Conversations with the Living: The Haitian AIDS Crisis

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CONVERSATIONS WITH KAY ANGEL

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Conversations With the Living recently made contact with Lia Van de Donk, the director of Kay Angel orphanage in Jacmel, Haiti, which provides a home, education and support for children in need and those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.

After a very positive conversation with Lia regarding her work at Kay Angel and the mission and purpose of our film, it was clear that Kay Angel’s everyday work to provide HIV-positive and orphaned children in need, access to life saving medication, housing, education and support aligned with the mission of Conversations With the Living and the message of our film.

We have been in contact with Lia since our first discussion in order to stay updated on the progress at Kay Angel, as well as to coordinate a visit upon our return to Haiti, in order to document the incredible work being done to improve the lives of these children.

We are inspired by the work of Kay Angel and their willingness to take on the challenge of caring for this often forgotten demographic, and the Conversations With the Living team wants to introduce those who support this project and the work being done to help children affected by and infected with HIV/AIDS to Kay Angel.

The Story of Kay Angel

Kay Angel, Creole for Angel House, opened its doors in 2007 and is currently home to 12 children; 5 are HIV+ and all are lucky to be alive.

Their first home was rented for one year in Jacmel before they moved to St. Helene, another neighborhood in Jacmel. In St. Helene the children of school age attended either the local kindergarten, a school for the handicapped or were taught by a private teacher at the orphanage. When the January 12th earthquake destroyed the children’s schools and the orphanage, Lia and the children lived in the streets for about 2 weeks, and then in tents for 15 months.  On April 1st of this year Kay Angel was able to rent a temporary home in Zorange for 1 year, while construction of their permanent home is being completed.

Today, they are in the process of building their permanent home on a piece of land named Sacrifice, which they were able to buy this past year with money raised through individual donations from family and friends and outreach on their two dedicated blogs in the United States and Holland, Lia’s native country.

We emphasize home, because Lia, who lives with the children along with her husband, makes sure that the daily needs of the children are met and that a family environment is provided, where the children are loved, accepted and supported. Along with a small local staff, they make sure that the children are fed, attend school and that their medications are measured and administered twice a day.

The children that are HIV-positive are in the Aids program of USAID at the local hospital St. Michel, which is a free program that includes a monthly examination by the doctor, Dr Raphael, and a monthly supply of ARV meds. When asked about how their home manages to function and provide resources year round, Lia shared that aside from individual donations, organizations like USAID have been instrumental in providing the children’s health care needs. Without this program and the free medical supplies that it donates, it would be extremely difficult to care for the children that are HIV+, due to the tremendous expense of ARV medication. Additionally, Kay Angel has its own paid Haitian pediatrician on staff that visits Kay Angel once a month to consult the children, and subscribe additional medication or vitamin and protein supplements as needed, which are paid for by Kay Angel.

Some help in the form of rice, cooking oil and beans comes monthly from the World Food Programme (WFP), and any additional nutritional needs are met through purchases from local markets and vendors.

After a long struggle to find adequate schools for the children, especially those that are HIV-positive, Lia was able to enroll the children in SOS Enfants in Cyvadier, with the exception of one child who attends PAZAPA, a school for handicapped and special needs children located in town. The children have adjusted extraordinarily well to the school environment and have received good marks. The children’s performance in school has been a great accomplishment and source of excitement, due to the fact that prior to coming to Kay Angel, the children had not been afforded the opportunity to attend school.

The majority of education in Haiti is privatized, therefore families or organizations supporting children, must pay to send their children to school. With 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty, providing children with an education often means the family goes without other basic necessities or the children are simply not educated.

The children living at Kay Angel are the fortunate. The children wake up everyday in a loving environment, where their mental and physical well-being are the priority, and the benefits of this environment provide an example of what is possible if people focus on the needs in the communities they serve and advocate for substantial change and real solutions.

There were an estimated 380,000 orphans before the earthquake, as many as 225,000 children living as retaveks (child slaves), and approximately 150,000 orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

Kay Angel works with these children, not only because there is a need, but also because they have seen through their own work that children provided the proper resources and support can live happy and healthy lives. The children they care for are proof-positive of what is possible given compassion and cooperation efforts, and they are an example of what is working in Haiti.

Both Kay Angel and Conversations With the Living are focused on HIV-positive orphans and the importance of recognizing the effort, organization, continued funding, and unerring dedication required to give these children a chance for survival and a future where they can be engaged and accepted in their communities. Kay Angel is a place where the methods used on the ground in Haiti and within the Haitian community shed light on the small, yet existing network of people dedicated to creating a better life and future for Haiti and her children.

While, we prepare to return to Haiti, Lia and her staff work daily, around the clock, juggling time taking care of the children’s needs and the construction of the new orphanage. We look forward to sharing their continued progress with you and to introducing you to some of the amazing children at Kay Angel.

– Leigh E. Carlson

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Haïti Liberté and The Aristide Files

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Haïti Liberté editor Kim Ives was interviewed on Democracy Now! today regarding the 2,000 U.S. diplomatic cables on Haiti.

For those who have researched Haiti’s political history and are aware of the unrest surrounding decades and centuries of political instability, this is an interesting report that touches on the meddling of foreign governments in regards to Haiti’s government over the past decade and offers just a glimpse into findings that are unfortunately far from surprising – an important part of the  historical record.

Ives research found that high-level U.S. and U.N. officials coordinated a politically motivated prosecution of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to prevent him from gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti.

Kim Ives full report for The Nations can also be found at the following link:

http://www.thenation.com/article/162598/wikileaks-haiti-aristide-files

India-EU Free Trade Agreement and the HIV+

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We reported on a proposed India-EU Free Trade Agreement back in November that has medical professionals, activists, and patients concerned that millions of HIV sufferers in the developing world will be without the drugs they need to survive.

Today, people in India have taken to the streets to demand that pharmaceutical companies, which stand to gain enormous profits from obtaining rights to create and distribute drugs at a price they see fit, do not block access to those that need the medication to survive.

Although the European Union denies that the agreement will negatively impact India’s generic medicine industry or patients access to these medications, there is little transparency, and until a draft of the agreement is made available criticism and concern over its contents will continue from medical professionals, HIV/AIDS activists and patients.

Here is the link to our posting in November.

https://conversationswiththeliving.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/constant-state-of-emergency/

Stay tuned for production updates…

Production Diary Day: 67 + 2 Years

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10:00 PST: It has been a while since I’ve posted. The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a blur. I have been so engaged in the day to day and I’m just now finding my bearings, taking note of all that has happened and wrapping my mind around what it all means.  I have even managed to go a few days without speaking to ML, which rarely happens. We will be catching up Sunday via phone.

So, we are overdue for a Conversations Production update.

Now that ML has nailed down the narrative, the few gaps that still need patching up are awaiting the expertise of a few of our contacts in Haiti. I have reached out to Dr. Marie Deschamps at GHESKIO, who has received international recognition for her contributions to HIV/AIDS care and is an incredible advocate for the women and children of Haiti.

I’ve also reached out a few times to John Dieubon, co-founder of Planting Peace, who runs the daily operations of their orphanages in Haiti. John is also the founder of Project Papillon, which manages 4 orphanages, and a neighborhood school (Ayiti Papillon Academy).

We have received word from the Rainbow House (Maison l’Arc-en-Ciel), which was founded in 1996 and is a 24-hour medical care for children receiving antiviral medication for HIV. They also serve as a residence for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and function as an outreach center for approximately 100 families affected by HIV/AIDS.  Perhaps, most importantly they provide education and training to community-based organizations, enabling them to address medical and social issues surrounding HIV/AIDS in their communities.

This message of acceptance and engagement of young individuals affected by HIV in their communities is part of what our film explores and what these organizations advocate in the communities in which they work.

So while awaiting response in order to set-up phone calls or additional correspondence, I am writing grants and making use of every millisecond available.

I’ll leave you with a thought (which is another posting altogether). With the explosion of revolutionary movements sweeping the Middle East and Africa (although with little media attention on Africa) people are making their voices heard and are demanding democracy. Rulers across the region and the world are scared that decades of control will vanish when the powerful force of the people takes hold – people willing to die for freedom from misery and the possibility of democracy. Even here in the US the assault on democracy is and has been under severe attack, and the working people and the poor have had enough.

I am left thinking about a supposed Haitian “democracy” that has proven to leave its citizens with no homes, no work, no health care, and no real government support for decades.  As the Haitian runoff elections approach, the choices Haitians are left will quite possibly lead to more of the same.  As always, our hope remains that Haiti’s next leader will oversee its government and people with an agenda for real change, but if it is more of the same, what will the Haitian people do?

Thank you for reading our production blog – please also check out and subscribe to our official site on word press for daily news updates on Haiti brought to you by GC.

http://conversationswiththelivingofficial.wordpress.com/

– LC

January 12th – 1 Year Later

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So, it’s been almost one full year since the cataclysmic earthquake that devastated Port Au Prince and it’s outlying areas. Haiti’s already unstable infrastructure and volatile political structure took a violent  hit; one that may potentially take another century to fully recover from.

In the quake’s aftermath we saw the international community stand up in a show of solidarity; vowing to help this unfortunate island state to rebuild. Countries all over the world pledged billions of dollars and endless amounts of manpower to assist in recovery.

Out of the spotlight celebrities and politicos worldwide dusted off their camouflage and khakis, without a doubt tweaking their press conference speeches on chartered Gulf stream jet rides to the Dominican Republic, as they prepped for the cameras documenting their forays across the St. Domingue/Ayiti border.

Hell, we even had Haitian politicians finally fessing up and promising to put aside their petty banana republic ideological differences and do what’s best for the country.

In the US, Haitian Americans and ex-pats united in a way that hadn’t been seen since the days of the 4 H’s in the 1980’s. Haitian groups were organizing, planning, plotting, and pontificating at an insane rate; guided by the simple premise of rebuilding this once proud nation into the land that L’Ouverture and Dessalines would have envisioned. There were fund raisers, records, and conversations with the UN. We even united Bubba and Dubya!

Haiti was finally on the map, and for those of us that lost family and possessions on January 12, 2011, there was hope. Then a funny thing happened over the next year.

Absolutely nothing.

Gede Greg Cee

The market women of Haiti sell everything under the sun

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Proof that the women of Haiti have always worked hard and played a central role in the country’s economy. They still do.

Written by conversationswiththeliving

December 28, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Les “belles madames”

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Written by conversationswiththeliving

December 19, 2010 at 10:35 pm