09 October, 2014

Help a Haitian get an Education

This is Wilner Rébéca, Wood to his friends. Wood is 25 years old and lives in Anse-a-Pitres, a large village on the south-east coast of Haiti on the border with the Dominican Republic. He speaks Creole, French, English and some Spanish and is a super positive, friendly guy.

Here in Anse-à-Pitres the houses are woven shacks clothed with rags or clay, the occasional unfinished concrete structure making an appearance. Water comes via a concrete channel which splits evermore scarcely and is dammed by rancid clothes and leaves. Food is, more often than not, US supplied rice and beans with a smattering of vegetables. Money earnt at sunrise is spent by sunset. In short - Haiti is a trap.

Until two years ago all Wood wanted was a way out: "Haiti is a poor country and there are no jobs here. When I am old and I can't work physical jobs anymore, what will I do?" 

But now he has a different stance: "To leave Haiti would be like seeing someone starting a fire, a fire which will harm many people, and just walking away." Wood wants to give back and help his people because, as he rightly says, Haiti has a lot of problems. His aim is to help through law, and for this he needs a degree.

His university of choice is in the capital, Port au Prince and the cost is 20,000 pesos a year, around £260, and he will need to cover the costs of supplies and transport. So we need to raise £400 per year to send him to university. And yet the ability to earn that kind of money here is extremely difficult. To do so whilst attending school every morning and studying at night - an impossibility. I am, with your help, going to get Wood to university.

I have never been one to mindlessly promote things I don't fully condone. The fact that I'm writing this is proof that I completely trust and believe in this man. He is undoubtedly very intelligent, we are the same age, and yet he is being held back only by the circumstances he was born into.

Yes, it's only one person. Yes, the problems are huge and far reaching here. But every journey starts with a single step and I won't be cowed by the bigger picture. I'm not asking for huge donations, I'm aware that people are barraged with monetary requests these days, but understand this : If everyone who reads this gives between £2-3 we can fund Wood through four years of law school.

How amazing would that be, what we could achieve together! An amount of money which can't even get you a cup of decent coffee in England will transform this man into a lawyer. A lawyer who can change things here. 


26 September, 2014

So here I am.

In Haiti. It is a bit of a scene change, I admit. I'd like to say it's been my life's dream realised coming here but in reality I just decided in the space of a few months to pop over for a laugh. I decided to keep the blog as the title remains remarkably apt, although the headers will now be a bit less egocentric and bikey (thank heavens!) Apologies in advance for the lack of pictures, I have no method of putting then up from my phone here at the internet cafe.

I'm over here volunteering at Sadhana Forest which is (durrr) a reforestation project. We have a nursery , tree growing plots, compost bogs, new age sleeping arrangements and oodles of positive Chi. Mornings are spent rising at dawn (snigger!), limbering up in a happy circle, planting trees here or in the community and then trying not to eat small children on the trek back for breakfast. We often then do a second work session before lunch. The afternoons and weekends are free for fanciful frolicking and active adventures of any kind, although getting things done at Carribean pace is steady!

As a holiday resort Haiti has many things to offer, the top three of which I'd say are:

1) Huge smouldering piles of burnt plastic and clothes (thanks America for the winter coats).
2) Copious tiny little black willies, flapping about carefree as you're bent down planting or innocently tying a shoelace.
3) The balancing of any and every household object on one's head, which appears to be the National sport. To date I have seen water (obviously), wood and charcoal, huge bags of clothes, several chairs, an upside down table with a set of pans on top and finally... A three piece DVD, CD and Video set. I'm not joking. I believe she was called Queen Sony of the kingdom of balancing heads. I offered up a "Hi Fi!" but was rejected.

My free time to date has been spent reading, meditating (oh god, I've become that guy), wandering and wondering. I've met some amazing people already, walked up a mountain, eaten lunch with some tree farmers and met "Papa Leon XIX", celebrity nutcase of the town Banane! I've spent 7 hours in a bus with Hispaniola music on full whack, and ridden concho moto taxis at ridiculous speeds with no helmet and no worries. The highlight so far has undoubtedly been changing the compost toilets though.

Idiocy aside, the poverty here isn't that lol. Foreign importers have basically molested the economy into submission and continue to maintain and control it in such a way, like a bullying big brother. Thousands of fizzy drinks are sold here for 15 pesos (around 30p) and the bottles are strewn everywhere. How terribly lazy of the people you say? Well if you don't have bins, recycling or landfill where do you put the waste? On the ground. Most mornings the sweet scent of smouldering litter can be smelt from my bunk as the people burn litter en masse. It's a rock and a hard, polluted, smoky, ash ridden place.

The water supply comes from a UN built concrete channel which diverts from the canal and splits more and more from source. If you are far down the line, poor you. People argue over water, redirect it using leaves and rancid clothes to block neighbours channels, and everyone washes themselves and clothes in them. Yesterday I saw an adorable little girl in an old, torn Alice in Wonderland outfit put down the cardboard boxes she had collected for kindling, squat down and pee in the channel. This is real life.