Ailish O’Reilly, our Programmes Manager in Haiti, returns to Haiti after a short holiday in Ireland, with a tense journey back as Hurricane Irma threatened the country. Here, she shares all the latest news from our projects over a busy few months.
In July, Nadine and I get to visit the Women of Milot Entrepreneurial Network (W.O.M.E.N.) in Cap Haïtien. The programme offers training and development opportunities in handmade crafts for women in the area. We meet a group of the women taking part in the project, see participants Claudine and Felicita’s home-based businesses, and talk with them about the positive impact the programme has on their lives.
Meanwhile, our own post-hurricane housing programme rolls on to completion with all the material for the homes in Cavaillon distributed, and we finish out Île à Vache at over 905 homes upgraded. We will later need to do site visits and a full reconciliation for the exact figure in the final report.
The reviews are done and work is underway for two chicken rearing businesses on Île à Vache for Brunia and Jeanna. They will go to Cavaillon for training and we will provide them with business mentoring as part of our new business startup programme.
In August, I catch up with family and friends all the way from Haiti to Ireland. I meet some familiar Haven faces at the Tag Rugby Blitz. I even have coffee and conversations in Haitian Kreyol in the West of Ireland, much to the amusement of our neighbours who wonder what language we are speaking.
The team in Galway Bay FM hold a raffle for tickets for the All Ireland Hurling Final and donate the funds raised to Haven. Never underestimate how much of a lift it gives the team in Haiti when we hear the generosity and effort being made at home. And then Galway wins both hurling games; can we believe it?! This is what September Sundays were made for, and it rounds off my holiday neatly.
As I head back to Haiti, there is an opportunity to meet people in New York and Boston, work on plans for our programmes, and bring our partners up to date on the latest happenings. Our exciting news – coming through the culmination of analysis, teamwork and feedback – is the work we are doing on developing our Sustainable Livelihoods model. This complements our existing programmes and will expand, extend, and strengthen the work we are doing in communities.
We are all systems go for an early September workshop on our programme review when we find ourselves back on hurricane watch as Hurricane Irma approaches. Flights to the Caribbean are being rerouted or cancelled.
The team in Haiti tracks and monitors all the hurricane information for our communities and maintains contact through the tense weekend of watch and wait. We are lucky this time, unlike many of our neighbouring countries in the Caribbean. We empathise; we have been in that same position after Hurricane Matthew struck southern Haiti only last year. We know the long days of emergency response and the long commitment to recovery that they will now go through. While there is a huge sense of relief and gratitude among our communities, we think of those less fortunate.
In the airport, I wait for my rescheduled flight to board. The password for the wifi is ‘sunshine’. I hope it is a good omen.
See you all back in Haiti.