Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Meeting a Supreme Master

I'm spending the week traveling with Claudine Michele, a professor of Haitian studies at UCSB and the editor of the only scholarly Haitian journal in the U.S. She and former student named Nico Pascal a have come to Haiti to help Direct Relief select Haitian NGOs to fund. As I've mentioned in the past we have established a $500,000 community grant fund to let Haitian groups who have been working here long before the earthquake get access to the money that has been raised for their country. So far we've selected five groups and are hoping to fund at least 15 more.

So after picking Claudine and Nico up from the airport, we drove an hour north to Mirebalais to visit a K-6 school modeled after the Montessori system. The place was like a paradise. It was peaceful, serene, and best of all, every single kid had a smile on their face. It is something that you do not see very often in Port au Prince and it was extremely refreshing.

From there we drove to Gressier, about 3 hours SW, to visit with Max Beauvoir Haiti's high priest of the voodoo religion. It was an honor to meet this man as I've read a lot about him and his work as I've tried to gobble up all the information I can about the voodoo religion. The man is a personal friend of Bill Clinton, has met Ban Ki-moon, fled the country during Aristide's rule, and got voodoo recognized as an official religion in the states. I could have spent all day listening to him speak but unfortunately, believe it or not, some Scientoligists showed up to speak to him about opening up a medical clinic across the street from his house.

Essentially, Mr. Beauvoir is concerned that the earthquake will erase the voodoo culture in Haiti because it knocked down some of the main temples in the country and nobody is paying to rebuild them. He says most of the churches will get rebuilt but nobody wants to pay to fix the temples and the majority of Haitians who practice the religion aren't wealthy people. It's a tough situation. Clearly these places of worship should be preserved but there aren't many NGOs are going to want to get behind a project like this.

Again, another aspect of this earthquake that you'd never think about but has fairly devastating consequences for the history and culture of Haiti. For me, it was an honor to meet a man who has dedicated his life to preserving it.

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