Spotlight on a Community: Thomonde

By Bryan Schaaf on Thursday, October 18, 2007.

At Haiti Innovation, we frequently discuss issues relating to health, community mobilization, and development.  From time to time, we also like to focus on a particular province to illustrate that  positive changes that are being made.  In this way, when people ask you if there is hope for Haiti, we hope you will reply with a resounding yes.

Let's take a look at Thomonde.  Thomonde is in the middle of the country on the Central Plateau.  The Central Plateau is a bit like Haitian Appalachia in that most Haitians not from there will ever visit the Central Plateau.  The road is extremely bad which makes transport difficult.  Residents of the plateau have long been marginalized by central government after central government as they have a tradition of standing up for their rights and when warranted actively resisting oppression. 

 

During the marine occupation of Haiti in the early 1900s (the longest U.S occupation of any country), the marines were forcing Haitians to work on roads for free.  Slavery redux.   The marines also collaborated with the Catholic church to burn Vodou related paraphenelia. Even if you dont agree with Vodou, this is theft and destruction of property on top of forced labor.

 

The Plateau is poor even by Haitian standards.  Malnutrition is rampant and the health care system has traditionally been poor.  When I began working in Thomonde as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 2000-2002, there were no (real) doctors or nurses for a provincial population of 50,000. 

 

But Thomonde has changed.  A lot.  Through the work of Project Medishare, Partners in Health, the Haitian Ministry of Health, and a very active and engaged community, the health care system has been rehabilitated, expanded, and is in many ways a model.

 

There are now community based programs to treat community members living with HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis.  There are teams of community health workers who go house to house providing care and support and carrying out important education activities.  The clinic, previously defunct, has been reconstructed with a fully functional laboratory.  Ambulances were purchased.  Previously, if you were to get sick late at night in Thomonde, you were in very serious trouble.  This has been addressed.

 

Just as the people of Thomonde used to leave the province in search of health care, now neighboring communities come to Thomonde.  For this reason, Project Medishare has been constructing a hospital in the town proper.

 

The Medical Complex will also have three nutrition related facilities: An Akamil Production Facility, the Childhood Nutrition Treatment Center and an education and training center. The Akamil Production Facility is particularly notworthy in that it will manufacture and distribute AKA1000, ( a mix of locally-grown products such as cereals and vegetables blended into powder. The finished product will be fortified with a mix of important vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, and Vitamin A.  It is a locally and culturally appropriate tool for fighting malnutrition.  As a bonus, all ingredients are purchased locally so it stimulates the economy.  There are plans for eventual expansion to other parts of the country.

 

The Education and Training Center will be used to train health care providers in the central department (not just Thomonde) on proper treatment and management of malnutrition.  It will also allow for volunteers to spend extended periods of time in Haiti, supporting exisiting programs, including surgeons, doctors, students, and consultants.  For this person of the project, Project Medishare still needs $1.4 million. So spread the word.

 

There have been other changes as well.  Thomonde has been deemed significant enough by the central government to warrant a delegate (my old neighbor) meaning that Thomonde now has a voice in political affairs.  

 

There is now a Fonkoze local bank meaning that the Thomondoise no longer have to keep their money under their mattresses.  Unlike the notoriously corrupt Caisse Populares, Fonkoze is reputable.

 

It no longer matters that the Teleco never, ever works.  With Digicel having swept the country with their cell phones, people in Thomonde can stay in touch with friends, families, and business contacts in a way that they could not years ago.

 

So clearly, much progress has been made.  There is much more to be done though.  With the Plateau one of the few regions in the country to still be semi forested, every day the camion trucks come up from Port au Prince to purchase wood charcoal to take back to sprawling port au prince - a capitol that lacks reliable electricty.

 

I've been told the road is being improved and Thank God for that, as it truly is awful.  I've almost gone over Mon Kabrit once or twice, so the improvement of the road (and some barriers) would facilitate the movement of both people and products.  Should the road ever be improved from Hince to Cap Haitian (this will take a while), it would make the regional capitol of the Plateau (Hinche) a bustling commercial town.  It could shave hours off a coast to coast trip.

 

It's a long haul to get there, but Thomonde is a great little town with fun, friendly people.  Some of them I consider family.   Its tough for many former Peace Corps Volunteers to be out of contact with their places of service, but I have been fortunate to have been back several times.   I'm happy to tell you things are getting better. One community at a time.

 

How are things in your former town/city of service?  Send a blog to bryan@haitiinnovation.org and we will be happy to post it for you.

 

Bryan

Development

I need to get all the solidarity possible as seek to make Thomonde a model city in Haiti. We will develop Thomonde's agriculture buy building an agro-industrial park there to assist the farmers in their quest for economic freedom.We don't need to be in power in port-au-prince to get that done.

It is time to take the destiny of our communities in our hand and pave the way for the new Haiti.

People from Thomonde should not be in lines to collect bags of rice from Brazil. The land in Thomonde is fertile and we have the river of Thomonde so why should anyone there be hungry?

We can open streets in Thomonde and pave them all if we are organised.Yes we can do it.

Those in power will see that we know what we want and that we know that they have no agenda for developing our communities.

It is time to take our own destiny seriously.

Thomonde here we come!

Louinel Jean

my interest in thomonde

It was so refreswing to read your report of my community. I was born and grown in Thomonde up to 12 years old.I knew almost every corner and localities of thomonde. This is where I learnt to swim in the river of thomonde and eat cane and mangoes. Thomonde has always been marginalised in the past and my dream is to build the best high school of Haiti there with everything that is worthy of a great community.

I want to build a model school in thomonde and prepare the future leaders of Haiti there.It will be a great campus where our young people become concious of who they represent in this hemisphere. I will plant the largest Haitian flag in the school playgrounds.This shall come to pass as I continue to push this agenda.

Thomonde is my home.

I will be in London for my masters in Development studies and at the end of my studies I will conduct the fusibility study for this great project.

Thomonde is the place where I will display my love for Haiti.I won't need to be in power in port-au-prince to this.The Lord God almighty will show me the way.

Louinel Jean

Thomonde celebrates a 40th Anniversary

PRESS RELEASE
FAEMAT/BOS/GL/PR/44/2008en
October 15th, 2008

Thomonde celebrates a 40th Anniversary

THOMONDE, HAITI – Ecole Marie Auxiliatrice de Thomonde is one of the most prestigious elementary schools and institutions in Haiti . It was inaugurated on October 28th, 1968 and built by the Reverend Father Henry Garsou, a priest of the Salesians of Don Bosco. He was in charge of the parish of Thomonde, Central Plateau of Haiti. He invited the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Cluny, who since that time have administered the school. Today, Sister Cecile De La Vierge is the principal in charge.

This religious Congregation was founded by the Blessed Anne-Marie Javouhey on May 12, 1807 in Chalon , France . She believed in the dignity of the poorest and worked to promote freedom from oppression. She inspired her Sisters of the congregation to serve the Church of Jesus-Christ throughout the world. Providing a Christian education is one of their missions. The Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Cluny counts today more than 3,000 Sisters of 67 nationalities across 60 countries and in more than 412 cities around the world. They are well established in Canada , USA ( Newport , RI ) and of course present in Haiti and at Thomonde. During the weekend of May 20th, 2007, last year the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Cluny celebrated their 200th Anniversary with the Thomonde Community.

During this celebration, one of the senior alumni and master of ceremonies, M. Jean Robert Pasquette, recognized and thanked – in the name of all alumni students – all the Sisters and teachers for their personal sacrifices in leaving their family and friends behind to come to serve and educate the little children of Thomonde. At the same occasion, he also invited all former students to regroup, to be united to carry high and proud the torch of this ‘Alma Mater’. Consequently, the Alumni Foundation of the school – known as FAEMAT - was created. Since then, the foundation operates with this noble mission in perspective.

Close to a thousand young men and women are proud of the school’s history. On its premises, they have received the fundamentals of their character, as well as moral and spiritual principles that guide them today. After forty years, the school still stands proud as one of the best and most prestigious schools in Haiti . On the 26th of October, 2008 the buildings of the school will receive several students, parents, teachers, dignitaries, friends and special guests from everywhere – coming and united to celebrate with the Thomonde Community the 40th anniversary.

To all students and seniors, to all teachers and parents, old, former and present, to their friends, donors and benefactors, to the dear Sisters of Saint Joseph of Cluny, to Sister Cecile De La Vierge:

* * HAPPY ANNIVERSARY THOMONDE * *

Good information Bryan

Right on! Your information is inspiring and encourages the reader to beg for more. But, if I may Bryan with all due respect, and in honore of Charlemagne Peralte (1886-1919) and Benoit Batraville (1877-1920), I would say instead that "The Pursuit of JUSTICE is part of the culture of living on the Central Plateau" - a godly desire. The U.S. Occupation of [1915-1934] is an accurate illustration. You made your point, loud and clear! and beautifully so. Thanks Bryan!

Slavery on the Plateau

I should explain. Resistance is part of the culture of living on the Central Plateau. People on the Plateau have a tradition of standing up for what they feel is right - and this has often left them marginalized by the central government. The marines were very active on the Plateau during the occupation (longer than Vietnam!). The Marines forced plateau residents to work on the roads without payment, saying it was for their own good. It was basically slavery - but they resisted. Back then, they would have probably been called insurgents. But they reisted the marines, they resisted dictatorships, they stood up for governments that they felt represented them, and resisted those they felt did not. That is what I should have said. Thanks for pointint out.

This was very informative.

This was very informative. But I see no benefit in the mention of the U.S. occupation. This came out of the clear blue and had no bearing on the entire message. Though this was a slight display of anger and bitterness, it was a big distraction for me.

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