Conversations with the Living: The Haitian AIDS Crisis

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Archive for the ‘Planting Peace’ Category

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

Production Diary: Day 43 + 2 YEARS

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20:21 PST: Well it is day 43 in NYC, technically still day 42 here in LA, but I have been a little silent for the past week, as I have been digging my heels in and trying to get some more interviews set up.

I want to piggyback on ML’s post from a couple of days ago about our phone interview with Tim Collie, who is a former writer at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where he produced print and web-based work on the Caribbean and the Middle East for 11 years. 
He spent several years in Haiti, Israel and throughout Latin America. We were interested in speaking with him, because of his work focused on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean, which can be found in his piece AIDS orphans and an earlier project focused on the environmental collapse in Haiti entitled, The Eroding Nation.

We were originally introduced to Tim Collie from Aaron Jackson, founder and President of Planting Peace, mentioned in my previous post. Aaron runs a series of programs in Haiti addressing numerous issues, including a de-worming project, deforestation and a small network of orphanages, one which specifically houses HIV+ children.

Tim approached Aaron while working on his AIDS orphans piece for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and visited his orphanage along with the two other HIV orphanages in Haiti, the Comfort House and Rainbow House. All of these facilities provide housing, medical care, food and education to the often hidden victims of the epidemic – the children infected and affected by the disease, and a large part of our film’s focus.

Reiterated throughout our correspondence with the experts working to help these children is the fact that Haiti’s struggle with this epidemic will be a long, underfunded and under-recognized one, however they have made progress in the past and the children they have assisted have learned that they can live, and project themselves into the future – learning, playing and dreaming like all children in Haiti. It is these children’s place in the future of Haiti and the many issues affecting the nation that make this relentless group of activists, advocates and patients unique.

Aaron suggested that Tim was an expert on the subject of HIV+ orphans and that his experience and insight would be of incredible use to us as we continue to complete a series of interviews and acquire information that we will need as we approach our return to Haiti.

Tim was in fact a wealth of knowledge, revealing the lives of HIV infected children living in orphanages, in the streets and many times as restavecs (household slaves), with hope and dignity, while never losing the sense of urgency and painful reality of their situations. All of these children are generally denied family support and schooling, because of the stigma and myths surrounding AIDS in Haiti, and their lives embody Haiti – its past, present and future – they demand our attention and fuel the necessity for action.

The notes are being finalized and implemented as we continue to reach out to the co-founder and operator of day-to-day activities at Planting Peace, John Dieubon, and GHESKIO in order to gain the necessary access to tell the stories of these children and the network of people in Haiti working to succeed in the fight against HIV.

On another note, ML was here in LA for a couple days and we were able to meet up, talk a little shop and relax a bit. It was great to see him and I hope to get out to NYC soon to meet up with the other half of Conversations.

As always, will keep you all posted.

-LC