Tag Archives: Haiti

Haiti Earthquake: Two Years Later

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My husband took this photo on December 28, 2011, just weeks before the two year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti.

This sight leaves many to wonder, where has the aid money gone? Right after the quake, there was a tremendous outpouring of money. About one out of every ten Americans donated money to Haiti, and that is incredibly impressive. So I understand why my friends and family have grown tired of me asking for more money for the arts center I work for and support in Jacmel, Haiti. Enough money was pledged or donated to give every Haitian over $300. So why is the Presidential Palace still in ruins? Why are there hundreds of thousands of people who have called a tent “home” for the last two years?

The best answers I’ve found were written by Bill Quigley and Amber Ramanauskas and was published on CommonDreams.org. The article is worth reading in its entirety, so I’m posting the long link in case the click-through doesn’t work for you. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/01/03-2

I’ll also summarize it for you.

The United States received more of the US donated money than Haiti did. This mostly went to the US Army and also large non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Save the Children or UNICEF. Less than 1% of the money went directly to Haiti or to the Haitian government. Very little money ever reached Haitian people, businesses, or Haitian NGOs. Most of the money went to large US based NGOs that have not been explicit on how they spent it. For-profit companies got some of the money. Some of the money was pledged but never distributed. Some of it isn’t spent yet.

This article ends by saying something I fully agree with. To help Haiti monetarily, give money directly to Haitian people, businesses, and Haitian NGOs. Haitians are the people who are truly solving their problems and dealing with their day-to-day struggles and solutions. The money should be spent to directly promote jobs, education, and skills for Haitians.

The arts center I support is just that. We are a partnership with Haitians. We provide classes, materials, and a safe space for children and the community. Our goal is to pay the Haitians who have tirelessly volunteered to keep the center running. If you donate to Jakmel Ekspresyons arts center, you will be able to see exactly how your money is spent and the people you directly benefit. Thanks.

Knitting Workshops in Jacmel, Haiti

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One of the purposes of my trip was to continue a knitting workshop. When I went in July, I taught two separate workshops, for two days each. This time I only taught one 2-day workshop at the new Jakmel Ekspresyons building.

I am grateful for the community of knitters on Ravelry who donated so much yarn for each trip. I had to vacuum-pack all of it in order to bring it with me.

It was my first time seeing the building, and it is awesome! There are two floors. The second floor has an office, two workshop rooms, and space for a computer lab that will be set up shortly. I held the workshop on the first floor to be handicapped-accessible since one of the knitters was unable to walk. Plus this courtyard section is beautiful and breezy. It’s in a shady spot, but the sky is the ceiling.

There were approximately 12 attendees, and about half of them had come to the workshops in July. I taught most of the experienced knitters to increase and decrease, as well as knit in the round. I taught the first-timers to cast-on, knit, and bind-off. Many of the experienced knitters also showed the newbies how to knit. I’ve found that in Haiti, people are extremely helpful to each other. It sure helped me since I was using very limited Creole and only one person there spoke proficient English!

I had so much yarn, I was able to leave some of it behind, along with dozens of pairs of handmade knitting needles (the chopstick ones– I ended up securing the ends with rubber bands). I also left 4 cd-roms with instructional knitting videos in French and dozens of copies of my handmade “Learn to Knit/ Aprann Brode” zine which is in English and very broken Creole.

My hope is that Jakmel Ekspresyons can have a regular knit and crochet group who meets regularly and helps each other. Lots of people in Haiti know how to crochet, plus there was a crochet workshop at Jakmel Ekspresyons a few weeks before my knitting workshop. Haitians are extremely resourceful, and I am confident that they will be able to figure out patterns and fix mistakes if they meet and craft together.

One of the students, Salomon, knew how to crochet already, and learned to knit at my workshops. Afterwards, he continued his project until he finished his skein of yarn, then came by Jakmel Ekspresyon to ask for more yarn.

He was so impressive. I taught a group of kids his age how to knit in an after-school program, and after many hours with these English-speakers, some of the kids were still not able to knit as well as he could. As usual, I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of yarn donors, the willingness and excitement of new knitters, the ability of people to learn in a difficult situation (language barrier), and the helpfulness and kindness of the participants.

Beautiful Haiti

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It is frustrating that the Haiti that most people know is the Haiti portrayed on the news. What I mean is Americans I’ve spoken with have had the conception that Haiti is a dirty country full of sick people who do not have the means or will to take care of themselves. In contrast, visiting there I’ve not only seen natural beauty everywhere, but also eager, happy people with a huge sense of pride in their self-appearance and a strong work ethic. I did not take many photos of people working on projects, including functional projects like building, cleaning, preparing food, and taking care of others, and artistic projects like dance, film, and painting. I have seen all of this, and I’ve seen it often. I did take some of the pictures of the natural beauty that is Haiti.

This is the beach at Jacmel Bay. Not only is it gorgeous with a nice, cool ocean breeze, it is also a great spot to find sea glass. In fact, if you’re interested in sea glass jewelry, a group of deaf Haitians creates it and sells it on etsy.

This photo is taken from a rooftop in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital and home to nearly one million people, with close to 4 million in the city and the surrounding metropolitan area.

Here is my husband enjoying the sights and sounds of Port-au-Prince.

Goodnight, Haiti. It was great hearing your cows, roosters, and goats. The first day I arrived on my first visit, the driver who picked me up at the airport told me no one visits Haiti just one time. Having been there twice in less than six months, I agree with him.

Haiti Hiatus

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I will not be posting for a week or two because I will be in Haiti. This is not an invitation to rob me, I have a house-sitter. I promise lots of interesting posts upon my return.

In the meantime, consider a donation to the arts center I am working for and supporting. We need to pay the rent.

Here is the indiegogo link to donate.

Thanks for donating. Enjoy these photos from my first trip to Haiti.

This is part of a market outside of Port-au-Prince.

This is a tap-tap and some traffic taken through a dirty windshield in P-a-P.

This is me trying to show the beauty of the countryside in Haiti. It’s the only equatorial country with a high enough elevation to have snow in the mountaintops. Lots of mountains are common in places with earthquakes (since mountains are formed by the same process of shifting tectonic plates).

These photos are from the main street in Jacmel. Moto traffic is heavy and traffic jams are common. Right-of-way is the reverse of the United States- the larger you are the more right-of-way you have. Pedestrians have none. Watch out if you are walking, especially since the sidewalks that exist are not up to standards you may be used to.

This is a young girl being assisted by an older girl at College Saint Louis run by Jenny Theodore. I was impressed at how the older children assisted the younger children at everything. This particular class had children from ages 4-11. The boy in the background reminded me a lot of many of my students.

This is taken from the balcony of the old Jakmel Ekspresyon building. We have a new building now and need to pay the rent!!

These are from knitting workshops at Vilaj Kariyb. It’s a beautiful oasis located in Jacmel. They have held workshops there including writing, poetry, and my knitting workshops. They are also working toward being a community arts center.

This is also in Jacmel. Wooden construction is uncommon. It is expensive, and much of Haiti has been deforested. Haiti would be an ideal place for growing bamboo since bamboo grows so quickly and is a useful, strong wood.

Thanks for looking. See you in a few weeks and don’t forget to support the arts by donating to Jakmel Ekspresyon. You will be able to see exactly where your money goes and the people you help directly.

Yerba Maté

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I love coffee. Nothing compares to it. As a mental exercise, I used to ask people if they had to only keep one vice in their lives (booze, cigarettes, coffee, etc) and could never use the others, what would they pick. I always said I could give up anything but coffee. Well, I quit drinking alcohol over 3 years ago. I don’t smoke. I don’t use any drugs. Coffee was my only vice. (Ok, we’re not counting sugar or knitting).

Unfortunately, I learned about 6 months ago that coffee was the primary cause of the migraines I was experiencing approximately every other day.

When I went to Haiti in July, I didn’t drink any coffee. At first, I was scared to use the stove by myself to heat up the water for the french press. You have to turn on the gas first, and I had an imagination that included me blowing up the house. This type of stove is probably much safer than American ones that have the gas on all the time with the pilot burning it off. Because if the pilot goes out, you have a gas leak, but here you actually turn it off. But since so many things felt so different for me in Haiti, I decided to skip using the stove for my first few days. I got over my fear by the end of the week.

Then I realized after about two days, I’ve never felt this healthy in my life. Part of it was the amazing climate and temperature, but my headaches and dizziness were gone! The only major change I had made was not drinking coffee. Instead of having headaches as withdrawal, I felt great. So I decided to not drink any coffee for the rest of the time in Haiti, and for at least a week when I got back to see how I felt.

And then I mourned my loss of coffee from my life for about two months. A friend told me it might help to drink a hot beverage in the morning. So I started having tea. Occasionally, especially on the weekends, I’ll have yerba maté.

Yerba maté contains caffeine as well as two other caffeine-like compounds. It does not affect me negatively the way that coffee did, but does give me the morning buzz I missed so much.

It tastes great served with a little soy milk and honey. If you suffer from migraines, I highly suggest finding which foods or drinks are triggers. As much as I love(d) coffee, it has been amazing to be relatively migraine-free for the past six months. And I thank my lucky stars and my husband for introducing me to it.

How to Make Cheap Knitting Needles?

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I’m going back to Haiti in about two weeks, and I’ll be teaching some more knitting workshops. I have so much I’d like to do before the trip including download French knitting videos and create a dvd, reprint my Knitting Basics zine, and make an advanced knitting zine. I also want to make some knitting needles to bring.

I received lots and lots of donations of yarn, so thanks everyone who donated. Unfortunately, I did not receive very many needles. I want to bring 30-50 pairs, and the least expensive run about $3.00 a set. I don’t really want to plunk down that much money, so I borrowed an idea from someone on Ravelry– make them out of chopsticks.

So I bought a pack of 50 pairs of chopsticks for $1.50. The problem is, I need to put something on the end to keep the yarn from falling off the back. My first idea was clay that air-drys. So I bought the only size container at Michaels which is way more than I need, for $11. The extra I’ll bring to my classroom. I think this will be too brittle when it drys, and won’t hold up. So it looks like my students will get a clay art project in the near future.

My next idea was wax, but my husband reminded me that it wouldn’t hold up well in Haiti. His idea was to slide a hex nut onto it and hold it on with a dab of wood glue. So I think we’ll stop by a hardware store today.

Do you have any other ideas? I want these to be reasonable and last for the people I’m giving them to.

Haiti

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Did you know Bill and Hillary Clinton went to Haiti on their honeymoon? Yes, it is now the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and has been hit with multiple disasters in the last decade (hurricanes, earthquake, cholera epidemic), but my dream is that within my lifetime, Haiti will be restored in such a way that it will fulfill its potential, and become a tourist destination like so many countries nearby. I mean, just look at this tourism site for Jacmel!

Most Americans know about the Louisiana Purchase- Jefferson bought a bunch of land from France for a low price, pretty much doubling the size of the United States. Why did Napoleon sell it so cheaply? Partly because the slaves in the French colony of Haiti revolted and overthrew their captors. The Haitian Revolution, or the only successful slave revolt in history, gave the former Haitian slaves independence over their French colonists. Because of this, Napoleon lost money, people, and faith in expanding France’s kingdom. In need of money and uncertain of his country’s future, he decided to sell his territory to Jefferson, and at a great price. Unfortunately, this also bankrupted the newly created independent country of Haiti and it didn’t become prosperous.

So what now? There are many great organizations working in Haiti, but in my opinion, many of them harm as they help. For example, if an NGO (non-governmental organization) is willing to pay twice the normal rate of rent, why would a landlord rent to a Haitian for the previous going rate? This drives up prices throughout the country. And if an NGO is willing to provide free medical care, why would people go to local clinics and hospitals? If food and clothing are given away freely, why would people buy them? These actions cost Haitians jobs. This is not to say that starving and sick people with no money should be left to fend for themselves. However, it is something that should be taken into consideration. NGOs should work hand-in-hand with Haitians so that they can help to provide jobs rather than take their jobs.

Some of the best organizations that I have found that work together with local communities are: Partners in Health (medical care, worldwide), Kiva (microlending, worldwide), Zafen (microlending, Haiti).

Of course I must mention the organization run in part by me, and in a much bigger part by a handful of my friends, Jakmel Ekspresyons. This is an arts center, the only LGBT-friendly, and handicapped-friendly arts center in Haiti (to our knowledge). We are currently raising funds for rent for the next year. Rent is much higher than most people think because it skyrocketed after the earthquake when there were suddenly fewer buildings to rent and more people/agencies that wanted to rent them. Our IndieGoGo campaign details exactly what we are raising money for, and showcases our donor gifts! People in Haiti need not only food, shelter, and water. They also need creative outlets, and safe places to share their stories and their work.

This cyber Monday, please remember not only your friends and family, but also people worldwide (including Haiti) whose lives could change because of your generosity.