The blog has been a bit quiet, my apologies. We actually have visitors in right now, some very special visitors. Peter and Sara Craig are here to check things out and for all of us to see if they would be a good fit for the mission. If so, they’ll be joining our staff. We’re excited to finally have them here and to be at this stage in the process. We’ve been enjoying them and enjoying sharing our lives here.
Tuesday Peter, Sara and I had the opportunity to join our staff on a filter delivery day out in the Artibonite Valley. We try to send our visitors out on a delivery day when possible so they can see the end result of the filter process – the filters being put in the homes of people that desperately need clean water. Chris and I don’t normally go on the delivery days because we can get in the way and make it difficult for our staff (people coming to ask us for things etc). It’s better for our workers to be able to go and just do their jobs amongst their own people while Chris and I manage the day to day operations of the mission. Yesterday was actually my first time going on a delivery/installation day since we started working out in the Artibonite two years ago. I thought you might like to see where the filters are going and a bit of the process.
We pulled out of the yard at about 5:30 am with 34 filters. 34+ big bags of sand, 34+ small bags of sand, 34+ small bags of gravel (all of the materials for each filter are pre-measured and bagged), 3 filter barrows, a cooler with food and pop, a big Igloo of drinking water, 6 CWH workers, 2 visitors, me and a stereo speaker.
Heading down the Route 1 Nationale.
After about an hour on the main highway we turned off onto a dirt road and drove down that for about another hour to get to our first delivery. The road runs right along the main canal. The canals are brown and are the main water source for people out in this area.
The Artibonite is where all of Haiti’s rice is grown. It’s very green and beautiful. The water table here is also very high. In places where wells have been drilled there is often so much water coming out they don’t even need to put a pump on it, but rather just cap it and put a stand pipe on for people to use.
It took about 2 hours to arrive at our first delivery stop. When we arrived there our staff got right to work and I saw how the well oiled machine ran. There was no standing around getting organized, they just jumped off the truck and started unloading. Everyone knew what their job was and did it. We met Lexis, the community organizer on the road just before our first stop and he showed us where to go all day long as he checked out his list of recipients for the day.
The first delivery of the day. The filter barrows were designed by Chris and have made deliveries so much easier for our workers. They can carry everything on them and it saves their backs.
This man was really sweet and very happy to have his picture taken with his new filter, the first one installed of the day.
Our workers draw a small crowd as they do another installation.
Installation done. I don’t know if this was an actual house or if it was a shed of sorts.
Transporting another filter for installation. Each filter weighs 165 lbs empty.
Julie doing the user education with the new filter owners.
Many people ask us how we sell the filters or decide which families get them. Our program has sort of grown with a ripple effect. When we first started working in the Artibonite it was because a student in a missionary friends school wanted to get filters in his community. We told him if he could sell 20 filters and collect the money ahead of time, we would bring a truck full. We threw an extra 5 on the truck and people basically fought over them when they arrived. From then on we kept getting more orders and the word spread. We started connecting with individuals in the communities that expressed interest in the filters and asked them to take care of signing people up and collecting the $40 Haitian (about $5 US) for the filters, and when they had enough orders to fill the truck we would go deliver. That was 2 years ago and we’ve just hit a new monthly record of 278 filters installed in one month! Until yesterday our highest was 171 and our goal has been 120/month. We’re really excited about the progress. In June about 3000 people got access to clean water!
When the truck arrives, the community organizer hops on and spends the day going from house to house with our staff. As a thank you for their time and effort we give them $5 Haitian for each filter they sell. It takes a lot of time to do the promotion and as I saw Tuesday, the area covered can be huge. It’s just a nice way for us to encourage people to help their own communities.
Our first 10 or so filters were all delivered along the road. We basically stopped, dropped off a filter or two and the right number of technicians (2 per filter), and Julie who takes care of the education. Then Jean would drive up and find a spot of shade for the truck to sit in while we waited for the installation to be done. We were able to go into several homes and I was reminded again of how hospitable people can be here. We were able to watch several installations and I got to sit with Julie several times as she did the user education.
Jean, Richard and Fristner unloading another filter.
Jean takes a bit of a break.
Jean wanted to make sure I was in some of the pictures too. You can see how loaded the truck is when they first arrive.
Peter and Sara cross a small canal to go watch another installation.
Lexis and Jean chatting. I love how people hunker down here and often feel jealous because I’m just not that agile.
Moving to the next delivery.
The stereo speak got hooked up to a wire that was run from the trucks electronics, hooking it up to the radio. The guys do this every time they go out and Jean keeps the music playing all day long. Most people out in these areas don’t have electricity and only get to hear the radio or music if they have a battery powered radio. The music is a nice treat for them and a bit of a drawing point. I think because of that Peter, Sara and I got to spend a lot of time talking to people. Well, mostly I did because I speak Creole and they’re just in the beginning stages of learning. It was fun to be able to have full conversations about all sorts of things with people, and to realize that I did in fact have the Creole to do it. We spent a lot of time talking to kids because they’re naturally curious and will talk to you about all sorts of stuff. We stayed in one community for about 3 hours and spent a good part of that time repeating our names, to the point where everyone there knew that we were Peter, Sara and Leslie (or whatever variation of my name they came up with), that Peter and Sara were married and had two little boys and that I was married and had a little girl… it was pretty funny.
Many of the homes out in this area were made by weaving sticks around posts, then covering them with a mud and grass mortar. There were some cement houses, but not many.
Some of the kids that we spent a lot of time talking to.
More kids in the area.
We delivered a filter to a house right next to a voo doo temple. It was my first time being at one. You can always tell where a boko (witch doctor) lives because there are flags flying on really long poles from the site. This particular temple had several houses right around it, which is where we were delivering the filter, sort of like a little compound. The temple was brightly painted and had a ceiling full of flags hanging inside. It was probably the biggest and most elaborate one I’ve seen yet. As we were walking back to the truck I noticed another smaller temple off to the side and Julie said, “Gen anpil boko isit” – there are lots of witch doctors here. Throughout the day I noticed several women in traditional dress – bright dresses, with bright satiny head scarves and big hoop earrings – often associated with voo doo. It was interesting to be in an area where it was so prevalent because I don’t really see that around Pierre Payen.
One of the deliveries in that same area took our workers over an hour to do. They took two filters and just headed off into the distance while the three of us stayed with the truck. When they were told where the delivery was Lexis said, “li lwen” – it’s far. How far? Lwen. When they got back I asked Richard how long they had to walk to get there and all he could say was, “I don’t know, it was far.”
The last delivery was finished as the sun was setting. The guys threw the last empty sacks in the truck, they hopped in and we were on our way. When the truck is empty it’s much easier to stand on the bumpy dirt roads so there were six of us all holding on to the steel rack and catching bugs with our faces. We hit the main highway as it got dark. At one point we passed a big cow on the road. It’s head was so close that if I would have reached my hand out the side of the box I would have hit it in the head. Good thing Jean is a good driver and we had good lights on the truck! We arrived home just around 8 pm. If you’re keeping track, that’s a 15 hour + day for our workers, and they usually do this twice a week.