Trips to Les Cayes and the arrival of visitors to Île à Vache mean our Programmes Manager, Ailish O’Reilly, is busy.
Usually, we minimise and consolidate the trips to Les Cayes, so two trips in one day is very rare.
Through Frank Coughlan of Stellar Haiti SA, we are receiving a donation of MannaPack rice kits. It is enriched rice and suitable as a nutritional boost for malnutrition. As it is dried food, this offers a practical solution for logistics and meets the nutritional requirements. Haiti has lots of local dishes: their rice and beans is second-to-none, so these dried meals don’t look like they will measure up. It will be the job of the CPC to educate the households on how to use these kits and prepare them in the traditional way.
So, we’re off to Les Cayes to collect the food kits and some more tarpaulins. The truck gets held up in Les Cayes for a manifestation [peaceful demonstration] by students. They would like their schools to stop being used as emergency shelters and allow them to go back to their studies. The truck is at one end of town, now able to get through to us sitting on the dock. When he finally gets through, we form a human chain and load the boat in just under an hour: that’s a lot of boxes of food!
We are soon on the way to Île à Vache: a short stop in Kaykok for a meeting, and we all arrive at the wharf of Madame Bernard together. It takes another hour to unload and pack to depot. Its now 4pm, and we expected to be in Les Cayes by now; it’s a run home – which is a quarter kilometre uphill – and a quick shower and change, before heading down to the boat again. The run home is considerably easier now with the extension to the road. Calise and the team are working on extending the concrete path and are almost at the Chache Lavi office.
And so it is back to Les Cayes to collect our visitors. In between, we have a visiting group from the Bahamas to meet on Île à Vache. The captain waits patiently while I have a quick ten-minute, stand-up meeting and exchange of contact details.
We all arrive in Les Cayes together: we buy gaz [gas] for the boat, which gives us time for short introductions and a chance to stretch our legs. We have been on a boat half the day, and the group has just flown in and driven the four and a half hours south. Then we are Île à Vache-bound once again, and we are almost at the island when a chalupe [local sail boat] hails us, asking us to take a sick woman on board. We have an engine and faster boat to get her to dry land sooner. A captain shouldn’t and – in our case – wouldn’t ever refuse to a genuine request, so this isn’t our first boat-to-boat transfer at sea.
Dry land on Île à Vache: the bags are dropped home, dinner is ready, and we are well ready for dinner. As part of the visit, we have arranged a local bar for a troubadour with Amical. We’ll have live local music: this is a real treat for us all. An hour of video and photos, and the weary travellers are happy to head back to their island abode for an early night. They will see more of the island tomorrow.
Tonight’s introduction will hopefully give them a sense of the community, camaraderie and richness of culture that we experience here.