In January 2013 the Haiti Orphanage Project Espwa Ltd received a great boost with the pledge of €70,000 from the Irish Life Staff Charities. The money is already earmarked to provide a new physiotherapy and classroom facility for the adults and children with Special Needs. We plan to have the new unit in place and equipped by the end of 2013.
The first project trip for 2013 rolled around really quickly. The project plan was to build the foundation and pour the concrete floor for the new physiotherapy unit. We also had two very exciting initiatives planned which we were really looking forward to. One was the rebuild of ADI the tractor, a Massey Ferguson 35. The other was the build of fibreglass boats and the generation of an optimum boat design for the fishermen in Ileavache. . The long term idea is to generate small businesses around equipment rental and generate employment plus a revenue stream for the orphanage. The projects are heavily focused on training locals to manage and maintain these so that we can handover ownership to a local Haitian team.
The tractor and boat teams had worked for months to put this project together along with huge support from their friends and communities. ADI had been fully restored to all its former glory and looked and ran like a new machine just off the assembly line. The team had a successful trial run on the boat project , turning out a fibreglass mould in less than 24hours. There was a really positive feeling as we loaded a container in November 2012 to ship to Haiti in time for February 2013.
As a group we have had very few setbacks and we were buoyed up with the Irish Life announcement. In New York when the news came through that the containers had not made it through customs everyone was deflated. A huge amount of time and effort had been invested both on the Irish and on the Haitian end. Our inspiration to move ahead with the project came from the very people we were there to help. How many times in their lives have the Haitians survived hurricanes, drought, illness and daily poverty and yet they do not give up. If they could overcome all of that then we could overcome this comparatively small setback.
It was a quieter Irish crew that assembled for Day 1 to join the Haitian crew and form the project team for the week. Working alongside the Haitians soon raised our spirits and within the hour the orphanage was a hive of industry as work began on the physiotherapy room. There was a good deal of work involved and the team stayed late two evenings including on the last day to pour the floor. The plumbers surpassed all expectations and by the end of the week we had running water in every toilet and shower; water in the kitchen and washrooms; and a proper run off for waste. We also covered off two areas at the back of the orphanage which presented a health and safety issue, not a nice job and kudos to the group that worked on it.
We finished the wall at the entrance to the orphanage and the tractor ramp is now in situ for ADI who should be moving to the orphanage later this year. The team set up a mechanics shop in the village and worked on the orphanage boat engines. Other boat taxis arrived with their engines; locals brought motorbikes; generators; and even a television. Usually everything has to go to the mainland for repair, replacement and aside from the loss of livelihood the cost of transport and repair is high.
The workshop turned out to be a very practical and useful service. It is important that we do not alienate the orphanage within the community and by providing services within the locality we can encourage partnership. The group staying on for a second week used accommodation near the village of Madame Bernard and that was also well received by the community as it meant staying and spending local.
The timing of our trip coincided with Kanival and the island had its own celebration with Ra-Ra bands out every night. It would be a little like the Wren Boys, doing the rounds of the houses in the area, singing; dancing; playing music and there is a bit of local rivalry as to who has the best band. We were there for the procession of the Ra-Ra bands through the village which was a great way to end your working day.
ADI, the equipment and the boat mould are safely in storage in Haiti awaiting our return later this year. The facilities works in the orphanage; the mechanics workshop; and the plumbing activity were all a huge bonus and a credit to everyone for getting on with the job. Importantly, we achieved our main objective for the February trip by completing the floor of the physiotherapy room. This puts the next trip in July right on track to complete the physiotherapy and classroom for the end of the year. The setbacks this trip turned out to be a reminder for each of us on not losing sight of what Haiti Orphanage Project Espwa Ltd is all about. It took our Haitian friends to remind us that Espwa means hope and to borrow a Haitian proverb; Lespwa fe viv – hope makes one live.