Work in Haiti got off to a bit of a rough start, all due to things out of our control.
We did manage to offload all supplies from our boat, both in our anchorage in Tou Milieu and in Baie La Hatte on the other side of the island. The local boys were curious about what was going on and swam out to our boat to supervise. One of the small young boys asked me, in Creole, if I wanted to race him in the water. Of course! I used to lifeguard and coach a swim team in college, how hard could this be? He kicked my ass.
The Hen House
The hen house will produce an estimated 1,500 eggs per month when completed. It was supposed to be rectangular, but the local workers constructed the wall foundations twice as large as it was supposed to be. We don’t have the materials for anything that large, so we took new measurements, marked the wall with rocks, and started digging a new wall foundation. This island has never seen power tools before, so we showed them how to use a generator and gave them operational & safety lessons for the power tools. They could probably use a few more safety lessons – one guy was standing over the generator, filling it with gasoline, with a lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth! We evaded that disaster and progress is coming along nicely. As of today we’ve finished the rafters for the roofing.
We were locked out of the school when we arrived. When the school was finished years ago, a “ceremonial key” was given to a local man involved with teaching. He took that as “they gave me a key, this school is mine,” and he went ahead and replaced all the locks on the classrooms. He currently has six students (the school has something like ten classrooms), and makes the families of the children pay to go there. The school was supposed to be free to all children. So right now all of the other children in the community are crammed into small bedrooms, sometimes 25 children to a room, most sitting on the floor.
The Foundation has twice gone to the courts with all documents proving rights and ownership – deeds, titles, tax records, etc – and the courts have twice decided in their favor. But that’s as far as it’s gone. No enforcement of the court decision has been carried out. So our solution was to bust the locks on the doors ourselves, and replace them with our own locks. We have the backing of the entire community so it shouldn’t cause any trouble.
Pierre La Lanterne
On Sunday we took “Fufei”, the wooden sailboat belonging to the Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti, out to Pierre La Lanterne. This is a tiny cay a couple of miles from Ile A Vache. The island is occupied by a “tribe” of about 200 fishermen from mainland Haiti for about 50 weeks a year. They go home for the other two weeks around New Years and return to do it again. The entire population lives in large grass huts housing multiple families. The men fish and mend nets while the women dig wells for water and cook. The children sometimes participate in these chores but are otherwise running naked around the beach and swimming. They asked me for a soccer ball, which I didn’t have, but I promised I’d bring one next time.
One more week left to go before returning to Puerto Rico! We still need to finish the hen house, and we still have children to see for the health assessment. Seeing these children during the health assessment really gave me an idea of how important the hen house will be – a lot of these children are underdeveloped due to malnourishment.
I did visit with one group of sailmakers. Many old Dacron sails were donated to the fishermen because many of their sails are on the verge of blowing out. They’ll take the sails we gave them, cut them up, and sew new sails out of the material. I’m really looking forward to seeing that – with the little bit that I did see, I noticed that they use wood splinters as needles!
Any other questions about life on the island? I’ve shared some details in the picture galleries within the picture descriptions. Many of the fishermen are in desperate need of dive masks and sunglasses (a lot of them have cataracts). Donations can be made through the Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti.