's badly underfunded general hospital, Joseph returned to search for a new space to build another tarp home for his five surviving family members. The policeman said he is desperate to get out.

"Anything can happen, anytime, inside these camps," he said.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

photos - ravine damage - part 1

Naval is one of the students here at Coram Deo. He came to the house on Wednesday morning to tell me about what happened when the rains came through the ravine on Tuesday evening. A retaining wall from the property above fell on their neighbors house.

The house collapsed and the people inside were injured. The people brought them to hospital. There is nothing left of the house.

The falling wall also damaged Naval's aunts home. The earthquake damaged and weakened a lot of walls. The rain adds to the problems and walls collapse.

You can see this unstable wall. If the bottom is pushed out it will come crashing down.

People are unable to make repairs because they don't have the financial means to do so. This creates a danger for everyone living in the ravine area. Unstable walls will one day collapse.

photos - ravine damage - part 2

At the base of the ravine there is a church.

When the rains come the ravine water washes up to the doors of the church.

The church lost the wall along one side. The wall in the distance is a retaining wall for the property above. The roof leaks and the pastor in this photo spent his morning cleaning the water and mud from his church.

The church has made some attempts toward repairs but is requesting assistance to make the building more stable. Pray for the people in this congregation. Sometimes if rains begin during the church service people will have to stay inside the church waiting for the rushing waters through the ravine to stop before heading for their homes.

This woman is cooking in a damaged area of her home.

photos - ravine damage - part 3

In the distance is a shack built along the edge of an unstable area.
When the rains come the ravine fills and the water rushes by the houses built of cement. The people at the bottom take a chance every rainfall. It is a dangerous place to live.

The ladder in the distance leads up to an area where a shack is constructed on top of a damaged home. These people are taking a risk living there.

There used to be a cement built house here. Now the people have removed the rubble and have put up a tarp/wood/tin shelter.

The lower area of the home is now an outside wash area.

photos - ravine damage - part 4

People have moved back into homes that are damaged. They don't want to live in tents. You can see areas of damage to these homes that were caused by the earthquake and poor construction.

Some homes are too dangerous to attempt to live inside. This is one of them.

Here is another.

People have constructed roofs with plastic tarps over them with these scrap materials (wood and cardboard).

This young man is showing where the water leaks into his home.

photos - ravine damage - part 5

One of the areas that the people from the ravine have put their tents/tarps is on an empty lot on Delmas 31. It is safer in the tent camps rather than attempting to live in the ravine area.

A lot of families live in the ravine. They always need to cross through the bottom of the ravine to access their homes.

In every corridor we walked were smiling children who greeted us.

Pray for the people who live there. It is a difficult life.

This young boy wanted his picture taken.

photos - ravine damage - part 6

The Haitian youth are strong. They are used to living in difficult conditions. Even after all the problems they endured Tuesday evening they can still smile and give a "thumbs up".

This woman lives in a tent shelter near the ravine. She was one of the women who were treated at the medical clinics. Her foot has healed well after being seriously injured from falling rubble. She makes do without a couple of her toes.

This man has converted his tarp shelter by adding tin sheet walls and even made a door.

Steve is one of the students in our school program. This tarp shelter is his home.

Naval is another student. He sleeps in this tent during the evening. We are trying to find a way to help the student's families rebuild but the ravine area is dangerous right now.

haiti update - july 28, 2010

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
1 Timothy 6:12

Hi! It’s nice to be back in Haiti after a 3-week vacation in Canada. Karin Bosma did a good job at looking after the place while I was gone. Kimosabee caused a couple of problems for her though. A few weeks before I went to Canada Kimosabee had an accident with a water truck and the rear signal light cover was broken. We never had the time to replace it. The police never caused me any problems but Ysmaille and Karin got stopped and the police took Kimosabees’ papers away. They were given 3 days to fix the problem. Now there is a new signal light cover in place and the papers are back. One day Karin asked Amos to put Macdonald in the truck as she was going to drive over to Sherri’s place to see someone. The next thing she saw was Amos driving Kimosabee down the street. The only problem was that Amos doesn’t have a drivers’ license and doesn’t know how to drive. Poor Kimosabee ran into another vehicle. Amos took responsibility though and repaired the other vehicle.
We were driving in the Delmas 18 area and saw a water vendor that was walking at the side of the road suddenly grab another man, put him into a headlock and start to beat him. The man he grabbed was screaming and crying in fear. We stopped and went over to help break up the beating. The man who was beaten was a mentally handicapped man and was well liked by the people in the area. We asked the water vendor why he did what he did and he said that the other guy stole some water from him. The people were mad at the water vendor and told him to move on; though not before telling the handicapped man to punch the other guy in the face first as they thought this was the right thing to do. It was good that in the end the water vendor turned the other cheek and walked away!
Exam week is over here at Coram Deo and the students are now on summer break. The report cards will be issued to the parents at the end of this week. Thank you for your financial support to make the school program possible. We look forward to adding a couple of classes for the upcoming school year. Pray for the preparations that we will be making with regards to the deaf and visually impaired students that we have.
Repairs to the property and house are continuing. A new electric line was installed and we are getting a good current in the house now. The back and side walls have been parged and the dormitory depot is done. The remaining 2 tents were taken down. The outside shower drainage problem was fixed this week. We made a channel out of ½ of a PVC pipe and ran it through the yard to the road. We had to do this because part of the yard was starting to get a little swampy. Maybe now there will be fewer mosquitos! One of the sliding glass doors in the living room was smashed during the earthquake. Instead of replacing the door with glass we had the company put screen instead. Now there is better ventilation in the living room and less rodents visiting inside the house. The older guys have been helping to do some painting inside the house now that they are done school. The ceilings and the inside and outside walls of the house all have to be repainted.
The Brazilian UN came through the neighborhood counting houses which were destroyed/condemned (red mark), damaged /repairable (yellow mark), undamaged (green mark). Manu enjoyed speaking with them. A Dominican Republic work crew picked up the rubble across the street from us. Pray for all the ongoing rubble removal going on throughout the city. The process is very slow but I did notice change in our neighborhood over the 3 weeks that I was in Canada.
Fonise celebrated her 20th birthday yesterday and we celebrated it with a birthday cake. Her father returned back to Haiti last week from Martinique, where he was medically evacuated after having his foot amputated by a falling wall during the earthquake. It is good to see him standing on 2 feet again! His prosthesis still gives him some pain but he is able to walk around well with it.
We helped Jackenmy’s father get a death certificate for Jackenmy. We never were able to find Jackenmy or Samuel in the ruins of the GOC University. Now Jackenmy is officially considered dead and not missing. Jackenmy’s father is a carpenter and he told me that anytime we had some carpentry work to do to contact him and he would donate his services as a thank you. He is a good man and raises his family well. Continue to keep praying for Jackenmy and Samuel’s family.
It is rainy season and life is difficult for those living in the refuge camps. Tuesday night the people living in the ravine across the street from us had difficulties because of the rain. Several of the students in our school program here at Coram Deo live in the ravine area. One of the students, Naval came to the house wanting us to come and look at what happened. When we entered the area people came up to us wanting to talk and show us what happened. The earthquake in January left a lot of damaged walls. Some people have moved back into the damaged ravine area. Shelter/houses have been built with tarps and wood scraps/tin. Other people live in their damaged homes. The rains Tuesday evening brought one property wall down onto the damaged house/shack below. The house collapsed and fell onto the people inside. They were hurt and the people helped them get medical care. The ravine waters rose and combined with the water running down into the ravine people had to evacuate the area. The strong carried the weak and the children out of the ravine to get away from the waters. The people are angry with the government. They say that no government people have come to talk with them. They just want some help to rebuild. The people showed us their tarp shelters and explained how they don’t protect them from the rains. People had a sleepless night Tuesday because of the rain. It is the same type of situation every rainstorm. Pray for all those living in tents/shelter throughout the city. Naval’s family lives next door to the house that collapsed during the rain. We told them to not attempt to sleep in the ravine area and stay in the refuge camp instead. We want to help the families of the students in our school program and help them rebuild their homes but how can you help them rebuild when their home is in a dangerous location?
Today a group of people brought an injured woman in a wheelbarrow to the house. She had been badly burned when a pot of boiling bean sauce fell on her. One side of her body was badly burned. She couldn’t walk and was in a lot of pain. We put her in the truck and transported her to the Medecins Sans Frontieres field hospital on Delmas 31. They have a special unit there for burn injuries. Pray that she recovers well from her injuries and pray for the work of Medecins Sans Frontieres here in Haiti. They help a lot of people.
That’s all the news for today. Have a good week!
Karen Bultje, Coram Deo

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


(Christian Science Monitor) - By Stephanie Hanes

Guayubin, Dominican Republic - When Haitians cross into the Dominican Republic to work, they often lack official documents that can help protect them from abuse. That's where Johnny Rivas steps in.

The intense midafternoon sun is cooking the quiet town plaza here when Johnny Rivas returns on his motorbike, still wearing his oversized white suit.

He looks exhausted. Over the past few hours Mr. Rivas has emceed a workers' day celebration for Haitian immigrants, hosted a church ceremony, and shaken hundreds of hands.

He has sung along to both the Haitian and Dominican Republic's national anthems and has rented and returned 200-some folding chairs. And, most important, over and over he has given his pitch about identification badges – the central part of his effort to formalize the region's vast and marginalized Haitian workforce.

But Rivas denies he is fatigued.

"I cannot be tired," he says with a smile. "There is still work to do."

Sure enough, he seems to perk up as he starts talking about the needs in one of the nearby bateyes, the ramshackle towns in the Dominican Republic where Haitian laborers live. Bateyes tend to be poor, with high unemployment.

In this agricultural northwest region of the country, Haitians also face another huge problem: documents, or, more accurately, the lack thereof.

"People who are undocumented, they're very vulnerable here," Rivas says. "Many of the Haitians who are here, they don't even have a birth certificate. This is why we took the initiative to give them the badges."

Many of the estimated 1 million Haitians who live in the Dominican Republic struggle to obtain official documents necessary to fully participate in society. In this land of sweeping banana fields and rustling sugar cane plantations, the threats facing undocumented immigrants are especially acute.

Thousands of Haitian immigrants – some legal, many not – perform the backbreaking manual labor that fuels the factories and farms, or fincas, here. Many are smuggled into the country. Others bribe border guards after they cross the Massacre River, the dividing line here between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

They are typically low-paid, sometimes living and working in near-slavery conditions. Often they cannot get documents from the Haitian consulates here or are considered dysfunctional, and either don't have legal papers from the Dominican Republic or have their work visas held by their employers.

This makes them at risk for exploitation, Rivas and others say. Many workers tell stories of business owners who collude with immigration officers, setting up Haitians for mass deportation just before their payday. Others tell of roadblock officers who shake them down if they venture onto the main roads.

Without any way to prove their identity, they say, Haitians have no defense against predatory officials.

A few years ago, Rivas's organization, the Jesuit-run Solidaridad Fronteriza, came up with a plan. It decided to create its own identification badges, a way for the undocumented to document themselves.

Rivas and others began going town to town, interviewing workers to determine how long they've been in the Dominican Republic, where they work, how many children they have, their identification number in Haiti, and any other bits of information they could put on legitimate-looking badges.

"We must legalize the workers," says Father Rehino Martinex Breton, the director of Solidaridad Fronteriza, who has worked in the region for nearly four decades. "We propose that immigration officials allow people to circulate with the badge we give them. It has no legal authority, but a moral one."

Since the program started, Solidaridad has distributed more than 6,000 badges. Many have been arranged by Rivas.

Rivas is Haitian by birth, but has lived in the Dominican Republic for most of his life. He was a schoolteacher in Haiti, but here he worked, like most Haitians, in the fields. His employers fired him after they realized he was organizing other Haitians.

In 2003, impressed by what he saw the Jesuits doing to defend immigrant workers, he volunteered. Soon, he had a full-time job with Solidaridad. He was elected by the other workers as a group leader.

"He is a very well-known person," says Kelly Jean, a Haitian agricultural worker who paid a trafficker to help him sneak into the Dominican Republic in 2004. "He is a very helpful person, so he's very popular among the people."

Others seem to share Mr. Jean's view. When Rivas arrives at a grim collection of aluminum shacks, men and women gather around. Most show him that they have their badges hanging around their necks.

Area officials have started to recognize these IDs, they say, although they still have trouble when they travel farther away.

"Tell how you were shot here," one worker calls out to Rivas.

Rivas nods and explains that once, when he was having a meeting here, word came that a Dominican soldier was beating a Haitian man. Rivas rushed out into the street to break up the fight. The soldier fired his shotgun, hitting Rivas.

He shrugs off the incident. "I am not scared," Rivas says. "We have more important things to worry about. And with these badges, we are making a start."


(Truthout) - By Kelsey Cary - Council on Hemispheric Affairs - News Analysis

Human Trafficking is a global industry that transcends borders, regions, and cultures. Within the Western Hemisphere trafficking is an important issue that arguably helps to shape relations between Latin American and the United States. In June 2010, the State Department Report on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) included, for the first time, in its ten year existence, a ranking allocated to the United States as well as 177 other countries. The TIP report helps substantiate the claim that the United States and Latin American governments must strive to improve the lives of millions of innocent people who increasingly are victims of human trafficking. The restaveks, Haitian youth forced into domestic labor without compensation, exemplify the lack of protective measures against child trafficking who usually turn out to be the chief victims of trafficking.

The plight of these children, in Haiti and elsewhere throughout the region, reflect both the obvious and more subtle weaknesses in efforts to reduce human trafficking in Latin America. The trafficking of children is an immensely serious problem that regional governments paired with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) must address. Moreover, the United States must actively engage with both the governments of other countries as well as foreign NGOs to facilitate this improvement.

Difficulties in Definition: The Palermo Protocol
Defining human trafficking is quite controversial. Although human trafficking is universally condemned by the international community, individual nations struggle to implement measures that meet the standards under the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, more commonly known as the Palermo Protocol. It defines trafficking in persons as:

the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force to other forms of coercion of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs… The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth [above] shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth [above] have been used.

Though the above definition discusses the illegality of both sex trafficking and labor trafficking, two significant weaknesses remain. An article published by Human Rights Quarterly stipulates that the Palermo Protocol fails to acknowledge the trafficking of persons within borders, and instead may focus too heavily on the transfer of persons from one state to another. However, domestic trafficking exists in many Latin American countries, such as Haiti and Brazil. A second concern regarding the Protocol’s definition is its inclusion in U.N. Convention on Transnational Organized Crime. Its placement there seems fitting, as much of human trafficking comes as a consequence of the actions of organized crime groups; however, individual actors and small groups also are responsible for a significant portion of trafficking.

Human Trafficking Defined by the U.S.
Even though the U.N. instituted the Palermo Protocol, many Latin American countries use the United States’ definition of human trafficking. The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines trafficking as:

sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or…the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

The U.S. government allots foreign aid in part based on the grade a country receives in the Trafficking in Person’s Report, thus explaining many regional governments’ attempts to adhere to the U.S. definition rather than the one given by the United Nations.

The TIP Report
The U.S. State Department releases the TIP Report annually. It discusses each country elaborating on improvements or regression and gives countries a grade: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2-Watch or Tier 3. Tier 1 countries are those deemed to comply fully with the minimum requirements provided by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TPVA). Tier 2 consists of nations that do not fully comply with the TPVA, but are making substantial attempts to do so, while Tier 2-Watch nations make these efforts as well, but still have a significant increase in absolute number of trafficking victims. Tier 3 countries, such as the Dominican Republic, do not fulfill the minimum standards nor are they making attempts to do so. Some critics of the TIP report argue that some countries in the region attempt to meet TIP requirements out of fear of receiving a low rank in the compilation’s annual report and therefore do not implement measures specific to the nature and dimensions of the tempo of trafficking that is occurring within a given country.

Others speculate that the status of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Latin America serves as the driving force behind the grade each country receives. Opponents of the U.S., like Venezuela unquestionably perceive a lower grade, than a country like Colombia which is rewarded for supporting U.S. interests in the region. For example, the United States ranks Cuba (a country with which the U.S. lacks basic diplomatic relations) as a Tier 3 country while Colombia receives the rank of Tier 1. Moreover, in 2005, Latin America had a higher percentage of Tier 3 countries than any other region in the world.

Even though it is difficult to produce a completely unbiased account of government efforts against trafficking without being swayed by foreign policy objectives, the TIP could at least try to find a balance between ethical concern and broader U.S. geopolitical goals and interests. This equilibrium is particularly important with regards to Latin American countries because the concept of migration and human trafficking are closely related to one another. Illegal immigrants who travel up through Mexico and Central America lack legal protection and are therefore more vulnerable to becoming victims of human trafficking. Moreover, strict immigration policies, such as those in the United States, provide only limited opportunities for legal migration that would go to protect immigrants. Restrictive human trafficking measures implemented by other countries in the region are likely to reduce the amount of trafficking in the United States.

The TIP Report as a Tool
In an interview with COHA, Mark Lagon, Former Ambassador to Combat Trafficking in Persons and current Senior Advisor of Corporate Responsibility for Lexus Nexus, uses the case of Venezuela to refute some criticism of the TIP report: “I advocated for raising Venezuela to a better ranking. The integrity of the report requires acknowledging improvement because all in all, there is no reason to give countries anything but an objective assessment.” In this capacity, Lagon contributed to global anti-trafficking policy and directed the compilation of the TIP report. Venezuela, a nation with which the United States has strained ties, had a Tier 3 rank in 2007, but in 2008, it was moved down a level to Tier 2-Watch class. Lagon views the TIP report as a constructive tool for improving relations between the U.S. and Latin America.

He describes the improvement in US-Mexico relations with regards to human trafficking as a “quiet success,” which in part is due to the State Department’s decision to assign the U.S. a grade for the first time. Furthermore, Lagon contends, “Mexico continually hated any report where it was given a grade, but by including the U.S. in the TIP report we admitted, weaknesses in a way that we had not done before. Consequently, this dialogue has led to a more constructive relationship, fostering cooperation in regards to preventing human trafficking.”

He went on to clarify that “the heart of human trafficking lies in exploitation; it’s not always about migration. Forty percent of trafficking victims in the U.S. come from Latin America. It is every bit as much for labor as for sexual exploitation.” A Congressional Research Report highlights the case of Mexico because it accounted for twenty-three percent of recognized human trafficking victims in the U.S. in 2008 alone. Thus, increased collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico regarding immigration and trafficking legislation will only yield positive outcomes. By examining the case of Mexico it is evident that a deepening of relations between the U.S. and Latin American countries could be facilitated by engaging in dialogue regarding human rights, especially trafficking.

The Nature of Child Trafficking
Countries that do not provide programs to combat child trafficking often receive more condemnation and higher rankings in the TIP report. One of the most unsettling aspects of human trafficking is the exploitation of children used for sex tourism. A significant discrepancy exists in the legal age of consent for females in Latin American countries. Averages range from fourteen to eighteen years, the legal age as provided by the Palermo Protocol. These disparities make victim identification more difficult. A 2008 article published in Human Rights Quarterly reports that “other forms of trafficking include using children as panhandlers, news agents, garbage recyclers (i.e. those who sort through the public dumps for recyclable materials), domestic help, mining, agriculture, illegal adoption and child soldiers.” These types of forced labor jobs frequently occur within the borders of one country, as with the restaveks in Haiti and child soldiers in Colombia.

A Focus on the Restaveks
The term restavek comes from a French word meaning “to stay” and refers to Haitian children who are forced into domestic labor without pay or guarantee of decent living conditions. According to the TIP report, there are 230,000 restaveks in Haiti who epitomize the concept that trafficking is not based solely on sexual exploitation. The United Nations Human Rights Council estimates that there are between 150,000 and 500,000 restaveks. Either figure still leads to the same conclusion: this form of exploitation should be of real concern to the island nation. Haitian society has historically been characterized by class stratification whereby authoritarian and hierarchal factors largely influence standards of living. In the most impoverished country in the hemisphere, adults regularly view children as economic commodities, which make them highly vulnerable to the perils of trafficking. Death of parents, runaways, and local sources of demand for child labor in urban centers and free trade zones are all factors that leave Haitian children open to exploitation.

Haiti has a long history of economic destitution. Seventy percent of the Port-au-Prince population was living in abject poverty even before the January 12thearthquake. Mark Lagon explains that this distress perpetuates human trafficking in that “the rule of law is lacking in Haiti and economic desperation only exacerbates the already dire status quo. Poverty is the driving force here. It leaves people vulnerable and it’s likely to take decades if efforts are limited to fighting trafficking.” Consequently, parents, if possible, will send their own children to stay with other families in urban areas based on the reasoning that these new caretakers will provide a better life than they themselves could. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as most end up subjected to little better than indentured servitude and then may have to work for their “owners” from birth to adulthood. Often these children must work from the early hours in the morning until the last household adult goes to bed. When discussing trafficking in Haiti specifically, Mark Lagon commented, “Restaveks suffer the most acute form of domestic servitude. In Haiti there’s a permanent underclass locked in homes, paid little or nothing.”
In order to improve the lives of Haitian restaveks as well as those of trafficking victims in general, a moral imperative must be present as well as the maintenance of a political system where everyone has equal access to justice, not just the wealthy elites. Additionally, trafficking usually occurs as a consequence of corruption that pervades all levels of society, from law enforcement to the judiciary. The United States has the capacity to assist other countries in the region to make laws become reality by helping train enforcement agencies, pressuring governments, to conduct themselves with rectitude and cooperating with NGOs that have proven themselves worthy of respect.

UN Perspective on the Restaveks
Gulnara Shahinian, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, also articulated the manipulative nature of the restavek system in a BBC article in June 2009. She contends that it is equivalent to slavery through the ways in which it “deprives children of their family environment and violates their most basic rights such as rights to education, health, and food as well as subjecting them to multiple forms of abuse including economic exploitation, sexual violence, and corporal punishment, violating their fundamental right to protection from all forms of violence.” This ‘modern form of slavery’ has proven difficult to suppress for a number of reasons. First, a law exists in Haiti stating that employers must pay people for their services, starting at the age of fifteen. This almost guarantees restaveks being thrown on to the streets at that age, adding to the chronic cycle of poverty in the country. Although Haiti is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it has no laws to protect restavek children and the likelihood of any law’s effectiveness today would be limited. The January 12th earthquake has only made the situation worse, as both the Haitian National Police and NGOs have reported an increase in alleged cases of forced labor and forced prostitution of children and adults since the disaster. Haiti’s inability to protect the most vulnerable societal demographic —children—reflects a problem rampant throughout the region and the world.

The Importance of NGOs
Increased cooperation between the U.S. and Latin American countries regarding laws as well as punitive measures will be crucial to countering the efforts of traffickers in the region, but the legal canvas is not necessarily the only area of concern. Lagon pointed to the problem of corruption among law enforcement officials who “tend to blame victims instead of help them.” In order to assist victims not only in Haiti but also those to be found within the region, it is crucial that Washington step up its assistance to NGOs. For example, the Polaris Project is an NGO that focuses on victim identification and then provides social services and transitional housing as called for by advocates of stronger federal anti-trafficking legislation. Another NGO, International Justice Mission (IJM), works in many locations, such as Guatemala, Peru, and Honduras, to rescue victims of human trafficking, particularly children, and bring justice to their perpetrators. Lagon explains that “We need to move the needle by extending the capacities of NGOs. They are often seen as an irritant, but are an essential part of civil society. By assisting NGOs financially, we can help build the capacity to decrease human trafficking.” It is not merely a coincidence that Colombia which has a flawed human rights reputation, nevertheless received a Tier 1 ranking and is the largest recipient of U.S. aid in the region as well as being among Washington’s primary military allies in the Caribbean.

Working Towards a Brighter Future
Human trafficking is a wealth-generating industry in which the risk to reward ratio eventually perpetuates the problem. A person can be exploited repeatedly, whereas drugs bear a one-time use restriction. This makes trafficking a lucrative matter for those involved. Tensions over definition and desensitization on the trafficking issue have only weakened efforts to prevent it. Consequently, the United States and governments in the region need to work together and thrust human trafficking into more of a spotlight. This must be done not merely once a year when the State Department releases the TIP report. Progress in the fight against human trafficking in the region will not come to fruition until the United States is willing to not only assist the governments of the Latin American countries, but also help NGO’s identify as well as liberate victims. Washington must also resist any temptation to politicize the matter, as has been seen in the evaluation of Venezuela.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


( - Episcopal Examiner) - By Coralie Jensen

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore started the DNA Foundation soon after the Haiti earthquake on January 12th to eliminate child sex slavery worldwide and to help raise awareness about this horrific problem, change cultural stereotypes, and rehabilitate the innocent victims.

Because of the glaring increase in poverty due to the earthquake, the practice of people sending their children to live with another for economic reasons is on the rise. The practice has been around for centuries and is now illegal, but the law against it is not enforced.

Jean-Robert Cadet, a former Restavek and author of Restavek, which means “stay with,” about the plight of the slave children in Haiti, told CNN:

Once children enter the family, they become domestic slave and they are at the mercy of everyone in the house. The only thing worse is if the child is a girl, because there is sexual abuse and the risk of pregnancy once she reaches puberty . . . about 80% if the slaves are girls and they are so vulnerable.

Cadet has little hope that the problem will be solved without making sure parents can afford to raise the children. That means jobs.

A Restavek lives with another family, maybe even relatives, and is forced to do household chores with little food, no pay, whippings, and attacks by both rats and kidnappers who steal them and push them into prostitution.

Truthout tells the story of Helia Lajeunesse, a former child slave herself. She sent four of her five children into slavery because she feared they would die of hunger. Now Helia has become a children’s rights advocate. When her husband was murdered, she was left with five children with no way to feed them.

The grassroots group Commission of Women Victim to Victim (KOFAVIV) finally gave her some training. “That gave me consciousness and I went and got my children back. I said to myself, no matter what, I am going to keep my children. Now I’m with my four children [one of her five died in the earthquake].”

** To watch some videos on the subject of child slavery in Haiti follow the links to:



Monday, July 26, 2010


Préval leads the way for a new Haiti

(Miami Herald) - By Jacqueline Charles

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Deep in the ravine amid the narrow corridors and chaotic construction, workers in T-shirts push wheelbarrows up and down a newly carved dirt path as rubble-filled buckets are passed in a human chain.

At the top of the steep hill, a clear view of the crumbled presidential palace and near-collapsed capital emerge as empty lots replace mounds of rubble.

For two months, Haitian President René Préval has been quietly laying the foundation for his quake-wrecked nation's rebuilding, transforming Fort National, a densely populated slum, into ground zero of Haiti's recovery efforts.

Often criticized for inaction, Préval has personally dispatched government top loaders and bulldozers to some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, asked international aid agencies to send displaced residents to clean up their own streets, and sat with neighborhood leaders and camp dwellers to determine their needs.

``Temporary shelters are not the solution,'' Préval told The Miami Herald this week.

``There just isn't enough space. They are a solution to help people get from underneath tents. But they are not a housing solution. We have to build up.''

A little more than six months after the worst natural disaster in the Western Hemisphere, reconstruction remains slow: Just 275,000 of an estimated 20 million cubic meters of rubble have been removed.

But Préval said he's working on a three-prong reconstruction plan that includes using government heavy equipment to allow many of the estimated 1.5 million displaced quake victims to return to their neighborhoods, and having the government construct affordable multi-story apartments.

At the same time, he's pushing an innovative plan to redevelop downtown from the waterfront to the Champ de Mars with the help of Central Bank financing, and by using rubble to extend the Port-au-Prince harbor.

The Central Bank would use $150 million to build about two dozen modern buildings. The buildings would be leased to the state, and be part of a new administrative and financial district that includes hotels, apartment complexes, 15 government ministries, the palace of justice, and parliament.

The proposals are expected to go before the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission when it meets next month.

The initiatives come as many here speculate on who Préval will tap as his successor, Haiti struggles to get the United States and other donors to make good on $5.3 billion in promised aid, and U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, once more blasts Préval over his leadership in a report released Thursday.

``I don't have flashy leadership,'' he said. ``I have a leadership that is tranquil.''

For now, the progress of his efforts can be seen in Fort National, where government equipment with the words Ayiti Pap Peri -- Haiti Will Not Die -- emblazoned on the side work alongside residents.

``If someone had never visited Fort National . . . they would think nothing has been done,'' said Jean-Michel Olophene, a resident-turned-leader inside the Champ de Mars camp. ``But if you saw what it looked like before, you would realize that an immense amount of progress has been made.''

Last weekend, Préval made his first foray into the hard-hit community since the 7.0 earthquake.

``Everyone was happy, but I wasn't happy,'' he said. ``I did not see the solution for relocating people.''

So far, the idea of having residents travel several flights of stairs -- as opposed to several miles from the city -- for housing seems to have the support of the co-chairs of the commission, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former President Bill Clinton.

``If we can build multi-story housing, it would make the city less dense even with the same population,'' Clinton said in a meeting with foreign donors this week, adding that any future construction would have to be anti-seismic and meet code.

Préval says Haiti's ongoing challenges -- the lack of temporary shelters, the logistics of removing rubble from densely populated neighborhoods and bringing together different groups, make it clear, ``we have to provide the solutions.''

For instance, while outside government organizations ``worked on their own, did what they wanted, we are working with the people, bringing together leaders of the camps and of the popular neighborhoods and asking them what route should we take.''

So far the path appears to be winning fans among both foreign diplomats who laud the progress, and residents living in other hard-hit communities such as Avenue Poupelard, who recently asked for similar assistance as Fort National.

To cope with the growing demand, a dispatching center was recently set up on the grounds of the palace to field calls. The government also cut a deal with the neighboring Dominican Republic to put 50 additional trucks at its disposal to clear and cart away rubble.

Préval will not say how much the pilot project is costing his cash-strapped government that received $35 million in donations.

Meanwhile, faced with few dump sites for the rubble, Préval has asked one of his chief engineers to order up a study of the soil composition of the Port-au-Prince harbor as he considers using debris to extend the harbor.

The vision of an extended, remodeled waterfront would not just offer unchartered territory for prime development, but also take it back from the anarchist development that has taken over the capital and led to a government-estimated 300,000 dead from the quake.

``While others are talking about recycling the debris for road construction and other things, we'll take it and do this instead,'' Préval said. ``We are better off enlarging the harbor for new development.''


(Seattle Times) - By Jacqueline Charles

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Cendra Guillaume walks into the dusty depot of manly machines, passes fellow female workers, and steps into the front office with a familiar look of determination.

Not one to sit around and wait, the wife, mother and heavy-equipment operator gets right to the point: "Where to today?"

In the months since the Haiti earthquake claimed an estimated 300,000 lives, women like Guillaume have been on the front lines of paving the way for this broken nation's reconstruction.

Theirs are the anonymous hands that steered the dead to unmarked graves in black and white government dump trucks, tunneled through the rubble for foreign rescue teams and cleared debris from hundreds of blocked roads.

In the process, they are challenging the notion of a woman's traditional role in this machismo society, and restoring what many thought they had lost in the rubble: faith in the future.

"It's a beautiful thing," said Guerino Noel, 44, a father of two daughters who ekes out a living scavenging ruins for copper wire, as he watched Guillaume deftly maneuver her giant yellow excavator.

"As a Haitian male, I was personally offended the first time I saw a woman driving one of those trucks," he said. "But when you are living in such a deplorable situation, where even eating is difficult, and you see a woman sitting behind the wheels of one of those trucks, it means something in the country is still working."

Guillaume works for Centre National des Equipments, or CNE, the government's road-building outfit. Formed in 1997, it has deliberately filled its employee ranks with women. They serve in every capacity from dump-truck driver to loader to excavator operator to trainer.

"I was first concerned about my equipment," said Jude Celestin, CNE founder and executive director. "We always had a problem with drivers stealing fuel, stealing parts from the trucks. It's a fact that we have this problem in Haiti. With women, it's different.

"When I give a woman a piece of equipment, I am sure she's going to take care of her family; she will take care of her children," he said. "Women have something else inside them that they don't even realize is there: a need to prove to themselves that they can do the same thing as a man."

Before the catastrophic quake hit Jan. 12, most of CNE's employees had been working in the outskirts of the capital, building roads as part of President Rene Preval's effort to transform the lives of farmers.

Within hours of the disaster, amid the death and chaos, 85 trainees — 65 of them women — arrived on foot from the nearby Cite Soleil slum. They immediately climbed into the cockpits and began to clear major roads and downtown of debris.

"They are leading the demolition of the ruined structures and because they are personally living it, they know better than anyone what the reconstruction can be," Celestin said.

Guillaume had just stepped out of a brightly colored Tap Tap truck in the city of Carrefour when the ground buckled. Buildings toppled and a mother's adrenaline kicked in as she ran home to her 7-year-old son, Olivier.

Over the next 24 hours, her husband, a police officer, would try to dissuade her from leaving. She stayed until this radio announcement: All CNE technicians and operators must report to work immediately.

"I said, 'No, I cannot stay at home. If I don't go, it's like a doctor who has a lot of sick patients and he's refusing to treat them,' " she said. "My first thought, 'What if there are people still alive underneath the rubble?' "

She arrived at the worksite less than 48 hours after the hemisphere's worst natural disaster and immediately went to work.

Guillaume and the other women felt the strain.

"There were days where I just cried and cried," said Guillaume, 39, who was assigned to one toppled building after another. But every morning, she would awaken in her modest home with the washing machine and unfinished second floor, kiss Olivier goodbye, and don her courage before heading out.

"I am lucky enough not to have lost anyone dear to my heart," she said. "I always said, 'If God has saved my own, then it's my duty to go and help others.' "

Women have long been the backbone of Haiti's informal economy but lacked real power in this conservative society. Their schooling was often sacrificed for that of their brothers.

Most of CNE's women find their average $312 monthly salary, plus as much as $150 a month in per diem, exceeding their partner's, and Celestin's first warning to all new recruits is that CNE will test their relationships.

"I tell them, 'All of you will leave your husbands,' " he said. "The men develop a complex because the women now have money in their hands."

Guillaume's husband of seven years cleaned out their joint bank accounts recently following a violent fight over money, she said.

He kicked her out of the house without her son, and she's temporarily seeking refuge at a friend's home.

Celestin has offered a transfer to a new job, but daily migraines and depression have, for the moment, kept Guillaume from accepting.

In the ultimate irony, she's unable to perform the job that has for so long defined and empowered her.


( - By Bob Braun

CROIX-DES-BOUQUETS, Haiti — The field is open and wide, with plenty of room for children like Sneider Joseph to run as hard and as fast as he can for as long as he can. If he keeps his eyes trained on the ball, the way his soccer coach says, he never has to see what he doesn’t want to see.

"When I am out there, I don’t see any of it,’’ says the 14-year-old.

He doesn’t see the shacks of tarpaulins and sheets and sticks. He doesn’t see his own 10x10 stifling space, its entrance draped with a torn and faded bedsheet depicting Charlie Brown and Lucy and other Peanuts characters. Where, when it rains, he sleeps on the same mattress with his aunt, uncle and two cousins. Otherwise he sleeps in the mud.

"My world is upside down since Jan. 12," he says.

So, on a rainy and windy day, a score of boys and girls ignored what was around them and ran and kicked and collided and laughed and called to each other and played until their shirts were soaked and their chests heaved and the mud stuck to their shins.

"I want him outside there," says his uncle, Jean Tolene, eyeing a puddle that will soon seep past Charlie Brown and into the shelter. "I want him out there as a much as he can be, especially in the rain. The rain makes this place smaller."

So, even after the game is over and even after the rain has turned the field to mud, Sneider is on the field with his friends, pretending they are in the World Cup, until it is too dark for Sneider to see both what he wants to see and what he doesn’t.

"All we could think of is how our homes had been destroyed and how we had nothing." Sneider gestures toward his teammates and the field stretching out behind him. "But now we have this."

When the residents of the neighborhood of this Port-au-Prince suburb lost their homes to the quake, many built shelters on a town park called Parc du Jour. They didn’t choose the place; it simply was the nearest piece of public land. Private landowners do not allow shanty towns on their property.

And it happened by chance that the Parc du Jour was home to a soccer field.

"I knew Sneider would want to be close to it, so we put our place right here," says Tolene, his uncle. About five feet away from the northeast corner of the pitch.

Then, one day, Aneau Lalane showed up with a group of people because they heard there was a soccer field with plenty of children who might want to play. Lalane is a major league soccer player with the Victoire team.

"This is a big deal, major league football guy," says Katie Dimmer, an official of an international aid group called Plan Haiti that brought soccer and Sneider Joseph and Lalane and hundreds of children together to play a sport in defiance of the nightmare of the earthquake.

Lalane, is a short, wiry forward who sucks on lollipops and stands with a slouch reminiscent of James Dean. The 21-year-old, who begins each practice with a prayer, is a prospect for the Haitian Olympic team, he says, and was contacted by the coaches of Real Madrid, one of the world’s premier soccer teams, to teach boys and girls how to play under a Plan Haiti initiative. It was Real Madrid’s way of helping.

"I love the sport, but I wasn’t very good," says Sneider. "Now I think I am getting very good because of my coach."

Lalane agrees. Sneider is one of the leading players of the Parc du Jour team. He and his friend and team-mate David Petit-Homme, an aggressive 15-year-old, dominated a scrimmage, a training session in preparation for an inter-camp tournament. Sneider often passed to the quick Petiti-Homme who scored three times in the first 10 minutes.

The two cheered and hugged and, for precious moments, there were no tents lining the field and there was no rubble within easy sight. There were no pigs leaving their droppings on the field and no goats scrambling between the children’s legs.

Instead of a few score camp residents who lined the field to watch the game, a giant stadium with endless rows of fans chanted their names. They were, they both said later, not two homeless boys who lost loved ones in an earthquake, but they were Lionel Messi, a common hero and a member of Real Madrid’s arch-rival, F.C. Barcelona.

No death, no misery, no earthquake, no Jan. 12. Only glory and only football.

"I didn’t have to think of anything else," says Petit-Homme.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

photos - canada - part 1

I am back in Haiti now after spending 3 weeks in Canada to visit my family. I was there in time for Canada Day! We celebrated the day with a pig roast at my cousin Jim's home which ended with a fireworks display. Canadian pigs look different than Haitian pigs. To all the animal rights activists out there, the pig tasted delicious!

My aunt from Holland, Tante Barbara was in Canada too. She is in the middle sitting between my parents. The weather in Canada was just as hot in Canada as it is in Haiti. The nights were cooler though.

We went to the Sari Ranch. They have a therapeutic riding program for handicapped children. My sister Tanya dropped off an application for my nephew John.

They have a nice facility and we were even given a tour.

The horses have lots of room and receive lots of good care.

photos - john - part 2

The horses selected for the programs at Sari ranch are tested before hand to see if they are suitable for use with handicapped children. John and this horse are meeting each other for the first time. They are staring eye to eye!

John is reaching out to touch the horse's face.

Now he looks like he wants to give the horse a kiss! Pray for the programs at Sari ranch. Riding a horse simulates walking for the children and helps them to improve balance.

John is a real charmer and loves to talk and joke around!

My sister Tanya is doing a great job raising John. It is difficult but it is great to see him developing and thriving so well. Here John is heading down the driveway preparing to go for a walk.

photos - john - part 3

John is crossing over to the other side of the street where there is a sidewalk.

John is serious sometimes when he walks in the walker.

I saw this sign inside a bus stop cubicle in London, Ontario. It is good to see Canada responding in a big way to help the people of Haiti. Hopefully they will continue to do so. The rebuilding process is going to last a long time.

World Cup fever is in Canada too!

I was hoping that Holland would win the World Cup. They played good. They beat Brazil and lost in the World Cup final. I wore my Holland shirt on the plane ride back to Haiti complete with an orange hat!