Starteam from Kansas visited star of hope development projects in Haiti from 8 to 14 of February. They have visited 4 of star of hope schools and one Catholic school seeking help. 1500 pupils that they met in schools welcomed them warmly and gifted them with a load of love, gratitude, experience, needs and deep relationship to go back home on Valentine day to share with all sponsors and everyone who would like to be part of hope development in Haiti.
Happy Valentine day to you all!
There's a famous book that begins, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times."
That pretty much sums up Haiti.
To say it is a country of stark contrasts is an understatement. Haiti's two worlds are tied together by a common location. It is a land that boasts the endless beauty of the aqua-blue Caribbean Ocean and a misty mountained landscape. And yet, nearly half of its 6 million people choose to live on top of each other in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The city was decimated two years ago in the earthquake and still people live there making homes and eeking out a living on top of the ruins and filth. The other half of Haitian population is scattered in small towns in the rural areas. Life is very difficult there, too, but for this Kansan, the choice of where to live is obvious.
The dual worlds are as different as night and day.
Black and white.
Haitian and Blanc.
In an effort to show us the dichotomy of Haiti, our hosts took us to Club Indigo on Thursday. Formerly Club Med, the facility is under renovation, but it points out life enjoyed by Haiti’s wealthy with its great restaurant, two swimming pools and a private beach. Vendors at the resort had their fine wares well displayed as would be expected. Just hours later, we visited an open-air market in Port-au-Prince that was so divergent from the high life that our host hesitated to take us.
Although a very unkind word, I can't think of any other that comes close. We'd seen the shacks lined up on the sidewalks and into the streets with people selling everything imaginable, but I had no idea what was just behind them. Clean and unclean and new and used items as well as living and dead animals were piled on filth and debris from years of markets. The smell was unbelievable. I have never been so happy to leave a place in my life.
I am having an internal battle with myself over the experience. I don't want to be judgmental, but people should not have to live that way.
One of the biggest obstacles to a better life for Haitians is water.
Haiti is an island nation surrounded by water, yet good water is in short supply. Most people do not have running water in their homes and those that do have city water are afraid to drink it. Water for most people comes from communal public wells or privately dug ones. Poor people have access to water only if they can carry it. Wealthy people have other options, including buying bottled water.
Haiti is a country that has suffered under terrible dictators and yet as oppressed as they have been, Haitians smile, don't complain (even about the heat and mosquitoes) and seem to be content with what they have ... and don't have. It is a country of very poor people and very rich ones with a narrow band of middle class. The climb from the low end to the high end is not impossible, but very difficult.
The only way for changes to happen is through education. Parents across the board realize this. That's why the work done by non-government organizations like Star of Hope is so important.
The image of children who live in abject poverty the children and struggle for basic necessities like food and water makes seeing them at school that much more amazing. They arrive at school -- sometimes after an hour-long walk to get there -- dressed in clean, pressed uniforms, smiling faces and girls with ribboned hair. Their minds are bright and their spirits are willing, which is in stark opposition to what one might think about their futures.
Here's the biggest irony I see in Haiti.
The worst thing that has happened to our Caribbean brothers is the earthquake that killed nearly a half a million people. However, because of that monumental disaster, the world has come to its aid and Haiti is receiving the support it deserves.
It was the worst of times; it was the best of times.
Is it possible that the worst of times can be followed by the best of times?
March 1st 2012- Training session that star of hope organizes this week for 25 preschool teachers in Port-au-Prince with TIPA TIPA is moving well to 4th day of training lessons. Today trainees had the opportunity to visit one of the best school in Petion-ville that is part of training program to have better idea to run a good school. They have been impressed by the school environment inside the class-rooms and outdoor that is for them very favorable to apply learning and teaching lessons they receive in the training. For them this school is a reference to improve any school to model school.
How do you know if your prayers have been answered or if you are an answer to a prayer?
Two years ago, immediately after the earthquake in Haiti, the Justice and Peace Commission at Prince of Peace started planning a way to help our Caribbean brothers. After a full year of trying to make some inroads with Catholic Relief Service that led nowhere, our path crossed with Barry Borror and Star of Hope USA just 10 miles down the road from us in Ellinwood.
He was the answer to our first prayer. We started talking seriously about some of us making a trip to Haiti to find a sister parish. Star of Hope has had missions in Haiti for nearly 30 years. It did not just surface after the earthquake like many organizations. Father Reggie Urban and I had thought about making the trip on our own, and although I felt like God would protect us, I was very happy when He intervened with Barry.
A well-seasoned missionary with many countries and a zillion miles under his belt, I knew we would be in good hands.
Our second prayer was answered by Tony Boursiquot, Barry's right-hand man in Haiti. Tony was asked to find a suitable parish for us to partner with and he found one with Our Lady of Perpetual Help just down the road from a Star of Hope mission in Boyer.
Barry and Tony have worked together for most of the time Star of Hope has been in Haiti and I'm quite certain they believe they have been the answers to each others prayers. Barry needed a visionary with solid people skills and Tony needed a vehicle to help his fellow Haitians.
At this point I'm going to stop numbering the prayers that have been answered on this journey. There are simply too many to count. Suffice it to say the Lord has been busy on our behalf.
Another prayer was answered when Father Roderick Mitial agreed to meet with us and embraced a partnership. Father Roderick speaks fluent English, which will make the ongoing communication between us much easier.
Father Roderick has literally built the three churches he serves as well as a school named Good Shepherd with 300 students.
A year ago Prince of Peace raised $600 from a St. Patrick's Day dinner and sent it to Father Roderick. The new church in Dubuission had a roof and the gift allowed him to put in windows and doors that he otherwise had no money for.
Last week, the team of Jan Frenzl, Joleen Tustin and I were able to tell Father Roderick about the nearly $7,000 collected during Mass the Sunday before we left. I was truly amazed at the generosity of my fellow parishioners. As we place the first $1,000 in his hands, we asked Father what he would do with it. Without hesitation, he said he would pay the teachers and staff. Father admitted that before we arrived, he did not know how he would pay them this month.
Barry has seen many such examples of God's amazing power and love and has a way of explaining things in a way that makes you believe it.
He said that God's time is timeless and nearly 30 years ago He had a hand in creating Star of Hope Haiti. He brought Barry and Tony together to do His work.
Star of Hope Haiti has been in place so that when our hearts were opened -- not only Haiti's need, but the very real one inside of us -- it would be there to guide us in our growth.
I know that we have planted a seed in Haiti that I hope will continue to grow. As I travel home tomorrow, I know that my many prayers have been answered and many more are in the works. I feel as if God has looked down on our little mission and has smiled.
I have found new meaning in my life and feel renewed in many ways. I am anxious to get home and share all of the ways that God has opened my heart.
In the end, it doesn't matter whether it was your prayer that was answered or if you are the answer to a prayer. It only matters that prayers are heard and answered. Believe it!
I've never dreamed of being a rock star. Ask anyone who's ever been within ear shot when I'm singing and they'll know why.
But today, my first day in Haiti, I sure felt like one.
We arrived at Pentecostal Holiness School, sponsored in part by Star of Hope, with all 575 students waiting for us to to get there. Never mind that it was after school and that they all had other places to be.
Never mind that they were dressed to the hilt in crisp, colorful school uniforms.
Never mind that they's been waiting for us in the humid, tropical heat. They all seemed genuinely happy to see us.
A delegation of preselected students approached us with warm, open smiles and bright, shining eyes. They each shook our hands with their brown fingers lingering on our white, seldom-seen skin.
"Blanc, blanc (white)," they whispered with enthusiasm that was gaining speed.
It became a chant filled with broad smiles and giggles.
It was all for us along with hand-made banners and corsages made from red ribbon.
They were clamoring for us, reaching out for us, touching us -- just like a rock star.
It's heady stuff for three Catholics on a simple mission.
It seemed like all of the girls, especially the little ones, wanted to hold our hands and stroke our skin.
One little girl asked Jan (Frenzl) to take her home. I, on the other hand, scared a young boy when I took off my sunglasses. I'm sure he had never seen a blanc person with two different colored eyes.
We were paraded through different classes at school and some of the kids were brave enough to ask questions. Do you have children?
What are your parents' names?
Is it hot where you live? (Try explaining snow to a Hatian. It's kind of like trying to tell a blind person about color.)
We had fun at the expense of our host, Tony, who couldn't remember our names. Of course, they all start with the letter J, but we laughed and teased because all middle-aged white women look alike.
It's an odd feeling, being in the minority, but it's also a great one to be acknowledged without even having done anything. Barry Borror, our Star of Hope guide, says it's because they see the possibility in us.
The possibility that we can care enough to help.
The possibility that we'll share our story and that you will care enough to help.
The possibility that God will move us into action that will be beneficial to us all.
There are lots of hopes pinned on us and I am grateful and willing to accept the challenge.
I know with God's help, I can.
After all, I am a rock star. Today anyway.
Soon I'm on my way to Manila and the Philippines again. It is always a pleasure to go there. Star of Hope gang do a great job down there. There will be text, images, videos, and more. Looks like it will be a tough schedule, I will be extended by a few days from the planned trip.
Some pictures from school Taytay from 2011. Star of Hope has been working in the Philippines since 1983 and the school in Taytay is today a leading school in the slums of Manila. There's more coming soon:
I've blogged about Cirec before. Right now I go through thousands of images and information from there, so thought it was time again. I visited Colombia and Cirec 2005, 2008, 2011. What strikes me when I go through the material is how many small details that goes in to making a prosthesis, and develop it so that the recipient can use it in the best and most comfortable way. There are plaster casts, making the prosthesis, then it shall be adjusted to allow it to fit as well as possible. I'm really impressed with how good all of the process is. Really great job from everyone involved!
Add all the hours of rehabilitation, training and recovery. Many feel the very bad psychologically also. They have been in an work related accident, car accident or been the victim of an attack by a land mine or similar. Terrible!
Cirec is Colombia's leading institutions for the manufacture of artificial limbs and rehabilitation of the disabled. They also work with advocacy for improved attitudes towards people with disabilities. Star of Hope has been working with Cirec since 1985. You can also support operations by donating some money to the Star of Hope.
More on Flickr here.
Dennis Thern for Star of Hope.
I'm trying to clean up the last bits and pieces from my trip to Argentina last November. There is always some little things left: a short note that is not finished or some video that are not edited correctly. But now I think I have tied it all together. I hope so anyway.
After 30 years of hard work in and around Saenz Pena by Kenth Johansson and Alba, their sons and staff the work really begin to give accurate results that delight. Initially, the work was to save lives by building houses, water systems, health clinics and more. The work has slowly evolved.
Now, increasingly, we see more young people receive vocational training through its own trade school, or they go to college and university through a scholarship from the Star of Hope and are trained as a teacher, nurse, accountant, police and other professions. Within a few years, the first lawyer will graduate from the minority group Qom (also called Toba, but are used less and less), great successes! The sponsors gifts and efforts have really given ever finer results. Many young boys are taught to play soccer in the soccer school, which also gives them a good hobby to get involved with.
Some pictures from Argentina:
Feb 27,2012: Star of hope Haiti organizes second training session for preschool teachers of 5 schools supported by Star of hope in Haiti. The training is given by TIPA TIPA, a welknown Trainer institution national and international. it is one week training about curriculum, participation, technique and method to increase teacher teaching capacity that is part of schooling program to drive schools supported by SOHH to model school
Day five in Haiti finds me on a Sunday wanting to clear up some misconceptions I had before I arrived. For instance, I thought:
1. The heat would be oppressive. It's hot here, but not like in Kansas. I hear it has been in single digits this week and there is a winter storm watch for tonight. Here it's been in the 80s and 90s all week. Yesterday's 91 translated into a heat index of 99 because of the humidity. I have always heard people complain that "it's not the heat, it's the humidity."
In reality, it's the heat. High temps, dry air and high winds are just plain uncomfortable in Kansas. Give me 100 degrees including humidity, a cold Prestige beer and good conversation under a mango tree in Haiti and I'm just fine. (It's OK to hate me just a little.)
And besides, the humidity has done wonders for my dry winter skin.
2. The mountains are more like foothills. We made a trip into the mountains yesterday and I learned differently. You know when it's hot in Colorado Springs and you go up to Pikes Peak? Getting out of the car at the Baptist Mission at Fermete was similar; I would have liked to have had a jacket. (As an aside, we met the elderly man and his wife whose grandparents founded the mission. Cool stuff.)
Jan said the drive up the mountains reminded her of Europe. "I didn't know you've been to Europe," I said. "I haven't," she replied. It was extremely funny, but maybe you had to be there. (I'll bet you wish you were.)
The mountain was 4,459 feet high and we could see the clouds covering Port-au-Prince. Our guides had hoped we'd see the actual city. Barry did his best to point out places of interest anyway.
3. The insects and mosquitoes would be nearly intolerable. Maybe it's my Kansas experience, but Haitian mosquitoes are nothing. They are small, brown, not too plentiful and I haven't seen one land on me yet. There's no way one could carry off a small child like the ones in Kansas can.
Do you want to know the difference between Kansans and Haitians? Even though we should be mosquito tolerant, we continue to slap at them in an attempt to kill them. Haitians not only don't bother, they don't even seem to notice.
Also of interest is that, although our host Tony's home has completely open rooms and windows, there are no swarms of bugs at the lights at night. The chickens in the yard and the geckos on the walls probably help.
Even though the bugs aren't bad, we still sleep under mosquito nets at night. It kind of makes me feel like a princess. Jan didn't have a net the first night and was plagued by one buzzing in her ear. She tried to keep it out by pulling the bed sheet up, but then she was too hot. (She tells the story much better.)
I do have a series of bug bites on my legs, but they don't itch and I never felt anything bite me. The only thing about them that bothers me is that I can't shave my legs.
4. Haiti is a Third World country with limited 20th century amenities. Obviously, this isn't true since I have full access to the Internet any time I need it. And to my surprise, even people of meager means have cell phones here because they are given away free. They are the kind that you have to buy prepaid cards for, but nobody does. They use them for incoming calls that are free.
I worried a lot about restroom facilities before I got here. My guide and host have timed all of our outings so carefully that I have always had access to a flush toilet.
5. Everything would be dirty. There is, of course, a major problem with sanitation that we see daily. But the people themselves are clean. Even in a crowd there is no smell of body odor. Everywhere you look, especially today because it is the big laundry day, people are washing their clothes by hand and laying them out to dry. Children arrive at school clean with freshly laundered uniforms. That they take such pride in their personal hygiene says a lot about the character of Haitians. With such limited water, it is a real struggle for them.
I have many more random thoughts to share, but I hear a Prestige beer calling me and a mango tree waiting. (P.S. The house boys are really cute. Fortunately for them, I'm married.)
February 7, 2012 a team of three people from the Prince of Peace Parish, Great Bend, Kansas will travel to Haiti to learn what their churches donations have accomplished. The church in Great Bend has provided earthquake recovery funds to help a small rural parish.
Star of Hope was chosen to facilitate the relationship because our America office is close to Great Bend and our work on the ground in Haiti is well documented. For more than 30 years Star of Hope has worked in a partnership with local community based organizations in Haiti to help build a world where children become educated, healthy adults who are involved in their communities and share their love of Jesus Christ.
While we presently don't have a permanent relationship with the particular rural Haitian Parish we are happy to help make possible the relationship between Great Bend Kansas and that parish.
The team will be led by Barry Borror, President & CEO. While in Haiti the team will visit the rural parish, meet with the Priest and discuss possible ways to help each other. They will also see several Star of Hope partnership projects and get to interact with the children.
While in Haiti the team members will blog to keep you informed.
I was privileged once again to travel to Haiti with a team of fellow Kansans. This time the ladies saw first hand how much even a pencil means to the kids in rural Haiti.
The Honors Program students at Roanoke College decided to collect school supplies as a service project. They chose Haiti and Star of Hope to act on their behalf. It was heartwarming to see the hundreds of Haitian children excitedly receive something from the visitors from America.
Take a few minutes and reflect on what it means to give.
There's an old parable about six blind men who touch an elephant to see what it was like. Each feels only one part of the elephant, such as the leg, the tail or the trunk, so their perceptions vary greatly.
Haiti is like the elephant and my two traveling companions -- Jan Frenzl and Joleen Tustin -- and I are like the blind men. Although we are each being shown the same things, our life experiences are leading us to touch different parts of the beast each day. During conversations and debriefing sessions each night, we are able to pull our perceptions together to get a better look at the big picture of Haiti that our guides are hoping we will eventually see.
One of the things we talk about is how to marshal our great intentions into action once we get home. The overriding problem is that there is not just one problem. "Water is the biggest need," someone says.
"Until they do something about all the trash and garbage, they can't begin to move in a positive direction," says another.
"Nothing can possibly improve until the government is stable," says a third.
We are all correct and if we had a larger contingent of people with us I'm sure the list would be as long and the number of people.
Lots of good people would like to help heal Haiti in a significant way. I am learning however, that good intentions are sometimes not a good thing and helping can actually be hurting.
For example, today while we were traveling on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, we stopped to look at a new housing development under construction. More than 200 concrete homes are going up that will each house a family. The area has been cleared for what looks like at least four times that many.
It is a wonderful gesture to provide good, solid homes to so many homeless people. What could be the harm in that?
"How will the people get to their jobs with their homes so far away?" our Haitian guide, Tony, wondered aloud.
That's a good question. Unless new jobs are created closer to the homes or free transportation is provided, it's highly likely that people -- even homeless ones -- won't move. What good would it do for them to starve in a new house?
Another problem facing Haiti is land erosion in the mountains. People have been cutting down trees to make charcoal to use for cooking their food.
One humanitarian group thinks the solution for that is to provide propane gas. The problem with that gas must be imported at a high cost and it will take lots of jobs away from people whose livelihood depends on making and selling charcoal.
Before I came to Haiti, I had a wonderful idea (or so I thought) that it would be nice to pair up children from Holy Family School with children at the parochial school we are hoping to partner with. They could be penpals. The problem is that it takes time and energy to translate all of the letters and mailing them is too expensive on the Haiti side.
My attempt to form a relationship between the students -- however well intentioned -- would simply have created one more obstacle for them.
Someitimes trying to do the right thing isn't the right thing at all.
You may have solved one problem, but created another.
The list of problems seems endless in Haiti. It's kind of like taking a swing at a mosquito and stirring up a swarm of them. (That's a great analogy since that is what I am literally doing as I type this.)
The answer lies in finding some middle ground. That can happen only with good leaders working at finding a balance to meet the immediate needs of the people as well as their future needs. I wish them well.
In the meantime, all we can do is what we can do.
My "blind" companions and I are working at having our eyes opened on just what that means.
Each new year is a chance to think about what is really important. As a Grandfather of three young girls, I find children come to mind as the most important thing after my faith. The importance of equiping these precious girls for life cannot be underestimated. My son Huck and his wife Katty are doing a wonderful job as parents.
As I watch my son raise his 3 beautiful girls, I also think about the tens of thousands of parents who have so little to offer their children. Across the world, in places I have visited and others I only read about, parents are unable to provide the things in their childs life that might make a difference. They often cannot afford even the tiny cost of sending their child to a school. I am glad I can be a part in helping them too, by working to provide schools, healthcare and the opportunity to hear the gospel. I can also help them by telling you about their plight.
Please consider joining in this effort this year. Sponsoring a child is so easy and yet makes such a difference. You can find out how to do this by clicking on the Give menu on our website.
May God Bless you Richly in 2012
President & CEO
When a StarTeam visits a project country so much happens to change them. They often see first hand what the reality is for many people. Here is a short video with a message to a church back home that might give a touch of what they see, hear and experiance.
For several millennia, Gran Chaco was a melting pot of different minority groups from all over the continent. "Chaco" roughly means hunting ground, the various groups helped each other to hunt. They drove up all the animals to a central point, they then let to the pregnant female animals and the young animals free again. Then killed off the rest. In colonial times, the Spaniards soon realzied to take over the area would not be particularly attractive: no metal extractions and the minority groups were as unfriendly as the climate.
In the late 1800s, the area explored in his major asset: QUEBRACHO forest. This special wood is very resistant and does not rot. A destruction of the forest began. The wood was used mainly for railway sleepers to lay the rails on but also to fuel the Argentine railway locomotives.
This destruction paved the way for the cotton farming boom of 1940 - and 1950's. In those days you could get two or three crops a year of the "white gold". Nowadays it is hardly profitable to harvest even once a year.
Gran Chaco's and Formosa provinces are the ones with the most inhabitants of the various indigenous minorities in Argentina.
Toba indians, also called Komlek or Qom belongs to the group called Guaraní and has a population of about 50,000 and is the largest in number of the various minority groups. They live mainly in the eastern Chaco province but also in Formosa province, and in the northern parts of the province of Santa Fe. Small groups Toba are also living in Salta and Buenos Aires provinces.
After the Toba came in contact with the Spaniards they began using horses and was known to fight hard against the Spaniards, and they expanded their areas of other indigenous groups' expense in the Chaco province.
Many of the indigenous groups living in groups in the country while others live in the suburbs of major cities like Resistencia where they live on manual labor and crafts: basket weaving, lerdrejning, woodcarving, and weaving.
Toba indians has a rich tradition of music, they play particular instruments like the fiddle nvik which is a small stringed instrument.
Every year 8.8 million children under 5 years of age dies worldwide. A third of them die because of malnutrition and related diseases. Terrible that it should be so.
One third of all children in the world weighs too little for his age or are too short due to malnutrition. 160 million children suffer due to lack of vitamin A; 1 million die from a weakened immune system, 500 000 go blind each year.
3 billion people of the world's 7 billion has wrong nutrition; 1 billion are undernourished, 1 billion are eating the wrong foods, 1 billion are overweight or obese.
Something is wrong.
Starteam, in less than three days in haiti has already visited three of star of hope schools; Boyer, Jeanton and dano. Visiteurs and children spent great time together building up inside each class room strong relatioship sharing information about each another. Visitors are happy to visit differents parts of the school like office to meet the school staff, dinning-hall to watchin children eating rice and beean for lunc and in the kitchen to talk to the cooks. In each school they have visited they distribute school supplies that John Stang collected from students of Honors Program in Roanoke College kansas for children in star of Hope school in Haiti. Visitors are very satisfied of the schools programs that star of Hope is supporting for poor children in Haiti, they promise to be a child sponsor immediatly they go back home next week. Before leaving haiti Next Tuesday, star of Hope staff will continue helping them to visit Port-au-Prince, Rigaud and hesse school and other places around. Sunday they will go the catholic church in Boyer to assist first mass in Haiti.
They are very happy to visit haiti and amaze to see Star of hope work.
Cristina F. de Kirchner got 53.96% of the votes in the Argentine presidential election in late October. It is the highest figure since the 1983 election. Has she proved herself so well the first four years, or was there no competition in the election? Electoral fraud perhaps?
Her big electoral victory surprised some. Two years ago she was very unpopular after she introduced grotesque export taxes on agriculture items. Then it was less than 30 percent of voters who thought she did a good job.
Christina Kirchner succeeded her husband Nestor in 2007 as the country's first female president. After her amazing comeback she has now also become the country's first re-elected female president.
Many wonder how the economy works. Bankruptcy terms 2001. Then theyreceived an incredible 81 billion USD in aid and loans. The loans, the country has had very difficult to repay, to the lenders' great despair. When the economic crisis took place there were large demonstrations, and there was also deeper divisions in the society. Many still suffer from the crisis.
In 2010 the economy grew by almost 10 percent and it looks to be similar numbers this year. Inflation is officially at 10-12 percent, but some analysts say the real inflation rate is 20-25 percent. Many also believe that the authorities manipulate the figures on all sides and edges to make them look good.
Argentina is Latin America's third largest economy and it is super power in terms of agricultural products. Argentina is the world's largest exporter of soya products and the world's second largest exporter of maize. They exported soya products for 20 billion USD last year and it accounted for more than a quarter of export earnings.
What does all this mean for the population? What does it mean for the Toba Indians that Star of Hope supported for 30 years? I hope to come up with some sensible answers during my trip to Argentina starting next week.
In the spring of 2011 I was in Mirandita located a few kilometers outside the town of San Carlos. Star of Hope supports the village and the school with among other things food. In the village lives only 16 families and the area contains small farms, pastures, simple houses and abandoned crofts. All the villagers abandoned the area completely during the years 2002 - 2007 when the various guerrilla groups swept through the area. Others had left the area before. Some families came back as late as early 2011.
The families in Mirandita are scattered on the hills in the area. Many people live along the simple small paths. At the top of a hill lies the village's small school with three classrooms, which is also the village gathering place.
It's a bit difficult half to get there, the road is bad and the Colombian army clears slowly but surely different areas of anti-personnel mines. The area that only a few years dictated by the various guerrillas is now secured area, however, is the number of personnel mines left in the area.
The landscape is beautiful with green hills and rippling streams, however, it is still few people in the area. Many have left for good. The 40-year conflict has cut deep wounds in the Colombian soul. Will they ever heal? I am glad that Star of Hope through its partner in Colombia can make a difference in this village.
A street sign marking the way to Tony's house is the #26 hanging on the tree.
My brain is so confused. Since it’s dark out, I guess it’s nighttime, although in my weary mind, maybe it’s tomorrow night.
I can’t keep track of the time of day, let alone the day of the week. It’s hard to remember that it’s February and that it should be cold outside.
The only thing I know for sure is which way is up. That’s good because I know which direction to send my prayers and there are many.
I thank God for putting Barry Borror in my life under whose wonderful care I am in.
I also thank our host, Tony, for welcoming us into his home and being so gracious in answering our countless questions about his country. It must be exhausting.
I also thank God for giving Tony an impeccable sense of direction. The man is better than any GPS system on the planet.
To say that traveling in Haiti is difficult is putting it mildly; traveling in Port-au-Prince is impossible for visitors and dangerous even for the locals. There are places Tony is hesitant to take us, like the open-air market, and places he refuses to take us like City Sole.
The main problem with traveling as I see it is the absence of street signs, traffic signs and trafficable streets and roads.
When I think of the decisions I help make concerning the Barton County roads, it’s almost laughable by comparison to what the Haitians deal with. (BTW, I thank God for the great roads we have in the U.S. and the small problems I face on the commission.)
There are only two paved highways in Haiti and depending on your perspective, they either take you into or out of Port-au-Prince. I use the term paved quite loosely here. They are partially paved – maybe the whole width, maybe half, maybe less. Pot holes (big enough to lose a small car) and speed bumps (large enough to high center a small car), appear randomly.
Tony, as well as other Haitian drivers, drive on the right side or left side of the road depending on where the holes and bumps are.
As an aside, there appears to be no road rage in Haiti. People tail gate, cut off others, whip in and out of traffic, pass as other cars approach head on and a myriad of other driving transgressions without animosity. Near collisions – within the half-inch mark – are so common that even I stopped noticing. I guess when in Haiti … applies.
To get back on course, Haitian roads leave A LOT to be desired. This lack of infrastructure limits the country’s ability to improve, maintain or grow in any meaningful way. I am not exaggerating by saying the roads look as if they have been bombed. I don’t think they could be any worse in a war zone.
Roads into towns off the main highways are not clearly (if at all) marked by any standard. Making a U-turn off of a highway onto a secondary road finds a plethora of other problems. Roads are dusty or muddy depending on the day and so dangerously narrow that if two cars meet, one must back up. (Tony tells us the biggest vehicle always has the right of way and always wins.)
Roads are also pot holed, filled with rocks and have things like muddy streams to cross and animals – including goats, cows, donkeys and small children walking to school – to avoid. Kansas deer and raccoons would be proud of their Haitian counterparts because they are rarely, if ever, hit.
Add to that the huge problem of trash and debris as well as building materials dumped in front of the home/building where it is to be used some day and you begin to get the picture.
Today’s trip to the mountain town of Dano is likely to leave us with sore muscles. We braced our legs and held onto our bobble heads as best we could, but still felt like popcorn in a sizzling skillet.
Tony’s home where we are staying is on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince although for all I know it’s in Timbuktu. A main street in the city’s capital is more like one of our alleys, although not as well maintained. Signs for smaller streets are hand painted on fences or trees or often non-existent.
The added difficulty is that you can’t see where you are going because every property is well guarded with a concrete block wall. The narrow streets, bordered by trees and fences, give one the impression of being a mouse in a maze. The streets continue to get narrower and narrower until the road leads us to our home away from home.
And for that, I truly thank God.
Haiti has the highest rate of cholera in the world a year after the disease first arrived in the country. Cholera has sickened more than 450,000 people in a nation of 10 million, or nearly 5 percent of the population, and killed more than 6,000.
At the anniversary of cholera's arrival in Haiti, it is also on the verge of becoming the leading cause of death by infectious disease in the Caribbean nation, according to health experts.
That's significantly more than the 100,000 to 300,000 cases documented annually in Bangladesh. The Democratic Republic of Congo sees 13,000 to 30,000 cases a year.
Cholera is likely to become endemic in Haiti, meaning it will become "native" to the country. It is very possible that it will be with Haiti for a very long time.
Haiti's has a status as the "most water insecure" country in the world, which means many people have insufficient access to clean water.
Haiti has long suffered from improper sanitation because of its poverty but sanitation conditions in the capital and other urban areas became much worse after last year's earthquake forced thousands of people to set up tents and basic shelters in public plazas, parks, soccer fields and other open areas.
The epidemic threatens to worsen as the year's second rainy season causes the disease to spread.
Also worsen the situation will be the withdrawal of humanitarian workers who leave because of a lack of funding. That means fewer drainage services and less maintenance on the latrines aid workers set up in the settlement camps.
It is absolutely important to improve Haiti's water system and sanitation. The use of education, water treatment and oral vaccines is also important.
Star of Hope actions
Star of Hope has supplied water treatment directly after the earthquake to Star of Hope projects to “secure” the water available.
After the cholera outbreak a year ago, Star of Hope started to give out the water purification and oral vaccine to the projects again. Star of Hope also informed the school leaders, teachers, children and community leaders about safe water and also about the cholera.
Star of Hope also started several water projects at the schools and communities that Star of Hope support, meaning digging wells, building water pumps, building reservoirs and more. Most schools and communities now have easy access to safe water.
Currently Star of Hope is trying to raise funds together with Swedish agriculture magazine LAND to raise funds for water pipes in Hesse. If we can complete this, we will have water at the school in Hesse. This is great for the children and staff; they will have access to safe water for drinking, cooking and sanitation at the premises.
If you would like to donate money for this or any water project please contact Star of Hope. The importance of access to safe water has never been more obvious in Haiti.
I saw close up with my own eyes people of all ages suffering of this terrible disease last year. A couple of pictures from a hospital and Star of Hope actions below: