Jan. 12, 2011:
This morning we got to go to one of the tent cities for a remembrance event put on by the children. The tent city has approximately 30,000 residents and is on a toxic landfill site beside a PVC factory. The kids sang and danced, then all paraded out to the football field to observe a minute of silence and then play a soccer game. It was very moving. We were really glad to have a chance to go to a tent city, which was such a sad experience. Apparently the people have been told that it is being closed in 2 weeks, and at that point, services such as fresh water and sanitation services will be discontinued. Goodness knows where people will go.
Plans have changed, as they always do here. This morning we found a storeroom full of brand new wheelchairs that were donated by a British manufacturer, so we spent all day assembling them, and we’re heading to I’le a Vache in the morning for 2 days (back Sat night). We just really wanted to get the job done! So, don’t worry, Didier (the owner/manager of the hotel) will look after us well.
Jan. 13, 2011:
I spoke with Liz on the phone. It was about 7:30 PM and she had a busy day traveling from Port au Prince to Ile à Vache.
Ile à Vache is a small island 5.5 miles off the coast of Les Cayes, founded over 20 years ago by a French Canadian nun named Sr. Flora Blanchette. St. Francois d’Assisi orphanage is home to orphans and abandoned children from the island and from the mainland. Sr Flora seems like a real saint as she is 100% dedicated to over 70 children, 20 of whom are severely handicapped. However, I think the orphanage provides education to some 400 other village-based children.
Liz and her team were up at 5 AM and the drive took about 4 hours to make the trip squeezed into in an older van along with 10 wheel chairs. The road to Les Cayes was rough with many sections washed out since the last hurricane. They spent long hours yesterday modifying the chairs for the various children and then today they had to lift the chairs and baggage into the boat at Les Cayes in 33 degree heat. They made the crossing to Port Morgan and then onto the Orphanage arriving about 2:30PM. The chairs and baggage then had to be carried up a long trail up the mountainside to the orphanage.
Apparently the cholera is now terminated at the orphanage although they lost 5 children. Their meeting with Sr Flora was therefore very emotional as our team members shared a moment of sadness with Sr Flora. They were not there very long before a number of the children recognized them and called out for hugs. For those of you who have been there, Enrico asked immediately for his new pair of sunglasses. Since Liz was there the last time, in March, a new and very elaborate play structure has been built complete with zip lines and devices for the disabled. They also now have smooth, paved area on which to play ball and a brand new dining hall.
Like many people on Ile à Vache, the children in Sr Flora’s care were constantly suffering from intestinal problems caused by the contaminated local water sources. There is now a water purification system and Sr Flora and two staff have been trained to maintain it and change its filters regularly. It is attached to a 500-gallon cistern and the system is working incredibly well for the orphanage as well as for many community members, whom Sr. Flora provides with access to the purified water. When Liz and the team return to their hotel in Port Morgan, they found that they had taken lots of precautions to protect guests from Cholera. They were instructed to wash thoroughly and then do a final rinse in bottled water provided by that hotel.
They are fitting the chairs to the children all day tomorrow and then will return to Port au Prince on Saturday. On Sunday, they plan to be at Wings of Hope and the next day at the Holy Angels Orphanage.
Jan. 14, 2011:
Just a brief note today. I spoke to Liz a couple of times on the phone and they had a very long and busy day at the Orphanage. They managed to fit 12 children with new wheelchairs. One child in particular was glued to Liz and this was a little guy with Cerebral Palsy (non-verbal and athetoid) but very sociable. He thoroughly enjoyed playing with her and when it came to me to leave he was in tears and so was LIz. She said it was very difficult to leave him. In addition to doing the wheel chairs, they went over the physical status of the children and reviewed their therapy programmes. Liz said that Sister Flora is very saddened these days by the deaths of the 5 children. They are after all virtually her own children. Liz mentioned as well that there was a guest from France at the hotel that was with Liz and John when they had to be evacuated from Ile à Vache and travelled at night through Les Cayes to the airport. I gather he is a business man that comes there to purchase the root of some plant that is used in manufacturing a perfume used for men. I guess that explains that bottle of perfume in John’s bathroom called “eau der root”. John will recall who that is. They are relaxing tonight at the hotel and tomorrow is a travel day – back on the very rough road to Port au Prince. Liz is pleased with how well the building projects are coming along at the orphanage.