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Communiqué #092


to the PEOPLE of HAITI

January 19, 2012

Springing from the depths of poverty are inventive ways of making a dollar or two.  On more than one occasion, I have observed ways just how creative Haitians can be.  Much of what they have chosen to do would be beneath the dignity of someone who has not faced the day-to-day challenges of finding ways to keep your family alive.  But when starvation is a cruel reality, no task is beneath one’s dignity.

Huge freight ships from Venezuela bring large loads of cement into the waters of the Caribbean Sea near LesCayes.  The ships are too large to dock at the wharf.  They remain off-shore, while 50 lb bags of cement are hand transferred to smaller boats that will bring the commodity to the wharf where it will either be transported in trucks to the business district or purchased at the wharf to be shipped to other places in Haiti.

The wharf is a place busy with activity. While the bags of cement await their final destination, they are exposed to theft and possible ruin during a rain storm.  In the handling of the bags, many bags split open and their contents spill onto the surface of the concrete wharf.  Strong winds will blow spilled cement dust into the sea and swirl the remaining powder at the feet of its handlers.  Bags left in the elements sometimes harden into a rock-like material that is considered useless by most!

When all the transport trucks, the pickup trucks, and the human-pulled carts leave the scene, this is when the persons scavenging for a way to feed their families move in!   They will find discarded and torn cement sacks or burlap sacks and begin the tedious process of filling the sacks with cement dust.  The wharf surface is meticulously swept for every morsel of useable cement.  Each hardened clump of cement is banged together with another cement clump in hopes of loosening any salvageable cement.  The process is long and tedious in the baking sun of the Caribbean.  Work will continue until there is no more sun to see the task at hand.  Those performing this task will become totally caked with cement dust.  Their hair turns grey.  Their skin is coated and their clothes are covered.  Their eyelashes are laden.  Their nostrils are filled with dust that hardens with the moisture of their breath.  Only their eyes glisten with their normal color, peeping out from their ghost-like appearance.  Bathing, after the task is done, most certainly results in the hardening of the cement dust making the residue even harder to remove.  All this is done for the mere pennies that it earns.

It saddens my heart when I hear people who do not know Haiti declare that its people are lazy.  This is so far from the truth.  I see Haitians as people who work hard given the opportunity to do so.  I see them as people who make the best of the harshest of circumstances.  I see them as people who do not wallow in despair but prosper in hope!  I see them as an example to follow!

Nora Léon                        

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic         Until next time. God willing …………

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