I've lived alone for the past 2 1/2 years. Suddenly, I am living in a community of other foreigners, all loving Haiti and loving each other. It's complicated and tiring and absolutely wonderful. Let me introduce you to the members of our tribe:
Kathy and Beaver Brooks are the "chiefs", though they would hate to hear me describe them that way. They are certainly not our bosses, but they help cast vision, keep things moving in the right direction, and provide wisdom and experience. Beaver helps coordinate my work in conjunction with Providence Hospital, but his main task is taking care of the visiting teams that stay with us at the Big House, where the Brooks live. Kathy works with the women of Jubilee, making jewelry, purses, journals, sandals, baskets and other creative marketable items.
Their daughter Rebecca is 13, she’s homeschooled and babysits Youvendjy in the afternoons. All the teenage boys in Jubilee are madly in love with her.
Kervens is the Brooks’ adopted 13 year old son. He lived at Dorothy’s for 5 years, including the year that I was there, so he and I are special friends. He goes to school nearby and loves to read books, especially the Redwall series.
Scott, better known as Gwo Bab (Big Beard), is our resident handyman. He teaches English at several English schools, fixes all our plumbing, electric and carpentry problems, and rides around town on the loudest dirt bike I’ve ever heard.
Lala’s real name is Laura Lynn and she is a nurse by training but by trade, she is the director of Jubilee School. Lala has lived in a one room apartment above the school for 1 ½ years, speaks Creole fluently, and knows the community better than any of us.
Youvendjy is Lala’s adopted son. He was dying from malnutrition and sickle cell anemia when she took him in last year. He was sent to Dorothy’s for 8 months and then returned to Gonaives to live with Lala. He is the cutest, most cheerful 3 year-old in the whole city.
Across the street from the Big House, there is the Girls’ House. Grace, a nurse from Salt Lake City, arrived in January and has been my most frequent companion. She is the primary overseer of the clinic in Jubilee and we are working together to train our staff until they are self-sufficient. Grace amazes me daily with her self-confidence and sheer excellence in the care she provides.
Tia teaches pre-K and kindergarten at Jubilee School. She is the youngest of the girls at 22, but she has a huge heart and has made real friendships among the parents of her children. I love Tia’s ability to see a need and go meet it without hesitation or question.
Julie taught in the US for 8 years before moving to Haiti in 2010. Now she teaches 1st grade at Jubilee School and takes care of a set of twins whose mother died at birth and who live with their grandmother. Julie takes care of the chocolate cravings at the Girls’ House.
The newest teacher is April, a law enforcement officer who left her job to come join the tribe in the fall of 2011. She teaches pre-K with enthusiasm and creativity – yesterday we had no forks in our house because she’d taken them all to Jubilee for a lesson in table manners, complete with pancake breakfast cooked by her students.
The adobe house is not entirely finished yet, so the boys have been staying at the Big House since their arrival in September 2011, but within the next few days, they will take up residency in Jubilee.
Isaac shares the deep honor of being a New Englander, like me. He has a Masters in sports medicine, but in Jubilee, he has taken charge of our agriculture projects. Isaac also spends hours just mingling with the people, building relationships.
Chris accidentally became the English teacher. What started as a simple class 2 days a week for a dozen guys has now expanded to 120 students, beginner and advanced levels, 5 days a week, all taught by Chris, Scott, and 3 of their Haitian friends.
Josh, the younger of the Rustin brothers, is known as Rusty among the Americans and Bob Marley among the Haitians, thanks to his dreadlocks. He does construction work around the school, and like Isaac, spends a lot of time just visiting our Haitian neighbors and strengthening our relationship with the community.
Ben, the elder Rustin, is currently overseeing the construction of latrines and shower units for houses that we built this year and last year near the school. He is also our tractor driver and is always busy moving dirt and gravel for construction projects and getting our building ready for flood season this summer. Ben and Josh are the favorites of the teenage boys, acting as their mentors and big brothers.
And that's our tribe. Eclectic mix; big family.