One of our founding members, Ailish O’Reilly , travelled to Haiti on a solo mission recently to prepare the ground for the wider groups’ next visit in February 2013. This is Ailish’s diary of those five weeks spent planning on Isle A Vache.
‘The weather in Haiti is still unsettled so there was no baking heat to greet me getting off the plane. The roads out of PAP are all torn up and damaged from Hurricane Sandy and there is rubbish washed up everywhere in heaps, it looks much worse than in July. On the way South some of the places where the road is 20 if not 30 feet above water level now, during the hurricane the road flooded with 5 or 6 feet of water. We had to come over the mountains as part of the road has been washed away. We didn’t delay in Les Cayes and finally got across to Madame Bernard around 7:30 Saturday evening.
On Sunday we went to mass at 9 and got home about 12. It is epic, you get an A4 sheet of songs on both sides and they sing them all. Fr John had Damien invited for lunch so Tuesday, he’ll be doing the full works as he is from the US. One Sunday in the month he goes to one of the nearby islands to say mass and I might go with him this week, weather permitting.
My day starts around 5 when the children start waking up. I help out for half an hour with the children to give the women a chance to get organised. I potter around, get washed and ready for the day, maybe head for a walk up the hill or walk the children to school. I have spent the week sorting out the Consultation room out by the pharmacy. The store is full of medical supplies so I’m re-organising and doing stocktake. It is starting to take shape and Calix is making shelves. Damien wants to start getting a room ready for February so he can be stocking up for our visit. The medical centre stores also needs to be sorted so I might work down there next week. The day passes quickly, every afternoon I have my Creole lessons with Chavane, he teaches me while we work. After all that it is an early bedtime, I’m generally in bed around 8. I did try going to the disco (there’s a new disco in Mdme Bernard) but it was closed on Sunday night and when I got back to the orphanage around 9 the door was locked so I won’t be staying out late any time soon! I’m also on call for Sr Flora in the case of an emergency during the night if she needs to open the medical centre.
The children are all around me and it is lovely to spend time with them. The have me up on the slide and playing games or generally hanging off me. I’m teaching Tifrance the basics on the guitar and lets just say I need a lot of practice myself but the children don’t seem to mind. They sit in the doorway and listen and so far the favourites are N17, The Fields of Athenry and of course Old McDonald. If I can keep this up I might be able to play a bit by the time I get home.
On the project side of things I have some preparation work done for the February trip and managed to come up with a few other challenges for our team to try and sort. I have more queries to follow up on for planning the new build and our boat and tractor projects. When we were visiting suppliers on Thursday we were around Les Cayes on the little motos. We also got to go the the Soul of Haiti project in Cavillon, the team there have a lot of good work done since the hurricane to reseed and sow plants. They have new toilets built down there and are soon going to put in a soccer pitch for the local children.
Week one has been quite the adventurous week. Week two is starting off with bad weather promised, everywhere floods really easily now. The water levels are quite high and at high tide the wharf at Madame Bernard floods. The big beach at Selou has disappeared under water. The cholera has been well in control for November but if we get the rain as promised that might change. ‘
Due to maintenance works on the local DART line, our walk has put back by a week to a new