Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Shipping containers are sturdy, hurricane and earthquake resistant. Organizations working in Haiti are looking to use shipping containers which are readily available and converting these into homes. To see how Boxman Studios configures containers into homes follow the link to:



(CTV - Canadian Press)

MONTREAL — A Haitian-Canadian musician wants to help the earthquake-displaced people in his homeland by spearheading the building of a village.

But Luck Mervil's project wants to build homes that will withstand any natural disaster by using retired shipping containers as the main building blocks.

Mervil plans to use 900 retrofitted containers to construct a new village fit for 5,000, erected on a parcel of previously uninhabited land near Leogane, a coastal city west of Port-au-Prince.

Mervil, a Haitian-born, Quebec-raised singer, has taken leave from a successful musical career to concentrate efforts on Haiti.

Mervil is behind a Montreal-based organization called Vilaj Vilaj, which aims to build sustainable, long-term housing in Haiti and potentially elsewhere.

"I'm putting everything aside just to do this: by (building) the village, the idea is not to put a village there and leave, we're building the village with the people," Mervil said in a telephone interview.

"We came up with a solution where everything (we need) was already on the ground and part of the solution is that people are going to build their own village."

While container-driven architecture is becoming increasingly popular around the world, the buildings are a particularly good fit for Haiti because they are cost effective, easily convertible into larger structures and weather-proof.

"It's perfect for Haiti, it's a real house, it's a real place you can go and know that you're protected," Mervil said.

"We've created a design that would work in Haiti because the tools are there, the means are there and the need is there."

Eight months after the earthquake, many Haitians are still living in tent cities with hurricane season around the corner.

Upon returning from a brief trip to that country last week, Mervil says there are more than 20,000 NGOs on the ground in Haiti but none are thinking long-term and there's little co-ordination among them.

Mervil says he wants to do things differently.

The Canadian-designed village will consist of solid homes built with 40-foot and 20-foot containers -- about 320 square feet of living space and running water and bathrooms.

A prototype home was built in Canada in about 10 days for between $8,000 and $10,000. But Mervil says the costs will be significantly lower in Haiti and Haitians, who are adept at working with metal, should have no problem converting the boxes.

In addition to teaching them to build a village, the new outpost will be self-sufficient with space for companies to set up shop so that villagers can work, Mervil said.

"For example, if we're putting solar panels on the homes we're building, we don't want to buy them from China, we want to build them ourselves," Mervil said.

"So that way we can sell them around the world and Haiti can stop asking (for help) and saying 'if you really want to help me, buy my product."'

Mervil says fundraising will be done around-the-clock. The initial cost of building the village will be about $25 million, but the hope is to make the process entirely transparent.

Donors will be able to watch the construction live on the Internet and Mervil wants to put up weekly numbers to account for every dollar spent.

"We're not taking money from any government, I don't believe government has friends, it has interests," Mervil said.

"We want people to get involved and help us change it for real and we want to be the most transparent organization you've seen."

At Clemson University, researchers had been toying with how to convert shipping containers into homes that work against hurricanes when the earthquake hit last January.

They quickly started to think of how to help displaced Haitians.

"In the case of Haiti, the urgency is more on providing shelter first and a safe and secure environment that far exceeds the kind of self-construction that's going on there now and has been for years and years," said Doug Hecker, a professor at Clemson's school of architecture.

"A shipping container without any kind of foundation can resist 140 mile-per-hour winds, so it's a really robust structural building block."

Many places around the world have fashioned cargo containers into affordable housing. In some hurricane-prone, the sturdy steel structures are considered the best defence against the elements.

In Haiti's case, there are already containers on the island since Haiti's economy is import driven. Virtually no exports means the containers often get left behind.

Some critics say housing people in containers is inhuman, but retrofitted containers can actually be altered to be livable.

Haitians can't afford pre-fabricated houses built elsewhere and shipping them to the island at a cost between $30,000 to $40,000.

Mervil adds that some of the other temporary homes being pitched are too short term and likely to collapse as easily as the ones that came down in January.

Hecker said the containers already far exceed the structural code of any country in the world and greatly exceeds the non-existent building code in Haiti.

The Clemson group hopes to build its own project in Haiti with the help of the World Bank.

"Simply modifying the container for maximum adaptability over time -- by making simple cuts into the container and providing a home that's engineered well beyond what people in Haiti live in today," said Hecker.

"The idea is to get them into something safe and secure and give people time to build it up to their own satisfaction."


(Montreal Gazette) - By David Johnston

RosEmere entrepreneur heads Quebec consortium shortlisted in an international competition to design new housing for earthquake-ravaged Caribbean country

A British firm mandated by the government of Haiti to run an international design competition for new sustainable housing for the Caribbean country has approved a proposal from a Rosemere man for closer study.

Malcolm Reading Consultants of London has told a local consortium headed by Rosemere entrepreneur Maurice Monette it will be invited to Haiti this fall to show off its housing prototype.

Monette said he plans to assemble the prototype in St. Eustache over the next couple of weeks. When the model home is completed, he plans to hold a news conference, then disassemble the home and put it in a container for shipment to Haiti.

Malcolm Reading is one of the world's largest construction consultants. It was hired last spring by the government of Haiti to assess thousands of housing proposals and select several hundred for closer study.

Monette learned on July 30 that his proposal was one of 265 from around the world that has been shortlisted from among several thousand proposals vetted by Malcolm Reading.

"I just can't tell you how good it feels," Monette said yesterday in an interview at his riverfront home in Rosemere.

Monette showed The Gazette a miniature model of the prototype he and his partners plan to start building next week. He said he will be showing off the same prototype at the fall reconstruction exposition to be held in Haiti. There, proposals that have been shortlisted will be examined with a view to naming the eventual winning proposals.

The Haitian government asked Malcolm Reading to look for alternative forms of permanent housing for the 1.5 million people who were displaced by the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti. The 7.0-magnitude quake killed about 250,000 people and saw the international community pledge more than $9 billion for the relief effort.

Monette's consortium is proposing quake-resistant housing using steel rather than wood framing, with extrusion joints allowing for some building sway during earth movements. Joints connecting the floor panelling and underlying anchor screws have similarly been designed to allow for sway with earth tremors.

The consortium is proposing to use lightweight steel-plated foam panelling for the roof and walls.

Monette is president of Tenta Inc. of Rosemere, a suburb northwest of Laval. He has 40 years of experience in tent structures.

During that time, tent technologies have become more sophisticated and tenting principles have been incorporated into new models of affordable housing for Third World nations.

The housing model he is proposing for Haiti is one he first put together 15 years ago for use in the Congo and Angola, where Monette had contracts providing tents for refugee camps.

But political problems in the two African countries saw him finally denied access to local housing markets. After the Haitian quake, he got the idea of trying to recycle his old African project in the hard-luck Caribbean land.

He approached the William J. Clinton Foundation in New York with his ideas and, coincidentally, spoke to a fellow Quebecer there who directed him to the Malcolm Reading design competition.

Malcolm Reading Consultants looked closely at the blueprints that Monette submitted and found his ideas to be credible and worthy of closer study. He has been told not to schedule any vacations for late summer or autumn because he will be called to Haiti on short notice and expected to be able to show off his prototype very soon afterward.

"We're under a lot of pressure now," Monette said. "We don't have a lot of time ahead of us."

Monette's partners include seven Quebec companies, as well as two French firms with experience in small-scale waste-water recycling systems.

Malcolm Reading has been looking specifically for innovative and affordable new housing solutions with companion green technologies in terms of support infrastructure. Haiti is hoping to rebuild with new self-sustaining communities made up of 15,000 to 20,000 people each.

Monette is proposing to build one-storey buildings that have 10 residential units inside, each measuring 384 square feet. The number of units that a family would get would depend on how large it is. Most families would get one or two units.

The Quebec companies in Monette's consortium are Atara Equipment of Montreal, Groupe Fabritec of St. Jean, SMInternationalof Sherbrooke, Les Fondations Vistech of Sherbrooke, Finex of Valleyfield, Norbec Architectural of Boucherville and Baily Metal Products of Dorval.

Monday, August 30, 2010


AP put out a video on rebuilding Haiti's schools. To watch the video follow the link to:



Sherri Fausey's mission Christian Light Ministries is in the Delmas 31 neighborhood. Manu and Benson both attend her school. Today was the first day of classes. Benson started Grade 1 and Manu Grade 5. Mission of T.E.A.R.S was able to help fund a portion of the building costs of her school thanks to the earthquake relief fundraising efforts of the people in Sudbury, Ontario. Pray for the work of Christian Light Ministries here in Haiti. The following is an article about Sherri's work:

(AP) - By Tamara Lush

PORT-AU-PRINCE — When two men barged into Sherrie Fausey's school a few months after the quake and demanded all the food in the pantry, she calmly said no.

The men threatened to kill her.

"That's really sad," the 62-year-old said, matter-of-factly. "Because I'm going to heaven and you're going to prison."

The men ran away.

That's the kind of attitude — maybe it's brash American optimism — that has paid off for Fausey, a retired schoolteacher from Jacksonville, Fla. Her Christian school in Haiti was destroyed in the earthquake in January, and one child was killed. But classes will start again today , more than a month before the rest of the country's schools.

Like everything else in post-earthquake Haiti — removing rubble, rebuilding government offices, putting people to work — the reconstruction of the education system is moving at a snail's pace. So in the meantime, it's up to private school owners like Fausey and other aid groups to improvise.

Before the earthquake, few children in Haiti got beyond the sixth grade, and a million children didn't attend school at all. Most parents sent their children to private school, and the poorest parents paid up to half their income for a child's education.

Even then, schooling isn't extensive; one nonprofit figures that the average Haitian adult has about 2.8 years of education. Add these grim statistics to the picture — 40,000 students and 1,000 teachers died in the quake, and some 80 percent of school buildings in Port-au-Prince were destroyed — and the enormity of it all seems overwhelming.

Haitian officials have created a $95 million back-to-school plan as a stopgap for the next three months, part of a five-year, $4 billion overhaul. But the government has a large, messy task ahead, against a historical backdrop of corruption and mismanagement.

There are glimmers of hope, mixed with the realities of a scarred city.

Portable classrooms made out of 100 shipping containers are ready for students in the town of Leogane. USAID has helped build 230 transitional classrooms throughout Haiti, and some 120 U.S. Army-donated tents will house an additional 104 classrooms in 49 schools come October.

But most flattened schools still haven't been demolished in the capitol city of Port-au-Prince, and unsafe school buildings sit vacant. At one pancaked school building, with bodies still inside, the director pitched tents for classrooms on what was once the roof — now about two feet off the ground.

At the College St. Pierre in downtown Port-Au-Prince, high school students finished their exams and are excited to return to school in October with new books and improved classrooms. But some temporary classrooms made of plywood have already been destroyed by a small rainstorm earlier this month.

On the students' last day of school on Aug. 20, about 100 earthquake survivors were still camping on school property just three feet from the classrooms. A man stood outside a tent and bathed himself with a bucket filled with water, as students studied nearby.

The principal said it was against the law to kick the squatters out. And anyway, until recently he was living in a tent there too.

Fausey's ankle-length, blue floral print skirt brushes by the two-by-fours and the stacks of books, over steel rods and past a buzzing generator.

She moves fast. There's things to do. Kids to feed. Young minds to educate.

"Wow," she says, slightly winded from the climb up a rough flight of concrete stairs. She's got a breathing problem, made worse by the chalky dust that's everywhere in Haiti. There are sweat stains under the arms of her cornflower blue blouse. "They've gotten a long way."

She points to a building. Construction workers are placing the last section on a tin roof. She smiles wide. She's wearing cherry red tinted Chapstick.

"Ready or not, this is third grade come Monday morning."

Fausey looks like a grandma. She's got tousled, strawberry blonde hair, wire rim glasses and freckles. She has the air of the slightly stern teacher she once was — one who is quick to give a hug after piling on more homework.

In 1999, she retired from the Jacksonville school system and came to Haiti on a weeklong mission trip. Her only son was grown, and she sold her house in Florida to return to Haiti the same year. She didn't speak Creole, or French, but she wasn't concerned. God, she said, had told her to open a school.

In the years that followed, Fausey started a feeding program for a few hundred kids in the area, handed out prenatal and newborn vitamins to malnourished mothers in a nearby shantytown, and, in 2008, adopted 26 orphans who were stranded on a roof of a building after deadly floods.

Her school swelled to 214 students. She accepted only kindergartners — that way they could begin their education with her curriculum and follow it through the years. The kids learned geography, math and the Bible, along with languages, science and history. She said her sixth-grade students had some of the highest test scores in the country, but because the entire education system is so disorganized — and destroyed by the quake — there's no way to know.

While most Haitian schools ran from 8 a.m. to noon, Fausey kept her kids in class from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., like in America.

"I don't know what we would do without Miss Sherrie," said Jacqueline Auguste, a 45-year-old single mother whose three kids attend school there. Auguste said her kids probably wouldn't be able to attend school at all without Fausey — and now, her 14-year-old son speaks English, French, Spanish and Creole.

Donations pay for breakfast, lunch, uniforms and teacher salaries. Fausey's early retirement check buys books.

Parents pay $1.25 a year — 10 Haitian dollars — to send their child to the school.

"Anything that you give away free is not respected," Fausey said.

Classes weren't in session at Fausey's Christian Light Mission school when the earthquake struck on Jan. 12. Only Fausey and the orphans were in the building.

The back of the main school — which was also home for her and the orphans — collapsed. Her housekeeper's seven-year-old son was killed by falling debris.

"Peterson was killed instantly," she said. "He didn't suffer."

A half-constructed second building was located across the street and had a large yard secured with a metal gate. She moved the orphans, the staff and the school's four tawny guard dogs there, and everyone slept in tents. Nobody wanted to return inside.

Fausey started school on Jan. 18, five days after the quake. Classes were held in a tent.

"They needed to get back to something that was normal," Fausey said. "People said it couldn't be done."

Volunteers from the US and Canada arrived, as did $90,000 in donations. Fausey dispatched the volunteers to nearby tent cities to feed children under the age of six. She wrangled food donations from nonprofits at the airport, met with architects about rebuilding, took in a malnourished child abandoned by her parents.

Fausey concedes that she brings a very American, goal-oriented attitude to Haiti.

"I have to accept that I think in a different way," she said.

Fausey, a Baptist, is driven by her faith. She credits the Lord for helping her through the past seven months — but also her teachers and the volunteers. And she says she believes God will guide to her the necessary money and manpower to expand the school in the future.

Yet Fausey lives solidly in the present, solving the many problems that come up throughout the day. The construction workers want a concrete block roof? No, she wants solid concrete with reinforced steel rebar because it's safer. A little boy needs a bandage? Tell one of the older boys to help. The teachers want to go to a retreat? Take the truck.

The result: When classes start, teachers will have books and chalkboards. Students will have desks. It might be a little messy at first, but kids will learn.

"This school is like a medicine for the kids," said Jossy Seriphin, a 25-year-old teacher at Fausey's school. "It's their life. It's their future."

In May, Fausey needed a break. A respite from the rubble, the chaos, the never-ending need that is Haiti.

She hadn't stopped since the earthquake. Hadn't stopped to grieve or cry or even think.

She flew to rural Pennsylvania to stay with friends. On a walk in a woods, she paused to pick wild raspberries, a delicacy not found in any store or on any bush in Haiti.

Fausey says also had a chat with God.

"I said, Lord, I'm tired. I've had it. I don't think I can keep going," she recalled.

"And the Lord said, it's OK. Just eat raspberries, and keep walking."

So she did. Two weeks later, she returned to Haiti.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Wyclef Jean released a music video in Creole protesting against the decision of the CEP to reject his candidacy for president. The song is called "Prizon Pou KEP A" (translated in English as "Prison for the CEP). To watch this video follow the link to:



Wyclef Jean was one of the 34 candidates who registered for the upcoming presidential elections here in Haiti. His application was denied by the CEP. Wyclef had a lot of support especially amongst the youth. His fame and success in the music industry in the United States allowed him to establish an organization called Yele Haiti which provided aid to Haiti for the last several years. He truly has a heart for Haiti and is proud to call himself Haitian. But not living here in Haiti for the last 5 years disqualified him from participating in the elections. With his influence as a well-known entertainer he can still carry a powerful voice in keeping the causes of Haiti in the forefront. Pray for the upcoming elections, that they are democratic and a leader is chosen to lead the rebuilding of the country. Pray especially for peace during the electoral period.

In Haiti political protests are sometimes put to song. Wyclef is now using his influence as a well-known entertainer to keep the attention of the world on Haiti. The following is an article about his political protest song:

(Newsweek) -

Hip-hop star's new single attacks 'injustice' of council's decision to bar him from running for president of Haiti.

When Wyclef Jean released his new single, not many in the U.S. could figure out what it was all about. The hip-hop star sings it in Haitian Creole. But translated, the song reveals an angry Jean attacking the electoral council that disqualified him from running for president of Haiti, accusing the current head of state of being a deceptive “Lucifer” who betrayed him, and urging the country’s citizens to “remain mobilized.”

In the song, which he released via his Twitter account—accompanied by a demand for “equal rights and justice”—Jean argues that his disqualification amounted to a rejection of Haiti’s youth, “peasants,” and, indeed, entire population. NEWSWEEK asked two fluent Creole speakers to listen to the track and translate the lyrics, which have not been available in English. Singing slowly and deliberately on the guitar-laden tune that’s more protest song than hip-hop paean, Jean accuses outgoing president René Préval of engineering the Provisional Electoral Council’s ruling on Aug. 20 that barred the musician from the race. “Even though you say that the decision came from the Provisional Electoral Council, I know you hold all the cards./I voted for you for president in 2006, why do you reject my candidacy today?” Jean intones.

Evidently both hurt and outraged, Jean insists he will challenge his disqualification, singing, “The children of God cannot be barred,” in the song, titled “Prizon pou Kepa”—in English, “Prison for the CEP,” the acronym for the Provisional Electoral Council. (See below for a translation of the full song.) By choosing to sing in Haitian Creole, Jean jabs at critics who questioned his fluency in that dialect as well as in French, the colonial language. Immensely popular in his native country, the American-reared singer became an immediate frontrunner in a field of more than 30 candidates when he entered the race last month.

But his candidacy was derailed by a constitutional requirement that presidential candidates reside in Haiti for at least five years prior to an election. Jean claims he has done so, though evidence indicates he was a U.S. resident most of that time. According to Reuters, “Council officials said Jean, who left his homeland with his family at the age of 9 to live in the United States, did not meet residency requirements.”

Jean is not alone in claiming that Préval may have influenced the decision of the council, which he essentially appointed. But the panel also rejected more than a dozen other candidates. The list included Raymond Joseph, who is Jean’s uncle and, as Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, may have had more legitimate reasons for living abroad. Jean had vowed to appeal. “I cannot surrender now,” he said in a statement after the decision was announced. “My vision of a nation renewed and redeveloped is a vision for which I am willing to fight.”

But “Prizon pou Kepa” may be his only way of appealing—directly to the Haitian people. Samuel Pierre of the council's legal department told Reuters that, under Article 191 of Haiti's electoral law, rulings by the election authority's disputes tribunal are definitive and cannot be appealed.

"Therefore there is absolutely no possibility for Wyclef Jean to be added to the list of candidates approved to run in the next presidential elections," Pierre said. "So it's over." An expert in Haitian law told NEWSWEEK the same thing. Regardless, Jean sings, “I won’t give up ... Face to face, lies lose.”

In demanding equal rights and justice, Jean may be hitting the right notes for a nation long troubled by corruption, despotic rule, and poverty. At the same time, it is not clear how being asked to meet constitutional residency requirements amounts to being singled out for injustice.

Even as he prays for the help of the Archangel Gabriel in his song, it might seem to some that Jean, long accustomed to special treatment and perks as a pop star, may actually be demanding more-than-equal treatment under the law. Wyclef Jean, “Prison for the CEP,” translated for NEWSWEEK:

I am going to challenge, going to challenge, going to court to challenge
Look, they disqualified Wyclef,
They say that Wyclef does not speak Creole. He’s the candidate from the diaspora.
Even my Haitian people, they curse me on Facebook, when they heard that I was running for president, they said Wyclef should be barred ...
Even the priests of the Catholic Church were shocked. They said I left Petit-Goâve for Les Cayes ...
All the weekend I was celebrated the feast of Our Lady. I disqualified.
Port Salut disqualified, children cried
There are activists/militants who said I made a deal with Préval.
But I didn’t do a deal with Préval,
It was a president asked to see a candidate. I could not refuse it ...
I only told him I’d come back. When I got there he served me coffee ...
He wanted to assure our friendship. He told me I was a good candidate.
He put me on the phone with Jude Celestin. We had a good talk.
Afterward Préval barred me.
Even though you say that the decision came from the Provisional Electoral Council, I know you hold all the cards.
I voted for you for president in 2006, why do you reject my candidacy today?
You didn’t reject Wyclef. You rejected the youth.
You didn’t reject Wyclef. You rejected the people.
You didn’t reject Wyclef. You rejected the fellow hawking sweets on the street.
You didn’t reject Wyclef. You rejected the peasants.
They rejected Wyclef. Some people say that I went to [the] Saut d’Eau [falls] to get some special powers.
But I just went there to bathe in the falls.
If I had gone there to get special powers, perhaps I would not have been disqualified.
The CEP [Provisional Electoral Council] disqualified me.
Don’t forget my father was a pastor. The God who is with me is stronger than Lucifer.
Lucifer is in control of the CEP. The Satan disqualified me. The children of God cannot be barred.
Fas a Fas. Youth for Youth. Front to Front. We want education for all for us to get there.
In the schools, we want to get there. In the universities, we want to get there.
Youth sector, peasant sector, we will not allow them to trample on our rights. We must get there.
Black bandanna. Red bandanna. Red and blue.
We’re all the same. Haiti is our lady. Let it not break our hearts.
Before I go to bed, I always read a psalm.
I pray to Hosanna: get the people out from under the rubble, and send Archangel Gabriel to protect the women living in the tents where they are being raped ...
Wyclef Jean, indeed, I will continue to challenge the CEP. We must remain mobilized. I won’t give up.
Face to face, lies lose.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


(AP) -

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Hundreds of thousands of Haitians affected by January's devastating earthquake are expected to obtain work and food through programs funded by $47.5 million in foreign grants.

An estimated 100,000 households will receive food vouchers for about $40 each every month through next March. Each voucher is enough to purchase 44 pounds (20 kilograms) of rice, 88 pounds (40 kilograms) of red beans and one gallon (3.8 litres) of cooking oil, said the U.S. Agency for International Development, which recently awarded the grants.

The vouchers — funded by a $12.5 million grant awarded to international aid group Mercy Corps — will be honoured by 135 vendors in the Central Plateau and Lower Artibonite regions, said Paul Weisenfeld, USAID's Haiti Task Team co-ordinator.

The voucher program is useful because it "gives people better control over their lives instead of us telling people what to do with lives," Weisenfeld said.

The USAID has awarded a second, $35 million grant to the World Food Program, which runs a cash-for-work program. The program already employs nearly 50,000 but with the grant is expected to grow to 140,000 participants by the end of this year, Weisenfeld said.

Workers are paid with a mix of food and cash for activities such as debris clearing, irrigation canal repair and drainage, he added. With an average family size of five, the income earned by each worker is predicted to help more than 700,000 Haitians increase their food supply.

Weisenfeld said that the immediate food crisis following the Jan. 12 earthquake is over, and a longer-term solution is needed to help Haiti's hungry.

"There is food available in the market," he said. "We want to stimulate local economy, and help Haitian farmers."

According to USAID statistics, post-earthquake malnutrition percentages are within the same range or slightly lower than pre-earthquake levels.

The earthquake killed an estimated 300,000 people and left the capital, Port-au-Prince, in ruins.


(ReliefWeb) - Source: Church World Service (CWS) - By Chris Herlinger

Petite Riviere de l'Artibonite–It was nearing the end of another hot, sunny day near Petite Riviere in the northern department, or province, of Artibonite, and Arnold Alcimé stood on his two-acre plot of land and shook his head in frustration.

Life as a farmer has never been more difficult than it is now, said the octogenarian, recalling earlier times when credit and new equipment were easier to get and when the land itself seemed to suffer less.

Though this seemingly lush farmland often called Haiti's "rice bowl" looks fertile, recent years have taken a severe toll. Hurricanes in 2008 destroyed three-quarters of Haiti's agricultural land, according to the World Food Program – a situation worsened by Haiti's deforested and denuded hillsides, which made farmland in valleys like the one in which Alcimé lives and works all the more vulnerable.

Resulting floods worsened the problems of drainage on farms, and the hurricanes also destroyed large numbers of bridges and roads. When compounded with the cycles of debt and high interest rates that farmers and farm advocates compare to usury, the accumulated problems amount to a real crisis for rural Haiti.

The washed-out farmland and destroyed infrastructure created what the World Food Program calls "pockets of severe malnutrition."

For Alcimé, a small, spry man, the problems are disappointing because he never expected them at the end of a hard life spent on the land. But he soldiers on, he said, because, "I have no other options."

The problems faced by Alcimé and others in rural Haiti may seem like something apart from the efforts to recover from the January earthquake. But they aren't. If, as many believe, Haiti must "decentralize" from overcrowded and over-congested Port-au-Prince as part of its nationwide recovery, humanitarian actors like the ACT Alliance will need to develop strategies to help rural Haiti, say humanitarian and development workers within the network.

Dealing with food, hunger and nutrition will have to be part of that response – though, of course, the distribution of food or cash grants used for food purchases was a critical part of the initial post-12 January emergency response by ACT members and their partners both in and outside Port-au-Prince.

But the longer-term issues remains vexing, as statistics from the World Food Program make all too clear. Out of a population of 9 million, nearly a third, 2.4 million Haitians, are "food insecure."

What that means in practical terms is that one-third of newborn babies in Haiti are born underweight, and nearly one in ten is born acutely undernourished, the WFP said. That has led to large numbers of children – by some estimates, a quarter of all children in Haiti – being stunted, an obvious sign of malnutrition.

The "why" of such disheartening figures are multi-layered, but a key reason Haiti faces an ongoing hunger problem is due to food policies.

A 2006 study by ACT member Christian Aid noted that economic reform measures required of Haiti by large Western lending institutions in the 1990s after a period of political instability resulted in trade liberalization, which among other things, reduced tariffs on imported food.

While that move temporarily reduced food prices for urban residents, the overall effect was for Haiti to become a net importer of food. That, Christian Aid argued, has been calamitous, since it depressed domestic production.

"In this environment, it is becoming more and more difficult to buy food," the Christian Aid study said. "Agricultural liberalization has contributed to hunger becoming more widespread in both rural and urban areas."

It added: "The impacts have been widespread, contributing to serious economic and social decline. It is unacceptable to abandon poor farmers who are unable to compete with imports."

At the community level, in Artibonite, that has resulted in a loss of farm income – posing challenges for farmers like Alcimé, but also making it more difficult for rural residents to simply eat.

The policy of "making it cheaper to import rice than to grow it left many in rural areas without a means to make a living – so they gravitated toward the city," said Lisa Rothenberger, a relief officer with the American Baptist Churches USA, a supporter of ACT Alliance member Church World Service.

Raising tariffs to stimulate local farming and making investments in such inputs as good seed, tools and fertilizer could, said Rothenberger, "turn this tide and redistribute Haiti's population in a more sustainable way and also empower Haitians to meet their own food security needs."

For farmers, the solutions are relatively fixable, said Haitian agronomist Nicolas Altidor of Petite Riviere. "Help the planters, give them support like fertilizer, reasonable credit instead of usury and fix the drainage so that fields are not always flooding." he said.

The ACT Alliance is committed to those goals; as one example, ACT member CWS has, as part of its Haiti recovery efforts, recently announced it is expanding its support for a program to assist 13 farmer cooperatives serving more than 3,000 members, as well as internally displaced persons in the Artibonite and Northwest regions.

The cooperatives provide members with access to revolving funds for necessities like seeds (produced in Haiti), tools and fertilizers; access to small credit to help rural women start or expand a micro business; training and technical assistance including adult literacy; and emotional support to members and their families.

In this work, CWS is supporting its Haitian partner, Sant Kretyen pour Developman Entegre, known as SKDE; other ACT members are supporting similar efforts by Haitian partners to improve food security – Haitians' access to affordable food.

These are "small-step" efforts, obviously, and the long-term issue of "building up" rural Haiti will take years to sort out. Indeed, it may take some time, if the experience of 20-year-old Datus Raynashca, is any indication.

Raynashca joined with others in Petite Riviere who gathered for an afternoon meal of white rice and black beans as part of a feeding program initiated by community members with ties to local ACT Alliance partners. The program has provided meals to both those who left Port-au-Prince after the quake and local residents hosting the family and friends who have joined them.

Raynashca told of being displaced along with her father from Port-au-Prince. Raynashca said she doubted she would, or even could, remain in Petite Riviere. An aspiring secretary, she still feels the pull of the capital. Of life in Petite Riviere, she said, "There is nothing here."

But 6-year-old David Jean Datus, who lost a leg in the quake and moved with family to Petite Riviere, said he would like to be a farmer – and doesn't believe being physically handicapped can stop him.

"I want to grow plantains," he said of the banana common in Haiti and the Caribbean.

As the lunch-time meal ended, with dishes to be washed and the cooks scrapping off the heavy pans, the Rev. Raymond Mesadieu, a community activist who works on behalf of local farmers, reminded a group of visitors what constitutes security in rural Haiti.

"There's education," he said. "And then there's nutrition."

Friday, August 27, 2010

photos - repairs - part 1

We started the generator the other day and when I tried to lower the switch from EDH power to the generator the rusty switch handle broke. It's a good thing that Loutese is available. We called him and a couple of hours later no more problem! Here he is installing the new switch.

We put a couple of laundry poles in a different location and bought some new line. The guys are installing the new line.

The steel rebar on my window was loose. One of the anchor points had a laundry line attached to it. The other end of the line was connected to a palm tree. During the earthquake the shaking of the house and the pulling of the line caused the anchor point to break loose. Ysmaille does all our welding work. One of his workers welded the bar back to the anchor point.

Pastor Pierre and the cement boss built the extra support pillar on the street side of the wall. In the far right of the picture you can see Marie standing with a thinking pose. I think she is wondering if the "Leaning Wall of Pisa" will now be more secure. I think it is!

With the new support pillar in place on the street side of the wall, Pastor Pierre and the cement boss continued to chip away at the old parging. Once this is done mortar will be applied and we should have a stronger wall as a result.

photos - fonise - part 2

Fonise is Tim's younger "sister". This photo was taken in February 2009. A couple of months later she went out to the Cayes region to live with her mother.

She became sick out in the province and returned back to Port-au-Prince. Her condition continued to deteriorate. We had brought her to the Gheskio clinic for testing and she collapsed at the clinic. She was hospitalized at Bernard Mevs Hospital and received 3 blood transfusions. She was also treated for H. Pylori and Typhoid. She responded to treatment. She was discharged from hospital and lived with her father's family.

After the earthquake, while her father was recuperating in Martinique from his amputation, she once again returned out to the Cayes region to her mother's home. She came back to Port-au-Prince in June 2010 and has been residing here at Coram Deo.

When Tim visited the Cayes region Fonise came along to visit some of her family. These people are neighbor's of Fonise's mother. They have a stick/mud shack with a tin roof.

This is Fonise's mother's home. Her family is very poor.

photos - cayes region - part 3

This is what Fonise looks like now. She is regaining her confidence and zest for life and continues to put back some of the weight she lost. She still has some stomach problems from time to time. Keep her in prayer that her stomach problems can be completely resolved. She has gained back a couple of clothing sizes!

The Cayes region is a beautiful area. The road is in excellent shape.

There is a saying in Haiti that "behind mountains there are mountains".

The landscape is very hilly. During the rainy season greenery comes alive.

This region of the country can be developed. The focus on rebuilding Port-au-Prince must also be in developing the rural areas. There is a lot of opportunity "behind the mountains".

photos - cayes region - part 4

Where there is water, trees and agriculture can thrive.

This is a haitian cooking stove; 3 rocks with a small stone to balance the pot. In the countryside sticks are used to fuel the "rock stove".

Ysmaille drove with Tim to the Cayes region. I respect Ysmaille for what he is doing to help the haitian people post-earthquake. He works with Amurt, an NGO in their relief programs. He teaches english in addition to his welding work. He goes into the refuge camps. It is good to see Haitian people involved in helping other Haitians. Pray for the efforts of people like Ysmaille.

The rural area of Haiti is beautiful. Where Fonise family lives people grow rice. With proper development Haiti can once again be self-sufficient in rice production. They were before. They can do so again with the world's assistance.

Pray for the work being done in the rural communities. Port-au-Prince is dense and highly concentrated. Port-au-Prince needs to be rebuilt but so do the rural communities as well.

photos - cayes region - part 5

Where there is a water source life thrives.

In his travels Tim visited the coast in the Cayes region too.

Traveling early in the morning you can see the sun rise.

This road passes near the coast.

Time passes quickly when you have views like this.

photos - cayes region - part 6

The mountain view is nice, and so is the sea view!

Tourist development is a necessity in Haiti too.

There is a lot of opportunity.

Haiti has beautiful beaches. At one point in Haiti's history there was more tourism in Haiti than in the Dominican Republic. With development Haiti will attract tourists.

Gelee is an area where people go to relax and enjoy the sights. I think that if the rural area was more developed and more opportunities would be created people would not feel the pull to pull up roots and move to Port-au-Prince, especially how things are now here in the city.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


(AP) - By Tamara Lush

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Steve Jean grew up making clothes, and so did his parents and grandparents. Now he's helping create a new generation of textile workers that aid agencies hope will help Haiti rebound from a devastating earthquake.

Jean is head trainer at the country's first job training center for textile workers, the U.S.-funded Haitian Apparel Center, that was inaugurated Wednesday — a bright spot in an economic landscape that was bleak even before the Jan. 12 earthquake.

"We have a lot of young people in Haiti who are not working and who don't have any profession," Jean said. "So, this is an opportunity for them to learn something, to know how to sew."

U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Merten said it would also help Haitian companies advance from making "simple things, like sheets and T-shirts, to more complex garments. And more complex garments mean higher profit margins and more money coming into the country."

The center, which will eventually train some 2,000 people per year, was planned long before the earthquake. Its opening was delayed because a post-quake emergency health clinic occupied the space for several months.

The center is part of a four-year, $104.8 million USAID program to improve manufacturing skills of workers. It dovetails with the Haitian Economic Lift Program, which was signed into law in Washington, D.C. in May to expand Haiti's garment trade with the U.S., largely by expanding tariff exemptions.

The center also aims to have U.S. executives give seminars to senior managers, factory owners and business leaders.

Wages range from about $3.09 to $5 a day for entry-level textile workers in Haiti. While workers struggle to feed, house and clothe their families on that income, it's better than what most Haitian workers have: no formal job at all.

Officials also say that once workers are trained and become more skilled, they will earn more than the minimum.

Even before the earthquake, unemployment was estimated at between 60 and 80 percent. People get by on remittances from relatives living abroad, selling items in the street or odd jobs.

The U.S. aid should help boost a Haitian apparel industry that last year shipped $513 million worth of goods, with labels including Hanes and New Balance.

The industry has been shrinking in recent years — down to about 25,000 jobs, a quarter of what there were 20 years ago.

As a test run before the formal opening, USAID and the center trained 13 sewing machine operators. All appeared for a certificate ceremony on Wednesday. And all have been hired at factories.


(Miami Herald) - By Trenton Daniel

Despite losing his pregnant wife and his music school in the Haitian earthquake, a blind Julliard-trained violinist has plans for a performing arts center.

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Standing at the edge of a 10-acre stretch of dusty green fields on the outskirts of the Haitian capital, the blind Juilliard-trained violinist could almost hear the music.

Soaring symphonies, beginners' scales, the sounds of hope.

Antoine Romel Joseph, who was pinned for 18 hours under rubble from the January earthquake that upended Haiti, has plans for the land. He wants to build a world-class performing arts center for concerts, lessons and recitals. From the ruins of a country, he hopes to create a thing of beauty -- and a ``second life'' for himself.

``One life ended January 12 and another started,'' he said. ``This one is going to be more interesting and creative.''

Six months after a 7.0-magnitude quake that claimed an estimated 300,000 lives and trapped Joseph, he has begun the slow journey back. He has faced personal and professional devastation: his wife and unborn baby are gone, crushed in the same toppled music school that nearly killed him. And his future as a musician and teacher seemed bleak after the debris pinned his legs and left hand.

But for the concert violinist who stayed calm in the wreckage by replaying Tchaikovsky's violin concerto in his mind, the music has remained.

For months, he lay in a hospital bed and mourned his wife and the baby boy he'll never see, overwhelmed by the international attention his story drew. Fellow musicians pledged to help rebuild the school he started in 1991 to teach music to poor children. Stevie Wonder gave him two keyboards to keep his fingers active. Joseph is trying to write this all down in a ghost-written autobiography.

As he worked toward recovery with doctors in Miami and Port-au-Prince, a flicker of hope became an idea. And then a plan.

Now, Joseph is trying to reopen his school -- the New Victorian Music School -- and, at the same time, raise money to build a center to nurture young Haitian musical talent and lure tourists.

``People here need music, music education,'' Joseph said. ``That's my life dream for Haiti.''

If recovery efforts in Haiti have been painstakingly slow and seemingly invisible, Joseph has showed signs of progress. In March, two months before he turned 51, Joseph checked out of University of Miami Jackson Memorial Hospital and into an altered version of the world. His time is measured in doctor appointments and pills. He's mostly off the painkillers but still on blood pressure medicine. He has removable casts on both legs and uses a cane to get around.

His left hand -- swollen, a pair of metal plates straightening the bones -- still aches too much to play the violin with regularity but his doctor believes he'll be able to resume performances soon.

``If the bones go on to heal as they should, he has the possibility to play at or near his previous level within the next six months,'' said Dr. Patrick Owens, the University of Miami Jackson Memorial hand surgeon who operated on Joseph.

The son of a tailor, Gilbert, and a seamstress, Carmelite, Joseph was born nearly blind in Gros Morne, a city in northwest Haiti. His father played trumpet and his parents sent him to St. Vincent's School for handicapped children in downtown Port-au-Prince when he was 5.

At 10, a nun introduced him to the violin, and his life changed. With the help of scholarships and a Fulbright grant, Joseph left Haiti in 1978 to study violin performance at the University of Cincinnati and in 1985 at The Juilliard School in New York. He also played at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony Orchestra before returning in 1987 to Haiti, where he founded the music school.

The divorced father of two -- Victoria, 21, a violinist and violist and University of Miami student, and Bradley, 18, a pianist and student at Miami Dade College -- remarried in October after meeting Myslie Chery, 26, a cosmetologist from Haiti's southwestern coast.

She was seven-months pregnant, on the ground floor of the school and home, when the quake struck. Joseph had just gone up to the third floor to deliver a phone message.

Stuck in the wreckage for 18 hours, he replayed music in his mind, working his way through every concerto that he had ever performed during his renowned career.

Myslie's body wasn't located for three months.

``I get better physically but emotionally, it's very difficult,'' Joseph said, as he looked away.

``Her not being around.''

There are some pieces of music Joseph can no longer bear to hear, such as Mozart's Ave verum corpus, a composition Myslie listened to the night before the quake. She played the music hoping their baby would be a musician.

``I cannot hear that piece,'' Joseph said.

Joseph's story, picked up by CNN and others, struck a note of recognition for Anne McKinley, co-owner of a violin-making business near Los Angeles. She remembered hearing of a Haitian violinist who had studied at Juilliard.

It turned out that 25 years ago, she and her husband Don sold a violin he made -- No. 33 -- to a Juilliard instructor named Margaret Pardee. Pardee taught Joseph at the conservatory and gave him the maple and spruce instrument.

The McKinleys, touched by their connection, offered to make Joseph a new violin to replace his instrument, which had been damaged by water before rescuers found it in the school's debris.

But Joseph wanted to keep the old one. He had last played it 18 minutes before the tremors began.

``People do get to know their instruments over time,'' McKinley said from her home in Altedena. ``Perhaps keeping it would symbolize a hopeful, new beginning for him.''

McKinley enlisted her pastor, traveling to Haiti via Miami, to bring the instrument to California.

McKinley's husband repaired the ribs and a crack, reset the neck, reapplied varnish and rehaired the bow. The instrument is ready, awaiting someone to hand carry it to Miami.

``Here's a man who lost so much and wants to continue to help the children of Haiti and here's something we can do,'' McKinley said. ``It was the obvious step.''

In Haiti, Joseph stays at a Pétionville inn called Le Deux Séjour with Haitian paintings on the walls and black-and-white tiles on the floor. ``It's very family-like, that's why I like it,'' he said.

``There's nothing complicated here.''

For Joseph, complications mean squandered time. Recently, the White House invited him to a ceremony for the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act but he opted to skip it because he can't afford the time or money.

All around him, mounds of rubble and vast camps for the displaced look as though Haiti is stuck at Jan. 12, the day the quake hit. But Joseph seems determined to push toward the future.

Waiting for his driver, he gulps coffee and checks his watch, holding it an inch from the right eye, which still registers some sight. At 8:22 a.m., the driver is late.

Joseph planned to visit the bank and doctor, and also try to get Myslie's death certificate. He must find a FedEx office so his daughter can fax him documents for setting up the nonprofit Friends of Music Education for Haiti.

``I used to say I have time,'' Joseph said. ``If I meet someone and they leave, I know that I may never see them. It's amazing how in a couple of minutes, life can change. The whole world can go crazy.''

Later that week, heading back to Port-au-Prince, east of the tent cities and rubble-clogged streets, Joseph talked of his hopes for the music complex.

``Every year people make their plans to go to Tanglewood,'' Joseph said as a tap-tap, a brightly painted bus, bounced by on a dirt road. ``It would be nice to hear people in Santo Domingo come and say, wow, there's this festival in Haiti.''

The project is still very much in the initial stages. He's assembling a board of directors, laying out a five-year plan, consulting an architect, and collecting donations ($20,000 to date, Joseph said).

He dreams big -- a 1,200-seat concert hall, a conservatory with recital space, and a dormitory to house students. The students would eventually become teachers, spreading music through the provinces.

``This could turn into a center stage for culture,'' Joseph said. ``I don't know why this country can't have a music hall.''

On the car radio, the final seconds of the World Cup game between Denmark and Cameroon are counting down. A Haitian sports commentator points out kicks, passes and a thwarted goal in Creole -- ``problem!'' -- repeating the one word with a velocity and intensity that left Joseph marveling:

``Pwoblempwoblempwoblempwoblempwob lempwoblem.''

Then: ``Pagentanpagen tanpagentanpagentan.''


Joseph threw back his head and laughed as dust continued to float through the rolled-down windows, bus horns blared and the car lurched along the broken streets. For a moment, his laughter overcame it all.

``Life is worth living,'' Joseph said. ``I get depressed a little. And then move on.''


(Time) - By Tim Padgett

In the 17th century, English dictator Oliver Cromwell sent thousands of Irish into servitude in the Caribbean. For Irishman Denis O'Brien, that history links his country and Caribbean nations like Haiti, founded by black slaves. "There's an affinity there," O'Brien insists.

Even before the Jan. 12 earthquake that wrecked Haiti and killed more than 200,000 people, the phone company O'Brien founded, Digicel, was the nation's largest investor. Since the quake, it has donated and raised $20 million for Haiti, more than any other company so far. Beyond direct aid, O'Brien is also promoting the kind of grass-roots entrepreneurship long ignored by the business elite, which will be critical to Haiti's future. And he's backing reconstruction of Port-au-Prince's Iron Market, a key commercial nexus. "Even if a lot of the Haitian elite don't believe in their country," he says, "I do."

That Celtic faith in Haiti isn't just O'Brien's. Others in Ireland, including a group of business leaders called the Soul of Haiti Foundation, are building investment and philanthropic relationships with members of a society they feel is capable of rapidly developing its economy the way Ireland has in the past 25 years. Among their beneficiaries: fishermen who got solar panels from Soul of Haiti to make ice that helped them form small seafood-transport companies and farmers who are starting biodiesel firms that use jatropha plants. "Unlike the arrogant cowboy foreign investors you so often meet, they try to learn from us too," says mango exporter Jean-Maurice Buteau. "It's humanitarian, but it's also very down to earth."

Either way, the Haiti work has made O'Brien and the Irish the world's newest poster boys for enterprise-oriented aid of the kind championed by leaders like former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the U.N.'s special envoy to Haiti, and his New York City – based Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). "Denis' efforts on behalf of Haiti redevelopment," Clinton says, "exemplify the CGI model" of joint business, government and civil-society ventures. O'Brien coordinates CGI's Haiti Action Network, which has committed more than $100 million to education, infrastructure and business-development projects — efforts that were bearing fruit when the quake hit.

O'Brien, 52, made his pot of gold (estimated at $3.5 billion) with the 2001 sale of his Irish mobile-phone network, Esat. The son of a human-rights-activist mother then set his sights on the developing world. O'Brien's Jamaica-based Digicel ($2.2 billion in revenue for the year ending March 31) has won almost 11 million subscribers in the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific by ushering in low prices and more reliable service. It has a 60% market share in Haiti. Before Digicel arrived in 2006, only 5% of Haiti's population used cell phones; today 30% does. "We made Haitian customers feel like New York customers," says O'Brien. One result: the Digicel building in Port-au-Prince was one of the few spared during the 2008 food riots.

Critics in Ireland and the U.K. accuse O'Brien of playing cell-phone populist — "acting the saint in stricken Haiti," as a London Daily Mail article suggested — to deflect attention from a tribunal looking into his financial relationship with the Irish minister who awarded Esat's license in 1996.

O'Brien denies any impropriety; he is suing the Daily Mail for libel.

Most Haitians care only that he's acting, period. After the quake, O'Brien gave $5 million to Haitian NGOs; Digicel donated free phone time worth $10 million, as well as cargo planes and boats with relief supplies. It's constructing 50 schools and recently distributed family-size tents to more than 100,000 Haitians.

Yet O'Brien knows that Haiti's long-term recovery is impossible if it doesn't rebuild its entrepreneurial mojo. That's why projects like the 19th century Iron Market, a reminder of a once prosperous Haiti, are among his priorities. As O'Brien and his entourage walk through the market's ruins, navigating rubble, sewage puddles and merchants hawking chickens, the Irishman muses on his affinity for the "raw" surroundings. "It's difficult," he says, "not to get hooked on Haiti."

— with reporting by Jessica Desvarieux / Port-Au-Prince

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


The theme of the next group of pictures posted to the blog has to do with bamboo. To watch a video on the subject follow the link to:


photos - repairs - part 1

The second third of the front wall is being repaired now. The guys gave a hand for awhile and then stopped because they were worried the wall might fall down. It is just like the "Leaning Tower of Pisa". That building has stood for a long time and with some extra support our wall should hold too.

The children helped to sift the sand.

The first third of the wall is being parged. That part of the wall is nice and straight!

The first third of the wall is now finished!

We went and bought some more cement blocks to create a support pillar for the second section of the wall. It's good to have lots of helping hands!

photos - repairs - part 2

The guys stacked the blocks for the cement boss and Pastor Pierre.

The second support pillar is being constructed. The wall has a lot of damage to repair.

Junior willingly assisted in cleaning out the gutter on our street. Not a nice job to do!

Jantje is preparing student profiles for all the school children in our program here at Coram Deo.

It hasn't been all work. She went dancing with Manu to music from Boney M. They are my favorite group.

photos - camp perrin - part 3

Benson just came book from a week vacation visiting his mother and aunt who live in the Carrefour area. He enjoyed spending time with them. Manu and Benson start back to school next week at Christian Light Mission. Benson will be starting Grade 1 and Manu will be in Grade 5.

Tim drove out to Camp Perrin which is in the Aux Cayes area. He brought back some photos of his trip.

Kimosabee didn't make the trip. This is his cousin "Klarabelle". She is a rental vehicle and is not tough like Kimosabee. Any little scratch will mean Tim having to pay more money.

The road to Camp Perrin is nice. The streets look clean! Not like Port-au-Prince.

There is a lot of vegetation growing in the area.

photos - camp perrin - part 4

The purpose of the trip was to visit the programs at ORE (Organization for the Rehabilitation of the Environment). This NGO was started in 1985 by Sean Finnigan, to improve environmental, agricultural and economic conditions in rural Haiti by promoting high revenue tree crops, improved seeds and marketing programs. The haitian man pictured is an agronomist. He is experimenting to develop hybrid corn that will increase production and also be drought resistant.

This silo is a corn dryer.

There are different test plots of different varieties of bamboo.

Tim looked up and saw this green snake in a tree.

It was a good size and the color blended in with the leaves on the tree.