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Date: Sun, 15 Nov 1998 10:11:57 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: From the San Francisco Chronicle (fwd)
To: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9811151035.A25035-0100000@netcom14>

From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>

A Beacon of Hope in Haiti

Berkeley know-how helps homeless youth run radio station

By Judith Scherr, San Francisco Chronicle
6 October 1998

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- In a sweltering room just big enough for the journalist and his two interviewees, Jeremy Dupin queries Bay Area visitors. The soft-spoken 13-year-old moves seamlessly from questions on why the Franciscan nuns and the Haitian-American doctor have come to Haiti to a discussion of the fate of Haitian refugees in the United States.

Jeremy, who will edit the interview for the noon news broadcast, is among the regular programmers at Radyo Timoun -- Children's Radio -- the 2-year-old radio station run by children and their adult coaches. After her interview with Jeremy, Sister Maureen Duignan, director of the refugee rights program at the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant in Berkeley, says she is impressed by the mature and thoughtful questions Jeremy asked her and Pittsburg resident Dr. Alix Magloire, associate chief of medicine at the Oakland Veteran's Administration Clinic.

"It's the first time I've been interviewed by a 13-year-old," says Duignan, who coordinated the medical team that came to Haiti to vaccinate 1,200 children against measles, mumps and rubella and to learn about the needs of the people in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

"It's encouraging to see Radyo Timoun trying to empower young people and develop their skills, their talents," Duignan says. "This is a real sign of hope for me to see."

The radio station is at Lafanmi Selavi, a facility serving 400 street children. Its name means "Family is Life" in Creole. It was founded 12 years ago by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who served as president for seven months in 1991 until a coup displaced him. He was returned to power in 1994 and served the remaining 16 months of his term in office. The Aristide Foundation supports Lafanmi and the radio station.

While Duignan was interviewed at the radio station, other members of the delegation were downstairs vaccinating youngsters.


Most of the young programmers and technicians are among the 250 youths who live at Lafanmi or among the 150 others who come for meals, school and recreation. Jeremy's parents brought him to live at Lafanmi when they could no longer afford to feed him.

y "I like doing shows on children's rights," he says, speaking in French, his second language after Haitian Creole.

"People need to respect children's' rights, even the dirty children. I was like those who live in the street, but I was lucky," he said, noting that about 200,000 children live on the streets of Port-au-Prince. "Here we have each other and a place to play sports. When I think about that, that I was so hungry, and how lucky I was to come here, I have to advocate for the children on the streets."


As Jeremy is interviewed in a hallway just outside the two-room on- air studio, five children from 4 to 6 years old sit on a bench. An adult instructor preps them. "Name some animals that have four feet," she says.

"A cow, a goat, a dog," the children call out loudly.

"Name some animals that have two feet," the instructor continues, and when the children have answered, she asks them to name animals that have hair and others that have feathers.

Moments later, the children file into the studio, and the live broadcast begins. A 15-year-old engineer works the board and intersperses talk with children's music. The program, a sort of kindergarten on the air, is transmitted throughout Haiti and reaches children with access to radios in remote parts of the country.

Programming directed to young children is especially important for those who don't go to school, Jeremy says. UNESCO rates Haiti's literacy rate at 45 percent.

The five kids file out, heads high, with grins that say they know they've done something special.

Jeremy, who has worked at Radyo Timoun since its inception, is just one of the links in a chain that leads from the Port-au-Prince radio station to the Bay Area. He got his initial training from a San Francisco-based Pacific News Service journalist who spent six weeks at the station teaching broadcasting skills two years ago.

He also has been coached by Laronce Bernadstral, 20. Bernadstral and another young Radyo Timoun journalist spent two months in San Francisco and Berkeley two years ago training at Pacific News Service, Free Radio Berkeley and KPFA-radio. Radyo Timoun is also linked to the Bay Area by its original transmitter, installed by staff from Free Radio Berkeley, the pirate radio station now banned from Bay Area air waves.


Aristide, who has visited the Bay Area a number of times, raised funds for the radio station in Berkeley in 1996 with actor Danny Glover.

Dressed in a knit cap and baggy pants, Bernadstral has come into the studio to help the younger programmers and prepare his regular weekly talk show, where he covers topics including girls' and women's rights and rap music.

"I went to California to study skills for the station: interviewing, editing, making shows," Bernadstral says in nearly perfect English. "In Berkeley I worked with Free Radio Berkeley. I learned about the transmitter and how to use the board."

Bernadstral once lived on the streets of Port-au-Prince. Another street child brought him to Lafanmi when he was about 12 and he lived there until recently, when he was reunited with a relative with whom he is living. Now he's trying to finish high school.

Bernadstral and the reporter interrupt their interview to go into the studio and watch the noon newscast, one of three broadcast daily. An adult broadcaster and her 16-year- old co-anchor report in Creole on a dispute between the United States and Haiti over the ownership of an island off Haiti's shore. They use Jeremy's material in a segment about the U.S. medical delegation.

At the end of the half-hour broadcast, the young engineer gives the duo behind the glass a thumbs up and plays music, as the two journalists cheer and hug each other, indicating that, perhaps, the flawless show wasn't as easy to do as it appeared.


Bernadstral points to his modest roots and training in the free speech capital of the world. Like Jeremy, he underscores the importance of kids' rights in his programming.

"Kids on the street are starving to death. They sleep in doorways, sometimes they steal. Some people treat them bad," he says. "Street kids are 5 years old -- they go begging; they sleep bad at night, in dirty clothes; they sniff glue and get drunk. Little girls are prostitutes."

Radyo Timoun gives them hope.

"The radio station gives us a place to explain our needs, to say that children have a right to eat, to play, to go to school. Education is important in somebody's life; without it, you are nothing," he says passionately.

"The kids are the future of Haiti. We need all our voices to be heard."