When we first moved to Haiti more than 12 years ago, we were totally naive and unaware, like most folks are when they change cultures and countries.
We were not special and it seems we are all equally dopey and in a position to learn a whole crap-ton.
It is never that people plan (well, I hope not) to do unkind or ignorant things, it is simply that good intentions often fall short.
Intending good does not necessarily equal doing good.
In our time here we have watched and been a part of many cringy situations, you know the ones I mean.
I speak of the things we observed and/or participated in that made us have shame, grief, and perhaps a very large tummy ache. I will spare you (read: ME) the painful examples today and try to get to the punchline.
Our philosophy about serving/working cross-culturally and missions has changed a ton due to what we have experienced in the Haiti School of Hard Knocks.
When it has been within our control, Troy and I do not choose to have local workers replaced by short term missions groups. A group from North America can come tour and say hi, we love that, but we really don't want you to take a job from anyone. If the job you are offering to do can be done by a Haitian, we want to give them that opportunity.
As Directors of Heartline, we commit to attempting to use a local crew to do any work that needs doing. On occasion, we run into situations where the local laborer won't be able to do exactly what we hope to do.
This is usually due to construction practices or materials and skill-set available. However, for the vast majority of projects, we desire and prefer to provide jobs to laborers in the local economy.
In our minds Heartline Ministries does not only offer maternal health care etc. etc., we also offer jobs to talented and hard working Haitians that want to work.
The Maternity Center currently employs 12 beautiful souls full-time.
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Recently long-time donors and friends of Heartline Ministries wrote to say that many years back they had come to Haiti and done some projects.
They wondered about coming again in 2018.
We took a risk and told them the truth of what was needed. We shared that the outside of the Maternity Center was in rough shape and was painted two or three different colors. We went on to tell this couple that the project was a big one but more importantly it was one that could provide jobs.
Samuel has a crew of 6 that work with him.
Because we need donations to do this work, it is a fine line to walk to take a risk and tell donors "No thank you, please don't come but would you consider spending your airfare another way?"
Sometimes (out of fear I suppose) the truth has never been shared with the donor. We decided maybe they did not know we had the option of hiring a crew that would be thrilled to work on the Maternity Center for a week.
Long story shorter, they sent their airfare dollars and Samuel the Painter and his crew worked for six days and transformed our peeling and unmatched building into something quite snazzy.
See our teal blue with white trim and red accent. Might not work in Minnesota, but it looks pretty great in the Caribbean.
Below are all the photos. More than simply showing you their excellent work, and the beautiful repainted MC, I would like to encourage you to ask and consider how we can all do better when considering a short term mission trip. Can the work you might be doing while you visit provide a job for someone? Wouldn't giving a materially poor mom or dad a job and some much needed cash that they themselves earned feel great?
(Yes. It feels great. Ask Samuel.)
I especially want to thank our friends that gave for this project. Thank you for trusting what we shared and hiring local labor.
This was a huge encouragement and gift to us all.
Front Gate is bright red now ... LOVE
The before situation -
My last post one whole month ago ended with a CLIFF HANGER about a 54 year old that thought she was pregnant.
She was not.
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Tribòbabò - a Creole/Kreyol word that is fun for all to say.
Go ahead and say it like this with me: Tree - bō - Bob - Ōh.
It means every which way - this way and that way - and all around everywhere.
There is a dog that lives in our neighborhood.
His situation is dire.
This dog has an entire extra set of balls that hang off of the inside of one of his thighs.
When you enter our neighborhood there is one long straight street that goes to the far end of the neighborhood. There are two possibilities to turn left and three opportunities to go to the right. If you don't turn you hit the end of the neighborhood in less than 1/4 mile.
None of that is really all that relative to this story about the dog with auxiliary balls. I guess I just want you to be able to imagine that this dog with extra balls seems to live somewhere in this relatively small neighborhood and he seems to mainly be around when I drive in and out of the neighborhood - he is tribòbabò.
He makes me see him almost daily. Seeing him makes me super embarrassed for him, for me, for us all.
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Later this week, on Saturday to be exact, we will find on our calendars that the date is March 31, 2018.
Believe me. We will.
With the passing of that day, so passes the first quarter of 2018.
I know without a doubt that I have expended 2 years worth of stress and gained three face-lifts worth of wrinkles getting through the first quarter of this year. I'm angry at injustice and angry at broken systems and weary of so much BS and sadness.
Bob Hamp, a kind and gentle counselor and teacher guy in Grapevine, TX said this:
I can only hope that Bob Hamp is right. I hope my anger is normal. If Bob is wrong, someone please come get me and get me off this island and DO SOMETHING to fix me.
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This is Steph meeting with Guerline, a Midwife.
Stephanie is 16. In August of last year Stephanie was drugged and raped by her cousin. Her Aunt drugged her. As in the mother of her cousin and the sister of her own Mom.
Now a baby is due in May.
These sorts of things are not reported in general. Steph for sure did not report it, she simply arrived to the Maternity Center fifteen weeks pregnant, confused, and afraid.
When abuse or rape are reported, we have come to understand that the young woman will be asked to tell the story over and over and over and over again to different interviewers and lawyers and most of them will be men. Those men will pick and choose minor details and tiny discrepancies and it is enough to make a young woman feel totally powerless.
2018 is the year we have learned a lot about the "system" here. It is really not a system, it is a failure to be a system. Learning about the non-system has not birthed a lot of hope or joy in me.
I do know this, to quote Rachael Denhollander, a survivor of abuse.
Obedience means that you pursue justice and you stand up for the oppressed and you stand up for the victimized, and you tell the truth about the evil of sexual abuse and assault and the evil of covering it up.
Then she kicks it up a notch with this ...
That obedience costs. It will cost to stand up for the oppressed, and it should. If we’re not speaking out when it costs, then it doesn’t matter to us enough.
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Last night I listened as my kids agreed to play a game of modified flashlight tag (modified because all the flashlights are broken or lost, per usual). I eavesdropped on them I heard them begin the game.
There was the usual figuring out the rules and such. When it came time to decide who would "be it" to start the first round, I heard Phoebe say, "Put your foot in!"
She began, "Bubble gum, bubble gum, in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?"
It might have been the Moscow Mule or it might have been ACTUAL authentic hope and joy, but I looked at by friend, KJ, and said, "Do you hear that? They are starting a game the same way we started games 35 years ago. Maybe some things are sensible and good in this world?!?"
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Have you heard of Sisyphus?
In Greek Mythology we learn "he was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down when it nears the top, repeating this action for eternity."
Tasks that are both laborious or futile are therefore described as Sisyphean.
I bought myself this watch on Amazon because it makes me laugh and then also because it helps me take vitals on moms and babies at the M.C.
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This particular blog entry has gone from the silly and weird to the dark and depressing and back again.
Just another day in Haiti and inside my mind.
Let me conclude with some random good things:
- Easter is coming.
- We had two healthy babies born at the MC. LOTS due very soon. Ready for storm.
- We love the new nurse we hired at the MC - she's awesome.
- Isaac and Noah have two very good friends coming to visit them on Thursday.
- Soonish I will see Gideon, my 3rd grandson and celebrate his Birthday.
- The swimming pool has been out of order for a long while and will be filled back up on Thursday.
- We lost power every night for about six weeks and we finally have remedied that and have had several nights of electricity all night. Fans are life.
- Stefanie, the teacher that came this school year, has agreed to teach next school year. In my opinion this is one of those beautiful undeserved gifts that God gives. We cannot believe how much our kids have learned and loved learning thus far with Stef as their teacher and leader and mentor and friend.
- We have decided to include the hot-flashes I am having into the tours we do at the Maternity Center. The crowd seems to love the fountain of spurting sweat and at times you can overhear gasps of impressed approval (I assume this is what is being communicated) as my head and arms spurt liquid while I speak of the maternal mortality rate in Haiti and the work happening at our Maternity Center.
- In March Noah turned 14, Britt turned 28 and our son in law will be 32 tomorrow. March is the only month we celebrate three of our tribe in one month.
On March 13, President Jovenel Moise appointed six individuals to the high command of the recently reinstated Haitian armed forces (FAdH). All of the appointees, now in their sixties, were majors or colonels in the former FAdH, disbanded in 1995 after a long history of involvement in coups, violent repression, and drug trafficking. At least three of the officers appear to have held senior positions within the early-‘90s military coup regime. One of them is a convicted intellectual author of a civilian massacre, and another was a member of a committee that sought to cover it up.
Ministry of Defense press release from March 13, 2018 announcing the FAdH’s new senior leadership.
The makeup of the new leadership has raised concerns among human rights organizations over the trajectory of the new force and its commitment to the rule of law.
“The appointment confirms once again that the Haitian Armed Forces, remobilized by the [ruling Tét Kale party] is a militia whose hidden mission is to have the Haitian people relive the darkest hours of bloodthirsty Duvalierism,” wrote the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in a press release, referencing the illegal arrests, forced disappearances, assassinations, and other abuses that characterized the Duvalier dictatorship.
Haitian Defense Minister Herve Denis responded that the new high-command is “clean,” and that all were vetted for involvement in human rights abuses or drug trafficking.
In 1990, an outspoken liberation theologian priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was elected in the first democratic election in the country’s history. But within months, a group of Haitian military officers – backed by many of the country’s wealthiest families – overthrew the new government, imposing a military dictatorship that would last three years. It was later revealed that the CIA had supported certain military elements involved in the coup, and that leaders of a paramilitary group that waged a campaign of terror against Aristide supporters and other activists were on the CIA payroll.
The group, FRAPH, helped to prop up the coup regime of Lieutenant General Raoul Cédras, while also at times appearing to undermine and sabotage the official actions of Clinton administration to restore democratic government to Haiti. Thousands of Haitians were murdered under the coup regime and hundreds of thousands fled the country.
Colonel Jean-Robert Gabriel, the new FAdH’s assistant chief of staff, was the secretary of the general staff, and later a public spokesperson, for the Cédras regime.
Following the 1991 military coup, the US and the international community implemented sanctions against the regime, eventually instituting an embargo. After Bill Clinton became president in January 1993, and increasingly in 1994, the Congressional Black Caucus played a leading role in pushing for a more aggressive role against the dictatorship, and solidarity groups in the US and elsewhere also influenced policy.
In June of 1993, the Clinton administration announced individual targeted sanctions against those determined to be a part of the “de facto regime in Haiti.” The initial sanction list, published in July of 1993, named 83 individuals, including 29 military officers. Included in this initial list was Jean-Robert Gabriel.
Screenshot of the Federal Register from July 1993, listing Jean-Robert Gabriel as one of 29 military officers sanctioned for their participation in the coup regime.
In 1993, the UN mediated indirect negotiations between Cédras and Aristide (who had taken up residence in Washington, DC to lobby for his restoration to office). Known as the Governors Island negotiations for the location where they took place, the eventual accord did little to immediately overturn the bloody coup. According to official documents, Gabriel, as well as the newly appointed chief of the general staff, Sadrac Saintil, were members of the delegation, indicating their senior positions within the Cédras regime.
List of members of Armed Forces delegation to Governors Island.
The US temporarily suspended some of the sanctions during the negotiations, but when it became clear that Cédras and his regime would not back down, the sanctions were expanded. In October 1993, the administration revoked US visas and froze the US assets of 41 officials who were determined to be thwarting a return to democratic rule and contributing to the violence in Haiti. Among the 41 individuals was Derby Guerrier, recently named as an assistant chief of staff in the reinstated armed forces ― and then a lieutenant colonel.
Guerrier held a US passport, and a New Jersey address was listed next to his name. According to press reports at the time, Guerrier was the head of the military’s anti-drug unit. Though there is little public information about Guerrier, drug trafficking took off under the military regime.
A 1997 federal indictment in Miami alleged that Joseph-Michel François, a former military officer who helped topple Aristide in 1991 and later become the police chief under Cédras, “placed the political and military structure of the Republic of Haiti under his control” in order to facilitate drug shipments from Colombia. François, by that time, was living in exile in Honduras and managed to avoid accountability.
Back in 1994, with the situation in Haiti continuing to deteriorate, and more and more Haitians fleeing the country, the US expanded its sanctions policy. Some 550 military officers were added to the sanctions list, including all of those recently appointed to the FAdH’s new high command.
In April that year, around the same time the new sanctions were levied, Haitian military and paramilitary forces descended on the neighborhood of Raboteau, where many opposition supporters were apparently seeking refuge. At least eight, and likely far more, were assassinated.
The next month a military-led commission of inquiry was tasked with investigating the allegations that a massacre had taken place in Raboteau. Cédras named Lieutenant Colonel Sadrac Saintil as one of four members, according to official documents made public as part of the Raboteau trial. Unsurprisingly, the commission found no evidence of a massacre and the FADH high command accepted the commission’s recommendation that nobody be punished.
Communique signed by Raoul Cédras, appointing Sadrac Saintil to a commission of inquiry looking into the Raboteau massacre.
But in 2000, in a landmark human rights trial supported by the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (the same organization now denouncing the new armed forces’ leadership), a Haitian court convicted 53 former officers and paramilitaries of involvement in the Raboteau massacre. Among the military officers convicted was Jean-Robert Gabriel. Though he was not implicated in direct involvement, he was charged under the theory of “command responsibility” due to his position within the top echelons of the Cédras regime.
“It’s the same type of case made against the Nazis and (Slobodan) Milosevic,” Brian Concannon, an American attorney who helped form the BAI in the early ‘90s and who worked the Raboteau case, told the St. Petersburg Times in 2002. Concannon is now the executive director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a partner organization to the BAI.
The Haitian government has pushed back on Gabriel’s involvement in Raboteau. “What I can tell you in all honesty,” the defense minister told the press, “the candidates were subjected to vetting, including Colonel Gabriel. There is nothing negative against him in the vetting with regard to human rights.”