Haiti has been in the world news since the assassination of President Moise last week. For a country already facing so much poverty and insecurity, the instability of the government and exacerbation of anarchy and violence are making an already desperate situation even worse. And although the assassination has only recently moved Haiti into the international spotlight, things have been getting progressively worse and more dangerous and desperate for Haitian citizens for a long time.
However, even as we see our Haitian friends endure these unimaginably difficult times, we continue to receive some positive updates and messages of hope. In rural Grande Saline, our partnership remains vibrant and productive. Despite no SUNY Broome Health for Haiti class or service trips to Haiti since 2019, the work we started in January 2014 remains strong and moves forward.
We are sad that we have not been able to spend time with our friends in Grande Saline, and we are disappointed that it has not been possible to introduce new groups of SUNY Broome students to what was for many a life-changing experience of global service. But our goal for this work has always been to create community-driven projects that are sustainable and managed by the Haitians, and over the past two difficult years we have certainly seen evidence of success.
The water system continues to provide clean water for families who have no other source of safe drinking water. Despite no in person engineering support since October 2019, engineer Greg Cempa has been able to trouble shoot the few issues the operators have experienced by working with the team in Haiti remotely. We are grateful to Greg and to our partners in Haiti for their dedication and perseverence.
We continue to work towards our goal to convert the system from gas to solar power. At this time, the environment in Haiti is not stable enough to permit shopping for supplies and hiring technicians to come out to provide quotes. We will continue to work with out partners in Haiti to monitor the situation and stand ready to move forward when it is safe to do so. This is an important and worthwhile goal, and we are committed to doing what we can to achieve it.
We have also had a lot of success with the community garden. After a very successful corn and vegetable harvest this spring, it is time to grow rice. Today the community transplanted the rice seedlings to the prepared fields. Growing rice requires a lot of planning, organization, and hard work…and we see all of those skills in our community garden partners.
Everything grown in the community garden is being stored so that it can be used to help provide a lunch for students when school resumes in the fall. Any support for the garden benefits the students who will be better able to learn and concentrate if they can eat lunch at school.
The community garden has been a successful project in the community for years, but with increasing food insecurity, rising prices, and impassable roads, it is more critical now than ever. And this is a very beneficial project that we can certainly help to support without having to be present in Haiti.
Another bright spot is the amazing progress we have seen in the school. What started as a small group of children meeting in the church has been absolutely transformed into a vibrant school. The spring 2021 term ended with 185 (!) students working in multiple classrooms. Students from kindergarten to high school levels are learning from excellent teachers as they obtain one of the most valuable gifts a person can receive: a quality education.
The families in Grande Saline appreciate and are proud of their school. The students know the value of this chance to attend school in their own community.
Even when the school flooded in the spring, students took off their shoes and waded through the water hoping to attend class. That is dedication!
While we may not be able to fix the big problems in Haiti, there are still important things we can help with. We can continue to support water, food, and education in the Grande Saline community. This help is only possible because of the continued support of Health for Haiti donors, and we are so grateful for your generosity. Although there is a lot to be worried about for our friends in Haiti – we invite you to take a few minutes to celebrate the small victories that are a source of great hope and joy for families in Grande Saline.
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”Theodore Roosevelt