Monday, August 27, 2007

Navy Work Day in Canaries! It was awesome!

The Canaries work day was a great success.

My fellow Peace Corps volunteers and staff really came through for me and Canaries. The Navy was set to arrive at 9:20-10:00am but they did not actually arrive until 1:00pm due to docking issues. It was pretty much Peace Corps volunteers doing the work until then and a great amount was accomplished in that time laying the groundwork for the Navy volunteers from the ship USS MITSCHER (DDG 57).

Here we are getting instructions from Michael.

The basic goals of the day were to rebuild the old church doors and fix the window shutters and secure them along with the rest of the building so vagrants would no longer break into the church along with repair of the stairwell leading up to the balcony.

Nick and Michael tearing out a rotten section of the old door.

Tameron, notice the safety glassed Remey and Marina, safety is always first for PCV's. :)

When the Navy did arrive they did great work particularly in repairing the stairwell and securing the windows along with all the other work.

We also had some great help from Canaries people who repaired some of the mortar and chopped down some fig trees that were growing into the mortar of the church.

One of the young men from Canaries mixing cement for mortar repair.

Short Video of the Navy volunteers working along with everyone else.

You can see the work here of basically rebuilding the entire door.

Props to John for coming out and helping.

Your first question in this picture may be, why are they cutting up an old wood pallet. One of things you will quickly learn in the Caribbean is to use all of you availabe resources. We tore apart the pallets to provide filler wood for the door frames. This saved us from cutting up good expensive wood for this. Alex and Dre are taking care of the demolition of that pallet here.

Another clip showing everyone at work.

One of the Navy volunteers repairing the church window.

Me and the Canabelle ladies who were on site selling their soap.

Here is a shot of one of the bottom of the doors where the rotten wood was cut out and replaced with new.

LANDO, fellow Hoosier extraordinaire! Notice the door on the right, it was completly repaired and painted white.

Here are some great shots of the Navy volunteers handing out toys and presents to the needy children. The first one is of down syndrome boy, he is an incredibly sweet kid, I hope no one took his bunny from him.

One of the local fisherman came over and wanted to help, I told him its the dirties most dangerous job, he said give it to me, so we placed the latter on the side of the church and we went up with my cutluss and chopped out the tree that was destroying the buildings mortar.

I would like to thank Michael first for supplying a large amount of tools and bringing his expertise to the job by breaking people into work teams.

I would like the thank these PCV's who came and supported me and Canaries.
Megan M. and her man John
Megan G.

Not the greatest group picture, I am the person you cannot see at all with the sun behind me.

I would like to also give a big thanks to Kate the EC director for meeting the $400 US need for the project when funding fell through, thanks for stepping in with that.

I would like to thank the new Deputy Assistant Director Helen. Thanks for getting the Navy donations to Canaries.

To Sharmon I know you would have loved to come, we missed you, thanks Hillary, and Hermina and also Remey.

Thanks to Community Club for providing the other matching dollars to make the project possible from the Poverty Reduction Funding. Thanks Erickson for drawing up the plans and material lists and respect to Edsel, John and the other members.

Thank you Navy volunteers from USS MITSCHER we really appreciate your donations and time that you gave to this little fishing village.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Quick Update after Hurricane Dean

Here are a few pictures and a video clip showing the aftermath of Dean.

St. Lucia was not affected to much, suffering mostly from the storm surge and high winds. The Hurrican passed between St. Lucia and Martinque. I can tell you with certainty it would have been an absolute disaster if it had hit, with some of the houses being made by tin roofs and plywood houses.

I stayed in Souf at Megan Hawks and the other volunteers since her house was selected as a safe house. It was fine, we lost power for a while and the winds were fairly strong during the hurricane. Souf really was not effected, maybe because it has the Pitons. Most of the damage was on the beach from the storm surge, it tore of some signs and tore some of the wood off the Jetti.

Cannaries suffered more, 3 houses lost their roofs including the libarian.

Marcy parents area had some damage two with a little wood house being crushed by a fallen breadfruit tree. One of the only know casulities was an old man trying to safe his cow in the river. He was swept away but I believe the cow was okay.

Here is the Canaries Jetti, the rest of the wood was popped off and the support beam towards the end is gone making it a very short landing area now.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Update on my work in the form of a letter to the Canaries UK Association

Greetings to Simon, Greenage and Members of the UK Association,

I am returning the funding for the rabbit project with a heavy heart. After unsuccessfully being able to breed rabbits for the past 6-7 months and a long talk with Spring who has a larger rabbit operation it has become apparent to me that raising rabbits is not as easy of an option as I was led to believe. Spring told me frankly that he was losing money on the rabbit operation and that it was not a good business to be in. On paper and in theory it seemed to be the perfect business but in the practical application it does not seem to work. Spring theorizes that in the village rabbits get frightened to often disturbing their breeding cycles resulting in the mothers killing their own young.

I greatly appreciate the UK association show of faith in me and the project. I think it takes a stronger person to end something and admit that it is not working then to waste precious resources when they could be used in other beneficial ways.

On the positive side I would like to encourage the members to watch some video clips shot of local members for some of the community awards interviews, especially Kidney “Kikid” Leonty who is now 90 years old. We have perhaps his last interview and another clip of him singing. We also have other videos featured; this can all be watched at this website. Scroll down towards the bottom and click on more videos to see them all. I would like the members to think about possibly setting up a Canaries website or blog where we can feature interviews of the community members and UK members and maybe a news section. My only concern is who will maintain it when I leave in a year.

Of course please see my blog where I am keeping an update in pictures and videos of work, projects and life in Canaries.

Project wise I am excited, Creole Pot is really starting to become established, with the additional sponsorship of the Brewery are basic costs of running the street party are nearly covered. The reputation of the street party and of Canaries is really taking off, I am trying to post a video that was done by Ministry of Agriculture to my blog and the youtube video website. It is quite amazing and you will all be very, very proud. I have finished updating the Creole Pot brochure for this year and we have added the UK Association as one of our sponsors.

The two main projects I am now involved in are the Old Church Project and Canabelle. The proposal for the old church in nearly complete and the scope of the project is AMAZING in the ways that it will help the community. I look forward to providing a finished copy. We would like the Canaries UK Association to partner up with it. The main intention of the project is to provide and income producing project as Simon encouraged up to pursue. Simon and Greenage informed us that UK Association is really focusing on helping projects where the Sterling donated can be seen in measurable results like employment, infrastructure improvements and promotion of Canaries. I know this is project you will be able to get behind in a solid way knowing that great benefits will come. So keep your eyes peeled, it will be coming. A final not on that, the Basic Needs Trust Fund is keenly interesting in funding it along with Mr. Isadore of the Housing Ministry who sees this falling under a urban renewal program along with the Catholic Archdiocese who is currently pledging $20,000 US towards the project according to Father Goodman.

I would also ask for your continued support of Creole Pot which in my opinion is where a lot of this serious community development momentum has originated. We are still in negotiation with the Distillery and the Brewery for the tents for the venue. We should speak more on Creole Pot to see the next direction for us including a possible Canaries weekend as Simon mentioned at one point.

Nest weekend we will be moving the Canabelle into the Old Church so that they have permanent building so we can pursue licensing for them through the Bureau of Standards.

I was able to submit a competitive proposal to have the US Navy come in and provide a work day along with $400 US; Canaries Community Club is matching that with $500. If the Hurricane does not take us out we will be using that money to repair the doors and windows to secure the building. Community Club has already installed basic lighting and electrical in the building.

With Canabelle my main goal is to finish writing a development plan for them, make adjustments to the business side by having a third party accountant in Castries as we will be pursuing international funding. Safety equipment purchases to protect the ladies from the caustic soda and lie and training to improve the formulas since the current soap only lasts on average 3 days. When this is accomplished my next goal would be to develop a smaller bar of soap designed for the hotels. We will begin working with the St. Lucia Hotel Association on that once the infrastructure and administrative changes have taken place God willing.

Again thank you for you support as we work on OUR beautiful village together,

Yours in community work,

Lee “Leo” Klejnot

Monday, August 13, 2007

Leonty's Bar Drumming Up More Business

One of the small side projects I have been having a fun time with is helping Marcy's Parents. They own a small bar in Anse Le Verde but like most bars on the island business is slow. A lot of this has to do with the density of SPB (Saint Lucian Per Bar). In Canaries for example where the population is a little over 12oo we have 12 bars at the moment. Anyone can start a bar/rumshop. You can just set up a shack on the side of the road using bamboo, and scrap sheet metal or even palm tree branches. Grab yourself a cooler with some ice, add a few choice bottles of alcohol and throw in some spice rum and you are good to go. Licensing is not enforced.

Leonty's Bar is the largest and has the best location and should be steady with business especailly with the pool table and Hi Fi system. But with 3 other bars within 2 blocks its competitive. The tendency in St. Lucia is to copy anyones else's idea if they are making money, its systemic and not going away anytime soon.

Our goals are simple, bring in more consistent business.

Cy and his family are very open to improving things which is great start. I have found as we all do anywhere that half of the business's may listen but they throw up their hands when it comes to the work or they expect you to do it all for them. Marcys parents are not that case, they trust me and want to improve their business.

The first thought I had when looking at their business was install a beer tap to pick up tourist traffic especially with Cricket World Cup in March. The government claimed that the island was going to be invaded by 20,000 people, that hotels were going to be overflowing. In fact they claimed that two cruise ships would have to be parked in the harbor just to serve as floating hotels for all the visitors. I talked to the Windward Island Brewery Rep Russel Myers during all this hype and he wisely steered me a away from the beer tap idea. It would have been a disaster, the foretold masses of tourists never happened and St. Lucians like their bottles and with business as slow as it is the beer would have been flat before a keg was sold.

So instead we went for the 2 Pitons for $5 deal.

The key idea came from my Aunt Tina and Aunt Cass. You have to make a sign big enough for tourists (mostly 50+ =bad eyes) to actually be able to see it when you advertise it. Me and Cy and Jason a family friend built a massive white double sided sign. It was an incredible amount of work really with the lack of experience we had, the letters being the most difficult. Marcy and I tried to use stencils for that and it was a disaster with oil based paint leaking past the lettering turning it into a large red smear of ilegible lettering. Your best doing it free hand with any oil based paint. We anchored on top of the chicken stand in cement blocks and chained it to the roof.

We also had lighting added by Andy Marcy's brother, its the lighting that is in a clear tube so the sign can be seen from the road. It was expensive and we really appreciatted Andy contribution to make that possible.

Business has picked up a bit from it, maybe 10%, but not NEARLY what I thought would happen. A learning lesson, I think the 2 for $5 is gaining popularity making Cy's spot the destination on Wed and Fri and they buy more food from Leona so that is an increase.

Next we met with Russel some more to figure out how to kick up business. Him seeing us making an effort to drum up business caused him to match our efforts. He gave Leonty's a sub zero Heineken beer frig that has a huge temperature gauge in the front that hovers at -1.5 to 2 degrees consistently giving you the most optimally cooled beer. Its really SWEET. In the hot tropics this is critical, and the best part is we did not have to pay a thing. Secondly he committed to helping sponsor a pool tournament and he is going to have the bar sign moved closer and have it wired to light up.

The frig has added a few more customers for sure and the beer is SO much better. So overall I owuld say we have a 12-18% increase in customers The other frig they had barely brought the beer to chilled and when you drinking a light beer it has to be COLD or it becomes pee real fast :)

So to bring this to a close our last project was to improve Marcy's mom's chicken stand. I cut and nailed new boards on it and with Marcys help we put a great paint job on it if I may say so myself. Here is the concept drawing I made before we started so we had a framework to work from.

I wish I had taken before pictures of it before I put on the new wood and painted the first coat of pink but I forgot, sorry. Before it was really dark with ugly old wood, you would not notice the place unless you knew it was there when you drove bye. Plus I have found people are not fond of buying food from old wooden shack as much as a place that has bright colors and fresh clean look to it. We painted it up nice and bright so traffic at night will be able to see it very well. Here are pics below, the first one is after the old wood was replaced and the first coating of paint was placed. The night shots do not give it justice, they do not show it lit up or with Leona working there, it should look great Friday night.

Props to Marcy who works 6 days a week, using her one day off to help work on her moms place from noon until dark. Could not have done it without her. Love you babe.

Will be there Friday for the 2 for $5 Piton special to see if she picks up more business, keep your fingers crossed everyone.

Oh and nice touch up on the 2 for $5 sign Bobby.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Gift and Craft Display Booth Sample Using Google Sketch Up

Hello All,

And work continues with the Canaries Old Church Development proposal. One of the ideas I have had difficulty bringing across is having 6 Display booths for the crafts and making them portable so that the building can be used for dual uses. Here is a concept drawing I have done to try to communicate it. I used a great program called Google Sketch Up a free program. Its an intuitive CAD program that anyone can learn, just do the tutorial when you download it and check the demo video section when you get stuck. I only was stuck for a little while with the move tool but I figured it out. Anyway use this program for designing your dream home to concept drawing of an invention idea or display booth like I did.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Being a Podcast Guest on Angry Admins.

Hello All,

I had the privilege and the fun of being a guest on one of my long time buddies weekly podcasts. The first part is pretty much tech new, if your not into that you can skip halfway through to catch the interview about life down here and how tech works, we also talked about the $100 One Child One Laptop (OCOL) project. I would admit that my comments pertained more to Canaries then Castries or Viewfort and Saint Lucia now has online banking.

Go here to listen to the podcast.


Lee Klejnot joins us from St. Lucia in the Caribbean. He is there with the Peace Corps on a 2 year tour. We discuss how tech is relevant in a small fishing village. Topics include: the OLPC, island DSL, and how urgent it is to fill the digital divide.

If you’d like to donate to the work Lee is doing in St. Lucia visit his blog at

If you are interested in volunteering in the Peace Corp visit

I had a great time doing it, it was fun and I appreciate Joe and Ryan inviting me on, if you get a chance to be on podcast go for it. Keep up the good work Joe and Ryan.

Old Pic of us on the train on our way to Hungary when we were backpacking through Europe.