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 from the ground.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
On my return in April, I get a same day flight through Atlanta: it has been a long 22 hours travelling from Galway to Port-au-Prince (PAP)! The next morning is a 6am departure for the south, and home to Île à Vache.
The Chache Lavi team has accomplished a lot in one month; not only is this good for the programme, but it also shows that the team is functioning well under local supervision. Of the seventeen businesses approved, sixteen availed of the funding and launched in March. Each time we allocate funds, one of the team takes the role of independent reviews and counter-signs all of the work. For March, Fondation Enfant Jesus (FEJ) sent someone to fill this role, and they are very happy with how we managed the process.
One beneficiary has decided to change her business idea and has not availed of her funding. Change is possible – in fact, encouraged – for the production and transformation of local materials, where the business evaluation confirms that a new plan is viable.
When a new business or product arrives on the market, within a few weeks, everyone is selling the same thing: it is highly competitive. To keep up with the competition, a marchant [merchant] buys many products in small quantities. We teach them that if they buy their materials in bulk, they get a much cheaper price and, therefore, can make more profit. It seems logical, but commerce in Haiti seems to have a social aspect to it or a status attached. Having the latest products is one way to demonstrate you are ‘on the curve’. A marchant wants her neighbours to know she is successful – but not so successful as to make them jealous.
The advantage of Chache Lavi is the opportunity and resources to do something unique, or something not easily copied. In April, Zanilia, one of our beneficiaries, started making chlorine. The system was provided by Hope Source International, who installed the portable solar system to convert water and salt to chlorine. Zanilia sells products for washing clothes, and bleach is much in demand. The chlorine is also used to treat water, making it safe to drink.
The Transformation Phase for Group 3 is complete and Group 4 is underway, so we start Orientation and Business Planning for 24 more businesses. The emphasis is more on production activity, challenging us all to be more creative.
Art classes for the children of both l’Oeuvre Saint Francois (OSF) and De Gras Orphanage are coming to an end, and we are planning the next phase for the summer vacation and after-school exams. The funding for the 2016 year for OSF has arrived, and our team from PAP visit the orphanage to set up the new reporting procedures. The orphanage is in need of a full scabies treatment programme: we put a proposal to Canadian organisation Terre Sans Frontières, and they start the programme over the last weekend of April.
With the Haven Volunteer Programme coming up, there is just enough time in the schedule for Katy and Dave Turnbull to visit us all in Île à Vache. After spending five months with us here on the island in 2015, their return causes great excitement, and we spend a couple of days hiking to communities to follow up their projects from last year.
Then everyone heads to Fond-Parisien and Hope House Haiti with Yvrose, Pierre Richard and family. I arrive on the final day of the Volunteer Programme, and the work they have accomplished in the ten-day visit has astounded everyone. The volunteers and Haven team have done it all in good spirits, making time to interact with the children and making friends as they work side by side with local workers.
I’m stopped in my tracks by a Haitian carpenter asking me “Cé hé bhfuil tú?” [“How are you?”]. The day and month closes with a feast of local Haitian food prepared by the staff at Hope House Haiti: barbecue pig; banane pesée [fried plaintain]; akra, a big favourite; and spicy pikliz, the Haitian cousin of coleslaw. To add an Irish flavour, after a week of very high temperatures, it even rained a little!