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Not for Sale

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generators via teledyòl (“word of mouth”) and invited Delva to come up and make his pitch. Delva was the magistrate of Thomonde and—as I would come to find out, a visionary—totally dedicated to the well-being of his citizenry. All three wore long-sleeve white shirts, red and black ties, and black trousers. Their demeanor expressed their seriousness of purpose: They were on a mission to earn one of those generators for Thomonde.

Even though Bob and Mathieu spoke better English, after the introductions, Delva did all the talking. He was a short, stocky man who spoke with that perpetual Haitian smile, a smile that reminded me of Régis. Thomonde is more than just a village in the central plateau. It is actually a whole section or “commune,” roughly equivalent to a county, which included four other villages and the surrounding countryside, with approximately 50,000 people. Historically, in the eyes of the government in Port-au-Prince, Thomonde did not exist. There had been no electricity in Thomonde for more than 20 years, which adversely affected health and community development. Delva then rattled off a string of statistics documenting just how bad things were in Thomonde and how much good could be accomplished—refrigeration, a hospital, improved education, jobs—if only they had power. There is an expression in Creole: Lespwa fè viv, “Hope makes us live.” Delva was clearly pinning a lot of his hopes for Thomonde on one of our generators.

“That’s very impressive,” I told the committee, after Delva finished his presentation, “but it doesn’t work like that. It’s not within my power to just give you one of these generators. Everyone wants one and everyone claims they need one. You have to write a proposal. It’s competitive. The generators will be awarded according to merit.”

The committee members conferred among themselves for a minute. “No problem. We will have it to you by tomorrow morning.” Sure enough, Delva returned at 8:30 the following morning with a 20-page plan to bring electricity to Thomonde. He asked if I would review it to be sure it was what I wanted. Remarkably, it was

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