MABE Orphanage -- Port au Prince, Haiti

MABE Orphanage -- Port au Prince, Haiti

Monday, December 20, 2010

Haiti's Burning

Published on Friday, December 17, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
by Leisa Faulkner and Redginald Alvarez

Massive uprisings, shootings and fire blockades cut Haiti into isolated pieces.

Earthquake rubble spews onto the street while people struggle to find clean water and sanitation to protect them from the cholera epidemic. Now, political frustrations over a recent failed election have fanned the flames of frustration that have been burning in Haiti since the quake. Claims of racketeering including ballot destruction, closures of voting places and even murder run through the local media. Now there are literal flames.

We had to skirt fire blockades of burning tires on motorcycles while taking supplies to a local orphanage. Most aid workers fled Haiti with the increased cholera threat, just when they are needed. The death toll now has risen to over 2,000. Nearly 100,000 have been treated, and many more treatment centers, doctors and aid workers are needed.


All supplies are hard to come by. After days of store closures, Sunday was the first day some stores opened. No bread, no meat, lines two hours long at the banks and gas stations. All public transportation ceased.

We took advantage of the break in demonstrations to get a first hand look into St. Pierre tent city, where we heard reports of excessive force by some UN troops. Two children and an elderly woman died after 5 hours of tear gas assault. Nepalese UN troops have been identified as the carriers of the cholera strain introduced to Haiti. Now in the shadow of St. Pierre church it was other Nepalese troops who tried to block a protest march near the election headquarters. At the corner of what used to be a flower market, library and church, rocks were thrown at troops, one was badly injured. The retaliation was relentless.

We interviewed a half dozen residents and a community organizer with “Concern”, Joseph Alexandre for their report. “They were toying with us, shooting the gas and plastic bullets at us, pausing then starting up again. This went on for hours and hours. They surrounded the camp and shot without regard into the center, where the children were. It was like the tear gas was a toy for them.”

A new young mother named Jania invited me into her tent to see baby Jeffy -- born a month early the day after Nigerian UN troops were able to convince the Nepalese troops to halt the assault. Their efforts came too late for some. Baby Jeffy wasn’t supposed to see 2010. He was supposed to be spared this cruel existence until after the dawn of the new year.

At least his life was spared. Many children and babies had blood running from their noses…other children did not make it at all.

Charcoal marks and burn holes are reminders of the assault. Tents have burn holes, bullets and gas canisters mark their random landings.

All of the paintings that used to line the rock wall of the church plaza lay scorched and mangled in a muddied mass next to the generator that ignited when a red hot tear gas canister set it off. One charred painting peaked out at me, just the eyes remaining. How much more burning can Haiti take?

(photos: Leisa Faulkner)

Leisa Faulkner is a graduate student in Sociology at Sacramento State University and the Founder and Executive Director of Children's Hope. She has been bringing medical and school supplies to Haiti since 2004, and is a past contributor to Common Dreams. She's been to Haiti six times since the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010.

Reginald Alvarez is a college intern who works also works as a translator and media assistant in Port au Prince.

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/12/17-8

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

US will pay for Haitian vote fraud


Demonstrators in Petionville, Haiti, clashed with UN police officers
last week during election protests. (St-Felix Evens/ Reuters)

By Brian Concannon Jr. and Jeena Shah

The Boston Globe
http://www.boston.com/
December 15, 2010

THE DECISION last Thursday to recount the votes in Haiti’s disputed elections is like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. As this week’s continued protests demonstrate, it will not avoid the catastrophe. Resolving Haiti’s election woes requires the financial backers of the flawed election process — especially the United States — to reverse course and insist on new, inclusive elections run by a new, inclusive electoral council.

Haitian voters see the fraud and disorganization of the Nov. 28 election as part of a long campaign to reduce competition to President René Préval’s INITE party in both presidential and legislative elections. The Provisional Electoral Council, which ran the election, was hand-picked by Préval, and excluded 15 political parties from the legislative elections, including Haiti’s most popular, Fanmi Lavalas, whose leader, former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, remains in forced exile. The electoral council also excluded 15 candidates from the presidential race without issuing a comprehensive explanation. During the months preceding the elections, Haitians complained about the voter registration program. In the end, over 100,000 voters who had registered did not receive their voting cards. More than 75 percent of voters with cards stayed home on election day.

Monday, December 13, 2010

December, 2010 -- Leisa's Haiti Journal #1: Haiti Burning

Baby Jeffy born early because of tear gas.

Joseph Alexandre with tear gas canister.

One of the lost paintings.

St. Pierre Church and tent city
Dear Friends,

As you probably know by now, massive uprisings, shootings and fire blockades have left me unable to either leave Haiti or communicate with you since landing here over a week ago. Building on the destruction of the earthquake and continued threat of the UN carried cholera, the political frustrations over the recent presidential election racketeering including ballot destruction, closures of voting places and even murder only served to spark the flames of frustration that have been burning in Haiti since the first of the year. Now there are literal flames.

It landed in the street. We had to skirt fire blockades of burning tires on motorcycles when we finally were able to get supplies up to the Mabo orphanage. Coming down was even harder. Though threatened, we managed to get back safely without surrendering our own gasoline for the fires.

Sadly, most aid workers fled Haiti with the increased cholera threat, just when they are needed. The death toll now has risen to over 2,000. Nearly 100,000 have been treated, and many more need medical care in places where not enough treatment centers or aid workers exist.

All supplies are hard to come by. After days of store closures, yesterday was the first day some stores opened. No bread, no meat, lines two hours long at the banks and gas stations.

We took advantage of the break in demonstrations to get a first hand look into St. Pierre tent city, where we heard reports of excessive force by some UN troops. Two children and an elderly woman died after 5 hours of tear gas assault. Nepalese UN troops have been identified as the carriers of the cholera strain introduced to Haiti Now in the shadow of St. Pierre church it was other Nepalese troops who tried to block a protest march near the election headquarters. At the corner of what used to be a flower market, library and church, rocks were thrown at troops, one was badly injured. The retaliation was relentless.

We interviewed a half dozen residents and a community organizer with “Concern”, Joseph Alexandre for their report. “They were toying with us, shooting the gas and plastic bullets at us, pausing then starting up again. This went on for hours and hours. They surrounded the camp and shot without regard into the center, where the children were. It was like the tear gas was a toy for them.”

A new young mother named Jania invited me into her tent to see baby Jeffy - born a month early the day after Nigerian UN troops were able to convince the Nepalese troops to halt the assault. Their efforts came too late for some. Baby Jeffy wasn’t supposed to see 2010. He was supposed to be spared this cruel existence until after the dawn of the new year.

At least his life was spared. Many children and babies had blood running from their noses…other children did not make it at all.

Charcoal marks and burn holes are reminders of the assault. Tents have burn holes, bullets and gas canisters mark their random landings.

All of the paintings that used to line the rock wall of the church plaza lay scorched and mangled in a muddied mass next to the generator that had ignited when a red hot tear gas canister set it off. One charred painting peaked out at me, just the eyes remaining.

How much more burning can Haiti take?

From Haiti, peace, Leisa

Leisa Faulkner, Executive Director
Children's Hope


3025 A Cambridge Road
Cameron Park, CA 95682
Text me @ 916.801.4184 916.801.4184

Friday, December 10, 2010

Haiti orders recount of disputed presidential election


More than half of the 19 candidates
have called for the result to be annulled
[Finally some good news from Haiti. The popular protests against fraud in the recent Presidential election have forced the government to announce a complete recount. As Dr. King once said, "The riot is the language of the unheard." Wouldn't it be nice if regular folks didn't have to set tires on fire to be heard by the power elite? - Paul B]

Election officials in Haiti say they will review the disputed result of last month's presidential election.

BBC News, December 10, 2010

There will be an immediate vote recount in the presence of the top three candidates - Mirlande Manigat, Jude Celestin and Michel Martelly - and international observers.

The announcement follows violent demonstrations by supporters of Mr Martelly, the third-placed candidate.

He alleges the count was rigged to deny him a second-round run-off place.

The Provisional Election Council said it had "decided to immediately launch a rapid and exceptional process to verify at the counting centre the tally sheets linked to the 2010 presidential elections".

Since the polls on 28 November, more than half of the 19 candidates have called for the result to be annulled.

Meanwhile, a second medical study has traced the outbreak of cholera in Haiti - which has killed 2,000 people since October - to UN peacekeepers from South Asia.

Leisa's Photos From the Political Unrest in Haiti this Week





Aid Worker from Cameron Park Undeterred


Sacramento Bee: Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 | Page 6A
http://www.sacbee.com/2010/12/09/3244091/aid-worker-from.html

Rioting didn't stop Leisa Faulkner from her mission of delivering antibiotics to a Port-au-Prince orphanage Wednesday.

It simply took longer and required detours around angry mobs and burning barricades of tires and rubble – and the help of a card emblazoned with a red cross.

"We never fail, like the Pony Express," said an exhausted Faulkner by phone from Port-au-Prince.

Faulkner, 56, of Cameron Park arrived in Haiti Monday to spend the week delivering medical supplies and cholera-fighting medications to free clinics and children's homes.

She was planning to leave Saturday until the country erupted in violence over its turbulent presidential elections. "Is the airport open? I don't know when I'll be able to leave," she said.

Faulkner made her first trip to Haiti in 2004 to serve as a human shield for supporters of then-overthrown President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

This is her 16th trip to the country, now working with Children's Hope – an organization she founded to lead teams of volunteers to Haiti with medical supplies.

"What's left from the earthquake and cholera is burning," she said. "What's left of Haiti is burning."

Thousands of Haitians riot in capital over election results

A former first lady and government protege will face off in January. Many observers question 'inconsistencies' in the Haiti election results.

Haitians run on a street shouting slogans against the
 government during a protest following
presidential elections in Port-au-Prince on Dec. 8.
(Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)
By Sara Miller Llana, Staff writer

posted December 8, 2010
The Christian Science Monitor - CSMonitor.com

Thousands of Haitians outraged over what they claim was a rigged election are rioting in the streets of the capital and have set fire to the party offices of one of two presidential candidates that made it to a runoff.

The results of the Nov. 28 presidential election, announced Tuesday, saw popular candidate Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly fall less than 1 percentage point behind Jude Célestin, the government-endorsed candidate.

Mr. Célestin is now tentatively scheduled to face off Jan. 16 against first-place finisher Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady, while Mr. Martelly is out of the running.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Furious protests greet Haiti election results

Guillermo Arias / AP Photo  Haiti's presidential candidate
Michel Martelly speaks during a press conference in
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Dec. 6, 2010.
Associated Press
Published Monday, Dec. 06, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Furious supporters of eliminated candidates set fires and put up barricades in the streets of Haiti's capital after officials announced that government protege Jude Celestin and former first lady Mirlande Manigat would advance to a second-round runoff in presidential elections.

The results announced late Tuesday were immediately questioned at home and abroad, threatening more unrest for a country wracked by a cholera epidemic and still recovering from a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.

Popular carnival singer Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly trailed Celestin by about 6,800 votes - less than 1 percent, according to the results released by Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council.

Martelly supporters set up flaming barricades near the Petionville restaurant where the tallies were announced and threw rocks at people passing nearby. Gunshots rang out and an Associated Press journalist was robbed.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Photos from Port au Prince by Leisa Faulkner


This photos was just received from Leisa's phone. More as it takes place.

More on Haitian Unrest

Leisa is still in Port au Price but is safe and in control of her own movement. Some of the details of the text messages are both enthralling and hair-raising. I look forward to her saying more once she is safely out of there.

Leisa has been interviewed by the Sacramento BEE by phone and also should be in the Huffington Post shortly.

BBC seems to have the best coverage, followed by Reuters and New Co Australia. CNN seems to have nothing.

This struggling nation deserves the chance to decide it's own government, a chance once again missed with this election. It is time for the world community to allow a fully democratic Haiti. This land has been through enough.

BBC Coverage here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11954881

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Haiti fears violence in election wake

As the country waits for election results, many earthquake victims still
living in camps are preoccupied with trying to live under difficult conditions.
Photograph by: Phil Carpenter, The Gazette
By René Bruemmer and Sue Montgomery, Montreal Gazette
December 8, 2010 2:02 AM

As the country waits for election results, many earthquake victims still living in camps are preoccupied with trying to live under difficult conditions.
Photograph by: Phil Carpenter, The GazettePORT-AU-PRINCE – Protests and sporadic gunfire erupted in Haiti’s capital Tuesday night after electoral authorities announced the country’s inconclusive presidential election would go to a runoff vote.

Gunshots echoed in some parts of Port-au-Prince following the announcement that former first lady Mirlande Manigat and government technocrat Jude Célestin would face a deciding second round Jan. 16 following a turbulent Nov. 28 vote.

In Haiti, election days, and the subsequent dates on which election results are released, are more a cause for fear than a catalyst for hope of a better future. Haitians, jaded by two decades of democratically elected governments that have produced meagre progress for the impoverished nation, hold little stock in the abilities of future leaders to “rebuild Haiti.” They’ve heard it too many times before.

But one thing they are relatively sure of is that violence, sporadic and with the unseeing injustice of a ramped-up mob, may strike anywhere. They’ve seen it many times before. This time the state is especially volatile in the wake of the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake and in the midst of a cholera epidemic that has killed 2,120 to date.

Violence and Unrest in Haiti after electon results.

Violence and unrest had erupted in Haiti this evening after a second election run-off was declared between the top two Presidential Candidates while denying a runoff spot to a popular third candidate whose vote results effectively tied with the second place finisher.

Children's Hope Executive Director, Leisa Faulkner is in Port au Prince this evening, near the site of the unrest. Things were very dicey for the last two hours but in a text just now, Leisa reports things have quieted down a bit. She has been in touch with us via text message as electricity is off in the city. Some of her reports have been unnerving, to say the least and we've been quite worried for her at different times this afternoon and evening.

Haiti is under lockdown tonight with no movement allowed anywhere in Port au Prince and some say the enire country.

Please keep your thoughts with Leisa tonight, that she stays safe and gets to a safer location tomorrow. I'm sure once electricity comes back you will hear more from her directly.

Protests Erupt as Haiti Election Goes to Run-off

12:13am EST
By Joseph Guyler Delva and Allyn Gaestel

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Protests and sporadic gunfire erupted in Haiti's capital late on Tuesday after electoral authorities announced the country's inconclusive presidential election would go to a run-off vote.

Gunshots echoed in some parts of the sprawling capital of Port-au-Prince following the announcement that former first lady Mirlande Manigat and government technocrat Jude Celestin would face a deciding second round in January following a turbulent November 28 vote.

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti issued a statement raising questions about the announced results, suggesting they might not be consistent with "the will of the Haitian people."

Protesting supporters of a third-placed candidate, popular musician Michel Martelly, lit burning barricades in the Petionville district, and in a crowded earthquake survivors' camp near the presidential palace, witnesses said.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Politics in a Time of Cholera, Marked by Chaos and Anger

A girl with symptoms of cholera is
taken to hospital. (Getty images)




Published on Saturday, November 27, 2010 by The Independent/UK by Kim Sengupta in Port-au-Prince

It is a broken country: the poorest in the western hemisphere, its people traumatised by the shattering earthquake which destroyed so many lives, and prey to a devastating cholera epidemic and continuing violence.

A girl with symptoms of cholera is taken to hospital. (Getty images) Tomorrow Haiti will go to the polls to try once more to put itself back together.

But it does so against as daunting a backdrop as any election to be held anywhere in recent times. The journey to the vote in Port-au-Prince, the first since the "day of catastrophe" last January which left more than 230,000 dead and 1.3 million people homeless, has been suffused with accusations and recriminations and a sense of foreboding.

In Champs de Mars, the central plaza which has become a vast tented village of the dispossessed, a Creole slogan painted in blue on the single remaining wall of what was once an office block tells the story. It reads: "The dead shall be heard." But if that phrase carries the strange sense that Haiti's victims remain a reproachful presence in this election, there is also a powerful fear in the capital that their voices will not be heeded, but misunderstood.

With little documentation of those killed and missing, identity cards are said to be changing hands for about $5 so they can be used for fraud. In a contest in which each candidate is spending millions, that is small change.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2010 November Haiti Journal #1 - Cholera and Kids

Dear Friends,

I'm packing up again. Children's Hope heads to Haiti this Sunday. This trip will be like no other. While cholera grips the camps, we go to bring in rehydration and antibiotic treatments. 12 thousand are hospitalized, nearly a thousand dead...and cholera's grip is predicted to haunt Haiti for years...sanitation supplies and clean water are nearly impossible for most folks to find. A pall grips the hungry camps, babies rarely even cry, as food distribution to their mothers has been stopped in the camps. Cholera is creeping into the city. 1,000 new beds are being set up in the Port au Prince area as I write. Malnourished children need vitamins and cholera patients need treatment...your donations this trip will go 100% to this relief.

On a personal level...I will also be carrying papers to work on adopting two little boys. They are Teves and Dro. 6 and 8 years old. They were found living on the street nearly four years ago...Please keep good thoughts for us...as we hope to bring the boys home early next year.

Now, I know that many of you have helped Haiti so much this year, following the earthquake. I am sorry I have not been able to personally send out thanks and photos as I usually do...it seems we barely get home and we are going back again. This is our 6th service mission this year. I wish I could say that things are getting better, but with the recent hurricane and now cholera, it seems we can't catch our breath.

Please consider if you can help us spread the word about this humanitarian trip. Since I am the only member of our team going this trip, space is limited. I am carrying in only children's vitamins, antibiotics, and funds to purchase clean water and food. Funds are the most versatile.

I have heard from friends there that electricity is worse than usual, but I will send updates as I can.

You can text me in Haiti at 916.801.4184...or write me at ChildrensHope@live.com.

Please think of the children this Thanksgiving. Go to our blog http://coalitionfordemocracyinhaiti.blogspot.com/ , or simply send a check to the address below.Thank you.

peace always and all ways,
leisa

Leisa Faulkner, Executive Director
Children's Hope
3025 A Cambridge Road
Cameron Park, CA 95682

Text me @ 916.801.4184 916.801.4184
Email: childrenshope@live.com
Blog: http://coalitionfordemocracyinhaiti.blogspot.com/


“If you let your fear of consequence prevent you from following your deepest instinct, your life will be safe, expedient and thin."
Katharine Butler Hathaway

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Haiti election campaign opens amid anger over candidate exclusions

27 September 2010
By Han­nah Arm­strong, Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Monitor

The exclu­sion of pop­ulist party Fanmi Lavalas and other con­tenders height­ens con­cerns that the Haiti elec­tion will fail to intro­duce lead­ers closer to vot­ers’ core concerns.

In Camp Immac­u­late, a tent-city for many of the 1.5 mil­lion Haitians made home­less by the Jan. 12 earth­quake, hun­dreds of pro­test­ers gather reg­u­larly to tap out rhythms with bits of debris and chant in the noon-day heat: “No vot­ing under tents!” and “Down with Préval!”

Cen­tral to their anger is the belief that elec­tions sched­uled for Nov. 28 have been rigged in advance. These par­ti­sans of the pop­u­lar left­ist party Fanmi Lavalas (FL) blame an elec­toral com­mis­sion appointed by Pres­i­dent Rene Gar­cia Pré­val for ban­ning the party from con­test­ing the upcom­ing poll.

As the cam­paign sea­son offi­cially began today, the anger and dis­il­lu­sion­ment on dis­play in places like Camp Immac­u­late was evi­dence of how few Haitians believe the process will deliver a fair outcome.
On top of ban­ning the FL, the party of for­mer Pres­i­dent Jean-Bertrand Aris­tide that has won every elec­tion it has con­tested, the Pro­vi­sional Elec­toral Com­mit­tee (CEP) dis­qual­i­fied a num­ber of can­di­dates, among them the hip-hop star Wyclef Jean and for­mer ambas­sador Ray­mond Joseph.


Main­tain­ing the sta­tus quo?
Signs that this will not be a clean elec­tion have been in evi­dence for months. The US Sen­ate Com­mit­tee on For­eign Rela­tions warned in a July report (pdf) that the exclu­sion of FL and the fail­ure to reform the CEP could com­pro­mise the elec­tions’ legitimacy.

But US sup­port for the elec­tion appears assured. “Peace­ful and cred­i­ble elec­tions and the trans­fer of power to a new gov­ern­ment will be key mile­stones of Haiti’s progress,” Susan Rice, US Ambas­sador to the United Nations, wrote in an edi­to­r­ial on Fri­day that was released amid grow­ing alarm that the elec­tion is being stitched up for Mr. Préval’s allies.

The inter­na­tional com­mu­nity, which is pro­vid­ing most of the election’s $29 mil­lion price tag, “would rather work with Pré­val because he’s the only one they know right now,” says Mar­leine Bastien, a leader of the Haitian-American com­mu­nity in South Florida. Pré­val, who can­not run for another term, has endorsed for­mer gov­ern­ment con­struc­tion agency direc­tor gen­eral Jude Celestin. Observers say almost all pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates rep­re­sent the rul­ing elite sur­round­ing Préval.

We in the US have not put pres­sure on the CEP to do the right thing and uphold demo­c­ra­tic val­ues in Haiti – which means allow­ing Lavalas to par­take in elec­tions,” says Ms. Bastien, who is not an FL par­ti­san but says all viable par­ties must be allowed to participate.

Mario Joseph, Haiti’s most promi­nent inter­na­tional human rights lawyer, holds the UN respon­si­ble for tol­er­at­ing prac­tices that com­pro­mise the fair­ness of the country’s elec­tions. “They have sup­ported this elec­tion selec­tion, they have sup­ported the exclu­sion of polit­i­cal par­ties, they have sup­ported Mr. Pré­val in the choice of an elec­toral coun­cil with­out meet­ing with polit­i­cal par­ties,” he says.


Pré­val builds ties with inter­na­tional community
Pré­val came to power in 2006 in the first vote fol­low­ing the ouster of Mr. Aris­tide, whose increas­ingly vio­lent rule was marked by nation­al­iza­tion and wealth redis­tri­b­u­tion mea­sures that alien­ated Hait­ian elites and inter­na­tional part­ners. Pré­val cur­ried favor with inter­na­tional part­ners by pri­va­tiz­ing state-owned com­pa­nies and extend­ing the man­date for the UN peace­keep­ing mis­sion even as he lost domes­tic support.
Ten­sions boiled over in 2008, as food prices soared and riots broke out. Demon­stra­tors stormed the pres­i­den­tial palace demand­ing the res­ig­na­tion of Pré­val and the depar­ture of UN troops. The offi­cial turnout fig­ure for April 2009 sen­a­to­r­ial elec­tions was just 11 per­cent, stark evi­dence of the lack of con­fi­dence in the system.


‘Rebel­lion brewing’
Those elec­tions were the first to exclude FL. Despite for­mally object­ing, the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity con­tin­ued to sup­port the gov­ern­ment which “gave the CEP a green light to keep exclud­ing the government’s polit­i­cal rivals,” the Insti­tute on Jus­tice and Democ­racy in Haiti (IJDH) wrote in a report.
IJDH direc­tor Brian Con­can­non says UN and US sup­port for the Novem­ber elec­tions is “a short-term expe­di­ent that’s going to come back and haunt them in the long-term.”
The exclu­sion [of FL] will hurt not only Haiti and its peo­ple but it will also hurt all part­ners,” adds Bastien. “I feel a lot of rebel­lion brew­ing under the surface.”

http://ijdh.org/archives/14784

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2010/0927/Haiti-election-campaign-opens-amid-anger-over-candidate-exclusions

Saturday, August 28, 2010

France Asked to Return Money ‘Extorted’ From Haiti

New York Times -- The Lede
August 16, 2010, 10:57


France Asked to Return Money ‘Extorted’ From Haiti
By ROBERT MACKEY

In an open letter to President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, published on Monday in the Paris newspaper Libération, an international group of scholars and activists called on France to repay Haiti, its former colony, more than $20 billion that had been “extorted” in the 19th century.

As Isabel Macdonald, a Canadian scholar who helped draft the letter, explains in The Toronto Star:

Prior to independence, St. Dominique — the country that is now Haiti — was France’s most profitable colony, thanks in no small part to its particularly brutal system of slavery. In 1791, the slaves revolted, and in 1804, after defeating Napoleon’s armies, founded the world’s first black republic.

Following Haiti’s independence, former French slave owners submitted detailed tabulations of their losses to the French government, with line items for each of “their” slaves that had been “lost” with Haitian independence. In 1825, King Charles X demanded that Haiti pay France an “independence debt” to compensate former colonists for the slaves who won their freedom in the Haitian revolution. With warships stationed along the Haitian coast backing up the French demand, France insisted that Haiti pay its former colonizer 150 million gold francs — 10 times the new nation’s total annual revenues.

Under threat of a French military invasion that aimed at the re-enslavement of the population, the Haitian government had little choice but to agree to pay. Haiti’s government was also forced to finance the debt through loans from a single French bank, which capitalized on its monopoly by gouging Haiti with exorbitant interest rates and fees. The original sum of the indemnity was subsequently reduced, but Haiti still disbursed 90 million gold francs to France.

The money Haiti paid to France from 1825 until 1947 was estimated by the Haitian government in 2003 to be the equivalent of nearly $22 billion today.

Last month, a group calling itself the Committee for the Reimbursement of the Indemnity Money Extorted From Haiti — or, C.R.I.M.E. — drew attention to Haiti’s independence debt with an elaborate hoax, in which an actor impersonating a French Foreign Ministry official announced that France would repay the money.


As The Lede reported, video and text of the mock statement were posted on a near-replica of the French Foreign Ministry’s Web site.

Monday’s letter on the issue also appears on the fake Foreign Ministry site, above the names of dozens of well-known activists, including: Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Noam Chomsky, Ariel Dorfman, Naomi Klein, José Bové, Eduardo Galeano, Cornel West and the founders of the group that seems to have inspired the hoax announcement, the Yes Men.

The letter ends by linking threats of legal action against the pranksters with the fate of the former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who asked France to repay the debt for Haiti’s bicentennial in 2004:

In 2003, when the Haitian government demanded repayment of the money France had extorted from Haiti, the French government responded by helping to overthrow that government. Today, the French government responds to the same demand by C.R.I.M.E. by threatening legal action. These are inappropriate responses to a demand that is morally, economically and legally unassailable. In light of the urgent financial need in the country in the wake of the devastating earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, we urge you to pay Haiti, the world’s first black republic, the restitution it is due.

In March, international donors pledged to provide Haiti with just over $5 billion to help in its reconstruction. Earlier this month, Bill Clinton, who is helping to coordinate aid to Haiti, told The Associated Press that so far just five countries had made good on their promises and that less than 10 percent of that money had been delivered.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sean Penn on Wyclef's Presidential Campaign

[Editor's Note: Sean Penn's analysis of Wyclef's Presidential aspirations is right on target. However, both Wyclef and Sean Penn are ignoring the most crucial fact regarding the upcoming Presidential and parliamentary elections in Haiti -- the largest and most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, has been excluded by the Haitian electoral council (CEP). Unless this decision is reversed, then the results from the November 28 elections will be fundamentally undemocratic. As American citizens, we have a responsibility to put pressure on our government to support the democratic aspirations of the Haitian people, rather than continuing our more traditional role of undermining and violently repressing those aspirations -- Paul B]

Third Person Once Removed

The Huffington Post
Sean Penn, August 25, 2010

As Wyclef Jean announces his regrettable turn-about to contest Haiti's electoral rule of law (a law he has no previous record of dissension toward), his PR team is mobilizing. See Ms. Marian Salzman's recent blog on the Huffington Post (August 23, 2010). In it, Ms. Salzman, hired to frame perception of Mr. Jean, claims that I "lambasted" Mr. Jean's candidacy on CNN. Furthermore, she reduced the political dialogue that took place that day by calling the discussion a "celebrity feud". In fact, a sensationalized celebrity feud, is and was, as far from my mind as the alleged "lambasting." Though he and his camp came back with many disparaging comments in my direction, I felt that ignoring my initial impulse to react and respond allowed the attention to refocus on the real issues facing Haitians.

One can YouTube the segment of the August 8 Larry King Live in question. In the clip, Wolf Blitzer interviews Wyclef Jean upon his announcing his candidacy. The viewer will also see a response from someone (myself) who runs an NGO in Haiti, someone who has spent most of the last six months following the devastating earthquake, side by side in that country, with so many others, doing whatever we could to lend a hand. I have never met Wyclef Jean, and all I really know of him on any personal level has come through the fond comments of a few mutual friends. Hence, nothing I might say, was in ANY way personal, or intended to be lambasting to anyone. My comments were critical observations of a political candidate and a leader of an organization in Haiti.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Assault on Haitian Democracy

Pro-Lavalas demonstrators march in Port au Prince to honor
the birthday of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, July 2010.
Photo credit: Haiti Action Committee
by Kevin Edmonds
North American Congress on Latin America
https://nacla.org/ August 23, 2010

While the presidential candidacy of rapper/entertainer Wyclef Jean in Haiti’s upcoming presidential and legislative elections has garnered much international attention, underneath the glare of this hype are the continued assaults on the country’s democratic process. Much is at stake in this key election, scheduled for November 28. The winner will be responsible for the colossal task of rebuilding the nation’s shattered infrastructure and psyche after the January 12 earthquake. Jean’s glitz and glamour have stolen international headlines (despite Haiti’s August 20 ruling denying him the candidacy), however, the real story is that the country’s strongest and most popular political force will again be excluded from these elections.

The United States and the principal international power brokers have stated over and over again that the promotion of a stable and democratic political process is a primary goal in Haiti. However, international elites continue to support and fund an election that openly excludes the political party Famni Lavalas, the party founded by former Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide. Not only has Lavalas been excluded from Haiti’s political process by the country’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), its supporters are continually intimidated and violently suppressed by a United Nations army that continues to be in Haiti six years after the 2004 coup that ousted Aristide from the presidency. The CEP and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) continue to work in coordination with each other to make sure only the Haitian and international economic elite have their say in the country.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Race for Haiti's presidency

Yvon Neptune, former Haitian Prime
Minister and now Presidential candidate.
BBCCaribbean.com, August 23, 2010

US-based Haitian singer-songwriter Wyclef Jean was the best known of Haiti's presidential hopefuls.

But he and 14 others have now been disqualified from November's election, leaving 19 candidates in the race.

Among those approved to run for the presidency were:

•Jacques Edouard Alexis, a two-time prime minister

•Leslie Voltaire, an urban planner and former minister

•Yvon Neptune, a former prime minister who served under ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide

•Mirlande Manigat, a well-known opposition leader and former first lady

•Jude Celestin, the former head of the government's construction programme

•Yves Cristallin, who served as social affairs minister

•Michel Martelly, a popular Haitian singer known as "Sweet Mickey"

Under Haiti's constitution, candidates must meet seven constitutional requirements.

Main contenders

They must be a native of Haiti, be at least 35 years old, have never renounced their citizenship, have never been sentenced for a crime, own property and a "habitual residence" in Haiti, not currently be handling public funds and have resided in the country for at least five consecutive years before election day.

Wyclef Can't Appeal Haiti Poll Exclusion: Council

By Joseph Guyler
Reuters
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Auguest 24, 2010

A ruling by Haiti's electoral council that disqualified hip-hop star Wyclef Jean from running for the presidency is final and cannot be appealed, a council lawyer said on Tuesday.

The Haitian-born and U.S.-based singer-songwriter said on Sunday he would appeal against the provisional electoral council's decision on Friday which rejected his candidacy for the November 28 election in the poorest state in the Americas.

Council officials said Jean, who left his homeland with his family at the age of 9 to live in the United States, did not meet residency requirements.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Leisa's Haiti Journal #10: Sweatshops at 200g a Day ($5 U.S.)

Sweat Shops at 200g a day ($5US)
July 28, 2010

Job Offer In Haiti: Must be a highly motivated woman to assemble electronic components, able to read and write, and pass a logic/math test. You will arrive at 6:45am check in with fingerprint ID. You will work 8 hours and clock out for lunch. You will be handed a food coupon that is good on only the day of issue (value is 8g or four cents US). You may use the coupon toward your purchase of lunch at the company lunch counter. However the cheapest meal there is 23g, without any meat of course…that would be extra.

The cheapest form of public transportation will take you at least one hour to get to work, and two hours going home. That will cost you 5g to 7g depending on the price of gas (each way).

The net result is that you will be at work 9 hours (with no talking) and spend three hours in transportation. Since you are a woman, after being gone those 12 hours, you will shop each day (no electricity for refrigeration) and cook breakfast and dinner for your family over an open charcoal stove. You will do all the family laundry, kill, pluck and dress the chicken, haul water and purify it, while making sure your children are freshly scrubbed twice a day.

For this work you will bring home 1000g salary each week, less the 50g for the taptap (an overcrowded bed of an open truck), then deduct 75g for lunch. This means you will bring home 875g a week, or a little less than $90US a month.

Since you will also have to buy food, work clothes, laundry soap and charcoal as well as the $100US for your four room unfurnished house…you must also sell small candies on the street after dark and take in the neighbor’s wash.

Then, since you will still don’t have enough money for utilities, you send your oldest son out to climb the telephone pole and cut into the high voltage wire.

Since you also don’t have money for medicine, school uniforms and tuition, when your baby gets sick, you consider selling your oldest daughter to the wealthier landlord to be a servant, but, lucky for you, since she is only eight years old, restavek owners are required by law to send her to school. When they move away, you hope that they will not sell her to some unsavory to use as a sex slave, or worse yet…to some foreigner for body parts.

But, say, that's the cost of cheap "US" electronics, right?

Peace, leisa

p.s. This journal is based on real interviews and my tour of a Port au Prince electronics factory that sells components to over 100 U.S electronics companies.

(We will be returning to Haiti on August 9, 2010)

Leisa Faulkner, Executive Director
Children's Hope

3025 A Cambridge Road
Cameron Park, CA 95682

Text me @ 916.801.4184 916.801.4184 Haiti phone: 011.509.38.32.36.08
Email: childrenshope@live.com

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wyclef Jean for President of Haiti? Look Beyond the Hype


by Charlie Hinton, with editing assistance from Kiilu Nyasha

San Francisco Bay View
http://sfbayview.com/2010/wyclef-jean-for-president-of-haiti-look-beyond-the-hype/

Wyclef Jean holds a Haitian flag as he considers running for president of Haiti. Beware! Wyclef is Haitian, but he is no friend of the Haitian people as a whole, who remain loyal to President Aristide.To cut to the chase, no election in Haiti, and no candidate in those elections, will be considered legitimate by the majority of Haiti’s population, unless it includes the full and fair participation of the Fanmi Lavalas Party of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Fanmi Lavalas is unquestionably the most popular party in the country, yet the “international community,” led by the United States, France and Canada, has done everything possible to undermine Aristide and Lavalas, overthrowing him twice by military coups in 1991 and 2004 and banishing Aristide, who now lives in South Africa with his family, from the Americas.

A United Nations army, led by Brazil, still occupies Haiti six years after the coup. Their unstated mission, under the name of “peacekeeping,” is to suppress the popular movement and prevent the return to power of Aristide’s Lavalas Party. One must understand a Wyclef Jean candidacy, first of all, in this context.

Every election since a 67 percent majority first brought Aristide to power in 1990 has demonstrated the enormous popularity of the Lavalas movement. When Lavalas could run, they won overwhelmingly. In 2006, when security conditions did not permit them to run candidates, they voted and demonstrated to make sure Rene Preval, a former Lavalas president, was re-elected.

Interview with Pierre Labossiere, "This is Criminal!"

Pierre Labossiere, co-founder of the Haiti Action Committee
Pierre Labossiere on Haiti: ‘This is criminal’

Posted By Mary On January 27, 2010

The Bay View is introducing this interview with an urgent action alert from the Haiti Action Committee, co-founded by Pierre Labossiere, urging readers to “stand in solidarity with Haiti” and call the White House, the State Department and their Congress members today.

Haiti Action Committee Action Alert: Rebuilding Haiti with the Democratic Movement

Jan. 27 – In the aftermath of the devastating 7.0 earthquake, Haitian children, women and men are now suffering through a man-made disaster. Over one week ago, Obama promised, “The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble and to deliver the humanitarian relief.” But instead of delivering on this commitment, he has allowed the military response to take priority, resulting in thousands of preventable deaths.

As Haitians organize to rebuild their lives in the midst of an escalated military occupation, we demand that the Obama administration stop its destructive interference in Haiti. Haitians must be at the head of relief efforts and the long term rebuilding of their country. Fanmi Lavalas, the democratic grassroots movement of Haiti, must be at the center of any legitimate rebuilding process.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Haiti Gears Up for Polls - Again, Sans Lavalas

By Wadner Pierre

published by IPS, Photo by Wadner Pierre

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jul 30, 2010 (IPS) - After weeks of delays, Haitian President René Préval confirmed this month that presidential and legislative elections will take place on Nov. 28. The U.N. and Western donor nations are pledging millions of dollars in support of the polls, but with at least 1.5 million people still homeless from the January earthquake, questions loom over how to ensure voter participation.

In the last round of senatorial elections before the earthquake, less than three percent of the electorate participated. Fanmi Lavalas, widely seen as the most popular political party in the country, was excluded from the election on technical grounds, along with some other parties. Now, the party has again been banned from participating in the November polls.

International donors have expressed disappointment at Haiti's failure to hold inclusive elections, but have continued to fund them.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The International Community Should Pressure the Haitian Government For Prompt and Fair Elections

[Editor's Note: This is a very important analysis of the current political crisis in earthquake ravaged Haiti prepared by the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. Please take a few mintues to read it and let other folks know about it as well. Although the mainstream media is mostly ignoring or misinterpreting 
this issue, any vestige of democracy in Haiti is on the verge of being undermined as Haiti prepares to hold presidential and parliamentary elections this fall without allowing the nation's largest and most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, to participate. As concerned citizens of the world, we cannot let this happen. -- Paul B]


PO Box 52115 • Boston, MA 02205-2115 • (617) 652-0876 • info@ijdh.org • www.ijdh.org

The International Community Should Pressure the Haitian Government For Prompt and Fair Elections

June 30, 2010

I. Introduction

On June 28, 2010, Haitian President Renée Préval announced Parliamentary and Presidential elections for November 28, 2010, and issued a decree mandating that the country’s ninemember Provisional Electoral Council plan for the elections.1 These upcoming elections will provide the political foundation for effective use of earthquake response funds and the development of a stable society that will be less vulnerable to future natural disasters. The Government of Haiti (GOH) must stick to its deadline, but it must also run fair, inclusive and constitutional elections.

These elections are particularly important to:
a) re-establish an effective legislature that can make the vital national policy decisions
entrusted to it by Haiti’s constitution;
b) establish political accountability for the expenditure of large amounts of money that
will have a lasting impact on Haitian society; and
c) resolve Haiti’s current societal disputes in a peaceful and democratic manner.

The failure to hold credible elections will perpetuate the social unrest and political uncertainty that made Haiti vulnerable to the earthquake’s damage, and slow to mount an effective governmental response.2 The international community, in order to protect its investment in Haiti’s reconstruction and facilitate the emergence of a democratic, stable government in Haiti, must use the leverage that its financial contributions to reconstruction provide to ensure the holding of fair, inclusive and constitutional elections.

Haiti currently faces three principal problems relating to elections:
a) the closing of Parliament when members’ terms expired in May 2010;
b) a credibility crisis for the 1/3 of the Senate elected in flawed elections in 2009 and of
the Electoral Council that ran the elections; and
c) the threat that the Executive Branch will have no Constitutional legitimacy after
February 7, 2011.

2010 July Haiti Journal #9 Buried Treasure


2010 July Haiti Journal #9 Buried Treasure

July 31, 2010

Real wishes from the children of Cite Soleil…

If I found a buried treasure I would buy spoons for my mother’s kitchen.

If I found a buried treasure I would buy shoes so I could go to church with my parents.

If I found a buried treasure I would go to the USA to get a job.

If I found a buried treasure I would buy food for all the hungry children.

If I found a buried treasure I would buy a small piece of land, have a house and a cow.

If I found a buried treasure I would pay my tuition, then, god willing, my mother will live long enough for me to get a job so I can take care of her.

To think….some little kids just want to go to Disneyland.

peace, leisa

Leisa Faulkner, Executive Director
Children's Hope

Leisa's Haiti Journal #8: Sidewalk Baby


2010 July Haiti Journal #8 Sidewalk Baby (July 26)

Tonight, as a reward to ourselves after a long dripping-hot day, we stopped off at one of our favorite orphanages. I was really looking forward to seeing all the children at Mabo and giving them some art and craft supplies we knew they could use. They recognize us, and always shower us with kisses. When we were parking, another woman pulled up. She seemed to be a regular, too. She had a large box of used mis-matched clothes .We helped her with the box since she was cradling a newborn. What an added bonus. Kissing babies is one reliable joy here. Or so I expected.

Once inside she started telling her story. Two weeks earlier she was walking down the street when a mother put her newborn baby on the sidewalk, saying simply, “take my baby”. With that the mother took back the towel the infant was wrapped in, explaining that the towel was borrowed and had to be returned. The mother said she had other children that she couldn’t feed. Then she left the pencil thin baby lying on the sidewalk naked, and walked away.

My new friend has barely slept since, feeding the newborn every few hours, and pampering her back to health. The baby girl was only 12 days old when she became a street baby. Now at a whopping 28 days old, she is already plump and by now was dozing easily on my shoulder.

Hard as that was to hear, I was still composed up to that part of the story…then, it turns out my new friend is leaving the country soon…and doesn’t know what will become of the baby. She intends to take her over to the Dominican (her native home) on her way back to France where she lives, but where the baby doesn’t have papers to go. There is no one in the Dominican that has agreed to take the baby yet.

My composure finally slipped. I thought of all the folks back home that would be thrilled to have a chance to parent this little angel…and yet, that new life seems just out of her tiny reach.

Is it fair that this baby was left on the street? Is it fair that her mother had no social safety net? Is it fair that for a few weeks at least, she was saved when so many others are not? What will happen now? What about her right to life?

In the states tend to think we are above these social issues. But, honestly, before we get too proud of ourselves, let’s remember the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by every country in the world but two: Somalia and the U.S.

I don’t know where this little street angel will end up, but I do know that somehow, she belongs to all of us…like all the world’s children do, and maybe we should start to wonder where our children are.

peace,
from Haiti, Leisa

To learn more about what this would mean to children all over the world, please go to: http://www.unicef.org/crc/index_30229.html

To support our work in Haiti:
http://coalitionfordemocracyinhaiti.blogspot.com/

Leisa's Haiti Journal #7: Hands Across the Water

Children at MABO, an orphanage in Port au
Prince that had to move after the earthquake.

July 26, 2010. Haiti Journal #7

Hands across the water…

Thanks so much to folks that are sending in pledges and donations…I got a call from Will Lotter today telling me DRCS just pledged another $300…just the amount that the Mabo orphanage needed for food. Sue Ann emailed me that she would donate $100 today, just what I expect to spend tomorrow printing flyers to give young girls telling them about the hotline designed to serve restaveks (children sold into slavery) and girls who have suffered abuse. I didn’t know when I left home that I would have access to this resource, and now we have the money to do the printing! Another ten dollar pledge came in today…enough to buy two skeins of yarn for the teenage girls at the orphanage…just what they asked for a few days ago (it took us a few days to find a place to buy them!). It seems amazing to me, how our daily needs are being met by those of you back home…thanks so much…it just feels like you are right here - reaching out and helping. Thank you so very much.

leisa

Wyclef Jean steps toward Haitian presidential race

Singer Wyclef Jean appears at a news conference in 
New York, January 27, 2010.     Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar


By Joseph Guyler Delva

Thu Jul 29, 2010 8:04pm EDT

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Grammy-award winning singer Wyclef Jean said on Thursday that he has taken legal steps toward running for president in quake-devastated Haiti, but has not made a definite decision to run.

Jean, who said he is qualified to run for Haiti's highest office, was in Haiti to work with lawyers and have his fingerprints taken by the judicial police as part of the legal process of preparing to run for president.

"I basically come out to Haiti today because it was important that I do my fingerprints," Jean told Reuters as he left the Port-au-Prince international airport for the United States on Thursday.

"There are a lot of rumors that I am running for president. I have not declared that," said Jean, 37. "If we decide to move forward, I am pretty sure that we have all our paperwork straight."

Haiti, which was ravaged on January 12 by a deadly 7.0-magnitude earthquake, is scheduled to vote on November 28 to elect a new leader to replace President Rene Preval, whose term ends in February.

The deadline for candidates to register is August 7. Jean said he will take his decision with his wife Claudinette and their daughter Angelina.

"As a family, we must decide on what we're going to do because it is a big sacrifice," he said.

Sources close to the singer told Reuters Jean will officially announce his candidacy next week on CNN before flying back to Haiti to enter the race. When asked by Reuters about such plans, Jean did not confirm or deny the preparations.

Many analysts predict Jean -- who is very popular among Haitians, particularly the young -- would easily win the presidential election if his candidacy were approved.

Jean immigrated to the United States at the age of 9, but has maintained his Haitian citizenship, a prerequisite for running. He showed his Haitian passport to Reuters reporters as he was going through Haitian immigration on Thursday.

News of his possible candidacy has created panic among traditional politicians and power holders who have long planned to run. They fear Jean's popularity and financial resources would give him a campaign advantage they could not hope to match.

"I think if Wyclef is allowed to run he will have a straight victory," said political leader and former presidential candidate Himmler Rebu.

A three-time Grammy award-winner, Jean was a founding member of the hip-hop trio The Fugees and won wider fame for his collaboration with Colombian pop star Shakira. He released a song two years ago called "If I Was President."

Jean established the Yele Haiti Foundation in 2005 to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Haiti. He said after the January 12 earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people that Haiti's future rested on education, job creation and investment.

"So I would think with all my allies around the world that have loved my music, that have loved the message and the work we have done with Yele Haiti, they understand I can't just sing right now," he said.

"When I am looking back at my career, I've sung songs all my life and I've watched singers sing songs about certain changes that we want, we say, you know what, we're going to turn them into a reality," Jean said.

(Editing by Jane Sutton and Eric Walsh)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Leisa's Haiti Journal #6: Beaches & Ballet


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dear Friends,

In Haiti , like in prison, we stockpile emotions.

A woman I took into Wharf Soleil a few days ago told me at one point that she just couldn't handle it. Wharf Soleil is a rough neighborhood within the slum, Cite Soleil. I have always held my own there, but you do have to be aware and thoughtful. The folks there have suffered more than most, and are frustrated.

We had gone out of the wharf to flag down a water truck, and were going back in.

“I’m afraid I’m going to cry,” she said.

"Try not to", it’s as simple as that. “We can’t add to their burden. Think of something else”, I said. Think of the children’s kites. Anything.

The disease and dirt is their struggle, not their fault.

Sure there is incredible pain...more and more the deeper you look.

A few days earlier, a man offered us his five year old daughter, because he couldn’t feed her anymore.

A young boy told me about his brother who died from drinking too much salt water mixed with left over ash...I heard later that this is sometimes done to stave off hunger.

The immense struggles for mere life deep in the slums are overwhelming. I couldn't do nearly as well as those that live here every day. I am sure I wouldn't last a week. Though the desperation, anger and frustration are etched on even the children's faces, so are strength, integrity and compassion.

For example, that day I had stepped into some black oily mud by mistake down by the wharf, where mothers were pleading for water and food. Even there, someone managed to find a cup of water for my shoe, and washed me...me....those with less than nothing wanted to help me and my little pathetic need.

But these struggles are not all there is to know about Haiti . Believe it or not, there are beautiful beaches in Haiti...believe it or not, I went to a kindergarten graduation on Sunday where little Haitian girls performed ballet in perfect white tutus...believe it or not, I still hope that Haiti can one day return to that millenniums-old balance between nature and man it once had (something my own culture has never attained)…believe it or not one day Haiti may be justified, restored and finally left in peace. One has to believe.

Peace, all ways and always…leisa

Donations may be made at:
http://coalitionfordemocracyinhaiti.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Leisa's Haiti Journal #5: Port au Prince Goes Dark


Sunday, July 25, 1:30 a.m.

Full-moon light shocked me awake by sliding through the dusty glass slats above my bed.

Port au Prince had gone dark tonight as I sat listening to a soft guitar by lantern and candle light on another roof-top nook at Michael’s temporary home. It happens most every night. After sweating our way through the day, earthquake relief workers usually manage to wander up to some high patio with a cold Prestige or two trying (mostly in vain) to catch a breath of wind and if you are really lucky, internet connection. Then, sure as the sun was hot, the power will fail.

When it goes, electricity fails for the entire city in one fell swoop, then one by one, you can see generators kick in, and twinkling lights start popping up all over town…all over the crest of the city that is. From where I looked over the ledge, only the wealthy homes ringing the crest of the city (that can afford a generator) had their lights pop back on. In fact, most homes go dark with the sun…not being able to afford the fickle electric grid anyway.

Even the word “homes” here is a euphemism, especially after the quake. 1.5 million Haitians were displaced and only 28 thousand have moved into “homes” (NYT July 11, 2010). Six months after the quake nothing has changed…frustration grows out of the rubble instead of new homes. Single digit percent of money donated to large NGOs and promised by foreign governments have made it to the streets lined with homeless people.

Prices for food continue to rise. Last year when we bought food for a certain orphanage, we could do it for about three hundred dollars…this year, that amount made us choose between buying black beans and rice…it breaks your heart.

If there is any way you can spread the word about our work here to friends who may want to help, but don’t know where to send it…please forward my journals. Every dollar means so much here. One gourde (less than one cent) buys a bucket of clean water.

Peace, all ways and always, leisa


Monday, July 26, 2010

Leisa's Haiti Journal #4: Huckleberry Finn


Sunday July 18, 2010

Dear Friends,

A little before 9 a.m. this morning, boy’s voices chanted a loud lilting response to Wallnes’ insistent drum calling us to Sunday service. Out on the roof of St. Joseph’s make-shift home for street boys there was standing-room only on the already sun baked deck overlooking the pit. (The pit is all that marks the spot where St. Joseph’s stood before the earthquake). The interfaith service was a mix of faith traditions with a vibrant Haitian cadence. Most prayers were sung (which my son Luke really liked). Most hearts seemed touched. Then one clear, young sweet voice swept through the air like breeze itself…fresh and inviting. After a solitary chorus, a softened duomo drum joined in. Gradually we all joined in. And despite the baking heat, we somehow felt refreshed for being allowed to be a part of it.

It was hard to imagine then the down pour that soaked our freshly stomped laundry this afternoon. We had just slopped our clean our laundry between two tubs of precious well water when the storm hit…at least we didn’t have to waste water rinsing…we simply let the rain rinse our clothes on the line. Hopefully, next morning will bring a fresh sunny breeze.

Tonight, Jim, the amputee rehab therapist on our team spiked a 103 fever and our clinic’s doctor was stranded across a rain-swollen river which isn’t expected to resend until early morning...his phone and our Haiti phone both gave out. Lucky for Jim, we were able to treat his high blood pressure, fever and other symptoms by calling our U.S. doctor consultant and by tapping in a bit to the donated drugs we are going to deliver to The Lamp Cite Soleil Clinic.

Tomorrow, I will interview three more children at the clinic.

The last time I did interviews, one little boy minded me of a Haitian Huckleberry Finn. He was squirming around in the high-back chair belted snugly into one-size-too-big, perfectly clean and pressed clothes that looked like they were actually causing him physical pain. When I told him he was almost done, he finally began to relax. One of the last questions we asked was, “If you won the lottery, what would you buy?”

“Spoons. I would buy spoons for my mother’s kitchen.”

Sort of puts things into perspective when a child’s greatest wish is for his mother to have spoons in her kitchen.

We are finding so many needs…

Please remember it is not too late to make a pledge by replying to this email, or better yet…you can donate online at our blog:

http://coalitionfordemocracyinhaiti.blogspot.com/

Peace, always and all ways…leisa