Shelley Barcoe is currently working as a Programme Support Intern, spending the previous few months in Haven’s field office in Haiti, where she experienced first-hand what life is like in the country. Here, she shares all that she’s been up to and her perspective on her journey in Haiti.
Since my last post, I have visited Île à Vache a few times in the last few weeks. With a very rough sea leading to a very rocky boat journey – and a man or two getting sick I was very happy to get my feet on solid ground again!
The first visit down was mainly focused on visiting the agricultural programmes on Île à Vache. We visited the women and men farmers who are participating in the agricultural programme to interview them and determine if they were happy with the programme and the benefits it gives them. I found this really interesting as they spoke to us about the training and how it has helped them grow crops more efficiently and sustainably, and how it has benefited them in many ways; for example, many of them had better, more stable incomes, meaning they had a more varied, nutritious diet and they could send their children to school.
Another trip to the island was focused on the housing upgrade programme: along with the local contracted staff on the island, we visited the homeowners to ensure that they had completed the work agreed and that they had received the help and materials needed, as many of the projects are now homeowner-driven with guidance and support from the Haven team on the ground. There were also some meetings about potential further projects on the island. While I was visiting the island, work began on the building of new wells in communities around Île à Vache; work like this makes a massive impact on so many people living on the island, as many have little or no access to clean, safe running water.
Leaving the island with a few more mosquito bites, we headed to the Christine Model Farm, based in the Cavaillon Valley in the south of Haiti. The farm is an innovative farm helping to promote strong farming practices while teaching young students farming techniques , giving them the opportunity to practice different types of techniques onsite. This empowers them to become effective and efficient farmers. There are many aspects to the farm: a commercial farm, a research facility, a training centre and a seed bank, while it is also currently employing 18 local people. The team on the ground is currently working very closely with the farmers to make the farm more sustainable into the future.
After a little while back in Port-au-Prince – with hot water and some electricity, and the viewing of an Irish match or two! – I then travelled to Gros Morne with a group of 13 Irish volunteers who Haven is supporting. After about a four hour bus journey, we arrived into Gros Morne, another beautiful area of Haiti. The 13 Haven volunteers are running a summer camp with 600 children spread between two schools for three weeks. The summer camp is running Monday through to Saturday for the three weeks, offering the children attending the opportunity to participate in learning in a fun and creative environment: some of the children don’t have the opportunity to attend any school otherwise. The children who partake in the summer camp also get two meals a day and plenty of water to keep them energised for the sporting activities which the volunteers have planned for them! I really enjoyed getting to spend some of my final days in Haiti in the more relaxed setting of Gros Morne and seeing the work that is going on there.
When I travelled back from Gros Morne, I got to see what other things Haiti has to offer as I visited the National Museum of Haiti in downtown Pétionville, which I really enjoyed as it was based around the history of Haiti. This is just one example of what Haiti has to offer and shows the potential the country has to attract tourists which would help generate money into their economy.
My last few weeks in Haiti have been very busy and eventful for me: I can’t yet reflect on my experience here as a whole, as so much has happened over the past few months. I’ll need time to digest it all! But, overall, Haiti has been a life experience for me: while I got to work on my development skills and concepts as I arrived to do as part of my college placement, I also got to meet some great people along the way and had many new experiences throughout my time. It’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget!