Personal transformation to see the world differently.

How Soup Joumou Helped Me Understand a School Board

The many ingredients for soup sat not on the counter but in the spaces available in my tiny kitchen — on top of the refrigerator, between the dishes in the cupboard, even on the floor. My friend from Haiti was soon to arrive. This was one of his first visits to the United States. American food made him feel ill. I chose this celebratory cuisine because I wanted to give his digestive tract a break. I was ill-prepared for the culinary effort the Haitian Independence dish would take. I’d only eate

Florida — The Land of Chasing Sylvester Stallone and Trapping Geckos —

“There, on the wall, a gecko.” Probably an anole, but lizardy, light green, two inches long. It lay on an angle, a little way up the wall. “Hand me a Kleenex,” I said to Mike. My partner gave me a two-ply. I swept down and collected the critter into the folds of the paper. I dumped it outside, onto the ground, and ensured the gecko didn’t grab the tissue to return into the house with me. Mike joked, “Two more just ran in while you left the door open.” I laughed and walked to the kitchen. This

Minding My Meditation Cushion — Waiting for Enlightenment

The sight of a saffron-robed monk carrying a meditation cushion startled Williams Bay, our village in traditional southeast Wisconsin. Bhante Sujatha held a weekly meditation and talk on Buddhist teachings in the local yoga center, which my partner, Mike, and I attended. Our first meeting of 20 people dropped to ten as attendees determined why they wanted to sit quietly and cross-legged on a cotton mat. Each person’s reason differed. And how long each expected to be engaged by Buddhism was pers

Indulge Me —

I’m sixty-three years old and in unchartered territory on this day of my birth. • Old enough for Social Security, not old enough for Medicare. • Old enough to be called “retired”, not old enough to be considered “an elder.” • Physically (i.e., how I feel) too old for the Iron Woman Triathalon, but not too old for Advanced Yoga. • Too old to want to be employed with those just entering the workforce, but not too old to submit articles to literary publications. • Old enough to be a grandmother, bu

Feeding the Soul —

Sunday in Athens — most businesses remained closed. The streets deserted by people, energy, magic. My travel partner and I walked the major thoroughfare. We passed shop after shop; each metal security door shut tight, its corrugated surface tagged with bold words and images. On the street corners, trash bins overflowed. Small city projects lay unfinished. Greece was in financial shambles. It owed the World Bank and others 375 billion dollars. While locals grumbled, tourists continued to visit.

Fiction Southeast – “What High School Students Learned at Career Day, i.e. What I Learned at Career Day”

“If I agree to speak at Career Day, could I get a better interest rate on my house loan?” I asked my banker who was a member of the sponsoring Junior Achievement Board. “No,” he said good-naturedly. “This is all about your generosity — and the fact that you authored a book.” I read the Career Day request for an author to speak and what I needed to do to participate. The organizers requested a career title. Knowing she asked me to attend because I was an author, a writer, I offered a personal

Chick, Chick, Chicken!

I traded my pharmacy scrubs for an artist’s smock in Haiti. The transition wasn’t difficult. I knew the reward for volunteering hours in a hot sweaty clinic would be a classroom of local kids making art. We began our journeys to Haiti with a small medical group, which had completed a dozen twice-a-year missions to the rural area of . My partner, Mike, and I had participated in two of those trips convinced me to accompany him on his third. He wrangled an invitation from the Catholic school’s he

The Cacao Tree

Most of our summer evenings in the farmlands of Haiti ended with a cold shower and a short meal. However, we ended one night, over 10 years ago in Lamontay, with drinks under a Haitian cacao tree. Voltaire, our friend and translator, told Monsieur M, his mentor, our thoughts about Haiti, our belief in the Haitians and our new approach to charities. Monsieur asked Voltaire to invite us to his home. And Voltaire, interested in reaffirming his friendships on all sides, happily agreed. My partner,

On The Best Beach In Greece

We stepped off the bus at the bench with the dust-covered sunroof. Arid hills and gnarled olive trees painted the backdrop. The area looked forlorn and lost. I wondered if we were wrong to trust the woman on the train who recommended this as the best beach in Greece. Granted, the hour had been late for those of us who drank cold beers in the tavern car of the overnight train. The conversations of the dozen travelers, who ranged in age from their twenties to our sixties, included a heartfelt dis

Observations at the Airport

I arrived recently at Terminal 5 to meet a friend, coming from Kathmandu, Nepal, via Abu Dhabi, UAE. Henry sent numerous texts once he landed as to where I might meet him and his luggage. He encouraged me to wait in the quiet of my car till he arrived. True, it was our nation’s busiest airport and often chaotic. But I refused. It was the drama of the arrivals gate that fuelled my 90-minute drive — not souvenirs that he brought back from his time in Kathmandu, Nepal. The entertainment started im

Right Diagnosis Will Make You One of 329,000 Cases Each Year

Sometimes, feeling better starts with a diagnosis. It started August 1. He shivered under two blankets. Later, he threw off the covers and directed his partner to turn the air conditioner up high. At the end of week one, he went to the emergency room. He hadn’t improved. They pumped him full of rehydration fluid, noted his potassium was abnormally low, and dismissed him with, “some strange virus.” A cough replaced the fever. “Viruses come and go and coughs linger for a few weeks.” his own ph

Reported / Solutions Journalism

Was it fair? Was it accurate?

In Midwest, newer Haitian immigrants find a warm welcome

CHICAGO — Ricardo Monesteine and Carole Désarme will be spending Christmas with their two young children in a northwest suburb of Chicago this year. The Christmas tree is decorated, and the holiday feasts have already begun. “I ate such a large meal of rice and beans at the buffet,” Monesteine said through a translator on a recent evening, “that I was too full to drink the kremas and eat the cake that followed.” Less than three months prior, the family was slogging through the humid jungle of

Three months after Haiti quake, a different way of rebuilding takes shape

A building evaluator assesses an earthquake-damaged home in Les Cayes, Haiti, with equipment that measures the cracks and gives an estimate of the amount of material needed. At the end of the detailed assessment, the evaluator places a QR code on the entryway door. The homeowner can then scan it with her smartphone to view the extent of the repairs and their status in the system. This is how Dr. Kit Miyamoto, CEO of Miyamoto International, describes the effort to help rebuild the town shaken by

Haitians, mixed about outside help, debate toll of crises over scars of foreign intervention

NEW YORK / HAITI - As Haiti becomes further enmeshed in violence and turmoil this year — with armed groups blocking crucial deliveries of fuel supplies as the latest crisis, all while ill-equipped police stand by — calls have emerged for the international community to step in more vigorously. Some Haitians, like Michel Philemon of La Montagne, a remote village in southern Haiti, believe they cannot rely on outside help to solve the country’s problems. Outsiders could assist, Philemon admits —

Resilience reimagined: In Haiti, rising awareness of need for mental health services

Bob, a 48-year-old resident of Port-au-Prince, WhatsApp’d a series of texts, photos and videos to his friends abroad in one thread. The first video, in early July, featured a report of gang killings near his home. One week later, he texted, “It’s sad news,” attached to an article about President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination. Soon after, Bob sent six photos documenting a standoff with police in the capital and, then, a video of foot-deep blackish rainwater, strewn with garbage, rushing through

Haitians helping Haitians: A winding, yet eye-opening path to bring help

Jacky Joseph, 24, a nursing student at L’Université Episcopale d’Haïti (UNEPH) in Leogane, had returned to his hometown of Seguin, in the department of Sud-est, earlier this year to prepare for the national exams. Since then, he had grown frustrated with the service provided by the government-run clinic and the lack of a hospital in his region, the Nippes, about 65 miles west of Port-au-Prince. A few months ago, Joseph set up an organization, Health in the Mountain, to bring awareness to good h

In Haiti's remote villages, help is still grassroots, urgently needed

Pierre Oreus was riding on a bus along the main highway that runs through the center of Haiti, heading from Jacmel to his home in Duchity, a village 14 miles north of Les Cayes, last Saturday. He received a text from a staff member at Youthaiti’s Center for Sustainable Development in Duchity, where he has served as program director for nine years. “I remember the 2010 earthquake in Port au Prince as a college student,” said Oreus. He attended morning classes and was at home when the earthquake

Haiti’s health professionals stay focused on providing care, despite slaying

Health care professionals of the Haiti Health Network (HHN) met online July 8 to address how President Jovenel Moises’ assassination might impact the health care sector — particularly in light of the National Vaccine Rollout Plan released from the Haiti Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) the week prior. These frontline professionals represented organizations from Hope for Haiti, Hospital Lumiere Bonne Finn Sud and Care 2 Communities among many others throughout Haiti and the United

Birthing in rural Haiti — a miracle all its own

High in the mountains of southeastern Haiti, a woman lay down on the concrete floor at a local non-profit, bleeding profusely as she labored to give birth. The placenta had pulled away from the wall of the uterus and, as she hemorrhaged, the only thing left to do was to get her to the hospital. The road to the nearest hospital was marked with potholes so large, they could engulf a small car. Nonetheless, the villagers loaded the woman and her husband into the back of a truck, and they took off.

Can Community-Led Total Sanitation Solve Haiti’s Toileting Problem?

Imagine you don’t have a toilet. You wake up in the morning and, at your back door, you wonder, “Where can I take care of my personal business today?” Your two children get out of their beds and join you, saying, “Where shall we poop?” Regardless of the size of your yard, you want to ensure no one steps in today’s feces. Suddenly, your pet dog runs in. There’s an odor that accompanies him. You realize he stepped in the leavings of last night and brought them inside. About 2.5 billion people, or

A doctor's dream for the future

Dr. Oberson Plonquet wears blue scrubs. His stethoscope is draped around his neck and a clipboard for taking notes rests on his lap. A local healthcare volunteer sits nearby, listening, while Plonquet asks his patient a series of questions. What brings you to clinic. How long have you had these symptoms? Do you find these lessen if…? Plonquet is living his dream — practicing medicine in his country, not far from his childhood home. Step back and bring the full picture into focus: Dr. Plonquet,

Closing Haiti’s Science and Technology Gap with Bioscience

In the United States, television cameras captured the image of thousands of purple-capped vials of COVID-19 vaccinations moving to the next stage of production. The camera pulled back as a scientist explained how the vaccine came about at lightning speed. If the pandemic has a silver lining, it’s our awareness of the vast bioscience infrastructure, long in existence, to make a safe vaccination quickly available. The presence of bioscience in some countries, however, underscores the lack of it i

New Curator Brings Spirit of Haitian “Lakou” to Milwaukee Art Museum

Kantara Souffrant, the curator of community dialogue at the Milwaukee Art Museum, asked to share her screen during an interview over Zoom. She quickly uploaded an image of Castera Bazile’s Petwo Ceremony Commemorating Bwa Kayiman — one of the highly acclaimed works in the museum’s Haitian art collection. It’s become second nature for her to explain why this piece is so important — not just to Haiti, but to the history of art, the museum and to Souffrant herself. The Castera Bazille painting of

What Vocational Schools Are Accomplishing in Haiti

The open-air room buzzed with activity, while the instructor made notes on this first practical exam. One team of vocational school students strung lines to define the 25-by-25-foot area they would tile. Another mixed mortar, adding sand that his colleague shook through a wire screen. A young woman, one of only three in the class, added water from a gardening can. Her teammates gave her feedback “Ase,” enough; “Yon ti kras plis,” a little more. The look on her face suggested that she would stop

Three Midwestern Venues Offer Haitian Art Exhibitions

The Figge Museum in Davenport Iowa, and two venues in Indianapolis, Indiana, are all offering exhibitions of Haitian art that address relevant narratives of today. Details about the Figge exhibition are online through its website and videos on the Indianapolis shows can be viewed through the Jacmel Arts Center’s Facebook page and Instagram account, Santadajakmel. The Figge’s Haitian Masterworks, co-curated by Vanessa Sage and Joshua Johnson, offers selections from its historically significant

Thoughts from the Mountaintop and on the US elections

“The government leaders don’t do enough for us,” one young man at the dining table said. Another said, “And when they do, they put it on our backs to pay.” That was 2009, when my husband and I were in Lamontay, Haiti, volunteering with a local group. We joined the priest of the parish for dinner that night with five young Haitian men. A few of them were translating for us or consulting that week on Haitian culture and traditions. We knew the others from previous trips. The conversation bec


The 2020 weather forecast calls for the Caribbean to be more active than usual with named storms and hurricanes. It reminds my partner, Mike Goodman, and me of the hurricanes in 2008. We well remember the people of Lamontay, the area southwest of Jacmel, and their experience when four hurricanes hit within days. Willy, the 8-year old, huddled through the third of four hurricanes with his parents and 10 brothers and sisters in their small house just off the main road atop the mountain. The two s

How a small town in Haiti is fighting Covid-19: Sometimes, You Just Got to Do Something

Seven men in matching red t-shirts walk among the vendors in Thursday’s open-air market in Seguin, a village in Southwest Haiti. Each man wears a protective mask and talks about preventing the spread of Covid-19 to anyone who will listen. The backs of their t-shirts say, Moun Segen ak pwopte nap konbat kowona viris. “The people of Seguin with cleanliness canfight Coronavirus.” These volunteers began addressing small groups in the area in March, warning them about the pandemic that was headed to

Books and Anthologies

I Watch; I Wait: I Avoid Becoming a Statistic

"I Watch; I Wait; I Avoid Becoming A Statistic" was written early in 2020 — soon after the United States "shut down." Art in the Time of COVID-19 is derived, inspired and animated by the global pandemic of 2020. The works created by writers and artists all over the world are sad, funny, profound, serious, and intensely human. They represent work by renowned artists and writers as well as by some who have never been published before. The contributors come from Europe, Asia, Africa, the United Kingdom, North America, Australia, and New Zealand. The anthology is available for purchase at Amazon.

Guest Columns / Blogs / Opinon

Social-impact storytelling.

Help celebrate World Toilet Day | YOUTHAITI

WHAT’s the big deal? 2.5 billion people, mostly in rural areas of developing nations, do not have access to proper sanitation facilities, resulting in 1.7 million children dying annually from sanitation-related diseases. Let’s get more specific: Imagine you don’t have a toilet. You wake up in the morning and go to your back door and think, “Where can I take care of my personal business today?” You can hear your children getting out of their beds, their little bare feet padding across the floo

Safe Water Network Partners with EWB-USA on Water Project in Ghana | Safe Water Network

The following content was contributed by J.O. Haselhoef on behalf of Engineers Without Borders-USA. Linda Avadza walked the 500 yards with her baby still wrapped to her back to the water stand in her Labolabo, Ghana, neighborhood. She balanced an empty plastic bucket on her head, stepped onto the clean concrete pad, and affixed a round tag to the stand’s exterior. Within a moment, water gushed out of the overhead tap directly into her bucket. She stood there for just over a minute and knew from

Safe Water Network and EWB-USA Help Expand Knowledge of Top Ghana Engineering Students | Safe Water Network

The following content was contributed by J.O. Haselhoef on behalf of Engineers Without Borders-USA. Safe Water Network joined with industry representatives in Ghana to challenge top engineering students—highly trained and strongly motivated—to address real-life challenges. Eddie Doku, Director of Program Management at AECOM in Washington, D.C., led the effort. Doku was born in Ghana and has volunteered for Safe Water Network through its partnership with Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA).

Cadet Vildenard is an undocumented worker in New Jersey, who I met some years ago in Haiti.

He’s not unique. There are others like him — they’re the reason President Trump proposed a wall, they’re the ones ICE deports, and they’re the people who sorely need an income for their families — so much so that they will break laws to work for low wages and no health care. Three years ago, Cadet immigrated from Haiti to live and work in New Jersey. In Haiti, he was a school teacher until the 2010 earthquake. He worked later as a logistics officer in one of the smaller cities. “Life went well
Students showing the sign for 2020 International Women's Day

Strengthening STEM in Sub-Saharan Africa: Ghanaian Student Engineers Participate in Unique Gender Equality Program

This International Women’s Day, Engineers Without Borders USA is celebrating a unique program designed to further gender equity in engineering. SEESA (Strengthening Engineering Ecosystems in Sub-Saharan Africa) is a partnership between EWB-USA, Safe Water Network (SWN), Feminist Data Research (FDR), Inc., Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), and AECOM. Providing student teams the opportunity to work with local industry professionals to develop and implement research and de

I Love Minimalism: Why Am I Writing about Stuff?

I hadn’t expected a lesson on minimalism, but a documentary or textbook would not have had the hands-on feel this experience did. I hadn’t expected a lesson on minimalism, but it was as good as any documentary or textbook. Sally invited me in through the newly painted red doors and into her living room. Since I’d last seen that space, she’d cleared lots of — I wouldn’t say clutter — indecision, perhaps. She toured me through the well-edited kitchen and bedroom, and we arrived at the closet.