Summer Haiti Trip
By Betsy Hohlfelder
Part of the Haiti Water Project team (Darenda Lease, Rick and Pat Jacobs, and Betsy Hohlfelder) made another trip to Haiti in early July. Unlike past trips, we did not go to install a water purification system, but rather to visit prior installation sites and to meet with potential future partners. Each time we return to Haiti we learn a bit more about the country, its people and how to do a better job in the work we feel called to do. We were also struck anew at how welcoming and joyful the Haitians are and at the incredible beauty of many parts of Haiti.
Our week began by meeting with Betsy Wall (Executive Director) and Pierre Richard (Country Coordinator) of Foundation for International Development Assistance (FIDA). They assist communities who are interested in forming productive agricultural co-operatives. One of the communities that they have been working with (Lafiteau, which is not far from Port-au-Prince), has identified the need for clean water as one of their top priorities. Betsy and Pierre Richard had agreed to introduce us to their Co-operative Board so that we could describe our water system and its capability, and to see if there might be an interest in a future partnership. It was a good meeting, with lots of questions raised on both sides. A positive of working with a group such as this one is that they have self-identified the need for clean water (and are more likely, therefore, to make optimal use of it), and they have a solid, democratically elected leadership in place to help promote the operation and usage of the system.
Our next meeting was with the water board of Life is Wealth Orphanage in Carrefour Feuilles (not far from Port-au-Prince). We had previously visited this site during our November 2013 trip, and had tested the water and determined that it was bad. There are about 65 orphans who live there, as well as a school for about 500 children on site. It is a busy place! Our meeting this trip was to discuss the roles and responsibilities of each party in a water system installation and to establish a working rapport with our Haitian counterparts. We are tentatively planning to return to Haiti to install a system at this orphanage in early November.
The next part of our trip involved revisiting four of the sites where we had previously installed water systems. It is important to continue to strengthen our relationships with each of our Haitian Operating Partners, and this trip allowed us the time to do this. In particular, we spent time at two of our first installations (Torbeck and Camp Perrin) and did some retraining of their health and hygiene educators. We introduced a few new activities, repeated some of the most important past activities, and gave them the chance to practice what they had learned by presenting to the group. We also had discussions with the leaders and operators at all four sites and encouraged them to continue to expand the utilization of the systems.
It really was wonderful to revisit the communities where our systems are operating. There is true affection between our team and the people at each site, and our return visits help to solidify this bond. The Haitian Operators have taken excellent care of the systems and they run into few problems in their operation. The biggest area where improvement could be made is to increase the number of people who are drinking the water from the systems. While low usage of the water systems by the communities has been frustrating for our team, we are encouraged that Camp Perrin has shown much improvement from its initial months of operation, and one of our newest sites (Vernet) is operating well above the volume of most Living Water systems in Haiti.
We continue to be grateful for the support of our Bower Hill family for the Haiti Water Project. Your prayers and gifts (especially the most recent Capital Campaign gift!) sustain us and go with us each trip. Thank you!