Things I didn't miss about Haiti:
The moment there is a power surge and a computer gets fried. Photo of Michelle taken while she updates some laptops, moments before the old Sony Vaio on the left takes a hit and begins to make a terrible clicking noise and refusing to boot...!
29 hours and counting...
Heading into our seventh day of computer lab training, with our students logging 29 hours of time in the lab thanks to our computer donors. They've registered for English and Spanish classes, and Josie, who has always been interested in law and diplomacy, has begun a class through the University of Geneva on human rights. Every day includes typing practice, and we're seeing the number of words typed per minute increasing every day.
We'll be moving into our new space at the end of this week, so we've ordered a small desk and bench from a local carpenter, looking forward to having it ready at the end of this week.
I met Josie when she was 17 years old. She was usually quiet, the way pretty much all Haitian children are taught to be. We spent years together meeting in the support group, until the day she distinguished herself by sidling up to me in a quiet moment, and opening her mouth. "Michelle!" She bubbled forth, words tumbling out rapidly as she opened her wallet. I had no idea what was happening.
Eventually I caught her words, "Look, we took photos, my aunt took me and my cousin to have our photos taken!" with that she pulled out tiny wallet sized snapshots of herself with another girl close to her age, dolled up in front of the fake backgrounds used for Glamour Shots at Sears. There she was, in front of three different exotic backgrounds. She held the photos to me, beaming. "They're beautiful." I tell her, and she nods proudly, tucking them back away.
She's 21 now, and finished with her school exams. I came back on this trip to work with her as one of our teachers. I kissed her on the cheek today and asked how she was doing.
"My aunt put me outside." She spoke calmly, but her appearance was stressed. Literally to "put someone outside" is to kick them out, to render them homeless. "My aunt is telling everyone I'm sick so I'm going to die anyway, she doesn't want to keep taking care of me. She's having economic difficulties, she kicked out me and my cousin." Josie doesn't ask for anything, she just informs me of the situation. "Miss Flore is helping me, she gives me a little food when she can." Miss Flore is the nurse who took over my old job.
"Josie, where are you living?" I ask her. She's beautiful and I'm terrified of her being in this situation and not having a safe space. "I'm living in a neighbor's house. The house is under construction so they're not living there. They're still working on it, there's no door yet."
"Do you feel safe?"
"I'm safe, my cousin is there with me."
I think about the situation, then ask, "How much does it cost you for food each day?" She gives me the amount in Haitian dollars, and I work out that it comes to US$2, or $60 per month.
We keep talking, and Josie tells me she still has hope, she still believes she be anything if she just tries hard enough. She's keeping herself busy for the summer by going to a neighbor who keeps a library, taking novels and history books, and reading, looking up any words that she doesn't know.
She's strong and tough, but I am terrified about her situation right now and my own powerlessness.
After a while, I ask her if she wants to try the online English lessons. "Please." She nods firmly, then spends the next hour tapping away and taking notes. She tells me, "You have to put yourself into whatever you do."
"Same time tomorrow?" I ask her, and she agrees.
Arrival to Jeremie...
This has been the longest time I've spent away from the city where I lived for three years, Jeremie in the Grand Anse of Haiti. This time I returned with Uplift Health co-founder, Jean-Philippe Therrien and his seven year old son, Julien. Since I left, they've terminated the once-a-day flight, so we arrived on a small, nine passenger plane flown by Missionary Aviation Flights.
We traveled with four donated computers, two in very good condition and two that will be able to perform some functions as soon as we do a little more tinkering.
For the next two weeks we're working with our three students who will be responsible for teaching and leading the program at the end of their four months of training. They are helping us to test and develop the curriculum based on their interests.
We are starting on the most in-demand lessons, English and Spanish classes, now that we've found an online program. The students take their language pre-tests today, then start the first lessons.
Never using a keyboard before, one student requested a speed typing program, so I looked up the very old fashioned typing tutor, and we'll practice the home keys today. ASDF JKL;! They're learning on English/QWERTY keyboards since the vast majority of computers used in workplaces come from the U.S. (as do our donated computers).
Tomorrow we're launching into a discussion of what it means to be a leader, based on weeks of research they conducted on their own to write essays on the topic.
Apologies to our friends still awaiting a thank you and your letter for your donation! They'll be coming very soon. In the meantime a HUGE thank you from all of us.
If you are interested, please let me know and I will email updates about our progress which will include some information that we won't be posting online...