Sunday 23 February 2014

last hours

The final day and a quick swim in the sea was a pleasant surprise.  A friend turned up out of the blue to transport us to a good beach near Port-au-Prince - about an hour's drive.  Before this we had been packing and preparing to leave early next day.

In twelve hours we leave the convent.  The bus will take us on a twelve hour journey to Santo Domingo, Dominican capitol.  This is a kind of re-entry that I have always found helpful.  The transition from Haiti to home is hard enough and if it were direct from Port-au-Prince to London it would be even more of a shock.  Instead we can transition first to DR then after a day's rest and travel to Punta Cana we can head-off home.  The overnight flight on Wednesday gets us into to Gatwick Thursday morning.

The biggest news is the container is still being held at the port.  The slow process required for tax exemption status means that the month this can take, there's a $22 per day charge that we incur while the container sit there, bathing in the sun. In addition, this means that the sisters will have the difficult task of sorting through everything, when it eventually arrives, the stuff being mostly unlabelled, and they'll have to determine precisely where things will go.  This task will not be easy and they have been dreading the thought that we would not be here to act as arbiters in this difficult process.  Plus certain items were obviously obtained with particular groups in mind.  It was personally tough for me to inform one orphanage that they would not now be getting their climbing frame and other items because we were able to ensure that all the parts would get to them.  They took it well but it still breaks my heart to break such a promise.  We visited them four weeks ago with pictures of the climbing frame and big promises.  And now to promise them that these things would get to them in a second container is also a risky promise given that there is no guarantee that we will be successful sending a second.  This is one of those risks that one has to take.

There are some arguments amongst the sisters - who is getting what? - and feelings can run high with the easiest of tasks.  It can be hard for them to remain dispassionate when they want the best for the particular children under their care.  And it is perfectly understandable that mild grievances and jealousy can get in the way - they can get to us all.  I feel sorry that there might be some upset in this process but that's life . . and some good will come of it all even if there are tears along the way.

I am obviously disappointed not to help put the stuff where it was intended.  There has already been some dispute about the laptops - which I had decided should go to the young students at the technical college.  I met all these lads about three years ago and promised the director that I'd try to help in this way.  A few of the sisters feel that the college is well-equipped and that there are more needy people for this valuable resource.  What they didn't grasp was that I had wanted to give the students the laptops for their personal use and ownership . . not as equipment for the college, which the sisters were arguing against.  It was all lost in translation and before I knew it the list of 18 laptops was being dissected amongst spurious names and questionable recipients.  I concurred too easily.

Enough of the negatives - this task for the sisters will be good for them even if it does cause grievances and upset along the way.

Personally, I want to continue this effort to bring stuff for the children of Haiti.  There will be struggles and obstructions along the way.  The sisters are an excellent means to reach thousands of poor children here.  And shoes seem to be the very best means to help them.  Although other items will always be offered at the same time.  I have met two new priests who each have serious projects under way and the diocese here are rebuilding 53 churches that were levelled during the earthquake.  I couldn't say what really drives my desire to help, but now I've seen so much of what they lack - seen how the youngest of them have so little - I can only ask those back home, that have arguably more than they need, to give to Haiti.  They are the generous - I'm glad to act as carrier.  Then there is being here, simply as an act of solidarity, which is perhaps more important than any action, than any campaign of persuasion or appeal of compassion.  I am still compelled to give stuff, material stuff.  But just being and being here, as I've heard in so many situations, is the best form support and compassion but of course it has to be supported by some positive action surely.  We want to bring about some kind of change - however slight or subtle.  As I am so often aware that may carry some arrogance and conceit which one has to simply accept as probably true, but together with impediment one must remember how insignificant we are.