We arrived in Port au Prince on Monday at 8:00 a.m. (Sunday had been a full day of packing, a presentation at our church, and a sleepless red-eye from San Francisco). We traveled the countryside of Haiti in the back of a pickup truck and worked with our partners until 11:00 pm. This was the longest work day I can remember.
Doug Stevens of The Leadership Connection traveled with me to meet with and provide leadership training for Pastors in Haiti. Just as we arrived I received notification that due to manifestations (demonstrations) in Grand Goave relating to the recent election we would not have our meeting there. At the airport we began scheduling an event in Port au Prince, for Thursday to replace the lost training session. Working in Haiti requires a lot of flexibility. The call to cancel the Grand Goave meeting was the right one. As we passed through the town there was a massive UN presence keeping the peace. It was not a good time for a large gathering.
We stopped in Aquin to leave books for my young friend Pierre. He and his friend have been teaching themselves English sharing a battered dictionary, so I brought him a new one and a few other books. I also delivered nail clippers to him for his community to help combat cholera and diarhea from bacteria under the nails.
Then we headed to L'Azile and I was amazed at how smooth the road was. It is unpaved, so it will only stay smooth until the rainy season. I walked the first field with transplanted jatropha from the nursery there where 500 new seedlings are waiting for the first rains of the season. These seedlings are border cropped around a field with banana trees and other food crops. The 10,000 seedling nursery for this community is under cultivation and by summer all of those seedlings will be transplanted.
I visited the L'Azile school to see the progress on the technology center. The computers were en route to the school from Cap Haitian and by summer the class will have it's first students enrolled. I also walked the school land and discussed the sustainable kitchen garden project. The garden will supply food for the school and educate the students who care for it. The first site was deemed too close to the soccer field (the Director was concerned that the boys might destroy the garden) so it is being re-located to a safer area. This project was envisioned by an incredible student from the Oakland College Preperatory School, Callie Roberts. Callie has given a tremendous amount of time and effort to make the lives of the children we work with in Haiti better. She started by collecting clothing and French books, then worked with the Ashoka Youth Project to fund the sustainable kitchen garden for the school, and, in response to the earthquake, wrote an educational pamphlet for children in Haiti to help them understand what earthquakes are, and why they happen. Callie is a remarkable girl, and I look forward to seeing where life takes her. I'm quite sure many more will benefit from her incredible spirit.
We got back into the truck and drove to Les Cayes where we spent the night. I was able to meet with people there, our first partners ESMI, and discuss the IEEE/Sirona Haiti Rural Electricity Project. The excitement over that project is indescribable. This is the first opportunity for affordable, sustainable electricity in homes at a price Haitians can afford. I spent a great portion of this trip explaining the project to groups and individuals, poor and wealthy Haitians, and the reception is consistently one of excitement. Many great things happened on this trip (and I've only covered the first day!).