Edited for Windows on Haiti and its Ann Pale forum
Martha O'Brien wrote:I was in Haiti fairly recently with two fellow faculty members for whom this was a first trip to Haiti. Both of them have travelled fairly extensively and both indicated that they felt safer in Haiti than they had in quite a few of the supposedly safer places they had been previously. (You know--the ones that don't have travel warnings and where universities allow their students to go on school-sponsored trips.) Although we spent the majority of our time in Pandiassou, we spent some time in Port-au-Prince and took the road (rather than a flight) to the Central Plateau, so they had an opportunity to see a variety of sights and situations along the way. And the road from Port-au-Prince to Mirebalais (more or less) is _paved_! Not just merely paved--_beautifully paved_! And they were grading and prepping for quite a distance beyond Mirebalais as well. What an improvement! What a positive sign!
As you might guess if you have ever visited Pandiassou, my friends were impressed with the hospitality and peacefulness of the community there and loved being able to take several nice, long walks in the country as well as visiting various schools and projects in the area. Almost every time that I have been to Pandiassou, it so happened that--totally by happenstance--something unique occurred during my stay. This time it was the wedding of a local couple to which we were invited. Such things really make you feel more connected to the area you are visiting and less of a tourist. Cherished memories!
While we were in the Central Plateau, it seemed to me that there was more rain earlier than there had been other years when I was there in May. And it was definitely cooler--I was uncomfortably chilly during the night, a couple of nights!
Surprise of surprises--there is now a rather posh hotel in Pandiassou--Hotel L'Hermitage de Pandiassou--run by a Mme. Nicole Jean-Marie. There are some pictures and information at the following sites:
http://www.haitiwebs.com/forums/travel_ ... e_foi.html
Under Brother Francklin Armand’s leadership, quite a number of lakes have been built in the Central Plateau and are beginning to be used for irrigation during the dry season, utilizing pumps procured largely through private donations from abroad. I saw a number of quite extensive mature gardens that had obviously been irrigated throughout the dry season. Br. Francklin's vision of providing the means for peasants to become self-sustaining is finally beginning to bear fruit in a small but significant way.
Other projects undertaken by (or nurtured by) the Little Brothers and Little Sisters of the Incarnation include several elementary schools in the Central Plateau, a secondary technical school in Pandiassou, another in Port-au-Prince, and another somewhere in the South; an elementary school in Port-au-Prince; three orphanages for street children; hot meal programs for the children in these schools; some adult education; a dispensary near Pandiassou; and a birthing center, also near Pandiassou; a butcher shop in Pandiassou from which meat is both sold directly and shipped to Port-au-Prince, providing an outlet for peasants who are beginning to raise livestock for slaughter; fish-farming in the lakes around Pandiassou; and a new project involving net-covered greenhouses featuring "drop-by-drop irrigation" for additional gardening. Since the sisters are now heavily involved in many of these projects and since there appears to be no lack of leadership in that branch of the order, the outlook for the long-term viability of many (if not most) of these projects appears to be good. One sister is now a nurse and oversees much of the work at the dispensary; another oversees the elementary school in Port-au-Prince; another runs much of the work in the Central Plateau; still another is in charge of the orphanage.
I think that this example illustrates many points: concern about long-term viability of projects in terms of both financial independence and subsequent leadership; and the importance of small, local, Haitian-led projects despite the fact that these appear to do little to change the overall structures working against majority-class Haitians. Since I am an optimist by nature, I tend to remain hopeful that the many small successes by this group and others like them will plant the seeds for future change for the country.
I must say that despite the very obvious problems facing Haiti, I came away from this trip with a sense that there really is hope and that people really are finding ways to "make it work." I hope that I am not just a cock-eyed optimist.