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Sept. 16, 2003

Personal JOURNAL

Wednesday, Aug. 27

ves Florant Jacques disappears into the mud hut he shares with his family to retrieve a tiny piece of notebook paper that has somehow stayed white and crisp despite the rain that seeps into his home.

A Colorado phone number and Hotmail E-mail address are written in neat blue letters under the name Corey.
A terrified baby is weighed as part of the nutrition program at St. Boniface Hospital before going through a series of medical tests. Malnutrition is a severe problem throughout Haiti. The hospital helps by providing food.

Jacques, 16, says it is the name of the American who taught him English at the local school. Jacques has no phone or computer, but he is careful not to lose that piece of paper; he might make it to America one day, he says.

He tells you to copy Corey’s information, to get in touch with him, let him know he’s missed.

He’ll remember me, the boy explains. “I was very cute.”

--- --- ---

You drive less than an hour, and the harsh brown soil and rocky hills of Fond des Blancs give way to paradise. The Caribbean’s blue-green waves crash against a sandy beach. Palm trees dance in the breeze.

If this were any other island, you think, throngs of tourists would be soaking up the sun, but this is Haiti, so the beach is all your own.

Children start to appear from behind large bushes and creep closer. Five are standing in front of you now, just staring. They inch forward, eyes wide, giggling, until they’re almost in your lap.

Nannette Canniff, a Randolph resident who wishes more Americans could see this pristine beauty, nudges the kids back. They take a step away, but a minute later they’ve inched forward again.

One girl picks up a shell and reaches out her hand.

“Cadeau,” she says to Canniff.


--- --- ---

On the road outside the hospital, a boy runs in circles with a tattered plastic bag tied to a string. It is a makeshift kite. It flaps a little, then falls to the ground. He starts running again, and the scene plays out a second time.

Another boy pushes around a “truck” made from a plastic juice bottle with bottle caps for wheels.

Children here learn to make something out of nothing.

--- --- ---

Conor Shapiro is 22 and from Concord. He graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont in May and plans to spend a year here teaching English. He’s living in a church rectory in a room that has no screens in the windows.

Shapiro is a soccer nut and is standing on the sidelines at a game. He says boys and girls make soccer balls from anything that can be stuck together.

He has a surprise: a duffel bag stuffed with brand new soccer balls and jerseys that he’ll hand out once school begins. He can’t wait to see the smiles.

“I love it here,” he says. “I enjoy the people. They are as warm and genuine as they come. There’s such a sense of community.”

--- --- ---

Kathy Comito is sitting in an apartment above St. Boniface Hospital and thinking out loud.

She’s been in Haiti since June and will stay on as hospital administrator at least three years.

She tells you about an article in People magazine on a new reality show where contestants compete for a $2 million wedding.

Two million dollars could change the world here, she says, annoyed that reality TV seems disconnected with reality.

“One of the things we forget, being Americans, is that 10 percent of the world lives like we do,” she says. “Ninety percent of the world lives like this. Our expectation is that there is this little pocket of poor people, whether it’s in Haiti or Ecuador, who live like this, but this is reality for most of the world.”

Karen Eschbacher may be reached at

Stories by
Karen Eschbacher
Photos by
Gary Higgins

The Patriot Ledger

A Daily Struggle to Survive: Volunteers help fight starvation in Haiti:

Haitian Burn Victim gets Aid - and a New Family

Faces of Haiti: The LaFontaine family

Links to the South Shore of Massachusetts: Milton dentist gives Haitians the simple gift of a smile

Haiti's History: Political instability chases away hopes of achieving better life

Personal Journal

Numbers That Count: Food & Nutrition

Small map of Haiti (90KB)

Large map of Haiti (100KB)

Photos from Haiti (462KB)

View printed pages from the series


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