Our Programmes Manager, Ailish O’Reilly, shares the latest news from the ground in Haiti in her regular blog. In this month’s blog post, Ailish fills us in on the 2017 Volunteer Programme.
We march into April with the preparations for the Volunteer Programme foremost in our minds. Warren Kearns, one of our volunteers, comes out in advance of the main group and spends his first week with us on Île à Vache. We are just starting the repairs to the Civil Protection (CPC) building so he joins Calise, one of the local people we work closely with, and the team there.
The CPC is like the Civil Defence in Ireland; they act as emergency response in Haiti when there are hurricanes, flooding, community mobilisation programs etc. The adjoining office was our temporary home and the main hub for our team during the emergency response work after Hurricane Matthew last October. We would like to have this base fully operational ahead of the 2017 hurricane season, which runs from 1 June to the end of November.
In Chache Lavi (CLV), Girlande – its Social Facilitator – and Alienne – its Field Agent – schedule the introduction session for new participants. The group is enthusiastic but, at the same time, unsure as to what it is all about. They know that anyone who has been through the CLV programme has a good business and really likes the programme. We build in the personal development elements from day one and offer each participant the choice to stay or leave. This choice is the first step on seeking the life – as ‘Chache Lavi’ itself means – that they wish.
A busy week of meetings leads up to the Volunteer Programme and sees us all off to Christianville, a place I hadn’t properly visited since the Santos build with Habitat for Humanity about five years ago. The guesthouse and volunteer accommodation was a far cry from a six-man tent back in the day! The fun and camaraderie, though, was just the same.
We do a wonderful school project, transforming what we might call a shed – with its rusty roof, no plaster, no paint – into a beautiful facility for the school’s 220 students. The week is loaded with surprise birthdays, a table quiz, movie night and all the usual elements.
Those who have been on any sort of volunteer trip before know the mixed feelings one has when leaving the site on the final day. The schoolchildren are all there in perfect uniforms; we mingle with our friends from the locality, and the official handover brings another successful project to a close. On that last evening together, we end dinner with a poignant speech from John Moore on his last Volunteer Programme as our Country Director.
On Saturday morning, we are all up and out for the last communal meal of the week before everyone heads back to their own homes. By Saturday evening, I’m back in Île à Vache, volunteers are already in the United States (US), and the rest of the team is back in Pétionville in Port au Prince.
It can’t be over already surely? Roll on the 2018 Volunteer Programme!