Monday, September 28, 2009

Let's learn creole!

Let's learn creole Ann aprann pale kreyòl

Haitian creole is very very easy specially for English speaking people. I bet you if you go to Haiti for 3 months you will be able to speak creole pretty well.

Today I will teach you some useful words:
Good morning: Bonjour
Good evening: Bonswa
Good night: Dòmi byen/bòn nwit
What is your name?: Kijan ou rele?
My name is...: Mwen rele ...
Where is...?: Ki kote ... ye?
Where are you going?: Ki kote ou prale?
I am going to...: Mwen prale ...
I love: Mwen renmen

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Haiti reads (an interview with the founder)

As you've probably realized by now the purpose of this blog is simply to promote Haiti. If I see a Haitian rising internationally specially in the US I will promote him and this goes as well for organizations thriving for the welfare of the people of our country. I know there are many doing good deeds then I could never know but unfortunately I have to select some and I am looking forward for some suggestions as well as always.

Today, my guest is Jeanette Alfred, she is the founder of Haiti Reads and I had the opportunity to interview her via email and here is the transcript:

Q- Tell me a little bit about you!
A- I came to the USA from Germany in 1991. I grew up with a passion of wanting to help people and used to take most of my pocket money when I was a child to buy bread for homeless people on my way to school. I grew up poor in a single parent household but always thought that whatever I have, I could share with others.
Because of the lack of money we had when I was little, there was never money for books in my home. I remember begging my mother for a book when I was a child but she never gave in to buy me one. Once I moved to the US and started earning my own money, I went a little crazy buying book after book, so many in fact, that I ended up having to donate a majority to several Chicago Public Libraries and some to private schools. When I learned that only a short distance from the United States, in Haiti, children were longing for books and education; I set out to bring books to the children of Haiti. This is how Haiti Reads was born.

Q- Why Haiti Reads? Why Haiti? How long have you been around?
A- In August 1994 I got into a cab at the airport. The driver was a Haitian man who ended up becoming a good family friend. Besides driving a cab, he also hosted a Haitian Radio show in Chicago. He invited me to come to his show a few times and after some time, I ended up working at the station answering phones. During that time, I really didn’t know much about Haiti at all but I started to learn all about Haitian music. Unfortunately, I was never encouraged by anyone to travel to Haiti so about three years ago I took that challenge up on my own. I booked a two week vacation to Haiti. This was a life changing event for me. I meet some of the nicest people while there and one of them encouraged me to “do something for Haiti”. Combined with my passion for books, seeing that most children in Haiti don’t have good quality books if any at all, the idea for the library was born.

Q- There are many other troubles in Haiti why did you choose to tackle illiteracy?
A- I could write a book on this but I think this quote by U.K Prime Minister Gordon Brown sums it up the best:
"Reading is a ladder out of poverty. It is probably one of the best anti poverty, anti-deprivation, anti-crime, anti-vandalism policies you can think of."

Q- Where is your organization located?

A- In Haiti, we are located in Delmas 24, Port-Au-Prince and we currently work in partnership with two schools; one in Merger, Haiti and one in Fort Mercredi, Haiti. We have Haiti Reads Volunteer Clusters in San Diego, California, New York, New York, Chicago, Illinois, and Port-Au-Prince Haiti.

Q- Is this for kids only or do you help adults as well?
A- Our focus IS actually adults. We would like to see as many parents as possible to come to us to learn how to read or become better readers. If we can target parents, they can go home and teach their children and help them become literate. If they are unable to send their children to school, the parent can become their teacher. If the child is in school, the parent can help them with their assignments. It is a vision we hope to fulfill. Parents as teachers first!
Our work with children entails that we bring books to schools on a weekly basis. Of course, most of the patrons of the library will be children as well.

Q- Where do you get funding from?
A- We rely on private funding from people like you. In addition we are going to start selling T-Shirts and crafts various students in Haiti and the US will make for us. However, it is a catch 22. We need money to order the t-shirts we want to sell and currently Haiti Reads does not have a budget for that.

Q- How can people reading this help?
A- One way of helping is that they spread awareness of our work in their community. The next thing they can do is help us raise money by hosting dinner parties, holding yard sales and asking friends and family for support. In relation to other organizations, our budget is small. We are currently looking to raise about $5000.00. This money will enable us to buy solar panels, inverter batteries, get tables, chairs and shelves build, ship the remaining books to Haiti and pay for a teacher to teach the literacy classes. Since we are an all volunteer staff, all travels to and from Haiti and accommodations in Haiti are paid out of each members pocket and do not come out of the library budget.

Q-What's the most amazing moment you've had with your organization and what was the most discouraging one?
A- The most amazing moment was when I opened the doors to the library for the very first time and saw the place painted and cleaned. Jean Baptiste, one of the members of Haiti Reads, painted the place a wonderful light and bright color and really surprised me with this wonderful gift.

Our most discouraging moments are when we have to put our very important work on hold because of the lack of funding. This is currently the case.

Q- Do you have a success story that you wanna share with us?
A- We have several success stories. Last year The Special Library Association awarded us with a check for $500.00 for the work we do in Haiti. This was a momentous moment for us. We, out of thousands of entries, were chosen by a panel of librarians for the work we do in Haiti.
Another great moment was when we were contacted by Looking Glass Theater to partner with them on the production of Fedra. Because this imaginary theater play deals with Haiti, we will be serving as a cultural bridge between our organization and the theater company to get the Haitian community of Chicago interested in this event.

Q- Thanks so very much for your time, what would be your last words?
A- My last words would be a warm heartfelt thank you to you and this wonderful blog you keep. Haiti is a wonderful country with so many possibilities. Our work in the field of literacy is very important to the community it serves, Haiti and its future.

Jeanette Alfred
6415 N. Ravenswood Ave #100
Chicago, IL 60626
USA: 1-773-616-0043

Haiti: 011-509-3-879-6642
Haiti: 011-509-3-866-2601
On Facebook

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

From dream to reality

On Tuesday the 25th of August I landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It was so great to see all of my old friends and kids I was raised with. Moreover, it was great to see the country! It is not getting any better on the poverty side! More people than ever are on the streets of Port-Au-Prince. I was amazed to see that so many new roads have been built. On the political side or should I say on the security side it has improved a lot. The police is getting more effective thanks to their training by foreign agency such as the UN. I did not hear not even one gunshot during my two week stay in the country and not even heard or read about any kidnapping. I am not saying that it is 100% safe 'cause there is no such place on the planet but I think that it is pretty safe to travel to Haiti as always one should use their good sense.

If you have been following my blog you will know by now that I have been teasing you about the dream/goal well it finally came to reality. My bags were filled with with pencils, pens, erasers, pencils sharpeners and rulers that I have been able to buy and most of them were donated by good people from neighbor to friends, former co-workers, siblings, in-laws and local churches ( I thank you all guys).

We had enough funds to buy copybooks and more pencils and school kit in Haiti which was a blessing. With your donations and the help of a dynamic team we had in Haiti, we were able to provide school supplies to about 650 kids who would have not been able to afford such. The kids and parents were grateful to us but unfortunately we had to turn away some people since we did not have enough More people showed up even after the distribution we are praying to be able to do a bigger distribution next time!

We had school supplies distribution in 3 different sites

The first one was in Lompre, Trouin a remote village around O treacherous! When we finally made it 3 hours and a half later, we found about 250 to 275 well behaved kids sitting quietly waiting for us.

They sang and clapped they hands and welcomed us! I was so glad and proud of my crew. Unfortunately, I lost my memory card which contains the picture but I have the whole event on film and I am looking for somebody who can transfer it on DVD for me,if you can help us please contact me.

On September 2, 2009 we headed to Thiotte, it was overwhelming to see the kids come so far away to receive something from us. Some of them walked as far as 5 miles to receive some little thing that they parents would otherwise might not have been able to provide to them. My cousin and brother went ahead of time and targeted the poorest people from the area and gave them a card and the location to come in order to receive the school supplies but word came out we had people with and without cards who showed up. We were able to give to even those with no cards but unfortunately not all of them could get something. About 250 kids participated in it. We delivered the items per session just to avoid overcrowding! Thanks to the crew it all went smoothly! The pictures below are only from Thiotte! I only have video from Trouin and please contact me if you want to help us convert it into DVD.

This is how we basically did it: we gave each kids 3 copy books 2 pencils, 2 pencils a ruler a pencil sharpener,those in 6th grade or higher received on top of these a copy book with a school kit.

No, we did not have the press covering this project and yet I feel so satisfied! I want to thank the special crew I had in Haiti without them any of this would have been possible!

I want to specially thanks my wife and kids, also Mount Sinai Church for being our biggest church sponsor and to my brother in law and his wife for their generous support, they were our biggest individual sponsor. I would also thank Mr. Smoorenburg director of Fondation Coeur Pour Haiti for providing us with the logistic and as well as a 4X4 pick-up and a driver. He was our biggest sponsor in Haiti hands down! I would also like to thank Believer’s Fellowship and it members for their support as well, my siblings and cousins who really invested in the dream (the trip to Thiotte was made possible by my cousin who drove us there and stayed with us), Smilemakers Inc and its employees for their support. Any one who has helped a way or the other to make this trip possible I do thank you and the kids are thanking you as well.

Thanks to all of you who made it possible financially, through your prayers or your showing up physically to help! In the name of the kids and parents of Trouin and Thiotte, a big thank you! If you have a dream go for it! You won't know till you try it and even when it does not work the first time don't give up as long as it is a legitimate one!

I have even bigger crazier dream for Haiti and I know that God will make them come true but first I have to start slowly! You will be made aware of the other projects in due time!
Thanks for helping and loving Haiti!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Gathering at Fondation Coeur pour Haiti

We had a great time with the kids of the village! Most of them are adults now or teenagers but when I left some of them could barely talk it was such a good reunion and I was so glad to see them.

They truly played some good kompa live!

How warm is it?

Warm temperature, ranging year-round from 70-93° F in the coastal regions, and 50-75 in the mountainous areas; rainy seasons are April-May and August-October.

Enjoy the music!

You might be going through some tough time and you feel like you can not take it anymore. Remember there is a friend who cares and his name is Jesus. He says cast all your care upon him for he caress for you. He will give you rest! The road might be treacherous, nevertheless, don't ever give up!

It is time...

Time does not stand still. So, Make the best use of it!