The Haitian proverb says "Don't throw rocks at a green mango." I'm a green mango. I'm constantly learning, discovering, and developing as a human being in this big messed up world. I'm no expert on anything but in this blog i will share my opinions based on my experience currently living and working in Haiti. I am an artist, writer, musician, and human being. I am a green mango. Don't throw a rock at me yet.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of an individual and in no way represent the position of any organization or group that the individual may work for or be involved with.
At the Mountaintop Baz we will be helping a number of families in our community of Mizak repair their homes after damage wrought by the Category 4 Hurricane Matthew that swept through the southern part of Haiti on October 3 and 4th. The storm brought winds over 140 mph and torrential rains that ripped off many of the tin roofs that the majority of houses in our community have and ruining the possessions that these families had inside. All of the farmers in our community also suffered the loss of crops, fruit trees, and livestock during the storm. Our goal is to raise at least $6,000 to be able to help at least 12 families repair their roofs and receive immediate aid after the storm. Please donate today to help us help our neighbors recover from Matthew. Thank You!
I am a moto taxi driver. I, along with many other young men my age depend on driving passengers on our motorcycles from Mizak to the city of Jacmel or wherever they need to go, to make a little extra money for ourselves. While we are waiting for passengers we all congregate in the main intersection of our community with our motorcycles, ready for business. Because of it’s central location it becomes a gathering place, not just for moto drivers, but to many of the young men around here looking for a place to pass the time. It’s where there are beverage vendors, cell phone minute vendors, fried snack cooks, and the popular lottery booths. It’s a popular place both day and night for people to be.
In this main intersection, however, there’s really no one responsible for keeping it clean and in nice shape. There are no public garbage barrels, so trash just accumulates on the ground. There are no trees for shade for the people who are waiting for rides or just meeting friends there. There is no one to take care of the area around the street to keep it looking nice and welcoming. While I spend a lot of my time there with my moto, I have heard many people comment about all of these things and wish aloud that things were better. As the central gathering area in our community, it would help all of the young people here have greater pride in our community if the area was cleaner and better taken care of. It would also provide a more respectable impression for visitors to the area who come through on the main road and that’s the first place that they see. It would not take a lot of work to improve the condition of the environment there but it would make a big impact on how our community is perceived.
That is why we at the Mountaintop BAZ are asking for your help to make this project possible. We would like to do some work around the intersection to give it a simple facelift and improve the experience of all who use the space. We would do some ground work, plant trees, and install a number of garbage cans to collect trash. We would be responsible on a regular basis to empty the trash and dispose of it in a better manner.
In addition to the main intersection, we would also like to install garbage cans in other popular areas of the community such as the market, the Catholic church, and the public school. Simply having a place to dispose of trash will make a big difference in making Mizak a cleaner and more beautiful place. This will give everyone more pride in where they come from, but it will especially be important for those of us young adults who are the future of the community to show that we really do care about keeping our streets and our environment clean.
Our proposal includes buying and installing 15 garbage bins around the community, doing the ground work and sustained clean up in the street, and planting a number of trees for shade. The garbage bins will be made locally and installed permanently to avoid theft or vandalism of them. Because of the materials used to make them, they must be made in groups of three, which costs $150.
15 Garbage Bins = $750
Tools for Clean Up = $250
Trees = $100
TOTAL = $1100
Please help us reach our goal to make this project possible and clean up our town! You can do so by either:
By Pierre Richard Prevot, Member of the Mountaintop BAZ
“I will not accept this situation. I will fight until the end to liberate Haiti. We will fight with everyone who understands our circumstances until the very time that Haiti is wholly independent.” – Georges Sylvain
This is one quote that has always stuck with me. When I first learned about Georges Sylvain in literature class and read his writings and heard about everything that he did for our country, I was inspired. I took this quote and wrote it down on the top of my notebook so that everyday when taking notes I would see it and be reminded of why I am getting an education. To remind myself that our country needs people to fight for it and to do that we must be educated. I am currently in my final year of high school, but just as Sylvain said he would never stop, I too know that I will continue to fight for a better future for my country. This is why I hope to go on after I graduate and study in university so that I may one day become a judge, a diplomat, a university professor, or maybe even president of Haiti. I know that it is possible but I would have never imagined such a future if I had not been exposed to the example of such wise individuals as Sylvain in school. Learning of these writers and thinkers and leaders of Haitian history makes a young man like me want to be like them and make a difference like they did.
It is not easy, though, for me to believe in such possibilities. I am the oldest of my parents’ six children and this year will become the first of my family to graduate high school, God willing. Neither of my parents ever went to school. They worked hard and sacrificed for me and my siblings so that we may have the opportunity that they never had themselves. They are farmers who would have never imagined that they may have a son who would someday believe that he had what it takes to become president. But because they made sure that I got an education, I learned about how ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they set their hearts and their minds towards their goals. It is because of this that I understand the value of a good education.
But it is not easy for a young man in our society to see this value in learning. We are not ever told that we can be anything great. No, rather we are told that we are the source of our country’s problems. We are never told that we can be part of the solution. What are we to do? If we never have the chance to go to school and see those other possibilities and learn what other men have become, how are we ever supposed to believe in our own value? There are many young Haitian men who have not had the opportunity to learn these things and because of that it becomes difficult for us all. Those who don’t have an education remain directionless with a spirit of negativity to guide them. They have never learned anything except how to insult others and act like jerks. But those who go to school have the chance to absorb wisdom by learning of the wisdom of others. This doesn’t mean that every educated person is indeed wise, but it is difficult to become wise without an education.
Wisdom comes from always trying to improve yourself and always making an effort to reach for something higher. I am not saying that every young Haitian man needs to shoot for the presidency, but even a motorcycle taxi driver gains something by searching for wisdom. If you are sitting at the corner waiting for passengers, the wise driver will be having conversations with the other drivers that encourage and enrich others lives. That is so much better than being the jerk on the corner who harasses everyone he sees. Even though I am still young, I have seen the results that having an education can provide oneself. Today if I have a little money to buy some soap or toothpaste for myself it is because I am able to earn it by substitute teaching for elementary classes in my community. Without an education of my own, I would not be able to pass on an education for younger children either. Just as I have been inspired by the example of wise men who have gone before me, I want to be an inspiration to a child who sees wisdom in me.
This is why I am happy to be a part of the Mountaintop BAZ we are searching for ways so that we, the young men who are members of the BAZ, can all pursue more wisdom in our futures by furthering our educations, but we are also being examples for the next generation. At the same time that we are searching for support for ourselves, we are providing support for a group of children in our community too so that they can have a strong start to their own journey of education. We understand that in order to be role models, we must first educate ourselves.
I would ask that everyone would consider supporting us on this mission. Although we all agree that an education has immeasurable value, it is difficult for many of us to go to school because of a lack of financial support. We do not come from wealthy families and many of us have missed multiple years of school already because we are not able to afford it. And each year that we grow older, it becomes more difficult. Yet, if we have the help that we need to complete our schooling, the possibilities for us after that are endless. We are young men who are committed to using our educations to spark development and make a difference in the lives of others. And with that education, we can go far.
Someday, when I am president, I will invest in our country’s education system because it is so important and I want every child to know just how important it is. I will tell my own children what life holds for them and how an education can help them go through life with success and wisdom. Thank you for supporting us in this endeavor.
To find out more about our sponsorship opportunities at the Mountaintop BAZ to help our members continue their educations and follow a path towards wisdom, go this page for more information. Thank you!
By Jerry Gard – Member of the Mountaintop BAZ, with Lee Rainboth after their trip to Anse-a-Pitres, Haiti, with a delegation from The Haiti Initiative, Jacmel.
I am a Haitian. I have always thought of myself as such. Even though I was born in the Dominican Republic and lived there until I was 12, I was raised with an awareness of where I came from. Although my parents were legal residents of the DR and made sure that all of their children had papers as well, we spoke Creole at home and were always made to believe that our place in the DR was temporary. My father had moved there to find work, which he did, with a plastic flower company and he was responsible for transporting the flowers to the Haitian border to be sold and distributed. We enjoyed a comfortable life in the DR, but just as we were taught at home about our roots, every time we left the house, we were also reminded that we were not Dominican. I became fluent in Spanish at a young age and have a lighter complexion than some of my siblings, so I learned that as long as I dress nicely and act appropriately, I could fit in with the children around me. But I had other Haitian friends whose parents worked in the fields and who never learned Spanish and who were born with darker skin and who were never able to acquire the proper paperwork that were always looked down upon. Still, when I was a child, I always felt that the DR was a place that welcomed people like my family who were just searching for a better chance at life.
The Dominican Republic that I see today deporting Haitians and treating them like animals is not the Dominican Republic that I remember from my youth. The Dominican Republic of today has grown hard and mean. They think that everything bad in their society is the fault of the Haitians that are there. Last week I saw the effects of this change first hand as I visited the city of Anse-a-Pitres. I met the victims of the coldness that has taken a hold of the heart of the Dominican Republic. And it has touched me deeply and hurts my own heart to see the situation that has resulted from the government deciding that Haitians are not welcome there anymore. It makes me question what my fate would be if I was still there. Just 3 years ago I was in the DR again, seeking refuge after my family lost our home to the earthquake that devastated Haiti, and even then, the DR welcomed us. But now we are back in Haiti, living life in my father’s home region of Mizak, and thousands of my fellow Haitians who had been living in the DR are now clinging to life on the border under tents made of garbage. They are there because the Domican Republic that they had counted on to provide them a better chance at life is now denying the right to pursue that life that they were searching for. It is heartbreaking.
We rode on a boat to get to Anse-a-Pitres, spending 8 hours on the sea. The boat was crowded, uncomfortable, and rough. It was a large wooden boat made for transporting cargo to the DR border for commerce. On top of the barrels of gas, sacks of rice, and coolers of ice, over 60 people squished in for the night to sleep until they arrived on the shore of Anse-a-Pitres. But the thing is, you can imagine, it is hard to get any sleep in a situation like that. My body was contorted on an uneven surface being pushed and shaken by the many other bodies trying to find comfort. I spent the night failing to find rest. When we arrived at 6am the next morning I had not slept and my body was in pain.
But the pain that I felt after one night on that boat was nothing compared to the pain that the families in the camps outside of Anse-a-Pitres must feel every night and every day. They are living in conditions that can only be described as Hell. They call the place that they are living “Plas Kado” but I think “Lanfe” would be more appropriate. And the families and their children are living under torn tarps with no beds, only the hard, dusty ground to sleep on. And they do that every day because it’s better than enduring what the DR was doing to them. They go to sleep on that hard, dusty ground every night with empty stomachs and no hope for the coming morrow. I know what hunger feels like, but I can’t imagine the extremes that they are living through there. This hunger and this pain is beyond what I can relate to. It hurts my heart for them because I can imagine how close I could have been to being in their shoes.
Even though my family was always legal I have heard the people in the camps tell me stories of how it really doesn’t matter if you’re legal or not. If you look Haitian, if you are too black, if you are dressed in dirty clothes, if you are speaking too much Creole, if you’re simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, you can be arrested and deported without a chance to even prove yourself legal. If my family had not chosen to return to Haiti when we did, it’s very possible that we would have been forced into the same situation as all of those people in Plas Kado. So it hurts.
It hurts because it makes me think of my little brothers and sisters. I see the children in this camp who had absolutely no choice in the matter. They were born in the DR and have never known a place called Haiti, and yet that is where they are now expected to call home. They were living in nice houses and ate regularly when they lived in the DR but now they are here in this desert and their hair is orange from malnutrition and their bellies are extended from the hunger. Because of the ugliness of mankind, these children are suffering. And something must be done to make these children believe that life exists and that their future is worth hoping for.
I encountered one little girl of about 6-years-old, who was bald, her hair having been shaved because of disease, who took my hand and led me to the tent where she lived with her father, two siblings, and a grandmother. Next to the hut made of plastic sheets and scraps of fabric was a pot sitting on top of a fire made of cacti lit on fire. Inside the pot was a tiny bit of white rice with no lid. Within the few minutes that I sat there and spoke with the girl’s father, the wind blew so much dust up that I was sure there was more dirt than rice in the pot. The dust was the only seasoning added to the rice. And it scared me to think about how they were actually going to divide that meal up between the family. It was less than what I was used to eating by myself back in Mizak. And this was supposed to feed this whole family. My family is not wealthy by any means. We live in a one room home that was built by the Red Cross and given to us after the earthquake and my mother and father still struggle to find jobs in the fields or with commerce in the city to provide for me and my siblings. But when I saw how the people are living in Plas Kado, it made me feel like a king back in Mizak.
And now that I am back in Mizak, I can’t stop thinking about those people in Plas Kado and what my responsibility to them is. Ultimately, the solution to the problem is not easy. It has to start with the government. For years they have been playing petty political games with salami and eggs, thinking that boycotts and rumors would somehow lead to justice between the countries. But now that real people are suffering real consequences, there is no greater crime than allowing the suffering to continue while the political games continue. Real action must be taken to help the people who are the victims of this decades old conflict. We share an island, we are all children of the same land. We must find a way to resolve our own conflicts between each other and help each other move forward stronger than before.
As elections near this fall, I hope that more Haitians start to take notice and educate themselves on the situation occurring at the border. I will be doing what I can to talk with leaders within my own community to let them know what I have seen there so that we can discuss together what we can do to help our fellow Haitians who are now suffering. We have so many families in Mizak that have children, or siblings, or other family currently in the Dominican Republic, we can’t pretend that it doesn’t affect us. If it doesn’t affect us directly now, we need to be aware that it will certainly affect us in a very real way soon enough. And we must prepare ourselves by being informed and being actively petitioning for change starting now.
I am proud to be Haitian. But I am hoping for a day to come when those thousands of people now stuck at the border can also say that they are proud to be Haitian rather than confused and suffering at essentially being no body. When I was younger, the Dominican Republic welcomed me and my family. Now I hope that Haiti can find a way to welcome these other people in need of a place to call home.