Conversations with the Living: The Haitian AIDS Crisis

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Archive for January 2011

CWTL Production Diary: Day 22/23 + 2 years

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8:33 EST: Reached out to UNICEF and Save the Children yesterday. Waiting to hear back. Hopefully soon. Will also look for other possible contacts at other organizations.

Nothing new on the narrative front. It is a bit stalled until we get a clearer picture of what the orphan/adoption situation is like in Haiti. To be honest, we’re working backwards. My fault.

12:23 EST: I sit at my desk. And the narrative fog lifts. An idea! Maybe it’s the snow outside… Now just have to see whether idea makes sense in a few hours.

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January 26, 2011 at 8:36 am

CWTL Production Diary: Day 20/21 + 2 Years

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21:50 EST: After reading LC’s post from the other night, I’m not sure I can live up to the sheer volume she can crank out when she’s feeling her inner writer. That being said, I don’t have much to report on my end, aside from practically blowing up our official website. It’s currently down thanks to my magic hands. Tomorrow, I’ll be reaching out to UNICEF and Save the Children to get some movement on getting background information on the adoption process in Haiti. Right now, it just seems like a murky black hole in a semi-functioning bureaucracy where nobody really knows what to do and is ripe for exploitation. But that’s a whole other documentary.

Speaking of murky black holes, I have made no progress whatsoever regarding narrative. It’s driving me mad and I think if it wasn’t for Leadbelly, I might have gone mad. But thank the lord for Huddie.

Just got off the phone with GC re getting our new “official” site together and designed. It’ll have current events related to Haiti, HIV, and children. That is, in addition to info about the film.

Calling LC now for I forget what…

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January 24, 2011 at 9:57 pm

CWTL Production Diary: Day 18/19 + 2 Years

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13:00 PST – Spoke to our scouts and researchers on the ground in Haiti on Thursday and they are excited to get started. We have reliable shipment of materials set up to get them everything that they need, including audio, still camera and additional supplies. They have been informed of each location and the questions to be covered during their research. Each week we will receive information updates, as well as photo documentation that we will in turn share with all of you. Transfer of materials back and forth might be a little rough to start, but we will all find our groove as a team. They will have their work cut out for them as there is a lot of ground to cover, but these young men are amazing and ready to go.

As mentioned in a previous post, I have been reaching out to individuals working with children that are HIV+ in Haiti, in order to establish relationships with and explore the philosophies of the organizations working there. I was excited to receive a return phone call from Aaron Jackson (Founder and President) of Planting Peace, a grassroots non-profit organization started in 2004 for the purpose of spreading peace in a hurting world. They operate globally, but started in Haiti and have several projects in Haiti, including a de-worming campaign, environmental project (recently planted 1 Million fruit trees in Haiti), and four orphanages, one dedicated to HIV+ children.

Aaron, although extraordinarily busy with his work around the world, gave me a couple hours of his time over the phone before he had to catch a plane to Thailand. I conducted a preliminary interview where we covered the basics about the HIV orphanage in Haiti, how many children they care for, the services that they provide, how the children come to the facility and what life is like for them. Many of the factors surrounding Haiti’s struggle with HIV and other diseases, which are themes of our film, were also a major topics of discussion.

As we have stated, and is clear in our film’s mission, one can’t discuss the issue of HIV in Haiti without understanding the history of the disease and the core issues in Haiti that make it so difficult to combat.

We covered a lot of ground, and I will be fine tuning my notes and sending them over to ML for his review later today.

One more thing that we discussed in detail that is certainly a message I would like to drive home, is that HIV is a manageable disease that should not be a death sentence, but as we all know, generally is in developing countries without resources. Aaron has seen time and time again that these children, live, play and learn just like any other child, and unless you know that they have HIV and follow a strict regimen of medications, there is very little about these children that separate them from other children, yet the stigma persists.

And so we will continue our research, reach out to additional organizations and maintain contact with Aaron and Planting Peace as we continue to work towards our return and continue to pull together this story and complete our project.

Will keep all of you posted on our progress, as we are hoping to conduct several more preliminary interviews in the near future.

– LC

CWTL Production Diary: Day Seventeen + 2 Years

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22:24 EST: Trying to turn our bullet points into a narrative. As I was reviewing them earlier, I realized something. It stopped making sense and also lost it’s urgency. It has nothing to do with LC’s bullet points as they’re what was discussed and elaborated fine on her part. I am just having a difficult time seeing it at the moment beyond the obvious and the easy. Need a big fix. How do you get a sputtering story moving? Where is the story? It’s hiding somewhere waiting to be discovered. But where, where, where?

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January 20, 2011 at 10:28 pm

The View from the Hotel Karibe

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Nearly five days after the infamous “Baby Doc” returned to Haiti, theories as to why he returned are floating around everywhere. His legal representation, Reynold Georges, was asked if “Baby Doc” held political aspirations. Georges made it clear that “Baby Doc” is a political man and has the right to serve two terms as President in Haiti, stating “That is right. Because under this new constitution, and let me tell you I am one of the persons who wrote that constitution, he has the right to do two mandates. Two!”

Also, regarding the charges of corruption and theft, Georges cited the “Statute of limitations” and added that it has been ten years so people should “Shut up” about it. These charges, he insists were not made in due time and cannot stand.

Regardless of the legalities and what comes of the charges – Shut up! – That’s all you’ve got? We are talking about charges of millions plundered from the people of Haiti, who were terrorized and victimized for decades under the Duvalier regime. Let’s hope that if any headway is made with the accusations of crimes against humanity, that he will come back with a little more than “Shut up!”. Even though a statute of limitation does not generally apply to these kinds of crimes, we are unsure of how the Haitian legal system will handle the accusations, and “Baby Doc” might be tied up in legal proceedings for the rest of his natural life.

Theories held regarding his return now include health problems, as he is said to be suffering from late stage pancreatic cancer and has returned to Haiti to die. It is also thought that the US orchestrated his return to pressure President Préval, or that Préval engineered his return to warn away Aristide. Then there is the Swiss bank issue and the requirement for him to return in order to access $6.2 million in a Swiss bank funds that some say have been blocked unless he faces and is cleared of charges. Some say he has just returned to see Haiti.

“Baby Doc” still has little to say for himself, as Georges and wife Veronique Roy do most of the talking, but it seems the two contradict each other. Roy insists his return is not politcally motivated, Georges has outright said that it is. Only time will tell.

So I guess while he is awaiting legal decisions to be made regarding his fate he is getting a fairly close look at Haiti and its people while he hangs out at the super posh Karibe Hotel in Petionville.

-LC

CWTL Production Diary: Day Sixteen + 2 Years

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8:30 EST: Have had food poisoning so haven’t been able to update. LC and GC had a catch up convo last night. Hopefully it was productive. Going to doctor today. Hopefully I will be healed.

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January 19, 2011 at 8:33 am

“Baby Doc” Duvalier Returns to Haiti

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News hit yesterday that Former Haitian president, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, 59, has unexpectedly returned to Haiti after 25 years in exile, primarily in France.

A Brief history – “Baby Doc” was the ruler of Haiti from 1971-1986. He succeeded his father, François “Papa Doc” Duvalier as “President for Life” upon his father’s death in 1971, becoming the world’s youngest president at the age of nineteen. He remained so until his overthrow by a popular uprising in 1986, when he was ousted by a revolt after his family and supporters were accused of stealing millions of dollars in government funds.

“Baby Doc” was incapable of properly running the country, resulting in no substantial or essential changes to his father’s regime, which was a dictatorship, based on corruption, repression, and human rights violations. Like his father, “ Baby Doc” relied on the Tontons Macoutes, a brutal militia that controlled Haiti through violence and intimidation.

Many of the youth in Haiti were not alive when “Baby Doc” he was forced into exile, but they have inherited the country that was left behind, and are aware of his legacy, that with the support of the United States government and France crippled the Haitian economy and its people in nearly every way. Although he has a small base of support, how the majority of Haitians respond to his return, both young and old will solidify if he is welcome in Haiti or not. The Haitian people have struggled to have their voices heard and were possibly never more silenced than during the reign of the Duvaliers.

When asked why he chose to return now after nearly three decades, he simply stated that he has “come to help”. His current wife, Veronique Roy, has been doing most of the talking, and has expressed that “Baby Doc” was supposedly moved by the images of the year anniversary of the January earthquake and the recent portrayal of Haiti in the media – begging the question – when in the past 25 years hasn’t Haiti been portrayed poorly by the mainstream media? When haven’t the images accessible on major TV news and Internet been appalling and ripe for concern? Why has he really decided to return now?

Some claim he is broke after years in exile and from his divorce; others think it is a tactic to intensifying the confusion in the post-election political crisis and was planned by current President Rene Preval. Human rights groups are pushing for his immediate arrest and detainment for theft and crimes against humanity committed during his presidency, while they acknowledge his right to return to his home country, they are demanding justice for the Haitian people.

It has been said that the majority of Haitian leaders have been thieves and liars, it just depends on who you talk to in Haiti – so what of the return of Aristide? This too is said to be on the horizon.

Neither is said to be returning as a presidential candidate, yet as a civilian to “help” the people of Haiti.

Aristide’s Return?

Demonstrators are demanding the return of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Many Haitians feel he is the only one who cares about Haiti’s situation and ever really had the interests of the Haitian people in mind.

Once again it depends on who you ask, but he was the only democratically elected president is Haiti’s history. He received 67% of the popular vote, landing him the presidency from 1994 to 1996 and again from 2001 to 2004 before he was ousted in February 2004 by a US orchestrated coup d’état against him, when he was forced into exile in South Africa.

The people of Haiti are calling upon President Rene Preval to keep his promise that he made over four years ago during his election to allow Aristide to return to Haiti. This has yet to happen although Aristide has expressed his desire and intentions to return.

During his exile Aristide has maintained a large support base, especially with the poor in Haiti, which is the majority. The exclusion of his party Fanmi Lavalas, a populist leftist party in Haiti, in the recent November Presidential elections was a subject of great debate.

Amidst the results of a November 28 election and allegations of vote rigging by the current party in power, the return of “Baby Doc” and possible return of Aristide is a cause of great concern, especially now as Haitians exist in a constant state of crisis and political and civil unrest. The people are already, and for good reason, up in arms. There is a lot of history, inexplicably brutal and painful history with these two men that one must understand in order to understand the current state of Haiti.

Haiti’s people (Her greatest asset) are ready for change – to move forward, but must be given a chance with leadership that is willing to take responsibility for Haiti and her people, and many fear that the return of these former leaders, even as civilians, will not only complicate the political environment, but create even greater chaos in a nation plagued by one disaster after another.

We will be following the news regarding Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s return and the possible return of Jean Bertrand Aristide. Please also follow us on Twitter for updates.

-LC