Our ride shed up bright and early to take us to Gonaive. The morning is bright and clear after the rains of last night and the mountains and fields are beautiful in the morning light. It’s market day and there are people everywhere along the roads. The strength and grace of these women is amazing – the volume and weight of what they carry on their heads is incredible. They make it looks effortless and beautiful. The roads where markets are set up are incredible. People crowding their wares and produce onto blanket and in baskets and then sit in hopes of selling. The mountains give way to dessert and we drive past amazing eeks at existence – houses made of scraps and tin, some with refuge tents still in the yard. Families in their yards with children running naked toward the roads as we pass. Children appear out of their homes and spill out along the streets as they had to school. Dressed neat as a pin in their uniforms from their homes in the dust. The roads bumps along for the last hour of the trip – full of potholes and washouts and ditches in the gravel, reminders of the recent hurricanes and the repair work yet to be started. We meet up with Jeff’s friend Herby, his co-founder Harry and his wife Isabelle when we get to the city. They have gathered the board and supporters of their organization – Zion’s Children (Organisation des Enfants De Sion) and host a meeting to share with the work the work they’ve done and their vision for the future – supporting school education for the families in the city who can’t afford to pay for it (they’ve identified already 20 children for the 2009-2010 year), a rebuilding of the orphanage that was destroyed in the latest hurricane and a community center with job and language training. We were touched when they hosted a small reception to welcome us and they took us on a tour of the city so we could see firsthand the devastation of the hurricane last year. The roads are disastrous at best, there is no sewage or garbage system and the public schools have no teachers. We are able to visit one of the private schools that the orphanage partners with to support children’s education. They currently have supported the education of 10 students. US$250 is able to provide a year’s education and books, US$350 includes uniforms as well (students will be sent home if they are not in uniform), US$500 adds 3 hot meals a week and US$700 includes an annual medical visit (most children have never seen a doctor). We are thrilled to be able to support 10 children’s education for a year thanks to the generosity of donations received toward our trip. It is incredible to see the hope that is possible within a community so devastated by disaster. Harry recounts the experience of climbing to the rooftop of his third floor home with about 50 other people from the community who didn’t have homes high enough to escape the flood and waiting for 3 days with no food or water until the waters receded enough to be able to swim for the higher grounds. We explored with them further to continue to support their work from the states – still a bit of work to be done on that end. We said goodbye and headed back across the ruined roads – a famous Haitian storm brewed ahead. The rain and wind came sideways and the side roads, yards and home started to flood as fast as it began. With this evidence of the power of just an average afternoon storm it is terrifying to imagine what the hurricanes must have been like. We stopped to say goodbye to Karen and Ti Luk Nyen, though we can only hope our paths will cross again. The work she does at the orphanage and school she has created is another noble example of hope in a desperate country. Without education, the children have no hope of a future. We are so grateful to all whose generous donations made their support possible.
EOS Board of Directors in Gonaives with Jeff, Lauren and Alexis
Some of the children supported 2009/2010 school year
The view from the office of EOS- still so much devastation from the hurricane. The lower level of the building is ultimately going to be the orphanage EOS would like to establish for abandoned children living on the street.
Lauren and Herby walking through the garbage ridden beach which is used for defecation and putting waste.
Another lovely view of the beach in Gonaives.
Our sponsered children's school in downtown Gonaives
Students in math class
Building hit by the last hurricane
Turned over truck from the last hurricane