West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

Father Leon visits Friends of St. Vincent’s in July

 The following is a report sent by Harriet Epstein
Dear All,
Report on Father Sadoni Leon’s Visit   July, 2010
Though the first week started out slowly since the July 4 weekend had few people in town I was able to arrange a series of appointments.
Father Leon arrived Tuesday evening, July 6, 2010.  I was able to get him to the Convent by 8 pm and the sisters were there to welcome him. (Since the convent was booked, he came to stay with me on Sunday.)
On Wednesday July 7 we met with the Arlen Fuller the policy person with Jennifer Leanings’s assistant at the FXB Center at the Harvard School of Public Health and her assistant Lauren Bateman.  The FXB Center is focusing on vulnerable children.  They have not had a focus on disabled children (I followed up with a call to Lauren but Dr. Leaning had not returned as yet. Gretchen, can you follow up on this with Paul Farmer since he is part of that group? FXB could bring in other parts of the Harvard community.)
On Thursday July 8, we went to the Learning Center (formerly the Framingham School for the Deaf) and spent two hours with them.  If we had had all day we could have easily been there all day.  The folks were MOST gracious and we met a lovely Haitian/American gentleman who is a teacher there, whose brother-in-law went to St. Vincent’s …he signs, speaks Creole and he offered to go to Haiti to train staff (if we pay his way).  Sadoni was impressed with how “fluent” the children are in sign language.
Later we went to Boston Artificial Limb and they have “stuff”, old prostheses to send and they will send them when we get them the information about where to send them.  Also, they also offered to fit one of the children if we bring him/her here.
(Later discussions with Hope Lennartz indicated that may not be a wise move and perhaps the cost incurred would be best in training students at St. Vincent’s in making and adjusting prostheses.  Steven Leo from BAL gave me the name of the volunteer person of the VA in Boston who will have more information about training at a VA hospital.) 
On Friday morning we met with Aubrey Webson and Maryann Riggerio.at Perkins in the international division and we will be meeting the President Steve Rothstein on Monday morning.  (Steve will be going to Haiti in August so this is a very fine time to be meeting him!) 
On Saturday Hope, Solange, Marie and Bill from the Friends of St. Vincent and CMMH came to Boston to have lunch with us.
Bill presented the need to capture this once in a lifetime opportunity to rebuild St. Vincent’s and the need to develop a plan and to consider which services St. Vincent’s should be offering.
Father Leon indicated that the government will be reallocating the land in that area and that it may be possible that St. Vincent’s will get a larger property.  That area of the city will have water, electricity and services priority. (I have seen this in several of the countries that I have worked in that areas in which the government has its buildings and services, hospitals and other essential services priority is given to provide basic infrastructure, i.e. 24 hour electricity..etc.  As I indicated in an earlier email, the Friends have approved a visit for Father in mid October. (During this visit at Perkins they will organize a study tour for him.  Later Marcie Roth the Disability Advisor at FEMA also suggested he visit Washington during that visit.  It seems that the White House has expressed interest in issues related to disabilities in Haiti.)
The conference we are going to is being sponsored by the Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities following Disasters   the website is   www.rebuilding.umb.edu   They have the full cast of presenters and the conference schedule on the site.  Marcie Roth who is the Disability Advisor to FEMA will be there as well as folks from the UN etc.
The same organization had a conference in April on Haiti which was terrific so hopefully this one will be as well.
On Sunday, Sadoni had the “day off” and was able to visit with friends.  I picked him up at the convent to bring him to my house for the rest of his stay since the Sisters were no longer able to accommodate him.
We met with Steve Rothstein the President of Perkins on Monday morning.  He will be meeting with Secretary Clinton’s disability advisor and folks from USAID on Friday in Washington. I spoke of the need to make sure that St. Vincent’s is getting food distributions and particularly for when the school opens in October they will need to be feeding over 200 children each day as well as whatever resources can be made available to St. Vincent’s.  He asked Father Leon to send him pictures of St. Vincent’s. (We did.)  He also said that he would be visiting St. Vincent’s during his visit Haiti this August.  We discussed Father Leon’s coming this fall to St. Vincent’s and the year long training at Perkins for a staff member who will be replacing Madame Compas.  Since their brochure indicates that they do on site training, I asked if that would be a possibility if Perkins would send down a team to train there.  He said it would be possible. Afterwards we met again with Aubrey Webson and Mariann Riggio.  We spoke with Aubrey about the on site training and he has two people in mind from St. Lucia who speak Creole and who could do the training in Haiti. And we had a small tour of the campus.
On Tuesday the conference focused mostly on US FEMA activities.  We had a great discussion with Marcie Roth the disability advisor for FEMA.  She suggested that Sadoni goes to Washington on his trip in October as well.  She asked him for a “wish list”. (We have started to put one together… and will need to prioritize.)
On Tuesday evening my neighbors and friends, Nick Carter, the Brathwaites, The Nogradys, Bashi and Sadoni’s friends came for desert at my house. Leon B. and N. Carter asked what they could do through their Episcopal churches here in the Boston area.
Wednesday the conference in the morning. Steve Rothstein called the night before to say that he had a Brailler Father Leon could take with him so on Wednesday afternoon we went to Perkins again and Sadoni picked up the Brailler and a ream of Brailler paper.  Steve indicated that  four more will be on the way. Steve introduced a child to Father Leon and told the child that in Haiti that the children have to share Braillers and how difficult it would be to do homework if you have to share your Brailler.  St. Vincent’s has 70 blind children.  That evening we had dinner with Nogrady’s and Braithwaite and they made donations of the trombone and checks to sponsor two children. 
Thursday, July 15, 2010.
Conference in the morning, visited Sisters to say goodbye and meeting with BU Urban Design Professor, Enrique Silva.    We discussed with him the issues related to St. Vincent‘s property and the possibility of working with several groups that have funding and capacity to build accessible and appropriate buildings for people with disabilities.
We got back home at 3 pm to give Father Leon some time to pack.
Friday, July 16, 2010.
Sadoni is on his way back to Haiti with a Brailler, a printer, a typewriter (the manual kind), flute (the trombone will have to be sent), business cards in English and French/Creole, etc. etc.
I am delighted. We threw our net wide and we caught some fish!  Hopefully more will come our way/
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