Haiti Diaries #1
It has been 6 weeks since our team returned from the amazing country of Haiti, so it's about time we shared our wonderful experience. Please prepare that our tone will be quite personal - not to bore you with the personal lives of members, but to let you see the week we spent in Haiti through our eyes: nice and kind people, hard work, delicious food, great music, numerous challenges, loads of fun: a life-changing experience.
So many things have happened, that it would be impossible to cram the whole week into one post, instead, we are going to present you a series of diaries during the following week. Don't worry if you are only interested in the essence, in the end we will present you a constrained debrief as well. Now let's jump right in!
If only we could start by the statement: the team arrived to Haiti in one piece. Unfortunately, we were missing one part already, as Abby had to rearrange her plans and take a 28 hour Greyhound trip to the Chinese Embassy in New York after her passport got stolen in Florida. So, let's try again. When our team arrived in 7/8 piece at the airport in Port-au-Prince, we were immediately introduced to the Haitian culture by the live band playing local music in front of the customs. In an even more elevated mood and with the rhythm in our souls we quickly found our way to the exit, where Jorge, our contact at Foi et Joie, was already waiting for us with the chauffeurs.
On our way to the quarters we got our first impression of the capital. Although the earthquake inevitably left its marks on the city, it was buzzing with life on this Saturday morning. The streets were full of people, motorcycles, cars and selling booths offering various goods. Upon the arrival to our accommodation, we were most content to acknowledge the ample resources of utilities: water, electricity and even wi-fi. As we discovered our garden, we met most of the people working there, all of whom greeted us with a warm welcome. Including the roosters. If only we knew we had just met our personal alarm clocks with permanent settings at 4.30 AM...
Once we had settled in, we held our kick-off meeting with the representatives of Foi et Joie, headed by our point of contact, Jorge, whom we had the chance to get to know in person. We received a comprehensive presentation about the organization itself and the Haitian situation. In return, we also briefly presented Rise Haiti, and shared some characteristics and pictures of our home countries. (The winner of "the most stereotypical picture" award was without doubt the Swiss one depicting two men eating cheese fondue on the top of a mountain with cows in the background.) After clarifying the agenda of the week, our team started the preparation for the workshop with the parents of the children in the kindergarden where we built the toilets. We closed the day with a nice welcome dinner, the various dishes made us all fall for the local cuisine, and - despite our initial worries - even our beloved vegan went to bed with a full belly and a smile on her face.
Sunday saw us rise early (not as early as the rooster though), as the parents' workshop was scheduled for 9 AM. We were amazed by the rate of participation, around 60 mothers and fathers came to participate at our workshop in collaboration with America Solidaria. Despite the heat and the need for constant translation from English to Creole and vice versa, the attention of parents remained constant through our presentation and they actively asked us questions about the hyginie issues. We received a lot of positive feedback both from the parents and Foi et Joie. It was very touching to hear how much they appreciated our presence and willingness to help, the event recharged out motivation levels to the maximum.
During lunch we have been informed about some alarming news. The citizens of Port-au-Prince announced city-wide demonstrations for the following 2 days, and threatened to set any vehicle on fire that they would come accross. This meant that Jorge and his colleagues were not able to drive to our quarters or the kindergarden (which was next door to us), and that our possibilities to gather raw material for the construction will be extremely limited. With this in mind we travelled to Haiti Communitaire, a local haven of alternative engineering, where our partner, Toilets for People already began building the composting toilets. After the "formal" introduction of our teams, Jason (founder, TfP) showed us the specific components and different technicalities of the CRAPPERs, to prepare us for the constructions of the toilets. Eager to "get our hands dirty", we started drilling and screwing with extreme enthusiasm. While Jason checked out the future site of the toilets his lovely colleague, Phoebe gave us a tour within the Haiti Communitaire garden, where we felt and acted like Dora the explorer among the innovative and unique engineering solutions tailored to the needs and resources of the Third World.
As we had only one pick-up, we split up into 2 rounds. While the first shift was shopping in the supermarket, the leftovers and Jason realised that as on Monday we would not be able to go to the hardware store, we needed materials to start the construction with. So after consulting with Haiti Communitaire, our halfteam searched the garden, gathered all available scrap material and transported it to our camp at Foi et Joie. Later on, the team of TfP also joined us to share our quarters, this way no transportationall issue could get in to the way of starting the work on Monday. Although we were slightly worried about the demonstrations, we went to sleep determined to start the project the following day no matter what...
Curious for more? Stay tuned!