On Friday 27th April we set out from Dublin and after spending overnight in New York we landed in Port au Prince, Haiti on Saturday 28th April 2015. It was at the airport that the group of 11 split into two teams. Three members of the group met with Mayo native Gena Heraty and travelled to her orphanage north of Port au Prince in Kenscoff.
The remaining 8 members were greeted by Frank Coughlan, of Stellar Haiti, our logistics man for the week and began the 4 hour long journey south to IL a Vache. We arrived late in the evening and spent out first night in the beautiful resort of AbakaBay. It was after a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast on Sunday morning that we made the journey by boat around to Grand Plaine and Grace Orphanage. We were warmly greeted by old friends and new and in no time at all arrived at the orphanage along with our numerous bags, tools and belongings. Once settled at guest house we went to look at the site, our original plan was to take a look around and to begin work on Monday but in true Irish form we got stuck in and marked out the site for the kitchen area, assembled the new wheelbarrows and organised our tools and raw materials.
On Monday morning work began in earnest on the Play area. As the week progressed the play area took shape along with a zip wire stretched between two mango trees. We had no shortage of volunteers to test the zip wire and that was just the ESPWA volunteers! We also set up a hammock between two other trees and the boys wasted no time in jumping in and availing of the shade to relax.
The kitchen area proved to be so good when roofed that Leon Gerson (in charge of orphanage) decided it was good enough to be used as an extra room for the boys. He agreed that he would look after fitting windows and an external door, the women were happy to remain under an enclosed area to cook as long as we constructed a cooking shelf up off the ground for them, so everyone was happy all round.
Be the end of the week that play area really took shape and was drawing a lot of curious interest from the children and local residents alike, the tower could be seen from the far distance on approach to Grace from Madame Bernard. We had also painted and refreshed the dining room, bedrooms as well as windows and doors in the orphanage.
We had bought some solar kits from Stellar Haiti and decided to sponsor the fitting and supply of three of these kits in the boy’s bedrooms. The kits will allow the boys to have light by night as well as providing a port to charge their mobile phones, they were thrilled with these kits which are really robust and will allow them to have independence and a better standard of living in the orphanage.
Good Friday was finishing day and around 5pm we had the official handover and party for the volunteers and kids. They dressed up in their finest and expressed their gratitude to us. The smiles were worth a million dollars!
On Saturday 4th April we bade farewell and with the help of a couple mules and many hands we made our way back to the boat with our significantly lighter luggage. Word had spread overnight of our departure and as a result we have a more than a few extra passengers availing of the boat trip to Le Caye. This would be fairly typical of IL a Vache, every boat travelling is an opportunity for the locals to catch a spin to the mainland. One of team Warren Kearns remained on IL a Vache to continue working on the Island. He was going to spend three more weeks working and waiting for the Haven team to arrive on April 25th, fair play to him!
Later that day we arrived at Villa Franchesca in Tabarre, Port au Prince. This would be our accommodation for the night. We went out for dinner and were joined by our friends who had spent the week in Kenscoff. Over a steak and a few beers we recounted our tales of the week and the projects that were completed. All agreed that it was a very productive and rewarding week and we are all looking forward to returning to Haiti again at Halloween this year.
Through our contacts in NPH International, we heard the grim news coming out of Honduras after two category 4 hurricanes