Hello! First and foremost, thank you for your support of this project! Without your support, we wouldn´t have been able to conduct our research trips and giving out survival kits, built a house out of palm leaves at one of the tent cities, run a census of the tent city, and support a community organizer to live in the tent city for a number of months.
We have to announce that this work is put on hold for the time being because of our inability to advance. We just face limits and need to work within our capacity of serving Haitians in the Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic area. We work with many Haitians in the Port-au-Prince area and build more and more connections each day. However, we see that new cannot realistically fund a larger scale project in the near future. Within the next few years, perhaps, but within this year, it is just outside of our capacity. So we will continue to build relationships and contacts and learn and envision, but will not act at this time. Thank you, again, for your support and we are signing off... for now.
We have still not been able to visit Port-au-Prince again, but have been able to connect with more organizations serving in the area or planning to serve in the area. The condiitons of those affected by the earthquake is still so poor and it continues to hold a piece of my heart. Although our organization is busy with our ongoing programs in the Dominican Republic, we remain determined to be a part of the rebuilding of Port-au-Prince for a better Haiti.
On Oct. 31st I will head to the US and Canada. I will be in New York City from Oct. 31st to Nov. 4th, then Nova Scotia, Canada from Nov. 4th to 9th, then Blacksburg, VA from Nov. 9th to Nov. 14th where I will be doing a TEDx talk, and then Winchester, VA and the Washington, DC area from Nov. 14th to 26th. I am in the process of setting up as many speaking dates as possible with churches and organizations. In NYC I will be able to connect with many Haitian groups as there is such a large Haitian population there.
Many I have reached out to have not replied, but some have replied and I will continue reaching out to make sure my time there is used to its fullest. I have spoken to at least one group that has a base in Port-au-Prince so I am looking forward to meeting with them. I will be representing our organization and work as a whole, not just the efforts in Port-au-Prince, but will be happy to talk about that and build partnerships with the appropriate groups.
Thank you for your support and of course, I will share how things went on this trip when I write my next update.
We recently visited Port-au-Prince for the first time since April 2010 but the trip was unfortunately cut short due to the unfortunate passing of my father a few days before the time we were set to leave. I went with the kids to see my family and then flew back into Port-au-Prince to meet up with my husband who was already there. We were not able to stay long at all as we had an event to run in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, where we live and where our organization is based, just a few days after we arrived. Additionally, orienting ourselves and traveling in the area was not easy. The roads are not good, transportation is expensive, there are frequent traffic jams, and we really were not able to get around much, unfortunately. I had hoped to meet with a few groups and talk about collaborating on this project, but was not able to. However, I continue to communicate with some groups via e-mail and we plan on returning sometime hopefully within the next few months.
Before when we had traveled to Port-au-Prince, we had had our own vehicle and had stayed at my husband's family's house. Unfortunately, neither of those two options were available this trip, so we learned just how expensive transportation and hotels are compared to here in the Dominican Republic. In the Dominican Republic we can rent a car for $28 US a day at the lowest. In Port-au-Prince, the lowest we found was about $100 US per day! A hotel that would've cost $15 in the Dominican Republic cost us $60 in Port-au-Prince. This is because business is so slow and far between clients that the costs are to make up for weeks and months of no business. It's not fair to the seldom customers, but I guess it is what people have to do to get by. Transportation is also much more expensive because the roads are so much worse.
The reason for our trip at this time was mainly an appointment at the American embassy to seek a visa for my husband to travel to the US (to visit, not to live), so that took up most of our time, but I also was able to meet with a lawyer who is highly recommended to facilitate adoptions of Haitian children living in the Dominican Republic. We have a few abandoned children in our care and are looking for people to adopt them, so he was able to answer questions about that. But I am in an e-mail dialogue with him as well where I hope to get some government contacts from him. For this effort to be successful, I think it needs to have government involvement. I also need to know the government's plans for specific tent cities.
Although we weren't able to travel much, I was able to observe that there are still thousands living in tents in pods all around town. There are also still entire buildings that collapsed during the earthquake where the rubble has not been removed. There are many less than in 2010, but they still are around.
My plan now is to first spend some time creating a book to sell in order to raise funds to fund these efforts. I see that there may be no other way to execute the plans without something specifically generating funds such as that. Hopefully partnerships will develop where other parties will contribute funds as well, but that is not likely unless Project Esperanza provides a significant portion of the funds as well. I will continue to update on the progression of this book, on the progression of communication with NGOs on the ground and the Haitian government, and on any observations or insight into life in the tent cities.
Unfortunately, we were once again unable to take pictures. I had a new camera someone gave to me while in the US, but did not realize until arriving in Port-au-Prince that it would not allow me to take any pictures without a memory card. I didn't have the opportunity to buy one in Port-au-Prince, so I could not take pictures.
Thank you always for your support!
Since the last update, we have continued meeting people working in the Port-au-Prince area and just building relationships. We now have a document that will officially outline our plan and serve as the tool for communicating the plan to other NGOs, missionaries, and members of the government. We will now begin circulating the document with the end goal of step 1 being a meeting of all parties who are at least interested in discussing the execution of the plan. This document is attached in this update. Again, this is not an effort that we can focus on extensively because the focus of our work is in the Dominican Republic but it is a work that needs to be done and will be pursued. The next update, therefore, should be much more interesting. Thank you for your support.
In my last report, I stated that I would begin attempting to make more connections with other groups working on the ground in Port-au-Prince, as that would be necessary to get this project off the ground, because our organization is located in the Dominican Republic and we would not even be able to spend an extended amount of time on the ground to oversee it. I have since connected with a few different groups. The group I was most hopeful of partnering with has let me know that they already have too much going on to commit to engaging in a new effort, but I can send them an outline of the plan to circulate it among other groups in the area. So that is what I am currently working on.
Additionally, one long term volunteer we have here has been planning on traveling to the Port-au-Prince area before heading back to the U.S. This caused me to begin researching places for her to stay and connecting with groups and individuals, as I was also doing for the purpose of advancing the tent city relief plan. Through this, I then realized that with our consistent flow of long term volunteers here in Puerto Plata, who receive a wealth of experience and insight when they spend months volunteering with our organization here, we may find some who are a fit to then spend time on the ground in Port-au-Prince to assist with this effort. It would take a special volunteer indeed, but as we continue to have volunteers come through, it is likely that we could find volunteers to serve for rotating periods of time. This is an exciting idea that I will continue to keep an eye out for! As for our volunteer who was planning on going, she is now not sure that she can at this time. However, if she does, she should be able to deliver a letter of encouragement and contact (after a year without contact) to the people of Plas Mozole (several copies to be distributed amongst themselves) and to take some pictures, as she is a professional photographer.
If you aren't familiar with Haiti's new president, Michel Martelly, he has actually spent many years as a music artist in the country. Here is a youtube video you can view.
Also, you may be interested in watching this video and joining this protest on facebook. It's a protest against a plan an energy company has to take over an island in Haiti to convert it into an energy plant and world tourism destination. Although it may sound enticing as it would potentially create work, I don't buy it. It's a plan completely created by the American company, not with Haitian collaboration or input, and just seems to be heading down the wrong path. One thing I love about Haiti is that as you travel through and visit different institutions, everyone in a position of leadership is Haitian. It is their country, even if it has its issues... It's a drastic difference coming from the Dominican Republic where you rarely see Haitians in jobs other than the most subordinate and physically demanding. I definitely think that foreign agencies/institutions/organizations assisting in creating companies and such in Haiti is a wonderful way to create jobs and create change, but I definitely think the efforts should be Haitian led and foreign assisted or just highly collaborated on, not completely foreign led with all of the knowledge and power in the hands of the foreign institution like this. I mean, if you watch the youtube video on this page of the plan, it's insulting in itself that the American leader of the idea and energy company is confidently declaring what they will do on the island.. as though it were his. I think it's also a plan that would meet lots of challenges anyway as they try to work through cultural/social barriers, what have you.
One woman who is involved in our women's jewelry group asked me to help her travel to Haiti in June. She was pregnant again and really struggling to feed herself and her children as both she and her husband were without work. She was making a little money from jewelry sales but not enough. She wanted to join her family in Port-au-Prince as she prepared to have a baby, feeling as though she needed their company and support. I was thankfully able to provide her with the necessary transportation money. Just the other day I saw her at the batey. She had returned from Port-au-Prince with three of her children, leaving the other three with family, as they had been before. She had her newborn baby boy with her. Her other two children are students in The United Brothers School of Muñoz, which is another project we have posted on Global Giving. She had enjoyed her time with her family and appreciated their support, but as they were still living under tents themselves, she decided to return to the Dominican Republic. Although she was pregnant in June and now is not, her face and limbs to me were visibly much slimmer. This is often the dilemma that people face when deciding whether to stay in Haiti with family or to search for a better life in the Dominican Republic. People go to Haiti longing to be with their loved ones and come back months later with a full heart and empty bellies. Hearing that her family is still living quite miserably under tents only motivated me to move forward with this plan.
Thank you for your support.
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