Two weeks ago, I was approached by my next door neighbor, Lucy. "I'm a teacher," she said. "And I'm bored. Do you have any school supplies?"
One duffel bag later I had emptied my house and sent every spare pen, piece of paper, crayon, sticker, and coloring book that I had to Lucy. Later that week, I got a surprise delivery from Colonel Hershey, the commander of the mission I did in Jacmel with the US Army in September. Some of it was for me and some of it was medical, but the bulk was school supplies! Four boxes went up the hill to Lucy.
She has been holding school 4 or 5 days a week for all the elementary school children in the camp. What makes me particularly happy is that she does not discriminate. There is one little girl at Lucy's school who I suspect is a child slave and who, under normal circumstances, would not be permitted to attend school.
Rumor has it that the owner of the field is going to kick everyone out soon. He showed up today and was taking measurements around the grounds, as if he will actually start building something soon. One of my neighbors told me angrily that the owner has ignored the field for the past 20+ years. Why would he suddenly decide now to build?
I hope that it is nothing more than rumor. The people are truly settled in with sturdier structures made with wood frames, tarps and tin roofs. They have moved their gardens to the tent city and one man even has his DJ equipment set up there! Some people have houses that they could go back to if they were not so scared, but several families are genuinely homeless. Where will they go?
Each week, I send Alix and Tchouko, my new right hand men (slightly more respected and experienced than G) out to buy rice, beans and corn for the camp. They distribute it to each family on Sunday afternoons and it feeds everyone for 2 or 3 main meals. The city has been giving water through the pipe system every week so water has not been an issue.
If you're like me, you've probably seen movies or read books where an impoverished individual brings a chicken or a goat or something wild to pay off a debt or to express gratitude. It's a cute and quaint custom that died after the Industrial Revolution, right? Wrong! In the past week alone, I have been given the following from grateful neighbors or patients: a bowl of porridge, 2 plates of rice and beans, a plate of Creole spaghetti and a soda, and a 20 pound sack of plaintains! Now, what exactly am I going to do if someone brings me a live chicken...