A needed well for a small village

Notre Dame de la Merci, the parish church of the seaside village of Petite Riviere de Dame Marie in the Grand’Anse extends beyond the villagers’ pastoral needs.  The school counts over 250 children and many come to attend class from the neighboring mountains.  Those who live in town, however are plagued by a water source that is brackish and unsanitary due to the close proximity of the sea. An artesian well was requested by Father Belony, the pastor of the church to alleviate the resulting sickness and restore health to the community.

Fundraising for the well was made possible by the help of the 7th Grade class of St. Luke School in Whitestone who enlisted the support of their parents, their friends, their teachers and the students of St. Agnes Academy in College Point, Queens.  In February Pere Belony and the well digging company (Kris Kapab) dug the well using very rudimentary means efficaciously.

wordpress pix 1Digging of the well

Wordpress pix 2Water gushes out — but it’s dirty

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 Little by little the water Becomes cleaner
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Water runs until it becomes clear.

wordpress pix 5Children are the first to come get water.

No sooner was the clear water gushing from the earth that children ran home to tell others and returned with buckets to bring back clean water home.

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Then  an old man comes… look at his happy face

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The word spread fast and soon over 50 people came to fetch the precious commodity.

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The word is out… Everyone comes to get water

Pere Belony is third from the left.  He said he was the first to drink from “St. Luke Well.”

Once all the village had their homes filled with clean water, work started to build a hand pump for the well.  The well will be named “St. Luke Well.”

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Now work starts to construct the top with a hand pump.

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Saved by the rules

by Patricia Brintle

My friend Eddy Leveque, FHTH’s Vice President, gives me so much advice about my expectations of Haitian work ethics that I’ve started numbering them and define them as rules:  Rule #1:  Always have plans A, B and C when traveling to Haiti.  Rule #2:  Never plan a stay of less than five days when traveling to Haiti.  Rule #3:  Take an open return on your ticket when traveling to Haiti.   Rule #4… And the list goes on.  I was born and raised in Haiti but having spent a half a century in the US caused my work habits have become rather Americanized.

It was in March 2013.  This particular trip was to be very short:  Day 1:  Travel from New York to Port-au-Prince and take care of business – Day 2:  Catch the morning flight to Jeremie and take care of business – Day 3:  Catch the morning flight back to Port-au-Prince and connect to the flight to New York.  Sounds simple, right?  Except that I had disregarded Eddy’s Rule #2 and only planned a three-day stay.

I arrived to Port-au-Prince in good order and took care of business.  I spent a wonderfully restful night at my cousin’s home up in the mountains of Fermate and woke up early the next morning in plenty of time to catch the 8:00 am Tortug’Air flight to Jeremie.  On the way to the airport we caught an unusually heavy traffic and were told that the road had been blocked.  We backtracked, made a right turn, and went down one of the most vertiginous road through the side mountain.  I was holding on to dear life through the bumps and turns and ups and downs.  When we reached town we sped when we could… you see, cars, trucks, tap-taps, pedestrians, sellers, hand carts, and even goats, all fight for space on the streets of the capital and without a horn to clear the road here and there, cars would be at a standstill.

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We pulled in front of the terminal; I jumped out of the car with a fleeting goodbye to my cousin and ran to the counter.  “I am sorry madam, but the flight was full and the plane is already taxiing.”  My heart sank and for a minute I lost my breath:  I missed my flight.

I looked around in disbelief as if somehow something or someone in that waiting room was to solve my dilemma.  To one side was another counter, with a bright yellow sign: Sunrise Airways.  I remembered Rule #1 and changed gears to Plan B.  I walked over and the young man at the counter, to my disappointment, informed me that all their regular flights had been discontinued and they only took charters of six or more passengers.  I sighed heavily and without losing another minute switch gears to Plan C:  Charter a two-seater.  I called the flight school and to my delight, they had a trip scheduled for that afternoon.

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It was the first time I rode such a small plane.  No room to ensure you don’t get stuck with a bad seat, or to select a window or an aisle… There was only one seat and it was a window seat.  I was given a set of aviation headsets and was astonished at how much they reduced the noise.  Talking was almost impossible which gave plenty of time to enjoy the views.  The southern coast offers breathtaking sights.  The countryside is lush and green.  The coast is strewn with cliffs that seem to rise as soldiers holding back the crashing waves.  We flew low, so much so that we could almost see people walking along.  What an experience!

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I arrived in Jeremie in enough time to do business, enjoy a fabulous meal with friends, have a most restful sleep, catch the morning Tortug’air flight to Port-au-Prince, connect to the New York flight and have a delicious dinner with my husband that night.

My trip was saved by Eddy’s rules.

A Cohesive Team

When we work on a project and call upon the community to join in the work force for a week of intense construction and refurbishing, we never know who will show up.  We hire men, women, young, old, mothers, single, Catholic, Protestant, or any other denomination.  For that week, our work becomes a unity of effort. The town is mobilized and everyone becomes part of the project.

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Haitians are a welcoming people and everyone watches out for our safety and well being.  The entire project becomes a sort of “family affair” at the town level.  By the time we arrive, the town has known about our arrival for several weeks already and we know it will be successful because we learn as much from the villagers we meet as they learn from us.  Learning from each other is as essential as working with each other.  There is a mutual desire to improve on the town and its inhabitants.

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Salaries become secondary as the group pulls all their resources together.  We are all one.  Each person contributes their talents with no fear of being diminished.  For one week we become the ultimate working machine and as someone once said, it’s  a “kombit a grande echelle” where everyone pulls in unison.  One of our main goals is to always leave the place in a better state than we found it; the reality is that we are the ones who always leave better people than we came in and the next project is always better because of the experience of the last one.

Come volunteer with us.  Whether you travel or just work in the administration, it’s always a life-changing experience.

Dinner Fundraiser

Dinner Fundraiser a roaring success

From Here to Haiti held its third annual fundraiser gala on November 8th at Terrace on the Park in Queens, NY.  Our host Lisa Scardamaglia guided the program perfectly throughout evening.  Ellen Rhatigan gave the keynote address and Monsignor John Tosi delivered the invocation.  Guitarist John Ducroiset entertained the guests during the cocktail hour while DJ John Schneider kept them dancing throughout the evening.  A most enjoyable rendition of “At Last” by Megan Latham drew loving couples to the dance floor followed by Haitian flags waving to “Drapo saa” by Jocelyne Dorisme.  Prizes graciously donated by our sponsors made the joy of many winners while Bernard Lebrun, our photographer, made of the evening a tangible memory.  A great time was had by all.

Following are a few pictures from the event — there will be more to follow:

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Dinner Dance Fundraiser

Our Third Dinner Dance fundraiser will take place on November 8th.  Preparations have been under way for months.  Tickets sales are on-going and moving fast.  Below is the flier giving the details of the event.  Visit http://www.fromheretohaiti.org to purchase your tickets or call any of the board members listed on the flier.

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Below are a few pictures of last year’s event:

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St. Francis Xavier in Baudin

In October 2012 our visit in Haiti to assess a few projects took us to Baudin, a small village high up in the mountain past the Trouin valley in the South Department.  As we turned a corner we came to a fairly large church with wide stairs leading to an open terrace.  It was St. Francis Xavier, the parish church of Baudin which welcomes about 700 parishioners each Sunday.  The three wooden entrance doors were locked; the top section had a large crack caused by the earthquake, a sign that there may be more damage hidden from our vantage point.

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Pere Delmas Camy, mild mannered and soft spoken, came to welcomed us with open arms and a wide smile.  He led us to the side of the church where we parked the car.  As we entered the church we were amazed at its spaciousness.  It had been emptied and looked abandoned.  Pere Camy explained that much work will be needed to repair this parish church.  We took pictures and video, we measured, walked, poked and scrutinized every crack; we did everything we could think of to help us make a decision once we consult with engineers and architects back in the States.

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In the meantime, the parishioners celebrate mass and conduct religious service in a makeshift church on the other side of the property.

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