How newcomers from Nova Scotia were welcomed to a Haitian town
CBC reporter Shaina Luck reflects on the generosity and kindness she encountered in Haiti
CBC reporter Shaina Luck went to Haiti for a series of stories about a Nova Scotia family who moved there to do development work. Robin, Beth, Peter and Gaelle Churchill are beginning a new stage of life in Anse-A-Galets, a town on the Haitian island of La Gonave.
"You'll have to hold the door open," said Roger, the pilot of the tiny six-seater plane as he started up the shining silver propeller. "It gets hot in here."
He was getting set to taxi down the runway in Port-au-Prince. In the back we tightened our seat belts.
"You'll close the door and latch it just before take off," Roger said. He was gunning to leave, to get on with all the other flights he had to make that day.
Transporting a group of medical aid volunteers and one journalist was routine for Roger, but it was hardly routine for us.
A remote island
We were heading for the town of Anse-A-Galets, on the Haitian island of La Gonave. This is one of the least accessible parts of Haiti. The airport is a small cement shed run by an old fellow named Jonas.
Before a plane lands, it radios ahead to Jonas, who takes his whistle and goes out to move any stray goats and chickens off the cleared area of beach that is the runway.
Poverty and a lack of infrastructure are twin problems in Haiti. There are almost no paved roads in Anse-A-Galets. People generally build their homes themselves, sometimes out of whatever materials they can find.
Transportation, internet and postal service are patchy. In February, days before I left for Port-au-Prince, the UN World Food Program began an $84-million appeal to meet the basic needs of a million Haitians due to the worst drought in 15 years.
Kindness and generosity
But although it's true Haiti is a poor country, many Haitians are generous and kind beyond belief.
It is very important to them that people understand the story of Haiti includes more than poverty, hunger and violence. Haitians want outsiders to learn about their country and invest in it.
I met Pastor Foglas, who runs a program to deliver a daily meal of rice and beans to children who go to school in a poor neighbourhood. Pastor Foglas has been running the school, the church and the feeding program for 15 years.
His wife, Madame Foglas, works at West Indies Self Help. She has a good wage and a pension, and generously helps fund the salaries for three of the school's teachers out of her own salary.
I spent a lot of time with the former mayor of Anse-A-Galets, Dahame LeGuerre. Dahame acted as a translator for me and took me around town several times.
One day he spent several hours in court, helping to get a birth certificate issued for a young boy with cerebral palsy. The birth certificate will allow the boy to access services he otherwise couldn't.
'Would you like to come again?'
One day eight of us travelled into the mountains of La Gonave to visit a remote village. We brought peanut butter sandwiches but the people of the village insisted on serving us lunch: fried goat and bananas, and a spicy coleslaw called pikliz.
It was an expensive meal for a village that is still trying to get together the funds to maintain its only school. While we ate, Pastor Prospere asked who was there for the first time. A few people put up their hands.
Then he asked, "Would you like to come again?" Big applause.
"Yes," said everybody. Of course we would.