Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams

Elizabeth Eames Roebling


Dominicans have an extraordinary passion for baseball. All young boys play the game, sometimes with uniforms and equipment on a town baseball diamond, sometimes using coconut shells and old planks as ball and bat on an empty street or sand lot.

Many of them have the dream that they will be selected to go to one of the nine baseball camps which the major leagues run here in the Dominican Republic, and then join the other 1,500 Dominicans who play professionally in the United States. Baseball success means not only a visa but holds the promise of great fortune.

Along with the standard players' statistics, home runs or no-hit games pitched, there is now posted another statistic - how much money players make. In a country where the per capita income is around 6,000 dollars and a good middle-class income is 24,000 dollars a year, these numbers are staggering: in the course of their careers to date, Pedro Martinez has earned 146 million dollars, Sammy Sosa took in 125 million, and Miguel Batista earned 45 million dollars.

At a recent gala at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, the USAID programme launched an initiative to help leverage the popularity of Dominican ball players into aid for their native land, inviting some current and former Dominican baseball stars.

"Twenty percent of the players in the major and minor leagues are Dominican. We are creating a mechanism for funding that combines the motivation of teams, players and fans in the States and links it to development projects in the DR," said Megan Rounseville, director of the Major League Baseball Dominican Alliance at IDDI (Instituto Dominicano de Desarrollo Integral).

"There have been individual initiatives by teams and players, but this is something that is really attentive to local needs," she explained. "We have six local NGOs, some of them are international but all work locally, and they identify projects."

"We now have five projects on the ground - an after-school project which completes the school day, another working with HIV/AIDS patients, another with micro-credit, another donating beds," she said.

One of the first Dominican baseball stars, Rico Cardi, who is now the undersecretary of sports and director of the little leagues, as well as running his own foundation, discussed how baseball evolved in the country from the perspective of someone who signed with the major leagues in 1959.

"I came out of San Pedro de Marcoris, which is the heart of baseball in this country," he said. "I think it was because we were surrounded by the sugar cane factories, which were American-owned. We were blessed by the Almighty God by that, so that all these kids, surrounded by these sugar cane factories, all they look at is baseball."

"When I came out of here there were no camps. It was all ability, just raw ability. You didn't have nobody to tell you to do this or do that. I signed with nine ball clubs and tour ball clubs here, because I was just a kid and I had no lawyers," Marcoris recalled.

"Everybody was just coming at me. But I did not take any money from anyone which kept me from being suspended from baseball forever. Eventually I was signed by the Milwaukee Braves but I played for a lot of teams in my day," he said. "When I walk down the street, yes, I am a star, but the important thing is to keep your humanity, to be kind with the people."

Miguel Batista, who earned nine million dollars last year playing for the Seattle Mariners, travels in the off season throughout Latin America delivering humanitarian assistance and speaking of baseball. He first signed with the major leagues in 1992.

"When I was in camp, we were just a bunch of guys, living together and playing baseball. Now they have these great installations with everything that they could have in the minor leagues here in their own countries," he said. "The fact that they have been treated professionally is the most important."

"There are guys who made that possible, guys who opened the doors for us, and I believe that a lot of us are doing that for guys now coming up, to get better treatment, for a better future," Batista said. "I do a lot in South America on behalf of Major League baseball trust fund to help their communities. I help the kids understand that it is not magic, it is having a dream and following it."

Rounseville says her project is only for three years, to set the links in place. "It is a unique project for USAID which has put in place a 50,000-dollar matching fund to help get things started."

Manny Moto, who, like Cardi, is now 70 years old, says, "This is a great project. I retired in 1982 but I have been coaching for the Dodgers. I just try to give the kids good advice, to stay in school and get a good education."


Friday, November 13, 2009


Now we come to the appearance of some of the aspects of Vodou that may appear so much more frightening ... for here we have Manman Brigit,

"Ma'man Brigit (Grann Brigitte, Manman, Manman Brigit, Manman Brijit) is the mother of cemeteries, the loa of money and death, and the wife of Baron Samedi. She may be related to the "triple" Celtic goddess of poetry, smithcraft, and healing, Brigid/St. Brigit, as her name is Irish in origin. She is usually depicted as a white woman. The first woman's grave in a cemetery in Haiti is dedicated to her. Her colors are black, purple and white, her number is nine, and her particular days of service include Monday and Saturday. Her sacrificial animal is a black chicken. She drinks rum laced with hot peppers - "gaz lakrimojen Ayisyen" (Haitian tear gas), and like her husband and the rest of the Guede Spirits, she is a "potty mouth" and uses profanity. Ma'man Brigit will protect gravestones if they are marked properly with a cross. Ma'man Brigit is known to rub her private parts with hot peppers, and those who appear to be faking possession by her in a Vodou ceremony may be subjected to this test, which they obviously would not pass if their possession is not genuine. She is a very sexual dancer, and her legacy is the banda dance.

A very powerful Lwa, Manman Brigit rules the Ghede and transitions of life and death, major life changes, cemeteries, money and children. Ma'man Brigit is invoked to cure those who are near death as a result of magick. She is known to be very wise, and swift to respond to petitions for help!*

How she, or the Irish, got to Haiti, is still a mystery, traveling perhaps through the holds of the slave ships where the Irish, as well as Africans were sold into slavery.

It is not difficult to understand why the slaves were so attached to death and the promise of life beyond the grave which would release them from the torture of their present day misery. Many times they tried to escape bondage on the ships to throw themselves into the ocean on the crossing to escape their fate.

Haiti is the first nation which released them from this bondage.

Are you following this story, classmates, on how the Irish came to Haiti?

Because I think that is going to be a really whopping good Celtic tale of liberation with lots of drumming and ale and a rollicking good time.

Could I have a show of hands, please?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cross Cultural Understanding

Since my blog post on the missionaries in Haiti has been getting a lot of hits recently, I take it as a sign that there is an interest from some Christians in understanding the way that Spirit is speaking in Kreyole. It is said that in Haiti, 80% of the population is Catholic, 20% of the population is Protestant but everyone believes in Vodou.
from the Wiki--

In Vodou, Damballa is one of the most important of all the loa. He is both a member of the Rada family and a root, or racine Loa. He is depicted as a serpent and is closely associated with snakes. He is considered the father of all the rest of the loa and, along with his wife/companion Ayida Wedo, to be the Loa of creation.

Some of his ritual songs indicate that he "carries the ancestors" on his back to Ginen (spiritual home of the Loa, and the afterlife) His wife is the rainbow serpent Ayida Weddo (he is also married to Erzulie Freda). As a loa of the Rada nation he is associated with the color white. His particular color is white. His offerings are very simple and he prefers an egg on a mound of flour. Some houses also serve him with anisette and corn syrup. When he presents himself in possession, he does not talk, but makes hissing noises like a snake.

In most houses, he is syncretised with the Catholic figures of either Moses or St. Patrick.

Alternative names: Damballa Weddo (or Wedo), Damballah Weddo, Danbhala Weddo.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Becoming more of a Cynic

There is a heartwarming.. really quite breathtaking story here of a group of 260 Irish volunteers who came down to work in the dust and dreariness of the border town of Ouanminthe to build 200 homes for.. well... 200 families of the perhaps 60/80,000 people who live there.

In order to do this, they had to pay their own way, and sleep on the construction site, the way the Haitian construction workers here sleep inside the building lots of the high rises in Santo Domingo, or the resort hotels. Each volunteer had to raise $5,000 which is no small piece of change.. and amounts to a total of $1,300,000.. bringing the cost per home.. with land to $6,500, which is certainly modest in anyone's book.

So who could object to this act of generosity?

Let me be the first to cast the stone... forgive me, for I am certainly not without sin... it reminds me of the time an old high school friend and I met after college and she asked "do you ever find yourself having a not so liberal thought?"

If you read the article, you will see that first, of course, this is Digicell, which is the number one provider of cell phones in Haiti, so there is a publicity aspect to be gained here. Now they have done a great job of providing phones in Haiti. Prior to their arrival the phone service was abysmal. The Irish guys are a living legend in Haiti because they came down and camped out! No one does that. All the foreigners always stay at the best hotels. Now there are cell phone towers all around Haiti and communication is vastly improved. It has been an enormous service to the country. As long as a person can charge their phone. But electricity is very scare in Haiti.

And what they have not done so far is gotten charging stations in the country side.

So what would have been a really great project, for instance, would have been to take that 1.3 million, put it into a micro finance loan fund for folks to get solar panels which can charge the cell phones, as I saw one industrious young teacher had done. The panel could charge ten phones at a time. From the proceeds, he had paid back his loan, paid his cousin a salary, and paid his uncle for the rent on the little mud and wattle house.........Then the recipients would have had an ongoing source of income and enough money to build their own homes.

I would suggest the radical notion that the mud and wattle construction with the thatched roof which can be seen in parts of Haiti and in Africa is fa superior to the baking heat of concrete blocks with the tin roofs that pass as modern. Give me mud and wattle!!! Just work on a good protective varnish to shield it from the rain. Pine trees yield a very good varnish.

The idea that concrete construction is somehow better housing because it is more modern is just cultural bias and comes from some very good marketing from the part of the concrete industry. I stood next to one prominent Haitian from a large diaspora group and had this same argument over this very house. "But it will come down in a hurricane" He said. "I bet it is over fifty years old, ask them" "Who built it?" "My grandfather's father"

There is a composting toilet project now operational a few miles down the road which perhaps can be incorporated in the next phase of the project

But then, of course, those 260 Irish folks would not have had the soul scrubbing experience of living like the poor which had to be life altering. Even an hour in Ouanaminthe is life altering.

They do a lot of this type of tourism here in the DR. Most of the groups charge about $1000 per person per week to have you go up and build a school or a house or something for the poor. We joke that the poor are sitting under a palm tree playing dominoes and drinking beer while you are doing it. It has led to what we refer to here in the DR as the "da me" culture, the "give me" something.... oh, you poor child who is somehow less than because you are poor, let me the rich white foreigner just give you something. here is a peso, here is a book, here is a xxxxxxxxx. Now the streets of both Santo Domingo and Santiago are filling up with young Haitian children sent to beg. Many of them are trafficked just for that purpose.

Note please that in the article they went to find the poorest of the poor to give the houses to... NOT the ones who had done the most for the community, not the ones who had perhaps struggled and scrimped to send one kid to college in the Capital, not the ones on the top of the heap, but the bottom of the heap.

What lesson does that teach?

Note also in the article that they could not even get the government of Haiti to build an access road. Nor could they evidently get the town of Ouanaminthe to lobby to get an access road. Most likely because they were giving the homes not to the Most deserving, but to the least.

I suggest that they watch a few episodes of the US program of Extreme Makeover where the families are chosen because they are the most deserving, not for their neediness, but for the greatness of their generosity. By the choice of the recipients, the Haven could muster the community heart, their wish to honor their own community leaders, and then the community will see to it that the access road is built and take pride in their community accomplishment.

Now I applaud this effort. And I do not in any way want to discourage this form of radical generosity.. this amazing and impressive hands on effort. Because it really is very, very impressive. And I tip my Obama baseball cap to each and every one of you.

But it has to be more thought out.. For years people, governments, missionaries, and the Haitian diaspora have just been giving ... and giving... and giving...

Clearly that does not work,has not worked, and only teaches people to be better beggars.

So I weep a bit when I read that this doctor was in Ouanaminthe, where the Red Cross Clinic has no supplies and no doctor, and chose to build a concrete house rather than teach first aid.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Falling Down of Haiti, Again

It is a sad time for Haiti. The Prime Minister, who in her year-long tenure had garnered the respect and admiration of the international community, was replaced by the vote of small group of Senators,themselves of the President's own party.

Those of us who have watched Haiti with hope in our hearts for the last five years are dismayed and discouraged by this act of the dismissal of an extremely competent public servant by those who are apparently less than that. Those who would lay the blame for all of Haiti's troubles on the external world need only look to this dismissal of Prime Minister Pierre-Louis to more accurately pinpoint the source of Haiti's problems.

I defer to the well crafted words of one of the best observers of Haiti, Michael Deibert, who writes on the subject,here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Day of the Dead

We enter now deeper into the holy day season, starting with the Jewish high holy days, then coming now into the Pagan one of Shamain , the Celtic new year, which the Christian's then took over as All Hallow's eve.

Nowhere in this hemisphere is this reunion between the dead and the living celebrated quite so deeply as among the descendants of the West African slaves in Haiti. See this interesting first hand account from a foreign perspective here

I first saw a taste of this when I lived in Grenada. On the day of Halloween, the women would assemble in the graveyards, which were mostly above ground mausoleums, whitewashed, with nominal crosses on them. They carried buckets of water, scrub brushes, clorox, and if they could afford it, white wash and brushes. All day they would prepare and clean the graveyard. Because all night that night, most of the adults would gather there, candles lit, rum bottles and drums in hand to dance and sing along with their ancestors who had passed along.

The author in the piece above states that Christianity is monotheistic while Voodoo is polytheistic. One could argue that Christianity is based on some sort of bizarre trinity and every Haitian that I have met worships and acknowledges Bon Dwye, who is merely too busy to come visit, and so daily life is entrusted to a variety of other spirits. And certainly Christianity is all wound up in the issue of a living and dead God - sort of the central theme.

Voodoo, like paganism, does include a wild streak of sexuality in it which sets it apart from most other religions which appear intent in separating spirit from flesh. The entire operation of "possession" is to lend one's body to the spirits so that they can enjoy the senses. To me, that it what makes both of them so very scary and "demonic" to Christians---that ready acceptance of sexuality-- which is just, well. inferior to the virgin birth and all.

Those who have been present at a tent revival meeting of protestants, seen people speaking in tongues, and even taken Quaking by the Spirit at a Quaker Meeting can attest to the power of the Spirit, no matter what the name.

Enjoy the holiday. Do not forget that it is a sacred day. Remember the Dead on their day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A New Constitution. Waves of Protests

The Dominican Republic passed a new Constitution which has much of the populace protesting in the streets.It is interesting to watch the rise of civil society here, a building of a coalition of feminists, students, environmentalist who are making an effort to take their country away from the political class, which is intent on consolidating power.

Read my article here

Monday, October 12, 2009

Haiti after Donors Conference

A new report has been issued by the USIP working group on Haiti, headed by Robert Maguire. Read the full text here

Friday, October 9, 2009

A new view of Haiti

Why We Shouldn't Stigmatize Haiti
By Jeff Antebi

In April, as part of a series of photo essays I'm doing, I made my way to Haiti for the recent Haitian Senatorial elections.

When I mentioned Haiti to friends, colleagues and travel agents, the universal response was "what?!?!?!" But I completely understood this reaction. I was worried myself. Haiti is thought to be a place where kidnappings are de rigueur. It's widely believed if your ride from the airport didn't show up on time, you might just be 'disappeared'. Given all of the talk of danger, I started to have nightmares of having my throat slit by the flight attendant as I deplaned.

So I made out a will. I took out all sorts of exotic insurance policies that I cannot discuss without risking them being voided. I signed up for a medical evacuation service and got prescriptions for Malarone and Azithromycin.

First, let me get this out of the way. Haiti is sad, yes. Desperate, yes. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and it shows. If you are Haitian and under five years old, you are more likely to die than if you were born anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. If you are a woman, you are more likely to die giving birth here than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. If you are Haitian, there's a 50/50 chance you can't read or write. If you are Haitian and you die, there's a 50/50 chance what killed you was a water-borne illness. One of the leading causes of death in Haiti is diarrhea. The nation's children have it the worst: 98 percent of Haiti's children don't finish secondary school; thousands of Haitian children become victims of human trafficking every year; and 19,000 children in Haiti currently live with HIV/AIDS.

But that is only one part of the story. The other is that the country is stunning and Haitians are incredible people. It's nowhere near as apocalyptic as people make it out to be. In fact, for experienced travelers who understand the risks, caveats and cautions - it's a great place to see.

Haiti's proximity to the U.S. (only an hour-and-a-half from Miami) provides a compelling case for engaging programs and policies that can make life-saving differences to the men, women and children I met. They are, literally, our neighbors. There are nations everywhere that need help, but compared to a nation across the ocean, the cost of supporting our close neighbors is minimal. Haitians who are lucky enough to have a job earn the equivalent of $600 a year. As you can imagine, it doesn't take much to make a significant impact on the wider community.

Not that there aren't obstacles. Government corruption can prevent real, beneficial change from happening (things such as education, electricity and basic health care). The wrong kinds of "charity" render people apathetic and don't galvanize the population to help themselves. And a lack of long-term stability means a lack of foreign investors.

That's why it's important to at least start neutralizing the stigma and fear. While it's not going to be the most attractive choice for Caribbean tourism, Haiti is also not the abyss. Far from it.

My photos from the Haitian elections can be seen at but I want to point out that they are not good 'tourism' images. They are dramatic.

I'm currently in Afghanistan photographing the elections here.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mercedes Sosa

Confined to a clinic in Argentina, this great singer and champion of the people is asking for a miracle in order to stay with us.

It may not be true, this legend I heard of her, that the Argentine government banned her from singing this song by Leon Gieco. She was on stage at the Plaza de Cinco de Mayo in Buenas Aires, which was packed with people. Police snippers were on the rooftops as well as around the srage. She motioned to the band to start up the song and Sosa stood silent before the microphone, listing to the immense crowd sing the lyrics.

I was told this by my Puerto Rican compatriots when we were all in the holding cell in Vieques in 2001, awaiting transport fo the Federal prison in San Juan. Even if was only a legend, the story kept us strong.

Thank you for your courage, hermana, your songs will never die.

Sólo le pido a Dos
Sólo le pido a Dios
que el dolor no me sea indiferente,
que la reseca muerte no me encuentre
vacío y solo, sin haber hecho lo suficiente.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que lo injusto no me sea indiferente,
que no me abofeteen la otra mejilla,
después que una garra me arañó esta suerte.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que la guerra no me sea indiferente,
es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
toda la pobre inocencia de la gente.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que el engaño no me sea indiferente,
si un traidor puede más que unos cuantos,
que esos cuantos no lo olviden fácilmente.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que el futuro no me sea indiferente,
desahuciado está el que tiene que marchar
a vivir una cultura diferente.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que la guerra no me sea indiferente,
es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
toda la pobre inocencia de la gente.

All I ask of God

All I ask of God

That pain does not leave me indifferent,
And that parched death will not find me
Alone and empty not having done sufficient.

All I ask of God
That I not be indifferent to injustice
That they won’t slap my other cheek,
After their talon has scraped away my luck.

All I ask of God
That I not be indifferent to war,
It’s a big monster which crushes
All the poor innocence of the people.

All I ask of God
That I am be indifferent to deceit,
If a traitor can do more than the masses,
Then let not the masses forget him easily.

All I ask of God
That i am not indifferent to the future,
Hopeless is he who has to go away
To live a different culture.

All I ask of God
That i am not indifferent to war,
It’s a big monster that crushes
All the poor innocence of people.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

American Friends Service Committee

First my thanks go out to the Board and staff of the SERO region of AFSC in helping to assemble what I hope will be the first delivery of school kits for Haiti.

The AFSC Florida office now has three boxes, each 22 pounds, ready to ship. We are now working along with the Lambi Fund and members of the Haitian government, to see that the shipment is deliver to Haiti for the least cost, free of duty.

I ask for Friends further attention to Haiti on two matters.

First is to urge the Federal government to grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitians now living illegally in the US. Even the Miami Herald has come out in favor of this. Please call or write the White House on this issue.

The second is to support a bill which has been introduced in Congress to help with the establishment of a new program to bring students from the Haitian Diaspora back to serve as volunteers.

I would ask that all Meetings in SAYMA take these two issues under consideration and then perhaps minute their support.

From there, such support can be transmitted to FCNL which can really lobby for these two items.

Many many thanks to all of you who have heard my concerns for Haiti.

Elizabeth Roebling,
Asheville Friends Meeting,
Santo Domingo Worship Group
Dominican Republic

Michael Deibert

Michael Deibert, author of perhaps the best book that I have read on Haiti,Notes from the last Testament, continues his concern for Haiti on his Haiti, continues his concern for here

I would direct those of my readers who have a continuing interest in Haiti to both purchase his book, here

and follow along with his work.

Michael is gifted journalist and a brave war correspondent.

He is currently working on his new book on The Democratic Republic of Congo, where he served for six months.

Dual Citzenship for Haitians

September 16, 2009



The Haitian Congress extends its gratitude to the 21 Senators and to the 71
Deputies of the 48th Legislature who, on September 14, 2009, had the vision
and the courage to vote in favor of President Préval's proposal to recommend
to the 49th Legislature that the Constitution of 1987 be amended to, among
other things, grant Dual Citizenship to Haitians who have become naturalized
citizens of other nations as well as to their children. Two-third of the
Senate and of the Chamber of Deputies was needed for the chance to amend the
Constitution of 1987 to survive and the votes were delivered. This is an
extremely important step for our future.

We are thankful to you, our brothers and sisters in Haiti who have
persevered in the face of enormous difficulties both natural and man-made.
The vote that you cast on September 14, 2009 is a tremendous step towards
the reintegration of the Haitian Diaspora. We remain convinced that one of
the key links to sustainable recovery of Haiti is through the fully
integrated partnership of Haitians inside the country with those of us who
live in the Diaspora. We can no longer afford the mistake of excluding and
of stigmatizing Haiti's sons and daughters who have had to leave their
motherland for political or economic reasons. Bravo to the courageous
political leaders who recognize our inalienable rights as Haitians and call
for amending the Constitution of 1987 so that we are no longer considered

Haitians in the Diaspora are not and could never be "Foreigners." We are
Haitians in every sense of the word. We have never abandoned home. That is
why we maintain an extraordinary commitment to our families back home by
sending nearly 2 billion dollars in remittance per year. That is why we
re-establish communities wherever we are to celebrate and practice our
culture. That is why we fight to protect the best interest of our people
wherever we are. That is why we follow, astutely, the affairs of our
country. That is why we are disappointed with every setback and elated with
every inch of progress in our nation. That is why we remain passionately
engaged in the search of a path for recovery.

Even those of us who were born outside of Haiti or who were born in Haiti
and grew up abroad, we are not foreigners. We wave our Haitian flag. We
hold on to our history. We yearn for our mothers' and fathers' motherland
because it is part of our proud humanity. We too, are Haitians by our
precious blood! As the children of the Haitian Diaspora, we can and should
play a significant role in the communities in which we live to help shape
the foreign policies of nations such as the United States, Canada, France
and others towards Haiti. As well, we have the potential to make a great
impact on the future of Haiti as direct contributors if we are allowed to
regain our Haitians citizenship.

The Work has just begun. The Haitian Congress calls on its partners such as
Haitian American National Alliance (HANA), Alliance of Haitians Living
Overseas, Haitian-American Leadership Conference (HALEC), Haiti Tourism
Development, The Haitian League (THL), National Organization for the
Advancement of Haitians (NOAH), The National Alliance, Organization
Communautaire pour le Development Rurale (OCODER), Jeunesse en Marche pour
l'Avenir, (JMA), Civil Society and others, to name a few, to intensify the
work to ensure that the 49th Legislature votes the appropriate amendments
into law. We call on all of our Haitian brothers and sisters who agree
that the reintegration of the Haitian Diaspora is strategically
determinative of a brighter future to join us in this important campaign.

The Victory today belongs to all Haitians whether you supported the call or
not because, independent of our will, it is a great step in the right
direction. For more information, please call the Haitian Congress at
847-475-5856. Also visit our website at
www.haitianCongress.organd the to become familiar with our history and our work
in other areas.

Together, we can win!


Lionel Jean-Baptiste, Esq.
Chairman, Haitian Congress

About the Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti
The Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti is a Not-for-Profit 501c3 umbrella
organization governed by a 13-member Board. The Board is composed of
Haitians working together to put forth programs to help fortify the Haitian
community in the Diaspora which can in turn help fortify Haiti and its
institutions. The Board is led by its executive committee which implements
the Board's decisions and oversees the different areas of work of the

About the Haitian Congress for Civic Engagement (PAC)
The Haitian Congress for Civic Engagement ("Haitian Congress PAC") is a
Political Action Committee founded by Haitians who have been working on
different fronts over a number of years to empower and educate about their
rights wherever they are.

1227 Dodge Avenue .
Evanston, IL 60202
Tel: 847-475-5856 . Fax: 847-424-1049
e:mail: .

Even the Florida papers are for TPS

This is the editorial from the Miami Herald.

It would certainly help if Quakers would move this issue to the top of their agendas in their Meetings. Then they could examine the issue, speak to it, and get the Quaker Friends Committee on National Legislation to lobby for it. This is something that Quakers do very effectively and very well.

We are few but together, we can do justice.

Let the Haitians stay

From religious and business leaders to local Republican and Democratic members of Congress to hip-hop artists -- all are calling on the Obama administration to grant temporary protected status to thousands of undocumented Haitians living in the United States.

It's only fair that Haitians already here receive TPS after a series of four deadly storms destroyed Haiti's crops, left a million homeless and more than 1,000 dead last year. Deporting them to a country that's in crisis, where Haitians count on remittances from those able to work here, is short-sighted. And cruel.

Other immigrant groups, such as Salvadorans and Hondurans, have been granted TPS in the past -- and had it renewed -- after natural disasters in their countries forced many to leave. In 2008, no less, the Bush administration extended TPS for Honduran and Salvadoran nationals because of the ``lingering effects'' of Hurricane Mitch a decade ago.

How can it be that President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano would ignore Haitians' plight when all evidence indicates that granting TPS would not open the floodgates to more migration to South Florida?

By allowing Haitians to remain here temporarily -- and work legally -- most will be able to contribute to rebuilding a country in tatters.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

At Last, Good News about Haiti


Isles Beach, elbow-to-elbow crowds of participants swapped business cards, passed out policy papers, and pitched earnest plans to develop Haiti.

Gonzalez, 25, was busy, too. In small groups and large, he talked about the United Haitian Students of Florida, an organization he heads to get students more involved in Haiti.

``A lot of us, the younger ones, haven't even been to Haiti,'' said Gonzalez, who lived in Haiti until he was 9 and is now a graduate student in accounting at Florida State. ``But they want to contribute to Haiti.''

From Washington's corridors of power to South Florida's classrooms and conferences, Gonzalez and other young Haitians from outside the country are developing ways to help rebuild from decades of economic devastation and civil strife.

The effort comes at a crucial moment for Haiti. The country enjoys a semblance of political stability not seen in years, and former President Bill Clinton, the United Nations' special envoy to Haiti, is trying to lure foreign investors after the country suffered widescale destruction from last year's spate of hurricanes and tropical storms.

At the diaspora conference, where Clinton urged Haitians overseas to play an active role in what happens in Haiti, the idea of youths helping Haiti popped up repeatedly.

The basic premise is for first-, second-, or third-generation Haitians to travel to the country during their junior or senior year of college, or after graduation. The in-the-trenches work ranges from teaching computer skills to planting trees.

One conference speaker likened the role of young Haitians going to Haiti to the rite-of-passage trip many young Jews take to Israel. The reason: It's a chance to do good, to forge meaningful ties with culture and community.

``This is an opportunity to create bonds that are not artificial bonds, that are not familial bonds,'' said David Elcott, a professor of public service at New York University.

At the diaspora conference, Elcott urged Haitian parents outside the country to encourage their children to volunteer in Haiti. The work, Elcott noted, is in keeping with President Barack Obama's inaugural call for public service.

Opportunities to visit Haiti are likely to increase now that the United States has downgraded its travel advisory to the country. It no longer advises against nonessential travel.

Robert Maguire, an international affairs professor at Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C., has worked on the idea for the past seven or eight years, though political unrest in Haiti had thwarted progress.

Development in Haiti rests heavily on building the health and education systems, Maguire said, and so the diaspora is ideally suited for teaching, in part, because of its knowledge of Creole.

Maguire has passed the idea on to State Department officials.

``The U.S. authorities are certainly aware of this,'' said Maguire, an expert on Haiti. ``I introduced the idea as a kind of mechanism that would facilitate productive engagement of Haitian youth.''

A spokeswoman from the State Department said that the agency has received the proposal and looks forward to discussing it soon with Maguire.

Maguire and other advocates of such ties say the benefits of a diaspora connection are countless.

Carolyn Rose-Avila, a former Peace Corps volunteer and director, has helped draft a proposal for a diaspora youth program, which she said would help fill a void since the Peace Corps no longer operates in Haiti.

The Peace Corps suspended its Haiti program in June 2005 because of security concerns and shut down entirely in April 2006. It is not clear when or if it will resume work in Haiti; a Peace Corps spokeswoman said the agency has not received an invitation from the Haitian government to reestablish a program.

Its absence moved Rose-Avila to consider the Haiti Volunteers in Education Corps. Young people, she said, view the country without cynicism.

``I was driven by the fact that the Peace Corps was no longer in the country,'' said Rose-Avila, a board member with the Favaca volunteer nonprofit and its former executive director. ``Since [the Peace Corps] is not in Haiti, I thought it was a major disconnect. Young people tend to work in a different space -- they don't try to know all the answers. They don't come in thinking Haiti's a `basket case,' but that it presents a wonderful experience.''

Along with a few colleagues, Rose-Avila hammered out a program sketch, which would require $1 million to start. The project would target college students or recent graduates as volunteers to help teach computer skills, environmental conservation, math, reading and English for at least one semester.

Axelle Latortue is among those interested in creating a youth program. The 27-year-old daughter of Haiti's Miami Consul General, Ralph Latortue, she sees the diaspora's involvement as instrumental to Haiti's development.

``You have people not as politically engaged or politically polarized as the older generation,'' Latortue said. ``They come with creativity in approaching Haiti's problems.''

Monday, July 27, 2009

Adjusting to tropical life

Notes on the science of Peace

or why tropical countries are not more developed

or why is that the repair man cannot get here by 2 30

or why it does no good to scream

I have been back to store Three times since the new fridge stopped working last Thursday. They have assured me that the manufacturer will send a representative to certify it for repair since their technician has already certified that is a gas leak and the fridge is only three months old.

And I have certified to them. In my sweetest Dominican way. With no anger at all, because I am learning, always learning. That if there is not a new fridge in my apartment by Wed, they will be talking with the American Express Company rather than me.

It is assumed that I will sit here and wait for them to arrive.

We joke here about getting things do. Once I made a list with three things on it, and got all three of them done. A friend bragged that she once had a list with 6 things on it and got all six things done in one day. No one believes her.

So this is what happens. One learns to have no expectations of accomplishment.

One learns that they will arrive when they arrive.

As it will happen, it will happen........

But it is not an easy adjustment.

Friday, July 17, 2009


"Estoy aqui para apprender paciencia" I explained to the para leagal who was my companion through the process of getting my residency here in the Dominican Republic. I am here to learn patience. "the ability to supress restlessness when faced with a delay"

We had inched to the front of the line to be told that no, the photocopy of the passport would not do, the original was needed. He worked for the attorney. He should have known. They should have told me. I should have known. It was the government. Of course, they would need the original.But I have already had five years of learning not to get angry. Since Dominicans are very very slow to anger. What would be solved by anger?

These people are good for my soul.

Later at lunch, I was explaining a bit about my religion, the Quaqueros, which sounds like a gathering of ducks in Spanish..... about the peace testimony.

And he came back to my statement.

I am here to learn patience.

Paciencia in Spanish is, he said "la science de la paz"

The science of peace

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Santo Domingo

There is no need for Blue Laws banning commerce here on Sundays. The city is shut down tight every Sabbath. Only the occasional small stores, called "colmados", selling the bare essentials of life such as water and beer and fruit and salted codfish are open. The colmados are a great luxury of life here. With only a phone call, they will deliver to your home the very thing you are missing, the five gallon bottle of purified water, the onion, the liter of milk. The birds are louder than the traffic.

It is a pleasure to be in the city on Sundays. It is also a joy to make the space ready for the arrival for the other Friend in anticipation of Meeting.

Christopher Columbus actually landed what is now Haiti in 1492. Then the Christians started their tradition of behaving like savages in this hemisphere. After only a few years, they figured out that the native Indians here would simply not make suitable slaves and started importing Africans.

This nation is officially Catholic, having signed a deal with the Vatican under Trujillo. The Vatican also signed a deal with Duvalier. Somehow in Haiti, Christianity never quite completely took over. Voudo was always practiced. or at least respected by a large portion of the population. The Catholics tolerated it/ Aristide legalized it. The Protestants, at least a great many of the Evangelicals, consider it to be the work of Satan.

The Evangelicals make regular mission trips here, bringing gifts for the poor, repairing buildings, teaching the Gospel. I don't know quite what to make of them. Most of the Evangelical churches here are very patriarchal, very fire and brimstone, preaching the Word with a sword. Yet I have heard Dominicans say that if someone says that they are "Christian" it means that they are "Evangelical" and that they "really believe".

We have a large quantity of Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses and 7th Day Adventist, and all types of free lance missionaries sent by their congregations. There is a large Baptist Church which even has an English service. There is an Episcopal Church with a small seminary which has a service in English and twice monthly shares with Union Chucrh services which uses the Armed Forces Book of Prayer. I attended for a year but it was a stretch for a Quaker.

In the end, I had to acknowledge that I am not a Christian. I do not believe in the scapegoat theory of the life of Jesus. I believe that my sins are my own and I alone will answer for them. I am not washed in the blood of the Lamb, nor do I wish to be. But I do love the story and read the book with interest, along with poetry of Rumi, Bagadavita,and the Course in Miracles.

I then went over to meditate with the Yoganada group but found that I could not indeed, bow to and follow the guru. Nor did I wish to travel cross town to sit with the Buddhist.

So it was with great delight that I was contacted by the searching Friend in January. Every Monday we receive any messages that may have been delivered back in my home Meeting in Asheville, NC. Since we are, in fact, only 300 miles further away from Asheville than Philadelphia is.

And Light knows no distance.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Model Prisons in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic appears to be leading the world in designing an entire prison system based on the model of restorative justice. Read my article here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Leaving Haiti

I have decided to Leave Haiti on this blog. Or rather as we Quakers would say, my concern has been lifted. In the future,I will focus more on the Dominican Republic.

When I came here almost five years ago, I was carrying the concern, as I have done all my life, for unraveling the roots of slavery, perhaps healing the wounds a bit.

The events of the past year have been a Balm in Gilead. I was in fact in Haiti the night that Barack got the nomination. I was weeping on the porch of the Grand Hotel Olaffson, the place where I would probably live if I had enough money.

In the morning, at breakfast, I asked everyone I met if they ever thought it would have been possible, did it change the way they thought about America? "No, I would never have believed it." A prominent visiting journalist said,"It tells me something about Americans, it tells me that they are willing to look inside a person, to see their insides and not the color of their skins."

Haiti was not safe when I came here, and perhaps still is not too safe for a single white woman. It is also a lot more expensive and difficult to live. Despite my love for it, I decided two years ago that I was not going to live here. But I was still not sure that I was staying here.

In January, I had a long talk with God. After all, my own country was in trouble, there was work to be done there, I could help there. We had Obama. There was no risk that I would end up in prison for civil disobedience, which had been a distinct possibility under Bush.

"You are going to have to make it very clear to me that You want me here or else I am going back. My lease is over in March. I do not have a spiritual community here. I do not have a sense of belonging. I do not have a sense of being needed. You are going to have to make Your intentions known."

That week I received:

1. A formal invitation to dine at the British Ambassador's house on the eve of President Obama's Inauguration

2. An e-mail from a Dominican who had been studying Quakerism for ten years and who identified himself as a liberal un-programmed Friend, saying he found this blog and that I was the answer to his prayers.

3. A letter from my editor in NY, requesting more stories from the Dominican Republic and saying that she thought I "was a great writer."

Enough with the burning bush, already!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

It is hot. I am allergic to probably everything. Feeling sorry for myself Missing My Quakers who are gathering now in Virgina, Missing my home country on this fourth of july, a holiday I usually avoid celebrating since I so mourn the wars and the deaths we have caused. But I do so love my country, despite her flaws. I fear I am becoming the worst of immigrants, imagining that everything was perfect back home.

There was a Quaker killed this week at Gathering. There were posts of her, finally I read one from her home meeting in Oregon, testifying to the fact that she was, indeed a Weighty Friend (the term we use for someone who we feel speaks from a spiritual depth)I knew that she had to be one because of the mannar of her death. She was hit while riding her bicycle at Yearly Meeting, in the Gathering of about 2000 Friends. Who would then, of course, hold a worship service for her passage.

Being the same age as Friend Bonnie Tinker and having been told by my sister that she will hold my memorial on the Internet since my f/Friends are so scattered, I admitted to being a bit jealous.

Safe Passage, Friend Bonnie

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Haiti Relieved of Debt Burden

Victory for Haiti as Nation Secures $1.2 Billion in Debt Cancellation

Extended Campaign to Win Relief for Haiti Finally Pays Off

WASHINGTON – Jubilee USA Network today welcomed the news that Haiti reached âœcompletion point in the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries program yesterday.

This step means that $1.2 billion in external debt owed by the impoverished island nation to bilateral and multilateral lenders including the IMF, World Bank, and US government has been cancelled. The Boards of the World Bank and IMF met yesterday to formally approve Haitis debt stock cancellation under HIPC and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative.

Today's action to free Haiti of its unjust and unpayable external debt is a welcome and long overdue step. Debt cancellation will provide desperately needed relief for the people of Haiti ,� said Neil Watkins, Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of religious groups, development agencies, and human rights groups that has campaigned for Haiti ’s debt cancellation for more than five years.

Haiti suffered through a serious of humanitarian crises in 2008 and endured the devastating impact of four hurricanes. Sharp increases in food and energy prices have also led to an escalation of hunger among the poorest sectors of the population. And Haiti now faces the severe and negative effects of the recent downtown in the global economy.

Through this time of crisis for the island nation, a coalition of political leaders and organizations has pressed for the immediate cancellation of Haiti ’s debt. US organizations including Jubilee USA Network, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, TransAfrica Forum, the Quixote Center, Center for Economic and Policy Research, the Episcopal Church, and Partners in Health worked together to build the political will in the US for Haiti’s debt cancellation, in partnership with colleagues in Haiti, throughout the Americas, across Europe and around the world.

In the US , a bi-partisan coalition of 72 Members of Congress signed a letter to World Bank President Robert Zoellick in February 2009 urging immediate debt cancellation for Haiti . In April 2009, the Obama Administration announced it would cover up to $20 million in debt service payments from Haiti until Haiti reached completion point.

Haiti the most impoverished nation in the Hemisphere faced a long struggle to achieve debt cancellation, facing repeated delays under the World Bank/IMF Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. Haiti completion point date was repeatedly pushed back by the World Bank. Jubilee USA and its partners have long argued that much of Haiti"s debt should be considered odious, dating back to loans contracted and often stolen by the brutal Duvalier dictatorships.

For more information, see:

World Bank press release on Haiti ’s completion point:

http://web.worldban EXTERNAL/ COUNTRIES/ LACEXT/0, ,contentMDK: 22232346~ pagePK:146736~ piPK:226340~ theSitePK: 258554,00. html

Friday, June 26, 2009

Election Day in Haiti

June 25, 2009
"Beat the Dog Too Hard" Haiti's Elections

This was the final round of elections for a third of the Senate in Haiti. I woke up with a start as several UN helicopters zoomed to and from downtown from uphill. Given this week’s events, I feared the worst. As it turns out, it was nothing.

I went out this morning around 9:30, when some church services like the brand-new Spanish-language “United Pentecostal Church of Latin America” were just getting out. I walked 12 minutes to the site of a polling place and I didn’t see anyone. I couldn’t even see where the polling place was. I knew it had to be there because of the police truck where 2 officers stood guard and 2 others rested in the cab.

On my way back I perused the neighborhood market, quieter than usual for Sundays after church. Even compared to this past January when I was last in Haiti, the global financial crisis is particularly noticeable for the timachann, the street merchants. Some have stopped chèche lavi (literally, “looking for life” – making a living) in the neighborhood. On my street, one family has packed up and left for a bidonvil (shantytown) far away in the Pòtoprens metro area. The stands where I usually get cans of juice or tomato paste are always almost completely empty. One didn’t even have a dime bag of bread to sell.

The streets were almost completely blanch – empty, very little traffic. The National Police issued a curfew against motorcycles in effect until a half hour ago, in an effort to bring security to the electoral process. Most everyone I know simply stayed home. If they went out at all, it was to their local market or to church. I called a friend who is a high-ranking member of the government. He was the only one I spoke with (more than 30!) who voted today. When he voted, around 12:30, his was the fifth ballot of several hundred eligible voters for his neighborhood of some 20,000 people. True, it was a kilometer or more to the polls, which is a long way in crowded Pòtoprens.

I went down to his polling place, on Channmas (French: Champs-de-Mars), the national plaza containing the National Palace and most of the central government bureaucracies. I took Lalue – the normally very busy thoroughfare connecting downtown to the suburb of Petyonvil. As I crossed the street not a single car was in sight. Channmas itself was emptier than I had ever remembered seeing it. There were a couple of places where small crowds huddled.

Thinking a crowd would be the polling place, I went to one. As I arrived, the crowd of 20 or so men cheered. Apparently Brazil had just scored a goal. It was a soccer match. Hungry, I went to a timachann selling a lukewarm plate of rice. Today was not good business for her. I asked her what the score was: Brazil 3, Italy 0. I asked where the polling place was. She laughed and said she didn’t know. I retorted, but you know it’s election day, right? She said a variant of what many friends I’ve known since 2003 or earlier said: “these elections don’t concern me.” To some, they didn't vote because their party was excluded. Others said "elections do nothing for us pep la (poor majority)." Still others said that they had to work to make a living.
As it turned out, the polling place was some 30 meters away, across from the UN truck (incidentally staffed by the victorious Brazilians). I sat in the plaza for almost an hour – until just before polls closed at 4, and the only people I saw coming or going were the police officers standing guard. And this was the polling place for several precincts, not just my friend’s.

According to friends who were here for the first round of elections on April 19, it was the same, except for road blocks and all traffic being stopped. Fanmi Lavalas, the party of deposed president Aristide, was excluded from the first round in April, so they continued to be excluded in today’s runoff elections.

It’s now 5:45 and the clouds are beginning to cover Pòtoprens while the sun still shines over the bay. The first rumblings of thunder from the east, from beyond the mountains, are just now barely audible. Today is the first day in almost two weeks that it hasn’t rained (it just did, at 6:40, for a short time). A couple of days ago, the UN troops (MINUSTAH) gave a press conference about the upcoming elections, promising that they would be secure and devoid of violence. The only thing that worried the UN was the weather.

Why is the UN so interested in these elections, especially since it seems clear that many people here aren’t?

At this same press conference, the MINUSTAH spokesperson was questioned by several journalists about their increasing aggression against the Haitian population. On Thursday, UN troops roughed up a partisan of deposed president Aristide at a funeral and following demonstration for Father Jean-Juste, a leader within Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party. This triggered a reaction from the crowd, and according to the spokesperson, MINUSTAH fired seven shots in the air. At least nine were audible in footage by Tele Ginen. One person died at the protest, found lying in a large pool of blood. The UN denied it was by their bullets (they ignored the question of whether they were metal or rubber), suggesting he died from someone throwing a rock. To date, if there has been an autopsy, the results have not been published.
For the better part of the month of June, college students have been staging almost daily protests, that began with a localized concern about taking away labs and shortening classes in the State University of Haiti’s School of Medicine but have broadened to support the movement to raise Haiti’s minimum wage. At many of these protests the UN has responded by firing teargas. It has been the cause of concern for many neighboring residents and doctors at the State Hospital, adjacent to the School of Medicine where many canisters of teargas have been shot.

The UN evaded all questions about the severity of the response, instead asking journalists a rhetorical question if they didn’t have a duty to respond when public property was destroyed. In a case last Wednesday, the only provocation was a tire was burned on a street corner and a burned-out minivan was blocking traffic in front of campus.

Right or wrong, many Haitian people are increasingly fed up with the UN occupation, which according to many sources spent $600 million last year. For the first time since I’ve been coming here since 2002, I have begun to hear people to tell me to f*** off and go home. Other blan (foreigner / white people) are noticing the same.
Many people are speculating about the timing of the UN’s escalation of violence. Some have theorized that it represents the UN’s putting in place a new order, a new stage in the country’s development. On Wednesday, the day before the UN allegedly shot the Lavalas member, Haitian president René Préval officially announced his objection to the law raising Haiti’s minimum wage from 70 goud ($1.75) to 200 goud ($5). The day before this, former U.S. President Bill Clinton officially accepted his post as UN Special Emissary, in which he promised to bring together a range of donors, including the private sector, to bring jobs to Haiti. In his presentation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Clinton cited the Collier Report more and in greater detail than a plan ostensibly coming from the Haitian government.

The Collier Report – and ostensibly the Haitian government’s strategic plan – argue that Haiti’s future lies in low-wage manufacturing work, exploiting Haiti’s dual “comparative advantage” of proximity to the U.S. and very low wages. Granted a unique opportunity in the HOPE Act, a nine-year tax relief that according to industry sources is $1.50 per pair of pants, Haiti needs to act quickly to privatize two of the remaining four public utilities (the port and electricity) to capitalize on this momentum and create jobs, says the Collier report (and according to Clinton, who said he read both, the Haitian government’s plan). Of two dozen grassroots activists who are actively engaged in civic life and debate world events such as Iran’s elections and Israel’s settlement policy, none have heard of the Collier Report or its author, Oxford economist Paul Collier (and all I’ve heard from since Bill Clinton’s speech haven’t heard about
the government’s plan either).

The manufacturing lobby, just granted a unique opportunity not given any other country in this $1.50 customs exemption, have made it their top priority to stop the passage of the minimum wage law while refusing to testify and submit to Parliament’s questioning until the previous weekend, more than a month after the Senate unanimously passed the minimum wage legislation. Some workers believe that industrialists are afraid to be asked about their bookkeeping practices, among others. Several workers complained that while their taxes were taken out of biweekly pay, the Haitian social security office didn’t even have a file for them. The industry lobby threatens that the 200 goud minimum wage will be the cause of 15,000 jobs lost. One of the eight primary industrialist families, presidential candidate Charles-Henri Baker, allegedly sent a pink slip to 300 workers, saying they would be fired the day that the 200 goud minimum wage law is put in effect.

Research with several factory workers reveals that the average quota for pants is 500 per day and average wage is 100 goud ($2.50) per day in Pòtoprens factories, which is 20 Haitian cents per pair of pants per person. Since the average size of factory lines is 25, this is 5 goud, or 12.5 cents for ALL Haitian laborers on a pair of pants. Consequently, doubling the minimum wage would be 10 goud, or a quarter per pair of pants. This extra 12-and-a-half cents pales in comparison to the $1.50, to say nothing of the final retail cost. According to union sources, in the Wanament Free Trade Zone, the average quota for t-shirts is 3000 per day per ‘module.’ Average wage is 150 goud, or 5 Haitian cents per person per t-shirt. Again 25 people per module and this figure is 1.25 goud (three and an eighth cents) for all Haitian labor.

Article 137 of Haiti’s Labor Code obliges the Haitian government to augment the minimum wage to keep up with inflation if it’s greater than 10% in any given fiscal year (Oct 1-Sept 30). The last time the minimum wage was increased was in 2003. Given the global food crisis felt acutely in Haiti last April, it is long overdue, and 200 goud is actually lower than it should be to keep pace with inflation and the devaluation of the goud.

This conflict, the UN’s increasing use of the trigger, and the debate in Parliament are likely to continue with increased intensity when Parliament will reconsider the act in light of the President’s objections next Tuesday. This conflict is but one manifestation of a larger global system that is reeling from an economic crisis and shifting following the new U.S. administration. Speaking of the UN and their attacks against both the students and Lavalas, I was told of a proverb, bat two fò, chen pap rele. If you beat a dog too hard, it won’t bark anymore (because it is dead).

Mark Schuller is Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Anthropology at York College, the City University of New York. He has co-directed documentary Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy (2009) and co-edited Capitalizing on Catastrophe: Neoliberal Strategies in Disaster Reconstruction (2008) among other reports and articles about Haiti, development, and globalization. He is in Haiti for the summer.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

School Kits for Haiti

Here is something that you can do to help Haiti. Why not ask your Meeting or School or Church to participate?

Alice Lovelace, director of the American Friends Service Committee, has helped to launch a project for school kits for Haiti. The content list below was composed in concert with Pat Lucien, who is supporting a small school in Ile A Vache, an island off the south coast of Haiti which was first populated by freed US slaves.

Contact Alice or Patrick for delivery instructions.

Contents to be placed in one gallon resealable bags.
Student Kits

A recorder or harmonica
colored pencils
pencil sharpeners
notebooks with UNLINED paper
game of jacks w/ ball
playing cards
blunt cutting scissors
small nail clippers with the nail cleaner
toothbrush & toothpaste
small rubber bands for girl’s hair
hair Comb (pick)
hair Brush

Parents Kits

sewing needles
Coats and Clarke embroidery thread
needle threader
small embroidery scissors
reading glasses 2.0 MAG
small nail clippers with nail cleaner
a small penknife

Teacher Kits

colored chalk
stapler and staples
pencils & a sharpener
lined notebooks
a ledger book

Monday, June 15, 2009

Student Protests in Haiti

I am pleased to present this story by Sylvestre Fils Docilius, a young journalist who works for Le Matin in Haiti. We met last year at the border conference for journalists and he asked if there were any chance he could write for IPS. I said I would be glad to read his work, help edit it, translate it and send it to my editor. We would share the fee untill such time as he could get his own English translator and go directly to the editor.

I don't think that it will be very long before he is on his own.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Clearing up Disinformation


My name is Michael Deibert, a journalist, author, and Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York. Having covered Haiti for many years for a variety of publications (including a 2001-2003 tenure as the Reuters correspondent in the country), I authored a book about the 1994-2004 era there, Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti (Seven Stories Press, 2005). As Haiti receives so little press attention, I was pleased to see the Sunday Times devote so much space to the historian Alex von Tunzelmann's account of her recent visit to Haiti (Haiti: the land where children eat mud).

There is, however, a significant factual error in Ms. Von Tunzelmann's story, as well as a conclusion that I believe has not been born out by recent history.In the article, Ms. Von Tunzelmann writes that Haiti's former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was "ousted in a highly controversial UN intervention in 2004."When Mr. Aristide flew into exile on the morning of February 29, 2004 (I was in Haiti at the time), there was no multinational force of any kind deployed anywhere in the country.

Following Mr. Aristide's departure, a Multinational Interim Force (MIF), authorized by Security Council resolution 1529, entered the country, under the command of Brigadier General Ronald Coleman. The MIF was responsible for peacekeeping duties in Haiti until transferring authority to the Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti (MINUSTAH) on June 1, 2004, a ceremony at which I was present, three months after Mr. Aristide's depature. It is fairly simple for even those new to Haiti, such as Ms. Von Tunzelmann, to find such information, here for example.

It is factually inaccurate for Ms. Von Tunzelmann to say that the United Nations was in any way responsible for Mr. Aristide's departure.A second point: Ms. Von Tunzelmann writes that Mr. Aristide's party, Fanmi Lavalas, which is currently a shadow of its former strength and riddled by internal divisions, is "the most popular party among the impoverished majority."In Haiti’s 2006 parliamentary elections (the country's last nationwide ballot in which Fanmi Lavalas participated), Fanmi Lavalas gained only 4 seats in the country's senate, the same amount as political parties such as the Fusion des Sociaux-Démocrates Haïtienne (FUSION) and the Organisation du Peuple en Lutte (OPL).

By comparison, the Lespwa party of Haitian President René Préval won 11 seats. In Haiti's lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, Fanmi Lavalas failed to win a single seat in 6 of the country's 9 departments, while Lespwa won seats in all but two. and Fusion won seats in six departments. In the Chamber, Lespwa garnered a total of of 19 seats, the Alliance Démocratique (Alyans) took 13 seats and the OPL 10 seats. Fanmi Lavalas won only 6 seats.

As Haiti is unarguably a poor-majority country, how could one thus argue that Fanmi Lavalas is "the most popular party among the impoverished majority?" On what factual basis does Ms. Von Tunzelmann make her claim?

Many thanks for your time in reading this email, and I hope that the Times will consider issuing a clarification, certainly on the first point and perhaps on the second, as well. Though a small, impoverished country, I believe that Haiti is no less deserving of rigorous scholarship than any other nation.

Very best regards,
Michael Deibert

Monday, May 4, 2009

Hope on the Horizon

Haiti Starts Over Again


Close your eyes and imagine you are the new prime minister of a poor Caribbean country. Yours is not a run-of-the-mill, low-income nation but one so destitute that last year the Associated Press reported that children were being fed cookies made of "dried yellow dirt" to relieve their hunger.

There are few roads connecting markets; electricity and potable water are luxuries; gang violence, corruption and drug trafficking have overwhelmed the justice system and crimes go unpunished. To make matters worse, remittances from the U.S. have been hard hit by recession.

For decades tyrants have ruled your country, first from the right and then the left. Now a young democracy is budding and the desperate masses are depending on your government to bring about order and the conditions for economic opportunity. Where do you start

Haitian Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis

For Haitian Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louis, this is not a parlor game but the real-time question she has had to think about every day since taking office in September. Last month, Ms. Pierre-Louis joined Journal editors for lunch in New York to explain her government's priorities. I expected to hear a plea for foreign aid. But the PM surprised me by talking about the sanctity of contracts, the importance of attracting investment, and the woes caused by a broken judiciary.

Talk up hope for Haiti and most people think you are naïve. The country has none of the cultural norms that conventional wisdom says are required to construct democratic institutions. Plus, it's flat broke.

All true. Yet things didn't have to get this bad. They did because when Haitians had a shot at democracy in 1990, they instead got a despot named Jean Bertrand Aristide. During the time he ran the country as a strongman, Haiti had a contract with a U.S. telecom company called Fusion. Its board included Joseph P. Kennedy II, who was a friend of Aristide and invited the Haitian to his second wedding. The board also included a number of Democratic Party honchos. Fusion's contract allowed it to carry long-distance calls to Haiti Teleco, the state-owned monopoly, at less than 25% of the Federal Communications Commission settlement rate at the time.

All we know is that while Fusion was racking up the discount minutes on one of the region's busiest telecom routes, Aristide terrorized his nation, both as president and as the power behind President René Preval. President Bill Clinton, who had restored the Aristide presidency after a coup d'etat, tolerated the abuses.

Telephone revenues were one of Haiti's few sources of hard currency. But when Aristide was driven from the country in 2004, the interim government opened Teleco's books and allegedly found that the company had been rifled, according to a lawsuit filed in South Florida. Haiti had to start over from scratch. Mr. Kennedy has since moved on to working with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez in the oil business.

Haitian tradition holds that the country needs foreign aid to get back on its feet. Ms. Pierre-Louis does not disagree. The main reason for her trip to the U.S. was a "donors' conference" where Haiti racked up $324 million in new pledges of assistance.

But the PM seems to also understand that the aid bucket is leaky at best. At the Journal she talked up private investment as the key to a meaningful reduction in misery. "We need investors," she said, "because we need to create jobs. And to get investors, whether they are from the private sector in Haiti or international, they have to have confidence." She insisted that any change in fixed-line telephony laws would stress competition.

Like Mr. Preval, who is president again, the PM hails from Haiti's left. George Soros was a big giver to the grass-roots organization she ran previously, and she was once an Aristide ally. But she broke with him over his use of destitute youths to carry out his political violence.

Now as PM she emphasizes public security, which has improved since Aristide left; kidnappings dropped sharply last December. She proudly recounted to me her decision to remove a wealthy developer from the prime government land he had invaded to build slums. This makes her different. Enforcing the rule of law is not the usual practice of anyone in Haiti who wants to have a political career.

Another unpopular goal on the PM's agenda is confronting drug-trade corruption in the judiciary and politics. Citing Haiti's recent seizure of $1 million in cash, she says, "Imagine what you can do with that much money in Haiti." The drug problem, she notes, undermines equality before the law, and Haiti needs U.S. help in fighting back.

Ms. Pierre-Louis may need help too. She doesn't have a political base, Bill Clinton is showing renewed interest in Haiti (not good), and powerful local interests want her out. She might survive if those who truly care about Haiti realize that her defeat would be a grave loss for her country. Hopefully this includes the U.S., which has enormous influence in Haiti and also should want to see the Western Hemisphere's poorest country get off its knees.

Write to O'

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Missa Luba


Three of the large lakes on the island of Hispaniola/Quiskeya are growing. Two of them are in Haiti, one in the DR. The lake on the Dominican Side of the border, Lago Enriquillo, is heavily salted and supports mostly crocodiles.

However on the Haitian side of the border Lac Azuei supports tilapia. When I last saw the lake, a few weeks ago, there was only one boat on it. It was perhaps 20 feet and piled high with bags of charcoal that the residents of the other side of the lake had prepared by cutting down green wood and baking it.

Should there be interest in aiding Haiti, it would be very useful for some of the fine polyester boats that are made in the Dominican Republic be given to Haiti.

Then they could indeed fish.

I cannot help but chuckle a bit at the irony of the motto of all the big NGOs "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day but teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime." Of course, few of the development workers know how to fish. They know how to administer grant money, do studies, and write reports.

That the model that "we" are using for "development" is not a success is most clearly seen by the fact that

No one is fishing in Lac Azuei.......

Friday, May 1, 2009


The Dominican Republic passed a Constitutional Amendment yesterday that all chidren, regardless of their nationality, have a right to public education in the Dominican Republic.

I bow to all the legislators for their humanity.

May they be Blessed.


New Medical Help for the Border

The Batay Relief Alliance has announced a new medical initiave for the Border region here.

This project is run by one of the many talented Haitians in the Haitian Diaspora. Ullrich Gaillard is an attorney, a cellest, and the force behind this organization which has delivered millions of dollars of medical aid and hosted countless medical missions to the Haitian population inside the Dominican Republic.

Last year, his organization received permission from the Haitian government to take over the clinic in Anse A Pitres, on the tip of the Southern border. Now, it appears, he will be able to cover the entire border.

One of the most pressing issues on the border has been the estimated 10,000 Haitian women who cross over the border into the Dominican Republic to give birth. The basic reason for this is that there are only medical facilities on the border in the central region, in Belledare. There is only a small, empty red cross station in Ounaminthe, and the heretofore empty clinic in Anse A Pitres. The southern region is particularly stripped of any medical services or personnel with perhaps two doctors covering the entire region between Jacmel and Anse A Pitres.

Many Dominicans rightly resent this use of their public medical facilities. Many believe that these women cross over so that their children will have Dominican citizenship. This has been a hotly contested international issue. The Dominican government has been exceedingly generous with the use of its public facilities, transporting Haitians from the border even to the Capital for treatment, which is a seven hour trip.

With the opening of more clinics on the border, the pressure on the Dominican State will be much relieved.

It will be wonderdul to have more help from the Batay Relief Alliance on the border. They have built a state of the art clinic in Monte Plata, serving a large Haitian and Doinican community there who live in areas where the sugar companies have closed but the population remains.

What would be wonderful would be a plant to produce the vitamin enriched peanut butter for use in malnourished children. This has been a major life saving product in Africa In Haiti, one small NGO, is producing it under the name of Medika Mamba. It has been used in Africa with great results, under the name of plumpy nut

Since the Famine Alert Network reports that there are areas even on the border which are facing food insecurity, and snce malnutrition in the first two years can produce permanent brain damage, enriched peanut butter would be a perfect business for the Border.

Peanut butter is one of Haiti's traditional breakfast foods along with eggs. However, because of a boycott of Dominican egg imports due to an H5N2 outbreak two years ago, Haitians have been deprived of a primary source of protein.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Foreign Policy Change?

Dear Secretary Clinton,

First let me thank you and your husband for you life long commitment to public service to our nation. I have the deepest respect for both of you and am extremely proud of the example that you have set. As a woman, I am particulary proud of you.

It was wonderful that in your capacity as Secretary of State, you chose to visit Haiti and the Dominican Republic within the first 100 days of the new administration. I take heart that this signals a strong and ongoing commitment on the part of the United States to the continuing development of these two neighboring nations. Since we invaded and occupied them both during the last century, we certainly owe them.

We all took heart in your allusion to the situation of the Haitian immigrants in the United States and await a very quick designation of Temporary Protected Status of all Haitians now in the United States.

As someone who has been on the ground here for four years, studying these two nations, I would suggest that there are some strategic errors in your policy. Two years ago, the President of the Dominican Republic, through his foreign secretary, suggested to the Secretary General of the United Nations that the Dominican Republic wished to become the breadbasket of the Caribbean by upgrading its agricultural sector and asked for the help of the international community. The response from Secretary Ban Ki Mon was that they would welcome that suggestion if it came from both island nations. The government of Haiti quickly responded through its Border Director, Max Antoine.

However, when Paul Collier, a scholar out of Oxford, said that Haiti should upgrade its textile sector, both the Secretary General, your husband and you, supported that suggestion. One wonders why?

It was not well received that you went to visit a textile factory in Haiti, where the business leaders are fighting to keep the daily minimum wage just at the global poverty level. It was noted that your words were only translated into French, not Kreyole. You were perceived to be clearly on the side of the small business elite, not the people.

It was also not well received that you came to the Dominican Republic and said that they had to do more to help Haiti when the Dominican Republic has more than a million Haitian immigrants, all of whom are treated for free in the nation’s public hospitals. The Dominican Republic, while it certainly is an economically advanced nation compared to Haiti, is not in a position to do much more to help Haiti when it has a high proportion of its population at the poverty level.

It is clear that the Obama administration wishes to change the image of the United States and with its southern neighbors but, alas, your visit did not really do that. We are still seen as a nation that wishes to use the low wages of its neighbors while ignoring their basic needs. We flood their markets with our heavily subsidized rice, destroying their local production. We flood the island with our left over used clothing and shoes, destroying the work for their tailors and shoe repair shops. But we ignore the requests of their governments for help in their agricultural sector so that their people can eat.

Alas, no one was cheering or dancing in the streets after you left. Instead, there were calls for the replacement of the current US Ambassador in Haiti and pointed cartoons in the Dominican papers. We can do much better. I trust that we will in the future.

Frankly, I am very disappointed. There was, in fact, absolutely no change whatsoever evident in your policy towards the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Please support the requests of the governments involved. We really need the help of the United States here. If you actually supported the development of these nations, our Coast Guard would not have to do so many heart wrenching patrols, resucing refugees from shark infested waters.

Perhaps if we acted more like a big sister than a bullying big brother, we would be more popular.

Please see my previous blog post at

for a more locally empowering vision of border development than more textile factories under the HOPEII Act.


With Respect,


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The High Mountain Border- Quaker colony?

The area where I want to live is located in the middle of the island, on the high central plateau. It is exceedingly fertile and gorgeous, with mountain ranges on both sides. It is, however, the poorest section of the Dominican Republic. Land prices range from $300 to $1300 an acre.

I invite Friends who are interested in relocation to contact me. There is lots of work to be done.

See my latest story from the border here

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Haitian Dominican Border Development

The Executive Director of the Frontier Development Commission responds to Mrs. Hillary Clinton’s declarations.

Several entities in the Dominican Republic reacted favorably in response to the proposals formulated by the Honorable Hillary Clinton during her visit to Santo Domingo. This April, Mr. Diego de Moya Canaan, of the Constructors Association, Mr. José Torres from the Free Zones Association and Mrs. Haydée Kuret de Rainieri of the Hoteliers Association said they were willing to take the necessary steps and cooperate with their potential partners in Haiti, for the implementation of mechanisms that could help towards “the installation of twin companies in the border zone”. Mr. José Torres declared that Mrs. Clinton’s proposals should not be restricted to the textile sector, but should be extended to other production sectors.
Several months ago, in response to a proposal from a major international institution that suggested that the Dominican Republic should be turned into “the Bread-Basket of the Caribbean”, we have been lobbying for this initiative to be extended to the border region.

And now, the United States Secretary of State has come to invite the island’s economic actors to join forces in order to put job-creating projects into action in this region, with a population of 600,000, in search of a better life, including young people who show their energy and ingenuity each time they are tested.
This 3450km2 frontier strip has enormous potential for developing tourism, agriculture, fishing, and the installation - in the appropriate locations - of manufacturing or assembly industries. The time has come to turn words into action.
With this in mind, certain institutions that have already shown an interest in the development of this region should be approached to implement a Development Investment Fund aimed at funding sustainable project along the border. We mention, for example, the EU, the World Bank, the IDB and CIDA. In this same spirit we are delighted to hear that the IDB has agreed to fund a project for “agricultural development and support for local initiatives” presented by the PADF, and this project was supported by the Commission.

Other activities of this kind need to be supported in several areas, such as fishing, craft making, livestock, etc.

The recently reactivated Haitian-Dominican Chamber of Commerce could also play the role of catalyst aimed at implementing Mrs. Clinton’s proposals, and to work in close collaboration with Haitian business associations with the aim of making a “strategic alliance” aimed at invigorating the development of the frontier region.
As far as we are concerned, we remain determined to keep on working for the people of the region, working in synergy with local communities and their elected representatives.

Max Antoine II
Executive Director

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Against Human Trafficking

Now this would be a good idea! Perhaps it would help stop some of the Yolas which leave the DR in leaky boats across shark intfested waters.

From the Los Angeles Times
Trafficking in humans
The proposed Alien Smuggling and Terrorism Prevention Act would put some much-needed teeth into laws aimed at stopping those who smuggle people into the U.S.

April 25, 2009

More than 17,000 people were smuggled or trafficked into the United States last year. Some were duped into believing that jobs awaited them and instead were forced into debt peonage, required to work in orchards and fields or as housemaids to reimburse the cost of their transport. Others, mostly women and children, were trafficked into sex slavery, and still others were shipped in by boat or brought across the Mexican border by organized smuggling rings.

Even those who come voluntarily in search of work can find themselves in the hands of sophisticated criminal enterprises, with guides who are just as likely to rob, assault or hold them for ransom if full payment isn't made as they are to lead them north. The tales of smugglers' heartlessness are well known. The worst case occurred in 2003, when a truck driver abandoned 70 immigrants from Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic, leaving them sealed inside a trailer in south Texas; 19 died of dehydration, overheating and suffocation.

Although the fatalities in that case led to a life sentence for the truck driver, human smugglers in more routine cases can get off with a year or two behind bars, as the crime, incredibly, is only a misdemeanor. This leaves international networks of transporters, recruiters, guides and boat captains free to move human cargo with only the risk of a judicial slap on the wrist from the United States.

With sentences that do not jibe with the crime, it's no wonder that global smuggling has become a multibillion-dollar market. A bill sponsored by Rep. Baron P. Hill (D-Ind.), the Alien Smuggling and Terrorism Prevention Act, would stiffen the penalties for smuggling, raising it from a misdemeanor to a felony and setting a five-year minimum sentence for many offenses. Longer terms would be imposed on smugglers who expose their victims to risk of death, kidnapping or rape, or whose offense is related to terrorism.

The bill passed the House unanimously last year but lost momentum in the Senate. Hill reintroduced it, and last month it again passed the House unanimously. The Senate Judiciary Committee has it now and must not let it languish. The United States dismantled much of its human smuggling apparatus more than a century ago. But in recent years, with the creation of an anti-slavery office in the Justice Department and tougher anti-trafficking laws, we have recognized the unfortunate need to reassemble that machinery. As a destination for some of the world's least fortunate people, the U.S. must assert itself in the global effort to halt human smuggling, and Hill's legislation would help.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Haiti's elections?

Things aren't going so well for democracy in Haiti, it appears.

Yesterday, a third of the Haitian Senate seats were up for election. The Haitian Electoral council had already disqualified all the candidates from former Presiden Aristide's Lavalas party.

This was just posted on the Corbett listserv from a "usually reliable source" - in Haiti:

"How is someone supposed to vote?

The word on the street is: if you're going to vote, make sure you print your name on the bottom of your feet, so, when they find your body (without the head), you can still be identified.

The word from the radio: If you believe in democracy, don't vote.

The word from the internet: Due to upcoming elections and according to Haitian National Police sources, private vehicles will not be allowed on the streets from midnight Saturday, April 18 to 0400 Monday, April 20.
There will be no sales of alcohol from 1800 Saturday, April 18 to 0400 Monday, April 20.

The streets of Port-au-Prince are deserted today, Sunday, election day.

When the Haitian people voted Rene Preval for President back in 2006, they thought he was going to represent their interests.
Such is not the case. Preval and his entourage have decided that their interests are better represented by the Gang of Eleven (Haiti's economic elite).

Shortly before Prime Minister Alexi was removed from office he had arrested a member of Haiti's economic elite for import tax fraud. With Alexi's removal, the politic became "pro elite".

Drive the roads of the towns of St Mark or Gonaives, then drive in front of the beaches of Montrouis and you'll see who's benefitting from the Preval government.

You can't hate the Haitian masses and expect them to cooperate. When I drive from Port au Prince to Ennery or to Gonaives by way of St Mark, I sense hatred. I sense that the current Haitian government hates the Haitian people and the people of the countryside. The unpaved roads, the dirt, the dust, the mud speak volumes.

The Espoir candidate (Rene Preval's party) had more graffiti on his posters than any other candidate (read the writing on the walls)

The Gang of Eleven has their lobbyist in Washington and their man in the National Palace. Who's going to lobby for the Haitian people ?? Who's going to lobby for the Gang of Eight Million (the People) ?? "

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thank you, President Obama!

Congratulations! Thanks to your tireless advocacy over the past several years, the Obama Administration pledged $20 million yesterday to cover Haiti's remaining debt payments to the World Bank and Inter American Development Bank.

In a speech yesterday at the Haiti Donors Conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

The $20 million pledge should cover all of Haiti's remaining debt payments for 2009. Before the end of this year, Haiti is expected to achieve permanent cancellation of most of its debts by reaching "completion point" in the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) program.

This victory would not have been possible without your activism and advocacy for Haiti. Literally thousands of you have called, written, and met with your members of Congress, filled paper hearts and plates with messages for policymakers, organized and attended public education events, and given money to support Jubilee's work.

Thanks and appreciation are also due to Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), who working with Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) and more than 70 other Members of Congress, has been a tireless champion for Haiti in the US Congress. We also highlight the leadership by staff at the US Treasury and State Departments for their work to secure yesterday's historic commitment.

As we celebrate and appreciate this victory, a note of caution -- we're not entirely out of the woods yet. The Obama Administration may require approval from Congress in order to obtain the $20 million needed to cover Haiti's debt payments. And Haiti has not yet received permanent debt cancellation. The projected date for this has been pushed back more than once and it could happen again. We'll need your continued support to assure these commitments are met.

Still, yesterday's announcement is a victory for the people of Haiti and demonstrates the power of your solidarity and advocacy. Thank you!

From all of us at Jubilee..