Whisked from their gracious welcome at St. Joseph’s Home for boys, before our team could catch their breath, we bounced them down the mangled streets of Port au Prince, Haiti in the back of our pickup trucks to Hotel Oloffson to submerge themselves in ‘kompa” music by RAM, named after the lead singer, Richard Morse. RAM
The white mansion was built as a private home in the late 1800’s. Perched a bit uncomfortably on a steep hillside, the hotel has a storied past. It was home to two of Haiti’s presidents (the last one torn to pieces), but now plays host to diplomats, foreign aid workers, paramilitary attachés, former ton ton macoutes, artists, businessmen, and, for a few hours, the Children’s Hope Solidarity Team, 2014.
Oloffson’s packed and steaming dance floor lies at the core of an awkward yet intoxicating mix of ancient Taino artifacts, displays of rich cultural and Vodou heritage all tossed about with remnants of celebrities, dictators and torturous foreign domination. Unlike the Haitian constitution, the hotel survived the U.S. military occupation (1915 to 1934), by housing a military hospital. This seductive concoction set the heartbeat pace for our solidarity team. The music, grown from the roots of struggle and resistance, echoed in our ears through the long, stiflingly hot days of rapid-fire service.
Haiti is not just about abject poverty, though there is that. We come to serve, but also to listen and learn - of culture, music and tradition grown out of strength and survival.
Day two? The street market – to buy a month’s supply of food for MABE orphanage.
Peace, all ways and always,
Professor Leisa Faulkner, University of the Pacific; Folsom Lake College; Founder, Children’s Hope