Saturday, June 25, 2005

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Violence in Port-au-Prince escalates: the father of a sponsored student is shot.

Fr. Jean at Radio Soleil.

These events happened during the time I was in Port-au-Prince (June 16-22, 2005;


  • The father of a sponsored child, a driver for the Archdiocese I had met just the day before, was shot through the windshield of the church vehicle and the bullet lodged behind his eye. He remains alive, but the Haitian surgeons are unable to reach the bullet and the Bishop is attempting to move him to a medical facility in Cuba.

  • The wife of Radio Soleil's programmer was kidnapped and tortured. After paying a ransom she was released to her husband but they plan on leaving the country.
  • A Canadian businessman's wife was kidnapped. She was released after an undisclosed sum of money changed hands.
  • The daughter of a prominent Haitian's businessman was kidnapped, tortured and raped. During ransom negotiations he spoke to her, only to hear her ask him not to pay the ransom money because she was already dead inside.
  • 2 other kidnappings occurred but details are not known.
Attempted Kidnappings
  • An attempted kidnapping occurred as a businessman was tricked into slowing down his car by children begging in the street. A bandit immediately jumped in the car and put a gun to his head. The businessman fought back, got the gun away from the bandit, shot the bandit and escaped.
  • Another driver for the Archdiocese was chased by bandits, but was smart enough to head straight to the police station and escaped.
Random Violence
  • Gunfire in the streets required the UN to safeguard Fr. Jean's procession saying a Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (patron saint of Haiti) through the dangerous area around Fr. Jean's residence.
  • Later that day, Fr. Jean received phone calls telling him not to come back home. He told me that he could hear gun shots through the phone lines during the call.
  • The next morning more gunshots were heard, two fires were seen close to the Cathedral and more gunshots were heard around 5 pm in the afternoon.
  • A six year old boy was found with one eye destroyed by torture at the hands of bandits.
  • The sides of the Archdiocesan compound where Fr. Jean lives were peppered with bullet holes from the guns of bandits.
  • Fr. Jean was late picking me up to go to the airport for my departure from Haiti because gunfire kept him from leaving his residence.
  • During that airport trip, Fr. Jean received call after call from Archdiocesan employees begging him to do something to keep them safe at work.
Fr. Jean's residence and Radio Soleil are located in the Archdiocesan compound next to the Cathedral in downtown Port-au-Prince. This area is extremely dangerous because the bandits literally live in slums across the street. On my first visit to the Bishop's residence, Fr. Jean pointed out men from the window who were carrying guns. He truly lives in a war zone with daily kidnappings, gunfire and chaotic violence.

Fr. Jean, the Bishop, an Auxillary Bishop, and six fellow priests live in this compound. There are many Archdiocesan employees working in offices at the compound that are in constant danger just coming and going from work. There are many days when it is not safe to leave or return to work because of the gunfire around the area. The stress caused by this violence is taking a toll on everyone.

The UN forces from Brazil can be seen everywhere throughout the country. Yet if you talk to any Haitian or person living in Haiti, they all tell you the same thing, "The UN forces are having a vacation in Haiti!" A well know Haitian humorist had a radio program on this past Monday, imitating the Secretary General of the UN, thanking the people of Haiti for giving the UN workers a vacation! While it is remarkable that the Haitians could laugh about the horror and reality of their situation, they are wonderful people that deserve to live in peace and safety.

There are mixed feelings about what is the best way to establish order in Haiti. Some feel the UN needs to leave and the US need to send in troops that will enforce the law. Others feel that the UN forces from Brazil are powerless to do anything unless their orders can be changed to stop the bloodshed and violence. Everyone is in agreement about the fact that Haiti is a mess and only God can help this country.

I urge you to pray for this country and the Haitian people every day! Pray for Fr. Jean's safety and all those working for the Archdiocese and in harm's way. Pray for the people trying to make a difference. Pray for a miracle to change the horrible chaos and poverty of this country. Pray for our leaders and the leaders of Haiti to have the wisdom to help Haiti. Pray, Pray, Pray! God can do miracles. Posted by Hello

Haiti: Contrast between incredible beauty and extreme povety.

Most Haitians bathe in the polluted rivers in Haiti.

Haiti is truly beautiful.

The biggest surprise I encounted in Haiti was the amount of poverty everywhere. When I landed in Cap Haitian, it was a 3 hour drive to Fort Liberte on the worst roads you can imagine. I saw nothing but poverty. It is not random at all, it is EVERYWHERE. The majority of people have no running water, and no electricity.

The conditions are truly horrible. Fr. Jean and I spent 3 days and 2 nights with Bishop Chibly Langlois from the Diocese of Fort Liberte. Even at Bishop Chibly's residence in Fort Liberte, there is only cold running water. Electricity is available for only a few hours each day. Generators are used for electricity at most times during the day and early evening. At the Bishop's residence, which is like a palace to most Haitians, there are no washing machines, no dishwashers, and no air conditioning. There are screens on the windows, but it is impossible to keep the bugs out. At the many rectories that Fr. Jean and I visited, most had no running water. There were toilets, but you had to use buckets of water to flush them. This water had to be retrieved from a well.

Can you imagine going one day in Florida with out any electricity or running water? The temperature and climate in June is very similar to Tampa. Imagine walking miles to haul water to your home (Haitians haul 5 gallon buckets on their head!). Imagine hauling enough water to drink, wash your dishes, flush your toilets (if you lucky to have one), and wash yourself. Imagine no way to keep bugs out of your home. All food must be covered at all times. Imagine no refridgerator, no oven, stove or microwave. Imagine no television! This is daily life for 98% of all Haitians.

The people of Haiti need your help. Education is the key to changing the dire conditions of the helplessness most Hatians can't help but feel. See below for how you can help.

Help needed for the people of Cotlette

Cotlette Families rejoice at hope of
1st School!

Huge crowd of Cotlette families greet Bishop Chibly, Fr. Jean, and Patricia upon their arrival at the site chosen for the first school.

These are pictures from Cotlette, part of St. Suzanne Parish in Fort Liberte Diocese. When I arrived, I asked if there was a festival because of the music, singing and festivity of the people. I was told no, this is all for you! It was very overwhelming and humbling!

The villagers were singing and clapping their hands filled with joy at the possibility of finally getting a school. There are hundreds of children that live in this village. The children have to walk at least 1 1/2 hours one way to the nearest school. For many, this is just too hard.

The villagers made a welcome tent for us, similar to what they do each week for Sunday mass, since there is no church for them to attend. You can also see the future site of the school in the bottom middle picture.

There is nothing here in Cotlette, no well for water, no church, no electricity, no school. The have none of the basics we take for granted in America. These villagers feel forgotten. The hope of help is overwhelming to them. They are hoping and praying that a school can be built for the hundreds of children without a school to attend.

We need your help to build the people of Cotlette a school. They deserve a chance to better their lives. They need to have the hope that somehow their children's lives will be better that the the poverty they have lived in for all these years. Please help us help them!Posted by Hello

Building Campaign

Cotlette New School Phase 1 (1st Floor)

Cotlette New School Phase 2 (2nd Floor)

In response to an urgent appeal by Bishop Chibly, HBHH has directed its immediate attention to the construction of a Catholic elementary school in the village of Cotlette within the Fort Liberte Diocese. The enrollment of this school is project to be 400 children. The Bishop has made the construction of this school his top 2005-06 priority because those parishioners have no school whatsoever for their children.

HBHH is partnering with the Bishop to build the 8 room elementary school in two phases. Plans have been drawn, bids have been received, and archdiocesan property has been allocated.

Now, HBHH needs to partner with its benefactors to raise the necessary funds to make the plans and drawings a reality.

Bishops Chibly's Cotlette Catholic Elementary:

* Capacity: 400 children (double shifts)
* 15 teachers
* Phase 1: $35,551.43 - foundation, four classrooms, kitchen facilities, 1 bathroom, 2 living quarters for teachers.
* Phase 2: $32,927.22 - second story with four classrooms and office space.
* Total required funds: $68,478.65

Here is what HBHH has currently committed to the project: $12,000.00

Here is what we need:

* Patron, building name rights: $30,000
*Underwriters, classroom naming rights @$8500.
* Major donors, furnishing classrooms @ $5,000
* Significant donors, sponsoring teacher salaries @ $1500
* Donors able to fund cafeteria @ $500
* Sponsors: funding scholarships @ $150
* Friends able to help with school supplies @ $50

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Friday, June 24, 2005

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St. Suzanne School greets Bishop Chibly and Patricia

Bishop Chibly, Patricia, Sister, Fr.
Medenel are greeted by the children.

St. Suzanne School Posted by Hello

These are some of the 400 children who greeted us with song when we stopped to visit St. Suzanne School in the mountains. St. Suzanne in is the diocese of Fort Liberte. It is about half way between Cap Haitian and Fort Liberte. Fr. Medenel is the pastor there. She school is run by the Sisters. St. Suzanne is about a 1 1/2 hour drive from Fort Liberte on horrible roads.

The needs of this school are great. But by contrast to Cotlette, they at least have a school and a church to attend. There is no well here; water has to be hauled up the mountain from the nearest well. The supplies are very limited. The usual things we take for granted in our schools do not exist here.

You can see the bathrooms on the bottom left picture. These facilities are horrible. Can you imagine your children using them? The playground is a washed out area of clay. It is the hope of the council to change the drainage of this area and to add some playground equipment for the children in the future.

Fr. Medenel and the sisters also need help in paying the teachers. The families pay $11 a year to send their children to school. That is all the families in this poor area can afford. Obviously, this does not come close to covering the cost of the 15 teachers that work here in two school shifts.

St. Suzanne has a women's center next to the school that teaches women to sew. They have 4 sewing machines. There is a large oven that no longer works. When it did work, they were able to teach women to cook and bake bread.

The sisters currently live in the medical clinic next to the school. They have a house that is not completed. It still needs doors, windows, and all the finishing touches to make it habitable. In the clinic there is an efficiency size stove and oven that the sisters use to cook for 400 children. How they work this miracle is beyond my imagination!!

Fort Liberte

Fort Liberte is beautiful. It's located on the northern coast very close to the Dominican Republic. Yet the poverty and hopelessness of the people was felt the strongest here.

Poverty is all around. The soil is not fertile, making it much more difficult to get food. Most men sit around all day, with no jobs to be had. The women wash their laundry in a pond close by, or cook if there is food that evening. The children sit around or play in the street when they are not doing chores like hauling water.

These street scenes are from the balcony of Bishop Chibly's home. Fr. Jean and I stayed here 3 days and 2 nights. It was a relief to be in Fort Liberte and away for the chaos in Port-au-Prince. The Bishop said that the contrast between those two cities was like heaven and hell. He was right! In Fort Liberte, you were able to walk freely anywhere you wanted to without any fear.

Bishop Chibly was a gracious, kind, intelligent, holy Bishop. We spoke for hours about the problems of Haiti. He is very concerned with his flock and what can be done to change the conditions of Haiti. He is adamant that those helping need to give a hand up, not just a hand out. He spoke of the frustration with some groups that have a good heart, but actually hinder the Haitian people.

Bishop Chibly feels that education is the key to changing Haiti. He feels that through education, people will let go of the voodoo that has become so prevalent in Haiti. Teaching against voodoo is a high priority in all of the Catholic schools as is education excellence and building each child's faith.

The Bishop is currently working on two pilot programs to find jobs, revenue and food for his people. One of the programs is an agriculture pilot, the other a fish farm pilot. It is his hope that he will receive the funding. It is his dream that these programs can be a source of jobs and food for the entire country.

Sunday was first communion. The service in the cathedral started at 7:30am. When Fr. Jean and I left for the airport at 10:45, the service was still going on. The cathedral was still packed after over 3 hours of worship.

Every morning, you woke with the sounds of the church bells ringing at 5:50 am, calling the villagers to the morning 6am mass. You could hear the singing of the people every morning. Musical instruments are rarely seen. Haitian voices are the musical instruments, they harmonize beautifully.

At night, looking over the city from the Bishop's balcony, I could see only 2 houses with any lights on. These two had electricity; the rest of the city was dark, no candles, no flashlights, just darkness. Haiti is just another world. It's hard to believe it's 2005 in Haiti and it is only a 2 1/2 hour
flight from Tampa!
Posted by Hello

Cap Haitian, the 2nd capital of Haiti

Cap Haitian

The top picture is Bishop Hubert, the Bishop of Cap Haitian with Fr. Jean. Bishop Hubert is a charming, extremely intelligent, holy Bishop. Fr. Jean and I stopped here for lunch on our way back to the airport.

Bishop Hubert spoke of how beautiful his country was years ago, before "Papa Doc" Duvalier took over. He reminisced about the good roads, phone service and electricity throughout his country. He is a man of vision, forcefully fighting to better his country and strengthen the Catholic faith and the faith of his flock. His dream is to have a TV station similar to EWTN through out Haiti.

You also see the beautiful cathedral. Below you see the large market area of Cap Haitian. Cap Haitian is considered the 2nd capital of Haiti. It is on the Northern cost of Haiti. It is a city filled with filth, poverty contrasted with extreme wealth. It is still a safe place to be in Haiti. Posted by Hello

Toys, Supplies needed in St. Suzanne School

This is the kindergarten classroom at St. Suzanne. Notice the lack of toys! Posted by Hello



The Cathedral is in the downtown area, very close to the National Palace. Fr. Jean, the Bishop and 6 other priest live and work in the rectory and offices located next to the Cathedral. Directly across the street is a slum area where many of the 'bandits' hang out. This makes living and working in this area very dangerous.

The 2nd picture is the Archdiocese Building that holds most of all the offices and Radio Soleil. The original building was burned a few years ago. The Bishop sent a request to Italy, and was given $1.4 million to build a building to hold all the different department needs of the diocese.

I had very mixed feelings about the luxury of this building compared to the poverty that is next door. But after being in Haiti, I have changed my mind. The people need to see what can be, they need to know the Catholic Church is strong, and has a strong, solid presence. Within these office walls, help comes to the people. That is a good thing.Posted by Hello

Bathroom at St. Suzanne School

Can you imagine your children using such a bathroom? Posted by Hello

A Place to Get Water

Hand-powered water pumbs (as viewed above) are the water source most commonly used by Haitians.

As 90% of Haitians do not have running water, and many villages still lack wells, many Haitians are forced to carry water many miles to their homes.Posted by Hello

Hauling Water Daily

These children must carry water home everyday from the nearest well. As dusk approaches there are big crowds at the wells waiting for their turn to pump water into their buckets.

In Fort Liberte, there is only one well. Villagers must walk quite a way to get water.Posted by Hello

Typical Homes you see in Northern Haiti

Typical Homes in Haiti Posted by Hello

These are typicial homes you see on the Northern Coast of Haiti on the roads from Cap Haitian to Fort Liberte. Notice the cactus that is used as a fence. This is used everywhere. The cactus is also used as a place to put their clothes to dry after being hand washed.

Many homes have no doors or windows. Obviously, there is no running water or electricity. Most homes are made of woven sticks with the clay soil put on top to seal the cracks. If you are very lucky, you have a small home made of cinder blocks.

The family structure is very different in Haiti. Many families live together. It is common for brothers, sisters, their spouses, parents, children and cousins to all live in one small house. Most sleep on flat woven mats on the floor. The privacy and space we enjoy in America just doesn't exist in Haiti.

Preparing the nightly meal

This lady is lucky to have food to prepare for dinner. She is cooking corn. Almost all people in Haiti prepare their meals outside using charcoal.

Villagers on the way to market

All along the roads at all times of day, you see villagers walking to market and from market. They are hoping to be able to sell a few things and be able to buy the items needed that day, usually food. Many carry a chair with them that they use to sit on at market or while doing the wash at a dirty river.

Most villagers walk carrying huge amounts on their head. Some are lucky to have a donkey, a bicycle (that has to be carried on the muddy parts of the road), or if extremly lucky, a motorcycle.

It is common to see chickens, goats, pigs, and cows roaming freely along the road side. Many goats and pigs have a v-shaped wood piece around their neck to keep them from eating the crops or entering the doors of the homes.Posted by Hello

The Roads!

How can I begin to tell you how bad the roads are!!

From Cap Haitian to Fort Liberte is a 3 hour drive on the most horrible roads you can imagine. We were able to drive between 2-35 miles per hour the entire way. When you arrive, your back is sore, your neck is sore, and you are exhausted. And this isn't even the rainy season!!

By the way, the closet place to get gas is in Cap Haitian. Anyone living in Fort Liberte or beyond must drive 3 hours to get gas, diesel or to get decent supplies. Posted by Hello

Bishop Chibly with Sisters, Fr. Medenel and Fr. Jean

Fr. Jean, Fr. Medenel, the sisters who run the school, the clinic and the women's center at St. Suzanne, and Bishop Chibly. Posted by Hello

This a women on the road to Furcy selling her fruit, hoping to make a few gourdes.

Furcy is the village where Fr. Jean grew up. It is about 2 hours from Port-au-Prince in the most beautiful mountains you have ever seen. Here there is great poverty and extreme wealth. On the road you can see million dollars home that take advantage of the beautiful views.
Posted by Hello

Children of Haiti

Children of Haiti Posted by Hello

Villa Manrese, a safe haven in Port-au-Prince

This is Villa Manrese where I stayed in Port-au-Prince. It's run by a religious order housing visiting priests, nuns, and other travelers. You can see the entire city from the balcony. You can also hear the sounds of the entire city. You can hear the roar of the cheers of Haitians while gathered around a TV watching a soccer match. You can hear the gunfire from the area around the cathedral, and the sounds of the wildlife all around.

Each morning you wake by hearing the roosters call or the singing in the chapel of the religious singing the morning prayers. Mass is at 6:30am, breakfast is at 7am. This area is very safe. Many people that live around this area walk to mass here each Sunday. It's a great place to learn about the country of Haiti. There are missionaries from all parts of the world, working in all areas of Haiti. But English is not the spoken language. It is difficult to find those that can speak some broken English. I meet only 2 other Americans, both were missionary sisters working in Haiti.

Because Port-au-Prince is the capital and the largest city, it is very different from Ft. Liberte, St. Suzanne, Cotlette or Furcy. Cap Haitian is very similar to Port-au-Prince with one great difference, Port-au-Prince is a war zone.

Each part of Haiti can be very different, with one exception- extreme poverty. Posted by Hello

Fr. Jean and his Mother in Furcy

Fr. Jean and his mother in their home village of Furcy.

Furcy is beautiful. It is about 2 hours drive from Port-au-Prince. Some of the roads are paved, some are not. The roads are not great, but much better than the roads from Cap Haitian to Fort Liberte.

Here there is a good bit of agriculture. Gladiolas and beautiful flowers grow wild. Next to Fr. Jean's mother's home were a huge avocado tree, peach trees and other trees growing all around. It is truly paradise, except you don't have running water, electricity or any of the comforts we are used to in America.

Fr. Jean's mother still walks 30 minutes a day to teach in the nearby school. She walks each day to get water and to say her daily rosary at the parish church. Fr. Jean credits his mother's deep faith with his vocation to the priesthood. I really liked his mother. Even though we could not really communicate, you could tell she is a very special women. Fr. Jean's father disappeared years ago when Fr. Jean was a young boy. It was a time of great political unrest, and it is believed that he was killed by the people in power.

Fr. Jean had not been home for one year because of his work schedule. He typically works 7 days a week! He was filled with joy at seeing his family, his home, the villagers he grew up with and the feeling of just being home! It was a joy to see!!

I wish you could have seen Fr. Jean as we came down the mountain, greeting all the villagers by name. The villagers faces light up with joy at being recognized and greeted by Fr. Jean. He would yell their names and they would run to the car to greet him, really a joyous sight to see.

The Haitian people are wonderful. The joy that they have in the midst of such poverty is an example to all of us. The show such joy when greeting each other. They have a great sense of humor and love to laugh and joke around with each other. They laugh much more heartily that we do, maybe that's how they can stand the situation they live in. In spite of everything, they have a deep faith and love for their country and their people. Posted by Hello

UPDATE: 38 children sponsored in Port-au-Prince schools

In HBHH's 2nd year, we now have 38 children to attend school in Port-au-Prince.

UN to send more troops to Haiti

UN has decided to send more troops to Haiti with the upcoming election. I certainly hope that they change the orders so that they can make a difference. Something has to change.