Haiti School Community Update 6/2020

IMG-20200601-WA0092.jpgIn Haiti, Mother’s Day is the last Sunday of May, so this year, it was last weekend on May 31st. Usually there is a big production at the Filles de Marie Reine Immaculèe school that the Chilmark Community Church sponsors in Lilavois, Haiti.  All the parents come to watch the kids put on performances that they have been practicing for weeks.

This year has been a very different year for everyone in the world, but it has been an especially challenging year for kids in Haiti.  Due to political unrest and threats of violence, schools were closed the first semester (Fall 2019) and though most opened by  the end of January, schools were again closed in March due to corona virus. By now, kids everywhere know how frustrating it is not to get to go to school and see friends and learn new things. The children in Haiti do not have free education.  Their families pay for them to go to school if they can afford the tuition, but if it is closed, there is no school online.  There is not reliable electricity, much less internet, and there are few families that can afford a phone or computer for the children to use for school. In addition to being home-bound by threats of a virus, people continue to be confined in their movements due to violence, gang activity, and political unrest.
The solar project installation was completed in October so the school campus has electricity when most of the country does not. The principal of the school, Sr. Cadet, has been able to keep the businesses open that sell clean drinking water and charge people’s electronics, using the solar energy, even as the school remains closed for classes due to Covid-19 for the rest of the year.

Mother’s Day was not the only event last weekend.  One of the children sponsored by the Chilmark Community Church was in her mother’s wedding on May 30th, along with two other girls that live on campus and attend the school when it is in session. (pictures attached)  Naverlie is in the green dress. Her mother, Charlene, was recently employed by the new water selling business on campus and they live near the campus in Lilavois.  The wedding reception was held in the auditorium where the Mother’s Day performance is usually presented, so the space got to host a celebration, even if it wasn’t the usual gathering..
April and May are usually rainy months in Haiti, but this year saw only a few days of rain during these months.  This isn’t good for the gardens and the farmers of the country. Hurricane season began on June 1st.  Haiti is one of the countries in the Caribbean that is very vulnerable to hurricanes. Hurricane Matthew devastated Haiti in October 2016. Recovery from natural disasters is a rough road, and has always been particularly difficult in Haiti.  The poor country was shaken in a massive earthquake in January 2010. Systemic corruption and poverty compound the problems of recovery from natural disasters and weathering the climate challenges in the region.
Covid-19 has not passed over Haiti.  Due to a lack of virus testing supplies and capabilities, misinformation, and distrust, it is hard to know how widespread the virus is in Haiti. In the past 2 months, the official cases rose from around 50 to over 2,500 and at least 50 people have died. Hospitals are not always open, affordable, or trusted. Face masks are hard to come by, but the artisan groups that I know in Haiti have all made masks for their communities and are chipping in to help whenever they can.
We are so lucky to live on Martha’s Vineyard and have the ability to go outside and to shop with other people in the community respecting the new social distancing norms. There is little choice about whether to go out of the house in Haiti. In a country as poor as Haiti, you take a risk if you go out to work or shop that you will contract the virus and you take a risk that you could die from the virus if you get it; but if you stay home without money, food, or water, you will surely die.