Saturday, August 23, 2014

Thriving after all!

How can I begin to share the perplexities of Haiti? After more than three years, I am still at times saddened, frustrated or puzzled, and end up laughing at the challenges this country presents.  If the plumbing doesn't function well at the Foyer it is due not only to extremely poor quality material and partly trained plumbers but also because this very plumber hired to fix a problem is sure to leave it functioning poorly so he doesn't run out of a job!

Yet as all the foreigners you meet at the airport on your way out of Haiti will vouch, it is a very endearing country. In their daily struggle, its people are resourceful, resilient, ingenious, kind and joyful. Just witness the roar and jumps of joy when their favorite soccer team scores a goal and you get a sense of the zest for life that keeps it going. 

And then there is the Foyer.  Nine year old new comer Abelardo’ s twisted skinny legs and deformed little face seem to me to be the symbol of the Foyer. To the outsider looking in, the Foyer has a lot of malfunctioning body parts: the water pump is broken, the electricity only supports  one light bulb in each of the occupied rooms, chairs,  toys, tools, covered by the abundant dust brought in by the near constant wind,   all seem to need fixing. Yet, Abelardo very much like the Foyer is full of life. Hearing his throaty laughter for the first time yesterday brought me incomparable joy and still brings tears to my eyes as I write.  His cleft palate leaves his face expressionless but he is fully engaged in the life of his 95 siblings, plays, teases others and stands for himself demanding the attention he needs. 
Abelardo wanted his picture taken too.
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The Foyer too in all its complexities demands attention. Without the love and care given by Maud, Jo and friends, the Foyer like Abelardo would struggle to survive.  In March 2014 shortly after his arrival he couldn't stand by himself and grunted while raising his arms to be picked up. He needed to be washed and dressed and fed. Now in August he is thriving, dresses himself, eats on his own, and runs on this deformed legs to play with others; in the evening when the chairs have to be placed on the long dining tables so the floor can be swept, he is one of the children who volunteers to stack them up. 
The Foyer too is thriving. Even though the garden is not successful yet, seedlings are growing in pots and a fence has been erected to protect it; given time and the attention it needs, the garden too will thrive. The poultry business is launched but needs to grow in order to provide much needed income.

Jo and a few teens designed a pattern for, and have started making, the shirts that will be part of the girls’ uniforms this year.  She and Maud get help from new staff members and friends.

On Sundays, the choir of eighteen teenagers performs beautifully at the chapel of the nuns in Tabarre. Even this is a challenge; they must walk thirty minutes to take an overcrowded “tap-tap” for another thirty minutes, because Maud’s car broke down and she can no longer load up the 30+ children that get to go to mass every Sunday.

Making Zanmi bracelets
For the competition that I launched during my stay, four girls and one boy baked a cake, two wrote essays, seven presented drawings, and eight made kites that attested to their ingenuity and resourcefulness in finding material (all I contributed were string and trash bags).  The excitement was palpable as all were chattering about the various entries. This was right after a soccer game where the neighborhood team tied with our boys under the wild cheers of supporters and Kompa music blasting.
Marassa looking at the competition

1st place Rosena's fruit cake
Gary won 1st place kite making

On top of the main building four rooms stand unfinished but their roof is on and the solar panels should be installed this week. Work finally started the day before my departure! The twenty panels, inverters and installation costs were donated by Association Terre des Montagnes in France and Rendez-vous: Haiti.
In the dorms, windows and doors are shut at night against the “loup garou” (werewolves). At sunrise, children head to the showers while the older boys and sixteen-year-old Karina, the latest rescued “restavek”, run barefoot while playing a fierce soccer game on the new field with goal posts built by Meg in April. It is summer vacation, and my beads, plastic gimp, o-rings all become bracelets fashioned by eager hands.
The solar panels will sit on top of new rooms
Ed & Sarah Barker gave two goats .
A wedding gift that keeps on giving.

So it isn’t perfect, and the kids can be frustrating when they sweep lego pieces along with the dirt, but they are healthy, they take good care of themselves and each other, they are getting decent results in school, and there is a lot of laughter ringing through the evening gathering in the semi darkness of the large hall.
It has been nearly a year since the children moved to the new location, and even though there are still problems to be fixed, everyone is well. The children are able to be children.

Tomorrow or the next day, the installation of the solar panels will continue, one more step will be taken to provide a reliable source of power to the Foyer, Abelardo will continue to gain strength, all will be fed three meals, the little ones will cool off in the donated plastic pool, and the older ones will kick the new soccer balls as they are cheered by their friends.
Lucky little ones get to cool off.
Emma & Lovely water the garden

Early soccer game. Thankfully Cecilia & Keith
brought cleats just in time for big game

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"Foyer" means "home"

« Foyer » means  « home »and home is where families live. The Foyer Notre Dame de Lourdes, located in a suburb of Port au Prince, is the home for a family of 96 children under the age of 18.  It is a home with joyous chaos and constant bustling. Dedicated staff-member Tatie Jo wakes up before dawn and this morning, the feast of the Virgin Mary, she is whisking out perfectly ironed elaborate dresses for the 15 little girls and boys wear dress pants and shirts.  They are heading for mass.  Amazingly, all of them wear clothes that fit! The logistics of all this still boggles my mind after three and a half years of witnessing life in the Foyer. All of the children’s clothes have been donated to them and among all the donations are nice outfits.

On this trip, I hope to see the installation of the solar panels that will provide energy for appliances. It has been  months  since we  first contacted a local provider and made plans for the installation that have slowly but steadily been implemented. We had to wait for the large new gate that secures the ground to be completed ( thank you Andy Robinson). The thoughtful and generous gift from Association Terre des Montagnes and Rendez-vous: Haiti ‘s fund raising efforts are being put to good use.  Electricity in our world has become a necessity not a luxury. Even the water pump depends on electrical power.