A Jefe, a Horse and the Bano of Their Dreams…

Spread the love

img_3018.jpgLike the rest of the people in that tiny, obscure village, he is dirt poor. But he has something that few others in his situation have: transportation. It comes in the form of a horse.His horse is a far cry from a ‘trusty steed’. In fact, I would probably say it is more like a tired, anorexic mare. However you want to classify it, it is a horse, and that alone is a valuable commodity where he finds himself.He is the jefe (pronounced hay-fay) and it means he is the boss. The title is in reference to the years he oversaw the workers in the cane fields, and he still carries himself like a man who is used to being accountable for people. He rides his horse in places that are too far to walk and the animal is both transportation and freight delivery at times.He looks you in the eye when you ask him a question and he is watchful to anticipate your needs and concerns. The community respects him and his children miraculously seem to listen to him. His name is Jose-Michele and he is a good man. He is kind and truly cares about the people of Chichigua, a small Haitian community clinging to the side of a sprawling overgrown sugar cane field.jefes-daughter.jpgEveryone in the community seems to remember all being there together. Some of them have papers to be in Dominican Republic that were clearly issued many moons ago, long before the tension of statelessness that frustrates the country today. All those years, living and working together and all those years sharing one thing in common morning, noon and night: they used the surrounding field as a bathroom.It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? But what else are you going to do with no work, no money and barely enough food to survive? The last item on your to-do list is a proper bathroom, and even then you would probably write it off as a non-necessity. But proper sanitation means more than you or I can appreciate, because sometimes it can mean the difference between life and death.It’s pretty exciting to be a part of something so simple, yet something so profoundly impacting on a community like this. Women and children can feel a little safer, not having to trek out into the fields in the dark. Communal showers mean less transmission of diseases and the basic human right to be nice and clean. Life in general takes on a new quality, as you realize that you are worth the effort, simply because you have intrinsic value and someone cared enough to acknowledge that value.Jose-Michele has 12 kids between himself and his wife. They have grown children with kids of their own, and they have toddlers running around, playing at their feet. They have a daughter who is mentally and physically disabled, whom the community loves very much, and they have the daily challenge of survival. I asked him what they do for work and for food, and he pointed to the banana trees along the side of the field, indicating that they can always img_6045.jpgeat and sell them somewhere.With a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders, he said, “We always find a way to eat”.I asked him what he thought about the new toilet and shower facility being built right in front of him by 27 high school students from North Vancouver, B.C.He just smiled, nodded his head, and looked me in the eye. “I think it’s very good – for all of us.”He’s right. It is good for all of us. They needed the help and we needed to help. Life is good according to Jose-Michele and I think those of us that are a part of what happened in that tiny community have to say agree.Thank you, Chichigua, for letting us into your world; and thank you, world, for helping us get into Chichigua.This summer you can join us in Dominican Republic as we have the incredible opportunity to change the world and be changed in the process! Check out You belong here!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: March 18th, 2011