Haiti Needs Urgent Support – Pen Ak Pwason Program Of St. Joseph’s House

The situation in Haiti is desperate. ROCLA is holding an urgent Zoom meeting about Haiti this Friday (6/14) at 2:30 PM.

We’ll learn about Haiti from our friend Sarah Brownell, and from her friend Mayor Johnny of Borgne, Haiti.

ROCLA will be donating to Sarah Brownell’s project: The Pen ak Pwason Food Program for the Elderly and Disabled in Borgne, Haiti. You can find information about this life-saving project below.

Information from Sarah Brownell about the situation in Haiti and The Pen ak Pwason Food Program for the Elderly and Disabled in Borgne, Haiti

NOTE: If you cannot join the zoom call to hear Sarah and Mayor Johnny of Borgne, here is information about how to make a contribution:

The Pen ak Pwason Food Program for the Elderly and Disabled in Borgne, Haiti

Link for Paypal donations: DONATE

Pen ak Pwason
PO Box 16760
Rochester, NY 14612-9998

The situation in Haiti is precarious, but also ripe with opportunity and hope. Haitians have begun to think of it as a second revolution. There was great celebration and joy about the resignation of Henry, whom they have been trying to remove since 2021, and even before that they were trying to remove his predecessor for dismantling their democracy. I am glad that it didn’t end in assassination this time. I am also sad that it took gangs making a violent stand against Henry to do it, despite all the activism, protests, months long general strikes, development of alternative plans, negotiating, organizing and letter writing that the Haitian civil society engaged in. It makes me wonder why we humans seem only to respond to violence???

I am still trying to understand the situation on the ground. But all of the different factions, from the gangs to the Duvalierists to the former Lavalas leaders seem united in their stance against imperialism. This mess was made by the international community and they would now like the international community to stand down. They do not want an occupation (by Kenya or anyone) forced upon them. Once they have a leader, they will ask for help if needed. Really what they ask is to be a respected partner in global politics with their own autonomy. If there is a forced solution, we should expect resistance and it will likely be bloody. Haitians are fed up with international meddling.

The North of Haiti has been more able to maintain day to day living and some institutional structure than the capital, but schools have still been closed since the holiday break and people hunker in their houses after 6pm hoping their cement block walls (if they have them) will stop stray bullets. Gangs threaten citizens with their weapons. We lost two well-loved Priests to robberies last fall, one outside the bank in Cap Haitien where he was picking up funds for an orphanage and one in a home invasion in Borgne. If they don’t have guns, gangs have been known to melt plastic and pour it on their victims. Sometimes citizens fight back with extra-judicial, vigilante justice. Still the gangs are made up of vulnerable and scared teenagers who didn’t have any other way to eat. There is a gas shortage and the only way to get gas is by knowing someone in the gangs who control it. Hospitals have difficulty functioning without fuel. Prices for food are astronomical. People I know often go three days between meals. I send them funds when I am able, and they risk their lives to go to Western Union to get it.

In Borgne, there has been gang activity, mostly shooting and looting, forcing my friends to run for their lives and stay inside. Some days they are too afraid to leave their homes. It is difficult to get to the city for supplies and prices are very high.

Still Somane, Marivierge and Marceline have kept the food program going, feeding 100 elderly and disabled folks in Borgne and sharing love and community. I send them $1800 a month for food and stipends. With prices so high, it should probably be more, but I have trouble coming up with the $1800. Somane risks her life to pick up the money and get supplies like oil, soap and tomato paste in Cap Haitien. The bulk of the food is purchased in Borgne from local farmers. I do the fundraising myself through letter writing, GoFundMe, a tithe from my church, ROCLA donations (thank you!!), and sometimes (pre-COVID) dinners or breakfasts.  In the meantime, I am trying to keep the food program going because the need for food everywhere in Haiti is dire. With all the insecurity and gangs blocking gas and the ports, prices keep going up because it is just so hard to get and transport food.

I so much appreciate ROCLA’s support. You are the reason we were able to feed people in February. I apologize for being so slow on thank-you notes. It’s just me here in the US doing this. If you have ideas to help with funding, let me know.

But, most importantly, Pen ak Pwason provides a sense of community for those who have been left behind, pushed aside, and forced to beg in the streets. The larger community of Borgne is proud and grateful that Pen ak Pwason has been active in the community for so long. They often refer travelers, released prisoners, and new arrivals over to get some leftovers after our regular guests are served.

* Purchasing local food means that all the money sent goes to work at least twice in the community, once to purchase locally grown rice, yams, breadfruit, plantains, squash, tomatoes, greens, meat, etc. from farmers and then once again when those farmers use it to provide for their families’ health care, education and basic needs.

Somane Agustama continues to direct the spirit of the program and does all of the planning and purchasing of local food which requires some diligence, searching and negotiating. She also helps our cooks Marceline and Marivierge with the cooking. Each guest gets more food than they can eat in a sitting, and they all come with containers to take leftovers home. Somane often tells me stories of how new participants start sweating profusely when they begin eating, because it has been so long since they have eaten a real and full meal. The program also provides a community, a sense of belonging, for those who have been pushed aside by society because they are no longer economically valuable. Somane, Marceline, and Marivierge bring food to those who are homebound; they visit the sick; they attend the guests’ funerals and the guests call them “mother”.

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