Shabbat in Jacmel

After spending 4 days in the port au prince area in an urban setting, our whole group is really excited to be moving south and seeing some of the countryside of Haiti. First, though, we visited the only state sponsored rehabilitation clinic in Haiti.

As we walked in we saw patients receiving world class care for physical injuries using innovative tools similar to the ones we saw at the AFYA clinic. We were greeted by the female doctor who ran the clinic who illustrated for us the challenges of bringing the notion of rehabilitation into Haitian culture but also illustrated the success of her clinics work demonstrated by its growing number of patients.

I (Brad), as someone who is interested in the health profession, found it remarkable that this physician was able to use her knowledge not only to help people improve their health but also to combat social stigma. Our visit to the clinic was very informative but very short, so we were soon on our way into the mountains for the ride to Jacmel, where we planned to spend Shabbat. I (Julie)  had been observing these mountains from Zoranje all week and was floored by the true beauty of this country. Although I tried to capture the amazing vistas with photos, it's really impossible especially inside of a bus.

Both of us were captivated by the natural beauty of this country, but were also saddened in a way that the lacking infrastructure and actual government support for tourism in Haiti has caused this native resource to be totally under appreciated by the majority of the world. After seeing an hour or so of jaw dropping views from our bus, we stopped to visit an area called Fondwa.

Our first visit was to the Heart to Heart Clinic where we began by touring the facilities the clinic uses to treat their patients. The clinic relies on volunteer doctors and staff to provide their services and are currently working to build a lab to increase their testing capacity. We found it remarkable that this clinic, which is located in a very isolated location, was able to provide healthcare services to this population that is so far from the typical societal map. Next we visited the partner school to this clinic which had been originally destroyed by the 2010 earthquake.

They're currently operating in a temporary school, but construction is underway to build a new more stable school. The sister who is in charge of this school told us one of the craziest statistics we've heard to date: that students walk 3-4 hours (hours!!) to school everyday and still attend class on a consistent basis. Because of this hurdle of accessibility, we were surprised when we were informed that this school has had the highest performance in the region on Haiti's standardized exams.

We could see how the farmers coalition of Fondwa, which has organized the community and supports this school, has really promoted education as a value and taken a holistic approach to support the youth of their community through healthcare, education, and social engagement. Our last stop in Fondwa was the for profit food co-op run by this farmers association. They provided us with an amazing spread for lunch in the typical Haitian style, and for dessert we each got an entire mango, which we peeled and ate with only our mouths and hands. They were absolutely delicious, a fact which was solidly supported by the orange goop smushed all over all of our faces and the serious need for toothpicks to remove all the orange strings from our teeth.

We hopped back on to the bus and drove for another hour until we reached Jacmel. Our hotel was situated on a cliff on a beautiful cove with sparkling blue water, and we were thrilled when we saw that our rooms had ocean views framed by the towering mountains in the background. We cleaned up and reconvened for Shabbat, courtesy of the Shabbat committee (Rachel, Amanda, Cece, Dani, and Julie).

We had a Kabbalat Shabbat service in the hotel and walked down to the beach for kiddush and motzi. We had a traditional Shabbat dinner with our Haitian baked challah and cherry manischewitz. Apparently Haiti is the third largest consumer of manischewitz worldwide, only following Israel and the U.S. The wine is sold in multiple flavors on all the markets. After dinner we played a game called salad bowl, a mix of charades and taboo, and turned in for the night. The next morning we slept in, or at least Julie did, while everyone else woke up early and got a lesson in traditional Haitian breakfast food poolside.

After breakfast the group went for a walking tour of Jacmel, the highlight of which was an art gallery with a garden in the shape of Haiti. We found the New Orleans French quarter style architecture beautiful and really didn't want to leave! For the rest of the day we mostly lounged around in true Shabbat style and some of us ventured down to the beach to take a dip in the ocean. Spending Shabbat in a tropical locale was something that few of us have done before and definitely added some additional relaxation to this traditional day of rest. Clearly we enjoyed these past two days in Jacmel, and are looking forward to spending the day in the area tomorrow!

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May 28, 2013 at 10:24 PM




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