Tag Archives: water

The value of supporting local efforts

Marseille (left) and Jean (right) discuss with the other members in the background.

Marseille (left) and Jean (right) chat.  The other members are in the background.

In Haiti I am learning how crucial it is to work through existing channels, whether government or non-government partners, when implementing a project.  The sad reality is that in Haiti some (not all) projects fail to achieve the long term impact envisioned at the beginning.  This happens for a variety of reasons however one is that organizations and ministries often do not put the effort into understanding what channels or systems or initiatives already exist within a given community and then working through and alongside them.

Since Haiti is impoverished it may be tempting to assume that functioning channels do not exist but this just isn’t true!

One example is a local organization in the village of Lavaneau in south east Haiti.

I first visited Lavaneau in June 2012 on our initial trip to Haiti with World Concern before moving here permanently.  The community’s irrigation canal had been destroyed during hurricanes in 2008 and they were left to rely on rainfall for all their water needs.  World Concern offered materials and technical support but the organization was responsible for the construction and management of the canal that brought water down from the source and for four newly built water fountains.

canal_lavaneau1

A couple weeks ago Martha and I had the opportunity to return to Lavaneau and were pleased to see the irrigation canal and four water fountains still serving the community.  But I was more pleased to see the quality of this local organization which World Concern worked with on the project and how they are still active, with no plans to slow down.

The organization is headed by a man named Jean Metelus.  He commands respect but is not intimidating.  When we arrived on this particular day he and other members of the organization, including the secretary, greeted us.

As we reached the canal and began chatting, Jean instructed the secretary to take notes of our meeting.

Organization members share about the project and their work.

Organization members share about the project and their work.

“The organization will celebrate its 23rd year of existence in 2014,” Jean shared.

Continuing he said, “Our organization has farmers, engineers, teachers, masons, pastors.  We work on projects in agriculture, small business, buildings.”

What tremendous human capital!  It was encouraging to hear the organization speak of the skills and resources that exist in the community and it was particularly impressive that these have been so clearly identified.  Although each community possesses certain strengths and resources, not all know exactly what those are and who has them within the community.

In addition to constructing a new irrigation canal that is 92 meters in length and four water points, the organization established a system for collecting fees which are used to help maintain this infrastructure and fund other projects in the community.

Farmers pay a small annual fee and in return can have access to two hours of water a week.  The water is disbursed by small gates that are built into the canal.  When a gate is lifted, water flows from the canal into the farmer’s field.  When we visited, some of the gates were not working properly but the organization says they plan to fix them.

The water collected at the four water points is free however a family can pay a fee of almost $2 a month if they want water piped directly to their home.

Girls collect water at one of the four water fountains

Girls collect water at one of the four water fountains

One thing that caught my eye was how clean the canal was.  I saw very little leaves or rubbish in the canal.  In Haiti canals are often used as dumping grounds.  I asked one community member about the cleanliness and he responded, “People are responsible for cleaning the section of canal in front of their house.”  This is an example of the far reaching impact this organization has had in the community.

When we were leaving Lavaneau I asked Marseille, World Concern’s project coordinator in south east Haiti, what it was about this organization that made it work.

“The strength of this organization is its history and that its members equally represent all 18 localites [small villages] within Lavaneau,” he said.  “Everyone in Lavaneau has a say.”

What do you think the outcome of this project would have been if World Concern came to Lavaneau and began work how they saw fit without consulting and working through this local organization?  At best the physical work would have been completed and may have lasted for a couple years before deteriorating.  At worst the project could have completely flopped early on leaving the community disempowered, disenchanted and still without consistent access to potable water.

I am not so naïve to believe that this local organization in Lavaneau is without flaw or that World Concern always does things well.  However I will say that World Concern in Haiti does understand the importance of community based action and the need for working through and supporting existing channels and Lavaneau is an example of this.

As we were preparing to leave Lavaneau one representative from the organization asked, “What do you think of our work?”

“It is good.  It is very good,” I said.

Driving through Lavaneau

Driving through Lavaneau

Cooperation & Clean Water

“Water cooperation is not an option — it is an imperative for a better future for all.”          – Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO

Today is World Water Day!  Although this is celebrated annually, it has extra significance this year because the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2013 “International Year of Water Cooperation.”

Water is a shared resource, and therefore requires everyone to join in and help make important decisions.  According to World Bank estimates, only 51% of the rural population in Haiti has access to an improved water source.  Providing access to water for those who still lack access to this basic necessity is a huge task and will likely only be accomplished through intentional cooperation.

So, on this day I wanted to share with you about a place called Michineau and how World Concern collaborated with local stakeholders to provide clean water.

World Water Day - Michienau Photo Spread

Michineau is a Section in southeast Haiti.  In Haiti a Section is a collection of small communities.  This region of Haiti is known for its’ mountains.  Michineau is surrounded by these formidable mountains, which provides a stunning backdrop.  However amidst the natural beauty people remain vulnerable to heavy storms which can wreak havoc and harm existing water supplies.

In 2010 Hurricane Tomas swept through Haiti and damaged the water system in Michineau.  With the system destroyed, people throughout Michineau were forced to journey up the mountain each day to the source to collect water and then carry it back home.

“It would take around 2 hours to get water,” explained Carel, a local community leader.

If more than one trip was required for a household’s needs then even more time was spent on this laborious task.

Michineau_Water Day8

We had the opportunity to walk a couple kilometers up the path leading to the water source and it is no easy stroll.  It is steep and rocky.  I’m not in terrible condition, but even I was pleased to reach the source so I could catch my breath!  Carrying water long distances on this path would be tiring and time consuming.

Thankfully the system is operating again!  World Concern, in partnership with the community, repaired and strengthened the water system in Michineau.  Now there are seven functioning water points through the Section.  Each water point is equipped with sinks for washing and water collection, and showers for bathing (as seen in the three-photo spread above and the photo below).

Looking down on one of seven water points in the community.

Looking down on one of seven water points in the community.

Carel (in the yellow shirt), World Concern staff, and local community leaders collaborating.

Carel (in the yellow shirt), World Concern staff, and local community leaders collaborating.

Crucial to the success of this project was cooperation between everyone involved including: local community leaders like Carel, the Department of Civil Protection, grassroots groups, and local church leaders.

Not only is water flowing again in Michineau but the local Civil Protection Committee has been trained and is now better equipped to respond to future disasters in their community.  It is this thorough and collaborative approach to development that makes our efforts last.

Bertrand Russell, the 20th century philosopher and Nobel Prize winner, said “The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.”  I think he was on to something.  Cooperation is especially relevant and necessary when transforming communities and we have seen this first hand in Michineau.

The power of water

While in rural southern Haiti I had a farmer named Maurice Moises tell me, “If we have water we can do anything.”

For some reason, this matter of fact statement was impactful.  Even more so than all the research and reading and work I had done previously in water and sanitation (from afar).  It was in this moment that I realized how easy it is to understand an issue and know the stats, but not really comprehend what it means for individuals and families in southern Haiti on a daily basis.  Maurice taught me, in a few short words, about the life giving potential of clean water.

Maurice’s comment also highlights the innovative and industrious attitude of Haitians.  Rural Haitians, I am finding, are very capable.  This should come as no surprise.  Farmers I know in the U.S. are handy because they have to be.  The same goes for Haitian farmers.  In order to produce a good crop and provide for their families, they must be adaptable and creative.  I say all of this to simply point out that farmers in rural Haiti have something to bring to the table.  If we are to truly transform lives, Haitians must play an active role and be primary stakeholders.  That is why I am proud to work for World Concern.  We see incredible value and potential in those we serve.  As an organization, we simply want to come alongside communities and provide them with the encouragement and resources they need to succeed.

I hope these pictures will paint a better picture of the life giving potential of clean water than I can ever describe.  Enjoy!

Girls washing their containers before filling them with water

A girl carrying water back to her home

Martha and I want to invite you to join us as we serve communities in rural Haiti.  In providing clean water, we are attempting to alleviate physical suffering.  However in the same breath we also desire to love those we serve and draw them closer to knowing Jesus.  We cannot carry out this vision on our own!  Martha and I need ministry partners.  Maybe you are in a place where you could become a monthly financial partner.  We would like to ask you to consider joining our ministry team and serving the Haitian people in this way.  If you feel so led, you can make an gift on our page on World Concern’s website.

Thank you for your encouragement and support!

Life renewed

As we left the southern city of Jacmel, we began climbing and making the jeep work harder than it had before.  The road quickly narrowed and remained that way as we worked our way further into the mountains.  This was day three of our short but affirming trip to Haiti in June.

It was early enough in the day where I was enjoying the adventure of the bumpy road.  Fifteen hours later, the driving was still adventurous but much less enjoyable for some reason (it turned out to be a long day)!  I learned early on in this trip that when we as an organization say we go to the hard places, it ins’t a joke.  Our group was visiting a community called Lavaneau , where World Concern had recently helped repair of water canal which had been damaged in a heavy storm four years earlier.  This canal carried water from a mountain source directly to the community and was the only source of water for the people in Lavaneau .  As we approached our destination, I noticed the dense vegetation and green landscape.  This is not a sight you expect to see in Haiti, where it is estimated that 98% of all land is deforested.  I was already feeling encouraged.

Jean Metelus describing what the canal has done for his community

We arrived in Lavaneau and were soon greeted by Jean Metelus, the President of the local community organization.  I enjoyed talking with this man.  He was serious, but welcoming.  He appeared to be well respected in the community and knew the World Concern staff members by name.  Jean explained that since the storm four years ago damaged the community’s water canal, they were forced to rely on inconsistent rainfall for all of their water needs.  This includes irrigation, cleaning, bathing, washing, cooking, drinking.  I was shocked.  Although I am new to Haiti, I know that rain is precious and not something people in rural areas see enough of.  Not having access to a consistent water source keeps a community from growing and thriving, and that is the situation people in Lavanneau found themselves in.

World Concern staff sat down with the community of Lavaneau and began discussing what needs they had.  It was clear that repairing the water canal was a main priority for many in the community.  As the project came to life, it was the people of Lavaneau who provided the input and manual labor needed to make the new water canal a reality.  World Concern provided the resources and the technical assistance, but the community owned this project.  This is how, together, we can change lives.  It was a powerful moment for me, to see how World Concern truly does operate with the community’s needs and desires in mind.

Now that the canal is finished and water is flowing in Lavaneau , life is returning.

“You may not have been here to see what it was like in our community before,” said Jean, “but now we have green land everywhere.”

“People are able to grow crops like beans and peppers, and now life is back.”

I was right to feel encouraged upon approaching Lavanneau .  The hard work and diligence of the people in Lavanneau partnered with the humility and talent of the World Concern staff resulted in a transformed community.

[vimeo 48599543]

Water is life.

 

 

 

 

 

I love this stuff! Learning about the canal from World Concern staff members.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maurice Moises, a farmer in Lavaneau next to the canal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new crop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5k Mud Run

World Concern is hosting several events this summer in the Seattle area to raise awareness and funds for impoverished communities in areas where we serve.  One such event is the 5k Mud Run which takes place July 21st!  The Mud Run aims to provide clean water for people in communities that lack access to safe water sources.  Water borne disease is a big threat to individuals and is responsible for over 1 million deaths annually worldwide.

Martha was able to help design the t-shirt that Mud Run participants will receive in this years race.  Along with support raising, Martha and I are using our time to assist with projects like this at World Concern.  It is exciting for us to take on more responsibility as we get closer to departing for Haiti.  Here is a look at this year’s 5K Mud Run t-shirt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are in the Seattle area and want to get dirty for clean water, follow this link to learn more and sign up!