Sunday, December 19, 2010

Savanette, Haiti

Caroline and I enjoying fresh coconut milk in Savanette. It is very common to see people drinking coconut milk like this or eating freshly cut sugar cane.

School in Savanette

From up at the rectory of the local church where we stayed, we could hear children in the school singing or reciting their lessons. Late one morning, Caroline and I went down with Father Erus to visit the school.

The room full of little children wearing pink shirts were getting ready to eat lunch. The white bucket on the table in the photo holds the rice and beans they will eat. For many, we were told, this will be their main meal of the day. For some children, this is the only meal they will have during the day.

The two women outside are cooking the lunch for the children. It's a simple meal of beans and rice and a gravy that is made of beans. All this is cooked on charbon fires.

The school has a couple hundred children and relies completely on the Catholic Church for donations. There are few books, let alone any other teaching instruments. A simple blackboard and chalk are the most basic tools of a Haitian School.

This is the only school in this town that operates consistently. There is a state elementary school and a state high school. For the few days we were there, neither state school was operating. I was told that sometimes professors come and sometimes not. Since they are paid sporadically, when they are long overdue their salary, they simply don't show up. Once they receive pay, they return to school.
Children come everyday and wait a bit to see if a teacher arrives. If teachers do not arrive, the children walk home. I remember on previous visits when leaving at 4.30 or 5 am to travel, the roads would be full of children walking to school. Some travel distances of several miles each day to attend school.
As I mentioned earlier, there are thousands who live in encampments in the countryside around Savanette. Many of those children living in the countryside walk several miles each day to attend school.

The Market in Savanette

These are some shots of the market in Savanette. Many people sell goods such as beans, rice, bread, fish, freshly slaughtered meat, sugar cane, picked coffee, peas.
Other people cook and prepare food such as the stews you can see here. You can also see the market stalls under which people set out their items to sell. I believe the meat here is beef, which is not very common. Mostly the meat that can be found is goat, some pork and chicken. Not many people can afford to have meat in their daily diet. A little meat is usually mixed in with the rice and beans Sunday dinner.
It is easy to see that the sanitary conditions are very poor and this contributes greatly to the spread of disease. It is not uncommon to see Clorox Bleach which is used as a simple disinfectant. In fact, a small amount of clorox is thrown into water barrels to disinfect before using the water to cook or bathe by those who can afford it.

Savanette Haiti

While walking through town, I came across these two little children. These are probably the only clothes they own and if they do own more, it is not very much more. Immediately behind them, you can see the dedicated trench for sewage which flows through the town and dumps into the river that I posted photos of previously.

Savanette Haiti Sunday December 5, 2010

My mom has a good friend back in Wilmington, NC named Eunice Queeny. Eunice heard that I was going to Haiti and she started making these simple dresses for me to take. We took in about 25 of the roughly 90 she made (the rest will be brought in on subsequent trips).

On Saturday, these little girls gathered at the local church more than likely hearing that there were "blond" people visiting.

The thing about Haitians is that they never beg. They may follow you or stand nearby or want to speak English, but they will nearly never ask for money or food. It is obvious their situation is not good because of the way they are dressed or they may look hungry.

Caroline and I immediately thought the dresses we had packed would be great for the girls so we went through them sizing them up for each girl. After we had handed them the dresses, we told them to wear them Sunday and we would take a picture.

During church, these little girls all passed by us, smiling, wearing the dresses and their best shoes, some with ribbons in their hair. After mass, we took this photo.

It really takes so little to make the lives of these children better.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Savanette December 3, 2010

The authorities and many NGO's are trying to halt the spread of cholera. The one poster which appears in the clinic "Centre Sante De Savanette" as well as the catholic clinic I visited, explains to people in few wrods and images how to use sanitary methods when disposing of excrement and how to sanitize your hands. The banner across the street in the town says; "Washing hands with soap is a remedy against microbes"
This clinic and the small catholic one are the only medical services available to the 1400 inhabitants and the countless thousands in small encampments around Savanette. There is a Doctor in the area who rotates visiting these clinics as well as others in towns farther away. There is a nurse for each location, but very limited supplies for treating patients. I will post photos of the catholic clinic which was much cleaner and better stocked than the state one pictured here.

Savanette December 3, 2010

This is the stream that runs along the side of the town. Near the pig, you can see the sewage that drains into the stream from the open trenches that cross through the town. In the background you can see people in the stream, some cleaning clothes, others drawing water. They actually are upstream from where this trench is dumping sewage. Just about 200 yeards in the other direction which is downstream, I saw women bathing in the water. You also have to remember that farther up as well as farther down stream there are other towns and villages where people are bathing in, drawing from and cleaning clothes in this stream which is also receiving the sewage from all these towns and villages. I can only imagine how polluted the stream is towards the end of its flow.

Savanette December 3, 2010

Savanette is a small town of about 1400 people. There are many more that live in small encampments around the town. It is nestled between mountains in the Central Plateau region north east of Port au Prince. The town and immediate area has no electricity or clean drinking water.

At night, it is pitch dark and the stars are magnificent. In the mountains you can see fires burning where people are burning trees to make charcoal or Charbon in fench and creole. Charbon is used to cook and heat water. It is the only real source of fuel for the majority of the country.

I stayed with Caroline and Father Rahab at the Rectory of the local church which was built in 1956. The conditions there are very comfortable for Haitian standards. Many houses in Savanette are made of block or wood with roofs being tin or thatch. From what I saw, floors inside are dirt. Sewage is collected in open trenches and dumps into the river that flows along the north side of the town.

Savanette is not in the cholera area, yet there are many signs in the streets advising people to use caution, wash their hands and dispose of excrement properly to avoid it. Rivers are a source of cholera and so far it has not appeared here despite the fact that people draw water from it, defecate in it as well as allow animals to defecate in the flowing water. People also bath and wash clothes in this water.

Clorox bleach has become common as a means to disinfect water before using it to cook or bath or wash clothes.

There is an internet cafe in town which surprised me. It was started by some young guys, but on the days we were there, there was cloud cover and hence no sun or energy to power the laptops. The one guy was from Savanette and had been living in Port au Prince when the earthquake hit. He spent just over 24 hours buried in the rubble of a building before he was rescued.

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 2 2010

I met Caroline Ryan on November 30th. Caroline lives in Billings MO about 4 hours from Saint Louis. She and I would be travelling together to Haiti to meet up with Father Rahab and other people to spend a week visiting towns, villages and orphanages. There were supposed to be other people coming in, but the slow burning fear people are warmed by when they see or hear or read about Haiti, kept them safe in their cloistered lives in middle America where they can get a Big Mac 24 hours a day.

I had packed up hers and my collected donations into two 50 pound boxes. She spent the next two nights in Saint Louis and was going to fly down to Miami the morning of the 2nd of December. I was flying down on the 1st to Miami and we were to meet at the airport at noon on the 2nd.

We left Billings in the late afternoon and stopped in Rolla MO at a UPS distribution center to weigh the boxes and ensure they were not over the limit.

Unfortunately, Caroline was not allowed to check in the boxes and had to leave them behind. American Airlines has an "embargo" on checking boxes in on flights to Haiti for December and the first part of January. Apparently, there are too many people this time of year trying to bring things in to Haiti that American has had to institute restrictions. Poor American Airlines, they really have so many burdens. I'm so glad they have decided to restrict and make it more difficult for people to bring things in to Haiti. You know things like tampons for women who have nothing, hand sanitizer so that the spread of cholera can be limited, clothes for naked children, vitamins for malnourished children, shoes, coloring books and crayons, soccer balls.

Is it just American Airlines that has finally stood up to this blantant abuse and advantage taking by people trying to bring in these useless items to a country where people bath in the same water they shit and piss in? It's about time someone or some company has finally said no.

So in any case, 100 pounds of donated and bought items to help some Haitians at this time of year sat at the Saint Louis airport. To add insult to injury, they sent Caroline an e mail (which she could not read while we were there because there is limited electricity and that is what is needed to obtain an internet connection) stating that if she did not collect the boxes by December 10th, they would be destroyed. We did not get out of Haiti until the 11th.

Fortunately American Airlines doesn't always uphold it's policies (tsk tsk) and the boxes were not destroyed.

I, on the otherhand, learned that her boxes were not shipped when Caroline called me as I sat on the shuttle from my hotel to the Miami airport with my two 50 pound boxes and two carry ons (one of them a two room tent for a family in Port au Prince --- Thanks to Jan Bond of San Diego for donating the money for this purchase).

I was more fortunate. At the ticket counter after initially being told I could go BUY luggage and transfer all the box contents to the bags, the Supervisor allowed me to check them in. Afterall, rules are to be broken especially when you ask nice. The actual begging came in when I was told the tent was 4 inches, can you believe my audacity and stupidity, 4 whole inches too long to be taken on board as a carry on. I asked the woman if she had been to Port au Prince and had seen how these people were living. I was very nice and finally had to beg her. I guess she had a little of the Christmas spirit because she let me through. I was not so fortunate with American Airlines in my previous trips to Haiti where I have had to pay hundreds in additional fees to bring in supplies.

So Caroline and I arrived in PAP at around 4.15 pm. Previous trips, the chaos and quick thinking started as soon as you left the aircraft and found yourself on the tarmac making your way to the hangar serving as immigration and baggage claim. On my first trip, I wondered why people ran.... I learned that pretty quick. Now, however, they lull you into a sense of normalcy as they have jet bridges now and the corridors are new and clean.

It's when you get to the stairs taking you to the shuttle buses to the hangar that the fun begins. Every man for himself which continues when you get to the hangar and there are no immigration forms to fill out and "someone has gone to get them". I remember fixing Caroline in a place and shoving my way through the crowd for a form. The first timers are easy to identify. They are the ones making that scruntched up face which says "how rude" or "wait your turn"... silly geese, you better learn quick or by the time you get around to eating the corn thrown at your feet, it'll all be gone.

Those of us who have done this before get clever. My hat off to the young french woman who shoved her way up and volunteered to assist and hand out forms, she got a hand full and took care of herself and her companions and then let whoever could grab the remainder have them. We smiled at one another, shook our heads and I told her "bien fait" She said "merci" and we proceeded to the next stage.

Most people go to a counter or table or a wall to fill out their forms. The experienced shove into the immigration line and use the back of the person in front of them or their luggage as a desk top to fill out the form. The form gets completed as you progress in the line. Once through, it's time to queue for a cart. As most people are bringing in lots of things, there is a demand for carts. Carts are plentiful, the problem is that they cost $2 each. Most people travel with $10's and $20's. If you have exact change, you get to jump the line because the women selling the tickets for the carts NEVER has change. So as the novices stand there with their 10's and 20's, those of us who bought gum and water in Miami to stock up on 1's, go to the head of the class.

Then comes the luggage retrieval. Again, traveling in two's allows one person to stand guard at the cart and the other to push through the crowd, identify a Haitian personnel that looks competent and start collecting bags, boxes or whatever and loading up the cart.

Now in most places, once you have a cart, you can negotiate out of the airport yourself. Not in Port au Prince. First comes the customs control. Your packages will be opened. This is why you place clothes or vitamins or tampons on the top of your packed items. There is no interest for that. Wine, if you happen to bring it in, soccer balls, shoes, that stuff goes on the bottom. That's the stuff they may want.

Once you are though this, it's time to go through the big archway and make your way along the last smooth concrete you will see for your entire time in Haiti. Within several feet you are walking on crumbled concrete, stones and over pieces of metal that at one time in the distant past were the guide rails for a non existent gate. Negotiating over all this with a cart piled high with four 50 pound boxes requires two people and the Haitian you "hired" inside now meets up with his partner and they move your baggage through the crowds to the "parking area".

All this time, people are asking you in Creole, French, English, Spanish if you need help, who are you looking for, do you have a ride..... There are small walls and fences and the best thing is to step up above everyone else and scan the crowd. This is where being white comes in handy. As I step up and glance around, I become a lightening rod and anyone looking for me can easily see me. I also only travel with my red STL baseball cap, so who ever is meeting me can spot me.

This time, no one was there. The traffic was insane and I soon realized that we would have to wait. I positioned ourselves near the fence and waited. Our Haitian bellmen hanging out nearby, one always within range so that no other "bellmen" could swoop in and take away their fare. Many times, others in the throng will make eye contact with you and through gestures try and lure you away from your "bellmen". It's a game and there is no sinister meaning behind their attempts to get you to go with them. Everyone is desperate to make a buck.

As it started to get towards dusk, the crowds thinned and our ride arrived. We loaded up the Toyota 4 x 4 and I climbed up on top to wait for a friend, Dieubon Lucien, to arrive. He and his family live in a tent in front of their destroyed home and I had supplies and money for him. He was stuck in traffic and arrived just as it was getting dark.

While waiting for Dieubon, I realized that loading up the two 4 x 4's next to us with boxes marked "cholera" was Sean Penn. Here he is with some of his team. I eventually shook his hand and had a quick word with him. I really wanted to ask him what Madonna was like back in the day, but he seemed busy.....

We set off for the central plateau which is a good 3 hours north of the capital. The road that the European Union is building is great by Haitian standards and winds up the hills and into the moutains. It is not complete and there are sections which suddenly become gravel and rutted and then soon turn back to asphalt. This time we were heading to a town north east of PAP called Savanette. In Mirebalais we left the road and continued on what I can only describe as a goat trail. We covered the 13 miles in 2 hours and 5 minutes...... in pitch darkness with the Toyota's headlights dancing off the cliffs and trees.

We arrived in Savanette around 11 pm and had dinner: Goat, Plantain, Rice and Goat gravy..... In Haiti, you eat goat. Lots of it. Seriously, you eat a lot of goat. It tastes good, actually, but if you ever go to Haiti, bring dental floss. It's odd, but goat meat shreds in a unique way when it's chewed and it sticks between your teeth.

Back in the USA

Arrived back in Saint Louis Saturday night at 10.30 pm. We left Port au Prince for the border with the DR around 3 pm on Friday. The roads were clear, but we were told they were still blocked towards the city center. Many people were taking this route and I would imagine that by today it has become very active with people trying to get over to the DR.

The bus ride from the border to Santo Domingo took 6 hours and was a real experience. I don't know what was more entertaining, the blaring music, the crammed conditions or the vendors trying to sell us peanuts at every check point. If you think of those movies where the forlorn Americans are crammed on a long distance bus crossing some rural part of Venezuela or Peru with luggage piled every where and chickens at your feet, you're close (except there were no chickens, they were ducks and that was on another ride from Savanette to Port au Prince a few days prior).

I did not have any real opportunity to write during the trip as electricity and hence connections are limited. Besides, it was unusually cloudy and in many places internet cafes are solar powered so when there is cloud cover, there is no internet...

I did start a diary on my iphone which I will edit and start posting tomorrow along with pictures. At this point, all I can say is Haiti is still in a mess, they need help and the people are still amazing and wonderful.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Port au Prince

Connection possibilities have been virtually non existent. We travelled down to PAP from Hinche on Wednesday leaving at 4.30 am. The country has been experiencing civil unrest due to the election results and the belief that the results have been fixed. There have been road blocks along the way and we fortunately met up with three Chilean medical team people stuck at a road block. They have been most gracious in allowing us to hunker down at their compound for the past two days. We understand the airport has reopened, but it is difficult to get through road blocks.

At one road block north of Mirballais, we met up with Father Banife and Pam Keck, a nurse from Hot Springs, Arkansas. Pam and I met on one of my previous trips in back this past spring. Pam has been been at the orphanage in Hinche for the past week and was to return home yesterday.

Today is day two with our Chilean friends. Hopefully we will be able to get to the airport tomorrow and get flights out. I plan to update my blog when I get back and have photos from the villages and towns we visited. The only improvements I see are the road and small bridge construction between PAP and Hinche. Other than that, the tent cities seem to be growing. It is raining today and I can just imagine those cities around PAP with over 1.5 million people...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Last Trip of the Year

It's a rather cold morning in Saint Louis and I'm sure I'll be missing this when I land in the tropical heat of Port au Prince tomorrow. It was a busy day yesterday driving from Saint Louis to Springfield and back (total 8 hours in the car) plus the time there. I met up with my travel companion, Caroline Ryan. She just returned to Billings Missouri outside of Springfield after some 35 years in San Francisco. SF to Billings, MO.... WOW.

We packed up her donations into cardboard boxes and then headed to Rolla Missouri where we stopped at a UPS hub to weigh the boxes and ensure they did not exceed the 50 pounds.

Together we are bringing in clothes (some beautiful dresses made by Ms. Eunice Queen of Wilmington, NC), vitamins, sanitary supplies, shoes, a tent and miscellaneous items. The dresses were transported by my parents in their car from Wilmington to Los Angeles where I picked them up over Thanksgiving. These little bundles will have crossed the US twice before they make it to some needy children in the tent cities of Port au Prince. Thank you Eunice!

I'm flying down to Miami tonight and leaving on an early afternoon flight with Caroline into Haiti. I am hoping that I will be able to access the internet and do some updating while there, but electricty and connections are limited so this may be difficult.

Thanks to everyone for your donations and well wishes. I know it is hard for many people in our own country right now, but the situation in Haiti seems to go from bad to worse. I am anxious to see if any progress has been made in rebuilding and helping people get back to some semblance of order to their lives. I have been in contact with people in one town where I have been several times and have been told there are many people sick and many have died from Cholera. Hopefully this epidemic is or soon will be under control.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Well, I've been back for over a week and have been trying to determine why I am procrastinating posting from this last trip. At first, I thought it was because I was trying to catch up on things; working on the rental property, cutting lawns, e mails, etc.... but I realize that this past trip also had me seeing some difficult things: the naked handicapped child laying on a concrete patio in front of the "poor house" in Thomassique, his body covered in dust and dirt. He was trying to move with his arms and legs in different directions, each time he lifted his head to move, it would fall back down hitting the concrete with a thud.

There was the visit again to the Missionaries of Charity orphanage. This time, the smell of urine and defecation was overpowering. The small babies laying in these drab cribs, coughing, scratching at open sores. Diapers made of scrap clothes soiled and dripping. Some of them with bellies extended because of hernias, others thin and their skin tight over their bones like tents that have been staked to tight and you can see the poles holding it up. And the eyes, it's almost too much. They get very big and there is this look which makes you understand that this baby is not going to live much longer.

Too many babies, not enough love.

Then there was the woman and her daughter who appeared at the Rectory one day. I have been a silent critic of the Catholic Church, but I can honestly say, they are the only churches I have seen in Haiti whose doors are always open. People of any denomination, at any time of the day, can enter and seek water or food. This woman and her daughter arrived with the clothes they wore and a small bag of what I would call rags.

We put together some clothes, found flip flops for their bare feet and gave them food, water and vitamins. When I asked the woman how old her daughter was, she said she could not remember how many years ago she was born. She did not even know her own birth date.

Leaving Haiti, the wounded from the earthquake walking up the stairs to the plane. The sweat pouring down their faces as the pain of walking and climbing sapped their energy. It's all very raw and real... and it is still there even if CNN is not reporting it everyday.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hi Folks,

I'm off to Miami and then Port au Prince. I have several boxes and bags of donated and purchased items to bring in: shoes, shirts, tylenol, vitamins, coloring books, crayons, soccer balls, tuna fish, tools.... I hope that American Airlines doesn't hit me too hard with the baggage fees. I'd rather take the money that I pay them and buy some goats for needy families!

I will try and post messages when there. I hope you find this interesting and that you don't forget that the need in Haiti is still there and in many cases very desperate.

The top photo is a little girl who came to Thomassique after her family's home was destroyed in the earthquake in Port au Prince. Church had just finished and she wandered over to have a look at me (people here think I'm dark skinned, in Haiti they look twice at the "blond" LOL.
We talked for a bit and I gave her some candy.
The woman with the green trousers and pink flowered shirt comes by the church and washes clothes. She does this for whatever the church can give her whether it is a little money or something to eat. When I left last time, I gave her a 50 pound bag of rice for her and her family. She put it on her head, stabilized herself and then walked home.
The girl in the pink shirt dressed up for the photo in her best clothes. I had met her on my first trip where she was with other children at a food distribution point for orphans. She has a family (last photo). She speaks french well and I brought her a dictionary and some books on my second trip.
I wanted to visit her home and did so before I left. Her father had died between my two trips and it appears the family is trying to figure out how to get by. The light blue house is her home and these are her brothers and sister standing next to their mother. I brought them a 50 pound bag of rice and gallon of cooking oil. I was told by a Priest that this helps families tremendously. It cost me $30, a dollar a day to supplement a family like this. Unreal!

These are some photos I took early one morning on my last trip. I asked to be taken up further into the hills to see the source of the water that travels down a pipe to Thomassique. The top photo shows children playing their water buckets like bongo drums while they wait their turn to fill the buckets at the public faucets.
The second photo shows the water coming up to the surface from the acquifer.
The third photo shows a collection pond before the water enters the pipes and travels to Thomassique and two other towns downhill. Children play, bathe and take drinking water from this point. Animals are allowed in to drink and they defecate and urninate in and near the water.
Obviously this area should be restricted.
The last photo shows the entrance to the source and that it was funded by World Vision and USAID. The system needs to be upgraded; pipes replaced, faucets secured, the main source restricted, routine testing of the water conducted.

This is the Rectory where I stay. The accomodations are very simple. Curtains over the doors help to keep flies and mosquitos out of the main rooms. The nets over the beds keep mosquitos away at night, malaria is common. In the second photo you can see several tennis balls. Children love them, they are easy to bring in and are inexpensive. Hard to believe how tennis balls are cherished as a toy..... In the bottom photo, you can see a deep chest freezer in the background. This is where soft drinks and bottled water are kept. It is kept "cool" at best when there is power from either solar panels or the generator. Otherwise, a large block of ice is bought, chipped apart and placed in the chest. There is a drain at the bottom which lets the melted water drain onto the floor.

During my last trip in March, the Church where I was staying had received donations from the US. With the money, they bought food supplies and planned a soup kithcen distribution in the town of Thomassique. Resources in these smaller towns in the Central Plateau are being stretched due to the increase of people coming from Port au Prince.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

These are 300 gallon plastic water containers that will hold the filtered water. The red one will store water filtered the first time and the green will hold the water that has gone through the process twice.
They were being lifted up and into the filtration room. The room had been built several months ago and then the tanks were bought. Door width of 40" and tank diameter of 48" doesn't work (even I can figure that out and I hate math)....
One option was to break apart the concrete and steel set frame of the door, then repair it all. I got a wild hair and climbed up on the tin roof and thought about this idea. The locals thought I was crazy... It worked and replacing the tin was easy (I think). They did break the caps though... Another item to run around Port au Prince and try and find this weekend...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Well, I need to make some comments about the last trip because I am leaving for the next in just a few days.

The last one was to accompany Lou Hagler. Lou has been working with Living Waters based in Mississippi. They are an organization bringing filtered water to small towns and villages in numerous countries. They have about 20 installations in Haiti. Their site is

Lou asked me top assist in the installation of the solar panels which will generate power for the water filtration system The system should be able to generate 300 gallons of filtered water a day.

Some of the photos are of the solar panels being assembled and mounted. There is a power cord that goes from the panels, through a building on the property of the church and then across a street to the building where the installation will be set up.

Another project we undertook was to clean the water "system" at the church. The system was installed several years ago and consists of a cement cistern (in some previous photos you can see it next to the kitchen). People, generally the women who cook for the church, take water from the cistern. They use a plastic bucket that has a string on it, lower the bucket into the cistern and take water. The water is then placed in several larger plastic tubs which they use to prepare food and wash dishes.

Sometimes, people will dip the bucket into the cistern and drink directly from it.

The cistern is filled very night by turning on a valve to take water from a main line coming down from the hills about 15 miles away. The piping system was installed in 1976 through the collaboration of several vilages, towns and priests living in the area. In my post of April 2, I mentioned this pipe and that I would elaborate....

The pipe is PVC and is above ground in some places and below in others. In some places above ground, the pipe goes through streams, swamps or areas where water collects. Along the way, the pipe has cracks in it. The water in the pipe is under pressure and is flowing at a good rate due to the fact that it is a long distance and is gravity driven. Because of this, where there are small breaks in the pipe, air and external water are actually pulled into the flow of water by a venturi affect. This introduces parasites, microbes and bacteria into the water system.

Additionally, at the source in the hills, the "pool" or "basin" where the water comes up from the underground acquifer is open. People bath in the water, animals defecate and urinate near and in the water.

So, to make a long story short, the water coming into the cistern at the church where we stay is not very clean.

From the cistern, the stored water is pumped up to two 300 gallon plastic storage tanks; each one on the opposing ends of the roof of the Rectory. From here, the water is gravity fed to showers and sinks in the bathrooms. One toilet functions by flushing, another requires buckets to flush.

This system at the Rectory was installed about 6 years ago (best estimate from my conversations) and has never been cleaned.

One of my tasks was to close down the water system, scrub the cistern with soap and water, and spray chlorine throughout it. Part of this cleaning required the two 300 gallon plastic containers to be emptied of water, disconnected from the PVC piping, lowered to the ground, soap and water cleaned and then sprayed down with a water and chlorine solution.

This took 3 days. Finding a brush, finding a ladder, finding a rope... all simple things to find here, took thought and planning.

There is a boy who spends time around the church. There are several children who come and go at the church. They really have nothing to do. Some are in school, some not. Some are beyond school age and since there is nothing to do, they come by the church. I suspect they also come around seeking something to eat. There were times when we were mounting the solar panels and I suddenly realized there were ten or twelve children just standing around watching. I guess watching two guys drill and attached pieces of metal is interesting especially if there is no TV, there are no toys, there are no balls to play with.

Maybe it's their way of procrastinating. Once they get home and change out of their little school uniforms, they have to put a five gallon plastic bucket on their head and walk two miles for water. Or maybe they are holding off as long as possible having to saddle up the donkey and go lug bags of charcoal home so their mother can cook dinner. Funny how kids of 7 or 8 are the same all over the world... hate chores.

So back to the boy.... I don't know his name. I do know that everyone calls him "tete". That's french for "head". I asked and was told it is because he has a big head. My suspicion is that malnutrition at a young age or perhaps poor caloric intake by his mother when she was pregnant may have caused this. In any case, tete is willing to help out when asked, but you really have to stay on him. Besides the clothes on his back (I don't think he has much of a wardrobe), tete's prized possession is a small battery operated radio. If you ask him to do something, he sets off to do it. But 10 minutes later you'll find him tuning in his radio while sitting on the steps.

Tete helped out by climbing into the tanks and scrubbing them. He also went into the cistern and was instrumental in cleaning out the slimmy leaves and capturing the frog that was swimming around the cistern.

After the tanks were cleaned, I asked the Priest what I could give tete or his family as payment for his help. I was told that tete came from a very, very poor family. We agreed that a 50 pound bag of rice and a gallon of cooking oil would be good payment ($30 value for helping out for 3 days).

The Priest was going to another larger town the next day and I asked him to get a few bags of rice and oil. When he returned, another Priest and I took the Toyota truck and drove out to tete's house. Along the way, I had to stop and let the Priest drive as the road had become so bad, I didn't think I'd be able to get through.

Tete lives with his mother, father and 6 brothers and sisters. We explained that tete had worked hard and helped us clean the tanks and that his payment was the rice and oil. His parents were beside themselves that tete was bringing home a 50 pound bag of rice and gallon of cooking oil for helping us.

The next day, I asked tete and his cousin to start cleaning an enclosed area near the church. I'd like to have it cleaned and perhaps have some people start a garden there. After a few hours, tete and his cousin came to get me. When we got back to the enclosed area, I found several of tete's brothers and sisters and his mother cleaning up the area.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The photo with the large piece of wood in a room with pots and pans on the floor is the cooking area of a home. A 15 year old boy lives here all alone. One parent is dead and the other has moved to another town. This is where he cooks.
The other photos are of the kitchen at the Rectory where I stayed. The one photo shows a window through which you can see the cistern from which water is drawn. The water is contaminated with parasites, bacteria and algae, but it is all they have to draw from.
Check out the stove in the one photo. I don't know if it's ever been used. It's gas and I think the idea may have been to hook it up to a propane tank.... I have to ask if it is ever used as I can not see how when there is no natural gas....