Triple treat day: just tonight a priest heated a full bucket of water for my shower, one teapot at a time! Temperatures are not soaring here in Jérémie, it is quite cool at night ( around
70 F) and that makes cold showers mostly ….unappealing. They are even worse in the am, since 5 am is wake up time at the Bishop’s house. Roosters have been crowing for a couple of hours, the cooks are pounding the manioc and the priests are chanting during mass! There is no way to sleep in. Breakfast is at 7 am and the Bishop comes and gets me if I don’t hear the bell. We are served something hot like spaghetti or vegetable soup or some gruel of various grains… my alternative is bread with the yummy guava jam that is produced locally J.
The first grade children worked on making collage with construction paper; a total change from their otherwise austere curriculum and they really seemed to enjoy it. The ages range from 7 to 10years old in that first grade class. As I find out the stories of these children I realize that misery has endless forms. When Father Jean talks about the children, he refers to them as “ des enfants en difficulté”, children with challenges: orphans raised by relatives, children in domesticity “restavecs”, children whose parents are mentally disabled or have AIDS and refugees from the earthquake.. the range of trauma and challenges these children have faced and continue to face is unimaginable. Speaking of one child’s particular squalor Maitre Mayard ,the Academic director, says that when it rains, he thinks of that particular girl because her living conditions are so abysmal and he had not seen such extreme poverty before. Registration fee is $ 3, 82 for the year, but most parents can’t afford to pay that. In exchange some of them help clean up at the center.
The center hired Celine who has come several times and I showed her the different craft ideas I have and told her of others. She has a 6th grade education and went to a school to learn how to be a good homemaker. She embroiders wonderfully well and picked up all the ideas with great enthusiasm and ability. Thanks to the generous support of Campus Ministry at Loyola and the students and friends who sent me money, I was able to not only bring supplies but also leave the center with one year salary for the craft instructor. This was my goal that the personnel of the Centre Saint Jean Bosco take over the project and make it work with their own people. It feels really good to have been able to make it happen. I will try to go back in a month to follow-up. The Center still needs support to get electricity, running water, salaries for the teachers mostly.
Sister Helene was happy particularly today: USAID ‘s delivery ordered last May, promised for November arrived: bags of soy, corn and peas , the school will be able to feed the children. Someone managed to steal one of the bags, while she was watching the delivery! She and Father Jean are the most devoted administrators I could ever imagine. They are constantly fighting for everything concerning the functioning of the center, to feed the kids, pay the teachers, get supplies. Their relatives have to kick in some money often when they get desperate. I am hoping that the craft center will eventually be a source of income. I brought 60 lbs of supplies. Sr Helene 's idea of making the scrungies for communions and weddings is terrific. A Haitian told me that people here will spend all their money on appearances, clothes and would rather forfeit food!
Third treat? A jazz concert! Aaron Goldberg quartet from the States, sponsored by the US cultural services in Port au Prince. I was the guest of the Bishop, so if you were looking at TV Jérémie at the 9 pm news tonight (as I know you probably do every night) you will see me in the front along with the US Ambassador, his wife, the Délégué Departmental representing the President and the Bishop of Jérémie!