Thank you for reading this far! Please feel free to refill your drink as I share the remainder of our January journey and a bit about our future plans with this work.
At Sadhana, I was inspired by how well organized that allocation of our duties were. Because we were cooking on an open fire, someone had to be cooking literally all day. We did it collectively, in shifts The first cooking shift began at about 6:00 to have breakfast ready by 8 or 8:30. The next shift began right after breakfast and the final shift began right after lunch. Also, we tended to the area. I dug holes with a pick axe to plant citronella around the kitchen hut and main hut.
We washed dishes daily with sea sponges, ashes, and vinegar. We stumbled through cacti and tall weeds to collect fallen sticks to light our daily cooking fires. I embraced the hard work, even in the 90 degree sunlight. The only job that I avoided was cleaning the restrooms – makeshift 3/4 enclosed palm leaf huts with buckets inside for pee and poo. I really avoided that job, lol. My son did hard work too, but I let him take a lot of breaks. He was so excited to be able to come home and tell his friends that he used a real machete.
There were bonuses to being at Sadhana. We not only got to participate in all aspects of reforestation, but to distribute food bearing trees to neighboring residents around Anse a Pitre. It filled me with great joy. Other bonuses that warmed my heart were:
- Distributing clean water through the community every time that we “flooded” the canal to irrigate the trees. The water had to flow by people’s houses and yards before it reached the treed areas. Women would stand outside with buckets and jugs collecting the water to bathe, wash clothes, and even to drink.
- Learning the art of water conservation AKA “How to Grow a Forest in the Desert”.
- Learning to build a rocket stove – an outdoor stove made of red soil, water, and donkey poo. The donkey poo acts like concrete and is completely hygienic after the drying and the heating.
- Learning to use solar ovens to prepare simple meals.
- Participating in the distribution of and a workshop on solar ovens to the local women.
- Solar oven cake!!!
- Conducting research and experiments to see how to build a natural refrigerator and how to make ice by using a solar oven at night (only partially successful, lol).
- Friday Documentary Film watching nights (with Solar Power, projector, and a sheet!)
- Learning about local culture.
- Dancing to Haitian drumming.
- Practicing Capoeira Angola with international volunteers.
- Drinking rich creamy Haitian hot chocolate on a cold night with my friends. (It gets cold at night in the desert.)
- Learning to cook new healthy meals.
- Making new friends.
- Seeing children’s smiles surround me every time that I took a walk around Anse a Pitre.
- Holding a Writing Workshop and poetry reading for the Sadhana community.
- And mostly, my son’s enjoyment of it all, his growth, his writing, his love for Haitian food, love for being outdoors 24/7, inspired love for helping others, and his excitement to return and continue helping at the earliest opportunity.
I have been teaching my son bits of French, Spanish, and Kreyol over the past few years without enough consistency and no formal lessons. After this trip, he is motivated to learn all three languages without prodding, because he wants to be able to communicate on his own in situations like our recent trip. I cannot measure the effect that our journey had on him now, because I am confident that it developed him in ways that I will not notice until he is an adult. I am so happy with how everything went. So, so happy.
I will return to Haiti March 13 – March 23, 2015 to continue equity creating work in the areas of clean water security, fresh food security, and preventative health. Many people have asked me about how they can support these initiatives. Thus, I am offering this campaign as a means of making our efforts cooperative. The fundraising goal is $1,200. If you would like to contribute, I have a page set up at https://www.crowdrise.com/nikalainhaiti.
On Thursday, we will make our way to Port au Prince to the Family Nursing School at 28 Delmas. I built a relationship with them on my May 2014 trip to Haiti, where I set up medical clinics in tent cities with the University of Houston Honors College Medicine and Society Program and assisted Dr. Carl Lindahl in training Haitian earthquake survivors to conduct interviews of other survivors to preserve authentic narratives and serve as a tool for mental healing (survivortosurvivorstories.com). The interviewers were paid for a full year’s Haitian wages for less than a month’s work – finally, fair wages!
In Delmas, we will meet with Haitian survivors who are interested in being future interviewers for Survivor to Survivor to offer them that economic and service opportunity. Also, I will facilitate setting up a space for Happy will teach a workshop to a large group of nursing students on maternal health. Lastly, I will travel with the director of 28 Delmas to take pictures of an area where he is building a school and a community to assess and document it so that I can help with their water supply.
A few people in Houston have pledged possible assistance through either well digging or water filtration, so I need to see which system would work best for the area. Also, this new community in Delmas is a desert area similar to Anse a Pitre, so there is also the potential for food growth based on what I’ve learned.
As I recently shared, I spent two weeks of service in Haiti in the latter half of May. Here in the States, I often feel that I am living in false reality. In the age of social media, talk is confused with action and acknowledgment is mistaken for participation. When I am not actively contributing to solutions – my intelligence is only self-placating and my degree useless. It is not enough to know. I must do. It is my human obligation to direct my life in a way that adds to alleviation rather than exacerbation of the ills of the world.
It is my human obligation to direct my life in a way that adds to alleviation rather than exacerbation of the ills of the world.
Due to the United States unique and often exploitative relationship with Haiti, anytime that I buy a shirt, I may be supporting a sweatshop. The CEOS get rich while the workers have to choose between eating and sending their children to school. Anytime that I use my phone, I may be supporting a call center that does not allow pregnant women to breastfeed or take restroom breaks. These are all things that I have heard personal testimonies of well-known American companies doing in Haiti.
I cannot completely eliminate my role in Haitian exploitation because imbalanced trade with developing countries is so circumferential to our economic system. However, I can proffer alms to equity. As a good friend recently told me, it may be only a drop in the bucket, but if no one puts any drops in the bucket, the bucket will be empty.
My “drop” is a choice to support a young girl’s education. Elandia is in second grade. Her favorite class is reading. Elandia, her mother, and 2 sisters live in a small tent in CAPVA since the earthquake of 2010. Someday, she wants to live in a big house and have her own bed. She aspires to be a doctor because there are many sick people living in CAPVA that aren’t able to receive medical care.
I met Elandia while running a deworming station near her school. Contrary to the norm in Haiti, Elandia’s mother does not have to pay for school. It is funded by donor contributions. Elandia and her classmates’ educations depend on people continuing to care enough to donate.
Whether Elandia has a uniform each semester (usually children in Capva’s only real outfit) depends on if those who begin to donate remember that children are always growing. Some of Elandia’s friends came to school nearly naked because no one donated for uniforms for them this year. Some boys wore only women’s blouses that hung to their knees, because that was all they had.
How you decide to put your drop in the global bucket is your choice. Today, I made my first $30 monthly contribution to Elandia. My $30 will pay for her books, uniforms, and help to keep the school running for her peers. If you would like to do the same or find out more, please visit holdthechildren.org.
Many friends have told me that they want to contribute to an international aid group, but are afraid that the money is not really going to the children. I visited Elandia’s school myself and can vouch for the credibility of the organization. Thank you for taking the time to read this post. God bless you.