miércoles, 26 de junio de 2013

An Especially Eventful Week - Part 3 of 4

Good news to announce before getting back to the story. We were unsure as to whether or not Elisenia was HIV positive or negative. Her test came out positive previously. But we were told that it was not certain since she was younger than two. This test measures the presence of HIV antibodies, not the actually presence of the virus. (Just found this link that has a little more info.) If the mother was positive, she can pass the antibodies to the baby without passing the virus. Lo and behold, this is what happened as her 2.5 year old test came out negative! Praise God! I have been putting out the word for potential adopters and have made some contacts but still no one is seriously planning on adopting her. So CONANI, the child services agency of the government, has told me to allow them to place her in an orphanage in Jarabacoa. I asked if her sister Alexandra, 10 years old, can go as well. They said yes. I plan on visiting with Alexandra's godmother and Elisenia's father's cousin sometime soon.

Other news, we went and invited Enelbi back into the house. He was on sanction ever since September, but he is back, and we are all happy to have him... even if he does have a strong case of ADHD. :) Now, back to the story.

I had heard that he (Wildolf) had a stealing problem and he just seemed like a sketchy character. He also didn’t seem very humble. I didn’t ever want him around and always treated him a way to let him know that he’s not welcome. It is important to understand how close living quarters are here. Houses are quite small and close together and neighbors are everywhere. Haitians in general are known for grouping. So I learned long ago how to welcome and not welcome people. However, in the months leading up to this incident, I started to trust him a little bit. 

I did not know much about him or his family, but knew that he had family of some sort around whom I thought he lived with. He started coming to the door, asking me to hold money for him. He was working.. I think painting, and trying to save up. So this made me happy and I was glad to do that for him. Then he just started doing favors. If he saw I was getting a bucket of water out of the cistern, he took the bucket and got it for me. If he saw I was pulling chairs and placing them outside for a teacher meeting, he said, “Why didn’t you ask me to help you?” and began helping.

One Sunday morning Junior begged me to allow them to open the Centro de Juegos and I stood my ground, saying we would open at 1pm so we could go to church or do church at home. Sometimes we go to a church but when we don’t, we do church at home. The boys also have Bible class once a week in school. This morning we put the chairs in a circle outside under the cherry tree and did church. A neighbor who was waiting for the Centro de Juegos to open, nagging Junior as to when it would be opened and causing him to nag me, sat with us. I liked that. He wasn’t going to go to church himself. He was chomping at the bit to play Nintendo. But before he could play Nintendo, he had a little fellowship and heard a little of the Word. Wildolf also sat on a rock nearby the circle. We start by praying and then share praises from the week. Each person is asked what God did for them that week. We end by asking for prayer requests. Each person is asked what they would like God to do for them. I included Wildolf in on this and he asked God to give him work. I thought at this point that we could allow him to take a few shifts in the business, but as he is not a member of the program, made a decision to bring it up at our next meeting to ask others what they thought. But I found him to be more humble and felt for him, although my heart was still hard because I know that that helping him would be complicated and there are limits.

The next week, Ilayas, Jennylove, Maraya, Junior and I walked over to the land that Project Esperanza purchased for the future boys’ home and school. We ran into Wildolf along the way. He told me that he was looking to change 1,000 pesos so he could buy a gallon of water for Cesar. Cesar is the man who sold us the land. He lives on a plot right next to it. He said that he couldn’t find anyone to change the money. What should he do? I didn’t know his relationship with Cesar and was confused as to how Cesar was sending him. I just said, umm.. look around to see if you can change it but if not, tell him you can’t find change. But really, he would’ve found change if he had kept looking. But again, I didn’t know their relationship and how much service he owed Cesar.

We continued to the land and did not see him anymore. As we passed Cesar’s house which is right next to the land, he was with Cesar on his porch. We said hi, said that we came to pick mangos, talked a bit about how they are still too green, and then went on our way. Wildolf walked up with us and sat on a stump. Junior ran off to the baseball field nearby and watched a game. Maraya cried over her hand that had been scratched in a recent fall. She soon calmed down. Then Wildolf started talking to me. He started talking about how much he suffers. How he struggles to feed himself, he sleeps in a different house every night, etc. He said, “Maybe I suffer like this because I don’t have a mom.” He then told me about his life, how his grandmother raised him, his father abandoned them. His mother left them with his grandmother to go to the Dominican Republic. She ended up passing away in the Dominican Republic. I should’ve said, “Probably the problem is more so that your father abandoned your family and he andd your mother did not stay together. But probably also your father was unskilled, uneducated, and had no economic opportunity, and having lots of kids looking to him for food was a stress that he didn’t know how to handle or chose not to suffer through.” Anyway, he said that he has three sisters in the area and let me know who one of them is, as I had met her but did not realize she was his sister. He said that he was not currently able to live with them because of arguments that they had and that they didn’t really want him around, etc. I could’ve said that point also, “So humble yourself and work out your problems with them. Don’t come asking me for help,” but I know that young Haitian women in the Dominican Republic have as little opportunity as young men and the opportunity that they most have access to I like to highly discourage. He went on to say that he doesn’t know why God created him.

To this I did reply. I said, “God isn’t the cause of your suffering. The problem is with Haiti, no work, etc. This is something that Satan has created, not God.” I was glad to have memorized, with the boys, years ago, a verse in Creole:

Tout pi bel kado, tout pi bon fave nou resevwa…  (James 1:7

He agreed strongly saying, “It’s true. It’s true.”

He told me that Cesar always asks him to haul buckets of water for him and never gives him anything. Sometimes he gives him food. I told him that I had thought of talking with the other boys about giving him a few shifts in the Centro de Juegos. I didn’t want to mention it to him without talking to them first, but felt very much like I had to let him know that I was thinking of him in some way. He said that he had another problem which was that he didn’t know how to read or write. This would be a problem since he would have to record the times that people start playing, stop playing, and the money they pay. He had never gone to school. I asked him why he didn’t go to adult night school at the public school. He didn’t realize that they had the very most basic classes for adults, but thought they only had higher level. I told him that I would help him register in the fall and he agreed.

He then went on to ask me to loan him 3,000 pesos (about $80 US) to “saca” a motorcycle to do moto taxi work. Agencies here will allow you to put a 2,000 peso down payment and then pay daily for a year to pay off the motorcycle. Many, many men who are uneducated do moto taxi work. Willy has done it on two different occasions now. The first time he was not very disciplined with it and ended up giving back the motorcycle, but this second time, he has done very well and has done six months so far I think. I strongly objected because it is very dangerous but he just didn’t want to sit around anymore. He did this before the Centro de Juegos had started. However, I am highly determined to not let other boys do this in the future. And a big part of doing that is making sure they have other work opportunities.

I told him “No, no, no”. It’s a big responsibility. He doesn’t even have a house, he says. I just kept saying no. He kept trying to change my mind. He kept repeating how much he suffers and how he doesn’t know why God made him. I eventually left, telling him I would think about it, just to get him to stop talking about it. I should’ve just said I didn’t have any money, but the truth is that I did, and I have been bad about lying about that in the past, and now am determined to be strong there and lie.. lie for good and protective reasons. 

We walked home. Let me just say how tough I used to be. I used to be extremely blunt and sharp tongued. But people let me know that they really, really didn’t like it. I still can be this way when I need to be, but it’s not really fun, especially having little kids with me. But I was that way because, for example, we go outside to play with a ball and several kids come and take it from Ilayas and “exert dominion or control over it”. I am quoting that from law school – that is the tort of trespass to chattels. So in order to get them to go away, I have to speak sharply and tell them blunt things.. because they often don’t listen if you ask nicely. And I was always afraid of people influencing me and trying to convince me to take a different route or do something that I don’t want to do. So I made them get away, like any good mother animal would. Now I have tried to be nicer and friendlier. But as you will soon learn with this incident, I need to be attentive. Friendly yet still attentive and ready to pull out the guns when the time is right. Yes, that is what I need to do.

So Wildolf came to the house again begging for the money. I told him, “No, no, and no.” It wasn’t a good idea. He had already answered my good questions proving to him that it wasn’t a good idea, such as where he will store it. His answers weren’t good, but I think that that doesn’t matter to the person giving the answers. They have already convinced themselves that the answers are good so convincing them that they aren’t is a whole other time wasting, energy wasting debate, and I really don’t have a lot of time or energy these days. So he started in again on how much he suffers and how he doesn’t know why God made him. I just wanted him to go away and knew I had the money in my safe in the other room so I said okay. Mistake. I didn’t tell Jireste about this because Jireste had been trying to convince me that a good business venture would be for us to saca a moto and then allow someone else to taxi on it every day. That person would pay the daily fee to the company, give us a small amount, and then take the rest for himself. He knew that it would work. I didn’t, and again, I don’t like motorcycles, although I still go around on them most days and pray for my life the whole time. I got into an accident on one a few months back and vowed to not go on one again but without a vehicle, there is really no other choice since private taxis are expensive and we are far from public guagua or carrito route.   

Don't forget, if you want to support this humanitarian/missionary/social activist, please consider using this credit card or these awesome gift options. Sign up as a customer here. I do not receive a salary for running Project Esperanza so it is necessary to try to raise support in some way to be able to continue to dedicate the necessary time to it.
If you want to support Project Esperanza, learn how to do so here. Thank you and God bless! 

miércoles, 5 de junio de 2013

Part 2 to an Especially Eventful Week

 Now, a normal week is very busy with the kids, law school, and Project Esperanza. However, this week had an added element due to some conflict and violence. This afternoon after coming home from Muñoz where I organized art shop stuff and oriented Miguel, I spent some time viewing and taking notes for an online lecture in Criminal Law, and then tried to read, but was interrupted every 10 minutes, more or less, and gave up. I wasn’t even interrupted by my kids at this point, but by people coming to the door for their needs. One teacher came to receive his pay and to talk. Boys came one by one for headaches and a discussion over the freezer in the Centro de Juegos business that only one was willing to carry back inside after washing it and no one else wanted to help. Saturday is also when they receive their weekly food rations so they came for that. Around 6pm I ended up locking the doors and ignoring anyone who knocked. I felt physically unable to get up. Jennylove and Maraya took naps and Ilayas watched videos, which he can navigate by himself on You Tube – Scooby Doo, Super Why, Dora, and Diego are the hot ones these days. I just was so physically exhausted. After Maraya woke up, she pulled my head and hair and forced me to get up. I layed on the floor and was present until Junior and Jireste entered, settled, and everyone went to bed.

So what made this week even busier than normal? One was Miguel’s arrival. On top of meeting him at the airport and orienting him a bit , I spent a large chunk of Friday searching for a bike for him, and purchased one at a good price that, as far as I could see, would work well. However, when Chinaider checked it out, he pointed out spokes that were falling out, the thing that holds the chain that is crooked, and one other thing I don’t know the name of that needed fixing. So now we’re working on exchanging it. I could’ve sent Chinaider in the first place but having never purchased a bike here, wanted to check things out for myself.

The other thing that made this week busy was an attack to the boys in the boys home by a guy around here named Wildolf. I can’t call him a neighbor since his family lives in other neighborhoods. He does not actually reside in this community, but he just hangs out here all of the time. I’ll explain what happened and then give some more history and details.

On Monday night, I got up in the middle of the night, worked on the computer, and remembered that Ewode had some change for me because I sent him to do something and he didn’t bring me the change. I felt a little nervous about that so I went to their house to see if he was up. I could hear them talking from outside so they were up. He gave me the change and I ended up bringing them some soup we had left over from dinner. He told me that there had been an incident at the boys’ home that night around 10pm.

Let me give a current update as to who lives in the boys’ home. Willy and Emso are the two older members who are responsible.
Emso, (left), their teacher Met Sonel (middle), and Willy (right)
They are both around 21 years old. Chinaider is 17. Enelbi, who is 13, was put on sanction in September and we plan to invite him back within this week. Biby is also older, around 20, and is just staying for a few months. He had been involved before, mainly through the soccer team, but had gone to Haiti and come back. I told him he could stay for one month, but he could not find steady work, like most Haitian men around, and so he is working in the Centro de Juegos. I knew that he was making an effort though because he had put in days of work, but that really just can help someone get through a week. When he moved in, Junior moved in with us since the average age of the household members became much greater than his. And I plan on inviting Enelbi back when Biby moves out, which should be any day now. Soccer team is all set to function this summer. So potentially at the end of the summer we will invite in one more boy, and that will be a complete house, (and the house is small). Two “big brothers”, one “middle brother” and two “little brothers”.

We did purchase a plot of land and plan to build and have a program for 12 boys, but we don’t yet have the funds to build or to maintain such a program. So for now, I would like to raise funds to level the ground and enclose it with a cinderblock wall. Then we can use it for gardening for the time being. I don’t mean to be pessimistic and assume that it will be years before we have the funds to build, but am just making plans for the meantime, however long or short it may be.

So this evening, Emso, Willy, Biby, Chinaider, and Ewode were in the boys’ home, and Wildolf was visiting. We don’t really like there to be visitors and just ruling that out generally avoids lots of problems, but I will soon explain how Wildolf was trying to creep his way in. A discussion broke out between Chinaider and Wildolf. Chinaider had accused Wildolf of spreading a lie about him. Wildolf denied and apparently told Chinaider that he would cut him open. This comment alone, which all of the witnesses agreed on every detail of the event, enfuriates me. First, he shouldn’t have been in the house. Second, now he is threatening Chinaider in his house. Biby shoed them both outside, thinking that a fight would break out. Wildolf apparently went outside first, took up his stance, and told Chinaider to come outside so he could show him who he is.

Now, it’s important to note that Wildolf is 5’5” at most and 115 lbs. at most, I would say. He is quite small and perhaps 20 years old. Chinaider is… I should measure him.. maybe 5’10” now and perhaps 170 lbs. Apparently nothing lasted long. Chinaider punched Wildolf, and Wildolf ran away. Perhaps Chinaider should not have punched Wildolf… but then again perhaps it was necessary. I do not like violence but I also don’t like it when people don’t know their boundaries, intrude, talk crap, etc. I was sleeping at this time and didn’t know that Wildolf then came and got Jireste, telling him that Chinaider was beating him up. We live perhaps an eighth of a mile down the road from the boys’ home. The Centro de Juegos is also on the same property as our apartment. It’s just a two apartment building with one downstairs and one upstairs. Jireste went with him to the house and Wildolf started accounting that Chinaider has said x,y,z but threw in a lie, saying that Chinaider had said something about Jireste as well. Biby then apparently said, “Who said something about Jireste?” and punched him as well. Again, I completely believe these testimonies, since everyone told me the same thing, and they are not so close or corrupt as to all agree on a common lie. They also had nothing against Wildolf to be “out to get him”.

After Biby punched Wildolf, Wildolf left and Jireste came home and went to sleep. He didn’t wake me up to tell me about it, thinking it was an incident that had passed. But shortly after, Wildolf came back with two Dominican friends, one who had a gun. The door was open but upon seeing this, they shut the door. He began threatening, saying he would kill them all. He threw rocks, breaking the door. Before the door was shut he threw rocks, almost hitting people. I didn’t know this at the time, but he had apparently busted his brother in law’s head open with a rock during a fight months previously.

So now let me give a little history….in part 3.

Don't forget, if you want to support this humanitarian/missionary/social activist, please consider using this credit card or these awesome gift options. Sign up as a customer here. I do not receive a salary for running Project Esperanza so it is necessary to try to raise support in some way to be able to continue to dedicate the necessary time to it.

If you want to support Project Esperanza, learn how to do so here. Thank you and God bless! 

lunes, 3 de junio de 2013

An Especially Eventful Week - Part 1 of 4

We had fun at the beach when Crystal and family visited in April.

First, I’ll just start by saying it’s getting hotter and we have no water. Here in our neighborhood, water usually comes through the tap once a week for maybe 8-12 hours. We fill up the cistern (large, square, cement water storage thing in the ground) and fill up a few trash cans in the house, (one in the kitchen and one in the bathroom). We also have a small tinaco (a round tank) on the roof that fills itself up but never seems to work properly and we rarely have water coming through the taps except for this one day a week I am referring to. I just had to flush the toilet with a jug of purchased purified water. We have to flush the toilet by pouring water into the bowl at a high enough height to create pressure to flush it.

Why does this happen? Why does city water only come through the taps once a week? I don’t know. Something to do with the water supply company Corraaplata is it called? I went there once and asked if a group of students could visit with someone to ask questions and they said yes, with an engineer that works there. So I plan on setting that up for a future volunteer trip. I’m sure that there is a solution to this water problem that would involve more organization and effort, something that I will critically state this country is lacking.

Miguel, our new art shop manager, arrived on Friday night. I am so glad he is here and hope he adjusts well! We left home at 8pm to get him from the airport and got home at 11pm. His flight was delayed. It was Maraya, Ilayas, Jennylove, Junior, Jireste, and I. We went in our neighbor taxi’s new van which he purchased to better accommodate our volunteers and summer campers. He will get more work this way, it’s true.

So, let me quickly update on a few things:

“Ewode” and“Jilande” – now live in a little house with tin walls our landlord constructed for them in our yard. Angelina is currently with another woman caring for her until we finish with a judgment as to who will have legal guardianship over Angelina. Jilande seems to want to live with Ewode now, but when she is near her mother, she treats him very poorly, leaving him all day long and late into the night, sometimes all night with the baby, running around wearing the shortest skirts possible. When she is here I see she sits at her house and stays right by Ewode’s side…for now at least. But Ewode has proven to be a great father from what I have seen.. as well as a really great partner to Jilande who she is blessed to have. And Jilande’s mother thinks that the baby is hers, although like her relationship with her daughter who at age 15 she sent to live with Ewode, she doesn’t seem to want to put in the necessary effort to raise her, she just doesn’t want anyone else to. And if the baby’s father wants to raise her, what right does she have to raise her anyway? So we’re heading back to the court. They told him to come back with the baby’s papers.. which is just a record of the birth that the hospital gives. She is not declared yet and has no birth certificate. He thought that he had this paper, but then learned that Jilande had given it to her mother who is storing it, and hasn’t been able to get it. After explaining this to the court, they said to come back on Monday.

Elisenia and siblings – She is doing well, although still quite developmentally behind and I would really like more expert opinion since the doctors who check her out just prescribe the same cold medicine over and over, as she remains very succeptible to colds. Here is a picture of her in shades with Eriverto (her caregiver's son and also a student on scholarship through our org.) and Maraya

She is now 2.5 years old and Maraya is 21 months. She can crawl and loves to eat, but she still doesn’t talk. That is what I want to learn more about. She makes noises and signs, but doesn’t speak words really. But she is very happy and alert. After her **younger than 2 with HIV positive mother** special HIV test was sent off and lost, we still haven’t retested her but her caregiver is aware of the possibility. The normal test should give a valid reading now and so I should take her, but have just been so busy (although I could send her caregiver, although she has never been and I planned on us going together) and am also nervous, but ya, gotta do what you gotta do.

Elisenia’s brother and sister Junior and Jennylove are doing well here with us. If we can’t adopt them because of funds, I would like to at least get their guardianship papers and one day try to get a visa so they can visit the US with us. I see that we gel more and more as a family every day. It’s pretty cool. Here is a video of Junior’s hen who hatched 9 chicks and a few pictures of the kids. He has one more setting and so does Chinaider. 

Jennylove and Ilayas going to school.
Junior and Maraya - two bosses.

Other siblings Alexandra and Elideau are still in Muñoz. Alexandra is with her godmother and Elideau is with a woman from the community who has a foreign partner and although she is from the batey, she is financially better off. Elideau’s student sponsors are seriously researching adopting him! I have been helping facilitate from this end and have a meeting with a CONANI lawyer on Monday morning as well. CONANI is the social work agency of the Dominican Republic. I am interested to see how this works, as I know lately people have had more luck adopting through the lawyer in Port-au-Prince who I visited a year ago, but the adoption agency Elideau’s future family is using in Ontario, Canada has given them specific people and offices to speak with here and believe they can take things quickly from there on, so we will see! I have been talking with many other adopters through e-mail and continuing to learn lots.

Law school – I really love it...but apparently not as much as I love Project Esperanza. When I sit down to work, I find myself doing a billion Project Esperanza tasks first, and then getting into law school stuff. I try to put Project Esperanza on the back burner, and would if someone would take over my role, but just don’t seem to be able to put it off to the side. I want things to go well so very, very much! So I am behind on law school but working hard to stay on pace. Mid-terms are coming up. I have taken many, many quizzes and written four essays so far. I thought my essay grades were horrible but apparently they are right on track as students hardly ever score over a 75 on law school essays, my advisor says. There is a woman who helps me 6 hours a day, 6 days a week with the kids and with housework so I can dedicate that time to law school. Before this I never hired anyone to help out in the house except Jireste’s aunt Mari for the first month that Junior, Enelbi, Elisenia, and Ebo were here last March (2012). I always wanted us to handle our stuff in our house, but it just became impossible.

Alright, now let me tell about this crazy week... in part 2.

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