Your Dispatches: January 2012 Archives

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Soundtrax from Bas Me Limbe, Haiti

Traditional Haitian music played by local singers and musicians with handmade percussion and string bass instruments in the village Bas Me Limbe .This was taken with a flash in total darkness. Photo: Eric Doubt.

As part of our Soundtrax series, listener Eric Doubt sent us this, from his experience as a volunteer in Haiti.


 Dear CBC Dispatches producers,

(Attached is) an iPhone audio recording, made on the night of November 19, 2011 on a remote beach in northern Haiti.

  Eric's recording



 Eric wrote:

The scene is as follows, from a blog I wrote while on a volunteer medical mission at the time, with HaitiVillage Health

As the sun set (early here) the villagers gathered for a special night of music and dancing, with only a small bonfire and a crystal clear starry sky to light the incredible scene of local culture and amusement. The musicians were two drummers whacking expertly with different instruments on an old broken iron pot (I think); and three 'string bass' players striking on ropes stretched from the end of a long curved wooden pole, anchored at the other end in the ground to a rubber pad secured over a hole in the ground by a wooden frame and pegs. The tonal range and power produced by this primitive string section was impressive. Above the syncopated wild drumming and the musical interplay of three thumping bassists rose the melodious and haunting voice of a male singer, sometimes harmonizing with a partner, calling to the chorus and the dancers....

Singers, dancers, drummers and musicians interacted with increasing intensity for five hours without a moment's break. It was impossible not to lose oneself in this sensational night.

The village is Bas Me Limbe, a few hours by hard road from Cap Haitien and, as a contrast, across the wide bay from the tourist beach of Labadie where Royal Caribbean cruise lines regularly deposits thousands of tourists in the sun and safety of a beautiful, isolated stretch of Haitian paradise. The performers I witnessed and was so entranced by were not trained, nor from the city, not sent or hired to entertain foreigners. (I've seen lots of talented Haitians generously entertain the dedicated volunteer troops that visit on rotation throughout country.) This was their home, this was their thing, and it was real. Their audience was the hometown crowd - adults, teens and children from the village and, mingling easily in the crowd, our team of family docs, paediatricians, and support volunteers from the US, Canada and Bermuda. I was told that the previous week during national holidays they group played like this for five nights straight.

I have been volunteering and working in Haiti (pat time) since 2006 when I saw a short CBC TV piece by senior correspondent Neil MacDonald on the subject of orphans with disabilities abandoned in the General Hospital in Port au Prince. It inspired me to stop agonizing over late night TV NGO infomercials, get off the couch and instead, do something. That night I volunteered in a non-medical support role with the Healing Hands for Haiti, the lead physical therapy and rehabilitation NGO in Haiti. Six weeks later I was visiting the same kids at an orphanage which had adopted all of them from the General Hospital. Over the years I've played many roles at HHH including board member, marketing consultant and eventually, full time Executive Director. I am now a volunteer and consultant with the Haiti Village Health. 


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Treatment of Romas, in Romania and Canada

In the January 5/8 edition of Dispatches, Rick interviewed Mona Nicoara, maker of the film documentary Our School.  It follows three Roma children in a special school program in Transylvania, a program that isn't working. The interview brought a number of comments:

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John C Kennedy of North River, Nova Scotia wrote: 

Hello, Rick.

Thanks for your documentary describing a new film on Roma education in Romania.

The educational and broader socioeconomic conditions of the Roma are indeed deplorable, and remain that in most countries where Roma reside. A fine study by Dr. David Scheffel (Svinia in Black and White) of B.C.'s Thompson Rivers University describes systemic racism of the 'white' majority toward the Roma community of Svinia, Slovakia.

Much as your filmmaker said, in Svinia few Roma finish school or are allowed the means to improve their squalid living conditions. The fact that much of the world either knows little about or chooses to ignore the rights of Roma says to me that we really have not progressed much beyond Hitler's treatment of these people.


Duncan Goetze echoed some of her sentiments:

I think it funny that here in Canada we act so surprised when we see education systems as decrepit as the one mentioned involving the Roma, while Native American communities across the country are basically ignored and put into the same level of living, or lower. Attawapiskat is still an issue - and nobody seems to care. No, we shouldn't be greedy and help nobody but ourselves, but how can we criticize other countries while we have a community living in our third world standard backyard?


Michelle Drew of Hamilton shares her experience:

Greetings Dispatches,

I greatly appreciated the spot you did on Mona Nicoara's film, 'Our School'. Nicoara's transparency and dedication to this story and Roma rights are very inspiring.

In my neighbourhood in Hamilton, Ontario there are many Roma refugee claimants from central and eastern Europe with looming deportation notices. In August, despite our advocacy attempts, a family that had grown close to many in my neighbourhood was deported back to Kosice, Slovakia - home to Lunik IX - one of Europe's largest Roma ghettos. This Christmas, my husband, two friends and I went to Lunik IX to visit the family, bring them some supplies, and learn more about the situation for Roma in Slovakia.

We went to find answers, but left with many more questions. Nonetheless, we were both encouraged and disturbed by our findings.

I was expecting to find a black and white situation; the "good guys and bad guys" as Nicoara mentioned. Instead we found city made up of beautiful people - both Roma and non-Roma, who had decades of deeply rooted fear that separated them from one another. We had two heroes of our adventure. The first, the Roma families who "make do" in their situation, remain positive, and work hard for a better future despite their difficult circumstances. The second, a group of young non-Roma youth who spend a year living and volunteering in Lunik IX learning Romani, coordinating homework clubs, sports, and programs for children and youth. Some of them do this despite their parents disapproval. As Nicoara pointed out it is the young people that will change the racial boundaries between Roma and non-Roma. They are eroding the ethnic barriers that exist in Kosice.

Thank you very much for highlighting Nicoara's film on your show. I hope for more stories of Roma communities in future episodes.

Always a pleasure

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