Bonjour from Île à Vache!
My journey started in Dublin at 4am on Friday last. We arrived in Île à Vache at 1am Irish time on Sunday, having travelled by plane, bus and boat!
Port-au-Prince was a shock to the system, with extreme pollution and overcrowding. Île à Vache (where we are based) is a beautiful island, but life is tough. While some people live in stone houses, others still live in straw structures. There is no running water or sanitation system, and conditions are poor. Employment largely consists of fishing done from little wooden boats, using nets and spears, or agriculture (ploughing is done with an ox and basic plough, or the soil is turned using a pickaxe).
There are 30 volunteers on the trip – 18 from Ireland and the remainder from the US and Canada.
We’ve been divided in to 5 teams – a carpentry team (making shelving, doors etc for the orphanage), a general DIY team (fixing roofs etc), a painting team, a path team (building a path on the track to the orphanage and beyond, as it’s currently a steep mud path that is hard to use when it rains), and a tree planting team. Each day, we get a boat for 40 minutes to another part of the island to work.
I’m on the tree planting team, and our goal is to plant 3,000 cherry trees during the week. We walk from about 8am to 4pm, up and down hills and rocky paths, planting two trees per house. It’s an amazing way to see the island and meet the people, but it’s hard work as it’s very humid and hot! I’m not sure I’ve ever walked so much in my life! The locals are generally very receptive and grateful, but a handful are suspicious. A local shows us around the island and explains to the locals what we are doing, but my basic French is coming in handy with the Creole!
On Sunday we went to mass (church full and lots of singing), and the women’s group put on a show for us (full of lyrics about independence and not needing men!). Haven is working with the women, teaching them about family planning and giving post natal classes etc. We brought the children from the orphanage to the concert. It’s heartbreaking to see them as many have disabilities. While the orphanage does amazing work, it does not have the facilities to care for the disabled children as we would at home.
Today, my group walk and plant some more (carrying trees and a pickaxe or crowbar to dig with). I think I’ll have walked the entire island by the end of the week. It’s due to be 37 degrees today so it’s going to be hot!!
Íde is a Haven volunteer taking part in our 2015 Volunteer Programme; to see all the photos from the volunteers’ time in Haiti, please click here.
Please note that Íde’s views are her own.