Our second trip this year to Haiti took place in June/July; we travelled out to Ill a Vache to work on the Physiotherapy room which was started last February. As usual our team consisted of Irish and Haitian workers and continued great friendships that have developed along with the help of Chavane a local teacher and translator. At times no translation was needed and the Creole/English language barrier was overcome by sign language, song and sport!
We started with the block work which flew up in a couple of days. After that a lot of casing needed to be made from plywood for the columns and beams which all contain steel to reinforce the building. This was slower work as it needed to be sturdy as well as level and accurate. John Cronin (Foreman) made sure that all of this work was properly carried out. A lot of the gravel had big stones in so it all had to be sieved by hand, good for the biceps and triceps but tough work in the hot sun.
On Sunday we took a day off and experienced some of the Haitian way of living on in the Island. We went to mass in the local village of Madame Bernard. We were advised to sit near the door as the mass can go on for two hours and it is quite hot in the church. Father Jack welcomed everyone in Creole and then welcomed us in English to the mass. There would be no escaping out the back door now but we were so happy to stay. There were bongo drums played by our own Ti France from the orphanage, guitars hooked up to a large amp and the most wonderful singing. I couldn’t help swaying in tune to them. Indeed the mass did go on for nearly two hours but all agreed it was well worth the experience.
After lunch we trekked inland to a local beach which was well worth the hot walk to witness the beautiful unspoiled Sable Blanc beach. White sands, blue sky and palm trees, and the water felt like getting into a warm bath, Heaven! Chavane came with us and on the way back he took us on a detour to the school where he teaches. As a teacher myself I was shocked at the building. It looked like an unfinished building site. Yet 500 children go to school here every day in unsafe conditions. The “classrooms” were unplastered and were lucky to have a blackboard and some benches for the children. In Haiti a lot of students still pay for the privilege of an education; it really put things into perspective for me and what we all take for granted in Irish schools.
To round off our day we attended a local football match in Madame Bernard. It really was a village occasion where everyone came out and supported the local team. Men, women and children all attended the match and some sold hot food and drinks. I had to admire these teams who played on really rough ground and gave it their all.
Back to work on Monday morning at the orphanage, where we continued working on the physiotherapy room. The next couple of days saw the completion of the columns and beams on the building. This allowed time to put in a path at the front of the building and also a path leading through rough ground for easy access with the children in wheelchairs.
We plan to complete the roofing, plastering and electrics and internal finishing on the next ESPWA trip scheduled for October 2013.