"Ask not what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive...then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
Howard Thurman

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Happy Kids

Most days in Haiti you can see joy on the faces of children or hear the giggles and shouts of fun.  When you look closer you can see they are very creatively playing with plastic bags tied to sticks, plastic bottles as footballs or using rocks for marbles.  Thanks to the generosity of some students at the University of Minnesota and the ARC Children’s Program the kids at several of the camps American Refugee Committee manages are also able to enjoy beautiful, handmade kites.

The ARC Children’s Program at Terrain Acra currently has over 900 kids enrolled.  The staff does an excellent job of keeping the kids busy with lots of activities including painting, singing, and dancing. I happened to be there on Friday and noticed the kites were out.  Unfortunately there was no wind so there weren’t many kites flying but the kids didn’t seem to care.  They were just excited about the possibility.
The craziest thing - kids here can be laughing, having a great time and when you take out the camera they immediately become somber!  Fortunately these kids were having such so much fun that I was able to capture the smiles.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Apartment and Budget Realities

We're finally moved into our own apartment and it feels good to be able to have a place to call our own.  We lost track, but are guessing we looked at 25-30 different small homes and apartments before finding one that fell within our budget range and fit the security/safety requirements of the organization for which I work.  

What has really been difficult to come to terms with?  The price of housing (and everything else) is way out of whack with the realities here!  We are paying $2,000/month (yes - U.S.Dollars) for a 2 bedroom apartment with maybe 800 square feet.  It is very nice and includes a parking stall but really?!  We paid 25% less for our brand new 53rd floor apartment with all amenities including air conditioning and doormen in the middle of Chicago.  Supply and Demand - prices went up after so many new aid organizations came in post quake but have been out of reach for most Haitians for a very long time.  

To put that into perspective, we've been encouraged to employ the fiance of a longtime employee at Healing Hands.  She'll come in 3 days/week to do cleaning, laundry and prepare/leave dinner for us - for the going rate of $62.50 US/month.  Another reality check - this morning I paid $115 for two small bags of groceries which will feed 2 of us breakfast and dinner for 4-5 days.  Gas is $5-7 US/gallon.   The other side of that is that for $2.50 US I can buy a styrofoam container of rice, beans and a little chicken leg from a street vendor and if I have enough time I can buy bags of rice, dried beans, freshly killed meat, etc from other vendors for a little less money that in the market.  

I guess it's the reality of living on an island with heavy costs to get things here but low wages paid to those needing to buy them.



Sunday, August 22, 2010

Plant Shopping

A series of tanks for raising Tilapia
Poinsettia Plants - they need to be watered every hour

Weeding the Oak Saplings
Pine Saplings
Harvested Millet - to be used as seeds for other farms in Haiti

Egg laying in progress
Eucalyptus - Good for Mosquito Repellent!

Corn husks with the composted soil it creates just beyond
Two friends invited us to go to a plant store on Saturday.  What a great surprise!  The "plant store" was actually a fully functioning farm complete with fish ponds, egg laying/chick raising, crops including corn, millet, onions, and nursery plants for personal purchase.  They also start pine and oak tree saplings for reforestation efforts.  Very impressive!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


It was quite a week for politics here in Port au Prince.  24 candidates are now registered for President - and once you're registered you are on the ballot.  The last Presidential election had 68 candidates vying for the top spot.  This week Wyclef Jean threw his hat into the mix which gnarled traffic for a full day with thousands wearing his parties t-shirt and celebrating by scrawling his message everywhere.  The election is currently scheduled for November 28.

As you can imagine, the campaigning is quite creative with a need to reach the masses.  One popular technique is to hire people that create impromptu Rah-Rah bands that march through the busiest streets at the most popular times, blocking traffic and becoming front and center in your universe, like the one shown below.

The other political aspect to the week was a visit from some Congressional members at one of our camps. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer led a bipartisan Congressional Delegation to Haiti for a day.  Roscoe Bartlett, David Price, Yvette Clarke, Donna Edwards and Aaron Schock joined him.   I always have such mixed feelings with such a visit.  They arrived in Haiti at 10am and went to the US Embassy for a briefing, then off to the Palace for a meeting with Haitian President Preval before meeting us at the Old Military Camp for a 20 minute run through before rushing back to the airport for a 3:20 takeoff.  While such visits are extremely important to provide the information, show the need and the progress I always wonder what the people in the streets are thinking as they see these diplomatic vehicles whizzing by with lights on and sirens blaring.  I wonder even more about the people sitting at their tents watching such heavily armed guards protecting these important visitors from them.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Miscellaneous Photos from the Week

Gracie, the new Healing Hands puppy
Do I chase the pigs or the chicken?
Mark and Emily helping me work from the living room this morning