Sunday, November 28, 2010

Haitian Elections 2010

The Toyota Landcruiser that normally serves MPP's project, The Road to Life Yard, provided tansportation for voters during elections yesterday. Voters were enthusiastic, walking hours to get to polling stations and then waiting hours more, at times, to get the chance to vote.

Polling station, Los Palis (Third Section, Hinche, Central Plateau)

Elections in the municipality of Hinche went fairly smoothly and without violence. I hung out with Fenese, the MPP driver who used the project truck to help transport voters to and from polling stations, and to help deliver food to MPP election observers who were stationed inside the polling stations to help make sure that the voting was done fairly.

MPP carried out an incredibly intense and well-organized process of motivating rural farmers and their families. MPP also helped train and motivate election observers. The results were very apparent yesterday. The ill and the elderly, women with nursing babies, made their way down the mountains to cast their ballots.
It is possibly the most exciting thing I have had the privilege to be part of in my nearly seven years of serving with MPP.

While many of the political parties literally paid voters to vote for their candidates, MPP leaders and organizers held rallies and talked, sometimes community group by community group, explaining their ideas, as well as listening to the hopes and dreams of the rural participants. It was not democracy as we know it in the States. Exposure to television is mostly limited to the World Cup and newspapers in the rural areas don't exist at all. An illiteracy of 49% is also, of course, a huge factor. How do you get a message across when people don't read and don't have television? Even radios are limited by the batteries that people can afford to buy.
In the end, many people decided that as members of the Farmers Movement of Papay, they are first and foremost members of an orgainzation that is truly working to make a difference in their lives, and they voted in faith that the candidates that MPP endorsed would work with the same vision.
It was an experience. There were many reports of relatively minor fraud in the polling stations in Hinche where Jenny and I had Haitian friends who were working as election observers. In part due to their vigilance, in most of those stations, the voting remained under control. Unfortunately, word is that their was widespread fraud throughout most of the rest of the country.
One report that I just found on Internet ( suggests that the turmoil was related to the problems of the country, the chaos related to the cholera epidemic and the after-effects of the earthquake. But that is not the analysis of the leaders of MPP. Together with all of the leaders of the main opposition parties, they point the finger at the party of the current government--Inite (Unity). Fanfan (Philefrant St. Nare, MPP's candidate for the Haitian Senate) told me that the government thought they would be the only participants in the elections. When they saw that they could not slide back into power without a struggle, and then found out that they could not buy the people's vote, they decided to win the elections through fraud, or cause enough chaos that they would have to be annuled.
What will happend next? Only God knows.
As you pray for Haiti, please pray for the poor farming families who voted with their feet and with their hearts. Pray that their efforts may not be in vain and they will find new hope, beyond, perhaps, all expectations.
In Christ,
Mark, Jenny and Keila

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cholera Update

Hey Friend,

Just a note to let you all know that Jenny and Keila and I continue to be blessed with normal health. We continue to take normal precautions to prevent intestinal problems, including, and especially, to prevent a close-encounter with cholera. Please continue to hold us in your prayers, and all Haitians, as they struggle to deal with yet another tragedy.

Cholera, floods, the earthquake, all of these tragedies are caused or affected by poverty and poor governance.

The current cholera epidemic has been magnified by the lack of clean water for drinking, cooking and bathing, as well as inadequate sanitation. The response to stem the epidemic is hampered by poor infrastructure and inadequate medical facilities. The reported death toll may, in reality, be as much as twice as high, according to a conversation Jenny and I had with Chavannes Jean Baptiste, the executive director of MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay--Farmer's Movement of Papaye). Because roads are bad, public transportation in many places non-existent and public health centers few, many of the victims never receive any medical assistance and their deaths remain unregistered.

Many efforts are being made to spread information that can help stop the spread of the disease. Messages and information are being broadcast via cell phones and via radio stations about how to prevent and how to treat the disease. But lack of basic education is a problem. With over 45% of the population over the age of fifteen unable to read or write (google: haiti literacy), there are many basic concepts that don't translate easily. What does hand washing mean to someone who knows almost nothing about microbes, viruses and bacteria? Without solid understanding of disease mechanisms, it is also easy for many diseases to be understood as the effects of witchcraft. And witchcraft of course, can only be treated by witchcraft.

A Haitian friend I was talking to yesterday asked why the government wasn't organizing health brigades to go out into the countryside to share information and resources. Wilfrid asked why groups of young people couldn't be going house to house to really give people a sense of the urgency and effectiveness of the methods for keeping themselves healthy--providing, house by house, packages of powdered chlorine for treating the water, and packages of mineral salts for making rehyrdation fluid. National and international agencies are working with the government to treat the sick, but really, only a national effort, coordinated and energized by the national government can have the kind of extensive and profound impact needed to change the underlying causes feeding the epidemic. Haiti does not yet have the kind of people in government that are willing to make that happen.

National elections are a week from Sunday (November 28th). This may not be a good time for elections, but it may be, too, that they will offer the country hope for real change. Keep us in your prayers, keep the people of Haiti in your prayers.

Thank you.

Mark, Jenny and Keila

News about Interpretation Assignment 2011

Jenny, Keila and Mark, in Managua, July 2010. Photo by Hypatia Bent

Hey Again,
Another note to let you all know that Jenny, Keila and I will be in the States from February through, approximately, June, 2011. For those reader who are members of churches who provide support for our work with MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay--Farmer's Movement of Papaye) we would be happy to work on scheduling a visit to your church or your presbytery.
Please contact us through our PC(USA) Mission Connections website:
We will also be trying to put together an updated address list of supporters. Once that is put together we will mail you all information about possible dates you could host us, or me. We will be working on getting residency in the States for Jenny, so she will not be readily available for travel.
We will be serving as missionaries-in-residence at ECHO during February and March, so during that period, we would prefer to focus on churches in the vicinity of ECHO's center in North Fort Myers, Florida (southwest Florida, just north of Naples). We currently have an engagement from February 19th-February 25th.
We look forward to hearing from you!
In Christ,
Mark, Jenny and Keila

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Some time by the ocean

The view from the deck outside the CODEP guesthouse, second floor. The view is to the northwest and you can just catch the outline of the island of La Gonave across the bay. Click on the photo to see the details more clearly.

Clements Jean and Keila checking out a mango tree (Janmari variety) at the CODEP guest house and fish production center in L'Acul, Haiti, about 18 miles south of Leogane. Jenny, Keila, Clements and I are here for a few days while the Toyota Landcruiser gets some repairs in Port au Prince. Clements is Keila's "nanny" when Jenny and I are working at our respective jobs with MPP in Papaye and she graciously agreed to help us out on this trip.
John Winings and his wife, Debbie, are hosting us at the CODEP guest house. CODEP is an integrated development project associated with the Haitian diocese of the Episcopal Church. It receives support from Presbyterian and Episcopal churches in the United States, which coordinate their efforts through the non-profit organization, Haiti Fund, Inc. John is HFI's executive director.
This is Keila's second trip to the ocean.

Map coordinates for L'Acul are 18º 26' 32.43" N, 72º 41' 21.57" W.

Colladère Cooperative and Farm

Colladère cooperative and farm, established on land provided to MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay--Farmer's Movement of Papay) to manage and care for. This is one of the areas of the farm where the Road to Life Yard crew is establishing some of the same techniques that they've worked with at MPP's training center in Papaye. In a small, fenced in area, approximately 45' X 60' (about 15 X 20 meters), the crew, led by Wilner Exil, has a compost pit (1 X 1 X 1 meter), five vegetable beds (1 X 4 meters), approximately six banks of over 30 vegetable tires and one bank of six tires with african redworms (Edrilus eugeniae). The structure painted black to the right is a drying shed that the crew uses for drying moringa leaves to make powder.
Above is one of the areas at the Colladère farm where the Road to Life Yard crew is producing moringa leaves and processing them into moringa leaf powder.The Road to Life Yard crew recently cut back the trees to increase leaf production and to provide light for the pigeon peas growing amid the trees. We used the cuttings to feed our goats at the center in Papaye.
During the five years since we began experimenting with moringa production at the farm, the crew has tried a number of different techniques for improving soil fertility and increasing leaf production, including the use of Canvalia (Canavalia ensiformis) planted under the trees. Canavalia improved soil fertility when we cut it back and hoed it under, but while growing, it significantly and negatively affected the trees' development.
All of the land where we are working with moringa at the farm had soils degraded by over farming and erosion.
The map coordinates for the Colladère farm are: 19º 13' 00.48" N, 72º 01' 38.7" W. On Google
Earth you can zoom back to images taken in 2003 and see some of the changes as the crew has planted hundres of moringa trees. Click on the photos to see more detail.

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