Hello, Health for Haiti friends. It has been a few weeks since Hurricane Matthew roared through Haiti. Hundreds of people were killed and there has been massive loss of homes, crops and livestock in the the southwestern part of the country. The United Nations is estimating that over 1.4 million people in Haiti are in need of food assistance. There is also an increased risk of cholera throughout the country due to widespread flooding. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the people of Haiti, especially those in the hardest hit southwestern regions.
A small Health for Haiti team recently returned from Haiti and we are grateful and relieved to report that our friends in Grande Saline are ok. Although they have some flooding and the hurricane damaged many homes, the community of Grande Saline did not suffer the catastrophic damage that the people in the southwestern part of the country are facing. We were able to travel to Grande Saline safely and expect the same for our January trip. Below are some of our pictures showing the current flooding and of some of the damage we saw when we visited Grande Saline. Health for Haiti is hoping to help the families in this community to repair their homes and replace lost livestock. We are thankful that the damage was not worse in this area and that our water system is still providing clean water. We will continue our efforts to support this community.
While we were in Grande Saline, Pall Engineer Greg Cempa repaired and upgraded the water filtration system. With help from Tom Collart, Gay Canough and the operators, Greg was able to fix some system issues and restore clean water to the community. This is the only source of clean water available to the people who live in this community. Access to clean water is more important than ever as cholera is on the rise in Haiti. We also met with the community-elected water committee to discuss future management of the water system. We were so impressed with the dedication of the committee and their willingness to serve as the voice of the residents who rely on this water. From the pictures below, you can see how busy things are at and around the water system!
School is back in session in Grande Saline and it was great to see the teachers and students hard at work. The teachers told us that the information Lynn Gilyard provided in her July workshop was very helpful and, thanks to the techniques that Lynn shared, the children are now learning arithmetic more quickly. All of the teachers told us that they hope that Lynn will return and offer another professional development workshop soon. The new desks and chalkboards look great and the community is beginning the process of adding another two classrooms.
We enjoyed visiting with the lovely ladies who cook the school lunch. Dr. Gay brought them a solar oven and they even tried a little solar baking! With Dr. Gay’s help, we hope to use locally sourced materials to build some larger solar ovens in January. We had a great meeting with these hard-working ladies and plans are taking shape to help them build a proper kitchen and start a bakery. We discussed how proceeds from the bakery can be used to provide a salary for the cooks.
The garden also came through the hurricane relatively unscathed, and the rice is almost ready to harvest. Although we did lose some moringa trees, we were very lucky that the rice did not mind the extra water. The rice harvest should begin next month. We are preparing to hire some extra workers and purchase the supplies needed to harvest and store the rice. If all goes well, we should have a significant amount of rice to contribute to the school lunch program. And the children will know that they are eating rice that they helped to plant.
We were also very happy to have a chance to visit one of the sewing school classes. We were so impressed with how far the students have come in only a couple of months. The two teachers are excellent and are doing a fantastic job. We are excited to bring more supplies and some new projects to the sewing school in January.
Here are a few more pictures from Grande Saline and Saint Marc. Pastor Berlando took us to visit many local families. They taught us a lot about the process of growing and harvesting rice. We learned that there are several children who do not attend school because they do not have funds for tuition, a uniform and shoes. We are working with the community to start a scholarship program that will enable more children to attend school. This will not only provide an education for these children but will help to support the school and teachers.
Finally, a special thanks to the Binghamton University Rotaract Club for sponsoring a 5K Run/Walk to support our global grant project and to the amazing 5th grade teachers from Johnson City for supporting the event in style! The goal of the grant is to convert our water system from gas to solar power and we are partnering with the Saint March Rotary as well as the Endwell Rotary and many other local clubs. This project will be a true global collaboration.
And thanks to the SUNY Broome community who is once again helping to support Health for Haiti. Thanks to the PTA Club for celebrating Physical Therapy Awareness month by collecting medical and sewing supplies for Haiti.
Next up is our 2017 Health for Haiti class trip. We are fortunate to have 15 amazing students on the 2017 team and we know that they will accomplish great things. Thanks to these students for your sacrifices and for your dedication to making a difference in Haiti. Together with our neighbors in Haiti we will assist with health clinics, make music and art, provide educational programs, work on community development, volunteer an orphanages, and continue to build on our projects to promote good health in Haiti. Stay tuned for information about how you can eat pancakes or go bowling or adopt a moringa tree to help support the 2017 Health for Haiti projects!