After a busy week with our Volunteer Programme, University College Cork (UCC) student, Johanna Murray, tells us her experience of it as she continues her student placement with our team in Haiti.
Hello everyone, and welcome back to my blog!
Over the last week, I have had the huge honour of meeting and working with a fantastic bunch of people. As stated in my first blog, we were preparing for the arrival of 36 Irish and American volunteers to Jean Jean School in Gressier for our Volunteer Programme. On Saturday, 14 April, we collected them at the airport and it was here the fun began.
The group was incredibly diverse in many different ways: their ages ranged from 16 to over 70, and they came from all over the island of Ireland and different places in the United States (US). Many volunteers have been coming to Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, but, even though they have known each other for years, they welcomed any newcomers (including myself) with open arms.
We had a tremendous feat ahead of us. The volunteers were divided into groups, such as the roofing and kitchen teams. We also had those with general skills, who were mainly involved in painting the various buildings. Now, looking back at all we achieved, I can’t believe we managed to do it in six days.
We built a new shaded sun shelter where the children of Jean Jean School can eat lunch. We reroofed the school, the storage container and the church. The insides of many rooms were plastered and painted. Partitions were assembled in three of the classrooms so that the school’s six classrooms became nine. The sanitation block was totally renovated: it was also reroofed and painted. The team installed a septic tank and toilets so that there would be better sanitation for the children. A concrete path was built around the whole school, as well as connecting the kitchen to the shaded sun shelter, requiring a huge amount of teamwork from those involved. And we did so much more – to see the transformation for yourself, you can look at our video series from the programme or our Facebook page.
Despite the challenges, everyone gave it their all every day.
It didn’t matter that the sun was beating down and not a breath of wind was felt: everyone was up at 5:30 am and worked until 5pm-6:30pm. The dedication to finishing the project was just amazing, and it was great to see how the group just melded together as the week went by.
It wasn’t all hard work: everyone could wind down at dinner time and in the evening. We were extremely lucky to have a fantastic group of cooks at our accommodation in Christianville, who took care of all our meals (and us!) for the week. We were also able to head down to our ‘local’ each night, where we had karaoke and the most seriously taken quiz I have ever been to.
Although we were wrecked by Friday, the final day of the project, we began decorating the area for the schoolchildren and parents who would be present for the official re-opening of the school. Those two to three hours when they were there were filled with food, laughter, bubbles, and dancing. There was a lovely atmosphere as the children finally got to see their new school and we, the volunteers, got to see how our hard work was appreciated.
The last week has gone by in such a whirlwind, and I will miss every single person from this trip: I hope the work we completed in Jean Jean School will help the community in every way possible and that its children will flourish.