Saturday, August 20, 2011

Next Update from Haiti

What’s Up Everybody?

Well first off thanks to everyone for their nice emails and kind words of support after my last blog update and photos.

So the last thing that I posted was that I as I was writing my Blog and uploading my photos the room that I was in flooded. What? Yup, flooded. It was raining quite hard but I was shocked when my room in the hotel which was on the 2nd floor flooded. So I go to the reception and I am completely soaked and I tell the guy that my room flooded and he looks at me like I told him that I needed a bar of soap or something. Then after a few mins he says that he’ll send someone up. Ok thanks. So 30 mins later a guy walks in the room and says something to himself in Creole and then leaves. 20 mins he comes back with another guy and they talk to each other in Creole for a few mins and then they come back 15 mins later with three towels and a bucket. I tell them that I think that we should switch rooms. Suddenly they speak French and agree with me and after about 3 hours I get a new room. Oh Haiti, I love you.

Monday and Tuesday was the last two days of our women’s course in Wharf Jeremy. It was so nice to see how happy these women were. The last day of the course the women on the course got there early to set up the venue. These women felt so much ownership over the program that they got there early and set up the venue. And this is women who have to wake up at 4 am or so to get water for the day for the family and cook food for the family and wash all the clothes. They did all that and many of them might have been beaten the night before or worse. And on Sunday night there was a shooting in the neighbourhood that we were in. Crazy. Amongst all that they came and helped set up the course venue. It really was incredible. It was one of the nicest moments of my life.

We interviewed many of the women after the course and again they told us the nicest things. Our Nouvelle Vie trainers did such a great job teaching their fellow Haitians the course. We Advance provided us with a venue and the trust of the community to deliver this course. And, Andrea and Hunter, the founders of Aid Still Required were the engine that drove this project. And our driver Andre turned out to be the best guy ever who helped us in countless ways. And most importantly some of the most hard done by women in the world were able to sleep a little bit better and be a bit calmer, happier and OK with themselves. . I really can’t describe how satisfying it was to work on this course.

So we finished that project and at 8 am the next morning I had a meeting at the UN Log Base in Port au Prince. It was so funny all the different experiences that you have here in a one day. I had a meeting with UNICEF to discuss Nouvelle Vie and UNICEF working together. Often at these moments in my life I think to myself, how in the hell did I end up in this situation? I’m just a kid from Windsor, Nova Scotia and I’m having a meeting with the UN. Most of the times in those meetings I am trying not say anything dumb or inappropriate.

The meeting with UNICEF went well and we should be working with them soon. We are waiting for official NGO status here in Haiti which we should have in the next week or two. It is the official NGO status so that we will be the same as Care for Children and OXFAM. Our approval is on the Minister of Plannings desk and we are waiting for his approval and after that happens then we can get our grant from UNICEF and start offering our programs in Cap-Haitian and Les Cayaes. Can everyone please take a second and say a prayer so that the we get our NGO status asap?

This is what I learned from meeting with UNICEF. Nouvelle Vie is psycho social capacity building program which is both sustainable and scalable. I had no idea a week ago about what any of those words meant. Thanks to Uma for helping me learn what everyone was saying. Ha ha.

Then I went back to Grass Roots United to wait for the plane to take me up to Cap-Haitian where I will be spending most of my time in Haiti. Sam is the founder of Grass Roots United and is a super cool guy from California and we met for the first time the other day and we hit it off immediately. I was telling him about my UNICEF meeting in the morning and he laughed and told me that they put him on the steering committee for Haiti and he had to have a cheat sheet for all the acronyms. I told him that I am glad to know that I have a brother in Haiti.

Then I flew up to Cap and it was so nice to get here. Cap-Haitian is up in the North of Haiti. It is the 2nd largest city in Haiti but it is so much more chilled out then Port au Prince. Port au Prince is like New York/Toronto and Cap-Haitian is like Halifax. I like the pace here.

Wilner and Lesley are both here in Cap. They are both 30 and Wilner is the Assistant Director of Nouvelle Vie. We have a house here which is more like an Ashram. They whole group from Nouvelle Vie gets together every day at 6 am to do Yoga and Sudarshan Kriya. And in the day they do some type of service work. And at 6 pm they do a Meditation and then Satsang (where they sing.) And they do this every day.

There is always about ten people in the house. Which is nice. They all speak French but they really speak Creole. So I’m not sure if I’m going to learn French or Creole this year?

I have a room here and a washroom with a shower which is nice. But it is still Haiti and the other day I was in the shower and it stopped working. I asked why and Wilner told me it was because there was no electricity and therefore the water pump didn’t work. And this morning someone went to the toilet and it wouldn’t flush and after two hours I had to put the #2 in a plastic bag and take it to the outhouse/commode. Great way to push the buttons of someone with OCD.

Everyone sleeps on the roof because it is too hot in the house at night. That is kind of nice. Bedtime is around 8:30 or 9 pm and everyone wakes up at 5 am or so with the sun.

I found peanut butter yesterday which is nice. And I got a phone so I can get emails now and BBM. Life is getting more and more normal every day. I still have a lot to learn. But I feel like I’m home now in Cap. And now it is to begin to work on the project.

Many people have asked what specifically will I be doing when I am here. My job here in Haiti is to transition Nouvelle Vie into a Haitian run organization. This should take 12 – 16 months. To make the project sustainable (meaning that it will continue) and scalable (that it can grow and others can join, learn and teach others). And to have measured support through methods and evaluations (which means that we do research to show what we are doing works and will keep working).

A few more things to add.

My little brother Nick keeps asking me if I have lost weight. And I don’t know if I have but I literally sweat 24 hours a day. Even in Air Conditioning which is hilarious. And when I do Yoga it looks like I just jumped into a pool. People have been asking how hot is it? I don’t know the answer to that, it is just hot all the time.

A great girl named Dorota from Atlanta, Ga and Poland was just here teaching an English class here in Cap and she just left to go home. She came two years ago and loved it so much here that she had to come back. And now I am alone in Haiti with the Nouvelle Vie team. Things should get interesting.

The Haitian people are so nice, beautiful, warm and welcoming. I just went out to put on my shoes and they told me that one of the little boys who hangs around the house was washing them. So nice but I can’t leave the house. Oh Haiti.

I don’t know if I’ll ever figure out Haiti but I’m definitely going to learn a lot here.

And last rambling thought. Haiti’s history is fascinating. They were the first slaves to every throw out the rulers. And ever since 1804 things have bloody and tumultuous here in Haiti.

That’s all for now.

Lots of Love to everyone,

Mark Christopher


  1. Mark, started my day today reading your Blog ,,I have to say it is quite amazing and as you describe each event I really try and picture you in that situation ....
    To say that I and we are all very PROUD of you would be expressing so little of how I am feeling ...I honestly get overwhelmed at how Proud I am of you .....
    one more compliment -- you are a great blog/story teller .... it is so you m\ark --please keep them coming ......
    I know it is not the safest place in the world so you need to be really Smart All the Time ---
    okay ... gotta jet -- Hugs my Son --- Love Dad

  2. Mark, I don't even know what to say but WOW! Your story melts my heart. It's crazy because I don't even know what you have been up to the last 15 years (??? So long?), and how it came to take you to Haiti, but here I am sharing your stories proudly with my friends. I am truly amazed by you. Thanks for sharing, I look forward to more stories. And like your dad said- Be Safe!

  3. Rock On, Brother - sending you the best from this side of the world. Bust someone who's not smiling for me. ;-)