2016 HAITI Mission
Serving in Sobier, Haiti April 23-29, 2016
It was great to be back in Sobier, Haiti April 23-29, 2016. Sobier is a small village located southwest of Port-au-Prince between Petit Goave and Miragoane. This was the fourth trip sponsored by Monte Sano United Methodist Church. Five of our six team members were returnees. We did a wants/needs assessment on our initial trip in 2013 and have been working with the community to help meet some of the needs.
One major emphasis on this trip was Zika education for the community. One of our team members is a retired public health nurse. She made flip charts that were mainly pictorial with any written information in Kreyol (figures 1and 2). We worked with the local Methodist pastor to determine a schedule and get the word out for the talks. He arranged for us to use the nearby Catholic Church for our presentation. Approximately 40 people attended. We repeated the presentation two other times with about 15 people attending each time. Our interpreters did a great job. The participants were attentive, asked great questions after the talks and let us know how much they appreciated us sharing this information. We also gave the midwife 70 bottles of insect repellent that we collected from our church for her to give to the pregnant women. One of the community leaders volunteered to distribute the mosquito netting roll we brought to cover open rain barrels.
Figure 1: Zika talk in Catholic Church
Figure 2: Zika talk in Jacob’s yard
We started a multipurpose building in 2014 and several other teams have worked on the building during the past two years. We were hoping it would be ready for the roof, but worked on the latrine and shower instead (figures 3-5). When the building is finished it will have a designated room for a clinic. A future goal is to help sponsor a local healthcare worker that can make routine visits. It is really needed. Members of our team ran a busy wound care clinic every afternoon (figure 6). Hopefully another room can be used as a sewing center where a local seamstress can be hired to teach some of the residents to make school uniforms and other clothing that can be sold.
Figure 3: latrine prior to concrete slab
Figure 4: Tying rebar
Figure 5: Multipurpose building
Figure 6: Wound clinic
In May 2015 our church funded a sustainable development goat project for Sobier. We purchased 15 female goats that were given to 15 farmers and one male goat for breeding. A requirement of the project is for each farmer to pass on one offspring to another farmer. The project was developed and is coordinated by Gontran Delgrace, a Haitian agricultural professor who has worked with UMCOR. We hired Gontran to do an agricultural assessment in 2014 and he has accompanied our team on the last three trips to Sobier. Gontran has made additional trips to Sobier to train the farmers on how to care for the goats and to check on the goats for his progress reports to us.
During this trip to Sobier, Gontran facilitated a meeting with our team and the farmers that received the goats. The farmers proudly showed off their goats (figures 7-10). The male goat is taking his job seriously as there are now eight pregnant goats and two babies have already been born. Unfortunately four of the female goats have died; one was the mother of one of the new babies. A woman farmer is taking good care of the orphaned baby. The deaths were due to a combination of injuries during transport and the heavy rains Sobier has had during this rainy season. The farmers are building shelters to house their goats at night and during the heavy rains.
Another positive outcome of the goat project has been allowing goat farmers outside the project to breed their goats with the male we purchased. They pay the equivalent of fifty cents in US money to breed their goats which goes for upkeep of the male. This has decreased inbreeding and resulted in a healthier goat herd throughout Sobier.
Figure 7: Orphaned baby goat
Figure 8: Jacob and the Male goat
Figure 9: Aaron Byers with the midwife and her goat
Figure 10: Gontran far left, Jane Moore and a farmer with goat
I think the most excitement we created was when we installed two solar lights. There is no electricity in Sobier. We asked the community leaders to decide where the lights should be installed. It turned into a Solar Summit. The leaders did not want the lights to be inside anyone’s home. They wanted the lights to be outside where the whole community could benefit. The LED light strips are not water proof and need to be protected from rain so a compromise had to be reached. We installed one light on the Catholic school principal’s porch because school children routinely gather and sit on the benches in his yard (figure 11). The other light was installed on Jacob’s porch (figure 12). Since there is not a guesthouse near Sobier, UMVIM teams set up tents in Jacob’s front yard. He provides security and opens a room in his home to us for cooking and dining. We are definitely rethinking our solar light design to include a weather proof light strip.
Figure 11: solar light on principal’s porch
Figure 12: installing solar panel on Jacob’s roof
Malnutrition is a major problem in Sobier. On our last full day several of the women spent over six hours preparing a meal of beans, rice and chicken to feed the community. We donated money to the local Methodist Church for them to provide this meal. We wanted the meal to come from the church, not our team. The church fed over 400 individuals. The local church made sure the children were fed first (figures 13-16).
Figure: 13 preparing the meal
Figure 14: Making sure the children are first
Figure 15: feeding the children
Figure 16: forks were optional
We renewed some old friendships and made some new friends. Our cook taught us to sing hymns in Kreyol. Three young men that we fondly referred to as the three musketeers taught us to play dominos Haitian style. The community leaders came together across denominational lines to partner with us in serving the community. Knowing that you have built community is the best gift any team can receive.