Ti Pwoblem

How often do you think about how you can change someone’s life with just one sentence? We all know it is true. I have never given it a great deal of consideration, though it crosses my mind when I hear about bullying and in trying to do right by people.

So much to my surprise I realize may have changed the life of one little girl, and possibly not for the better. Have you ever heard people talk about living up to a nick name or trying to overcome one. On one particularly hot day in Bercy, I journeyed across the village on foot paths through the gardens and pucker brush with Geurline and Marlynn. Geurline’s mothers house is our destination… Edens is working next door on his sister-in-laws house. We sit and chat together Geurline’s sisters and her mum and I. One of the pleasures of visiting Geurline’s family is their lack of English… giving me another opportunity to work on my Creole. You see my Haitian friends that speak English like to practice their English with me… rather than helping me practice my Creole! The children played around us as we talked… The youngest trying to walk but spending most of her time crawling from person to person. Geurline and her sisters set up a table and out came the dominoes. We huddled around the low table on an assortment of chairs and began to play. And that is when it happened… the littlest child decided she needed to become involved! At her third attempt to grab our dominoes off the table I said the words that could change her life, “ou ti pwoblem!”, translation you’re a little problem. Soon enough everyone was calling her ti pwoblem… she even began to respond to it. Later in the afternoon when I was having my hair braided, and little miss ti pwoblem had finished nursing… We encouraged her to dance! She is a wonderful dancer… Shaking her little hinny back and forth. To get her to dance everyone would say “danse ti pwoblem, danse!”. When she started to get into things again I said ti pwoblem ou gro pwoblem! Translation a big problem. And then I jokingly said… she will never get married no one will want to marry a woman named ti pwoblem! A week later at the wedding of ti pwoblem’s aunt, I saw the family again and they were still calling her ti pwoblem! What have I done by jokingly calling this beautiful little girl ti pwoblem? Will she be teased for this? Will she grow up trying to live up to her name or not live up to it? Maybe she will be proud of the nick name because I gave it to her. Part of me hopes it blows away like dust in the wind… But I don’t think it will.

Ti Pwoblem and I

Ti Pwoblem and I

Drip Drop… part 1

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When the above picture showed up on Facebook a few days ago it hit me hard! This picture truly does say a thousand words… For those of you who see it as just a cartoon with no merit I ask you to look at it again after you read this series of posts.

I have had the unfortunate experience of working for an NGO/nonprofit/501c3, in Haiti as well as spending plenty of time around others and better still I have had conversations with many Haitians as to the effects of NGOs. I am going to share with you what I have witnessed and been told over the years.

There is an NGO out of Massachusetts that I have been very aware of since 2008… COTY Church Outreach to Youth Project. In 2008 they had been in Haiti for 25 years. The Haitians that were part of one of the NGOs programs were the first Haitians I ever meet… They were working here in the US. These six young men get the credit for my falling in love with Haiti. I was able to watch how this NGO was working in their lives and see it through their eyes. I was shocked and appalled by how the director treated them… yelling, talking down to them, and in general treating them with complete disrespect! On the first occasion I meet her she actually put them and all Haitians down to me… I ended up walking away hating her! She kept a lot of their pay. Keeping some of the pay was part of the deal for the NGO arranging for them to come work in the States. She kept whatever she wanted there was no set fee. The guys not knowing what the amount was going to be… she kept a higher amount from some than she did from others. The first year met them I found out that she had kept their passports… I had driven these guys all over New England and they hadn’t had their passports the entire time! She kept their social security cards, to this day most of the guys are not in possession of them. I meet many of the Haitians in her program though I only know 8 of them really well… in fact three of them are like brothers to me. During my most recent stay in Haiti I had the opportunity to travel to Dasab the Village that COTY has worked in for 30 years now. My friend Edens (one of the workers I meet five years ago) took me high into the mountains on his motorcycle. Fenal who was also in the same program, meet us there. Fenal continues to work with the COTY… because he loves the village that he was born in and wants to help the people there. After 30 years of teams coming and going and millions of dollars raised there is little to show for it. A school building that also houses a clinic, a bakery that the project rents out, and of course a guest house for the teams that come to stay. The foundation was started for a sewing school but the promised money never came from the COTY, so the ground sits un-worked. I was shocked, thirty years in one location and this is all they had to show for the organization? This and the dislike of a vast majority of the villagers have for them. The dislike seems directed mainly at the same woman I took such a disliking for. A woman who feels she is God and that everything must be done her way and it doesn’t matter what the Haitians want or how they feel. I woman who can’t even sit down and have a conversation with the Haitians about needs, direction or anything else for that matter. She refuses to learn Creole… but insists that the Haitians learn English. She refuses to pay the villages anything for the work they do for COTY or for her… She won’t even give food and water when they are doing manual labor. I could go on and on in regards to COTY and the woman who runs Haiti Plunge… But I won’t today.

Stay tuned for post two on this topic.

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Where the sewing school was suppossed to go.

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School/clinic/storage/sleeping

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The view on the way to Dasaab

Pondering

In my solitude I ponder
The choices of Nations
The future of the land surrounding me
The well-being of Peoples’ known and unknown
What is the right way to go up
That advances many
Who am I to say
Other than being one who is surrounded by … Living within… the poverty and despair.
I know many of their names as they come to me with their wants needs and desires.                                                                                                    With hope in their eyes…                                                                                                                                                                                                        Empty bellies…                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Grim futures…                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     They look upon                                                                                                                                                                                                                           me with hope.
The heavy weight crushing my shoulders
Who am I that I can truly help…
Day upon day covered with dust                                                                                                                                                                                               seeking the shadows                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 I watch  I learn I listen
I try not to offer hope for I dare not say I can deliver
My skin tone brings them hope that I can solve their problems
I need a job
I need clothes
I am hungry
I need a home
My heart is weighed down my soul is empty
Hope feels lost
Empowerment must be found
A strength greater than ever before
L’ Union Fait La Force
must come to mean something for today
Not just a reminder of the strength of the past
Strength empowerment growth
Come not without pain
The stretching of those things
The pain caused by the stretch
In the end makes us stronger
In the end makes us better
Feel the pain and know it is good.

Christmas Eve Day

On this Christmas Eve day my heart aches. The pain is in layers and like an onion when I try to cut them apart and sort them out a burning occurs, though not just in my eyes… but my heart as well. Needless to say I am missing my family in New Hampshire and the depth of my need to see them runs deep. It is of the other pain I wish to speak to you of today. On this day I once again have taken to walking around the village of Bercy. It has been some time since I have walked this village that I fell in love with five years ago, my work and living locations made it difficult to do. I am now living here again and my time is my own.

My heart and mind are in anguish at what I saw and heard on this walk. Things are little improved, if at all for a majority of people here in Bercy. Houses remain uninhabitable since the earth quake, families unable to cook even one meal a day, children unable to attend school for lack of funds, children wearing barely any clothes and those clothes dirty because the is no money to buy soap and water to wash said clothes or the bodies they barely cover.

When I started visiting Bercy five years ago I brought clothes, medical supplies and seeds… after the earth quake a brought tarps and more medical supplies. But I felt and still feel that hand outs are not the way… that a hand up is. I have worked to raise one family at a time… but this is not good enough! I need to find a way to raise a village! I am tormented by my obvious lack of ability to have made a greater  impact for the people of this rural village. In the depth of my anguish I cannot see a path to raise up an entire village. The people in Bercy have looked to me all these years as hope for a better future and they have become my friends. I have lived with them and like them: no electricity, no easily available water, shower out of a bucket; even as I write this I have not eaten yet today. They have prayed for me and with me. I have failed them, even though I promised them nothing, I am tormented by this apparent need. I have helped up so few and too little.

If I cried now the tears would burn my face, setting fire to the dry earth that they would land upon.

Tout moun bezwen bagay! Everyone needs things!

Tomorrow no one in Bercy will be sitting down to a large meal or an orgy of opening gifts. They will be working, they will be thankful if they get the opportunity to eat at all.

January 29, 2013

My thoughts turn once again to how to raise up a village. This thought has not been far from my mind since Christmas Eve. Bercy, a village full of people desperate to work, learn, fed and shelter themselves and their families and to move out of poverty. I believe my conclusion is Empowerment through Employment. My stance on not handing things out has not changed… and if you have read my posts on Facebook or in this or my other blogs… my view on non-profits/NGOs has not changed either. I still want to do this without the 501c3 status. Starting businesses in Bercy that will not only employee people but will offer products and services needed by the people in Bercy and the surrounding areas. I have one business plan right now that will employee 15 people by year three (if not sooner)… short term employment for the building of the structures. This business, once established and supporting itself (by year three) could then be the foundation for other businesses in Bercy. Other ideas are floating around in my head. The stumbling block is the start-up money… as it is when you’re starting a business anywhere in the world. Backers are needed, partners who see the validity of the business and the importance of building up a village through the Empowerment of Employment.  A business, built by Haitians and employs Haitians… no American teams coming in to do the work. American teaching may come into play… if the need goes beyond my skills.

Think of this: A business that employees local people will not only raise the employees and their families up, but the other small family run businesses will do better because people have money to spend and then those people will have money to spend… we are raising up a village!

I know… now you are wondering what the business is and how do I know it will succeed. Stay tuned… another post to come!

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Re Post from http://samanthamgross.blogspot.com/2012/07/communication.html

Blog post written by Sammantha Gross

I’m Samantha! I’m a 23 year old nursing student at LMU. May 2010 I took my first trip to Haiti and completely fell in love with everything about the country.

SUNDAY, JULY 15, 2012

Communication

I don’t know much about trying to run a non-profit organization, but from what i do know, communication is key. And that means communication between all parties involved. From the president, to the board, the donors, the partners, the workers, and the volunteers. I think this is especially key when you are in a third world country, like Haiti.

The lack of communication that World Wide Village has between every person involved is lacking.

I realize that working in Haiti you must expect the unexpected and have patience because everything isn’t going to go according to plans. However, when it comes to promising things to others, whether in the states or in Haiti, you HAVE to follow through.

You can’t promise to provide food to an orphanage and not make sure they have coal or propane to cook that food.

You can’t run a mobile medical clinic without sending enough money to provide basic medications for the patients.

You can’t leave the volunteers working on the ground out of the loop of basic information and decisions.

You can’t run an adequate organization if you’re the only one allowed to make the final decisions and you aren’t living the daily Haitian life. You’re not working alongside the Haitians and talking with them daily, and figuring out how to properly serve them, but you say you’re the one who gets the final say. That’s not right.

You run your organization horribly. You need to wake up and smell the make-up mister. When you’ve had a 100% turnover rate in your American staff (both in the states and Haiti) then something isn’t working. If your Haitian staff is worried to step up and say how they feel because they’re worried you’ll send them out the front gate, something isn’t right. When you try to stretch 8 interns way to far and they all question your motives, you’re doing something wrong. And when 6 out of the 8 interns spend the extra money to change their flight to go home early because of varies frustrations, something isn’t working. When you are running a 2.5 million dollar organization but you lose your warehouse with everything in it because you didn’t pay the rent, something is wrong. When the landlord of one of your houses is furious with you because you’re not paying him rent either, something is wrong. When you claim to be helping an orphanage yet one of the kids is suffering from double pneumonia without being noticed or treated, something is wrong.

This summer internship has been less than ideal. It has made me so furious at times that I turned into a version of myself that I hate. I’m honestly sick to my stomach when I think about what this organization is doing, or actually not doing. I feel as though I’m not helping find a solution, but causing a bigger problem. I worry about the well-being of the kids in the orphanages I’ve come into contact with. After the interns are gone, who’s going to be there to fight and make sure they get adequate nutrition? Who’s going to be doing well check-ups on the kids to make sure everything is going good and that the kids are healthy? The answer is NO ONE which has caused me to be numb and I have guarded my heart from fully investing into the kids lives.

The thing that bothers me the most personally is I’m questioning where God is in all of this. This is my third time in Haiti and I’ve always left in a better spiritual place than when I arrived; however, this summer has put me into a darker hole then I’ve ever been before.

World Wide Village is a corrupt organization ran more like a dictatorship than anything else. They have been on the ground in Haiti since 2001 and from what I’ve witnessed, very little has been done to help the Haitians. WWV tries to get involved with numerous projects but pushes the volunteers and the finances way to thin where nothing gets adequately done. It’s like WWV wants the attention for ‘ALL’ they’re doing so they can increase their donors, but they sensor what they allow the public to know. Don’t let their website or the special on Bill and Giuliana Rancic fool you … World Wide Village is causing more problems than solving the solutions.

A piece of my heart will always be in Haiti and I’ll be back, probably to live long term once I get my RN, but NEVER again with World Wide Village.

 

Okra, No More

What would you think if someone came to your home and offered to help you start a business, but told you they needed space to put up a building?  If you’re hopeful the offer is a good offer, you rip out your garden of okra and watermelon. These are plants that were going to feed your family. But… It is worth it to start this business! You are excited because you were interviewed and chosen out of many others. Your life has been so difficult since the earthquake and you can’t always put food on the table… These people are offering hope!

This is the process a family in Williamson, Haiti went through in July of 2012. World Wide Village, a Minnesota based “non-profit” asked me to interview families and find two that would be good for the two businesses we were going to help start. One business an egg laying operation, and the other raising chickens to sell at the meat market. The family I refer to above is the family that was chosen to raise meat chickens.

This family did indeed take out their garden to have a building put up for their new business that WWV promised them. A building that was never built, a business that was never started, and hopes that were never realized! This “project” began in the beginning of July. When I left Haiti in January 2013 nothing had been done for this family! The other family that was chosen for the egg laying business has a structure that is incomplete, supplies not purchased, and no chickens! I repeatedly requested $500.00 USD to complete that project and the money never came from the headquarters in Minnesota.

About a month before leaving Haiti I was at the Guest House rented by World Wide Village. Monthly rent on that guesthouse that often sits empty is twice the cost of the $500 I was requesting for the start up of the businesses for the families in Williamson. Two of the WWV “team” members were still there. When I asked if the chicken project in Williamson (meaning the egg laying one, because they didn’t know about the other) was complete, they said the were told by Randy Mortenson (the head of World Wide Village) that the person they hired from the United States lied when they said they knew all about chickens, they really knew nothing. I look at the team member and said “He was talking about me and I didn’t lie.” I said my goodbyes and walked away.

Unfortunately the computer that contained the information on the two families and the pictures was stolen the end of July.

10/3/12  A portion of an email sent to Pat Mortenson. This was in regards to the egg laying business.

Pat,

I am assuming Randy is on a fund raising tour right now, as he has not responded to my email regarding what he wants me doing. I have sent in the same req. 2 or 3 times requesting the money to finish poultry project #1 in Williamson and have heard no reply. I would love to get that project completed. It has been about seven weeks since it was last worked on.

Enough is enough! World Wide Village and many other NGOs in Haiti lie not only to the Haitians they are “helping”, but they also lie to their givers.

Please visit http://www.ngoconfidential.wordpress.com and http://samanthamgross.blogspot.com/2012/07/communication.html      http://mcthewriter.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/confession-of-a-haitian-working-for-an-american-non-profit-organization-in-haiti/

These pictures are of the building of the above mentioned project. 

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Wedding in Bercy

The house is a buzz, a wedding is in the making and we are all attending. Geurline’s sister is getting married today and everyone is in a tizzy. But why they are in a tizzy is beyond me. I was told we needed to be at the church at 2:00, it is one o’clock and I am sitting here all dressed up and know one do go anywhere with, everyone is out.

For the last week everyone has been busy busy busy with wedding plans. Geurline has been at her mothers house working on wedding decorations and put the finishing touches on the soon to be newly-weds new house. This morning she was off again to work on last minute wedding preparations and the beginnings of cooking for the reception. It is now 1:30 and still I sit alone… wondering if the laid back scheduling that I have become accustomed to in Haiti, also pertains to Haitian weddings as well.

My dress is starting to stick to me… my shower… out of a five gallon bucket served up in a cup… seems like five hours ago rather than one.

Finally my date for the wedding arrives on his motorcycle. I am pleased to see him at the same time the thought of riding the motorcycle in my dress crosses my mind… Oh darn this will be interesting. Just then Edens walks in the door, seemingly in no hurry at all. He said he had to stop and have his motorcycle washed in case they needed him to deliver people to and from the wedding. 10 minutes later Geurline and Marlynn arrive and the house becomes a loud tornado of preparation. Midy and I escape out the door and head for the motorcycle. My dress pulled up to mid thigh we takeoff for the wedding.

The five minute drive was enough to dry the sweat on my dress and give everyone a chance to see how much whiter my legs are than my arms! We were lucky to find a place to squeeze into the large church. We were just in time for the beginning of the wedding.

I have watched a video of a Haitian wedding before… But it certainly didn’t show the full story! It was beautiful and bewildering at the same time. The church was full… people were watching through the doors and windows. The dancing in the isle was wonderful as were the clothes. What surprised me is how relaxed everyone watching was… People came and went at leisure. We stepped out to get some air, and to dry the sweat on our clothes. Out side peopled milled around, yes during the service. One man a relative of the bride had a large bottle of rum in his suit coat pocket and was serving people, a walking bar! Two hours later everyone rushed to the windows and doors… I was bewildered… what was all the fuss? Midy grabbed my camera as he headed for the door and into the building. On Midy’s return I found out that the rush was to see the bride and groom kiss… but the ceremony was not over yet. But what fun it was outside! Meeting up with friends I hadn’t seen in a few years and the candid pictures were just asking to be taken!

Enjoy!

Oh and Edens, Geurline and Marlynn were late by 1 hour! But the wedding started only 15 minutes late!

Watching the kiss

Watching the kiss

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Chilling

Chilling

Old friends connecting

Old friends connecting

Growth

It is interesting to go back and read my old posts and see the personal growth I have had in regards to my “work” in Haiti. I question the use of the word “work”, is it work when it is being done in and for the country you love?

Here is a link to a radio interview I did a few short days ago, when I was in the US. Enjoy http://podcast46833.podomatic.com/entry/2012-10-15T17_14_35-07_00

 

Road Burns

Last night I treated a girl who had been in a moto accident 5 days ago. She had seen the Dr. once right after it happened but had not returned. She never even allowed anyone to clean the wounds. There were many road burn like wounds on her legs and buttocks. Two of them much worse than the others. They had treated them with pomade which is what the put in their hair to keep it from getting dry. The pomade was hardening to the skin around the wound and the wounds were covered with puss and filth. After seeing the wounds I told Esaie that she had to have treatment. With Esaie as my translator we discussed what needed to be done with her mother. Then went back to Thomas to pickup all the medical supplies I could get my hands on. This included a stop to pick up clarin (a Haitan made moonshine) since I didn’t have access to rubbing alcohol. We also grabbed a flash light and batteries as there is no power and very poor oil lamp lighting in the house where the wounded girl lay.

On the return trip I put on a dark olive-green cotton jacket, it was starting to get dark and it is safer for my white to be covered at night on the moto. On this night i am so glad I did! Not but five minutes from turning out of the road from Caf Thomas we notice that traffic had stopped, people were all over the street and road. Hundreds of them, funneling down into a dirt road on the right. On a moto we were able to start squeezing through, cars were at a stand still, God forbid a bus or large truck comes! The trucks and buses would just run them over, it happened recently where a truck killed 15 people who were part of a large group that were having what amounted to a party in the street. As we waited and tried to move down the road I told Esaie that I was feeling very uncomfortable. Men were throwing kiss faces and trying to get my attention, everyone that notices my white face (the rest of me was covered) stared and commented. Esaie agreed and said that we needed to get out of there and this situation was not safe for us. Our knees touching cars and people as we wove through the crowd, we finally managed to break free. Haiti means mountains upon mountains, in moments like that it means stress upon stress. This whole night as i was to learn would be stress upon stress.

Upon our return to the dimly lit modest home at the end of a really dark path, a path were people could hide and jump out at you path; I immediately gave her Advil, I wanted to get on top of the pain I was sure to cause her. I then cut my finger nails down to nothing, I didn’t have any medical gloves and didn’t want to introduce to her wounds any germs under my nails, then I washed my hands in the clarin. I don’t know people drink it, the smell could knock you out. I had Franck wash his hands in the clarin as well, so he could hand me items. I asked Mum, a neighbor woman who is friends with Esaie, to go to the girl’s head to comfort her. Esaie and another person took turns with the light and holding her leg down when the pain became to much, as it often did. The pomade was a problem, it has dried to a gummy but hard tree sap substance. Impossible to remove easily, I used water on gauze to soak the pomade mixed with fluids, to loosen it.  I went back and forth between the two wounds that needed attention. Using the clarin to wash them out and tweezers (previously washed in clarin) to remove pomade and debri from the wounds. She cried why why why, mum mum, she called out to God over and over. Franck became so upset he had to leave the room and then the house, i was so tied with what I was doing i didn’t notice for 10 minutes. Esaie felt like he needed to throw up, I just quietly sang and hummed hymns (they were what came to mind) now and then saying shhhh. I knew there was nothing more I could do for her pain, just to work efficiently so as to get done as soon as possible. Don’t get me wrong i wanted to run away or throw up to. Many times tears would start to rise in my eyes, I would quench them and chose a new song. There was no choice, I was doing what needed to be done, just like the time I gave my goat stitches with dental floss and a regular sewing needle. Sometimes you do what you have to do whether you like it or not. In Haiti is this is very frequent. By the time we left an hour later, she was bandaged with antibacterial cream on the wounds with instructions on how to use the Advil and the promise I would return the next night. I told her I would not have to put her in that pain again. We then headed out into the darkness. It wasn’t but 100 feet into our drive that the light on the moto went out and wouldn’t come back on. Just one more thing on this insane night. Over Esaie’s shoulder I am shinning a flashlight on the ground. Then seemingly out of know where came the people we had seen in the road on our return trip with the medical supplies. It was like some kind of insane parade. We stopped on the side of the road, we had no choice, they were filling the road with dancing, yelling, and a cart they were pulling. Their music blasted though the air, out of giant speakers placed on the cart. I could kick my self for being so tired and stressed from the medical work and shocked by what I was seeing that I didn’t pull out the video recorder! For five minutes we sat and watched as people danced, gyrated and walked by. Their voices filling the chill night air with song, chant, and load speech. My whole self was on alert, i have heard stories of crowds like this go out of control, and we were in the middle of it, for the second time. Finally the made it by us and We then returned to our flash light lit journey home. Along the roads side that night people had lit piles of trash on fire, some places on the road were so full of smoke you could see and your eyes began to burn have become very good on the moto over the past four years, but night-time in areas I haven’t been in before throw me off. Add to it no light but a yellow diving flash light and you have a stressed out person, not to mention that the medical care I had just given was tense and my body was strung out on stress. We made it back without major incident.