Sunday, September 14, 2014

Back to the Carolinas

Wow, it has been quite a ride since I last made a post on here at the end of July. I had a crazy push for setting up projects and connections in Haiti to function for my six or so weeks back in the States, then I had to prepare to actually leave for a while. This required some mental fortitude, lots of time for reflection, and patience. Then I actually flew back to Asheville on August 21st.
Metal art
I am so grateful to have spent just over a full year in Cange, Haiti, working under the Young Adult Service Corps in relationship with the Diocese of Upper South Carolina and many others who work in and around Cange. What an amazing year of growing confidence, new relationships, a richer faith, and a different outlook on day-to-day life. God's love is so alive and vibrant in this world.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Market Place Kombit #2

The kombit is a Haitian tradition where communities will gather to work on an individual's farm for a day in exchange for a meal, drink and fellowship. In the future, those benefiting from a kombit are expected to participate in the next one hosted by another farmer.

The tradition applies to various communal efforts in Haitian society, like the one that happened in Cange yesterday to prepare land for a new market place. It was the second kombit of this effort so far, and it was much more successful than the first. More people, more accomplishment, and an excellent meal cooked by market committee members with food provided by other residents of Cange.

An awesome day of collaboration, culture, progress and friendship. I'm really proud of this community, and I think the best is yet to come.

Ayiti ap vanse.















Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Volunteer Opportunity!

I have been working with Ms. Jackie Williams, a North Carolinian and fellow Episcopalian who lives in Cange, on her Sant Art artisan center. We are looking to renew the organization through a more business minded structure and commission based payment system for the artisans. We hope that this will give the artisans more opportunity while preserving their fair wages.

However, we need to develop a stronger team in the U.S. to market and sell products made by the artisans in Cange. The products they make are primarily for foreign markets, including visitors to Cange and places in the U.S. We are focusing on crochet bracelets, gourd bowls, traditional Haitian metal art, hand-made rugs, greeting cards, and turned wood pieces. The Sant Art website is here: http://haitiartisans.org/

We are looking for new members of our selling team, especially in the Carolinas. This is a great opportunity to do hands-on volunteer work to support employment in Haiti while still at your home in the U.S.

The job description is as follows:

  • Find stores that will continuously carry Sant Art products
  • Find events that will host Sant Art
    • House parties
    • Churches
    • Universities
    • Bazaars
    • Fairs/festivals
    • Businesses
  • Work with person in charge of distribution center to get products
  • Keep an inventory of items to determine what designs and products are most popular with consumers and report these to coordinator.
We recognize that this is a volunteer position. With that being said, it is a position with a lot of responsibility. In this committee are a coordinator, responsible for keeping track of events and places products are being sold, and a distribution center director, responsible for make sure products reach the hands of our sellers in a timely manner. We will also have an individual responsible for online sales, though this position has not yet been filled.

If you are interested in participating, please let me know! My email is pa.yarbs@gmail.com

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Country Come to Town

Once again, I find myself with a cake in my lap. This is the second time I've found myself in such a position on the ride back to Cange after a day trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. This particular cake was going back to Cange for someone's birthday party. The first time, I was toting a much larger cake for a Christmas party in Cange that evening. That day we didn't start leaving Port-au-Prince until dusk, the car broke down after dark in one of the roughest parts of the city, and the entire trip back took four hours. Four hours with a cake in my lap, sitting in the middle of the back row of a crew cab pick up.
I felt a bit more optimistic about this second cake trip going better than the first, however, because we had just had a wonderful cheeseburger for lunch (I had been craving one for about a month), I was sitting in the front seat, we were leaving with daylight to spare, we were with my favorite chauffeur Johnny, and the cake was about half the size and weight.

It seems as if everything and everyone who travels in Haiti must pass through Port-au-Prince. The capital is the economic center of Haiti, which has one of the fastest growing economies in the Caribbean. And as gas is precious, any day trip down Mon Kabrit (Goat Mountain) from Cange always has multiple objectives. One never knows who will be riding down or picked up along the way, what tasks will need to be accomplished and for whom, or how much time will be spent on any given to-do list item. This is just how it is on a typically unpredictable trip to Port-au-Prince...
Yes, there are tent cities in Port-au-Prince. Yes, though it doesn't compare size wise, there is also a tent city in Greenville, SC. But to only look at the current estimated population of tent cities in the capital (140,000) is to ignore the fact that over 90% of the almost 2,000,000 people living in tent cities just after the 2010 earthquake have moved out of such living conditions to more permanent housing. Incredible. Moving on.

So what is a day trip to Port-au-Prince like? Not at all like the previous day trip to Port-au-Prince.

The ride to PauP from Cange takes about 1 hour (it used to take 4 before the road was paved). But that really just gets you to the edge of the city. Once there, there's no telling how long it will take you to cross sections of the congested city. I always ride with a chauffeur--I'm not about to navigate the wild streets of the city, they intimidate me. When you reach Mon Kabrit on National Route 3, the edge of the Central Plateau, you can look out into the Plaine du Cul de Sac and the entire capital. Sometimes the smog and dust hides the taller mountains of the southern peninsula across the plain.
Port-au-Prince on a smoggy day.
The Dominican Republic is out there somewhere.
"How is Port-au-Prince?" asked the visitor. "Dusty when it's dry and muddy when it's wet." That's a perfect description. Any other description of Port-au-Prince is simply incomplete, because it's such a contradictory city.
New construction!
The haunting skeleton of the Catholic cathedral reminds everyone passing by of the horrific 2010 earthquake--but it is also true that new construction is happening everywhere. Yes there are still tent cities, which are continuing to shrink, but there is also sushi, pedicures and an Irish pub among the ordered streets of Petionville.

One can find almost anything in Port-au-Prince:


Vegetable Oil
Assorted Alcohol
Port is packed with people--on motos, in cars and tap-taps, walking, leading animals and selling almost anything you can imagine right up to your car window. Those merchants particularly congregate around red lights and speed bumps. I'm always amazed at the people running along beside cars making change and handing snacks, manje kwit (fast food), drinks, phone credit, car phone chargers, or World Cup flags through the window. These car-side vendors take advantage of the fact that going to Port means a LOT of time in the car and a lot of time stuck in a blokis (something causing a traffic jam). This in turn also means a lot of smog. Making a small effort counteracting this are solar street lights in some sections of the city.
Most people are generally friendly and willing to provide directions, in the distinctly non-specific Haitian way, so long as you say hello and ask how they are first.

Another sign that Port is the economic center of the country are all of the wild cargoes being carried in trucks and on the backs of motos. The most amazing feats I have seen involved an entire lottery building on the back of a pick-up and a mattress being carried between the driver and passenger on a moto. Despite all of this activity, sometimes Port seems like the land of "pa gen," which means, "we don't have it."

Then there are all of the billboards and ads going up--some of which are really clever. Here are some of my favorites:
"Let's choose peace, violence will destroy our life"
"Evil doesn't have a horn"-an insurance company
This is a new 50% larger Prestige bottle. For only 10 goud more. It's somewhat of a big deal because, despite the recycling of glass bottles, the Prestige brewery's production is limited by the number of bottles available. Thanks to a $100,000,000 investment by Heineken in Haiti, Prestige is expanding! Kenbe Prestige ou!
"Don't drink while you're driving"-Prestige That's a tap-tap being driven off a mountain. Notice the goat with its legs tied flying off the tap-tap.
Speaking of tap-taps, they are a mode of "public" transportation in Haiti and take the form of either a pick-up or a larger bus like vehicle. They are always painted bright colors (and have lights at night), with themes ranging from international soccer starts to Bible stories to music acts like Justin Bieber and Ludacris.

Tap-taps follow specific routes around Port or between other cities. It's a common form of transportation, along with motorcycles, or simply by foot. Those travelling by foot in the city seem to have no trouble commanding cars to stop for them simply by holding up their hand and walking.

Some other things common to see in Port are schools--seemingly on every block--loto stands, art for sale, art for beautification, and gas or water trucks delivering said liquids around the city. They're almost always leaking--and when following close behind one I'm always hoping it's water...









Driving around the city is a mix of narrow roads, some paved many not, and large wide boulevards. There are areas of seemingly endless cinder-block walls, random fields of crops, and dry river beds that come alive during a rainy season storm.



But once all purchases are made, packages delivered, and people found to return to Cange, we start the trek back out through the city, up Mon Kabrit and through the winding roads of the Central Plateau.
President Martelly's son is working on a new sports complex
Brazil flags everywhere--WORLD CUP!

Bringing down rocks from the mine to make cement blocks
A yet to be fully inhabited, somewhat questionable development housing project
Along the way home it's common to see a number of car and motorcycle accidents, a result of newly paved roads and fast vehicles in an area not accustomed to such travel. One may pass a truck full of cattle going to the city, or a caravan of buses returning school children from a field trip to the Peligre hydroelectric dam just below Cange. There are often a slew of abandoned vehicles, often marked with clumps of branches plucked off the side of the nearby hill and laid down like caution cone to warn passers by.


Never a wasted trip
Whether with a cake in my lap, squeezed four across on a middle row, or comfortably napping with the window down and breeze in my face, I'm always happy to return to Cange after safe travels in Port-au-Prince.