viernes, 30 de diciembre de 2011

The Haitian Wife & Mother Growl

I have finally gotten down the Haitian wife and mother growl. It was something that I admired and awed at for years, but never knew how to do, not that I attempted to do it. But the other day, it just started naturally coming out of my mouth when calling to Ilayas.

Haitian women know how to use their voices to communicate in a way that expresses their anger but still displays their femininity, and therefore, respects men's masculinity. A woman who expresses her anger in any other way is usually put in her place by an array of methods, so it is necessary that the wife and mother growl is used, as it seems to express anger in a way that is acceptable by men and others in general. Haitian women also have a very sing song way of communicating at times when calling to someone or when asking a question to someone not right next to them such as, "When are you coming back?". I assume that this was developed to replace what can come off as a naggy yell. While men who have ample space to themselves may be able to bear naggy yelling at times, men who live within tight quarters with it obviously cannot and the practice, therefore, has needed to have been replaced with something more pleasant to the ear.

So what the growl is is just a little rolling in one's yell. Our little active two-year-old loves to run around outside. He has friends all along our street and loves to visit them and play with them. But I am trying to teach him to be a better listener when I tell him to come. Before our baby was born, I just scooped him up and brought him back and we made somewhat of a game out of it, but now that I have a smaller baby in my arms, he has to mature and just listen. Sometimes he listens well and sometimes he doesn't. I call his name and if he doesn't listen, I call his name with a big of a roll or a growl in it. It seems to be effective for the most part. He understands that I'm serious.

I observed this growl from many women, one of the first being Jireste's aunt Mari who has five boys that she takes care of quite well despite difficulties with their fathers. They are from three different fathers but really she spent most of her life with one strong man who, in the end, could not keep his life united with hers. To me, she resembles strength, not just because she has large scars across her face and body along with fake teeth which are results of abuse from and conflict with her husband, who she divorced from a few years ago and now has a new partner who she had her fifth son with, but because she runs her household with her five sons and one grandson with complete order. She has so much on her plate but she maintains a joyful attitude and maintains her strength.

I have heard the mother, wife growl come out of her mouth when she disciplines her son, and also in a fight she had with her brother, where he was definitely being disrespectful to her by taking the side of a mutual friend in a conflict over charcoal. The friend was being silly and Mari was defending what was hers. So perhaps this can be called the sister growl as well.

Another woman I have admired the growl from is Jireste's sister Manouchka. To me, she resembles grace. I do not see American women with this grace unless they are professional ballerinas. This is the grace of a woman who was brought up to serve. I do not agree with the way Haitians, although things seem to be changing, raise daughters to fetch water and do all chores while they raise sons to play and do whatever they want basically (not to offend anyone), but in Manouchka's case, I think this upbringing created a very gracious individual, while still strong. She had her first daughter with a man who was paying for her schooling. She ran away and did not want a relationship with him. I think it was a relationship she felt obligated to and pulled into because of the financial help he provided her. She came to the Dominican Republic and was criticized by family members for not staying with him. After all, he would provide for her financially. I love her for that, (while I still love the idea of parents staying together and children being raised by both parents). To me, that is proof of someone living with a free and fearless heart. I would've most definitely done the same as I didn't do so with men but did with my country of residency. She then fell in love with a construction worker man here in the Dominican Republic who many in her family don't approve of. She has a second daughter with him and lives with him and her two daughters. It is obvious that she is now content. I have heard Manouchka use the growl when calling to her first daughter and when disciplining her squirrely youngest brother.

This growl that I now use is a reflection of  a state of being I have developed. It is a state of being that hasn't been easy to achieve and hasn't come quickly, but has come through years of living here and facing the challenges that come with this life. This state of being feels empowered yet subdued. I feel accomplished and as though I have a full plate but I feel at peace and as though everything is under control. My head used to spin with all of the issues that came with running Project Esperanza. People used to get mad at me so often over money and all sorts of things. Managing adults older than myself used to truly stress me out. However, I have learned so much and matured so much. I now feel like someone who can really keep her balance. My dedication and effort was always strong, but I now feel mature and in control.

If you would like to financially support my family and I, the way I prefer you do that is to register as a customer here and apply for this VISA credit card. If you're in Canada, you register here. If enough people do this, it will generate an income for us. You'll see there are many ways to support as a customer, but for the purpose of focus, I ask that people get the VISA card. This is also a great gift option I suggest you try out. Lastly, if you or someone you know is raising support for missions/humanitarian work, you can help yourself and help me by registering as an IBO here and requesting that your supporters become your customers. Please e-mail me with any questions about this. Thank you & God bless. 

viernes, 23 de diciembre de 2011

Captured by Captain Hook!

In the "Our Family" page of this blog, I compared Jireste and I to Peter Pan and Wendy and said, "And our story is one where Wendy did not return to live with her parents in the civilized world but instead she stayed in a land full of pirate and fairy like characters and truly partnered for the long run with Peter.. with the lost boys by their sides." Well, as far as the pirate characters are concerned, I was mainly referring to the Dominican police who we have frequent run ins with. Today was one. 

I was on our bed feeding Maraya and heard our neighbor Kuki (Cookie) calling me urgently. "They arrested your husband. Come!" She yelled. I didn't go running because first, that's not easy to do with a 3 month old and 2 year old, and second, I am somewhat used to this situation..if not with Jireste being the victim, someone else involved in Project Esperanza. Willy was arrested three times this past month. Claudion was arrested once, and Enso once. They are apparently cracking down on illegal immigrants, but I haven't actually seen them following through and sending anyone to Haiti. And Jireste is not illegal. Dominican men are also arrested without reason as well. This is the police's way of apparently keeping down the delinquency and theft. They arrest random men on the streets and then let them go the next morning or later that day. If the person has money then that typically gets them out. So it may just be the police's way to make money, as everyone says they are not paid enough by the government. 

Anyway, I grabbed Maraya in one arm and Ilayas in the other and headed outside. There were many neighbors in the street and our little blue car was just a bit up the street. The police truck was parked behind it and the police were surrounding the car. Jireste was outside of the car with Willy, Claudion, and other neighbor friends. They had headed out just minutes before to go play soccer. As I made my way to the car, I saw the police start forcing everyone into the truck. Jireste must've said something in their defense because one officer pushed him and then smacked him/punched him in the head. I yelled, "Oh!" and started walking quicker. When I got close enough so that they could hear me, others were taking hits as they piled into the truck. This same situation has happened twice before and the only thing I know to do is to yell loudly and seriously so that no one retaliates and gets anyone seriously hurt. In the moment, I just see that the police have guns and that they obviously have no sensitivity for the young Haitians. So as I saw Jireste take another hit, I yelled. He looked up and yelled back, "Did you see what they did to me?" 
Jireste & company working on our car in front of our apartment.

"I saw!" I replied, but was cut off by Willy and Claudion both realizing I had arrived, jumping up, throwing their arms up in the air, and expressing the injustice they were experiencing as well as their frustration that I was just now arriving. I was startled and mad and yelled, "Ki lès k'ap fè frekan ave'm!? Ki lès k'ap fè frekan ave'm!? Chita!!" This sounds kind of stupid when translated from Haitian Creole to English, but it was what flew out of my mouth and it did get them to sit down. It basically means, "Who's getting smart/rude with me!? Sit down!!"

I then began asking the police officers why they were arresting them. They didn't look at me or answer. I then saw them meddling with the car and walked over there to ask what they were doing. I let them know that that was my car and my house was just right there. 

One officer said, "This car is under arrest." 

"Why?" I asked. No one answered. When things like this happen, it's always a question as to whether the officers know Jireste and I and the group. Do they know that picking on this group of Haitians will lure in a foreigner which to them means money? I think that perhaps this time these officers did not know but just wanted to pick on this car full of Haitians. Because to me, they looked completely surprised that a white woman with two babies in her arms came to the scene saying, "That's my car." As they prepared to take it and told me to go to the police station to retrieve it, I asked, "How? You're taking my car. Look at me," in reference to the two babies, noting that I couldn't go on motorcycle and no public taxis pass through our area. One officer gave me Jireste's cell phone and 50 pesos that was inside the car and they drove the truck and the car away. 

I stood there with at least a hundred neighbors lining the street watching and thought to cry. If this had been years back I likely would've cried, but the feeling quickly went away and I knew I just had to go to the police station. When I used to cry, everyone let me know that it wouldn't do any good. The only good perhaps it used to do was that it showed people what it looks like to have a soft heart... but other than that, a soft heart really doesn't get you far here. Maraya did cry though and I calmed her. Ilayas is so used to being around such situations that he wasn't startled at all but excited. He must've thought they were all piling in to go play soccer. He said, "Daddy? Foutbol? Car?" and danced and ran around. I scooped him back up so that we could make it back to the house more quickly. I began walking back to the house, ignoring our next door neighbor who was standing by me and seemingly offering help with his closeness and body motions. The week before when Willy and Claudion had a fight, he threatened to call the police and have all of these Haitians sent back to Haiti. So now as they were carried off, I didn't really want his help.

As I walked back to the house, neighbors said, "Go to the police station, Catalina. Hurry. Do you have the car's papers? Go." One woman said that Jireste had tried to outrun the police and that is why they had arrested them. I asked if she had seen and she didn't answer. Two men, Claude and Pipol, had jumped out of the car and ran to the house to call me so they were not arrested. They said that this was not true. Our house is on a little side road connected to the main road that runs through the community. It starts at one point and ends at another, so where it starts feeds into the main road and where it ends feeds into the main road. They had simply left through one end to go to play soccer, gone down the main road, and then passed a truck full of officers. The officers stared them down, so Jireste simply pulled back in the other entrance rather than passing it and going on their way, and had almost made it to the house. The truck did a U-turn and followed them, approaching them and causing them to stop when they reached them. One neighbor was already in the truck, arrested, for nothing. Then five more were arrested. (Yes, they pack themselves in when they go to play soccer.) Two got away.

One neighbor offered to take Ilayas and Maraya so I could take a motoconcho to the police station. I don't like to leave Maraya and Ilayas at all really. I called Papito, a neighbor and taxi driver who I had gotten quite used to when our car was not working. Taking a private taxi is much more expensive than motoconcho or your own vehicle, but it's necessary sometimes with the two kids. Claude and Pipol also wanted to go, but we planned for them to stay in the car unless we needed testimonies or something. 

Papito showed up immediately after I called him. We went on our way. Claude and Pipol kept explaining what had happened to me on the car ride. Papito said what other neighbors had said - that the police are looking for extra money around Christmastime. They don't get paid much. We talked about the solution for such corruption and disorganization. When I mentioned punishing or removing police officers who they knew sought money for themselves rather than following a system where they give a ticket for violations of the law and make people pay the tickets, he said that the city was tired of kicking out police officers. They have kicked out many officers on several occasions and the new ones always just do the same thing. I said then that it starts with the leadership. They need to do better training. He assured me that they do trainings, etc. It always happens. I said that it's important that people understand why it's fair to follow a system and not take certain decisions into their own hands but just to obey some things. If the police officers make justice decisions based on money, then there is no just system. When I try to talk sense like this, most people I think get a little lost and don't follow me all the way through. Papito just kept saying that when the police stop him, he doesn't argue or anything. If he has a little money, he gives it to them and they leave him alone.

We arrived and saw one of the neighbor guys who had been in the truck leaving the police station. We called him over. He said that they had made him clean and then released him, but everyone else was still in there. I went in and was met by an officer who is often in there at the front desk. We had interacted several times before. I told him what had happened and finished by letting him know that they had hit Jireste and others. He listened to what had happened but when I said that they hit them, he looked up and then said, "Well if they hit them then we'll have to keep them until tomorrow to go to court." 

I then realized that Papito had followed me in when he said, "No, she didn't say that they hit them, she asked if they hit them." 

The officer looked at him, Papito reassured him, I followed Papito's lead, and the officer then said, "We'll let them out at 6."

"And the car?" I asked.

"The car is yours? You have the papers with you?" 


"Okay, we'll let the car out at 6 too."

I think he made it so easy because he realized how unjust it was and he must be conscientious and/or responsible. We went back out to the taxi. It was now 5:10 so we wouldn't have to actually wait long. Ilayas continued to run around in excitement and I kept calling to him to make him stay close to me as we were on a sidewalk on the side of the road. Papito and I talked more about how to deal with the police. He said that I shouldn't accuse them or everything will just take longer and cost more money. I nodded and agreed but let him know that I never pay police officers off unless they completely have been abusive confiscating something or forcing money without even going to the police station, etc. This has happened on a few occasions, more so through Jireste as police are more likely to use such abuses with someone they think doesn't have protection. But I let him know that I like for things to go through the proper system because if not, the police will always take decisions into their own hands and that is why there is corruption. He kept telling me that it didn't make a difference, no one was gonna do anything about it, don't try to change things, just get yourself out of this. I reflected on times I had waited outside of the police station for days, discussing with staff, waiting for people to be released. I also told Papito about a time that a landlord unjustly kicked the boys out of a house, having them all thrown into a police truck and arrested in the same manner that had just happened. Two of the officers were the landlord's brothers. We went to court and the judge ruled that they could stay until the deposit ran out. But when we returned to the house, the landlord's family got violent and threatening, so there was no justice. The judge ruled one thing, but had no real power over the police to cause them to enforce it. So I agreed with Papito that... well not that the system couldn't be changed but that everyone sleeping in jail and me spending time and money (that is not available also) in court was not going to do much here. I also remembered my plans of doing an online law school program, (as long as financial aid covers it), and continuing to invite organizations like International Justice Mission to work here on this island. So I decided to focus more on long term goals rather and just get them out of jail.

All things went smoothly. They first let me get the car. Afterwards, Papito highly encouraged that I give the officer who made all of this easy 200 pesos (about $7.50 USD), to thank him. I wasn't comfortable doing this but gave the money to someone else to do it. He required that I go with him though because he didn't want the officer to think that he had taken some of the money. Then we just waited outside for Jireste and the others to be released. When they came walking out of the station in their soccer clothes, Ilayas started jumping up and down and celebrating. Everyone reunited, chit chatted, and we went on our way. I got a kick out of the look on their faces as if they were thinking, "That ended up not being that bad this time after all."

Note from the author: If you would like to financially support my family and I, the way I prefer you do that is to register as a customer here and apply for this VISA credit card. If you're in Canada, you register here. If enough people do this, it will generate an income for us. You'll see there are many ways to support as a customer, but for the purpose of focus, I ask that people get the VISA card. This is also a great gift option I suggest you try out. Lastly, if you or someone you know is raising support for missions/humanitarian work, you can help yourself and help me by registering as an IBO here and requesting that your supporters become your customers. Please e-mail me with any questions about this. Thank you & God bless.

domingo, 18 de diciembre de 2011

A Busy Day

I have to go do an English lesson soon but first wanted to write about my day yesterday. I first got my family up and ready to go. We then drove to Muñoz and parked our car in front of Project Esperanza's school there. Diane, who owns an apartment complex in Muñoz called SunCamp drove to meet us. We met up at 8:45am, just as we had planned. Ilayas, Maraya, and I joined Diane and two people from SunCamp- Melanie and Deryl. Jireste went back home but left the car there because I had to return later and use it to do some other things.

Deryl drove the group to Cabarete to Transformation House, a clinic/home run by a Canadian couple where we had taken a sick baby 9 days earlier. In Muñoz, we have a fair trade art shop where we have volunteers who take shifts to sit at the shop and sell items to anyone who comes, as well as explain Project Esperanza to them. Traffic is slow and we haven't had a ton of sales (although the volunteers get 7% commission when we do make sales so it's not completely volunteer) but having people there all the time is great because they gain so much insight into the lives of people in the batey, build relationships, etc. About two weeks ago, one of our volunteers reported to me that there was a really sick baby in the batey. I went with her to visit the family and talk to the mom, who had just returned from Haiti and found her baby very malnourished and sick. We offered to take the baby as it was clear that she wouldn't make it much longer in the conditions she was living in, her mother struggling to care for herself, along with her five children, and now this sick one was too much. She wanted us to take her so we did.

Plans changed as we moved along. She stayed the first night with our group at our hostel, but it was quickly decided that she needed to go to a doctor. So we took her to the children's hospital in Santiago, which is public. Emilie (art shop worker) and Luckner (staff) took turns spending the night with her at the hospital. Laura (art shop worker) visited some days. After five days, I returned with Laura to get the baby. We (my kids, Luckner, and I) then took baby and Emilie to Cabarete to find the Transformation House, as someone from Centro Medico Cabarete had suggested that we contact them. I had been in touch with the director, Cindy, by phone and e-mail, and they were expecting us that day. It turns out that this place is a very large and comfy house set up to treat sick kids and babies. There is a nurse working 24/7, a receptionist there during the day, as well as the doctor. Cindy oversees it and volunteers also come in and out. The day we brought her, she was the only patient. Four other kids had been abandoned there so they were now running an orphanage, really, with the rotating nurses caring for these healthy kids, two of which are HIV positive, but still healthy. Emilie stayed here with the baby for a few days. They then said it was okay, she could be there without a volunteer.

 Luckner, Maraya (3 mos.) and Zette's baby (1 year) - Photo taken by Emilie Richardson.

So yesterday, Diane and others, including Melanie who found the baby that first day with Emilie and Laura, wanted to go to the Transformation House and would be driving down. I asked if I could jump in on the ride as I wanted to visit again and to meet with Cindy, who I hadn't met in person yet. We saw baby who had unfortunately started coughing a little bit again, but is at least in a safe and capable place with a doctor on hand. The plan is to take her back at the end of the month. After our trip, I visited her mom and family. I'll tell about that conversation shortly and will stick to chronological order of the day. We didn't stay at Transformation House for long but I had some great conversation with Cindy. The most interesting information I got from the conversation was about adoption. While I am very pro-family and want all Project Esperanza social work to always be pro-family, keeping families together, empowering parents rather than using their poverty as a way to take their children away from them as I think happens at times, I have seen that adoption is the best solution sometimes. This is the case when the situation is already too overwhelming, and of course at times when there is no family to care for children. Additionally, we have been thinking about adoption in the future after I had to have a second c-section in September. The doctors here won't allow me to try to give birth without an automatic c-section for six years. So if I would like to ever give birth not by c-section again, in this country at least, it would have to be six years from now, (5 years and 9 months now..). Although we are poor and already have two kids, we may not be able to hold off that long before having another, so I've been talking to people in Port-au-Prince about adoption, which would be the ideal location for us to adopt from.

However, the information I got from a woman there is much different than the info. I got from Cindy who is in the process of adopting a little boy, who is from the DR, but didn't have any paperwork. They have had to do it all through Haiti. I was told before that the way things are now, an adoption would take between three and four years and the child wouldn't be allowed to leave the country until it was complete. Cindy reports that she got in touch with a great Haitian lawyer through a friend, traveled to Haiti with the baby and baby's mother who was 15, and got the mother a passport and their guardian papers in one short trip. They returned back to the Dominican Republic with baby and mother and no one asked any questions at the border. They still have to have the adoption approved by Canada and Haiti before being able to travel with their son to Canada, but he does live with them here in the DR. So this gave me hope for our potential effort to adopt and also insight in order to advise others or facilitate.

The night before I went into labor with Maraya, I had some exciting revelations. I got a vision and a desire to do an online law program, hopefully to be able to represent International Justice Mission on the island in the future, but also just to be able to better work with human rights, social work, and perhaps international adoption. I have spoken to a counselor quite a bit from one law program and she assures me I can get my tuition covered through financial aid, so if all goes through, I would love to begin in April. The other profession I feel the need to learn is to be a midwife, as well as some general nursing skills. Lastly, I have lots of experience in education, but found a Montessori certification program online which I would also love to do. I pray that God guides me to further my own education while continuing to provide the best care for my family and organization. I pray that I don't get overly excited and get going on any endeavors when the time is not right. 

So we made it back to Muñoz around 1pm. There was a parent teacher meeting in Padre Granero at 3pm which I needed to be at, but we had some time to kill, so we first went and hung out with Garry in the school in Muñoz. He is both the morning and afternoon director, so he normally stays in the school between 12 and 1:30 when there is a break. We found him doing exercises and he said he was just about to bathe. I found that funny that he bucket bathes in the school bathroom, but not surprising. Students started coming in early, excited to get started early on their second to last day of exams. While Garry was bathing, there were six students in the school. One little girl started crying and I asked her why. Another boy had hit her. I talked to them both and asked him why he did that. He started at me blankly. I talked to him about doing unto others as he would have them do unto him. He stared at me blankly. I asked him if he liked to get hit. He stared at me blankly. I said that if he didn't like to get hit, then he shouldn't hit others. He stared at me blankly. He is likely hit often, as many kids in the batey are. Some kids that are used to being hit don't respond at first to any sort of correction unless it is physical, because that is what they are used to. I went over the Golden Rule with him perhaps three or four times and asked him to repeat it back to me but he, guess what, stared at me blankly. I asked him to apologize and he did. We then sat there for awhile and watched Ilayas kick around a ball with kids, sliding and laughing on the dusty floor (we can't afford someone to clean and Garry takes care of it, but hey, it is dusty sometimes), until Garry came out. I then coerced Ilayas to accompany Maraya and I to the baby's house. He kept holding his hand up, signaling me to wait, and saying, "esperate". Finally I got him to come by emphasizing words such as juice, friend, and baby.

We ran into the baby's 9-year-old sister Alexandra on the way to her house. She was actually the one caring for her baby sister while their mom was in Haiti. I forgot to mention that the baby is 1 year old, 10 lbs., and had pneumonia, which is better now for the most part, along with a cleft foot, but her biggest problem is malnutrition. Cleft foot could potentially be fixed by surgery when she is bigger and stronger, but we'll need special assistance for that of course. Alexandra helped me by carrying Ilayas over the muddy path to her house, as I carried Maraya. I updated mother Zette on her daughter. I said that they really want her to go and visit. She said that she couldn't leave her kids, they didn't have proper clothes to go, and she didn't speak Spanish well. I said that when we went to get her at the end of the month then I would go with her so she could at least go once and that way I could translate for her. She agreed to that. We then talked more about her family, which I don't feel like writing out here, for the sake of time. Basically, she is widowed twice and left with five kids. Her main income is from her 12-year-old son, her oldest, who does little jobs such as carrying water, and brings home 50 pesos every now and then. However, she thinks life would be better for him in Haiti with her aunt who would better discipline and make him go to school. If she had the money to send him, she would. We talked for awhile. I told her that I needed someone to go to Padre Granero with me to hold the baby in the car. It is not illegal to hold a baby in a car here, as opposed to putting him or her in a car seat, as long as they are in the back seat. I do have a car seat but the back seat of our car is... well somewhat disconnected and it would not be safe to attach the car seat into. The seat belts are.. well I'll have to look but I think they're ripped off. Our car is really a piece of work but it has been getting us from point A to point B lately which is the important part. She told me that Alexandra would go with me and ordered Alexandra to get ready. She threw on a white dress and Zette started unbraiding, combing, and rebraiding her hair.

Before we went on our way, I asked Zette one last question. I told her that I was going to ask her a question and would she tell me her true thoughts. She nodded. What would she prefer? To take the baby back and raise her or have someone adopt her. Sometimes mothers are very quick to ask you to take their baby, which Zette had said nothing about. We had already talked about when the baby is released from Transformation House at the end of the month. She will take her for one week and I will take her every other week to oversee her being team fostered by five of my willing female neighbors. Lots of maternal energy around here with few babies for them to care for. They always want to take mine, which I don't like to share, so when this came up, I asked if they would like to help, which they agreed to. We'll see how it works out though when the time comes. But for the long run, what did she want? She said that she wanted someone to adopt her, but only if they would bring her back to visit sometimes and not forget her. I nodded and totally understood. Throughout my e-mail conversation with the woman in Port-au-Prince, I argued that this is why the adoption process is made complicated. Yes, the system has been abused, but I really think the main point is that the mothers and the mother countries, specifically Haiti as that is the one that have been seeking to know the most about on this issue, wants the best for their children, but they don't want to be forgotten. It's not that they are irresponsible or not trying to raise their children. (Okay, sure that is true in some cases, but not in all where adoption occurs.) It's not that they don't love them. Their situation is tough. International adoption could be made easier, shorter, and less expensive, I predict, if it was done in a way that attaches a commitment to the adopting parents to serve the mother country and perhaps the baby's family, stay in relationship, and give back. I think that perhaps a minimum amount of service time in the country (I suggest three months) before the adoption, along with an educational component, and then perhaps visits at least every three years, would be a great system and would not only end up helping the one adopted child, but the family and the community. When people maintain a relationship with someone in need, they can't help but to help them. It would also weed out anyone adopting for the wrong reasons.

Right before we reached the turn to get to Project Esperanza's grassroots school in Padre Granero, we stopped at a little cafeteria to get a meal. When I turned off the car, it shook a little. Jireste called me shortly after and reminded me to put water in the radiator. I assured him that I would, although with having my hands full, I didn't manage to do it and the car shook more and smoked more each time we turned it off until we returned home that evening. Alexandra said that she hadn't eaten anything all day but she still barely ate her chicken, rice, and beans, and kept wincing and holding her stomach. She said that her stomach had hurt for about two weeks. Perhaps she has worms. I'm going to tell Melanie to see if she wants to go to the doctor's with her since she has been going with other children from the area and plans on going back to Cabarete soon to visit the baby.

We made it to the school, the meeting got started late as usual, about ten parents showed up, and as usual, I was amazed by the beauty of this little school. It is sooo full of life. It is sooo full of character. The director is full of energy and enthusiasm. The teachers are a disciplined team and work together like a well-oiled machine. And the kids are beautiful. They have dangers and negative influences all around them but they are positively influenced at school, I know that, and they are beautiful. When it was my turn to talk, I shared some of these thoughts, recognized the three parents who always come and thanked them for that, and talked about the possibility of having more consistent English teaching volunteers after the New Year. I told them the benefits and precautions about this. I told them the same thing I preached at our English camp last summer. I'm not promoting anyone to learn English to find a boyfriend or girlfriend or to even gain anything financial. I built off of something Met Oreste had said that education is more important than money. Money without education is really useless. Of course, non-educated people have to feed themselves, and that is not what I mean by this. I mean that a foreign boyfriend or girlfriend sending you money when you are not advancing yourself just keeps you and your community in a child-like state, and your boyfriend or girlfriend and his or her community in a dominate state. And when someone doesn't know how to spend money, it's arguably better that they remain without, or without large quantities of it. I am interested in people learning English because countries that speak English like the US have their stuff together. There is a lot that Haitians and Dominicans can learn from them/us as far as running a society. And if you speak their/our language, you can more easily learn, not to abandon your home, but to change it. I got some nods from parents on that one. 

Met Oreste teaching his class in Padre Granero. Photo taken by Emilie Richardson.

Our precaution is that people (students, parents, teachers), with the potential presence of more foreign volunteers, don't do self-serving things in an attempt to win the favor of volunteers and get something out of it, but instead stick together and think of the school as a whole. There should be no gossip or division. United we stand. Divided we fall. Like it says on the Haitian flag, inyon se la fos! Our soccer coach always says it in the hand circle. But this division really only sets the wrong stage with the volunteers, who should also be working together. Individual relationships are great and special, but the health of the school is most important, and relationships that are based on money and where deception and competition are used to obtain are not good. 

Another precaution is that the teachers maintain authority, order, and a set schedule. English teachers should have a set schedule and that should be followed. Too many times I've seen order be lost at a school because the Haitian teachers are too quick to submit to visitors and visitors are too quick to take on a leadership role. We don't want this. The other teachers said encouraging things, we had a conversation about proper punishment, and then report cards were handed out. Four lucky kids were invited to join Met Willy on Saturday to watch a play in town because they had the best grades. This was set up by Laura. Thanks Laura!

As I was asked by teachers about when their next pay check would arrive and as I struggled with my non-answer which is not my fault as I can't force anyone to donate or lead fundraisers but I do my best to communicate the needs... Louie, the basket maker called. He was waiting for me at the shop, and I knew Laura and others would be soon. So they let me go with my non-satisfactory answers and we headed back to Muñoz. 

Laura had brought Luckner along for our batey soap opera meeting. And it was a good thing that she did because many of the people who signed up to participate and said they would be at the meeting either didn't show up or showed up, but then announced that they had to go bathe and  would be back, etc. This is often how things get started when we start a new thing, as is the case with the batey soap opera. The reason why we are doing this is because we have tried long and hard to get a little movie theater going in the school building in Muñoz and, despite the fact that we have had instability in our electricity, a situation that I am almost positive is almost fully resolved, there has not been much interest among community members as they are not used to movie theaters. They simply say that many of them have televisions in their houses. So Laura, who has experience filming and editing, came up with the idea that we do a little batey soap opera and show it on the big screen in the school each Saturday. We will show a perhaps 20 minute episode each week and then play BINGO. I think this will be a real hit.

So anyway, we had a meeting with the few people who showed up and stayed. We came up with a small story line about a couple who goes to the disco, then end up making each other jealous by dancing with others, leaving the disco with others, then they reunite later on in the night and decide never to play games with each other again. This is a likely scenario but we wanted to make sure that as we portray likely scenarios, we promote the positive way to deal with them, not the negative. After planning the first episode, we filmed the first scene in one of the group member's houses. It was quite entertaining to see them act. But it got dark quickly and we headed home. Ilayas, Maraya, and I were exhausted after the long day. Ilayas had napped in the art shop while we did the meeting (on the mattress we put in there for Rafael, the night watchman), but Maraya was in my arms and was starting to let me know that she just needed to lay down in a safe and calm place, nurse, and sleep.

So I drove, Luckner held Ilayas, (although Ilayas is fine sitting by himself in the car), and Laura held Maraya. As we pulled out of Muñoz, it started raining. I realized that I had never figured out how to turn the lone windshield wiper on. I called Jireste to ask him and he said that it didn't work. I told him I thought that I had seen him use it not long ago. He said that now it didn't work. I continued pushing all buttons and pulling all levers to try for myself but had no luck. So I felt that I had no choice with my exhaustion and cranky kids but to attempt to drive through the rain without a working wind shield wiper. It wasn't raining that hard, and stopped at times, but the windshield still got covered from splashing water. We stopped several times and wiped off the windshield. I kept having thoughts that I would run into something and as we neared Padre Granero, I actually did. There is no median and then all of the sudden there is a median, which I saw at the last minute and crashed into. Surprisingly, the little car just took it, I turned the tight steering wheel to the right, and we fell right back into place. Ilayas stopped whining out of surprise and Maraya started crying. It wasn't long before we parked in front of Laura's apartment complex where she got out, Maraya got some nursing in, and we took a little breather before going on our way.

The rain was very light on the rest of the way, the babies were content for the most part, and we made it home safely, thankfully. I had Luckner arrive home with us to hold Maraya and then gave him moto money to make it back to the hostel. Maraya nursed and then was knocked out for the rest of the night. It was about 7:30 pm at this point I believe. Jireste had made a delicious meal which Ilayas and I scarfed down, but was later informed that I took more than my fair share. I felt bad about that, but did feel rejuvenated after the long day.

Not every day is this busy, but some are. Before I had kuds, it is pretty safe to say that I ran around much more. Some of my most busy and productive times, also, are getting up for hours in the night to work on computer tasks such as updating sponsors, recording finances, working on the website, etc. A few Christians who have tried to correct my practice of Christianity have reminded me that it is faith that gets you to Heaven, not works. I remind them that, "faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds," (James 2:17, 18). I also remind them that Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field,” (Matthew 9:37, 38). I don't know why these people try to correct me, rather than joining me and getting something done together. 

P.S. I went and did the English lesson and then finished this post later.

Note from the author: If you would like to financially support my family and I, the way I prefer you do that is to register as a customer here and apply for this VISA credit card. If you're in Canada, you register here. If enough people do this, it will generate an income for us. You'll see there are many ways to support as a customer, but for the purpose of focus, I ask that people get the VISA card. This is also a great gift option I suggest you try out. Lastly, if you or someone you know is raising support for missions/humanitarian work, you can help yourself and help me by registering as an IBO here and requesting that your supporters become your customers. Please e-mail me with any questions about this. Thank you & God bless.

miércoles, 14 de diciembre de 2011

A Healthy Brawl

Claudion and Willy engaged in a healthy brawl today. They have been roommates for a few years now and had gotten into verbal discussions where they threaten to fight each other but this is the first time it actually got physical. I don't think it will happen again. They both realized afterwards that they shouldn't have fought and that the problem wasn't even between the two of them.

Willy popped into our kitchen to begin explaining to me someone who owed him money and didn't want to pay in full. Claudion quickly popped in to defend the debtor. Willy said that the only reason Claudion was defending the debtor was because the debtor had given him a little money to draw him onto his political side and keep Willy down. Claudion denied. Willy opposed the denial. It then turned physical right there in the kitchen.

Back in my day before I had kids I used take on real risks to separate fights...and I didn't even think much of it but just had the instinct that I didn't want them to hurt each other. However, at that time, they were much smaller. Today I called for Jireste to separate them and he tried a bit but didn't really throw his body into it and the fight continued until it went outside in front of our house in the street. They threw rocks at each other as well as other items. Neighbors gathered. Many neighbors were surprised because they had seen for the year we have been living here how peacefully these young men live with each other and with us. However, of course, there were a few who made comments about if this happened again they would call the police and have all of these Haitians sent back to Haiti. Oh how I wish they already had their paperwork so that remark wouldn't have been allowed, not that they wouldn't still say it. Claudion and Willy are our two right hand men and if they were to get sent back...we would be at a huge loss. We really do function as a family.

They went to separate ends of the house afterwards and fumed. I eventually called them together and the small group of Haitian friends, along with a Dominican man who lives behind our house, gathered and encouraged them to make up, which they did. Claudion agreed that in the future, he would stay out of such money arguments. It will cost a little over $30 to get their birth certificates here in order to get passports, which cost $60, and then we can factor in $10 for transportation. If you can help with this important step, please let me know! It's time that we got it taken care of.

lunes, 12 de diciembre de 2011

Ti Ronal's Journey to the Dominican Republic, Part 5 of 5

It took awhile to find the right location to move the program to. We decided to spread things out, renting two group homes in separate, but close locations, and a separate building for school. We rent two rooms of a section of a church for the school. Causing things to take even longer, the first group home we rented was slow in becoming vacant because the owner and her family had trouble finding a house to rent in the area of town that they wanted. Therefore, the boys remained in the streets during this time. After almost two years, Ti Ronal was back in the same living conditions that he began in. However, instead of sleeping in a broken down house with other boys, he stayed in his own room in an apartment building on 30th Street. You may remember 30th Street from Etyenn’s story. It’s known for selling artwork and selling drugs. Ti Ronal didn’t pay for his room but had an arrangement with the landlord where he cleaned every morning in exhange for staying rent free.

One Sunday afternoon in November, I sat writing on the computer in our apartment outside of the city. Ti Ronal appeared on the porch and sat down. I looked up to greet him and tell him that I would come to visit with him in a minute. I first noticed he had a hat on, which is uncharacteristic of him. Then I noticed that his lip was very swollen and cut up, his head was bandaged under the hat, and his right cheek had a large cut that had been stitched up. I closed up what I was doing, went onto the porch, and sat beside him.

He recounted the previous night’s events to let me know what had happened. During this time, his main source of income was from collecting and selling bottles, which means walking around the streets late at night in order to search the trash outside of clubs and other such locations. He arrived home around 3am. There was a fight going on in front of his building. It was apparently between two Dominicans: a prostitute demanding her pay and a man that refused to pay. Ronal said that there was a group of Haitians defending the woman and telling the man to pay her. He entered into his apartment but left one of his items outside as he was carrying several. Ronal returned to retrieve his last item but when he stepped outside, the man and his brother attacked him. He wasn’t sure why the man attacked him. He didn’t know if he mistook him for someone else but he was obviously in the wrong place at the wrong time. He fought with them to defend himself and they ended up cutting his forehead, cheek, and lip with a broken bottle. Jamba, who was previously a member of the Los Limones house and is very large, ran after the attacker who apparently found a watchman that he stood by to take refuge.

Ronal spent the only money he had to go to the public hospital and get stitched up. He then borrowed 15 pesos to come to our apartment where he spent the day and night. As we sat there on the porch that day, we both quietly reflected. Ronal said that it was his fault that these things had happened to him. If he had listened to his father, he never would’ve come to the Dominican Republic. His father had told him not to come and that it’s a bad country. (By repeating this I am not agreeing that it is a bad country.) I asked him what things would’ve been like if he had stayed in Haiti. When he came two years ago, he had received little schooling and the program where he had gone to school in Haiti was not currently functioning. Also, there is such little opportunity for work in Haiti. I told him that I thought it was good he had come in “search for life”. It was better than sitting still. He nodded and I knew that he agreed, but just wanted affirmation that the challenges he continued to face and overcome were worth while.

After this incident, I once again visited the house we had already paid a deposit on and were waiting for the landlady and family to move out of. It was not too long after that that the family moved out and the boys moved in. Ronal is a leader of one of the two group homes. He continues to sell hard-boiled eggs during the day, as well as perform side jobs with various businesses around town. I see Ronal as continuing to have a role with Project Esperanza of some sort, whether it’s a paid role as caregiver or beginning level math teacher or a volunteer role that can help out in various areas. By that time, in a few years, I predict he will have a passport with a visa, if not residence, along with a more steady day job.   

I wanted to share Ronal’s story with you because it is a strong testimony of a young Haitian man who came to the Dominican Republic in search of life and, despite finding assistance with Project Esperanza, has faced lots of difficulties. However, he has overcome and continues to overcome each of these challenges. Each young man in our program has a different story. Together, we are building a strong program so that those to come in the future don’t have to face as many difficulties. With every obstacle we face, we arrive on the other side, stronger and wiser than before. 

Note from the author: If you would like to financially support my family and I, the way I prefer you do that is to register as a customer here and apply for this VISA credit card. If enough people do this, it will generate an income for us. You'll see there are many ways to support as a customer, but for the purpose of focus, I ask that people get the VISA card. This is also a great gift option I suggest you try out. Lastly, if you or someone you know is raising support for missions/humanitarian work, you can help yourself and help me by registering as an IBO here and requesting that your supports become your customers. Please e-mail me with any questions about this. Thank you & God bless.

Ti Ronal's Journey to the Dominican Republic, Part 4 of 5

A little over a month later, another unfortunate event occurred that caused the boys to have to move out of the house and for the program to be put on hold for, what ended up being, a few months. The landlord and his family, who are Dominicans, were often uncomfortable with the boys living in the house. There is much more to be said about that, which monthly sponsors will read in their more thorough and frequent updates. Throughout the year that the program was located in this house, the landlord continually changed the terms on our renting agreement, wanting less and less boys to live in the house and wanting more money. Throughout each month, he appeared to grow increasingly bothered, then instantly pacified after receiving rent money.

After a disagreement we had about how much money I had in his possession as a deposit, I began losing trust in him. We began searching for other facilities, but no plans were set in stone. After catching word of us possibly leaving the house, he accused the smallest and squirreliest member of the house of entering into his house and stealing money. The quantity began at $7,000 but then grew to $12,000, which is conveniently the same amount as the deposit he was supposed to return to me upon moving out. He demanded, on the spot that I pay the $12,000. When I said didn’t have it, not that I would’ve given it to him if I had, he said that he needed it by noon tomorrow. When would I have it?

This turned into quite an ordeal with everyone, including many neighbors out in the street around midnight. After hearing from both sides, I had no reason to believe that this accusation was true. The most convincing initial evidence in favor of the boy in our program and against the landlord was the fact that the boy did not flee the area and the landlord did not act violently toward him as appears to be the case in any theft in this country. Had I believed the accusation to be true, I wouldn’t have hesitated to have taken corrective action. However, there was no evidence and things were very suspicious. After telling the landlord this, he left to find the police. He has a brother or two that are police officers. The police came and in a display of corrupt power, threw seven boys and young men in a truck, handcuffing them and beating them on the back and heads with rifles to make them sit down. Ti Ronal was one of them, as was my husband, who is Haitian and was defending the boy that was accused. I yelled at Ti Ronal to sit down as they forced him in the truck because he was stubbornly resisting and was taking a bit of a beating.

In the days following, the judge ruled that the landlord’s behavior was illegal and that the boys should return until the deposit ran out (1.5 months) or until the month ended with half of the deposit returned (half a month). The stealing accusation was dropped when the landlord didn’t show up to the hearing. After being released from jail, the boys were in the streets. A few of the younger ones stayed at our apartment for awhile against my landlady’s will. However, she has proven to be understanding. Later, we found a church that allowed them to stay there. Others stayed in various places such as on friends’ rooftops, sleeping under plastic bags on rainy nights.

After the judge’s ruling, I went back with Ti Ronal and two others to the house to make an attempt at carrying out the judge’s ruling. We didn’t enter the house but waited in front of the house for the landlord to return home so that we could talk first. The area that the house is in has about an equal amount of Dominicans and Haitians, or perhaps a 60:40 ratio. At this point, things had become racially and nationally tense. The landlord, who had left his house briefly, was slow in coming home and we could feel the tension build. Eventually, Dominican neighbors began getting hostile and we left. In a just legal system, the judge’s ruling should’ve been enforced but it wasn’t. However, we did what we could safely do to point out this injustice. In the weeks to follow, Ti Ronal, along with a few other boys, were arrested by the landlord’s police connections. Ti Ronal told me that they had arrested him for stealing but had no evidence or reason that he knew of. He was then released a few days later. I didn’t find out about these instances until after they were released.
Note from the author: If you would like to financially support my family and I, the way I prefer you do that is to register as a customer here and apply for this VISA credit card. If enough people do this, it will generate an income for us. You'll see there are many ways to support as a customer, but for the purpose of focus, I ask that people get the VISA card. This is also a great gift option I suggest you try out. Lastly, if you or someone you know is raising support for missions/humanitarian work, you can help yourself and help me by registering as an IBO here and requesting that your supports become your customers. Please e-mail me with any questions about this. Thank you & God bless.

Ti Ronal's Journey to the Dominican Republic, Part 3 of 5

Ronal stayed at the house for the rest of the school year. There was no luck in finding a job. During summer vacation, soccer season was in full swing. Bouki and many others boys in the streets played at a field at a public school in the center of town along with the boys from the house. It now appeared that several of these boys were in a situation similar to Ti Ronal’s before moving in. They were not looking for mischief or games but a better life. Things were very hard for them in the streets. To meet this need, we opened Los Limones Boys’ Home & School.

This was a four bedroom, one bathroom house in a fairly quiet and humble neighborhood very close to the city. Two bedrooms served as dorm-style rooms, housing a total of eight boys. The other two rooms were used for classrooms. Food rations were given at times but during economic troubles in 2009, became hard to provide. All household members worked during the day shining shoes or doing some sort of street vending: hard-boiled eggs, icey pops, or CDs. School was a requirement for two hours every night. The program remains almost the same today but has developed some, expanded, and is in different facilities in a neighboring area.

When this program opened in July 2008, Ti Ronal left the house in Maimon along with another household member and joined this group in Los Limones. He served as a very reliable presence here. He woke up early every morning to boil eggs and go sell a few cartons (cartons of 30 eggs) at five pesos an egg before returning home. Sometimes at night, he walked around to discotequas, or clubs, and collected bottles which he could sell the next day. Because of his hard-boiled egg seling, he earned the name “guevero” among the landlord, his extended family, and some neighbors. Ronal often gives me money to hold for him. He does a great job at keeping a little savings. He often loans money to others and is reliable financially. He also is trustworthy to always go to school, even when things start to slip and other students, or even teachers, begin missing days. He is additionally trustworthy to report these happenings to me in a non-tattle tale way.

Up until lately, Ronal came over to my apartment every Monday evening for English lessons. We also sometimes threw in some math and Spanish. In July 2009, he came over for his Monday lesson as usual. A few days later, I visited the boys’ home in Los Limones. They informed me that Immigration had picked up Ti Ronal and taken him to Haiti. I was shocked and sad. I wondered when we would see him again and felt a little weakened knowing he was gone. I shared my sadness with others and they said, “Oh, he’ll be back.”

The following Monday evening, my husband and I arrived home late from leading a group of volunteers to different grassroots schools where they did medical consultations. As we started up the spiral staircase that leads to the second story apartment where we lived at the time, we heard a noise. My husband called up and Ti Ronal called back. We were surprised and delighted. He told us everything that had happened. He was dropped off across the border in Ouanaminthe, made his way to Cap Haitian to visit family for the first time since coming to the Dominican Repulic, then headed back after a day or two with someone called a “passer”. A passer is someone who walks with you for a few days in order to show you the way into the country, avoiding guards along the way. When you arrive at a point where it is now safe to go on the road, you take a bus, called a guagua, or a motorcycle. It is, as I am told and can only imagine, an exhausting trip. Luckily, Ti Ronal had money on him when Immigration picked him up. He spent the night at our apartment as it was about 11pm and he had just arrived from his trip. I was so proud of him for managing to not miss a single Monday English lesson! However, no one had the energy for a lesson that night. 

 Note from the author: If you would like to financially support my family and I, the way I prefer you do that is to register as a customer here and apply for this VISA credit card. If enough people do this, it will generate an income for us. You'll see there are many ways to support as a customer, but for the purpose of focus, I ask that people get the VISA card. This is also a great gift option I suggest you try out. Lastly, if you or someone you know is raising support for missions/humanitarian work, you can help yourself and help me by registering as an IBO here and requesting that your supports become your customers. Please e-mail me with any questions about this. Thank you & God bless.

Ti Ronal's Journey to the Dominican Republic, Part 2 of 5

While living in the house, Ronal was unable to shine shoes due to the house’s distance from town. Therefore, every Friday after school, he headed to Sosua, a neighboring city that supposedly has better shoe shining business. He slept in a broken down house there with another group of boys, just like he had done in Puerto Plata. He then came home on Sunday evenings with a few hundred pesos. He was, and still is, very good about saving his money. Every now and then he spent money to buy packets of powdered juice, ice, and a can of milk to make juice for everyone. And sometimes he bought the needed ingredients to make and share fried eggs with flour, (flour to make the eggs bigger, he said), and bread.

One Sunday evening, Ronal returned from Sosua later than normal. His face was swollen and his lip had been bleeding. He had gotten in a taxi where he normally did to come home. They took him a good distance further, beat him up, stole 1,000 pesos he had with him, then left him on the side of the road. I can’t remember why we did not report that to the police. It was likely because we didn’t think they would do anything. He started going to Sosua less often after that.

Ti Ronal’s favorite subject in school is math! Met Yves, the math teacher, is his role model. He always has chalk in his pocket – sometimes chalk he has purchased and other times the little stub that remains from a long stick that a teacher has thrown out. He uses the chalk to do math on chalkboards after school hours. He also often does math on wooden table tops, wooden doors, or the cement floor. It was not uncommon to find the remains of Ti Ronal’s math problems in any of these places. I just tried to remind him to keep it on paper but was uncomfortable about raising my voice with him as I was quick to do with younger boys who had also been in the house longer than Ti Ronal. His presence is very non-judgmental. I remember raising my voice with him once about something that I cannot remember. I then further explained why I had done that, what I meant, and asked, “Are you mad at me?” I was very used to other boys being mad at me.

He replied with a genuine, “No,” and added, “I’m never mad at you.” I thanked him.

He talked about his mother often and still does. It’s obvious that he adored her. That year, he wanted to go to Haiti during summer vacation in order to see her and was saving up money to do so. He is the oldest of her eight children, a few of whom have past away and a few of whom he says were adopted by French people and are now in France. He once said that the only person he ever stole from was his father. After hearing this, I let him know that I didn’t understand why. He explained that his father, who was married to his mother and is the father of all of her children, had other women. Ronal, therefore, used to steal money from his father and give it to his mother so that his mother could receive a bigger portion of the money that was apparently allocated to other women as well.

One day, his father called my cell phone. I was surprised but found out that a boy I had recently sent to Haiti had given him the number. I was in the city teaching English at the time. I later gave Ronal the message and bought a phone card so that he could call his dad. I sat by him as he called. He said hello, then shortly into the conversation, became obviously sad.

“When did my mom die?” he asked. He listened, said yes a few times, then hung up. He announced to those of us in the area that his mom had died, then went and laid on his bed with his face hidden. I went and stood by his bed, the upper bunk, and sang for awhile, then asked him if he wanted to go to Haiti. He said that the only person he wanted to see in Haiti was his mom but she’s dead. Dunel, our paid staff at the time, came in and sang with me, then prayed. We then left him for the night.

Ronal was very somber for the next few days, then back to normal. He often talks about his mother. During Bible study or any conversations about God, he often seems to understand and defend the nature of God as all-loving and has, from my point of view, an accurate understanding of love: comforting, disciplining, supportive, guiding, patient, strong, angry at times, and good. He is not hesitant to share that he learned this love from his mother. 
Note from the author: If you would like to financially support my family and I, the way I prefer you do that is to register as a customer here and apply for this VISA credit card. If enough people do this, it will generate an income for us. You'll see there are many ways to support as a customer, but for the purpose of focus, I ask that people get the VISA card. This is also a great gift option I suggest you try out. Lastly, if you or someone you know is raising support for missions/humanitarian work, you can help yourself and help me by registering as an IBO here and requesting that your supports become your customers. Please e-mail me with any questions about this. Thank you & God bless. 

Ti Ronal's Journey to the Dominican Republic, Part 1 of 5

This is a 5 part story I sent out to Project Esperanza's list serv beginning January 1, 2010. It's about the journey a young man took, leaving Haiti in order to search for life here in the Dominican Republic. You'll read about his time with us and the difficulties he faced, overcame and continues to face and overcome. Enjoy! 

            In January 2008, I moved to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic with plans of staying long term in order to oversee our ongoing programs here. I began living at the boys’ home for Haitian immigrant boys that had been working and sometimes living on the streets of Puerto Plata. I directed the home school, taught science, oversaw staff and daily activities such as food preparation, worked at an English school in the afternoons, and often met with directors and teachers of our grassroots schools, paying them their salaries, giving organizational aid, etc.

At this time, the boys’ home was located in a rural area on the coast known as Maimon. We rented a large, run-down farmhouse that sat on a number of acres, complete with a creek. It was a wonderful setting and the year and one month that our program was located there was great for everyone. However, we were not able to sustain it for the long run. When I moved in, I joined nine other household members, including paid staff, younger boys ranging from ages 12-15, and older boys or unpaid “big brothers” ranging from ages 16-20. Two additional teachers came to the house every weekday to hold school. All were Haitians that had come to the Dominican Republic in “search of life”.

Before this point, the boys’ home had been held in a few different locations in the city of Puerto Plata. This country setting was ideal for the time. At its maximum, the home had 22 residents, way too many for the stage we were at. Several asked to be sent back to Haiti and because we were overloaded and overwhelmed, we sent those that asked back throughout the summer of 2007. Little by little and sometimes in groups, the majority of the boys who had gone back to Haiti returned to Puerto Plata. Sometimes they came with new street boys from Cap Haitian, introducing them to the Dominican Republic. Out of the returners, only one was immediately accepted back into the home. We were determined to have a more controlled setting.

One boy that had lived in the house, went to Haiti, and had now returned, was Bouki. His real name is William and he asks to be called that, but everyone still calls him Bouki. I’m sure that past volunteers who got the chance to meet him have not forgotten him as he is quite a character. When I moved in long term in January 2008, Bouki came to the house almost every day, asking to be brought in as a member. I did not allow that since his personality is anything but small and I was careful, forseeing what effects entering him into the group could cause. However, I invited him to participate as a student in the school, under the conditions that he arrived on time, although he didn’t live in the house, and abided to the same expectations as the rest of the students.

When Bouki visited the house during this time, he always brought a friend named Ti Ronal. “Ti” in Creole means little, so this young man’s name in English is Little Ronald. This was the first time I had met Ti Ronal. He had been in the Dominican Republic for a few months. This was his first trip. He was from Cap Haitian and had become friends with Bouki and many others through a program for street kids in Cap Haitian. It was in this program that he had received about a year of schooling; the only schooling he had received up to this point. Since he always came to the house with Bouki and showed an interest in school, the offer of becoming a student was extended to him as well, under the same conditions.

The second trimester of school began, school hours were Monday through Friday, 8am – 12pm. Bouki and Ti Ronal showed up the first few days. Then Bouki began missing days here and there or arriving at 9 or 10, always complaining that he didn’t have transportation money. Eventually, he stopped coming to school altogether. However, Ti Ronal showed up on time, if not a few minutes early, everyday. I, along with the other two teachers, was very impressed. Bouki and Ti Ronal both shined shoes, so I know that if Ti Ronal could manage his money well enough to have transportation money every day, Bouki should be able to as well. 

Ronal’s reading and writing skills were on a very beginner’s level when school first began, but he paid attention very well. It was obvious that he wasn’t interested in playing games. Through talking to him and listening to him tell stories about life on the streets, I learned that he slept in a broken down house on a flattened cardboard box along with Bouki and a few other boys. When the police ran them out of one place, they moved to another. Other boys participated in different sorts of mischief that Ronal was not at all judgmental of but was not interested in. Once I saw that this was the case, I felt bad for him. I wanted to invite him into the house but was careful due to his age. He said he was 19 and I believed him. Many boys say they are a few years younger than they truly are in hopes of receiving more assistance or in fear of being denied assistance because they are over a certain age. For many, it has been easy to pull off because these boys often look younger than they are when compared to Americans. I think at this point I have learned to more accurately determine age in this population, but at first, 14-year-olds said they were 10, 16-year-olds said they were 14, and 19-year-olds said they were 16. It was all believable because of their small size. I told Ronal that I knew that he wanted to live life differently than those he was currently living with and that he could stay at the house for awhile. I would help him to find a job, save up his money, and begin renting a place, but until then, he could stay at our house. He was thankful and accepted. I was naive at the time and thought that finding a job and renting a place would be much easier than it actually is.

When Bouki saw that Ronal began staying at the house, he was a little jealous, sought a bit of revenge on Project Esperanza in general, then went to Haiti. However, he returned after a few months, very remorseful, and worked to make amends. He eventually found a spot in the Los Limones Home & School when it opened in July 2008 and continues to do quite well today. 

Note from the author: If you would like to financially support my family and I, the way I prefer you do that is to register as a customer here and apply for this VISA credit card. If enough people do this, it will generate an income for us. You'll see there are many ways to support as a customer, but for the purpose of focus, I ask that people get the VISA card. This is also a great gift option I suggest you try out. Lastly, if you or someone you know is raising support for missions/humanitarian work, you can help yourself and help me by registering as an IBO here and requesting that your supports become your customers. Please e-mail me with any questions about this. Thank you & God bless.