To my friends and family,
When I first agreed to help start a community center/arts school in Haiti I had only two fears…
The first was the irrational thought that I could be attacked by some gang of marauding thugs, and the second was that we could start the community center, lose it and leave things worse than when we found them.
Sadly both these things may now come to pass.
Last Monday armed Haitian Police stormed into SA-K-LA-K-WEL
while children were present and basically ransacked the place. Throwing everything out into the street, they broke musical instruments, destroyed our only chalk board and stole what they wanted from our teachers living on the premises.
I have since learned that it had nothing to do with us, but rather a land dispute between our landlord and someone else. I am still in the process of gathering information, but it looks like it was orchestrated by a real estate agent involved in some sort of land deal. For now the only name we have is “Jonas”. I assume the intention is to scare us away before we sign the lease for another year. We are due to re-sign in January, so it stands to reason things will get worse before they get better.
If we were located in the city of Jacmel I would simply find another location, but we are in Oban. The purpose of being in Oban is to serve a community that is unable to travel into the city for the opportunities we offer. All of our foreign volunteers are safe (thankfully) but afraid and and coming home. After much consideration I have decided to stay the course, and will follow through with my plan to leave for Haiti on November 6th. I believe it to be a moral imperative to keep SA-K-LA-K-WEL
open for the artists and community that have come to depend on it. Over the next two months I hope to broker a deal that will satisfy all parties involved in this situation and if possible procure the location once and for all. Come January, Gabe Pallo
will also keep to his plans and return to start of the new trimester with me.
I was so touched to hear that our teachers were ushered away from the scene by neighbors and that the community ran out to try and stop the smash and grab taking place. After the police left, our students gathered everything of value and locked it up in a room upstairs to keep it safe.
I return to Haiti comforted by the fact that we have the support of the community, we have the aid of our neighbors and (it seems) we have the blessing of our landlord.
As some of you know, I was planning on blogging about the various activities I will be working on:
Translating Romeo & Juliet into Kreyol
Teaching a story telling class
And making goat cheese :)
I will still be doing all that, along with keeping you updated on the ongoing situation with the Haitian Police and whoever is pulling their strings.
It’s true, Haiti is the wild west in some sense, but it is also a place of law and of justice where many officials work tirelessly to make Haiti a place where these kinds of things don’t happen. What I ask of you is your help to make those in power take notice of us. Share my blog posts
, like us onFacebook
and help raise awareness about what is happening to our community center. Press and outside involvement is the best weapon we have against people that abuse their power in this way.
If you have a friend at the consulate or an uncle at USAID or a drinking buddy who could possibly help in any way, please send this on to them. SA-K-LA-K-WEL is a community center and anyone who gets involved becomes part of our community. In that way their thuggery will only make us stronger.
Thank you to all my amazing friends and family for your love and support.
Visit our website www.sa-k-la-k-wel.org
You will find the button to Like us on Facebook.