Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spring break 2014 at the Foyer NDL

A year ago, 96 children were washing themselves outdoors with cups and buckets; today they take regular showers in bathrooms close to their new dorms. A year ago, they had to take turns eating rice and beans outside (I never dared asked what happened when it rained—where did they go to eat?) cooked on outdoor burners; today they sit at long tables in the comfortable breezy hall and the meals are prepared in the adjoining large kitchen. A year ago, they clustered under the shade of a tent, the well roof, the entryway and a makeshift tarp to hide from the sun while attending elementary school; today six separate classrooms each with a black board and individual desks welcome them every morning.  The efforts of all the organizations and friends that rallied behind Maud Laurent to offer her children better living conditions are paying off.
The new Foyer, is a lovely space and I can already picture in a few years how the mango tree saplings will bring shade and green to the parched ground.

Early voices chatter as everyone prepares for the day and the boys start a soccer game before anything else. No wonder they are so trim and fit!  The girls hustle to the kitchen to prepare morning rice or cornmash for breakfast. It is a nice time of the day, before the heat oppresses and slows all energies.
Maud tells me I have become Haitian because I understand the remaining difficulties and not too much bothers me. There are still issues to be resolved; the stench in the room where I stay right next door to the boys’ bathrooms is overwhelming at times. If I forget to fill my water bucket when the water is turned on early in the morning then I won’t be able to take a shower at night. Any time power is on, I quickly recharge my camera, phone and laptop before it gets interrupted again for who knows how long. Much more importantly the children still don’t have a way to wash their hands easily before meals; most of the time there is no power, and there is no income for staff. Under Maud part time presence and Jo, the children are organized in teams with chores and responsibilities and somehow it works!
 2 year old Alenzi gets prepared for the day

Rony gives Angelo a hair cut

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I had several goals this spring break.  One was to organize the hiring of a Physical Plant Manager that would help Maud with all the logistics of maintenance but also fix such things as the faulty septic system. As the week progresses and we discuss his responsibilities, his position is becoming more complex and will include managing the poultry business. It is crucial for the Foyer to develop sources of revenue.

My other goal of negotiating the contract for the solar panel installation, thanks to the generous grant of Association Terre des Montagnes, is slowly shaping up. What did I think? It could be as simple as going to Home Depot and picking up the material needed? It is Carnaval this week.  However we now know where the panels will go and a technician has been at the site.  The Foyer has received the funds collected by Rendez-vous: Haiti to complete the grant. Now, all I can do is wait for the report and the pictures.
As for boosting creativity?  The boys, in particular, have produced numerous cards, a few beautiful paintings and tons of Zanmi bracelets. This is turning out to be a successful micro-micro enterprise. Haitians find the O-rings, RVH purchases them, the boys delicately lace the bands with artistic wire and what is originally a “black” used by Haitian men to heal their aches turns into a beautiful  bracelet sold in the US to support structural improvements at the Foyer.
Making Zanmi bracelets after chores

SO, it has been a good trip: I got to cuddle with lots of little ones, meet the twelve new children, discover a new painting talent, and reconnect with the teens. Now that the twelve over-eighteen children live away in semi-independence, Maud has accepted twelve new children including a 9 year old with disabilities, because the Foyer will give him a  chance for an education; “there is  no reason  he can’t learn” and have a good life, Maud says.

Currently Maud and Jo are the only two adults supervising the 96 children + 12 adolescents under their care.  Since construction has ended, the Foyer has attracted large organizations’ support such as Food for the Poor, Fondation Espoir, Terre des Hommes, and Hunger Relief International, and they give much needed supplies but of course no salaries for staff, nor for tuition for the teenagers’ schooling or professional training nor for bus fare.  Fostering revenue generating activities is part of current Rendez-vous: Haiti’s challenges.

Alenzi loves to share a moment
with Mamie Maud

Later  in the morning
7 am school starts at the Foyer