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U.N. Struggles to Stem Haiti Cholera Epidemic

New York Times on Haiti - Apr. 20, 2014 - 1:00 am
The United Nations, facing a shortage of supplies to handle the epidemic, refuses to address whether its peacekeepers brought a deadly strain of the disease into the country.
Categories: Haitian blogs

New Report Details Persecution of Public and Private Sector Union Activists in Haiti

HaitiAnalysis - Apr. 18, 2014 - 12:43 pm
by CEPR's Relief and Reconstruction Blog

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and its Haiti-based partner Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) have released a report outlining recent cases of persecution of organized workers in Haiti as well as Haitian government complicity in allowing illegal attacks against, and terminations of labor activists to occur without judicial consequences.  The report, titled “Haitian labor movement struggles as workers face increased anti-union persecution and wage suppression,” documents attacks and firings of union organizers by both public and private sector companies. In mid-December of 2013, garment workers staged a walkout and demonstrations to protest the low wages and subpar working conditions in Haiti’s garment factories.  As Better Work Haiti revealed in its 2013 Biannual Review of Haitian garment companies’ compliance with labor standards, only 25 percent of workers receive the minimum daily wage of 300 Haitian gourdes (equivalent to $6.81). They also found a 91 percent non-compliance rate with basic worker protection norms.  The BAI/IJDH report explains that on the third day of the December protests, “the Association of Haitian Industries locked out the workers, claiming they had to shut the factories for the security of their employees.”  In late December and January, IJDH/BAI documented “at least 36 terminations in seven factories throughout December and January in retaliation for the two-day protest, mostly of union representatives. The terminations continue.”The report notes that union leaders at Electricity of Haiti (EDH) - Haiti’s biggest state-run enterprise – have also been illegally terminated and even physically attacked.   As BAI/IJDH describe,On January 10, 2014, the leaders of SECEdH [Union of Employees of l’EDH] held a press conference at EDH, as they had countless times over the last several years. The purpose of the January 10 press conference was to allege mismanagement and corruption at EDH. At the last minute, EDH management refused to let journalists in the building, although they had given permission for the press conference the day before. SECEdH’s leaders joined journalists on the street outside EDH’s parking lot gate to convene the press conference. EDH security guards pushed down the metal gate onto the crowd, hitting SECEdH’s treasurer in the head and knocking him unconscious. The security guards stood by while the employee lay on the ground bleeding and witnesses urged them to help. Some journalists took the injured employee to the hospital in one of their vehicles. He was released from the hospital but suffers constant pain in his head, shoulders, arms, and back from the heavy gate falling on him.
The following week, SECEdH’s executive committee, including the injured officer, received letters of termination dated January 10, 2014.The report goes on to describe government complicity with employer infractions of labor laws at the level of the judicial system, where “public and private employers enjoy impunity” and where workers continue to have extremely limited access to the justice system as “court fees and lawyers are too expensive for the poor to afford” and “proceedings are conducted in French, which most Haitians do not speak.”  Moreover, the Ministry of Labor as well as the Tripartite Commission for the Implementation of the HOPE agreement (which mandates garment factory compliance with international labor standards and Haitian labor law) have “backpedalled on the 2009 minimum wage law and issued public statements that support factory owners’ interpretations and non-compliance with the piece rate wage.”  The reports suggests that part of this backpedalling may be caused by President Michel Martelly’s efforts to promote increased international investment in Haitian sweatshops:Making Haiti “open for business” was a core piece of President Michel Martelly’s election platform that has won him political and economic support from the U.S. government, despite low voter turnout and flawed elections in 2010 and 2011. Part of the Martelly administration’s strategy to attract foreign investment has been to keep wages low so that Haiti can be competitive with the global low-wage market. Haiti has the third lowest monthly wages in the apparel industry, surpassing only Cambodia and Bangladesh. This U.S.-backed “sweat shop” economic model is similar to the model in the 1970s and 1980s under former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Open International Adoption, Is that a thing? Part III

Livesay Haiti - Apr. 17, 2014 - 12:54 pm
Please find Part I  and Part II of this series and the additional post 'On opening ourselves up to pain and possibility', if you have not already read them.

Sharing photos and history with one another
  *         *         *         *
Part III has been the hardest to write because it is difficult to determine which things should be kept private and which things are important to share.  Our two older Haitian children are open to sharing a bit about their experiences but their families do not have the access and privilege we have and that makes it feel a tiny bit scary to share with total strangers and trust that our hearts will be heard and understood. The relationships are difficult to describe and we want you to know that what we share is only a portion of the total. Some of the detailed information and history of what we have learned as our relationship has grown with the first families would best be shared face to face. 

These birth-families are 'our people' and we never want to share anything that would feel uncomfortable or embarrassing to them because we deeply respect them and we have learned they do not want or need our pity, they simply want and DESERVE our respect and honor. These are kind, loving, hard-working, capable people that just happen to be materially poor and live in a country where changing that is very, very difficult. 
There is one caveat required on these 'open' international adoption posts that is too important to neglect. Before anyone can consider an open adoption, they first have a responsibility to be sure that the adoption they are doing is ethical and legitimate. I wish I had known more and done better. 

Our two first-mothers don't express any regret whatsoever about their decisions, but they were manipulated at the time of relinquishment (promised things we were not privy to at the time) and we regret that happened to them. 

I understand that lots and lots of North Americans believe that their wealth automatically and unequivocally makes them better suited to raise the poor people's children. I do not agree and there is a large problem with that thinking. For those that don't automatically think that all poor children should be taken from their parents, I urge you to do way more research about your agency and country than seems necessary. I beg you to walk away if you see or sense something is not quite right. The only way to stop the corrupt system from preying on vulnerable people is to refuse to be a part of that system.
  {For more thoughts on the corruption in International Adoption, take some time to read this post and the follow up after it.}
Isaac was adopted when he was 14 months old. He met his Mom again when he was four. We see her once or twice a year as a habit. He met his Dad for the first time when he was ten. His parents are together (again) now and have three other children that they are parenting and one other that they placed for adoption. Recently Isaac visited their home for the first time, prior to that all visits had taken place at the Maternity Center.

I asked Isaac to talk and let me type what he said. This is his stream of consciousness regarding his most recent visit to their home last month.

Isaac said:
"One important thing was that I learned was the story of when I was born and the story of that was pretty awesome and I learned that my grandmother delivered me at the house my family lived at in... (he paused and couldn't remember where) I have the date of my REAL birthday date and now we can celebrate the right day because we had the wrong day and now I get to have a birthday sooner this year. I learned that I have three siblings that have stayed with our Mom and Dad. I felt happy knowing that they are okay and knowing their house is great and they are okay and that one of them had a notebook full of English. It was important for me to know why they decided to place me. I think I look like my dad and my mom and my 14 year old brother a lot. I'd like to see them again and I know they are sad about not seeing other parts of their family that were adopted and I'd like to keep in contact." (I asked Isaac at this point if there was anything he is worried about?) He said: Well, it would be cool for them to be able to go to the States and have some fun and I'd like them to see what I have seen but I know that is probably not very possible.  It is okay that they placed me but I wonder sometimes what it would be like to be with them but that doesn't mean that is what I want, it is just what I wonder. I am glad I have Noah and this family and that is good  - the best actually - but I still wonder of course. It is weird to think that I might be scared of dogs if I had stayed with my first family. I think that they are good people and I love them and I don't speak their language fluently so sometimes that part is hard."

These photos are from our March visit.  We went all together with Isaac's little sister that has also be adopted and lives in the USA. It was the first time the family had all their kids together in one place. Their grandma showed up and is the feisty power behind the scenes. Grandma had TONS to say and shared her frustration with not knowing about some of her grand kids that have been placed in families in the USA. (Isaac has aunts that have placed children too.) She somehow found out that one family that adopted her grand kids went through a divorce and she had some things to say about that. She prayed with lots of energy over the group before we said goodbye.
Isaac's Maternal Grandmother Brothers checking out photos of their little sister that lives in USAThe entire Antoine Family (Mom and Dad with all five kids)Isaac with his Maternal Grandma and his Mom5' 3" 12 year old with his Dad and Mom at their home

If you know our Hope, you know she has less to say than Isaac.  It is not because she has less thoughts or is not a truly deep thinker, it is because she is of the opinion that not everything she thinks needs to be said. :)  (ahem!) 

Hope met her birth mother at age 4 too. She was adopted at 9 months of age and was very ill as an infant. Her kidney surgery at 10 months of age was necessary in-part because she was passing kidney stones. Hope's birth mother wondered if she might die before her adoption was complete but she expressed gratitude to God that it was completed quickly and surgery was possible.  (Back when Hope and Isaac were adopted the process was 6 to 12 months long once you delivered your dossier to Haiti. That has changed over the years into a much longer process.)

Hope's first-mom has seen her at least once a year since she was four years old. Hope and Phoebe are the last two children born to their Mom. (Phoebe is only seven years old and has not been visiting quite as much. She has seen their Mom but always has the choice about visiting. The last time we went she chose to stay back.)  From their biological mother, Phoebe and Hope have three much older siblings that live in Haiti. We have become fairly close with Hope and Phoebe's older sisters, they have both been in the Prenatal Program at Heartline. One delivered with us and one lost her baby after delivering prematurely last summer. They also have three more siblings that live in the USA with two different adoptive families. They have a little contact with the USA siblings and have met one of the three. 

Hope recently visited her Mom's home AND met her birth father for the very first time.  Hope had never been interested in meeting him until this year.  In January she asked if we could find him and we called her birth-mom who promptly made some calls and arranged a day for them to meet. While they are not together, they are friendly and don't mind staying in touch.  (Both Hope and Isaac did not have fathers listed on their adoption paperwork, the orphanage instructed the mothers to claim either not to know who the dad was or to say that the dads had died.) 

Hope said:
"The best part of this is seeing how my face is made, how I can see why I look the way I look." "The worst part is that I don't speak Kreyol well and I cannot understand much of what they say or talk to them by myself. I hope that my Kreyol will improve and one day I will be able to talk to them without my Mom and Dad translating for me."  Hope added that she found it slightly confusing that her (birth) Mom and Dad seem to be friends and like each other and in Hope's mind it is odd that they didn't stay together if they like one another.  

Momma Hope, Hope, Papa Hope

Hope's sister showing us letters from the families that have adopted her child.
Hope's first hug from her first father

We have brutally honest conversations about adoption and we want our kids to have the freedom and ability to bring it up whenever they want. We have made a decision to "do it afraid" when it comes to these relationships.  I don't say that in any self-congratulatory way, I simply share it because you don't need to wait until you are not afraid to enter into these sorts of things.  It is scary but usually the courage you use to do it anyway ends up being its own gift and much can be learned from risking in relationships. We have moved forward carefully in each decision with a desire to do what is best for our kids.  As they have gotten older, these relationships have grown. Our hope and prayer is that it helps our children and their first families have more joy,  more healing, and more peace.

tara and troy 
Categories: Haitian blogs

Haiti: Housing Effort Said to Lag

New York Times on Haiti - Apr. 17, 2014 - 1:00 am
A post-earthquake housing program in Haiti financed by the United States Agency for International Development has delivered only a quarter of the planned number of houses.
Categories: Haitian blogs

How Prenatal Care = Orphan Prevention

Livesay Haiti - Apr. 16, 2014 - 9:46 am

Lisa Rieb is our guest today. She is the adoptive Mother of Moses. A tiny portion of his story can be found here and here. The rest of his story is unfolding in Wyoming right now.

* * * *

By Lisa Rieb

Most women (65%) in Haiti have no access to prenatal care and give birth at home, often resulting in maternal death or infant death. We don't fully know our son Moses' birth history, but putting clues together has led us to believe he suffered a brain injury at birth, causing his cerebral palsy. His birth mother most likely gave birth at home with little to no help, and nowhere to go if she faced complications. The fact that she was able to care for him as long as she did speaks to her great love and nurturing of him until his disability became to great a burden to bear. We are firm supporters of what Heartline Ministries in Haiti offers women. Prenatal care, labor and delivery services, lactation suppor, child development education, midwifery care, and so much more. We know that what they do keeps women and children safe and together. This is orphan prevention. Loving the mothers and children of Haiti like we would love ourselves and our sisters and friends. I can't help but wonder how life for Moses would be different had his birth mom had the love and care available through the Heartline programs. We are privileged to be his parents. He is a precious boy full of Joy, even in disability. We think his life story is meant to be shared as a testimony of how we should care for our neighbors whether near or far. Seeing Beth, Tara, Wini, and Andrema (and many others!) in action while I was in Haiti was an experience I'll never forget. They really do love their jobs, love the people of Haiti well, and do the hard work not only of delivering babies, but of entering into the messy relationships of life in order to be grace and mercy to Haitian women and children. Won't you consider supporting their ministry with a one time donation or monthly donation? Maybe you would like to do this in honor of Moses and his brave birth mom. Perhaps you want to give in honor of a child you or a friend has lost. The gifts are a way to say we are for our neighbors in Haiti and for their families. 
Thank you!

To give, please go here to donate. If you would like to learn about other options for giving, please write to teri.white @ heartlineministries.org
Categories: Haitian blogs

After Being Shot, Boy Comforted Family

New York Times on Haiti - Apr. 16, 2014 - 1:00 am
A 13-year-old Brooklyn boy who was shot twice in the head on Monday stands a 90 percent chance of losing his right eye, his family said.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Sunday is coming ...

Livesay Haiti - Apr. 15, 2014 - 9:52 am

This photo was taken in 2011. It is the area of Haiti where over 100,000 people have relocated post-earthquake to a dusty mountainside area. This is Antoinette.  She is a good friend from the days of the field-hospital. She taught many of us after the quake and continues to do so today. Antoinette lives with hope that Friday's suffering will lead to Sunday's resurrection. 

Photo Credit: Esther Havens
Categories: Haitian blogs

Haiti's Association Nationale des Médias Haïtiens criticizes trend of authoritarianism of Martelly government vis-a-vis the press

Michael Deibert's Haiti Blog - Apr. 15, 2014 - 7:23 am

L’ANMH rejette le recours systématique à l’autoritarisme par rapport aux pratiques de presse

"C’est dans la sérénité que nous devons traiter chaque situation..."

Publié le lundi 14 avril 2014

Radio Kiskeya

(Read the original here

L’Association Nationale des Médias Haïtiens (ANMH) observe avec inquiétude la tendance systématique de recours du pouvoir à l’autoritarisme vis-à-vis des pratiques de presse.

Dans son discours d’investiture, le nouveau Ministre de la Communication, Monsieur Roudy Hériveaux qui, de l’avis général, doit particulièrement aux médias sa projection et son maintien sur la scène politique, a clairement menacé ces derniers dont il dit pourtant reconnaitre les mérites.

Dans la même logique, le Conseil National des Télécommunications (CONATEL) fait un << rappel à l’ordre >> à des médias qui s’adonneraient << systématiquement à la désinformation >>. S’agit-il de simples coïncidences ? Quelle que soit la réponse à cette interrogation, l’ANMH, la corporation des journalistes, l’opinion publique sensible à la sauvegarde des acquis en matière de liberté d’expression doivent être hautement préoccupés par ces manifestations anti-démocratiques, signaux avant-coureurs de graves menaces sur les conquêtes obtenues au prix de longues luttes citoyennes.

La presse haïtienne, dans sa diversité, a joué un rôle d’avant-garde dans la diffusion des valeurs universelles et dans le renforcement de la démocratie. L’ouverture démocratique initiée le 7 février 1986 à la fin de trente années environ de régime autoritaire, a eu pour conséquence de plonger toute la société, du jour au lendemain, dans la jouissance de libertés étouffées pendant trois décennies. La presse, comme guide, n’a pas échappé à cette période d’apprentissage. De son travail dépend l’évolution du nouveau système.

La jouissance de toute liberté peut entrainer des excès. Car, comme l’a observé Alexis de Tocqueville, dans son ouvrage de référence « De la Démocratie en Amérique »

« En matière de presse, il n’y a pas de milieu entre la servitude et la licence. Pour recueillir les biens inestimables qu’assure la liberté de la presse, il faut savoir se soumettre aux maux inévitables qu’elle fait naître. Vouloir obtenir les uns en échappant aux autres, c’est se livrer à l’une de ces illusions dont se bernent d’ordinaire les nations malades... qui cherchent les moyens de faire coexister à la fois sur le même sol, des opinions ennemies et des principes contraires »

On ne saurait renoncer à la jouissance d’une liberté, parce que, soi-disant, elle est violée. C’est en prévoyant la façon de contrer les dérives que l’on préserve la continuité de la jouissance des garanties reconnues par la Constitution et par les lois.

En Haïti, les autorités doivent bien comprendre que notre peuple ne reviendra pas en arrière par rapport aux acquis démocratiques. C’est aux autorités de s’adapter à cette réalité en consolidant l’État de droit, en fortifiant les institutions. Les réflexes autoritaires face au constat de dérives réelles ou prétendues, doivent être abandonnés. L’expérience démocratique en cours est le seul cadre de référence viable pour maintenir notre pays sur la voie du changement. Et, Les premiers qui doivent changer, ce sont nos dirigeants.

La liberté de la presse est au service de la liberté d’expression. C’est dans la sérénité que nous devons traiter chaque situation, en évitant de porter préjudice au travail d’une corporation qui est au centre du débat démocratique et qui s’efforce d’être chaque jour, à la hauteur de sa mission et des attentes de la population.

Il est du devoir des autorités, dans toutes les sphères d’action, de comprendre la mission de la presse, le service inestimable qu’elle rend tous les jours à la société, pour faciliter le débat entre les différents acteurs. Toute volonté de désigner la presse du doigt de manière injustifiée, ne peut qu’aggraver d’inutiles tensions provoquées par de mauvais précédents. Et la suspicion légitime vis-à-vis de toute tentation autoritaire pourrait compromettre la participation de la population à la vie démocratique à partir de la plateforme des médias.

La liberté de la presse, nous le répétons, est un corollaire de la liberté d’expression dans un pays où la population, ayant reconquis les prérogatives de s’exprimer sur ses affaires, n’entend plus revenir au temps du silence imposé par la seule volonté d’un pouvoir de la zombifier.

Les dépositaires et gardiens des libertés publiques doivent agir à tout moment dans le respect des normes et des principes pour enlever aux contempteurs desdites libertés, tout prétexte de remise en question. Il y va de la démocratie, de la stabilité de notre société et de la continuité de cette belle expérience pour le renforcement d’acquis multiples pour lesquels, notre pays a payé un prix fort.

Liliane Pierre-Paul
Présidente de l’ANMH.
Categories: Haitian blogs


Livesay Haiti - Apr. 13, 2014 - 10:31 pm
I find myself in an unusual position.

Or  ... Maybe this happens to you all the time.

Three kids, two dogs, one morning before school.
One morning last week I stood in the kitchen pouring caffeinated goodness, the steaming hot breath of life, into my favorite coffee-mug when Geronne walked up to me and said she had a message from the neighbors.

I jumped immediately into worry knowing that it has taken some time to be decent friends with our neighbors. Loud kids and loud generators make for rough relationships. We have worked so much out over the years, I sure hoped nothing had happened to put us back on their bad side.

Geronne went on to explain that the wife of the couple really thinks our Shih Tzu, Chestnut, is a lovely dog. Geronne has lived with us a long time. She actually used all Kreyol to tell me this, save one word. She used the English word cute. "Yo renmen ti shin ou, yo panse li cute." (They love your little dog, they think he's cute.)

Okay, I said, and so what if they think he is cute?

Geronne went on to explain that they want to know if Chestnut will "fè bagay" with their little female dog. I know what fè  bagay means, but I must have looked at her funny because Geronne clarified and said, "ou konnen, fè sèks". (you know, have sex) 

I laughed it off and said that we have already asked Kelly, the famous Haiti Vet, to roast the nuts of Chestnut and make him into a celibate man. Geronne said, "Yes, I told them that but they want him to come over before Kelly does that."

The week got busy, friends came to visit, some babies were born at Heartline, I did not think about those propositioning neighbors or their ovulating little Chihuahua again.

Friday night there was a knock at the gate. Knocks at the gate after midday are pretty uncommon. Lydia opened the gate and the neighbors (both husband and wife) moseyed on into the yard.  Troy and I went out and did all the kissing back and forth, give yourself vertigo, greetings. 

We regained our balance and made small talk for a tiny second before the wife asked if Geronne had told me how much they love Chestnut and how their dog is looking for a lover.  

I said, yes, yes , she told me.  From there an utterly bizarre conversation, half Kreyol half English and interchanging the two, took place. Things were said that I don't think are normal or even okay.

We stood chatting about how handsome Chestnut is and their little dog's period and then wondering aloud together when they are supposed to hook up? I said during "règ li" (her period) and the neighbor thought afterward. The wife even explained the way she thought the girl dog looks down in her nether regions, when the boy dog is wise to head over wearing his best cologne and cowboy boots for added height. 

(Oh. Wait!?!  Is that just a Troy thing? Scratch that.)  

After lots of speculating between people that have never ever bred dogs we decided that some Google-ing and research (and a lot of stalling on my part) was in order as was a talk with Chestnut about how he feels about being used for his seeds like that. I happen to know that Chestnut is a deep feeler and he is going to want more than just some cheap hook-up. 

Our sons were adamant that if they are going to let Chestnut go do the nasty with some random and unspecial (to them) Chihuahua, they want one of the puppies.  I told them we don't really want another little dog. The boys said, forget it then, Chestnut is not available to be used and thrown away like that if there was nothing for them to gain from it. 

The problem remains that the neighbors still want our dog to come over for a little dinner and hanky panky and we don't really know if we want our little guy doing that stuff.  Their dog doesn't seem good enough for him, number one.  Number two, what if it consumes his mind from then forward and we never get our innocent little Chessy back again? This could lead to a snowball effect of a whole lot of problems that we are simply not savvy enough to deal with well.

I may hide from them for a few days, or claim Chestnut fell very ill, or have Kelly the Vet come declare him infertile, or just make him infertile. 

I want to end this story by saying these funny neighbors are strange and pushy about getting our male Shih Tzu with their girl-dog  ... But the other day Noah took issue with calling people strange.  

I guess it can be said that this whole thing, with hooking dogs up cross culturally, is a kind of different that we just aren't used to yet. 
(also, strange!)
Categories: Haitian blogs

Haiti: In the Kingdom of Impunity

Michael Deibert's Haiti Blog - Apr. 11, 2014 - 10:20 am
Haiti: In the Kingdom of Impunity 

By Michael Deibert

There are many striking sights to be seen in Haiti today. In the north of the country, where over 200 years ago a revolt of slaves began that would eventually topple French rule, a 45-minute journey on a smooth road traverses the distance between the border with the Dominican Republic and Haiti's second largest city, Cap-Haïtien, replacing what used to be a multi-hour ordeal. From Cap-Haïtien itself, a city buzzing with economic activity, travel to Port-au-Prince, the nation's capital, could previously be a 10-hour odyssey, but is now accomplished in around 5 hours via a comfortable air-conditioned bus. Once the traveler arrives in Port-au-Prince itself - a city which, along with its environs, was largely devastated by a January 2010 earthquake - one finds, startlingly, functioning traffic lights, street lights powered by solar panels and armies of apron-clad workers diligently sweeping the sidewalks and gutters of what has historically been the filthy fiefdom of Haiti's myriad of warring political factions. To the south, in the colonial city of Jacmel, which sheltered the South American revolutionary Simón Bolívar at a critical time during his struggle to break South America free from the yoke of Spain, one of the most pleasant malecóns in the Caribbean has been built, facing the tumbling sea and mountains sloping dramatically in the distance.

But perhaps no scene in the new Haiti - governed since May 2011 by President Michel Martelly, now assisted by Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, a former telecommunications mogul - was as striking as that which occurred in the northern city of Gonaives on January 1st of this year. There, at annual ceremony marking Haiti's independence, President Martelly, who in a previous incarnation was known as Sweet Micky and was perhaps the best-known purveyor of Haiti's sinuous konpa music, greeted on the official dais none other than Jean-Claude Duavlier, who ruled Haiti as a dictator from 1971 until 1986, and fled the country amid pillaging of the state and gross human rights abuses.

"Despite everything that has happened in the last 30 years, it is as if they want us to return to the situation that existed before February 7, 1986," says Laënnec Hurbon, Haiti's most well-known sociologist, referring to the date of Duvalier's departure.

Duvalier had taken over from his dictator-father, François Duvalier, a psychopath who lorded over a terrifying police state since 1957, and had created the infamous Tontons Macoutes, denim-clad paramilitary henchmen.

The younger Duvalier was only 19 when he ascended to office, but he grew into the role soon enough. In a speech in October 1977 - the 20th anniversary of his father's assumption of the presidency - the 24 year-old Jean-Claude Duvalier gave a speech in which he heralded the advent of "Jean-Claudism," supposedly a liberalizing trend in Duvalierism that would foster economic development. The near-fatal beating of a prominent government critic, Pastor Luc Nerée, only weeks later gave a flavour for how limited that liberalization would be. Fort Dimanche, a Port-au-Prince prison, during the Duvaliers' reign became known as the Dungeon of Death for the thousands of government opponents and other unfortunate souls who perished there.

In a landmark decision last month, a Haitian court ruled that Duvalier could be tried for crimes against humanity and for abuses committed by security forces during his rule, but deferred a decision as to whether he could be tried on various corruption charges.

"The Duvalier decision is a little victory against impunity and corruption," says Pierre Espérance, director of the Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH), Haiti's most well-known human rights organization. "But we still have a lot of work to do."

Along with several other organizations, RNDDH is a member of the Collectif contre l'impunité, a coalition of groups advocating for legal action against Duvalier.

Duvalier is far from the only Haitian politician with a trial potentially in his future. The former boy dictator, now grown gray and sallow in old age, returned to Haiti in January 2011 in the midst of the contentious vote that saw Martelly elected. He was followed by another former president, and arch-rival, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

During his 2001 to 2004 second turn in office and immediately preceding it, Aristide was accused of, among other misdeeds, arming and organizing paramilitary youth groups known as chimeres, presiding over brutal collective reprisals by his security forces against the rebellious city of Gonaives, and a ghastly massacre in the town of Saint-Marc in February 2004, the latter killings by a combination of police, security personnel from Aristide's National Palace and allied street gangs having claimed at least 27 lives. In recent testimony presented in a Haitian court, Aristide was also accused of orchestrating the April 2000 murder of Jean Dominique, the country's most well-known journalist. Two separate bodies - the Unite Centrale de Renseignements Financiers (UCREF) and the Commission d'Enquete Administrative - that examined financial irregularities from Aristide's time as Haiti's president found that "Aristide's government illegally pumped at least $21 million of his country's meager public funds into private firms that existed only on paper and into his charities."

Nor can those tasked with checking the power of the executive branch be viewed with great confidence, with Haiti's legislative branch of government often resembling a prison more than a parliament.

Two members of Haiti's lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, Rodriguez Séjour and  N'Zounaya Bellange Jean-Baptiste (who as parliamentarians enjoy immunity from prosecution), have been credibly accused of involvement of the April 2012 murder of Haitian police officer Walky Calixte, but both men remain free with apparent little fear of trial or even arrest. In the slain policeman's Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Carrefour, mournful graffiti still reads Adieu, Walky. Another deputy, fierce Martelly critic Arnel Belizaire, is alleged by the government to have managed to get himself elected despite the fact that he was a fugitive who had broken out of jail a few years before [What is beyond debate is that Belizaire is prone to bouts of physical violence in the parliament itself].

One of President Martelly's chief advisors, Calixte Valentin, was identified as being responsible for the killing of a merchant named Octanol Dérissaint in the town of Fonds-Parisien, near the border with the Dominican Republic, in April 2012. Valentin was never tried for the crime and remains a free man to this day.

It is amid such a discordant background - foreign investment flooding into the country as never before in terms of tourist initiatives and industrial parks even as Haiti's politic milieu remains deeply dysfunctional - that long-delayed legislative elections for two-thirds of the country's senate, the entire chamber of deputies, and local and municipal officials such as mayors are scheduled to take place in October. Several political parties have not as-yet signed on to the electoral plan.

"There are a few parties who chose not to participate, but it was an open process," says Carl Alexandre, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti, known by its acronym MINUSTAH. "It is our hope that those who didn't participate initially will want to join as the process unfolds, because the alternative is unthinkable. If the elections are not held this year, in January there will not be a functioning parliament. There will be no one there."

[The UN mission in Haiti has had its own issues with impunity. A cholera epidemic, all-but-certainly introduced by Nepalese peacekeepers, has killed over 8,000 people in the country, but the UN has claimed immunity from any damages.]

Around the country, the Martelly-Lamothe government seems to remain broadly popular, with one moto taxi driver plying Port-au-Prince's dusty Route de Freres telling me "they are working well for Haiti," a sentiment I heard often in my travels around the country. This despite the fact that  - from the crowds in Gonaives chanting "Martelly for 50 years!" to the huge billboards around the country bearing Martelly's image (in violation of Article 7 of Haiti's constitution, which bans "effigies and names of living personages" from "currency, stamps, seals, public buildings, streets or works of art") -  the government seems to have by no means entirely abandoned the realpolitik of Haiti's past. As they once did for Aristide, graffiti slogans around Port-au-Prince laud the bèl ekip (beautiful team) of Martelly-Lamothe.

Haiti's economy is indeed moving - even roaring - forward, but the old need for a mechanism for crime and punishment of the country's powerful keeps knocking on Haiti's door, unbidden, perhaps unwanted, but there nonetheless. In a marriage of impunity and economy, perhaps the echoes of Jean-Claudism do not appear so distant after all.

"We are talking about the situation of impunity that has been the rule since François Duvalier came to power in 1957, and something has to be done to stop that," says Sylvie Bajeux, director of the Centre Œcuménique des droits humains (CEDH), who also served as one of the officials who investigated Aristide's alleged financial misdeeds. Like RNDDH, the CEDH is a member of the Collectif contre l'impunité. "If we don't, we are going nowhere, we cannot talk about reconstruction."

"Jean-Claude Duvalier's case has become the symbol for the need to put an end to impunity," Bajeux  says. "He's being charged with monstrous deeds. So what is going to happen? What happens with Duvalier's case is something that will affect the whole future of this country, one way or another."

Michael Deibert is the author of In the Shadow of Saint Death: The Gulf Cartel and the Price of America's Drug War in Mexico (Lyons Press, 2014), The Democratic Republic of Congo: Between Hope and Despair (Zed Books, 2013) and Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti (Seven Stories Press, 2005).
Categories: Haitian blogs

On taking women home ...

Livesay Haiti - Apr. 6, 2014 - 8:22 pm

Comfort is not a soft, weakening commiseration; it is true, strengthening love.
Rosenie five hours after giving birth, reading her Bible in postpartum...

Rosenie stayed with us a little over 48 hours. We took her to her home on Saturday afternoon.
* * * * * *
Arrival at Rosenie's home ...

Looking back toward Port au Prince (and the ambulance you all helped us buy!) from her house...
 Lydia asking to hold Schenieder, he is Rosenie's 3rd child ...

"We will never become the people of hope and blessing we're meant to be until we learn how to wake up and pay attention to the glory and pain, beauty and suffering that are in lives all around us."

~R.Dahlstrom, The Colors of Hope: Becoming People of Mercy, Justice, and Love

Prayer for their family and prayers of thanksgiving for a healthy, safe delivery.
Rosenie's husband had to work and couldn't join us.
(Below -L to R - Carline and daughter Wilna, Lydia, Rosenie, Emma, Baleline and son) 

Carline delivered two weeks ago and has needed to stay for nursing encouragement and support, Emma is pregnant and living at the Maternity Center until she delivers because she lives in a rough area. She worried she would not be able to leave to come to us if she went into labor in the night. Baleline is a young Mom that delivered 4 weeks early and stayed in postpartum longer due to her small baby. They all came on the ride outside of the city to bring Rosenie home. It was a fun field trip that boosted morale for all of us. 

Driving back to Port au Prince  - something is very hilarious...

One of the most special moments in the process of getting to know these strong ladies is the joy and honor of being allowed an opportunity to take them home. 

We all attempt to know one another better throughout the entire program and process. During intake, prenatal care, class time, labor, delivery, and postpartum care, we slowly build relationships. 

Back in the first year of doing this, it used to be intimidating to me to wind deep into neighborhoods uncertain if I'd ever find my way out.  I remember averting the job of discharging and transporting in the beginning, leaving it to others whenever possible. Avoiding visiting their homes saved my heart from pain. At times their suffering and living situations are difficult to see. Truth be told, it is much easier not to see it up close. 

Something changed once I recognized that sorrow and joy and pain and triumph all constantly dance together. They are a paradox far too intertwined to experience one without the other.  

While it might bring a measure of heaviness, I now know what an honor it is to be on their turf, to see and experience life sitting in their chairs, in their homes.  

It can be culturally and socially awkward, but as we sit there all fidgety and unsure and we are willing to be a bit uncomfortable together and allow that awkwardness, it almost always builds trust. 

Part of what we hope to do during our time with the women that pass through the programs is to offer them an unusual comfort and kindness. Bringing them home, instead of having them take crowded public transportation is one way we can love and comfort them. 

The word comfort is from two Latin words that mean "with" and "strong".  God is with these women and He makes them strong.  He is with us and He makes us strong. Amy Carmichael said, "Comfort is not a soft, weakening commiseration; it is true, strengthening love."  I hope that sort of comfort is what Haitian women are experiencing as they are brought home after giving birth. 


Other posts about going home ...

All Photos courtesy of Jenny Duhm

Categories: Haitian blogs

Marathons, Mamas, McHouls

Livesay Haiti - Apr. 5, 2014 - 10:58 am
last 20 mile training runIn September of 2005 my husband and I walked into an unusually stifling hot home near the Port-au-Prince airport. The most giant dogs either of us had ever seen lumbered toward us, huge strings of drool flying off of them, as we stepped through the door. 

An oddly dressed man with wild hair and a strange accent offered each of us a wrist bump, rather than a handshake. I caught Troy's eye and said with my raised eyebrow look, "Yikes! Weirdo!"  We advanced into the kitchen where a beautiful woman introduced herself as Beth McHoul, the woman whom I had first written to on a marathon training Yahoo group earlier that year. It was so fun to meet someone I had only exchanged emails with up until that point.We made small talk for a few moments  before Troy was whisked off for an afternoon with the scary looking guy that we thought was loitering at Beth's house. As it turned out, he was Mr. Beth. My husband, Troy, spent the next few hours watching the madman at work. I went with Beth to a beautiful and small little children's home where a handful of children in the adoption process were living. Beth explained that for many years they had been processing adoptions. She said that the quality of care was the most important objective and that her ministry was about offering the highest quality care. That night, we laid in one of the hottest rooms in the history of the universe, inside the McHouls house, whispering back and forth about these interesting McHoul people. Troy told me stories about his day. He said John had been negotiating for a car repair and had quickly said to Troy, "Stand right here, I am going to fall down, catch me." He proceeded to feign a heart attack over the price and actually fall down.  We talked all through the night, mostly because nobody newish to Haiti sleeps in heat like that.Beth and I woke up to go for a run together before Troy and I headed to the airport. We ran about five miles, chatting about marathons, training, and exchanging running stories and plans for the future. We hoped to move to Haiti and I told her I hoped we could be friends, even if we lived in another area of the country.That was our first introduction to John and Beth McHoul. We did not anticipate working with them. We did not yet know that Heartline would send those children I had met in their children's home to America all at once after a huge earthquake. We did not anticipate that we would one day be able to work in the area of Maternal Health and women's education and empowerment in Haiti. We did not know that the McHouls would serve as our mentors and teachers. I did not know that Beth would become my running partner for years and years to come.I wish I had kept track of the miles and hours Beth and I have logged together. I don't know how many it is, but I know it is a lot. We have laughed and cried and had countless memorable things happen along our favorite running routes over the years. There have been times where we stopped running to pray for friends, to pray for Haiti, to pray for our adult children. Running is a spiritual discipline, serving two or more purposes for both of us. We trained for two races together in 2009 and it felt like that entire summer and fall were spent encouraging one another to keep putting one foot in front of the other. We left Haiti a week before the earthquake to go run a marathon in Florida. The night before the Florida marathon Beth said, "Hey, I know we have not finished tomorrow's race and this is hard to decide right now, but my sister said that she thinks we can have two charity runner numbers for the 2010 Boston Marathon."  I gave Beth a 'WHAT!?!' look. "Just think about it", she said.On January 11, 2010 I flew home to Haiti sore and happy that the Florida marathon had gone well.  The next day the earth shook for 45 seconds and life changed drastically for millions. We never spoke of running Boston again. There was no time to train and nowhere to train. For the next few months there wasn't much time to sleep either. The year of 2010 quickly became something entirely different for all of us.Here we are, four plus years post-earthquake. All of the children that the McHouls were caring for at the time of the earthquake have been with their families in the USA for a long time.  

The earthquake meant that Heartline Ministries could transition fully into programs for women that would help keep children with their mothers. The tiny program that had begun in 2008 to offer maternal health care has grown into a full-scale program serving 45 pregnant women at a time and 45 brand new mothers at a time. The Women's education center has grown too. Women are learning to read, write, sew, and make a living for their families in Haiti.This month  - in just two weeks - Beth is finally getting her chance to run Boston on a charity number.  The Boston Marathon is an institution. The most gifted runners in the world try to qualify for Boston. These are fast, intense, hard-core athletes. If you know a serious distance runner, you might know how important Boston is.  For Beth and I, speed is not a thing. We are not elite runners, we are not fast. I do think, however, that Beth is hard-core. Beth has a fused back from childhood scoliosis and surgery. That means she works even harder than most runners. I know she works harder than I do. While her race is not about speed, it is about perseverance. Today, just two weeks until Boston Marathon race day, I am asking you to support Beth. I am asking you to pray for her, for the work she does in Haiti, for the training she has left to do, for her race day legs and endurance, for her ongoing race in Haiti.  I am asking you to give.  Offering Labor and Delivery services and Prenatal care and education in Haiti costs in more than just emotional dollars. We need your support, we need NEW people to hear about the work here. Please help us. Please support Beth.  (On the right side of this blog, at the top you will see a Pure Charity widget that offers you a chance to give to Beth's Boston Marathon for Haitian Women.)Her race is about endurance and about pushing through.  Her 25 year long race working in Haiti and her 26 mile long race at the Boston Marathon will look very similar.  Things get really hard. It becomes tiring. At times it feels like there is no finish line, no victory.  The path is unknown and the hills so steep they feel impossible to climb. Beth pushes through the mental and physical roadblocks. She faces adversity in her work and in her running in a way that teaches all of us that stand on the sidelines cheering for her.

The following post was written by Beth a couple of months ago ...
By Beth McHoulI grew up in Boston. We call it Bahhhst-inn, which is the official pronunciation, by the way. Life called us away from Boston to a resource-poor island in the Caribbean many years ago. Although I haven’t lived there in 25 years, my husband and I still carry our accents and our Bostonian pride with us. We don’t pronounce our ‘R’s and Boston is still home.The Boston Marathon bombings rendered me senseless last year. I anxiously waited until the news came that my running sister, who had been a mile from the finish, was safe.  My team of co-workers and midwives here in Haiti, a world away from Boston, worried with me. We prayed and stalked Internet news, sitting on the edge of our chairs as each new piece of information was released.  I am no stranger to upheaval; my own world here in Haiti is often volatile and full of chaos.This was unnerving, my other world in turmoil. Boston, home, where I go to visit family. It is safe, rock solid, and a place of comfort – until last year when terror touched her too.The Boston Marathon has always been a huge event in my life.  “Marathon Monday” is a holiday like none other, although we take St Patrick’s Day pretty seriously, too.My sister, Charleen, has run Boston over a dozen times and she knows every landmark, every hill (big and small) and every water stop.  Calvary Chapel, our running club, mans the water stop at Heartbreak Hill.  Heartbreak – the defining point in the marathon, the hills that conquer your soul.  The hills that tell you, you are almost done!  Six more miles to go and you have made personal history.Calvary Chapel’s running club offered me the rare and incredible gift of an invitational number to run Boston this year.  This most important year.  The comeback year.  The year that wins over terror.  The crowds will be back, the fans will cheer, the runners will run and evil will not win the day.I will be among the runners.  I’ll be in that crowd. I’ll make my statement. I’ll run to say that other people matter and evil cannot overcome good.  I get to be a part of that every day in Haiti, where women who would typically get no prenatal care come to our Maternity Center for care and a safe birth.  I’m part of a team that supports women through pregnancy, birth, and child development.  Moms and babies live. Every safe birth crushes the unfairness of poverty just a tiny bit.I will run Boston this year.  I’ll train here on the chaotic streets of Port-au-Prince. This older American woman will be part of the hectic morning scenery these next few months. I’ll bob along with my water bottle and navigate the busy streets as if I were trail running.  I’ll encounter pigs and goats, school kids and merchants, overloaded trucks, UN tanks, rocks and obstacles of every variety. This is my norm.  I live here.  I love this place.  It is home, too.This particular 26.2 mile run is personal. This is my grand finale as an aging marathoner training in the midst of a third world city.  Also, my run is public. I am asking supporters everywhere to pledge money towards Heartline Ministries in Haiti to fight poverty and injustice.Heartline provides literacy training, sewing school, cooking school, prenatal care, safe birth, post partum care, and a men’s bakery.   These programs equip folks to care for themselves.I’m running to show support to my hometown and I’m running to show support to my adopted country.Every runner tells bombs they can’t win.  Every fan, every cheer, every person on the sidelines are telling terror it is not welcome here.  Every foot strike pounding the roads from Hopkington to Boston shouts evil does not win.  It can’t win in Boston and it can’t win here in Haiti. We stand against terror with Boston.  We stand against poverty for Haiti.  Stand with us!
Categories: Haitian blogs

Listen More

Livesay Haiti - Apr. 2, 2014 - 1:18 pm
I stole some words of wisdom from my Uncle for my post (find it here) over at A Life Overseas this month. 

Below is my Uncle's entire post, I hope it speaks to your heart. It did mine.

By Rick Porter - Winks, Whispers, and Wonders
The world is a garish, noisy neighborhood. Decibels and pixels abound. The phone in my pocket spews more information in hours than I can assimilate in years. I’m reminded of my college speech prof who counseled tongue-in-cheek, “Shout louder if your argument is weak.” There’s a whole lot of shouting these days.The prophet Elijah lived in distracted times. Faith in Israel’s God was at low ebb. People were frantically worshiping other things. Power structures were arrayed against Elijah to silence his invitation to passionate faith in the One True God. In the chaos, Elijah wanted to hear The Voice. So he sought a quiet place and waited. A contemporary Bible version records, “A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.”Even today, hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires add noise to news. Whispers are intimate treasures easily lost in the hub-bub. God was in the whisper.Sometimes God speaks up. C. S. Lewis wrote that He shouts in our pain. Psalm 19 declares that He “pours forth speech” by way of the universe. The book of Hebrews says in the past He spoke through prophets but nowadays has uttered Himself through Jesus. Jesus said we don’t live by bread alone but by Words from God’s mouth. Jesus also said He would send the invisible person of God, the Holy Spirit to “guide us into all truth” by speaking to us.It seems that God is verbal, but, like a good a teacher, He lowers His voice to invite attention. He is the human whisperer. When we slow down, get away, or are laid up for a time, His whispers may be heard as shouts. It’s all relative. Like the ticking clock unheard except in solitude, God is always speaking. He shows up, winking His love and inviting us on an eternal adventure. We dare not settle for cheap noise lest we miss The Voice.Elizabeth Barret Browning described this in visual terms. “Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes. The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”How we hear or see God is likely as diverse as our styles and personalities. But we best begin in quietude. If you really want to hear Him and know Him, let the chaos of contemporary life settle. Listen for the whisper. Watch for the wink. Your faith will be encouraged and your life enriched. We dare not lose the best of forever in the noise of now.

To go to the other post at A Life Overseas, Click HERE.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Open International Adoption - Is that a thing?

Livesay Haiti - Apr. 1, 2014 - 8:44 pm
Part II

See Part I  first, please.

Hope with her older sister in 2012

During an adoption, please try to meet the birth parent if at all possible or allowed. If the child you are adopting is a true orphan, try to meet an aunt or a grandma or connect with the nanny that cared for him/her if possible. Take photos if allowed. After you adopt, please try to send them photos and updates once a year or more if at all possible or allowed. You may see no need for it, but it is a kind thing to do and it provides someone with less power a way to feel a little bit of peace. Most birth families just want to know the child is well. The cell phone and Internet make contact much less complicated. If sending photos by snail mail is your only option, try to do that. 
When our children grow up, they are going to ask us things about their first family. The more we can tell them, the better. Making contact after many years is more difficult than just having it from the start. (This is not illegal in Haitian adoptions. I cannot speak to the rules of other countries.) 

I urge you to see a documentary called Closure if you have not been exposed to adult adoptees wanting and needing to find their first family. 

I am only guessing, but I bet most adoptive parents cannot consider a trip to the country of their child's birth.  For those that can now, or think they might in the distant future, the questions below were posed by adoptive parents.  I don't know many of the answers. I am not going to make answers up, I can't answer all the questions.  

Every kid is different, every situation is unique. Most of what I have learned is from listening to my own kids and to adult adoptees and hearing them say that the information about their birth families mattered to them. I did not force my kids to meet their birth families. I waited for my kids to ask and be interested. 

In Part III I will share along with our two older kids, what this journey has meant to them and the things they have learned about themselves as a result of meeting their first families.

Prepping the kids:
  • Is it feasible to visit with formerly adopted kids? If the child you adopted has been issued a U.S. Passport and any required visitors visas, they should be free to travel back to the country of their birth. We have met numerous adoptive families as they stop in to say hello while on a trip to reconnect with a first family. There are adoptive families that have reconnected successfully with their birth-family. I have seen it work and have mainly been told it was a positive experience for them all.
  • Who decides when to come? In my opinion your child needs to be ready to come and needs to want to come. I am not a psychologist, but I don't think you should do this until your child has a desire to do it. Ask a psychologist or smart person.
  • If we are not ready to come, how can we send photos and an update? Do you have contact info for the orphanage you adopted from? Can you send photos to that orphanage in case your first family stops in asking for word of their child or children? If you have the ability to do so, (during an adoption) getting an email address of the first family or of a friend of the first family makes a lot of sense. Most (materially poor) people have a way to go access the Internet or have a friend that does. Sending photos digitally only takes asking which address you can email them to every so often. For example, our daughters first Mom does not speak English but she has a friend that makes calls for her to contact English speaking friends in the USA.  This same guy emails for her on occasion and can do so in English.
  • How do we prep the kids for experiencing Haiti? The kids are really worried about the poverty, how do we prepare them for that? It would be wise to talk about poverty and prepare them for what they will see. Adopted or not, poverty can be a hard thing for kids to see and process. Our daughters first came to Haiti at ages 7 and 12 and both struggled with the needs they saw. We spent a lot of time on those trips just talking about how they felt.
  • How do we portray Haiti (any country) factually, but positively, so that they understand that people may not have *things*, but that they are proud and strong? I don't know exactly how you portray things positively, but I do know that the media portrayal of Haiti hasn't been helpful. (I assume other developing-world countries have unfair and over-the-top media-spun images too.) Sometimes seeing poverty is so painful that we separate ourselves from it by deciding things about "those people". I think it is good for all of us to remember and teach our children that we are all so much more alike than we are different. Our basic needs for love, acceptance, food, shelter, etc are the same. The difference really only lies in our access to those things.

Practical considerations:
  • How easy/hard is it to find birth families if it has been a while since we've had contact? There are obviously situations that can make it very difficult to find a birth family. The earthquake in Haiti means that for those that adopted prior to 2010, it may be very difficult to locate a birth family. If you have a name and a photograph of a birth parent and a last known area where they lived, I would say that word of mouth is one of the most insanely effective ways of communication in the developing world. It has happened more than once that one person went into an area to say, "We are looking for this person", and within a few days the person was found. In some countries there are people that have made a business out of helping make a connection between adoptive and birth families. It is a great idea and something that a bi-lingual go getter could make a living doing.  We don't currently have anyone to refer adoptive parents that have adopted from Haiti to, but we have presented the idea to a couple of friends to consider. There would be financial risk involved - adoptive parents should plan to pay a non-refundable fee to begin the search and then if successful there would likely be fees to help make the appropriate connections to begin correspondence. Again, making these connections during an adoption is a lot easier then trying to find someone you lost contact with many years ago. 
  • When visiting Haiti, where do you recommend families stay? How would we do things like: hire someone to translate, get around, etc? Do you recommend that we have the birth families visit us at a guest house, etc?  Do you recommend that we visit the families at their home, if invited? Depending on your budget, there are options for where to stay. A guesthouse or hotel/motel makes the most sense. It is good to have a safe and calm place to return to at the end of an emotionally intense day and your kids will need the down time.  Again, the details are very much a personal choice. For the first three years of our relationship with our kids' families we met them at a neutral location. It felt like the right thing then.  Now, we will often go to visit them at their houses. Hope and Isaac have both visited their birth-parents at their homes. Depending on your child, you can decide if a meeting at a guesthouse or hotel makes more sense than visiting at their home. I don't have a list of drivers and translators (because we drive and don't use translators often) but I would guess that if you contacted people that work in the area you hope to visit (google search blogs of missionaries, ask friends, network) you could find someone that would be able to give you names of trustworthy drivers and translators. Hiring independent translators and drivers makes a lot of sense. It is good to meet with them first if you want to explain why you are visiting and build some understanding and trust with the translator. (This also helps you find out how good their English skills are.) 
  • Are there safety considerations we should keep in mind? I can obviously only speak to Haiti's security situation. If you are smart and careful, I don't think there are many risks to visiting Haiti. If you feel super afraid of coming, I don't think you should come until you can shake that fear and come with confidence and joy and anticipation. When I say be smart and careful, I just mean don't go for a walk alone at midnight, stuff like that. 
  • Would you recommend taking the birth families to a nicer place to eat and spend the day, or is it better to "keep it simple?" It would be very kind to take them to a meal. It would very much depend on what they are comfortable with. Depending on their economic level, they may prefer to do something simpler. You could ask them and give them the choice. In our experience, for kids that are not in their mid teens yet, three or four hours together is going to be emotionally tiring and you wouldn't necessarily want to plan for an entire day on the first visit. 

Cultural considerations when interacting with families:
  • What expectations might birth families have of us?(financial or otherwise)  If your kids have lost their language skills, it may surprise the first family and you'll want to prepare your kids for that. We have found that many birth families haven't really considered that aspect and it surprises them. If you have a way to have them know that in advance it will help lessen the awkward. I think each family will be unique. A lot will depend on what your orphanage told them. It is possible that they have been promised your help by someone else along the way. They may have been told that "someday" their child is going to return to help them. Be prepared to communicate in an honest and straight-forward way. It is okay to say, "No, I cannot buy you a house." They don't know what your finances look like and much like you and I cannot imagine trying to get by on a few dollars a day, they cannot imagine what having money means. There is a gap in understanding one another that can be filled with love as long as you try not to get mad at being asked. It is best never to say "maybe" about helping.  Say no until you know 100% that you can come through. Broken promises are a bad way to start a relationship and maybe means yes to a lot of people.   (I answered this as if the adoption was long ago complete and final. DO NOT give any gifts at all if your adoption is in process. Please know that it is illegal and while probably totally innocent - it could get you in a lot of trouble.) 
  • Hope with her niece, Judnah on the day she was born
  • How do you navigate a level of openness that you feel comfortable with?  For example, if they want to call, and we are not comfortable with that, but would be comfortable with pictures and/or updates. What expectations might birth families have of the kids?  What about helping birth families long after the adoption is done.  Should we? Decide in advance what you and the children you share are most comfortable with - go in with a plan to communicate that. Be honest. You can say, "No, we cannot take phone calls but we would love to email or send letters."  That might make some first-families mad but that is okay. For example, our first families have our phone numbers but they don't know where we live. When we first entered into relationship with them we did not give out our phone number. That came as trust was built. Like anything involving expectations, your role is to clearly communicate. If someone is upset over unmet expectations that is their issue, not yours. Honesty and being totally straight forward is best. 
Sometimes people just need to be heard.  If there is one thing I have learned it is this, just because someone tells you they don't have enough food or a way to pay for an operation or a house that keeps them dry in the rain, it does not mean they expect you to make it all better. They are sharing their life. Just the way you sit down and tell your friends that so and so is fighting Cancer and so and so just lost their job. Sharing our sorrows is different than expecting someone to fix our sorrows. Most of the time, people just need you to sit with them in their place of pain and need. They don't need your pity, they need your respect.

Disclaimer: I write from my experiences. They are all in Haiti. I cannot speak to detailed questions about other countries/cultures or cultural norms. Totally generalizing, but I think most birth-mothers think about their child and wonder frequently if they are okay. The point of Open Int'l Adoption is two-fold - 1. To help children have answers about their heritage and history and 2. To respect the sacrifice and emotional scars of the birth-family and provide them with proof of their child's well-being. Adoptive parents are wise to go into an adoption concerned about these things.
Categories: Haitian blogs

for love, for maternal health, for haiti ...

Livesay Haiti - Apr. 1, 2014 - 8:20 am

As a distance runner, I recall exactly how moronic I thought distance runners were PRIOR to becoming one. There are varying levels of insanity and some folks stop at pushing themselves to 26.2 mile routes, while others do "ultra" marathons and make the marathoners look like itty bitty cry-babies.

I never plan to run further than 26.2 miles. That sort of stuff is left to those that desperately dislike themselves OR have a cause greater than themselves.  

This video is about a guy that had a cause greater than himself. It probably shouldn't be watched at work. Employment is good and I want you to keep yours. Please come back and watch it once you are home. 

This is the story of an Australian man that lost his first child at birth. This is the story of a man that decided to do something much bigger than himself in order to raise awareness of the need for Maternal health care in Haiti. This is the story of a man that would like to see Heartline Maternity Center expand its capacity to serve pregnant women. This is the story of endurance, perseverance, and pain. This is the story of healing. This is the story of love. 
Categories: Haitian blogs

Monday, choose your 'tude ...

Livesay Haiti - Mar. 31, 2014 - 10:21 am

Categories: Haitian blogs

Exploring the world of Haitian vodou

Michael Deibert's Haiti Blog - Mar. 31, 2014 - 9:31 am
The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Mar. 02, 2014

Exploring the world of Haitian vodou   

By Michael Deibert

(Read the original article here)

Mimerose Beaubrun's book Nan Dòmi: An Initiate's Journey into Haitian Vodou — the first part of the title refers to a spiritual state — is a welcome addition to the canon of vodou scholarship, a deeply felt inside account of a faith of often daunting complexity.

Beaubrun is one of the leaders of the Haitian vodou-rock band Boukman Eksperyans — named for one of the heroes of Haiti's revolution — which features music that combines propulsive vodou drumming with Jimi Hendrix-like guitar runs. Beaubrun came to the religion as a trained anthropologist, but as the narrative makes clear, she soon found a deeper and more fundamental connection to it.

Often given short shrift by journalists and others seeking to understand Haiti's turbulent political history, the vodou faith has been pivotal at many critical times in Haiti’s development, including during its long struggle for independence from France. Its relevance continues into the present day, when watchful eyes can discern subtle vodou imagery among Haiti's politicians. Vodou remains at the center of the daily experience for many in the country, its complex web of deities and rituals throbbing through life like the plangent sound of a rada drum beating in the tropical night.

Over the years, outstanding books have been written about Haiti's distinctive blend of African religious faith and European-derived ceremonial flourish.  In 1953, the Russian-American avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren published Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, a companion piece to her film of the same title, which chronicled four years of research into the faith. Five years later, the Swiss anthropologist Alfred Metraux published Voodoo in Haiti, in large part the result of his travels around the country with the great Haitian author Jacques Roumain. They documented vodou traditions for Haiti's Bureau d’Ethnologie, which Roumain had established to legitimize the study of Haiti's peasant traditions.

To this tradition Beaubrun makes her contribution. Among her first-person accounts of possession and other interior aspects of the faith, readers are treated to a tapestry of invocations, consumption of esoteric, perhaps hallucinogenic, concoctions, lots of drumming, dancing and chanting. Some of the direct descriptions of vodou goings-on may seem esoteric to the point of magic realism to the lay reader, and the book could have used a heavier, more explanatory editorial hand. Many readers may be left wondering what a “caco” (basically an armed peasant rebel) is, for example, but the intimacy with which Beaubrun relates her strange tale gives a unique immediacy to the book.

Beaubrun does not present her story in an overtly political context. But a shadow of Haiti's fratricidal political battles is apparent when one of Beaubrun's vodou mentors tells her that “each living being is a warrior and he is alone in combat. Depending on his magical force . . . to undertake battle, he will be the victor or the loser.”

At one point in the narrative, one member of Haiti’s vodou pantheon — said to have been a Carib chieftain on the pre-colonial island — is said to have prophesied that Haiti was “going to experience two hundred years of tribulations” but “she will not perish.” In the faith documented in Nan Dòmi, the reader begins to get a flavor for how such a seemingly benighted place could have endured for so long. 

Michael Deibert is the author of The Democratic Republic of Congo: Between Hope and Despair.
Categories: Haitian blogs

on opening ourselves up to pain and possibility

Livesay Haiti - Mar. 29, 2014 - 5:00 pm

If you are adopting and you are given the opportunity to meet the family of the child you are adopting, there are so many good reasons to do it. 

(This entry is an addendum to Part I.   This article talks about open adoption from a country that does not typically do open adoptions. Still working on Part II and III.)

I started to write these entries about open adoption and quickly realized the pain part is what many adoptive parents hope to avoid.  We don't like unknowns and when the unknowns could be painful, we usually choose to bypass them.  Just yesterday I caught myself doing it.  My son Isaac's first parents were waiting outside the Maternity Center to talk to me and I did not want to face it because it is hard. I did not want to feel the way it feels to stand face to face with the incongruity of our lives. I did not want to hear what they needed because hearing what they need hurts. Not being able to fix things hurts. 

In the original post I said: 

I think it is our job as people of love to uplift the marginalized and to be more than fair. If we are honest we know that we hold the power. We (adoptive parents) have the passports and the money and the ability to be connected and jet around the world. With great power comes great responsibility. We made a decision many years back that no matter how intimidated we might be by entering into an open adoption relationship, it was the correct thing to do and a way we could tip the scales of injustice back the other way.

I realized that I need to further qualify what I said there. By saying it is our job, I did not mean to imply that it would be all sunshine and roses. This is painful stuff. When it comes to knowing first families, it will involve some pain. 

Any child that has been placed for adoption will come to you with their own pain and history of loss. No matter how hard we try to frame it or tell it in a fairy-tale way, we cannot make adoption into a pain-free endeavor. It is not pain-free for them, it is not likely to be pain-free for adoptive parents either. 

Some of the most painful things in life are the things that give us the greatest opportunities to grow (change) and become more loving and gracious. 


In 2009 we returned a little boy named Renald to his family after fostering him for a handful of months. Our daughter Paige often says this was one of the hardest days she ever faced in Haiti. We learned so much about ourselves and our attitudes toward "the poor" during and after our time caring for Renald - I am linking to this story today because it is easy to get in a place of superiority as adoptive (or foster) parents (with the power) where we think that we are better suited and therefore doing a big favor by adopting - maybe that leads us to think we don't need to worry about knowing the first family. Sometimes we think that our material blessing automatically makes us a better candidate for the job and causes us to decide (unfair) things about first families. I think that is a trap, one I hope many can avoid. 

Find Renald's return story here. 

Categories: Haitian blogs

...Some pain, joy, suffering, and much triumph

Livesay Haiti - Mar. 27, 2014 - 6:59 pm

Miguelita gave birth to beautiful 6 pound baby guy, Dudley, on Wednesday afternoon.  She made a decision that she COULD do it, then we watched her do it.  It was quite lovely for all that were lucky enough to see it happen.

Miguelita's husband and his brother celebrated after the safe arrival of Dudley. We ooohed and aaahed at their sweet moment of joy.
My friend (and preceptor) and I celebrated after the safe delivery. Every safe and happy birth is a reason to celebrate.

This family supported Miguelita through a couple of long days. They took turns being at the Maternity Center to love and encourage her. Sisters and brothers arrived with food, a kind word, a massage, their love for her encouraged her and us.

baby boy for Baleline this afternoon 

Today another first-time Mom named Baleline labored bravely. While there wasn't all the fanfare of a large supportive family unit, Jenny, her doula, was working to encourage and support her. Chandler, who works with her as she creates beautiful jewlery, came to help and love and step into the gap. Her second cousin came and helped her get her tiny son latched and nursing.  Nurses, Wini and Nirva stepped in often. 

"You.did.it." "YOU.DID.IT!"  We said.
Baleline finally smiled as she said, "Wi". 

Some women lack a system of support, when that happens others step in. In an insufficient way they try to fill the space that a dad or grandma or aunt should fill.  It is in those moments prayers are uttered even more frequently and desperately. "Lord, be near." "Please God, fill this space with your mercy and love." "Father, we ask for a quicker than normal labor, make this suffering end and give this dear one the gift of her child quickly."  On this Thursday God showed up and answered specific prayers. Sweet young Baleline had a quick labor that ended well. 

~ ~ ~

On Tuesday Carline went home. A big family waited to greet her. We all prayed together for protection and thanked God for this new life.  

Life is precious.  Celebrate it with us.

All Photos (except for the one she is in) courtesy of Jenny Duhm, Doula/Photographer
Post Script:I have not forgotten the Open (Int'l) Adoption post(s), I just need the time to write them and have not had that yet. I'll try to finish soon. 
Categories: Haitian blogs

Haiti Solidarity - New Issue - Volume One - Number Three

HaitiAnalysis - Mar. 24, 2014 - 2:54 am
Please go and read the new issue of "Haiti Solidarity" here.  It includes a historical chronology of recent years events in Haiti, as well as a comparison of Haiti and Honduras, Caribbean solidarity information, and background on the continuing persecution of Fanmi Lavalas activists.
Categories: Haitian blogs