Sunday, October 23, 2011

Haitian Soccer Amputees Assist Wounded US Soldiers

Members of a Haitian amputee soccer team were in Washington this week to conduct clinics for wounded American troops from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  It was the Haitians' way of saying thank you to the U.S. military for providing assistance to Haiti after the devastating earthquake last year.

It’s called the Haitian Inspiration Tour, and nearly all members of the "Team Zaryen" soccer team lost limbs in the 2010 earthquake.  The team's visit is being co-sponsored by a U.S. service group, the Knights of Columbus.

Pat Korten is the group's spokesman and told VOA about the impact the team is having.

"Many of them were playing soccer before the earthquake, before they lost their limbs.  Now they're relearning how to do that, and showing everybody in Haiti," Korten explained. "This is a big deal in Haiti. Everybody's watching.  Everybody knows about this in Haiti.  These guys are ambassadors to the United States this week and everybody is really happy about that."

Life goes on

Team Zaryen’s founder and captain is Wilfried Macena, 27, who lost his right leg in the earthquake. 

“I did not know if I could play soccer anymore when I got physical therapy by Medishare hospital in Haiti, and I felt very confident and used my crutches very well and I saw I could play soccer again,” Macena said.

Zaryen is the Creole word for tarantula and Macena explained the team's special jersey logo.

“One side has four legs.  The other side has three legs.  That means if that spider [tarantula] lost one leg, his life still continues.  You can do everything like you have two legs," he explained.

Got skills?

It was clear the Haitian soccer players are skilled, as they demonstrated a number of drills for the amputees in the U.S. military.

Bradley Ritland, the head of physical therapy for amputees at the Walter Reed Medical Center outside Washington, said it was inspiring.

“It’s been an outstanding experience for their team as well as our guys," Ritland said. "I think a lot of our guys see the positive outlook on the patients from Haiti, and see how they’re dealing with their injuries and how through sport they’re able to maintain a positive outlook.”

The Haitian team played an exhibition game here in Washington against the U.S. national amputee soccer team.  For all matches, prosthetics are removed and left on the sideline.  Players use their one good leg and their crutches to move the ball.  Goalkeepers have both legs but only one arm.

Newfound love

Army First Lieutenant Cameron Kerr, who lost part of his left leg in Afghanistan early this year when he stepped on an explosive device (IED), said he played soccer when he was younger and now has a newfound love for the game.

"Especially in those first few months of recovery you come back from Afghanistan, you’re missing a leg or two, or like an arm and two legs, you just don’t know what life is going to hold for you in the future," Kerr said.  "So this is pretty critical, events like this, and adaptive sports like this are instrumental in helping us see what’s possible, and then helping us get there too.  So not only seeing that it’s an option, but really helping us in terms of the training, and the actual fun of playing soccer again."

Kerr added that he and other amputees have to get used to what they call the new normal - that is, realizing that their legs are not going to grow back, and they need to keep pushing ahead and making the best of it.

(Courtesy VOA)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Spartanburg International Festival 2011

We had fun representing Haiti at the Spartanburg international festival and I have the honor of giving to my readers a report about how it went down. Let me start by first of all thanking the city of Spartanburg for this wonderful initiative. I would like to thank the Haitian consulates in Chicago and Atlanta and all the Haitians who helped me in my booth and also all the countries who participated as well as the organizers which are too many to name. I would also like to think particularly the United States of America to allow us to live and share our diverse cultures in such a welcoming country. This This is our 4th year participating and it keeps on getting better and better. This is how it went down. 

The event is usually held on the first Saturday of the month of october which happened to be October 1st of this year. It starts from 11:00 AM till 7:00 PM but I was there as early as 8:30 AM since we had to be ready by 10:00 AM. At the entrance of the park you have immigration where the kids and adults as well are given a passport and each country as a stamp with the name of the country on it and this is the proof that the person has been in this country. Participants are encourage to ask questions about the country that they are visiting and just in case they have no clue what to ask specially for kids there is a list of questions they can use which is posted in each tent/country such as: how much is a loaf of bread in your country, the price of gas, the kind of animals etc... and some schools and universities even give their students credits for participating.

Kids from Laos in their native outfit!

Of course you know kids and even adults will just try to collect as much stamps as possible in the quickest time possible without really inquiring about what is going on in the specific country they are getting the stamp from. This is why in Haiti we went a little step further, everyone who came to get their passport stamp if they did not ask a question we ask them one, first of all they have to come all the way through so that they can read about Haiti and view what we have and in return we ask them question like: can you tell me one fact about Haiti? For 2-3 year olds we asked them by showing them the flag to show us the color blue or red and yes they knew it, or the older one can they spell Haiti etc... In other words, it was very instructive for everyone. All this was the avenue of Nations!

Getting a stamp

Here is a list of the countries who participated in the Avenue of Nations: Austria, Brazil, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Haiti, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Laos , Latvia, Mexico, Palestine, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Scotland, South Africa, Switzerland, Tanzania, Ukraine and the United States of America.

There is a big stage called Global stage where different performers can exhibit their talents and it range from children choir to tap dancers, salsa dancers etc.... and more stages all around the parks meaning at anytime during the day there was something going on.

There was one street block and this was the International Boulevard of food and you can buy food from different countries! I am telling you these people can cook! From Bethlehem to Jamaica without forgetting Mexico and many more there were a dozen or more countries represented in this section. There was also the Global Interest Groups ranging from Faith oriented school to English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) International Kids Zone: Had a lots of kids activities, crafts and a stage of non-stop full entertainment. The global sports Zone: Which emphasizes the national sports of different countries, they had of course soccer (goooooaaaaaalllllllllll!!!!! You know what I am talking about if you ever watch soccer or been in a game), Ping Pong, Washer Toss, Hackey Sack, Chess, Badminton, Ladder Golf, Cornhold, Rock CLimbing Wall, Cubb (Swedish Game), Fencing, Zumba and so forth....

Last but not least the International Trade Zone: where you can purchase items that give back to the artisans and their community. There was an eclectic mix of commercial imports from around the globe for sale in the Trade Zone. Vendors display a variety of souvenir goods and items from the global trade market. Imports from China, Ireland, Japan Indonesia and more will was present. Each year there a country or continent is honored and the Europe's Nordic Region is our Honored Countries. Countries represented were: Denmar, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden.

This event is visited by more than 8000 people and for me the best part is always at 2:00 PM when we have the Parade of Nations. How beautiful it is to see all these countries coming together for one cause only to celebrate our diversities rather than fight each other. None of us is better than the other, we all have our own cultures, our taboos, our differences, our own background and history but when you look at it in apositive way, this is what makes the world so fascinating! How boring would have it been if I go to the US and see the same scenery that I saw in Africa or Scotland or Haiti? We have to come together and celebrate our diversities 'cause I am pretty sure that what God had in mind when he created us. Let's love each other and respect each other. Next year, God willing, this is the place to be! Let's get back to the we had fun part and if you do not believe me, take a look at this video of a spontaneous celebration after the Parade of nations:

Here is a video montage of

Now, please enjoy these random pictures of the festival

Click here for more pictures of the Spartanburg International Festival.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Super Idol

The news came this Saturday, September 10, Boereau Claude Marcus, a young Haitian and the only black who started in Super Idol contest in Taiwan has been ranked among the 10 finalists with the highest rating, a learned Haiti Press Network. "There were two episodes last Saturday, September 10, in the first three competitors were eliminated. In the second, we eliminated two others for the 10 finalists. I still have the best score in the second premium, or 43.4 after an interpretation of a Latin music, "said Claude Marcus Initially, there were more than 5000 to take part in this singing competition, a major cultural event in the Asia broadcast on many television channels. The only black and Haitian participating in this sixth edition of Super Idol in Taiwan has been ranked among the 10 finalists, is the first time someone in the area West Indies (America) arrived in the Top 10 the history of the competition. "Many people rank among my favorite one of the competition. I'm staying focused, I work every day that I always give the best of myself. Being one of the favorites among the public is already something very big for me, "said Claude Marcus. Marcus hopes in this competition interpret a Haitian music to show the world the country's culture, it has already submitted a list a panel of judges but they have not yet chosen a music of Haiti. "I really hope to have the chance to perform a composition contest in Haiti to advance our culture," wished the young darling of the sixth edition of Super Idol contest. Fédrick Jean Pierre, Here is the performance video Update: As of today October 22nd, 2011,Marcus got eliminated from the competition in 6th position. Congratulations to you brother.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How the "aid" can and is actually hurting us

I know this particular statement I am about to make will be very controversial and believe me I wish I had another way to put it but, all I am asking my readers, is to make sure you read the whole text not a snippet of it in order to fully understand what I mean but then again you do not have to agree with me and I will humbly accept your critics, disagreement or if you want to add something more to what I wrote. All you have to do is hit the comment button so that everyone can read what you think.

Unless you have been living under the rocks, you are aware of the terrible earthquake disaster which occurred in Haiti on January 12, 2010 and the whole world was watching live days after days as the Haitian people is trying to go through rumbles with their bare hands to save their loved ones and also how the world responded pretty fast with their financial support and many organizations and individuals went there to help. It was very humbling to see the outpouring of support we got and are still getting till this day. For this I say thank you to all of you, who in a way or the other help Haiti, prayed for us or just mourned with us. We are forever grateful to you!
Of course, the very first 3-4 months is to be considered as emergency where people needed the basics be handed to them such as water, food, clothes, money etc…  Unfortunately this has not stopped.

Now, I am not an expert in anything I just happen to be fascinated by the way things are going since I myself had the opportunity to go and help as well and in case you are wondering I am also from Haiti and yes I was raised in an orphanage, a NGO (Non-governmental Organization) you will very soon see why I state that upfront.

I do think there is a big problem with the way aid is being administered in Haiti. First of all since we have very poor infrastructures, we have way too many NGOs in Haiti that are not even controlled by anyone. They basically do what they want to do. A lot of them are just seasonal they come for a week or a month just to make a name for themselves or to say they have been Haiti. We do not have enough roads and there are way too many cars in Haiti. I have observed myself so many rental cars in the street of Haiti.

Here is a paragraph by Kevin Edmonds a NACLA Research Associate in an article entitled: NGOs and the Business of Poverty in Haiti published on Apr 5 2010:

Haiti has the most privatized social-service sector in the Americas, with some 80% of the country’s basic services provided by the private sector through non-governmental organizations (NGOs). No other country in the world has more NGOs per capita. Edmond Mulet, head of the UN mission in Haiti, conservatively estimates that there were more than 10,000 before the January 12 earthquake. Many Haitians ironically refer to their country as a “republic of NGOs.”  (source

Of course I would say with no way to prove it, that this is close to double after the earthquake. With all these people in country, I do think that resources are diverted instead of going straight to the Haitian people the intended target. Instead we have more traffic jams, more pollution in the air and many people just enjoying the beach instead of being productive and others just making money for themselves. Please understand that that there are many good NGOs in Haiti that are doing the right things and which have been around for years and let me explain that not all new NGOs are bad or ill-intentioned but the many of them are of no use to the Haitian people at all.

Why do I say that? Suppose an organization brings 50 people from abroad to come work in Haiti to build something, this is wonderful right? Wrong! How about this same organization instead of spending this money to pay airlines and hotels and car rentals and meals etc… for these 50 people, brings in 10 of them and then hire locals to train them on what they are doing? Wouldn’t that be more beneficial for the country? Wouldn’t it help more in term of the people being trained having more pride and knowing something for life?

You will never help Haiti if you do not help the people help themselves. If you are not helping people help themselves you are just destroying the country for the future. For, the 50 people you brought in after the job is complete and the money is spent whether well done or not will return back to their country and since no one was trained, they will have to be called back if there is a problem and the money spent to pay them could have been used to help the nation.

"Teach us how to fish! do not give hand it to us". If you want to build a house bring in one or two experts and train the locals, there are many good engineers in Haiti who can be trained and also have the people for which the houses are being built be a major part of the labor so that their understand what it takes to build a house, they know they have invested in it and they will be more likely to keep up with it and moreover you give them a sense of pride.

I think that a lot of organizations are setting the Haitian people to be "professional beggars" deprived of all their pride. This is going to kill our self-esteem in the long run! Haiti does not need things to be handed to her. Haitians need work, do not just give things away. We have our pride and though we are in need we would rather work to deserve what we have. Don’t give them rice but rather teach or to be more efficient in cultivating the land, give them the equipment and train them on how to take care of it, so that if it is broken you do not have to come from abroad to repair it but they will be able to do it themselves.

There are many ways this can be accomplished. Instead of giving them money how about you teach them how to save what they have or invest it in macro enterprise, don’t just hang them money, loan them and let them invest it in a small business and reward those who do good with a low interest rate. Don’t just bring in your tractors, your engineers and your own people and do the job and leave. Teach the locals how to maintain them and how to build them rather help with the equipment because the manpower is already available.

As I previously said , I am very thankful for all the help we are getting but an aid which is not efficient is worthless and if an organization really wants to help it should invest in local people instead of bringing in seasonal foreigners. This is not help the Haitian people this is not helping the economy. I do not want to name any organization whether on the good side or the bad sides but you guys have an idea by now on how to distinguish a good one from a bad one.

I have more to say about this subject but I do not want you to get too tired of me. If there is need to add more I will do so either in a comment or a new post. 

Ask yourself this question: what is a country with its people with no sense of pride? What will become of a country if all of its citizens are just receiving from others? If you want to help, make sure that you are helping people help themselves rather than just waiting for a handover. 

Haitians are very proud people and they are very resilient. Let me make sure to conclude also that as Haitian, there is no way we can progress even when all the world pour in billions of dollars in Haiti unless we ourselves decide to change our own country. Let us work together toward a better country and let us stop hating each other, killing each other but rather work hand in hand as our national motto clearly states: L'union fait la force (Unity brings power). Let's be appreciative to those who are helping us and remember that if we do not help ourselves their help will for ever be worthless 

Be blessed and may God bless Haiti and all of those who are helping us help ourselves.  

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!