Sunday, February 28, 2010


Don't know this infant's name but it ought to be Moses.
Nathalie's apartment was one of the few dry areas in the neighborhood so she welcomed people who were flooded out.  This little tyke came in his own bed, usually a basin for washing clothes.

Torrential rains

This is a shot of the main road coming into Les Cayes.  The church in the background was flooded as most homes in the city.  The rain was torrential and came down too fast.
Here's a guy creatively using a fridge for other than it was designed.  Have heard that up to a dozen people have lost their lives just in town.  Livestock and gardens were lost.  We had just planted nine acres of moringa and I think we lost at least half in the flooding.

Overcast and rain

Got up this morning to the sound of thunder and rain.  Miserable.  There are breaks in the downpours that allowed the kids to leave the neighborhood and head over to the dining hall through the mud and water.  Then the rain came back so it's now a waiting game.
The folks living in tents or under tarps have got to be demoralized in this weather.  Keep them in your prayers today.  While your at it, pray for the thousands who don't have decent shelter.

Friday, February 26, 2010

New best friend

I was out and about this afternoon when Kiki saw me.  He came running over with his arms wide open.  Wish I was faster with the camera as that would have been a great shot. You'll have to settle for this one of him sitting comfortably near his new best friend.  If you knew what he's been through in his short life, you'd know that this is nothing less than a miracle.  Much credit goes to his housemother who is simply terrific.

Breaking ground

Our older boys started digging the foundation for the girls' home today.  Hard work, indeed.  In the background you see the white carpenters' workshop, the small chicken coop, the unpainted pre-school.  Donald Stevens of REACH is heading up this project using an alternative building method.

Quiet desperation

Today was an exercise in patience.  We've been waiting and waiting for word that the containers were off loaded and that the M/V SeaHunter was on its way here.  Still waiting. 
Received some food and over-the-counter medical supplies this morning from a warehouse in Nassau that were brought in by plane.  Don't know who was behind this but it is much appreciated.  Food and clothing are the hot items right now which explains our anxiety regarding the SeaHunter. 
We were visited again by individuals representing several large NGOs.  They are very curious about the Cavaillon children so we're thinking that there's something going on to which we are not privy.  The kids are adjusting amazingly well and have begun integrating themselves with the others.
Met with some folks who want to start a soup kitchen for poor families.  We'll probably join them if they can organize it without our help.  We're talking something like 500 families.  Couldn't keep this up for very long but we're hoping that Cross International will continue to help and maybe another non-profit, too.  By the way, if your looking to support a wonderful and effective non-profit, consider Cross International.  They have been with us for years, through thick and thin, and have not faltered.  Look them up on the web. 

Here we go...

The M/V SeaHunter is in port at Miragoane.  Berthony Piard went there this morning to assure that all go smoothly.  But this is Haiti so he's now in PaP trying to get the General Director of Customs to call the Director of Customs at Miragoane and authorize the off loading of the containers.  Seems that the reams of paperwork do not suffice.  Wonder what the next obstacle will be? 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Metalwork Shop

This is our metalwork shop.  It's really just the front of the small depot where we keep the welding tools.  It has been my dream for a long time to have a quality professional school: tailor shop, plumbing, carpentry, mechanics, cooking and baking, electricity, computer science, cosmetology and barber shop.  Having a vocational skill would be a priceless gift especially now with all the plans to re-construct Haiti.


Heard some screaming this afternoon.  Found the source, Dave, who claimed to have just been accosted by a terrible three year old.  When I asked where the culprit was Dave pointed him out.  Look at the  different emotions in his manner in three seconds time.

M/V SeaHunter

Received an email from the Portland Press Herald's embedded journalist, Bill Nemitz, telling me that they are scheduled to arrive in Miragoane this evening (in about an hour). It will probably take the better part of the day tomorrow to have the containers inspected and then offloaded. The ship will then head back out to sea and set her sights for here. So we are looking at Saturday to offload the rest of the ship's humanitarian relief cargo. Boy, oh boy. Can't wait!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Before I had a car down here, I had to walk or take a tap-tap to get around. I’d often be walking along dirt roads when a fancy car would fly by kicking up dust and small stones. The passengers were comfortably ensconced in their air-conditioned vehicle unaware that they had just made my life a tad bit more miserable. In those pre-car days, it took forever to get anywhere and I’d be dripping in sweat and covered with road dirt. Just like everyone else. I’d visit the offices of the large NGOs where the employees were clean and busy and given a form to fill out. One time I was seen by one of the higher-ups (he recognized me from church). He gave me ball caps for the children emblazoned with the logo of the NGO. We needed food but I bit my tongue and said “Thanks”.
There are times when I forget. I refused to see someone yesterday who had walked a very long distance to see me because I was busy doing "important" work. Will try not to repeat this behavior today.

My truck

My truck was finally fixed and brought to me yesterday.  It's not pretty but goes almost anywhere.  The previous owner was Father Joseph Balthazar who is now back home in Belgium. Father Bal is a humble and wise man who loved the Haitians.  I'm hoping that by driving his old truck some of his wisdom and patience will rub off on me.

Ain't it grand ?

Finished painting our new warehouse this afternoon.  What do you think?  Secure?  Check.  Spacious?  Check.  Inexpensive?  Check.   Eco-friendly?  Check.


Fortunately for this little girl her mother and father and sister are fine.  The family lost their home in PaP and dad lost his job so they ended up in Cavaillon with the children.  We've hired the mother to watch over the others and the father will help Jocelyn in the neighborhood doing activities with the kids, supervising and being a jack-of-all-trades.  The plan is to get them on their feet so they can leave us if they wish.

Monsieur Dede

Assistant Security Chief, Monsieur Dede.  Not too intimidating with his smiley face pendant, he manages to get the respect of everyone by being diplomatic and calm. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The graduate

One of our graduates called me today.  He had been working at a hotel in PaP which was destroyed on that cruel day last month.  His wife and two children are fine but he now has no job, no place to stay and no family to help him out.  He started crying on the phone because things were going pretty well for him and now he's lost it all.  I tried in vain to encourage him.  Will call him tomorrow and arrange for a friend in PaP to help him out temporarily.  And Jonas is but one of hundreds of thousands of people!

Lazy afternoon

Kiki St Fort and I hanging this afternoon.  Today was spent making sure as much that can be done to receive, store the relief supplies is done.   Kiki, above, is the youngest of four brothers.  Three are with us and the fourth is with grandma.  Some of you know Herbie, the oldest brother.  Wanna hear something that stopped me in my tracks?  I'm older than Kiki's grandmother!  Yikes.


Faubert is the chief of junior security.  Twelve of the older boys help us by supervising the children, doing patrols in the neighborhood and fields and watching our animals.  They wear these nifty, fluorescent vests so everyone knows who they are. 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Latest tremor

Everyone here is talking about the tremor this morning.  It was a 4.9 on the scale which is not much when compared to the big one.  However, when houses are barely standing after an earthquake and a tremor like this comes along more houses crumble and more lives are lost.  Heard that over 150 people died this morning.  Have not been able to verify this on the web so I hope it's false. 
It has been raining off and on so the poor people in the tent city must be miserable.  Keep them in your prayers.

Good news !

Yes, we are beyond elated to hear that the M/V SeaHunter will be finally heading here.  We aren't the only ones who will be benefiting from her cargo.  There's a place in town for abandoned infants, there's Mother Theresa's place, there's Sr. Flora's small orphanage, thirteen other orphanages, several small clinics, poor families and the St Vincent de Paul Society here in town.   Some of our employees who have lost loved ones and have become host families to the survivors will be getting something.  The families in the tent cities will get their share.  So, you see, there's a whole lotta folk who are happy to hear that our ship will finally be coming in!

Two out of three

Here are two Nubian kids of the three their mother had three days ago.  Nubians are larger than our native goats and produce more milk.  This mother will be hard pressed to provide for her three.


This is Pierre.  He's a neighbor and attends our school.  His mother and three sisters (behind him) help us with the pots and pans after every supper in exchange for food. 

M/V SeaHunter

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Harold Dorime
This is becoming a regular scene- one of the boys sitting by himself reflecting on life, the future.  One can't help but try to sort out the meaning of things in light of all that has happened and is happening.  Harold is from Tiburon and his family is dirt poor.  He's a good student and always hoped to study in PaP someday.
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M/V SeaHunter

Several of you have asked so here's an update.  We will know tomorrow morning if the SeaHunter will set sail for Haiti.  You can read the article by Bill Nemitz if you google Portland Press Herald today and get the latest info on the ups and downs of the ship bringing in relief supplies.  Rub a rabbit's foot, cross your fingers, throw a penny in a well...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Our newest, Ti Claude

This is Ti Claude, four years old.  Was with his mother in PaP who was hurt in the earthquake.  She'll be fine and able to recuperate faster now that we have taken charge of her son's welfare.  I'm not so sure that Ti Claude agrees with this.  He's holding all his worldly belongings.

Thank you, Margaret, John and Jack Cooper

A great big THANK YOU to Jack, Margaret and John Cooper for the towels and linen, clothes, sandals and sneakers, food and tools.  John and Jack Cooper, father and son, flew into the Les Cayes airport at noon today with supplies for us.  There was lots of rice (and I mean lots), powdered milk, disposable diapers, footgear, clothing for boys and girls, tools...  What a blessing for us!

Friday, February 19, 2010

White gardenia

To the right of the clinic entrance are two small white gardenias and a bud about to happen.  Came across them today for the first time.  Showed them to the nurses and they ooohhed and aaahhed.  Showed them to some kids who were nearby and they said, "Yeah, so?" and gave me that generational look.  See, pretty normal, huh?


One of our new little girls came to us with this condition.  Dokte Jerry is treating her and she'll be like new in short order. 


Well, shut my mouth! Or-- better late than never!  Or-- talk about perfect timing!

Are you sitting down?  This is just too freaky.  Had some "visitors" today asking questions.  One was a UNICEF person who was accompanying the local Social Welfare guy who is a friend of ours.  We've worked with each other a long time. When I heard that the lady was from UNICEF I wondered if my blog had found its way to the big NGO land.  Naw, too quick.  At the end of the "visit" she asked if we needed any tents and I mean tents like the kind for wedding receptions.  I said yes and we should be getting three tents soon.  I'll let you know when (if) they arrive.
So what I said yesterday was true but I won't be able to say it again once those tents arrive.  Hmmm?  I will not look a gift horse in the mouth. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happiness is new pajamas

And then there are the lighter moments like this one.  I think she likes her new pajamas.

New girls

It's not all smiles all the time for the new girls.  Though they may not be able to articulate how they feel, we know that this transition is difficult for them.  Keep them and us in your prayers, please.

Not again!

A friend of Peter's sent him the link to an article in TIME Magazine entitled 
UNICEF seeks to keep kids out of Haiti orphanages
The journalists who penned this article did a poor job of doing research.  Maybe they had a deadline to meet?  They generalized from stories of some orphanages to make it sound like anyone who desires to help the children is a borderline child trafficker.  I am aware of many shelters for children who do fantastic work with very little means.  We do everything in our power to care for children and to give them a safe and loving home.  Yes, there are places that are nothing more than businesses for the owner or worse. But to lump us all together?
The writers were unfair to parents who are so desperately poor that they will consider giving up their child so that s/he can eat, maybe go to school, have a chance at a better life.  These people are not callous nor are they loveless.  They are POOR.  What a disservice to the people of Haiti!
The director of UNICEF Haiti is quoted as saying "No to the orphanages in Haiti!".  Wow, what a sound bite.  Remember the post I wrote a couple of days ago when I was ranting about the fancy offices, the cold air-conditioning, the shiny cars of the big NGOs and their strategy to "make systemic change" rather than waste their time actually helping children by feeding them, clothing them, providing medical care...?  Well, the one big NGO that had converted an old mansion into a gleaming office space with beautiful furniture and striking art work, that had lots of very busy people working on their computers, that had security guards protecting them from the riff-raff, that had paved over a large courtyard so that they could park their new SUVs...was UNICEF Haiti.  They made a conscious choice not to practice direct intervention to assist a child.  They have not helped any orphanage that I'm aware of in providing the basics like food, clothing, medicine, education.  How very noble to stand there now and say "No to the Haitian orphanages!".  I was told "No" years ago by them and have cringed every time I see the slick fundraising UNICEF puts out every holiday season.
Phew,  thanks for listening.  I feel better now.

Big brother

One of the things I am proudest of is the way the older boys take care of the younger children.  This is Manoucheka in the arms of Ti-Kout ("Shorty" cause he's already over six feet and only sixteen).  The housemothers get a lot of help from the older guys. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dr Jerry

Our friend, Dr Jerry from Alaska, arrived this morning and will be spending the month with us. After a small meatless lunch, he saw 23 of the new children and supervised/taught Joey Lamarre on the finer techniques in checking out children. Great to have you with us, Jerry.

Ash Wednesday 2010

A photo of Djames, one of the few who did not wipe off his cinders right after the Ash Wednesday service. Notice he has an appropriate, solemn demeanor. Any Serra Catholic School people out there?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Unlike all the previous Mardi Gras celebrations I've seen (mostly heard), today was subdued. Understandable considering the great loss felt by everyone. Except for us grass-root small non-profits, there's been no international relief here. How much longer will we be ignored? Tensions are high in the city as people are hungry and have no means to purchase food. Families are hurting under the strain of hosting those from PaP. Heard that a small vessel came to port this afternoon and that there was a riot as people fought to get food. No police or UN military for security. No real plan other than give out food and blankets. Not good.
We spent the day keeping the kids busy and happy, updating our archives with the new children's info, trying to reply to emails when HughesNet won't cooperate, making sure we are covering all our bases for the arrival of the SeaHunter to avoid another riot...
Funny thing, no children's rights people came today. Must have been a sanctioned day off (a mental health day?) or they read my earlier post. Looks like I struck a nerve as I've never had that many comments on a post before.
There's a new glitch with regards the M/V SeaHunter that could be the end this mercy mission so please say a prayer that it gets to set sail tomorrow.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday so we will be celebrating Mass, one of the favorites of the year as all the children get to come forward and have us dirty their foreheads. We wish you a thoughtful and rejuvenating Lent.

Monday, February 15, 2010

T-shirt distribution

Top photo shows a slight improvement in the mood of the new Cavaillon kids. They had just received some new t-shirts handed out by Berthony and Nathalie. Can't be sure but I'd say they were pleased. Now we gotta get 'em trousers and skirts.

Warning: bitter post

We were visited today by five representatives from the UN, AVSI (an Italian international non-profit) and Terre des Hommes (a Swiss international NGO). So far, there have been twenty investigators come to "visit". They are all concerned for the welfare of the children and were pulled in to Haiti from other countries to defend the rights of the children. They asked questions like: does every child have a bed? What are they eating? Are we providing counseling? Are they getting medical treatment? What are our plans for their education? We answered their queries and they appeared satisfied.
So, being the smart-aleck I am, I asked them questions like: How much are you paid? Are you getting hazardous duty benefits? Who pays your rent? Who paid for your new car? Do you have an expense account? How many children have you fed today? Bought any medicine? Would you consider tithing to help the children? Silence.
They come to guarantee the safety of the children but don't offer us a dime for their care. I wonder how much is being spent on this? How many reports will be generated in triplicate and then collated and made into a major human rights publication?
Now I know that some of this is absolutely necessary but there are times, like right now, when it just seems out of whack with reality. Where were these inquisitive, caring people before the earthquake? Child abuse and neglect have been rampant for years here. The whole restavek situation has been begging to be addressed for a very long time.
About ten years ago I went to PaP and sought out help for the children at the major NGOs. Beautiful offices, gleaming cars, freezing air-conditioning are what I saw. Everyone was busy writing, editing, proposing, meeting, planning and strategizing... No money in the budgets for feeding or clothing children. No, that kind of help is non-productive! They were working to change systems so that future generations will be better off. Ahuh!
Told you this was bitter.

Ministry of Education

What? The kids were hooting and hollering this afternoon when they heard that there was no school tomorrow. Kids!! The Ministry of Education announced over the airwaves that the academic schedule had to be respected and it called for a national holiday for Mardi Gras which is a traditional time of partying and...(family blog so can't say more). The folks who party usually need forty days of Lent to recover.
It strikes me as odd to revert to the old calendar as though nothing has changed here. The children have missed a load of school days and getting back in the rhythm was just around the corner. But-- what do I know?

Update M/V Sea Hunter

As far as I know, the Sea Hunter is still in Miami but should be getting underway very soon. Thank goodness! I know nothing (almost nothing) about maritime regs and requirements but things have been sorted out and she will be headed southeast to Miragoane to offload several containers and then on to Les Cayes to transfer the rest of its cargo to smaller boats to the wharf in town.
I've started getting requests from other small NGOs whose supplies have been depleted in their efforts to assist the hurt and displaced from PaP. Our children will be the first beneficiaries, followed by the orphanages in our network and then the NGOs we usually work with. The big boys (large NGOs) are still getting their act together-- at least down here in the south.


See how the spaces in between the containers has been filled in with the cut-out walls of the middle container?

Metal roofing going up.
We will end up with a spacious open warehouse when we started with three cramped containers. The space between the roof and the walls will be heavy-duty screening and chicken wire so we have ventilation. Gonna get hot in there.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Two truckloads

It took two trips to get all the children from LaMadonne to Castel-Pere but they made it all safe and sound. Would have used the bus but the seats have been removed so that we can use it for transporting humanitarian supplies when the ship arrives which we hope will be soon. Things are looking good on that score.

First gathering

Full house this morning at church for the entire ESPWA family. Rough head-count: 863

The new little guys mixed in well with our older little guys at Sunday School. There are three classrooms for Sunday School taught by our older boys. Program was started by Amanda and she should be proud of how well it has continued. Special thanks to Joanel Dejantus for keeping the flame alive.

Good news

Sandwiched in between Nathalie and Johnny, Jackson and his daughters smile as they were reunited this afternoon. The prognosis is excellent. Bone's not broken only bruised and the infection is not deep. He'll be staying at the hospital for about a week taking meds and making sure he recuperates 100%. To say that Jackson was relieved would be the understatement of the year. Let's enjoy this good news a bit!

Popular sentiment

Fueled by an eloquent and charismatic Protestant pastor, there have been popular manifestations these last few days in Cayes asking (begging) the United States to take over Haiti. Little US flags were everywhere yesterday afternoon and petitions were being signed by lots of people giving their approval for the US to look upon Haiti as another Puerto Rico. There's a hushed minority who thinks any US involvement is an "occupation" but they are too outnumbered to speak out.
The pastor has been all over the radio and television since the earthquake talking this up and he's gotten into a very public debate with the mayor who is having a hard time defending Haitian sovereignty in light of the inability of the government to meet the incredible needs of the people.
Whatever happens, the US will there to help the Haitian people.

Falling thru the cracks

I was contacted by Aude Hulot who works for Alliance Francaise here. She rents a room at Mr. Tulce's who was gracious and generous enough to take in 21 people (three families), mostly children, who were victims of the PaP earthquake. Host families have been promised assistance but none has materialized. Requests were made at some major NGOs (one which received hundreds of million of dollars in US donations through the church) for food assistance but nothing has happened. The large NGOs, by their nature, cannot respond quickly in a crisis so maybe its just a question of time. I hope so. The problem is that the people are hungry now and Mr. Tulce will soon become a secondary victim.
Children who are victims of the earthquake were told by the authorities that they could attend any school free of charge as there was a program to reimburse the schools but three Catholic schools refused to accept them unless they paid a registration fee and had uniforms made and had all their school books. These people have lost everything and to require all this is simply mystifying to me. We can't help with school but we can and will provide food for these people.

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

from today's Gospel

"Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh."

Luke 6

Is there a more appropriate text to be proclaimed here and now?

TiOurs (little Bear) strikes again

I was heading from the clinic to the Guest House yesterday afternoon in a down mood as things have been far from easy. Trying to organize and integrate 103 new children, planning on the unloading of the M/V SeaHunter in two locations here, dealing with half the workers not coming in because of the Three Official Days of Mourning and then I saw TiOurs and I smiled. I needed this at that particular moment. He flopped over to the Quad with me and Peter gave him some trail mix which visitors had left behind. He then proceeded to distribute the mix to his friends one peanut, one M&M, one a time. What a hoot!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Stupid bandwidth limits

I've used up my allotted bandwidth on HughesNet, the satellite internet service, so this will be brief. Don't even think about seeing a photo!
I posted photos of two little girls earlier today and mentioned their father, the school-teacher. Well, because he delayed returning to the hospital for further medical attention on his bad leg he might very well have lost it. We'll find out tomorrow morning if his leg can be spared or if he'll join the hundreds of thousands of new amputees in Haiti. So, please, say a prayer tonight or tomorrow for Jackson, the father of the two girls. He's lost his wife, his home, his job and now may lose his leg.

Spaghetti 4 breakfast

If there's one thing Haitian children love for breakfast, it's spaghetti. Frankel tuned out a fine meal this morning using a dash of hot peppers, some Magi, a sprinkling of garlic and a wallop of tomato sauce (ketchup). The kids dug right in.
Top photo is of a young mother and her child. Don't know her story except that she has nowhere to go.


Top photo is the older sister who appears happy enough to have spent the night at LaMadonne. Her toddler sister was busy napping when I stopped in this morning. Their mother died in the earthquake and their father was badly hurt. He's with us, too, but needs more medical attention. As soon as he is comfortable with leaving them here, he'll be going to Hospital Brenda for wound treatment on his left leg. Dad was a teacher but the school was destroyed.

Cavaillon kids sponsors

Deacon Peter, Berthony, Paula representing Marquette, Michigan, me, Miss B. (Bernadette) and Beatrice. Miss B. and Beatrice are from Orlando and represent a group of Haitian-Americans. We have been dialoging with Paula, Miss B and Beatrice about the care of the Cavaillon kids. They have promised to stay involved for the long haul. Great news!

How many?

In the comments yesterday someone asked how many children are we caring for at this time. Won't know until later today when the second busload of Cavaillon kids arrives. The total number of resident children should be around 800 but I'll let you know exactly when I know. We also feed approximately 75 to 100 children who do not live with us but who regularly come by at mealtime. Should I mention the children in our six schools and those we treat in the clinic? Looks like we have to sit down and recalculate as there have been more in all categories since the earthquake.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Good news

Nathalie with two boys who will come to us tomorrow. Who wants to bet these are brothers?

Berthony waxing eloquent and calming the folks in Cavaillon.

One busload of children from the Cavaillon group was allowed to leave so half of them will be well fed and sleep indoors tonight. Berthony was very diplomatic and convinced the anxious neighbors that everything was on the up and up. Thank you, Berthony.

One long month

This boy lost his mother in the rubble of the earthquake. He's one of the Cavaillon kids.

It was exactly a month ago that the earth moved and shook and destroyed Port-au-Prince killing as many as 230,000 Haitians. They say that over a million Haitians lost a family member on the 12th of January. Many more lives were changed within minutes. Our children spent most of the morning in prayer for those who lost their lives, for those who lost their homes and jobs. They prayed for the children. Please remember our sister and brother Haitians in your prayers.

Talk about drama

The children are still in Cavaillon. Why? Well, the concerned neighbors have heard several stories about the intentions of the Haitian-Americans and others in regards the children and they have heard the stories of the Baptist missionaries in PaP who were jailed on the suspicion of child trafficking so they took the matter into their own hands. They have blocked the bus from leaving the small tent area as their way to protect the children. Berthony Constant is heading there to resolve this situation as I write this. Gotta love this place!

Thursday, February 11, 2010