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Communiqué #062


to the PEOPLE of HAITI

July 27, 2009

July is proving to be a busy month for me.  The families here are starting early with their requests for financial help in sending their kids to school.  Perhaps it is because they learned last year that waiting too long means the money is gone and their child will not attend school for another year.  Since no school in Haiti is free, this challenge faces families each and every year!

Each day is now filled with knocks at my door.   The knocks begin early in the morning, many times before I am even dressed for the day. The parade to my door continues until dark and sometimes even after dark.  It usually is a mother or father or a family member who is now responsible for children of deceased family members.  The plea is the same.  “Can you help send my children to school?”  A sad story comes with just about every request.  One mother came to me with three of her children.  The mother has no job.  The fathers have disappeared and are not helping to support their children.  The family is eating only two meals each week. It is this same family who, about six months ago, came to me with a critically ill teen-aged child.  She died less than 24 hours after I met her and got her to a doctor. How can a back be turned on situations as sad as this?   But, the hard facts are that there is not enough money to say “Yes!” to each person who comes to my door!

I am forced to tell each family that I will take their children’s names and tuition cost information and will notify them if and when I have enough money to help them.  I make no promises that I will be able to help them.  They will hear from me, one way or the other, by the end of August, as initial fees are due to the schools the beginning of September.  They wait and hope and pray!

If you would watch me as I convert US dollars into Haitian gourdes to pay the tuition bills, you would laugh!  My bed is spread with mounds and mounds of money bills.  It looks like I am a millionaire.  The reality is that ONE US dollar is equal to 41 Haitian gourdes.  A little math will tell you that when I exchange 1000 US dollars, I have the equivalent of 41,000 dollars to count in the exchange process!  The counting is also a dirty process.  Never in the United States will you see a bill as dirty, as limp, and as smelly as are the Haitian gourdes.  One never knows where those bills have been before they reached my hands.  It is possible they have been dropped in the sewer, munched on by a goat, used by hands that had no toilet paper or a variety of other hard-to-believe possibilities.  You can be assured that I thoroughly wash my hands after being on money-counting duty!

After only a few short days of tuition pleas, Léon and I were looking forward to our one day retreat in celebration of our 3rd anniversary.  We splurged on an overnight trip to one of the resorts on Ile-a-Vache. The rest and relaxation was amazing!  The sand on the beach is white and warm. The water is aqua blue and cool enough to give some relief from the heat.  The meals are elaboratelyprepared.  (The chefs even made a special cake for us with three candles on it!) The room is AIR CONDITIONED – a very special treat!  The view, in every direction, is amazing.  The walks on the beach are breath-taking!  The one day and one night were over too soon and the door knocking resumed immediately upon our return to Les Cayes.

I may sound like a broken record (does the i-pod generation even know what that means?), but I wish to thank EACH AND EVERY ONE of you who have made contributions to the tuition assistance programs of Caribbean Children’s Foundation.  You are giving an incredibly wonderful gift to the children of Haiti.  Children here treasure an education and the chance to go to school.  You help keep their hopes and dreams alive….hopes for a better life!  THANK YOU FOR GIVING THEM THAT CHANCE!

I would like to dedicate this communiqué to my dear friend

Diane Louise Riojas Bennett,

who lost her battle with brain cancer on Monday, July 20, 2009!

Diane and I were friends since I was in 1st grade and she was in 3rd grade.

We both were “only girls” in families filled with brothers.

I was maid of honor in her wedding.

She was one of those friends who would always pick-me-up with her sunshiny outlook on life!

I look forward to being reunited with her in Heaven!

Rest in peace my dear friend!

Nora Léon Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic

Until next time ………….

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