Sunday, May 4, 2008

Fredimix & Figinski

These brothers sometimes live in the other house on our property.
Our landlord is their father.
They have, simultaneously, broken and captured my heart.


Before coming to Haiti, I’d read quite a bit about the prevalence of HIV here. It is estimated that the numbers of people living with HIV in Haiti are the highest in the Western Hemisphere. So I came here anxious to learn about what that meant for the lives of people in Source Chaudes. A month ago, I sat down to chat with Jennifer (the director of the health project) about it. I anticipated that we’d have lots to talk about, so was shocked when our conversation about HIV in rural, Northwest Haiti took about a minute.

There are only two testing sites in the entire commune.
And none of the rural clinics here have any HIV medication.

Two testing sites.
No medication.
One month later, I’m still reeling.

If the women do not speak, the rocks will cry out.

Last Saturday, there was a parade in Source Chaudes. It was evident from the surprise and delight of the market-goers, this parade was the first of its kind. Bread and Puppets, a theater company from Vermont (with some similarities to Heart of the Beast in Mpls) came to Haiti last week to do a workshop with 15 Haitian women. Together, they created puppets, masks, and banners to share their stories with the community. Facilitators worked with the women to determine their topic and to write their stories. The topic was clear: the women wanted to talk about food.

And so they wrapped themselves in a banner of bold white and blue: If the women do not speak, the rocks will cry out. And they paraded through the Saturday morning market, with a procession of interested community members following them to the square. And then they spoke.

With puppets and music and color as their voice, the women of Source Chaudes asked their community to consider a renewed approach to food production and community development. They asked their neighbors to consider staying in Source Chaudes (and not saving money to move to the city). They asked them to consider that they could have a good life in Source Chaudes if they worked together. And, they said with great strength that it was time to plant – to plant food for the sustainability of their community.

I watched this beautiful ‘call to action’ unfold in the hot Haitian sun, and tried to put it into context with what I was learning about the current hunger strikes in Port au Prince and increasing rice prices in Haiti (and around the world). What does this global issue mean for the people of a rural community in Northwest Haiti? According to the Economist, rice prices around the world have risen 141% since January. Their suggested reasons include rising fuel costs, weather problems, increased demand in China and India, and the push to create biofuels from cereal crops. Specifically in Haiti, the issue has been further complicated by the role of rice trade (primarily importing from the United States) over the past 20 years. Not long ago, Haiti produced all of the rice they needed to feed their country. And now, the people of Port au Prince are rioting in the streets – and the women of Source Chaudes are calling out: We must plant! We must plant!

And so I will continue to try and understand the things I read and learn and see. And I will try to make decisions in my life that serve the common good. And, when needing inspiration, I will remember the strength of the women of Source Chaudes – dancing for food in the Haitian sun.

Happy Birthday, MOM!!!

My little friends (and I!!) are celebrating you in Haiti today...