Monday, June 16, 2014

Road Trip

Travel day – and it’s a long one.  Thirteen hours out and about!  Sherley is going to scold me when we get home for being so late for supper.  Danielle and I leave the guest house at six o’ clock in the morning in the hopes of beating the worst of the traffic.

Traffic was always terrible in Port-au-Prince, but it’s gotten much worse since the earthquake.  Narrow streets built many decades, or even a century or two in the past are not able to manage today’s constant flow of SUVs driven by foreign NGOs or Haitian citizens.  In the United States, the government would find itself at a stalemate.  Not so in Haiti!  Land titles, building codes, property ownership – all are flexible in Haiti.  So, the roads are being improved.  Margarette tells me seventy percent of Port-au-Prince is now paved!  I can sure see the difference.  At times, I can hardly recognize where I am as smooth, clean streets and well-build sidewalks replace the chaos I’ve grown used to.
More chaos is being generated where the roads are being expanded.  This is the part that would never happen here.  How do you widen a road that is completely surrounded by buildings that line the street?  In Haiti, that’s really quite simple.  You just knock down whatever stands in the six feet or so that you need to widen the road on both sides.

partially demolished home
Dismembered buildings line the streets, blasted or cut apart in the middle of shops, churches, medical clinics, living rooms, and stairways.  The cost of progress is high.  I truly don’t see how else Haiti can create an infrastructure, but only one of my friends and colleagues has been injured by the construction. 
Haiti Foundation Against Poverty had just finished a number of buildings, including a modest but beautiful home at last for founders Frentz and Mallery Neptune, right against the walls of their compound.  In an amazing display of faith and generosity, HFAP’s supporters raised every penny necessary to rebuild their wall and secure the facility just in time to coincide with the scheduled destruction.

We drive over the mountains with a chauffer that my usual professional driver sent in his place.  I’d considered staying in Port today and sending Danielle off by herself, but this guy speaks almost no English and Danielle has to find two places she’s never been to before.
The drive to Jacmel is amazingly beautiful, and the town itself has many old-style, two story colonial houses and buildings.  Jacmel is considered a resort town in Haiti.  There are a number of beaches.  The Caribbean is the same amazing blue here that it is in the Riviera Maya in Mexico, but there will have to be a lot of trash pickup before they can attract traditional tourists.

Hands and Feet Project- Jacmel site
We are visiting the Hands and Feet project.  I haven’t been here for a few years, and the progress is amazing!  New family style group homes are being built in the back for children with no other options, and Hands and Feet has expanded and emphasized their family reunification program.  Their clear goal aligns with that of All Blessings, the Joint Council of International Children’s Services, and so many others: every child has the right to a loving, permanent family.

Next we visit Hands and Feet’s second campus, in Gran Goave.  About four years ago, IBESR asked Hands and Feet to take over a failing, dangerous, abandoned orphanage of thirty-one children.  As is typical for such requests, all Hands and Feet got from the government was permission to take the children into care.  Not one dime of aid, grain of rice, or any paperwork assistance came with them.
Hands and Feet has been nurturing the children, all of whom are older kids who have seen great hardship, neglect, and in many cases abuse.  They go to school, learn to manage a Haitian home, and in some cases, go back home.  Many of the kids have birth families living in Gran Goave.  Hands and Feet has been tracking them down, meeting with them, counseling them, and in many cases, reintegrating children with their families.

I’m fascinated by the poultry project.  They’re growing enough poultry to feed everyone, right on site!  Protein is a constant difficulty in Haiti.  No wonder these kids look so good.  They’re eating well, and learning how to raise, clean, and process chickens at the same time.  Now that’s fresh food!
plucking chickens in Gran Goave

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