Saturday, June 30, 2012

School Sponsorship for 2012/13 school year...

I just posted the photos of the moms whose kids we are hoping to sponsor for the 2012/13 school-year. Moms are busy collecting the necessary documents and next week, I will have to do some running around to the different schools to pay fees.
Here is a link to all the photos on our FACEBOOK page. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 28, 2012 - Haiti Update

Our ladies are kind of at a loss for words as to why all of their market bags haven’t sold yet. Some were almost in tears when I told them the news of our lack of market bag sales. “Why don’t they want our bag?” --- How do I explain that? But we cannot have the ladies crochet more bags when we still have over 200 unsold bag...
Today was extremely hot and muggy. You sweat just breathing! :) Finally, it just now started to rain. We have not had rain for several weeks in Haiti and that is unusual.
Yesterday, several ladies started crocheting the doggie poop bag dispensers. I posted photos on facebook. Four ladies crochet potholders today for Sandra at Help for Haiti, Inc. I dropped them off to her on the way home today. She is such a sweet lady, I am really liking her more every time I have contact with her. I gave the potholders to her as a gift because she not only shipped our yarn cargo for free in her container, but she held the container back for two days when three of our packages had not arrived yet.
Please see our photos on our Facebook photo album page.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 26th - Toilet Quest, Feeding Program, etc.

“Toilet Quest”: Today was an interesting day of sorts. I went on a treasure hunt of sorts for a useable toilette at the displacement camp at Santo #17. This camp, by many standards is one of the best and cleanest around, however, for the over one thousand residents, there is ONE (yes you read correctly), there is ONE useable toilet!
I actually met four lovely children on “my quest” to find a clean toilet at the camp. I took a video of them as I asked them where I could use to the toilet. Immediately, they told not to use the ones that were available for the camp residents because they were “nasty”. One of the little girls warned me that I could get cholera if I went to use the toilet. At first they told me that they themselves never go near the toilets. Upon asking some more as to where they would use the toilet, they pointed me toward a tree. One of the girls advised me that behind the tree was a great spot because it was “clean”.
Open Hole that leads to sewage
I will have to wait until I return to the U.S. since I will need a faster Internet connection to upload the videos that I took on my toilet quest. Eventually, there was one that was locked with a young man as the “gate keeper”. At first, he told me that he had the key to let me in, but then he said he had to get it, with that he disappeared, I think that was the point when he realized that I was filming.
Bottom line, there is ONE useable toilet for the entire displacement camp!
In the video, you will see several structures that were built as toilets, however, for some reason, the NGO that constructed the toilets insisted on the newest technology that promptly broke down, making the toilets unusable.
As you can see from the photos, there is a brightly painted wall that states (translated): WASH YOUR HANDS. What a joke! Where should I wash my hands? After I fall into the big hole in the ground that is open to sewage?
"Wash your Hands" - That's what the wall reads, but where is the water? Let alone the toilets?

At the Santo #17 camp, the tents were replaced by semi-permanent housing. The housing has a cement base, plywood walls and a tin roof. There are no glass window, once the blue shudders are opened, there is an open hole in the wall for a window. The houses are one-room duplexes. This means, two families are assigned one duplex. Since there aren’t any shower or bathing facilities, families carry bucket of water to the front of their house to wash there. No privacy at all. Some families have used old tarps to build some semi-private bathing facilities but with the strong winds, most of them have been blown away. So, at any one time, you will see semi-nude people washing themselves in front of their houses. That includes women who have developed a system of wearing short while being topless, washing the exposed body parts. Then the women will wrap themselves in a towel, take off their shorts and wash the other parts that stay covered under the towel. When I asked some of the women if it did not bother them that anybody who walks by sees them pretty much naked, they responded that they have to clean themselves somehow.
Lady washing herself in front of her house.
Okay then…
Feeding Program: Also, I spend some time with Peter, my cousin-in-law, who runs a feeding program for some of the resident children. The Haitian government has started a canteen where residents can buy a meal for 10 Gourdes (approx. $0.25) per person. One of the ladies in our crochet project got a job cooking at the canteen part-time. However, the food that the children get through Peter’s feeding program is free to them. The kids have been trained to sit nicely and to wait for their plate of food. I did take some video, that I will upload later, but I do have photos that I am posting on our facebook page. The program is supported in part by the same organization, called “Help for Haiti”, that helped us ship yarn in their container to Haiti. However, most of the program is supported by Peter himself.
Mid-Day Meal for the Kids in Peter's feeding program
Patiently waiting for their Plate
Crochet Update: We now have 97 finished Frisbees! I have started to work with a couple of ladies on the little dispenser bags. This is a much more complicated pattern than the Frisbees and I am going to only be able to teach about 10 of the best crocheters to make the bags. I took two full days with some of the ladies to try to teach them the Frisbee and stayed on trying to get round 1 and 2 finished. Two full days of round 1 and 2, then not moving forward beyond those two rounds… I don’t think that I have the energy or patience to go through this again with the dispenser bags. I know that the ladies want the work, but there also needs to be a reality check. Am I being too hard on them?
You can see more photos on our Facebook Page.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

June 25 (Monday) – The weather has been really strange! Normally this is the beginning of the rainy season. Days are hot and humid and almost every late afternoon there is a downpour of rain that gives some temporary relief. Because it has rained, the next day gets even more humid as the water starts evaporating. Additionally, rain is a haven for mosquitoes and they eat you alive every afternoon before the rain and then at night after the rain.

This time though, there has not been any real rain for several weeks. There are horrid gale force winds that blow up dirt, ash (from people burning trash) and other debris that it carries. Most of the time you have to squint to protect your eyes. Because it has not rained, the air is so polluted. The other day, my lungs literally hurt. I feel bad for anybody with any sort of allergies or asthma. This must be hell for those people.

Since there has not been much rain and the winds have been blowing non-stop at such strength, the weather, in terms of temperature has been great.

Crochet Update:
We have a lot more Frisbees finished. I am too tired to get up to count, but we are at about 80 frisbees. Unfortunately, I have had to discontinue the three of the four ladies whom I gave a second chance to today. Fortunately, one of the ladies is getting it now and is doing a beautiful job. One of the Cenobe sisters was turning in horrid looking Frisbees and I refused them. She argued with me for a little while, but they really are not up to par. Mary Suze came with three frisbeess today that were too loose and had mistakes in them. I rejected them and at first she got all huffy and puffy, but then, she sat down, frogged them and crochet beautiful Frisbees.

One thing is that a lot of the ladies crochet way too loose. I do not have anymore size US F (3.00 mm) hooks for them to use. A regular crocheter would use a size US H (4.5 mm) hook and crochet tight with the Red Heart Super Saver yarn that we are using for the Frisbees. These ladies are crocheting so loose that they need to go way down in hook size.

I took several videos today. Three of them of us driving the compound where we meet to crochet and two of us crocheting. I am never in any of the photos or videos because I am the camera-woman! I think that I will have to take some photos at arm’s length of me in it. The ladies thought that it was so funny for me to take videos. I will see about uploading them.

On Saturday, the ladies who have school aged children will come to have their photos taken. I am planning on taking a “family photo” with mom and her children.  This way, we can show the individual families better for all of the generous ladies in the U.S. and Canada who are supporting the children’s tuition payments.

Okay, there is something funny that I wanted to share. Electricity is supplied on an irregular and random basis. Some people have generators (that cost a lot of money to run), other people have inverters with batteries ( as system that stores extra electricity in batteries that look similar to car batteries, again this is very expensive to purchase and to maintain), thus most people just rely on the public electricity. Like I mentioned, it comes on at rather random times. Especially when it has gotten dark (which is earlier than in the U.S. or Europe since Haiti is located closer to the equator), things tend to quiet down some (though it is never quiet in Haiti).  It could be in the middle of the night when the electricity comes one, it does not matter what time because the entire neighborhood comes alive with music, TV, etc. I am just as bad as all the neighbors. When I got home today, I was tired, no electricity, no light except from my cellphone, so I decided to just lay down for a nap. As soon as the electricity came on, I sprang back to life…. alongside with all the neighbors! I ran into the house (since I like to sleep on the second floor porch) to get my computer to download videos, photos and to write this update.

While we crochet, when I am not checking or counting ladies crochet stitches, we chat a lot. I have been taking an informal survey of sorts to get opinions on the NGOs (non-governmental organizations that are here to give aid, etc.) Shortly after the earthquake, I worked for a couple of the NGOs, one not so good, and one pretty good (in my opinion). The ladies are sharing with me that OXFAM is giving a lot of support as is HELP AGED. Both NGOs are based in Great Britain, I actually had a job offer to work as the country director of OXFAM’s personnel before I left Haiti. I did work as the director of personnel of HELP AGED for their Haiti staff after the earthquake. I had a pretty good opinion of HELP AGED while I worked for them.

The one organization that got a unanimous “thumbs down” was UNICEF. (Most people who know me, know that I hold an extremely poor opinion of UNICEF, I could write a book about the damage that that organization has done in so many countries. But, I kept my opinion to myself as I was informally gathering opinions of the ladies.) One of the ladies said that all that UNICEF does is to drive around in fancy SUVs and that is about all they do. (I wanted to say: “Amen to that!” but I kept it to myself because I want to honestly hear what our ladies have to say, after all they are the ones living in the displacement camps with their children.)

I asked the ladies if any of the organizations were helping to create jobs for people, but aside from an occasional “Cash for Work” week, there was really not much done. Cash for Work is where crews are hired as day laborers for a day or a week at a time. But that is not happening frequently. One of the ladies said that many of her neighbors just sit around all day long waiting for a hand out. At this point, they are, in her opinion, getting too lazy to work. In my opinion, what is happening is that people are getting used to getting hand outs versus working for something. I think that is a terrible shame and that also means that the NGOs are doing more damage than good. How come there cannot be more programs like out little crochet project? The women are so proud when they finish their project and collect their pay. Do you know what I mean?

What is that saying: Give a man a fish and you feed him for one day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Okay, enough blabbering… Let me see if I can upload those videos somehow.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

June 23 & 24 update

This morning, I woke up and the electricity was still on, so I rushed to the coffee maker to make some coffee because you never know when the electricity will go off... as soon as I pushed the "on" button, the electricity went OFF!!! I wanted to cry! It is now 2:20 p.m. and I finally get to have my coffee. :)

Yesterday, Saturday, June 23 - I trained what was supposed to be the final group of women to make the frisbees, but will have one more group on Monday. What happened is that one lady who was supposed to come on Thursday never showed up, then she came on Saturday. Another one had left early on Thursday and did not come back on Friday. Both showed up expecting to be part of the Saturday group. I told them that they knew that I could not work with too many women at the same time and that is why they were in groups... I told them they would have to come back on Monday.

Three other ladies who came on Saturday just could not get it right. The problem (with two of them) is that you have to count single crochet 3, double crochet 1; then you repeat that 6 times. In the next round you single crochet 4, double crochet 1; then you repeat that 6 times. Well, these two ladies never attended school and were just not able to count to 3. I am not making this up. We tried so hard. After 7 hours, they were still on the first round, trying to get 3 single crochet and 1 double crochet - repeat 6 times.

One other lady crochet really "wonky" for a lack of other words and could not get it to look even at all. This is weird because she crochet the bags really pretty.

These three ladies, I told to come back one more time on Monday to try. If they still don't get it, I am afraid that they won't be able to help with the frisbees.  There were some tears, but I cannot do it any other way. It hurts my heart too. It is not like they are "kicked out" but they cannot crochet and earn money with the frisbees and later on with the little dispenser bags. It involves counting and this is an order by the ZOOM ROOM (the dog training franchise) that awarded us the contract for these items.

All the ladies have told me that they want to learn how to knit. I told them that I did not have any knitting needles but if they could find some, I would gladly show them. I told them that in Peru, people use bicycle spokes to knit. Then we had a good laugh because we said that probably, there will be a slew of bicycle spokes disappearing in the next few days... :)

Please see our facebook page for photos from yesterday's group....

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June 21 & 22 - Haiti update

Okay! We have Internet! I bought a little antenna and it even works with my MacBook! However, it is pay as you go, so I do not know how long it lasts before I have to recharge it.
Mary Ann - all the women were asking for you and they were sad that you are not here. They send you hugs and kisses.
The good news is that the container that was shipped with yarn in it has cleared customs and I am able to pick up the yarn. I picked up the three boxes of Red Heart Yarn that I had purchased to make frisbees and bags, yesterday. We did not have enough room for the other 6 boxes…but will pick them up later.
June 21 - I met with all the women and told them who could work on the frisbees and dog poop bag dispensers. They understood that this is a real contract and that only the top 20 could work on it. I told them that every women will get to make 10 frisbees, because we need 200.
I decided to work on finishing all the frisbees, then teach them how to do the dispensers, etc. I worked with 6 women yesterday, 5 more are coming today, the rest will come on Saturday. I figured that this would make it less hectic. It took about 2 hours and a few froggings for them to understand the pattern for the frisbees. But, I got 5 really pretty finished frisbees by the end of the day and most of them had started on a second frisbee. Cleanne Blaise had a really difficult time with the frisbee, but after about 4 hours of trying, she finally got it. She is the only one who did not finish her frisbee, but she only has three more rows to go. I teased her that it was because she went out dancing last night with her boyfriend. She got a good giggle out of that one (for all of you who don’t know her, she is almost 70 years old).
June 22 - Here is the link of photos that I took/were taken of us working yesterday & today. I uploaded them on the facebook page; here the LINK
We have 20 finished (BEAUTIFUL & PERFECT) frisbees. It takes the ladies a long time to learn something new, and they are not too good at counting…LOL… but once they get it, they are off to the races (so to speak).
Tomorrow, I have about 10 more ladies coming to learn how to crochet the frisbees.
I had another great day… everybody keeps asking for Mary Ann. What am I? Peanuts? LOL
I told the ladies that we won’t be making bags this time unless there are some more bags sold in the U.S. and Mary Ann can send that money. The ladies are excited about the frisbees and the dispensers (excited that we got a store contract for those). After that, earrings!
Mary Ann - I will post results of who is doing good tomorrow or over the weekend. A couple ladies “washed out” crocheting those frisbees. Cleanne Blaise is really quite sick. I crochet two frisbees myself and put her name on them for her. She did not come today. She needs some prayers, being almost 70 is not easy in Haiti!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On my way to Haiti...

I am on my way to Haiti, current on my layover in Miami.

Because I do not know what my internet connection situation will be like for the next three weeks, can you please check Mary Ann's blog for updates. Here is the blog address:

I will be sending updates to Mary Ann via text messages and she will post them.

Thank you for all of your support!