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Feature article in Toronto Star on justice for victims of cholera
Submitted by CHAN on July 16, 2012 - 13:15
Article looks at the making of the film 'Baseball in the Time of Cholera'
The following article appears in the July 16, 2012 print and online editions of the Toronto Star. The Star is Canada's largest circulation daily newspaper. The article looks at the story behind the filming of the 27-minute documentary, 'Baseball in the Time of Cholera.' The links in the text of the article are taken from the Star online version of the article. Unknown Object
Screenings of 'Baseball in the Time of Cholera' are being held in the United States to help fund the legal action against the United Nations on behalf of the victims of cholera. The action is seeking redress for the victims and their families as well as assistance in establishing potable water supplies in Haiti. It is being spearheaded by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Go to this IJDH web page to read about the IJDH 'Cholera Accountability Project' and to watch 'Baseball in the Time of Cholera.' Go to the CHAN events page to read about screenings of the film taking place, including future screenings to take place in Canada.
Film takes swing at cholera
Documentary uses unique lens to ask UN to own up to deadly scourge in Haiti
By Deborah Black, Toronto Star page three, Monday, July 16, 2012
For Joseph Alvyns — a 17-year-old who survived the earthquake that ravaged Haiti — throwing the first pitch at a Blue Jays game was a dream come true. The captain of the first-ever Haitian Little League team had been spotted on a television news clip by Martha Rogers, whose family owns the Blue Jays. He and his cousin had been making bracelets to help children who were hurt by the tsunami that had rocked Japan.
Rogers — who was in Haiti doing work for Artists for Peace and Justice in March, 2011 when she saw the clip — had been so moved by Alvyns’s act of generosity even when he and his family had so little that she arranged to have him come to Toronto so he could watch a real baseball game.
“The irony really struck me,” she said in an interview with the Star. “The poorest kids in the world raising money for the richest.”
Photo: Joseph Alvyns, 17, was to be a subject in a documentary about baseball in post-quake Haiti, but the film changed when his mother died of cholera. DAVID DARG/BASEBALL IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA
Alvyns’s story, and the story of the little league team, is part of a just-released short documentary by two American aid workers who turned their cameras on baseball and the cholera epidemic as it spread across Haiti.
The film — Baseball in the Time of Cholera — is also part of an international campaign that includes an online petition asking the United Nations to step up, accept responsibility for introducing cholera to the island and eliminate the disease that has killed about 7,200 people and infected another 542,000. It recently won an award at the Tribeca Film Festival and can be found on YouTube.
Alvyns tells viewers at the beginning of the 28-minute documentary: “My name is Joseph Alvyns... I love baseball... I love my life... In the afternoon I play baseball, in the morning I go to school in Port au Prince.”
He introduces his team members, his family, shows off his family home, his garden and one of his most coveted possessions: a gold statue of a baseball player that he received during his visit to Toronto. “This is my favourite thing,” he says as he kisses the statue.
The documentary also shows Alvyns’s journey to Toronto, his experience throwing the first pitch at a Jays game — wearing a Jays baseball shirt — meeting the players and watching the game. During his trip, he toured the city, went to the CN Tower, Canada’s Wonderland and the Eaton Centre.
Photo: Joseph Alvyns at the CN Tower on a visit to Tornto before his mother died of cholera. He will return to the city to see a Jays game in September.
“Everyone stayed at my place,” Rogers said. “He was up (here) for five days. He was fearless. I’ve never seen a teenager walk with such confidence,” she said of his striding out to the mound to throw the first pitch.
In the documentary, Alvyns’s face lights up with joy as he tours Toronto. He tells his mom when he calls her from the Blue Jays game: “It’s cold in this country.” She advises him to put on a jacket to stay warm.
But the joy of the visit was quickly shattered. Three weeks after he returned to Port au Prince from Toronto, Alvyns’s mother, who made her living making jewelry, contracted cholera. Despite medical intervention, she died.
The documentary provides a unique view of the spread of the cholera epidemic across Haiti and how it eventually impacts Alvyns and his family, explained David Darg, who made the film with Bryn Mooser.
Originally, the pair — who started the baseball team for children living in camps for those displaced by the quake — had planned to make a film about the impact of baseball on the kids of Port au Prince. “They had nothing to do at night. These camps are horrible places to live.” So they started the little league team and watched the kids flourish.
Their love for the game, however, was overshadowed by the illness and death they saw all around them during the day because of cholera. “It wasn’t until Alvyn’s mother died that the two stories intersected,” said Darg. “Despite being immersed in the horror of cholera, it wasn’t until then we realized how much of a scandal it was.”
Alvyns had become like a brother to them. His mother often visited Darg’s house and worked on jewelry with his wife. “She was a dear friend of ours. When she passed away, it affected our baseball team, our household. It was like losing a family member.”
The epidemic is one of the “largest humanitarian and environmental scandals” Darg said, adding it is clear that the United Nations’ Nepalese peacekeepers brought cholera to Haiti when they contaminated a tributary of the Artibonite River through an inadequate sewage system at their base. The UN has not accepted responsibility.
Now he, Mooser and others are calling for the UN to step in and provide potable water, sufficient sanitation and reparations to those affected.
As for Alvyns, he’s doing much better, said Darg. He’s making plans for university — something that Rogers personally plans to sponsor. “He still loves his life,” said Darg. “He’s still in school. He’s still playing baseball. He’s getting back some of the joy from before his mother’s death. He’s very excited about the film. He understands the importance of it.”
Rogers plans to bring Alvyns and his teammate, Japhney Derilus, to visit Toronto this September to see a Jays game. This time Derilus will get to throw the first pitch of the game.
As for the larger purpose of the film, Rogers, who got to know the filmmakers through her work with Artists for Peace and Justice, says: “I personally really support the film. If this was a company responsible for killing 7,200 people and infecting half a million people we’d be having a very different conversation.”