By: Rowen Jin, Project Manager; World Water Relief
Sitting cramped between the driver and Solo on the van to Port-Au-Prince, I complained again, “Twop cho.” Too hot. Sweat poured down my back. Thoughts ran through my head about the miserable week I have had in Mirebalais – Town ATM machine is down again? Why is there no quiet place to work in this town? I hope there is running water in the house again. I looked glumly at the dusty road, hoping that the AC will turn on soon.
Solo, who was sitting next to me, leaned out the window and yelled at a friend of his, “Hey big man, how’s it goin’?” Sitting there, with his big stomach resting on his suitcase, sweating into the car seat, Solo seemed invincibly positive. I have been working with him over the past several months. He shows up early to the project every morning, huffing, sweating, and smiling. We began talking. Somehow, the subject got to the earthquake that rocked Haiti in 2010.
“I had a business and three-story house before the earthquake, you know. I lost almost thirty-eight thousand dollars.” He said. I was shocked. He now works for me for a monthly wage. “Thirty-eight thousand?!” “Yes. But at least we are all here. My daughter was picked up by my friend from her school less than two minutes before it hit. Two minutes. Her school fell. All of the kids died. Her best friend died.” I sat silent, not sure how to respond.
“The third story of my house fell. Kaput. The second story fell. Kaput. All onto the first floor, where we were. We just held each other and prayed that our daughter was okay. We were ready to go. Just to see that she was okay. We were in there for ten hours, before they got us out. It was night when we came out. We couldn’t reach our daughter because there was no cell phone tower. All chaos. Bodies on the street, like they were trash.”
It’s been more than two years after the earthquake. Although there are reminders of the earthquake throughout the island, the most dramatic of them are now gone or tucked away into corners of society. I go through most of my days here not remembering what the Haitian people had to go through little more than two years ago. Solo’s story is not unique. Many who live in Mirebalais moved here from Port-au-Prince after the earthquake and have similar stories. It humbled me and reminded me, again, of the importance of my work.
This summer, we have been focusing our attention on two schools, Caprofors and Sacre Coeur. These schools were supported by the generosity of Primerica African American Leadership Council and H2O for Life. Although located not far from each other, the two schools are drastically different from each other. Caprofors is a technical school of 1000 students with a regular shortage of water. Their rainwater harvesting system only provides them with water when it rains. Chantal Provencio, the school director, has many ambitious goals for Caprofors – one of which is bringing clean water to the school so they are not constantly stretched to find water. As we speak, we are adding the finishing touches to the project. Next week, the students will have clean water to drink and wash their hands with.
Sacre Coeur holds two separate sessions and serves as a school for elementary and high school kids. Unlike Caprofors, they have regularly piped city water, but most of the children still purchase bag water to drink. The main focus of our Sacre Coeur project, however, will be their latrines, which are in drastically unsanitary conditions. By remodeling their latrines, installing filtration systems, and providing hygiene education, we hope to improve the health of these two schools.
The earthquake has left an indelible mark on Haiti. As an organization, we thank you for your continued support over the years to help Haiti on its path of recovery. Recent reports have shown that many aids efforts have taken leave from Haiti – the initial surge of interest in Haiti after the earthquake have slowly petered off and the world has turned its attention elsewhere. Haiti’s recovery, however, is far from being complete. The current hurricane season has brought the resurgence in the cholera epidemic. Our work in the central plateau, where cholera once began, remains incredibly relevant in creating a sustainable system for prevention of future tragedies, like the cholera epidemic.