Thursday, January 19, 2012


This blog is to tell the photo story of our trip to Terrier Rouge, Haiti in January of 2012.  If you are here, you probably know that, but if you discovered it by chance and want an inside look at northeast Haiti and its many wonders, keep reading.

Below is a post that describes some aspects of this trip.  Many of you have read it so simply scroll down to reach the photos which start in the next post.  When you get to the bottom, simply click on "older posts" to keep going.

Note the shadow bottom right...the photographer sneaks into the photo...
Of course, one can't take such a trip and not learn a few things about one self...I was reminded that after some 35 years of journalism my default mode is to think and act like a journalist.  My first reaction is to detach, observe and photograph.  I did this on quite a few occasions and the photos are better for it, while my experienced lessened at times as a result.  On other occasions, such as when we were preparing the food for the two food drops, I didn't get many good pictures simply because my mind and hands were busy...when there was a break, I'd take a few, then back to filling the bags...

It is clear that my photo journalism instinct/habit is quite intact by the composition of many of these images.  Almost subconsciously, I seem to be fully invested in the old adage "every picture tells a story." Pastor Carrie Evans, an excellent photographer in her own right, commented that I took a lot of "action shots"...She was quite right as I was trying to capture what was actually happening in each moment or some important aspect of a time or a place.  Next time, assuming there is one, I'll shoot more pics of the Haitian people.

My old JMU friend Lou Emerson paid me a nice compliment. Lou was the editor of JMU's student paper The Breeze where I learned my first photo journalism lessons. He kindly put up link to the blog post below on his Fauquier Now website.

Also, if you want to read more about both weeks of this trip go to Carrie's blog...she is an excellent writer and her perspective is both heartfelt and well described.  Carrie has made several trips to Terrier Rouge and she is extremely comfortable with the place and the people and she clearly charishes her time there even while, as a wife and a mother, she misses her family tremendously.  Her blog is a  journey worth taking.

Yesterday, I ordered a book about the history of Haiti...I'm determined to try and figure out how it got to be the way it is, and I'm sure historical context is a major piece of this puzzle. I think if I can explain it better, I can better recruit support of our Northern Haiti Hope Foundation will fund a variety of projects under the guidance of Pere Bruno.

(Update: Today the book arrived. I had suspected that the primary reason so many Haitians live under such harsh conditions was the lack of an effective central government. No matter how poor the country, it's the governments job to help provide utilities, education, trash removal...all the stuff we take for granted.  It appeared to me that the Haitian government either didn't care enough or lacked the resources to make it better -- or both.  A good government would either provide some necessary systems or provide an economic framework of stability which would allow private parties to do so...

With that as an uneducated opinion, I opened Philippe Girard's book Haiti: The Tumultous History -- From Pearl of the Caribbean To Broken Nation and my eyes stopped on page 205 on a sub-heading that said "Conclusion: Predatory Elite." What it said confirmed my suspicions until further research proves otherwise.

"Haitian expert Robert E. Maguire has coined the expression "predatory elite" to describe the peculiar blend of gangsterism, populism and out-right theft that has defined the country's political superstructure for most of it's two-hundred-year history.  As mistletoe feeds off a tree, Haitian leaders have sucked away billions of dollars of their starving countrymen's money while offering nothing of discernible value in return."

Now, through various conversations I have learned of Haitian "elitists" who say the problem isn't the government or those who govern, the problem is the people, but I'm not buying it...People are people and the Haitians are no different, when given a helping hand and a little direction they can accomplish anything.)

Finally, as suggested by several kind folks, I will enter this photo in some photography contests.  It is my favorite for many reasons not the least of which is it was taken (like many photo journalism shots) on the sly...The story goes like this:  I wasn't very comfortable taking photos of the Haitian people as many adults protest (voodoo belief that a photo will steal your soul)...also, many Hatians go from smiling and happy to sullen and stern looking when they agree to have their picture taken...You get more comfortable with them and they with you with each passing day, but his photo was taken my first full day in Terrier Rouge...So I metered this on an adjacent wall and took the shot as I walked by just outside the clinic gate...A bit of luck to say the least!

Enjoy the trip and I hope you to are inspired to also lend a helping hand.

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January 16, 2012

I spent last week in Haiti as the guest of Pere Jean M. Bruno and the Ecole St. Barthélémy school in Terrier Rouge.

This village in northeast Haiti is 70 air miles from Port-au-Prince but it takes 8 hours to get their by car. One of the first things I learned about Haiti is that there are large mountains  in the interior of the island– up to 8,500 feet tall.  By way of reference, ski town Park City, Utah is at 7,500 feet.  So, you've heard the saying "you can't get there from here"?  Well, you can't.

So we flew into Santiago, Dominican Republic which looked like a wild west town when we arrived and like the U.S. with armed guards when we returned.  That is how much one's perspective changes after a week in Haiti.  Santiago seemed dirty, primitive and dangerous on arrival and well-organized, clean and down right orderly when we returned.  I even got used to the guys with the big guns guarding the hotel, the neighborhood restaurants, and my favorite, the valet parking.

We traveled by bus to Haiti where the crossing over the border is best described as a "scene out of Dante's Inferno."  I lack the vocabulary to accurately describe the chaos, the crowds, the trash and the craziness.  It was very dramatic...for lack of a better word.  We headed off to Terrier Rouge in the back of a flat bed truck which afforded us a safe haven and a great view.  Until it rained.  Oh well, at least it was warm.

Terrier Rouge is about an hour away.  It is a fairly large town (20,000 in the region) which lacks both running water and electricity.  It is located about 30 miles from Haiti’s second largest city Cap Haitien.

"Cap" is located on the water pressed up against the mountains.  It was not impacted by the 2010 earthquake, but it is quite similar to Port-au-Prince in its sprawl and poverty.  Over 200,000 people and not a stop sign or traffic light to be seen which makes it the most chaotic place I’ve ever been.  Not to mention dangerous.  An earthquake of any scope would devastate the place.  Especially the houses hanging precariously from the hills above the city…They would simply roll down the mountain into the sea port.

Pere Bruno is one of those amazing people who quietly changes the world.  His school is a project done in partnership with Bethlehem Ministry, Inc., a non-profit organization out of Atlanta, created for the sole purpose of aiding Haiti's poor.   He was recently quoted saying, “if you have faith, and do not doubt, you can say to this mountain jump into the sea.  And it will."  After spending a week with this man and seeing all he has accomplished and all he aspires to accomplish in the future, I believe him.  If Pere Bruno decides the mountain is moving, it’s going to get wet.  And, in typical Pere Bruno fashion it will happen calmly and deliberately with minimal fanfare.  

Bethlehem's Haitian efforts started some 25 years ago when they partnered with Bruno to establish a series of elementary schools in some of the Haiti's less recognized and lesser served regions.  Over time they have established a Montessori based pre-K through 8th grade school (Ecole St. Barthélémy); an income generating, sustainable agricultural project (Jatrofa Pepinyè); and a medical clinic (Clinique Espérance et Vie), which seems to be making great strides at meeting the health and wellness needs of the local population.

Construction has begun on a high school adjacent to the Ecole St. Barthélémy and the first $70,000 of the $200,000 needed to complete the project has been raised.  Currently, Ecole St. Barthélémy is educating and, more importantly, feeding 700 students per day.  To attend, students need $250 in tuition and a uniform.  Uniforms and backpacks have been donated by various entities and some students are sponsored.

The project’s intent is fairly straight-forward.  Both Bethlehem and Pere Bruno recognized years ago that education is the only way to break the cycle of poverty in Haiti – a country devastated by a harsh environment, a long-series of corrupt governments with little interest in helping its people, limited public utilities and transportation, no widespread individual agricultural efforts that can be utilized to feed it’s masses, a unique language that isolates them  and a host of odd traditions and superstitions fueled by voodoo among other things.  Suffice to say, it’s a complicated place with complicated problems.

That said, they are making great strides.  The power lines are up in Terrier Rouge although nothing runs through them.  Ironic at best.  About six miles down the road, a new university opened on January 12th – the two year anniversary of the Port-au-Prince earthquake.  Both the presidents of Haiti and the Dominican Republic visited the area while we were there (lots of helicopters which is odd for Haiti) as did former U.S. President Bill Clinton. That said, the primary mode of transport remains horses (ponies really, and donkeys)

I was part of a mission trip sponsored by the Warrenton Rotary and the Warrenton Presbyterian Church.  We were an eclectic group – old, young, black, white, men, women and a variety of religions. Our primary mission was to learn about the various projects going on in the area and to take these stories back to the U.S.  As I told a fellow traveler “This is about branding Haiti and all of us are part of that effort.” 

We saw many amazing things, places and people and had a wonderful grounding experience.  One of our treks was up the mountain to the very remote village of Petit Bourg De Danda that previously had a broken well.  The Warrenton Rotary raised $2,000 last year to get the villagers a new well, so we went to see how it was doing.   The residents were delighted to see us and explained (not to me, I don’t speak Creole or French) that the new well had all but wiped out Cholera there and generally improved the health of everyone.  We were very welcomed guests, and I left there resolved to build some additional wells in other local villages…

On the second anniversary of the 2010 earthquake we attended a moving service at the school before heading off to do a food drop at two isolated villages.  The night before we had repackaged over a ton of food in to individual bags for distribution to those in need - rice, beans, oil, pasta and salt herring.  A community leader distributed chits to various needy folks and they were lined up waiting for us when we arrived.

Both of these villages, Phaeton and Paulette, were both "company towns" for a factory that manufactured rope from a local plant.  When synthetic rope became less expensive to produce the factory went out of business leaving it's employees with no way to make a living.  As a result, the overwhelming majority of the food was distributed to elderly people who once worked for the rope plant.  This is something Pere Bruno does whenever he has the extra cash to buy the food and it  is very moving to see and always leaves at least one volunteer in tears and the rest not far behind...

We also built a garden for the clinic specifically for fruit trees and medicinal herbs.  I can’t say I was particularly pleased with my design (done over a bowl of delicious pumpkin soup at lunch), but I’ll be delighted if it’s there and functioning as intended next month, next year and ten years from now…The Warrenton Presbyterians coming in behind us will plant it and hopefully a few of our new Haitian friends will tend it from there.  Richard, who manages the clinic, did get some barbed-wire so he could keep the goats and pigs out…hopefully.  

While in Cap Haitien we visited the Kay Anj (Angel House) Orphanage established by four folks from Haymarket, VA.  It was, as all visits to orphanages are, both inspiring and distressing at the same time.  This particular place is a wonderful oasis in the middle of a hillside slum.  I feel badly about calling the area a "slum" since everyone seems to be doing the very best they can, but I don't know a better word to describe it. The children were sweet and loving and leaving them was difficult.  To read more about this amazing project, click here.

As guest of the school, we had deluxe accommodations – electricity (solar and generator), running water (no hot water), three square meals a day, briefly sort of cold beer each evening, an all important ceiling fan…and, yes, believe it or not, WiFi!  So we were hardly roughing it.  Cell phones worked perfectly in not inexpensively. 

Outside the compound was a very different story…

That said, one of the great things about the projects tackled by Pere Bruno is he knows his limitations.  He thinks globally and acts locally and he only tackles the mountains he knows he can move so efforts in Terrier Rouge, at the school and farm and the clinic all produce achievable goals and eventual results.  

My first goal is to raise enough money to provide several remote villages with clean water under Pere Bruno's direction.  We had tried to visit such a village last week, but it had rained there and the road (as it is) was a giant bog and impassable.

Each well costs about $5,000.  If you would like to help, go to

To read more about Terrier Rouge, click here and here

For more info about the school, farm and clinic, click here and scroll down a little or here.

-- Glenn Petty, January 2012. Edited June 2012.


The Warrenton gang left from DCA, went through Miami where we met Pastor Carrie Evans and then proceeded to Santiago, Dominican Republic.  In the group, me, Tony and Kevin Tedeschi, Matt and Renard Carlos, Asiaha Veney, Stan Parkes, Jim Lavin, John Connolly and Carrie Evans.
Of course, the maximum amount of luggage was brought full of many much so that the hotel had to hire a truck to move it.  I rode in the truck -- in the cab -- the first of my many truck rides on this trip.  The only odd thing that happened is the driver brought the truck to a stop to make a call on his cell phone. This would have been fairly mundane (and pleasing to Oprah) had he not done so while in the left lane of a two lane highway...Happily, we weren't rear-ended.

In spite of the fact that it was 11 pm on a Sunday by the time we got in and back out of our hotel, we wandered up the street and found a very nice outdoor cafe called Noah where we had some good and much needed food and some cold Presidentes.  Downtown Santiago is a bustling place with hotels, casinos and outdoor cafes all blaring music and featuring much baseball and soccer on their TVs.

The humor for the evening came from the attractive young hostess insisting to young Matt that there was "no dancing" inside the club even while we could see people dancing.  We resolved that she had simply decided that Matt would not be dancing (with her or anybody else)...Also the "preferred parking" across the street from the place was guarded by a small man with a big gun.  Evidently, the gun of choice for guarding things in both DR and Haiti is the pistol grip shotgun...we kept calling it "sawed off," but that's not right...sawed off means the barrel(s) is/are shortened so the shot blast expands faster...these guns had regular barrels but had pistol grips instead of a stock...Luckily, we never saw any in use.
Now, ironically, almost every business we saw had a "no guns" sign on the door...along with no animals, and, in the case of the casino in our hotel, no phones and no cameras...


Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Home sweet home for a night...apparently folks in the DR travel in large groups...Each of our rooms had three beds.
...and included breakfast.
The view of downtown Santiago from our balcony...
Hotel, casino and the bus that would take us to Haiti.
Lots of luggage loaded through a window.
Lots of luggage loaded more casually in Pere Bruno's truck.
Our first view of the border.  We arrived early and waited almost 90 minutes for Pere Bruno to come take us across the border. Evidently, you don't even think about trying this on your own.  Now that I've done it, I endorse this method. That said, at some point a pit stop was needed and the building that provided relief on other trips was locked this day.  Stan and I went on a scouting mission and a Haitian man quickly recognized our dilemma.  He proposed a solution in perfect english..."Pee pee" he said holding open a chain link fence and pointing us behind a building.  Oh well, when in Rome...He expected a tip for his good sumaritanism and was duly rewarded.
Several people tried to describe the border crossing to me and none really succeeded.  Now I know why. Afterwards, we agreed that we all lacked sufficient vocabulary to describe the crowds, the trash, the mud, the tents, the busses, the trucks, the scooters, etc.  It was complete chaos.  It was an "open" border day which multiplied the craziness by a factor of ten...John Connolly called it "dramatic" and I likened it to a scene out of a movie. 
The back of Pere Bruno's flat bed truck was the perfect spot to take it all in...

I'm not entirely sure why all these people were there or what they were doing...

The UN is everywhere in Haiti and it's abundantly unclear why or what they are meant to be doing...this was my first UN sighting.  As my friend Rob Flikeid told me in an text, stay away from the guys in the blue helmets (a UN trademark) they are the first to get it!
On the way in I called Quanaminthe a "wild west town" on the way out it seemed rather tame...
A little way into our road trip to Terrier Rouge, it started to rain.  Asiaha was clever enough to bring a poncho while the rest of us sought shelter under a hastily installed tarp.

John toughed it out. He got wet.  Really, really wet.
This is Tony, Jim and my dorm room at the St. Barthelemy school...power, water, a great ceiling fan and...drum roll, please...WiFi.  Hardly roughing it!
Where we ate each day in one of the school's kitchens.
Me and Asiaha and some of the school kids...
John and some students...some happier to see the camera than others...
One of many delicious meals we were served. If you don't like rice, beans and hot sauce, you will have a long week.  However, if you do, with a side of beef, pork, chicken and maybe even goat, you will eat well.  I enjoyed all of the food save the oatmeal which I never liked anyway...

Somewhere during the week I was reminded that I like cold drinks. I didn't miss soft drinks, I missed COLD drinks.  On one day, our lunch included lemonade with ice in it. It was made from frozen packets of purified water and on a hot Haitian day is was perfect.  On another day I took a Coke left over from the night before's beer and soft drink happy hour and put it in the freezer in the kitchen. I pulled it out at lunch and everybody who wanted some got a few fingers worth of cold disappeared rather quickly.

Cold. Cold is good.
There is an opening ceremony each day at school complete with songs, prayers and raising the flag while the school band played.
School attendance was off a bit on the days leading up to the anniversary of the big earthquake. Pere Bruno told us over breakfast that a local woman had taken to the radio and urged everyone to fast for three days prior to the anniversary and to keep their kids out of school lest some curse or some other evil thing befall them...She clearly had an impact as many children were absent...Pere Bruno was not amused.
One of the three dogs that guard the school compound at night. The other two are kept up during the day and out at night. I made friends with all three. I'm guessing they know a "dog person" when they smell one...


The view out our door...those are sweet potatoes.
This is our actual door...apparently the locksmith only had a "safe lock"! I never felt like I needed to lock the door and I was perpetually fearful of losing the key which would be difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate...
A view of the school...
John captures some images...
Blanc with camera...hmmm...

How cute are these kids as they file into their classroom.
Down a local street adjacent to the compound.

The clinic adjacent to the school.
St. Barthelemy School from the roof of the clinic.
The clinic's solar panels.
The neighborhood...
The clinic also has a generator and what we  would call a power box and a street light.  Folks sometimes read under the light at night since most homes don't have power.  There is always a gaggle of folks around the box charging phones...
Clinic courtyard.
The patient...
Many Haitians raise doves...we presume for eggs and to eat...

Edward, a recent graduate, and Tony with the Lakers jersey Tony's son Mike sent to Edward.  The name on the back is "Fletch."  That wasn't easy to explain.
Pig with a "keep out of the house" device in place.
Asiaha wants to be a nurse so she spent a day in the clinic...this is the pharmacy.  The flight to Miami was Asiaha's first plane ride. Imagine, the first time you leave the country, you go to Haiti.  Of course, on her first trip through airport security, she was pulled out of line.  I accompanied her through customs on the way back in and now she is an accomplished international traveler.  To her credit, she handled what should have been an overwhelming experience for a first time traveler with great composure and grace.  

We took a soccer ball to the group of kids playing soccer in a small plaza next to the school. They were using a partially inflated rubber basketball...that had to be hard on the feet.  We gave the ball to one of Pere Bruno's guys who explained that it was for everybody and that it needed to find it's way back to the gate at game's end so it could be used the next day and the next day...It was still in play when we left.

I'm a pig, and I'm leaving.  That's not my flip flop either, I'm a pig....'s a beautiful day!
A bivouac kitchen outside a home in Terrier Rouge. These are pretty common and a good way to keep the cooking fire out of the house.

Stan, or somebody, took a bunch of Hot Wheels type cars and trucks...very popular.
The Carlos brothers got a good game of keep away going...

Matt, Renard and Asiaha seemed to confuse the Haitian kids at first.  It was their skin color. Evidently, they hadn't seen many (if any) black Americans.  They would point to their arms and then point to Matt or Renard or Asiaha's arm.  Yes, we are the same color is how the conversation went between two parties without a common language.  All three are smart, charming young people and all had an easy manner with the kids and adults.

Yes, they are playing Angry Birds!
Like I said, some are camera shy, others clearly are not!
There was a gentleman staying at the school named Andy. He is an agricultural engineer from Georgia and with the support of his church and some other organization (can't remember), he has started a commercial farm. Andy says you can grow anything in Haiti once you get past the top soil...
Among the things he grows -- ghost peppers.  Yike.
Millions of lizards.
This is a Haitian's made of a fast growing cactus that is impenetrable.  The thorns break off in your skin and the juice will blind you if it gets in your eye.  It grows very quickly and is kept in shape with a machete.
Got thorns...
They are sewing something at Andy's farm with these antique foot powered Singers...
Matt pointing out the ever-present UN presence. On this particular day, a U.S. Secret Service agent was with the UN guys from Uruguay.  Turns out President Clinton visited Andy's farm the next day...

Pere Bruno enjoys some fresh "coconut water."
Three modes of local transportation.
And where are you two headed this fine day?

Pere Bruno's cashew farm.

The road to Pere Bruno's cattle farm was tricky.  He is a man of faith and driving in Haiti requires just that.  I drove one leg of this journey and really enjoyed it.
The cactus hedge and some barbed wire makes for a very good fence.

Pere Bruno's Brahmas help pump some water into their trough.
The brands in Haiti are big...JMB for Jean M. Bruno.  But they don't look like brands done with a branding iron. It look like they took a hot iron and carved the initials onto the animals.  However, they do it, it works.
Hanging out at the cattle farm.
Pere Bruno surveying the cashew farm.
On the way home, we visited a new set of triplets that recently arrived in Terrier Rouge...they live in a small two-room house (that Tony is looking in) with nine other people.  Note the ducks. Pere Bruno is trying to help them out and various folks have chipped in...Here is a photo of them taken in December.

More doves at the triplets home...
Pere Bruno with one of the trips.
The kitchen...
This is a random photo taken from the back of a moving truck in the shadows of late afternoon. It has many flaws...not the least of which is it's out of focus...I just liked something about it.
These nice ladies did our laundry and hung it up on the line for us to retrieve...
Renard, Lulu and Jim.
Kevin, Lulu and Matt.