Ailish O’Reilly is Haven’s Programme Manager in Haiti, living on the island of Île à Vache. Here, in her monthly blog, she shares the latest developments from the various ongoing projects and gives a valuable perspective on the ground.
“If you want to know me, come and live with me”
Chache Lavi has a full programme with 17 business plans set to finish for the end of the month; Madame Saintalienne starts her week of induction training. We keep moving on the Orientation phase: three more business plans are approved and we have another group ready for review in early March. Nadine, Haven’s Community Development and Livelihoods Officer, gives our first seminar on finance for business. During the Accompaniment phase, we will need to give more intensive training on a group basis.
It is time for Kanival (Carnival). Against the backdrop of political unrest, there are fears of trouble but, again, everything passes off peacefully. The festival on Île à Vache is hampered by rain, and the ra-ra bands are not in full force due to lack of sponsorship in local communities. Money is tight after last year’s drought and the devaluation of the gourde against the US dollar. Easter is early this year, and people are keeping some of their money for the church festivities, school holidays and the three-day music festival in Recife.
We are working on the outreach programme for families who have children or adults living with disabilities. Our reality is far different from these families and, while we don’t live with them, we can visit the families in the programme to appreciate what life is like. One mother, Merpila, has two children with special needs, and we were sad to hear that her son Spencer died in November. They live in a remote area of the island, so news only reached us in January.
At Chache Lavi, we are also visiting the beneficiaries as part of the business preparation. The home visit allows us to see what type of natural resources might be available to them and what type of businesses are already in the area. The beneficiaries are more at ease, and we get a better understanding of their challenges. To give an example, one woman in the group cannot re-open her bakery until March as her husband died in October; she must wait for the six-month mourning period to pass. Another beneficiary is going to produce hats and bags, so we purchase some material and start the training in her home in Kaykok. Our work is cut short by heavy rain and it’s a long hike from Kaykok back to Madame Bernard in the mud.
The home visits allow us finish the planning, and February sees two more business plans approved, with fifteen ready to submit for evaluation. As part of the business plans for those interested in selling food, we encourage them to grow their own produce.
Haven’s garden programme for Île à Vache has recently launched, and eight of our beneficiaries meet with agronomist Silvain Sylvestre to avail of training.