Haiti town hall initiative further connects government with communities

March24-2014HaitiDreams1Haitian government cabinet members hold a town hall meeting in the southern town of Jeremie

By Joe Colas

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) — An initiative to organize a series of town hall meetings in different regions of Haiti has created more proximity between the Caribbean country’s government and communities which have engaged in an open dialogue over actions to be taken to meet people’s real needs, officials say.


“It makes such a difference when you go on the ground, hear firsthand the demands and the priorities expressed by those who are targeted by the government’s actions,” Lamothe said.


During the sixth meeting of the kind held on Saturday, Lamothe announced measures to support and help increase local agricultural production in Jeremie and surrounding districts, to increase police personnel, build more road infrastructure, hospitals, to set up community restaurants, computer labs, professional schools etc.

After each meeting, a follow-up commission is formed to make sure commitments made are materialized.


Read more: http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/topstory-Haiti-town-hall-initiative-further-connects-government-with-communities%2C-officials-say-20391.html

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Haiti: Cazeau Project in Review

By Sora Edwards-Thro

The other day, Adam and I spoke with the teachers from Cazeau about how classes are going there. This is their sixth week with this group, which means they’re midway through the new lesson guide, and so far, so good. With half the course behind us, it’s a good time to take a look at everything that came together to make this happen.

Step 1: Get a good group to work with. 

You’ll notice that every step of the process is, in the end, a combination of both social and technical engineering. Luckily, we had people on our side with the range of skills we needed.

First off, none of this would have happened without our experienced, enthusiastic partners, Hope for Haiti’s Children. Special thanks to Ken Bever, who orchestrated it all (and bonus, can successfully navigate Haitian traffic jams to do it), and Lisa Hendrick, who first reached out to us.


Ken meets with local teachers, principals, and directors about the project.

All the Haitians behind this project are the true reason for its success. Thanks to them and our Haitian trainers, Junior and Jeanide, for welcoming us to their country and making the learning happen.

Student portrait of a teacher as a hero wielding his secret weapon, the XO laptop.

Student portrait of a teacher as a hero wielding his secret weapon, the XO laptop.

Finally, our crack team of volunteers… Adam Holt, Tim Moody, George Hunt, Curt Thompson, and his wife Chi worked under the beating sun and long into the night to get electrons flowing and signals broadcasting.


Tim, Curt, and Adam up on the roof to get a better vantage point.

Step 2: Get to know the place and people

One of the first things I did when I got to Haiti, a month before training even started, was visit the site accompanied by Junior and Jeanide. There are lots of questions to answer when you’re attempting something like this. Things like “What happens if the electricity cuts out?” and “Will the wireless signal reach from the school to the church?” but also “What does the principal of the school think of this program?” and “Will we be working with kids from the school, or just from the orphanage?” Visiting early was a way to get a head start on finding the answers.

I ended up climbing onto the roof twice to get information about these batteries...Adam wanted the exact model numbers.

I took photos of the electrical set-up to give our team a better idea of what to prepare for.

Step 3: Get ready

The week before the big launch, six teachers attended training sessions with me, Junior, and Jeanide. Teaching computers is about so much more than the correct button to press.

Even the teachers sometimes get stumped on our Haiti map quiz.

Even the teachers sometimes get stumped on our Haiti map quiz.

This group caught on to the basics quickly and then impressed me with creative cartoons, flowcharts, and pictures. They even started getting ahead of us – one teacher asked me if instead of connecting the computers one to another, they could all connect to a central computer. “What you just described is a server,” I told him. “We’ll  be getting it here next week.”

Step 4: Get set

“Getting it here” is actually a pretty complicated process, of course. First, the pieces flew down with our tech team. These guys don’t waste time – their first hours in Haiti were spent surveying the site.

The kids are accustomed to working on homework right on this landing - we knew it would be important for the wireless connection to be strong there.

The kids are used to doing their homework on the landing, so we made sure the connection would be strong there.

The job was made harder by the fact that we were technically dealing with two locations. The school and orphanage are right next to each other, but the directors didn’t want students crossing into the orphanage side. So we adapted and ended up installing two different access points, one for each place.

George stringing cable over the wall.

George stringing cable over the wall.

Access point installed in the main school room.

Access point installed in the main school room.

I should also mention that the team put together software customized for our Haiti course, so another task was spending a few hours updating all the computers with it.

Chi and Sora testing laptops. That stack in the back is all the ones we have left to do.

Chi and Sora testing laptops. That stack in the back is all the ones left to do.


The first day of class, we divided the kids into teams and had a competition to see which one could take the best photos.

Off to take photos.

Off to take photos.

Teacher guiding the mouse.

Teacher guiding the mouse.

Picking out the best photo.

Picking out the best photo.

Listening to photo presentations.

Listening to photo presentations.

Team with the most votes gets a prize.

Team with the most votes gets a prize.

Show’s not over.

Our work doesn’t end when we leave the location. For one thing, after Cazeau, the team visited three more schools in three days, installing solar power in one and a server at another. But also because even after they got home, they continue to tackle issues like wireless connection difficulties that are so complex they can only be resolved after a stream of emails between smart people all around the world. And, of course, in our monthly conversations with the teachers, they report on their own progress and give us inspiration for new improvements that will make things easier for them and more fun for their students.

It’s been great to be a part of this work and watch the pieces come together. Seeing the kids smiling, sharing, and learning makes all the work worth it.

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Dominican Republic’s plans to recover and preserve Los Haitises National Park

A plan has been launched by the Dominican Government to recover and preserve Los Haitises National Park in the northeast of the country – a beautiful area  which is the island of Hispaniola’s only rainforest.

To ensure the protection of the area, a 3-year deadline to halt all human activity within the protected area, has been put in place.

The Los Haitises National Park boasts unrivaled biodiversity fed by 110 rivers and streams and the most rainfall in the entire island of Hispaniola.

Read more: http://casadecampoliving.com/this-week-dominican-republic/

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UN slapped with another lawsuit over Haiti cholera

March 13, 2014  Reuters

MIAMI : Lawyers filed a federal class action lawsuit against the United Nations on Tuesday to seek compensation for almost 1,500 Haitian victims of a cholera epidemic blamed on UN peacekeepers.

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More details on Haiti’s tablet manufacturing

Dressed in sterile white work clothes, and a hair net, Sergine Brice is proud of her job. “I never imagined I could, one day, make a tablet by myself,” she said.

Unemployed for a year after losing her position in a phone company, Brice, 22, was not sure she had the skills when she took the job after Sûrtab opened last year.

“When I arrived and realized the job deals with electronic components, I was wondering if I would be able to do it. But when I finished my first tablet … I felt an immense pleasure,” she said.

Her family and friends were skeptical. “None of them believed me,” she said. “Tablets made in Haiti? What are you talking about?” they told her.

“Haitians have in our minds the idea that nothing can be done in this country. I proved that yes, we Haitians have the capacity to do many things,” she said. “It’s not just Americans or Chinese. We’ve got what they’ve got, so we can do it too.


Sûrtab is hoping to diversify its product line beyond tablets, said Patrick Sagna, director of business development.

We want to establish a presence in the software sector. We are in contact with people from San Francisco who are ready to work with Haitian developers,” he said.

Sûrtab’s investors are looking to build an applied science graduate school, as well as looping in Haiti’s skilled arts and crafts industry to help with design.

“Rather than importing covers for our tablets, we will produce them locally,” said Sagna. “We want our packaging, made with recycled and recyclable materials, to become a traveling cultural exhibition to highlight Haitian culture around the world,” he added.

Read more: http://wsau.com/news/articles/2014/mar/16/impoverished-haiti-manufacturing-its-own-android-tablet/

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Charcoal cutting project failing in Haiti: audit

A U.S. program that seeks to save Haiti’s forests by shifting people away from charcoal stoves has largely failed to reach its goals.

By: Trenton Daniel Associated Press, Published on Fri Mar 14 2014
 PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI—A U.S. program that seeks to save Haiti’s forests by shifting people away from charcoal stoves has largely failed to reach its goals, according to an audit by the U.S. Agency for International Department.

Few Haitians bought the alternative stoves, in large part because even the cheapest cost $10, while charcoal stoves go for as little as $2. The liquefied petroleum gas stoves aimed at commercial and institutional users cost about $100. The World Bank says nearly 80 per cent of Haiti’s 10 million people live on less than $2 a day.

Read more: http://newsontario.ca/2014/03/15/charcoal-cutting-project-failing-in-haiti-audit/

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By girls- for Everyone!

I’m a fan of A Mighty Girl‘s site: http://www.amightygirl.com/

Here’s one reason why:

1959363_651242458245404_898924508_nAnna Stork and Andrea Sreshta were graduate students at Columbia University’s School of Architecture in 2010 when a devastating earthquake struck Haiti. In one of their classes, they were assigned to develop a new innovation to help with disaster relief. Many students focused on designing shelters but, after speaking to a relief worker in Haiti, the two discovered that an often-ignored need following disasters was access to light. The pair focused on designing a solar-powered lantern and spent several years refining their design. Now their inflatable, waterproof, and solar-powered light — called the LuminAID Solar Light — is being distributed to those in need in several countries.

Their unique lantern is designed to meet the needs of people in the aftermath of a disaster but many outdoor enthusiasts have also become fans of its innovative design (it even made National Geographic’s 2013 Gear of the Year list). After being charged in the sun for six hours, the LED light provides up to 16 hours of light — a feature that not only makes it more eco-friendly but essential in emergency situations when batteries are hard to find. Due to its inflatable design, it also provides diffuse light like a lantern so it can be used to illuminate a room or tent. Moreover, since disasters often involve water, Stork and Sreshta made it waterproof and able to float.

They also made sure to add a sturdy handle to the light because, as Stork explains, “We heard that in the tent cities people really wanted something they could easily take to the latrine at night, so it was very handy to have a handle to carry it around.” And, because they can be packed flat, 50 LuminAID lights can be shipped in the same space needed for 8 conventional flashlights — an especially significant difference when humanitarian organizations are sending relief aid in large volumes.

When the two young social entrepreneurs founded their company, LuminAID, they used a crowdsourced fundraising campaign to raise the capital needed for their first batch of 1,000 lights. They have since created a Give Light Project where for each light purchased on their website, the buyer can donate a light to one of four project sites. Over the past year, they have distributed more than 5,000 lights across projects in 15 countries and their current campaign supports NGO partners working in Haiti, Ghana, India, and the Philippines. As they grow, they hope to expand their reach by working with large, international aid organizations.

As the LuminAID has gone from class project to a real relief tool, the pair are more driven than ever to get it into the hands of those in need during disasters. As Sreshta explains, “conditions once the sun goes down can be very unsafe, especially for women and children. After the earthquake in Haiti, there were many cases of violence, kidnapping and rape. Light is a basic human need, but [conventional technology] costs too much to ship and pack as part of disaster relief.” Now, thanks to the work of these two creative innovators, more people will have access to the gift of light during the darkest of times.

To learn more about Anna and Andrea’s invention and how to buy/donate your own LuminAID, visit their website at http://www.luminaid.com/. They can also be ordered via Amazon.com at http://amzn.to/1cC4LcA

For a wonderful book about female innovators and inventors throughout history, check out “Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women” for readers 8 to 13 at http://www.amightygirl.com/girls-think-of-everything

Or, for younger readers age 4 to 9, we highly recommend “Rosie Revere, Engineer” about an budding young inventor at http://www.amightygirl.com/rosie-revere-engineer

A Mighty Girl also has a section highlighting stories that feature poverty and hardship as a significant theme. Such stories provide opportunities for parents to discuss these topics with their children while also helping to foster children’s empathy for people living in difficult circumstances. Learn more at http://www.amightygirl.com/books/social-issues/poverty-hardship

And, if you’re looking for ways to encourage your children to become the next engineering and technology innovators, visit A Mighty Girl’s STEM toy section at http://www.amightygirl.com/toys/toys-games/science-math

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