Our Programmes Manager, Ailish O’Reilly, shares the latest news from the ground in Haiti in her regular blog. Here, she tells us how January 2017 has been a busy month, with hurricane recovery still continuing and plenty of visits to the island of Île à Vache.
Welcome back to Haiti! It has been a busy and eventful month.
I got back to Port au Prince on 5 January and to Île à Vache on 7 January. The first order of business was a catch up on all of the project work over the Christmas period, and an adjustment to the time and heat!
Haven’s board members, Leslie Buckley and Maurice Healy, came to visit the projects, including a moto [motorbike] tour of programmes on Île à Vache. I know that Leslie spoke eloquently at the Haiti Ball about the work here, and all the progress we have made even since Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
That same week, we had more home visits to families wishing to enter the Outreach Programme. We hosted a visit from Shelterbox to review our work on distributing kits. Calise and I get out to visit the schools and agree the details to submit for funding for the repair of schools damaged by Hurricane Matthew.
Our Country Director, John Moore, is back on Île à Vache to work on the housing repairs programme and visit the zones. We propose a partnership with a community school in Bois Bouton, and have a very productive meeting with the Mayor on his vision for Île à Vache. The campaigns for the local elections kick off and the end of the week sees us back in Port au Prince for donor meetings.
The next morning, I’m at the famous Hotel Olaffson where Professor Tom Lennon of Massachusetts Maritime Academy has invited me to speak with a group of visiting graduates from Georgetown and Washington universities. We cover some of the topics at an introductory session before heading to to Fond Parisien to visit Yvrose Telfort Ismael.
John Moore joins us there, and we take over one of the school rooms in the kindergarten building – which Haven volunteers built in April 2016 – to host a lecture on NGOs working in Haiti. It is an interesting, lively discussion and, for us, it is fitting that it is set in an Irish-built classroom.
I’m back on the island again on Sunday with a visiting American eye-care team. I met Cheryl Roers from International Vision Inc when she was on a two-day visit to Île à Vache last year. The team sees 152 patients – including me- and I’m issued with a pair of reading glasses. I arrange for them to meet the director of the hospital in Les Cayes where cataract surgery is performed.
Friends for Hope and Health in Haiti and their Kaykok clinic have a fully kitted examination suite, thanks to Dr Kevin Tempany and the two other Irish doctors who visited the island last September. The long-term plan is to have two visiting clinics per year for eye exams, medicines, surgeries ,and a teaching clinic.
In Madame Bernard, we have approval for our schools programme, and the road works are back underway.
Six solar lights are being prepped for installation, and we are looking at moving one light to a new location. The rest of the lights around the village are to be serviced and put back into operation where possible.
On Thursday, FONTEN hosts our first mobile clinic for the Outreach Programme. Situated in an available room at the Mayor’s office, 14 of our patients come to Madame Bernard for assessment and therapy. The day is a great success and we will host another on 14 February.
The Chache Lavi ladies are receiving grant funding the last week of January to help them replace livestock lost during the hurricane. We have already worked on their houses and will also be including all the participants in our garden recovery project. With their businesses still intact and more business plans in approval, they are starting to exit hurricane recovery and return to normal living.
On Friday of that week, we take a visit to La Hatte to visit another community group in the area. I finally get back to the office and catch up on some emails and paperwork. In the early afternoon, International Rescue Group (IRG) arrive in Madame Bernard village with a small cargo of supplies for Sr Flora. I leave that to join the team doing more distribution and evaluations: déja vu all over again.
My house is getting an overhaul as we have been limping along since the hurricane, so I clear out of there on Saturday and head to Les Cayes to visit a project we may partner with. Our journey is by sailboat and we pick up some visitors and a stranded boat on the way back, arriving fully loaded on the island just in time for dinner. It’s another moto journey home at night, and the post-painting cleanup will have to wait until tomorrow.
Sunday is election day so I get my run in early before the voting centres get too busy. The elections have been a hot topic for the past two weeks, and it is all over by Sunday evening as the counts are tallied. It has been interesting to see democracy at work in Haiti; there have been no major problems on Île à Vache, and the process has gone relatively smoothly.
Life on Île à Vache returns to normal as January comes to a close.