Dialing Susan to Haiti

How do you help a struggling community? The first step is to listen carefully to the voices of the individuals. Ask the right questions, consider the responses, and continue to ask questions until you get the real story. Then get the story out there to people who can make a difference.

Imagine a woman who knows how to ask the important questions. Now, envision this woman teaching 93 teenagers to ask these questions. You can see the impact. This woman is my dear friend Susan. She has been doing this year after year. Training students to become documentarians. They create the most heartfelt portraits of real people who struggle. The students develop compassion, curiosity, writing skills, videography talent, and editing skills to produce professional quality documentaries to share the message of need.

Susan, please come, with your young scholars, to Haiti. They have stories to get out to the world. Haitian voices have not been heard. People are afraid to come to Haiti because the loudest message is that of violence. During my five day stay I only witnessed gentle kindness, gifts delivered to my boat every fifteen minutes, smiling faces of young and old, curiosity about my travels and my boat, skilled craftsmanship in building boats from felled trees and scraps of fabric, expert sailing and paddling skills among the very young and very old, gardening efforts in the bone dry dirt, and an ability to last days without food.

I tried to capture the essence of the community of Ile a Vache in photos.

A view from the hill.  Alembic sits mid photo
A view from the hill. Alembic sits mid photo

Cruisers have told me to avoid taking photos of people, so most are of the village. One enterprising man had transformed his home into a resort for visiting tourists.

Jerome's contact.  Come visit!
Jerome’s contact. Come visit!
Lovely curtains for a door to your room
Lovely curtains for a door to your room
Dining Room
Dining Room
Front Entry
Front Entry
Where the Creole meals are created
Where the Creole meals are created
Living Room
Living Room
New rooms under construction
New rooms under construction
A toilet and shower.  Unusual for this community
A toilet and shower. Unusual for this community

This was the only effort toward tourism, sanitation, and connection to the world wide web that I witnessed in the village. My tour guides were teenagers

My tour guide wants to be an engineer
My tour guide wants to be an engineer

and certainly did not show me all of the local developments.

Popular shared areas in the village were the playground, the church, and the boat yard where they constructed dugout canoes and more elaborate water craft, all without electricity or modern tools. Also noteworthy, were the street lights. While the island had no general electricity, there were many solar panels to power the street lights.

Playground
Playground
Solar Panels for Street Lights
Solar Panels for Street Lights
Beautifully handcrafted boats
Beautifully handcrafted boats
Church
Church

A few foreigners have come to this island to build establishments and locals have benefitted vaguely from the jobs and tourism. One French man came decades ago to build the Port Morgan Resort. Strolling through this resort, I met the proprietor, but encountered zero customers. Another woman came to help children and opened an orphanage. While this facility was too far away for me to visit on foot, I have heard that she continues her efforts with minimally funded success.

The landscape and access to the ocean is second to none, which begs the question: why can’t this island become a thriving tourist attraction? How can this community help itself? Most locals have inadequate food, no sanitary facilities, and cannot read or write. While I don’t want to inflict my ideals on any individual, I witnessed too many people begging for food, boat supplies, clothing, and revealing to me that they are barely surviving. I wish I could wave a magic wand and bring some ease to this lovely region.

Please, Susan, you are the magic wand. Please come to this lovely place, with your eager young people, to listen to their stories, and show the world how much they have to offer. Thank you for considering.

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