The final phase of the project was completed in late October/ early November, a group of twelve Irish volunteers travelled to the orphanage on October 26th for a week to finish the building work. We were also joined in New York by three American volunteers from Block Island who wanted to experience volunteer life in Haiti with us for the week and as always we had our usual crew of local Haitian workers employed to help complete the project.
Everyone worked really hard, Day one saw the completion of the roof beams, cut and bolted in place. Other volunteers worked to dig out a patio area in front of the building, work that required a lot of stamina and determination as the soil was thick and heavy from the recent stormy weather. Day two saw the completion of the roof using galvanized sheeting, volunteers and locals worked under the scorching sun, which was reflecting off the sheets of metal increasing temperatures all day, to complete the roof and finally the extension was covered in from the elements. Water breaks and rest times were essential to prevent dehydration and accidents amongst the workers. The outside of the extension was painted white, as it is bright and cool and suitable to the Haitian sunny climate.
Day three dawned, another beautiful day in the high 30’s, the plan was to begin painting the interior walls and tiling the floor of the physiotherapy room extension. Work began in earnest indoors and outside was also a hive of activity. Volunteer carpenters decided to construct a veranda outside to cover the newly laid patio area, creating an ideal oasis for the children and adults working in the orphanage. A new path had to be planned, dug out , ready for filling with cement because the original footpath did not come up to CRC standards, they had deemed it too steep for wheelchair users.
Day four saw the completion of the floor tiling and the hanging of doors. The wall between the old physiotherapy room and new extension needed a connecting doorway, so able bodied volunteers with the aid of lump hammers and brute force blasted a new doorway to create an adjoining connection with the new extension. The wash area was also revamped allowing easier access for staff bathing the disabled residents.
Interior white walls decorated with a span new blackboard and a cool tiled floor greeted the disabled children at the end of the week, the joy and excitement evident on their faces was worth the world. All of the volunteers gained so much from the whole experience, a gain that is impossible to quantify, all the early mornings and sweating and physical work was soon forgotten.
During the week a number of volunteers also travelled to mainland Haiti to the Soul of Haiti farm at Cavionne. Their aim was to execute the next stage of the tractor and boat building projects. Since their arrival in Haiti last January the tractor and boat parts had been stored at the farm. Volunteers and locals worked really hard with a hoist and sheer muscle and man power to move the disassembled tractor/ boat parts parts onto a waiting trailer and transport vehicle, so that they could then be transported to Le Caye for the crossing on a barge to the village of Madame Bernard on Il a Vache. Other items transported were a tractor trailer, a cement mixer, a plough, a tractor box and a boat mold.
There was great excitement when the barge arrived at the wharf in Madame Bernard the next day and it was all hands on deck to shift the cargo pieces from the barge with the aid of a flotation device to the wharf. ESWPA were extremely lucky to get help from some Dominican Republic workers on the island. They willingly and obligingly gave up their free time and moved the ton weight parts from the wharf to the orphanage, much the excitement and interest of the gathering crowd of locals.
Safely stored at the orphanage all the tractor, trailer and boat project parts are ready for the next group of volunteers who will travel to Il a Vache in February 2014 to assemble and the tractor and trailer and make sure it is in working order. They will also train the locals to take care of the tractor and will set up a boat making workshop in the village to train the locals to build their own boats.
On the last morning for before we left for Port Au Prince we had the privilege of taking abled and no so abled bodied children swimming. This involved, hand holding, carrying, pushing and at times lifting wheel chairs down to the wharf. Such excitement, squealing and laughter as we filled two boats, and that was just the volunteers! The children sang all the way on the short boat trip to the beach and within minutes of arrival they were all in ducking and diving and having fun, disabilities forgotten! We all agreed that this was the highlight of the whole trip to see such happiness and big smiles from all the children!
Due to maintenance works on the local DART line, our walk has put back by a week to a new