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Day 1 in Haiti. I cannot describe the poverty and living conditions, about 80% live day to day. Today was an orientation to where we are staying, which for us is with a Civil Engineer. We have good food and accommodations that really would rival what we have in the U.S., minus the fact that electricity is unreliable, the roads or alley to the house is non-existence, and all around is poverty. ...

The wealthy houses are surrounded by walls, often with barbed wire or broken glass on the top to prevent intruders. Not to mention the fact that you really are locking yourself in the house. We were able to go to the ocean today via an old club med facility that is open for tourists. You can forget about the poverty for a while when you are in the ocean, however, it is still there outside the gates. Tonight we visited with a few families and were able to give them some candy, school supplies, a basketball, and shoes for their kids. I will try to post pictures soon. Tomorrow we are visiting three schools to hand out school supplies and some basketballs, footballs, and soccer balls. Goodnight or should I say Bonne nuit.

 

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At the Star of Hope's school in Rigaud in Haiti, a few years ago I met nine years old Negro Lorisme. He liked school but was also a very responsible boy, just like many other children have to be in Haiti.

After school, it was rarely play and sports that mattered. Instead, he gave the family's pigs water, chopping wood, and helping with other family chores.

The family with eight children was poor. His mother sold biscuits and other snacks along the way. His father managed the family's small piece of land where he grew vegetables. Usually it all went to the family, sometimes he sold some vegetables in the market to buy cooking oil and other necessities.

Negro Lorisme had big dreams for the future and wanted to be a teacher or a chauffeur. I hope he succeeds with it.

What started as am opportunity to walk across the road and share some candy with a little Hatian girl, that's when it hit me!  The realization of just how urgent the needs of this country are.  Although we did not speak the same language, we did have something in common, family. 
There was a woman that must not have been  far away, because as I approached her child she approached me.  She began struggling to find words I could understand.  She was asking me to look closer at the haqnd  that was supposed to accept the candy.  It was hyper extended and the contractures  made it impossible to hold it in a normal position. At the same time I was looking at this deformed arm, a man suddenly appeared. He was pointing at his eyes that were shining like frozen tears. The scleras were yellow. Even with the language barrier we both knew he was in discomfort. I laid my hand gently on his abdomen and he shook his head yes. That was where the pain was.
My heart broke for this man and for the little girl. I knew how I would feel if it was my family.  How can this family get help with no means of support, no transportation and in some areas no clinics.
 My first night in Haiti and while I was laying in bed I  a sked myself, now what?  How can  I, one person make a difference when the need is so great, so urgent? 
 Maybe I will discover that over the next few days, maybe not!
Nancy Wetig, Great Bend Kansas

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It has been very political unstable in Kenya over the last couple of year. But will there be “Amani” (peace) for everybody now?

Newly elected Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has hailed his poll win as a "triumph of democracy" and peace. After being declared winner of Monday's poll by the slimmest of margins - 50.07% - Mr Kenyatta said voters had upheld "respect for the rule of law", and promised to work with opponents.

However his main rival, Raila Odinga, vowed to challenge the result in court.

Mr Kenyatta is set to be tried at the International Criminal Court over violence that followed the 2007 polls. He is accused of fuelling the communal violence that saw more than 1,000 people killed and 600,000 forced from their homes.

On Saturday the election commission said Mr Kenyatta had narrowly avoided a run-off by winning 50.07% of votes in a credible and transparent poll.

But there are worries about the future. Many hope Mr Kenyatta will uphold the new constitution and continue to co-operate with the International Criminal Court, where he is fighting charges of crimes against humanity.

What does this new president mean for Kenya? What does it mean for the children and families that Star of Hope support? Can the country now move forward peacefully?

 

Deforestation in Haiti is a severe environmental problem. In 1923, over 60% of Haiti's land was forested; by 2006, less than 2% was. There are several reasons for that.

It started with the independence Haiti won in 1804. For the freedom France demanded a payment of 90 million gold francs (equivalent to some 20 billion dollar today) for lost property. Haiti's trees were felled and exported to France, in order to service the debt.

One of the main problems in more recent times has been logging operations, in response to Port-Au-Prince intensified demand for charcoal. And most people in Haiti still use wood / charcoal for cooking.

A direct effect to this deforestation is soil erosion. Each year some 15,000 acres of soil is washed away. It also damages dams, roads, houses and more.

I have seen all this during my time in Haiti. It is really sad. So I’m really happy to see the nursery tree project at the Star of Hope school in Bois Negresse. The school is preparing coffee and grapefruit plants to distribute to children in the end of school year. This will among other things teach the kids how to guard the trees, which is very important for the future. You can really see on the images that the kids are eager to learn more about tree planting. Great stuff!

Pictures below by Tony Boursiquot, Star of Hope project manager in Haiti.

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One thing you notice in Haiti when you get there is the large number of street children. Even right outside the airport they wandering around, and around in the capital Port-Au-Prince, you see them everywhere. Many live on the street, others live with their parents in basic shelters.

Children sometimes have lost both their parents and have nowhere to go. Others have previously been slaves and have fled harsh conditions.

Some begging on street corners. Some clean car windows when they stop at traffic lights, and hope they'll get tips for his job.

Tragically, in many ways, of course.

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