Category → Haiti

YOUTH as Equals

If we really think of youth as equals, then we really wouldn’t refer to them by their age.

They would just be equals and then how we identify them would be by their characteristics, smarts, talents, gifts and quirks, right?

Art Around The House

August 2012 Art

Student Art

I love student art!  I love almost any art!  I love active learning!

Preparing

August in the US usually means youth and families are changing gears, getting ready to go back to school.

As adults, I find many are also taking stock of what is ahead, what is the new learning, what is the next challenge, what is the next climb.

I think adults follow the same rituals as young people, prepare the pens, download the new software, take out the paper, build a calendar.  But the rest of the rituals are those we have to create, opening parties, scheduling our own classes, creating time for vacations.

Youth Work in the Front Yard

I have one of those houses where the kids gather, to play with the dog, swing on the hammock, watch lion king, build a fort, put up the tent in the living room.

Over the last few weeks the kids of the neighborhood and I have been finally doing yard work to repair the yard where the 80 foot tree use to live (tornado damage from two years ago).

Magnolia Bush and perennials and tulips

Education

For all those interested in education reform, most will concede we have failed MANY our youth by giving up on them, left them with a system designed for the industrial revolution, instruction with limited to no relevancy for today’s world and often encourage youth to find a home outside of school outside when it gets rough.  Many have found ways to get behind an idea or an issue that lands in positive results for youth.  Some get behind intensive school days that land in year round schools.  Some get behind adapting instructional methods to meet learning styles.  Some get behind really high expectations as a guidepost through the flood. Some focus on quality evaluation and studying it to improve results.  Some get behind the art of teaching and a good mentor to boost that instructional level.  What all these methods hold in common is a laser focus on trying to do better for youth and families.  When things don’t work, it is our duty to investigate methods to improve the system and instruction.  We need to set the same high expectations for ourselves that we do for youth.  This is true in education reform and any element of our government or taxpayer funding when old methods aren’t working.

Family

We make fun of each other.  It is what we do in life, to show our love, to show a familiarity.  It is how Irish Catholic families pass on their traditions of storytelling and guilt at the same time.  I love sparring with my brother Michael (who alternately works for the senator, city, quasi-governmental organization or congressman) he LOVES the debate game and laughter through a good argument and baiting us all into his web of expert thinking. He asks good questions, sometimes to lead us to his conclusions and sometimes to ask good questions.

He loves the inside joke that some of us don’t follow and is an incredibly generous soul.  I thought he was making fun of me on a trip to Haiti and I laid into him about how he would feel if his wife and  lovely daughters were living in an inadequate tent with rain pouring through the shitty USAID tarp.  I was too close to the situation to see his humor and maybe too close now to laugh.  I thought I guilted him into giving to Haiti. I don’t want to guilt anyone to giving to Haiti.  I will take guilt money, but it is not a tradition I want to continue. In truth, he had already given and gave again after our email exchange. He gave because it was the right thing to do.  He says that if he donated every time I was mad at him he would be broke, but the world would be better for it.  

I  am constantly inspired to do more work with Haitians, for Haitian and around Haiti.  That is the truth.  Everyone keeps asking me if I am going to Japan.  Partly to make fun of me, partly to understand why I keep going back to Haiti and I think partly because people don’t know what to say to get to those smart questions.

I am amazed by the progress made on the ground.

Amazed that the small groups of people working in partnership with Haitians is helping.

Amazed.  I didn’t know or really put much hope into large scale change.  It feels like you can’t expect too much with post traumatic stress.

But, large scale change is happening. Or more accurately highly dedicated courageous souls are pushing ahead with strategies that make large scale change a reality.

Mario Joesph inspired us …Brian Concannon asked us to think …Lisa Davis taught us …Blaine Bookey continually strategized …Malya Villard-Apollon reminds us to think big, to believe in oneself, to lead and lead and continue to lead. Others at Center for Constitutional Rights, the BAI, IJDH, The Goldin Institute and all their funding partners are continually adding to the work, discourse and strategy.

This is a unique coalition of talented souls.  Amazingly talented.

Imagine living in a tent.  Then imagine having the strength to do this.  This is incredible.  Almost unimaginable.   If I was living in a tent I don’t think I would have 1/10 the courage and strength.  This is how the world changes.

Travel

Each time we embark on something new, we open our eyes in a different way. We notice elements of the experience differently. When you land in a new place, you have to take it in differently, for guideposts, markers, unique characteristics. Each time I land in a new city or country I open my eyes differently, wondering what is different, what is new, what will this trip uncover. This last trip to Haiti I kept noticing the language we used, the acronyms we relied on.

Housing

Hit for Haiti A SUCCESS

Fred Wells Raised over $1500 in 5 hours for Haiti!
Proceeds went to IJDH.org
What a great success

and I played tennis for the first time since back surgery, big step forward (thanks brandon)….

Hit for HAITI

At Fred Wells Tennis & Education Center

Come play tennis to support a great cause!

May 27th 9:30-2 PM

$15 to play and ALL proceeds go to Haiti.

Food for purchase will be provided by Fat Lorenzos

Help FWTEC give back.
This is a core value of our mission!

NPR picked up the story of ARC….

An Ordinary or Extra-Ordinary Citizen of the world…

Friends

It was a really hard week. I miss my friends on either coasts. They are those touchstone people that remind me of who I am in my soul and help ease the pain of uncertainty. I would have paid any amount of money to have had those people with me this past week. Know that feeling?
John Haitt’s lyrics will have to do…

HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME

When the road gets dark
And you can no longer see
Just let my love throw a spark
And have a little faith in me

And when the tears you cry
Are all you can believe
Just give these loving arms a try
And have a little faith in me
And

Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me

When your secret heart
Cannot speak so easily
Come here darlin’
From a whisper start
To have a little faith in me

And when your back’s against the wall
Just turn around and you will see
I will catch, I will catch your fall baby
Just have a little faith in me

Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me

[sung over fade]
Well, I’ve been loving you for such a long time girl
Expecting nothing in return
Just for you to have a little faith in me
You see time, time is our friend
’cause for us there is no end
And all you gotta do is have a little faith in me
I said I will hold you up, I will hold you up
Your love gives me strength enough
So have a little faith in me

Listening

Strategy…

How to make things better?
How to push on one lever to impact another?

How to support and sing real praises?

How to listen, really listen?

How to let others speak first….

How to engage smart young people?

How to speak from the heart…

How to engage in real discussions on real topics that people care about?

How to listen to others passions….

Be it a want of a 10 year old to be a newscaster
or
The churn of lawyers wanting to make it in their careers
or
The voices of haitian women just trying to find a way, any way…

Questions from a Really Bright 16 Year Old

Productive

Productive?
We want to be helpful, we want to contribute, find a way to share ourselves with the people we love and care about. So imagine 11 human rights types (all women by the way) trying to find ways to help, feel productive, keep that hope and helping spirit alive. At times it was comical. Some people focused on getting us nutrition and regular meals. Others focused on making food, we made hummus on a couple of occasions (there was tahini paste in the air conditioned grocery store). Others were in charge of the rape victim interviews. Others were leaders on the meetings with the UN type folks. Then there was the WE NEED A DRINK group that grew larger every night. We all were looking for ways to feel productive.
On a really bad day I just had it, I knew I had it so I sat on the outside of the circle, tried to keep my mouth shut and busy my mind with song lyrics running through my head. I didn’t know that everyone else could tell I had it, didn’t know what the look on my face was conveying. I was trying to stare at the ants and my mosquito bites. I wasn’t mad at anyone, I had just had it, didn’t want to talk, convince anyone, debate anything or be a part of the problem. I didn’t want us to tell the women’s group what to do; I didn’t want to create things they might not need. I didn’t want to guide them in a conversation to a conclusion I had reached. I was just done. And if you know me you probably know the look that was on my face, but I can guess what I might have looked like.
Instead I went to the back of the office where we were guests and I literally wanted to stack bricks, clean the garbage, paint the wall, clean the shower or organize the office. I wanted to do anything that was productive. I wanted to find my way to be helpful. There were people there that were paid that could have done these tasks, but there was a specific need that I saw. It was an overwhelming sense to just work hard for the sense of relief. It was a very bootstraps moment. I have boots and can do this. I drew up my mental list, the flowchart in the universe of what should happen first. Then the three minutes of silence ended and a rape victim had arrived, my real task at hand for the day presented itself.
I got together the digital audio recorder, laptop, notebook, fellow interviewer and translator. We found our way to dig deep, be present to these women, record their stories and prepare their cases for prosecution. Right now I sit feeling so damn alone, not wanting this moment to be a misstep of sharing their stories to become an embarrassment by sharing too much, or sensationalizing their pain, misrepresent their stories or spread that angst. Then I immediately wonder how alone these women feel in the depths of their souls, how alone they feel every night, how they miss their parents and family that were killed in the earthquake. I know they are not alone, we are with them in reality and in spirit and they will be with us forever.
To support this project donate to ijdh.org…. give monthly to give more… oh damn, as tamara said, just give people, damn it, GIVE

Culture

Travel, Earth Quake Shock and HAITI
I love, love, love traveling, wandering, exploring, finding my way, getting lost, learning to navigate a new train station, bus stop or airport. I find it thrilling to get off a plane and look around; take in the sights and sounds of a new country. It’s all one big adventure, with calculated risks and a significant amount of anticipating my next mistake, misstep or full-fledged embarrassment. I have learned to navigate in odd situations, student uprising upon arrival in Kenya; men with machine guns in the airport may or may not be every day security? Traveling with my sister in Paris or Istanbul where we created code words when there was danger, our security word was torpedo (as in the big large torpedo that we rode behind the speed boat and jumped up and down on) and we used it on the subway/marketplaces with success keeping our money and cameras ….
I love it. I might not want to climb Everest, but in Tibet we wanted to get close enough to feel it.
Arriving in Haiti this time it was different. I knew enough to be scared, hopefully good scared. For the first time in my life I wrote out a will before I left (at 4am). This wasn’t Istanbul or Kenya, this was a country ravaged by repaying foreign countries for the freedom after a slave revolt, and continual coup’s to further US interests and now a massive earthquake. And I knew I wasn’t on my own, I couldn’t just find a way to scream torpedo to my sister and slip out of it. I was worried to be with 11 women I didn’t know. I was worried about their fear and how that might put us in jeopardy. And in fairness to these new friends, we should have been on guard we hadn’t created code words. I met three lawyers in the Miami airport on our way down. I knew they were part of the group I was looking for when they walked into the gate. All three were somewhat blonde, they looked like human rights lawyers, had patterned bags, walked tall. They knew to find me as well, I am sure I was as recognizable with my Sherpani bag, REI sandals and IPOD. It was one of those flights when every time the jet dropped 10 feet and your stomach sank you wondered if you were going to make it to Haiti.
Once we arrived, got on the bus that you might see in a Swiss airport, got to the newly converted hanger that was nicer than other Caribbean countries we began to relax. All four of us helped each other with bags, sharing watch and support. We navigated men trying to help us with bags, found the driver IJDH had sent and climbed on top of each other in the car I finally relaxed. I remembered how I knew how to do all this. Hold everything on my body, walk quickly, keep moving and use my long legs and body to be a presence.
The Earth Quake Shock hit as soon as we left the airport. There were tented (internally displaced people camps) camps EVERYWHERE: across from the airport; along every major road; in every park; in every museum courtyard; across from the presidential palace; on soccer fields; on golf courses; in the street on the block we lived. We thought we were living in a palace because we had a secured driveway, behind a locked door with 24 hour armed security. Granted the security slept through our revelry and shenanigans, but there was a Haitian guy who was there to help if we needed it. I still think it was a palace, my sister didn’t really think so…
We all tried to take in the Culture to get over the Earth Quake Shock. You want to appreciate all that is Haiti. Right? There was commerce on every major sidewalk selling fruit, our daily Haitian peanut butter bread, sweat rags, drinks and flip flops. I was rather surprised this second economy seemed to be in full swing; we even found a grocery store that was air conditioned. We also continually noticed the well dressed school children in clean clothes, ribbons and braids in the girls’ hair. We could have been in Paris they were so well dressed. The Haitian women could have been in Paris too. In our first meeting with the Haitian women’s organizations I realized they had out dressed us; many had on earrings, necklaces, hair DONE, real shoes (not our house looking shoes). They also stood proudly, strong, and confident, this wasn’t an act, and this was how they dug deep and got through the day. They had it, the IT factor, and the belief in themselves that was from deep in their core. This appreciation guided everything I did all week. It was at the core of when I spoke about action steps, at the core of how I thought about strategy, at the core of thinking about race and class and culture. It guided me through the week.
In a very strong way, this appreciation and honoring the IT factor these Haitian women possessed is why I wanted to help and why I ask everyone to keep caring about Haiti. If you were born in the US, you won the lottery; you were born in a country that provided free education and an opportunity. Every day I thought about who I would be and what my life would have been like if had been born in Haiti. Would I have access to water every day? Would I take a bucket shower when I got to work as a driver at the law office? Would I have access to a flush toilet? Would I be able to travel the world for fun and a sense of adventure and learning? Would I be selling peanut butter bread on the street corner in Haiti?
We hardly made it through some days and we had access to water, a few meals a day and reserves of cliff bars or nuts in all of our bags and safe shelter at night. I am shaking my head and tearing up, I still shaking my head in amazement. I wasn’t raped at gunpoint in front of my children and I am crying. Tragedy has continually struck these families and they are finding ways to make their lives better and advocate for each other. AMAZING.
If you want to read articles about Haiti, learn more about our project or donate check out ijdh.org

Life and Love

Life is funny, there are things that we hold within us that we can’t control, love is one of those things. We can’t control love, it is either there or it isn’t. You can’t make it up, you feel it deep in your soul. We can play mind games, trick ourselves, busy our minds, find distractions, but the minute that all slows down I go back to love. And, I am trying to learn to relish that about myself. I don’t immediately go to fear, I go to love. And when I love I try not to edit it, try not to control it, try not to play games with it. I am an open book.
I came back 1 day earlier than the delegation to show up for the baptism of my sister’s baby. In an Irish Catholic family my grandfather Mac always taught us to show up. As a Chicago cop that was doubly true. Showing up for family and those we love is a true gift, that love and loyalty are pieces of my soul and personality that i would not trade for anything. I might get stuck on love and make mistakes, but damn I am trying hard to live in the place of love even when that is damn hard, confusing and right now brings tears of a bit of lonliness in my heart.

Transitioning

You know that feeling when you get somewhere and all of a sudden you are met with a wave of emotions? I had it in the airports transitioning in Port au Prince, Fort Lauderdale and now Atlanta. It was overwhelming. The guard in PaP asked me if everything was ok and why I looked so sad, he asked me this in English; After I went through the three metal detectors. When I hit US customs in Ft. Lauderdale it happened again.
I know we were all holding it together. I know we were trying hard to support each other. I know we were trying more and more. But it seems as though you hit somewhat of a safe spot and all the emotions just well up.
I have had this before, remember it from other spots on the globe, tibet, cambodia, estonia, kenya…
It is just a new layer

Haitian Women

Courage

How 11 women got to haiti