Saturday, August 7, 2010

Earthquake recovery updates

Here are updates and links to earthquake impacts and recovery in Haiti. The Mompremiers are pouring the roof on a school they built this summer! Kristie emailed me and reflected that when I was there in January, they had no idea they’d be building a school. They also have a water pump, and a volleyball and basketball court, and have 2 families living with them. I have tentative plans to go down next spring for a week or two to work with their youth group.

The Saturday July 31, 2010 posting on this blog by veterinarian Kelly talks about the tent cities in the capital. Kelly and I talked tentatively about me coming down this fall to help with litter cleanup and manure composting projects she wants to do with youth camps. I’d like to teach the basic science behind these activities. If anyone knows about the trash system in Haiti please let me know! My friend Rhoda who taught me Kreyol this past year moved to Haiti and worked with Kelly’s group CVM for a week before landing a job with Samaritan’s Purse. This is SP’s first time in Haiti.

Here’s an excerpt from Kelley’s blog;

It is raining very hard every afternoon. Ticant's wife just called and asked if they could have another tarp as the rain is pouring in their "tent". The strong sun here makes the tarps and even the tents wear out VERY quickly. There are some of the tarps that are heavier and holding up better but the blue ones like we buy to cover something in the States don't last long at all. It is very hard...

At the camps you have to pay to use the toilet - just imagine if you had diarrhea. The reason for paying is that way the camp committees can pay someone to keep them clean. It's only like 3 goudes but still when you have no job...This is the reality of life in the camps and it sucks! I think though that now some of those who have houses will start to go back. I have heard though that some people are living in the camps who have houses and then are renting their houses to others to make money. I guess I can't blame them. There aren't many free handouts anymore but just being in the mud and so close to so many makes life difficult.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

ECHO - Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization

I recently attended the ECHO Introduction to Tropical Agriculture week-long workshop in Ft. Myers FL. It's great for anyone wanting to learn more about poverty and agriculture methods to help people in developing countries. ECHO has a demo of just about everything that Dr. Randtke teaches in his Environmental Engineering & Science in Developing Countries class (CE495/895) at KU. It's a great place to network and meet missionaries and development workers. Pictures are of urban gardens for rooftops, the appropriate technologies (AT) intern showing a solar cooker (soy bean oil is used as a temperature indicator), a briquette press to make fuel pellets (the sign says Produce fuel from waste products: leaves, cornstalks, grass, sawdust, plant wastes, newspaper, junk mail, etc. Shred waste materials and soak in water; place desired quantity in perforated PVC and press; remove and air dry.) and a tilapia/duck pond in which the duck droppings feed algae which feed the tilapia fish. Thanks to the University of Kansas Professional Development Committee and my workplace for providing funds to attend this!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Charcoal (chabon)

These pictures show charcoal being sold along the road or in the market. Trees are cut and burned in pits along the hillsides to make charcoal for cooking. The little fuel (propane, etc.) that is imported costs too much for most Haitians. Also shown are the Haitian kitchens which are built outside. The larger brick one is at my hosts' house at UCI, they have to prepare a lot of food for missions teams. The 30 family members they took in after the quake made it a busy place!

2012 update - Here are more pictures of baking and cooking methods, all of which use charcoal: Roasting marshmallows over the stove in the UCI missionary compound. Women cooking up a lot of beans and rice in a church kitchen. The bread bakery at the Bohoc market. The new cassava mill and bakery at UCI.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Books about Haiti and Kreyol

These are the books and articles I've used as reference for talks I've given about Haiti, and others that are just good. These are linked to, but search Better World Books for used books and a good cause.
Kreyol Language

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Price of Sugar movie

The Price of Sugar
April 13 • 7pm • Liberty Hall, Lawrence, KS

Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $5. Doors open at 6:45 p.m.
A discussion following will focus on the U.S.’s roll in global trade, as well as alternative economies like Fair Trade, and local resources for these kinds of products.

In the Dominican Republic, a tropical island-nation, tourists flock to pristine beaches unaware that a few miles away thousands of dispossessed Haitians have toiled under armed-guard on plantations harvesting sugarcane, much of which ends up in U.S. kitchens. They work grueling hours and frequently lack decent housing, clean water, electricity, education or healthcare. "The Price of Sugar" follows Father Christopher Hartley, a charismatic Spanish priest, as he organizes some of this hemisphere's poorest people to fight for their basic human rights. This film raises key questions about where the products we consume originate and at what human cost they are produced. For more information and to see the film's trailer go to

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Creole language group in Lawrence KS, Eske ou pale Kreyol?

I meet with a friend once a week to practice and learn Haitian Kreyol (Creole). Are there other Kreyol speakers in the Lawrence, KS area who would like to meet with us? Both to learn from us and to help us speak better Kreyol. Leave a comment and we could arrange a meet-up at a coffee shop.

Zanmi mwen ansemble ak mwen e nou pale Kreyol. Nou vle renmen ede! Eske ou vle ansemble ak nou ekri yon 'comment' e nou ka pale nan kafe boutique nan Lawrence, KS. Mesi!

The University of Kansas bookstore has a great Kreyol book section, and some are available for download.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Birding in 2010

Louiders took me on 5 bird hikes. He’s a great guide and knows the birds by sound. The best place to see birds was on the garata which have giant orange flowers (this one has a palm chat on it, the base is also shown) and grow on the side of the mountain. Had a great view of the plain pigeon (ramye), a very large dove that JeanJean remembers being numerous when he was younger. They are now threatened from hunting, I’ve only seen one per year. It made a distinct groaning noise like a frog. I also saw a couple flocks of parakeets (parich), one had 20 birds in it! These birds are threatened from people catching them to take to the Dominican Republic to sell as pets. JeanJean remembers large flocks of parakeets when he was young.

These are the birds I saw for the first time in Jan. 2010 (scientific names are in the master bird list): Green Heron (Ti Krabye Rivye) by the Gwap River in Pignon, Greater Antillean Grackle (Mèl Diab), Red-tailed Hawk (Malfini Ke Wouj), and Bananaquit (Kit). I also saw a burrowing owl (Koukou) that a man had in a basket and tried to sell me.

Louiders pointed out two birds that he knew but I couldn’t confirm for myself:

Yellow-faced Grassquit, (Kit) and Loggerhead Kingbird (Pipirit Chandèl) which was by the soccer field on Hwy 3. I might have seen a Flat-billed vireo (Ti Panach Bèk Plat) but the sun was at a bad angle.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Great food in Haiti

The food in Haiti is great! Even when we switched to mainly rice and beans to make the food last with all the house guests, we were still having great meals thanks to the regular employees who cook meals for missions teams and JeanJean’s family who took over most of the cooking.

The yellow flower is pigeon pea which people grow in fields. We have it with rice, as seen in the photo with the okra and the fried manioc in the middle. The manioc is a small tree (shrub?) that has a large root that is also ground to a flour to make cassava bread (in photo) which JeanJean buys fresh from the market.

Corn is hung to dry (or to keep it from mice and rats). Not sure if the corn in the photo is for chickens or people. JeanJean made popcorn for us a couple nights. Cabbages are plentiful and the photo shows them stored in the kitchen, along with a couple breadfruit that is served fried. The cooks also make fried plantains (bannann preze), and we had boiled plantain served with a red sauce (see photo).

We had real milk one morning! Because most people have no refrigeration, milk is heated to sterilize it and then drank while it’s still hot. The rest of the time we use powdered milk. Real cheese is not available, so it makes a great gift for missionaries (freeze a couple cheese blocks and put in your luggage). The only cheese that can be found here is Laughing Cow or equivalent (again, doesn’t need refrigerated).

The little boy is holding a live crab. Don’t know where it came from. The cooks occasionally cooked chicken before the earthquake, but I don’t remember it being served afterwards, though beef was served once. It’s easy to be a vegetarian here. We have eggs for breakfast quite a bit. The chickens run free and scramble up the trees to roost in the evenings.

I took down fixings for s’mores which made for a fun evening.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Haiti update

Though I’m back safe in the US, I wanted to keep everyone updated on what my friends JeanJean and Kristie Mompremier are doing to help their community. Below is a portion of their latest newsletter. Click here to access the UCI website with all their newsletters.

Also, UCI has been coordinating relief efforts with Haitian American Friendship Foundation (HAFF) just down the road (my friend Rhoda worked there and is on the board, I was to teach there). Connie at HAFF has a blog that goes into more detail about the young men who died and their memorial service that I attended.

From the Mompremiers:
We will be building 2 houses for families that want to stay together as a family but who have no space. The houses are in 2 different communities very close to us. These are families that took in people from Port even though they didn't have any place for them. They are sleeping on the dirt and are just overloaded. They are willing to work hard and contribute labor, rocks, water, and what they can to build a better house. We praise God that we are able to help them.

We are also going to employ some of the teachers that left Port. They will be holding classes for the preschool and lower elementary classes. There are many children that have no where to go to school. The UCI board identified this as a major concern for parents. We are providing books and materials for kids in the upper grades to study. The worship center has 2 big rooms in the front that will be used for this purpose. These kids will also be added to the feeding center.

We also continue to send food and charcoal to people living under sheets in Port. We have listened to people that lived in Port for a while after the quake. They said that many times they were able to receive food but had no way to cook it. There is no electricity or gas in many parts of the city. Wood and charcoal are the only ways to cook, but there are few trees in the city. We are sending down another truck load of charcoal to the churches.

Continue to pray for the emotional/spiritual health of the refugees. A kind of sad/funny story happened Thursday. We have a lot of airplanes flying overhead since the quake. On Thursday, 2 Ospreys flew overhead at a very low altitude. I hope I'm naming this plane correctly. It is the plane that can take off and land like a helicopter but can cruise like a DC-3. It is big military plane that has a distinctive, loud sound. We had never heard it before. When it went over our house, all the Port-au-Prince people came running out of the house in a panic. One poor girl even peed in her pants! Everyone was scared that it was another earthquake. From what people tell me, the noise of the quakes and aftershocks, or at least the noise of the houses cracking, crumbling, disassembling, was almost as bad as the shaking. When the people heard the Ospreys, they thought another quake was coming. When I say all of the people, I mean every single one of them, at least at our house, ran out of the house and they looked down at the earth and didn't even think to look above. Everyone laughed afterwards, even the girl with the wet undies, but it is still sobering to know how affected they were.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Missionary Flights International

Thanks to Missionary Flights International (MFI) I made it back to Ft. Pierce Florida, and thanks to pilot Ric even had a place to stay for the night before my Ft. Lauderdale to Kansas City flights. The 7 hr flight on a WWII DC3 took us from the airstrip in Pignon to Cap Hatien on the north coast where we went through customs, to the Caicos Isalnds where we refueled, to Ft. Pierce FL. Ric took me to his house in West Palm Beach to stay overnight (got to bed around midnight), then his wife Beth took me to the train station in the morning to catch a train to the airport. It was wonderful to be taken in like that. My friend Rick was waiting for me at the airport (glad to see a familiar face) and he took me home where my dogs and cats were waiting for me. Everyone was happy and healthy thanks to house/pet sitter Kim. The earthquake changed everyone's plans and made my visit much richer, as I was thrust into the daily lives of not just my host family but other familes facing this crises. And 19 people accompanied me to the Pignon airport on the UCI bus!

Photos show: The 554 lbs of supplies that UCI received (along with my friend Barb the art teacher! Barb & Jim had to leave Haiti last summer due to lack of funding, but now are back). The trip to the airport. The medical mission team on the DC3 with me.

Layover on Providenciales of the Caicos Island.

Click here for videos on youtube.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nutrition centers

UCI runs nutrition centers where kids get food and Bible stories. Each has about 40 – 60 kids, and some take their food back home to share with families. Kristie said most kids didn’t have clothing before the centers began. I visited 4 during this trip (LaPleids, Caiman, Lot bo Bohoc, and Laboc) and gave an hour long presentation about the importance of birds to Haiti. Many parents also attended. JeanJean took time out of his busy schedule to translate (I started with a hired translator until the quake hit). Lot bo Bohoc invited me back to teach the adults. It’s amazing how much basic ecology people didn’t know, and how excited they were to learn more. My general outline was:
1. Why I came to Haiti –
a. To see the birds, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.
b. To teach people about the birds so they can make a difference the natural resources of Haiti and in turn their lives.
2. Game – names the parts of a bird in Creole and English.
3. Where birds live (parakeets live in the holes of woodpeckers, etc.)
4. What birds eat (hawks eat rats, hummingbirds drink nectar and pollinate flowers which produces fruit, etc.).
5. All these things that birds do are good – they’ll help spread tree seeds and gardens will have more vegetables and fruit.
6. Gardens also need water to grow – review the water cycle with a Creole poster (evaporation, condensation, precipitation).
7. Trees will help prevent water from evaporating from the soil.
8. Back to birds help the trees and visa versa, and tourists pay to see both (Dominican Republic has ecotourism).
9. End with butterfly life cycle game using a poster written in Creole.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Families from Port-au-Prince

My new friend, 7-yr old Myriam from Port au Prince (PAP), took these photos of the family and friends staying here at UCI (in the dorm and with the brother across the street). There were 34 people here the weekend after the quake. They all spent 3 nights sleeping in the streets of PAP before they made it here. Some of the 34 have moved on to families elsewhere. UCI has brought 837 out of PAP and reunited them with families in this region! Pastor JeanJean is the one hamming it up for the camera.

Friday, January 22, 2010

World Water Monitoring Day

The World Water Monitoring Day organization sent me 4 water testing kits and 50 pamphlets written in French. Louiders, his sister Soyrina, and I have tested water at 4 sites, plus the tap water from the UCI cistern. (The plan was to distribute the kits among the schools that I visited, but schools and meetings are canceled due to the earthquake). We tested the tap water here at UCI where I could more thoroughly explain the kit to Louiders, and he in turn used the kit to teach 7-year old Myriam (in yellow) about water quality. Myriam is from one of the families displaced by the earthquake. She is very smart, can read English even if she doesn't know the meaning. I have been teaching her ecology using the worksheets that I intended to distribute at the schools. I have also been sharing my other teaching resources (books, binoculars, coloring activities) with the kids who are now living here.
The photos show the river crossing north of the Bohoc market, and a well from which people get their water.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Yep, felt the 6.1 quake

Felt the quake this morning, and we're all still fine! Here's some pictures from this week. My friend Chimene in the yellow served as child control yesterday while I taught the kids and some adults how birds are good for their gardens and for spreading tree seeds. One of the UCI workers said he kept the kids away from a bird nest this year and enjoyed watching the chicks grow! It's typical for kids to destroy bird nests here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Relief efforts

I wish I wasn’t posting about the earthquake everyday but that’s our life here now. For those just tuning in, my trip blog starts with the posting of sight seeing in Port au Prince one week before the quake hit.

JeanJean & Kristie Mompremier don’t seem to be worried about the food or gas supply. JeanJean said supplies are coming in or they can go to the Dominican Republic for food (he’d rather give people money so they can buy food at the local market and keep the money in Haiti). Their main concern is accessing money from their bank account to feed the 25 or so evacuees they are hosting here in Caiman, a small community). Their bank was open yesterday but they couldn’t cash checks to access funds from their UCI account (see the how to help post). But the community is really coming together to donate food and supplies, a lot of people want give. All the missionaries in the area are coordinating relief efforts for evacuees coming into town. Those who have family somewhere JeanJean sends on their way to be with their families. The missionaries will keep a list of those who need help so that people can’t take advantage of the situation and go from missionary to missionary to receive handouts.

Most everyone here at UCI (staying in the dorm next to their house) is JeanJean’s family except for a family of 6, a coworker of his brother-in-law Jehu. Jehu and the father of this family returned to PAP. They work for and AIDS organization and their building wasn’t damaged, so they can still distribute medicines. Kristie is trying to get her 2 daughters back on their home school schedule, but all the kids here are a big distraction. Public schools in the entire country are canceled, I don’t know for how long. Students from the permanently closed ones in PAP and other destroyed communities (Petionville, Jacmel) won’t be allowed to start attending schools in other communities. Kristie is considering hiring a tutor for the kids here at UCI.

I’m still meeting with Louders to teach him ecology. My new friend Chimene has been teaching me Kreyol. She returns to Cap Haitien on the north coast tomorrow. Her and her husband were visiting family here (in Bohoc, the main small town right up the road) over the holidays. They were to return to Cap the day after the quake, but ended up staying because Cap was receiving so much rain there, and the tide was higher than normal (I might be confused on this).

To free up beds in the dorm where I was staying, I moved into a room in the Mompremier’s hosue they use as a local artist gift shop (there’s a bed in it). Since we don’t have tv and radio is in Kreyol, I’m not barraged with images from PAP so the initial shock has faded for me. Going on birds hikes I can almost forget the tragedy, until a truck drives by loaded with people and their overstuffed suitcases or garbage bags filled with their belongings, or I see a group of people crowded around a hand crank radio. Though we now eat rice and beens everyday to make the food stretch, it’s still great food. Last night we had fried breadfruit for dinner. The Haitians are a jovial people so there is still much laughter here. Louiders even gave me a present of about 4lbs of coffee this morning!