BLOG: Green Family Foundation in Petit Goave, Haiti for Sinema Anba Zetwal

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Welcome to the latest recounting of our work and adventures in Haiti. We have the pleasure of having Green Family Foundation (GFF) founder Mrs. Dorothea Green and her lifelong friend, Boston Consignment owner Sheila Roy, with us. For this trip, we are again teamed with FastForward Haiti for a series of Sinema Anba Zetwal (SAZ) screenings. This month's screenings will be held in Petit Goave from Friday July 23 to Sunday July 25, 2010. Petit Goave is located about 40 miles southwest of Port au Prince and is almost exactly where the epicentre of the January 2010 earthquake struck.

Our team arrived at the Port au Prince airport Tuesday evening, roughly an hour after our scheduled time. Disembarking was great; we were met at the tarmac by Marie Marc from the consul and our logistics consultant, Becker. Immigration was a breeze: no line, no wait. Then came the luggage fracas. A full plane, a lot of luggage, and one small conveyor belt can try even the most patient traveler.

After 45 minutes everyone in our party reported they'd found their pieces. A rainy rush-and-tumble to our awaiting car, and off we went, forgetting all about the heat inside the luggage area. Haiti has a way of doing that: She puts you through the motions, tests your limits, then makes it all up to you in a flash. One becomes a "quick forgive" in this country.

Our accommodations at Hotel Villa Creole are comfortable and well-equipped, and most importantly, the grounds are magnificent, even though it sustained extensive damage from the quake. There's still a hearty and fresh breakfast every morning by the gorgeous pool, the housekeepers and staff are among the nicest in the country, and we see repairs are well underway.

GFF president Kimberly Green invited UN staff, Haitian business leaders, friends and associates to the welcome dinner for Mrs. Green and Mrs. Roy, held at Quartier Latin restaurant in Petionville. The group of 20 imbibed and feasted in celebration of the days to come. There was also lots of talk: catching up, introductions, and some learnings and questions. Our first night in Haiti wrapped up with scrumptious dessert and after-dinner cocktails. Back in our rooms, sleep came quickly.

Wednesday's schedule featured several meetings and one sublime learning experience, care of a visit to the Bureau de Nutrition et Developpement (BND), led by its Founder and General Manager, Rob Padberg. The non-profit BND employs about 50 office and field workers and 72 warehouse employees. Their main mission is to provide food and schooling for young children and to educate and train parents in childcare, hygiene, and other care-giving and nutritional aspects.

Rice in Haiti at BNDThe GFF team visited BND's Port au Prince warehouse, which serves as a distribution center for the pallets of rice and other food products that have been donated to Haiti since the quake. We saw USA rice, as well as rice from Thailand and other countries. Just outside the warehouse was a tent city; we could see children, many of them recipients of said rice, playing just outside the warehouse.

After our warehouse visit, we traveled to Cite Soleil, a slum area ravaged by the quake. But past iron gates, Mr. Padberg showed us the real fruit of BND's labors: the school canteen and family assistance grounds. The property was pristine, and as soon as we stepped out of our truck we were treated to the sound of five-year-olds during their morning exercises. "Un, deux, trois. Un, deux, trois" their voices rang out. The coach stood above them, leading them in their jumping and stretches.

We then entered one of the cafeterias, where we saw some beautiful faces, each looking at the visitors, all calling out a salutation to us. They sat in an orderly fashion, practicing proper table manners and wearing clean uniforms. You could feel love in the room. The nuns that care for the kids were warm and welcoming toward us, and the food didn't look too bad either.

Our host then led us to the nursery area, and by a school that had been rebuilt by BND, from a grass hut to a clean and safe concrete dwelling. At the nursery, we saw rows of colorful baby beds perfectly lined up, each sporting a stuffed animal to keep sleeping kids company. A bathing area serves a dual purpose: to bathe children and to teach new mothers how to properly keep their children clean. We can't say there were too many smiles on the babies' faces, but we can say that there was a respect and dignity in this place that was music to our ears. We congratulate Mr. Padberg and the staff at BND for the good, good works they do.

We heard about a general strike planned for Thursday. It could supposedly halt traffic and shut down some businesses. We read a travel advisory as well. But most of our team is well-traveled and comfortable with the Haitian way, so we are not too worried. Cautious, yes. But not worried.

The forecast called for rain, so we amended our dinner plans, which included a stop at Casa Nova Italian restaurant, and headed back to Quartier Latin, our gastronomic home away from home. After a great dinner and some lively conversation (mostly about prior Haiti adventures -- pig, anyone?), we headed back to Villa Creole. After a rejuvenating night swim, we turned in to await another gorgeous Haiti morning.

Also see Petit Goave Blog Day 2 and Petit Goave Blog Day 3