March 15, 2004 - Ironwood Daily Globe: Peace Corps Volunteers Kenn and Jeanne Miller evacuated from Haiti

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Haiti: Feb, 2004: Peace Corps evacuates Volunteers from Haiti: March 15, 2004 - Ironwood Daily Globe: Peace Corps Volunteers Kenn and Jeanne Miller evacuated from Haiti

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Peace Corps Volunteers Kenn and Jeanne Miller evacuated from Haiti



Peace Corps Volunteers Kenn and Jeanne Miller evacuated from Haiti

Peace Corps couple evacuated
Published Monday, March 15, 2004 11:33:54 AM Central Time

By JONATHAN HAWLEY

Globe Intern

IRONWOOD -- With the Haitian government freshly overthrown, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide exiled, and U.S. Marines maintaining a very strained peace, Haiti is not a pleasant place to be right now.

This near anarchy, superimposed on one of the poorest countries on Earth, has made Haiti the United States' most volatile neighbor, and a place where Uncle Sam's parental ability will be seriously strained, as bullets rule over ballots.

In spite of this, Kenn and Jeanne Miller want back in.

The Millers, former Gogebic County residents, were recently evacuated from Haiti due to the ongoing violence, disrupting their work as Peace Corps volunteers in the Haitian town of Bethel.

Bethel, which translates to "House of God," is far from idyllic. Located 35 miles north of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and nestled in the mountains, the former 2,500-acre plantation depends mainly on agriculture for sustenance.

"Haiti was divided into plantations in the 1700s. Today it has difficulty establishing land rights because of past practices and nonexistent judicial practices," the Millers explain. "No one takes responsibility for the depleted land."

Bethel has little in the way of food, clean water, housing, health care and sanitation. Necessities are not easily gained, as the arability of the land has been reduced due to soil erosion and virtually no irrigation, in addition to the nearest market being five miles away with little to buy or sell.

It is also not an easy five miles, as "hunting camp roads in Gogebic County are better than the dirt road leading to Bethel. The road requires four-wheel-drive vehicles and in the rainy season are almost impassable." They walked a 10-hour round trip to and from the market, where Haitians make about $1 a day from bartering.

The couple, who had only completed five months of their 27-month commitment -- only three months in Haiti after two months of Creole language training -- were helping with these problems, building irrigation channels and generally providing knowledge, experience and time.

They praised the Haitian people, saying they are "hard-working, sharing, determined people." The Millers are also proud of their own work, noting "we identify needs and look for resources to solve the problem."

And they are proud of the Peace Corps itself, saying its members are -- in the truest sense -- volunteers and it is the only organization whose members adapt to the culture and reside with the people they are aiding.

"The people of Bethel welcomed us to their community with open arms and were eager to learn about America. Once they realized we were there for two years, they were willing to share their lives for two years they were willing to share their lives with us and soon our outward differences were shed."

The Millers, when evacuated, were told by the U.S. Department of State that the government would re-evaluate the Haitian situation in three months, to decide if it was stable enough for them to return. They disapprove of the wait because it has disrupted their work.

They also said, of the 77 volunteers, more than two-thirds have received other assignments or left the Peace Corps. They find this unfortunate, explaining that Haiti is the poorest country close to America, and with the Peace Corps gone, the Haitians have lost their best hope for a better life.

"The plight of the Haitians who live high in the mountains is unbelievable. They start out in the dark of early morning and walk four to five hours to a market place to sell what they can carry on their heads or transport by donkey, sit all day to sell $1 to $2 (American) worth of goods, only to have to walk back up the mountain, another four to five hours, arriving after dark at their huts."

Until they are allowed to return, the Millers will remain in Gogebic County. They are willing to speak with groups, organizations, or schools interested in their work and experiences. They can be contacted at 932-4988. Those interested in specific projects and funding them should contact by e-mail at kennjmiller@hotmail.com. These projects encompass basic needs in agriculture, health, business and education.




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Story Source: Ironwood Daily Globe

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Haiti; Safety and Security of Volunteers

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