Haiti 2013

2013 HAITI Mission

Sobier is a remote village a few hours west of Port Au Prince. Some of the children showed obvious signs of malnutrition so it was our mission to access the situation. Access to the village requires 4 wheel drive or a 2 mile hike. “There is much work yet to be done in Haiti”. This was the assesment on the first trip to Haiti. Recently, Karren Crowson’s team made another journey to Haiti. Here is her assessment for her 2013 journey.

Sobier, Haiti Assessment May 31-June 3, 2013

Introduction The Haitian Methodist church has a small church in Sobier, a remote community approximately three hours west of Port-au-Prince. The Church Superintendent is Pastor Maude, the Evangeslise is Uately Sainne Charla, the local preachers are Fanel Dorsainvil and Ginel Delan, and the stewards are Therese and Clsnel. The church committee requested a new church on church property closer to where more of the villagers live.  During a March 6, 2013 visit to Sobier with UMVIM to determine site and feasibility of a new church, the following issues and challenges were noted:

Condition of road would make it difficult to bring a team in and out daily

No building to house a team on site

Scarcity of water

Severe malnutrition of some children

We felt that the dire conditions at Sobier warranted a needs/wants assessment prior to having teams come to assist with building a church.  We all agreed that Sobier needed more than a new church; it needed sustainable development to empower the residents to provide for themselves.

Purpose The objective of the assessment was to listen to the villagers’ wants and needs, determine the accessibility of water, evaluate health needs, and assess opportunities for school, agriculture, livestock and possible cottage industries with the aim of identifying projects for sustainable development.

Methodology The assessment was conducted over three days from May 31-June 2, 2013. Our UMVIM team went house to house for a select sample of residents. We asked members of the household about living conditions, education, economics and healthcare (Appendix A) and recorded their answers and our visual observations. We obtained age, weights, heights and mid-arm circumferences on children, and age, blood pressures and weights on adults. We met with community leaders to listen to their concerns and ask additional questions from our assessment questionnaire.

The team stayed in four tents on the property of Jacob Gagen-Claube (fig. 1). Jacob was hired to provide security and his wife was hired as an assistant cook. The team also hired an individual to bring water from a distant spring daily for bathing. Each individual was paid $10 US per day. The team consisted of five UMVIM volunteers from the US and five staff (appendix B).

Figure 1


Geography and population

Sobier is located west of Petit Goave. Miragoane is to the east and is the closest city to Sobier.  It is about a 45 minute walk and a twenty minute drive.  Access to the village is difficult due to the poor condition of the road (fig. 2). The two mile dirt road is very steep in places and has deep ruts. The population of Sobier is approximately 5000-6000 people. Children make up 60% of the population.  The last census was reported as being done by the government in 2010-2011. The area with the densest population is a valley that covers approximately 35% of Sobier. The elevation of the valley is 274 meters. The other 65% of the land is mountainous.

Figure 2

Living conditions The majority of houses we saw are small concrete block buildings (16ft x 13ft) with tin roofs and either dirt or concrete floors (fig. 3). The number of family members living in each house ranges from 3 -11. Most houses have small thatched external cook kitchens (fig. 4).  The house and small plot of land are owned by the family. The principal of the Catholic school told us that there are 317 houses in Sobier (number does not support pop. estimations); 156 have enclosed latrines and 112 have cisterns with PVC pipe water catch systems running from the tin roofs.  The latrines (fig. 5) and cisterns (fig. 6) were built by Caritas.  Some houses without cisterns have large blue rain barrels (fig. 3), others have small buckets. Most of the rain occurs in May. When the cistern is dry, families must walk 4-5 kilometers to a spring to get water. The spring is at the bottom of the mountain near the ocean. Carrying the water back up the mountain is very difficult.  The round trip takes approximately three hours. Families reported leaving at 6 a.m. each morning and returning at 9 a.m. with water. Children often perform this task.


Figure 3Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 6

Some families reported eating two times a day while others reported only eating one time per day.  Several children showed signs of severe malnutrition with brittle orange hair and protruding bellies.  Most families reported eating rice, corn, millet, bananas and breadfruit. Some also ate mangos, avocados, yams, eggs, fish, goat and chicken.  Water intake was usually reported as a bucket per family per day. Some said they only drank water when they ate.  We estimated the water intake to be one liter or less per person each day.  No one on the team observed any of the villagers drinking water during our three day stay.

Approximately 80% of children and adults did not wear shoes. Several boys that appeared to be seven years old or younger did not wear pants.

Education There are 3 schools located in Sobier.  Saint Peter at Sobier is hosted by the Catholic Church, one is hosted by the Baptist Church (fig. 7) and the last has been unconfirmed by this team.  Our team was not able to gain access to the Baptist school, nor were we able to talk to anybody of authority at the school. St. Peter at Sobier features 6 classrooms and began construction in 2010 with efforts still underway. Mr. Richelin Leonel, the principle at St. Peter at Sobier, informed us that his school still requires; 8 blackboards, 80 benches, 250 protractors, 8 teachers, and 2,800 crayons and books. St. Peter at Sobier currently has 286 students attending Kindergarten-6th grade. Tuition for 1 year is 800 gouds ($20USD) in addition to uniforms, which cost $25USD and need to be replaced annually. Children attend school from 9 o’clock in the morning until early afternoon Monday through Friday. The school does not provide any food or water.

Overall attendance to primary grade level institutions in Sobier is favorable amongst school age Children.  Mr. Leonel estimates that 90% of children between the ages of 3 and 18 attended primary school in some capacity.  Efforts by President Martelly to offer free schooling to children of Haiti seemed to have paid off.  Tuition costs are low enough that most families, with the exception of the absolute poorest, are able to send their children to school without destroying their savings.

Figure 7

While primary grade school attendance is favorable, secondary school attendance is lacking. After completion of the 6th grade students are administered a nationwide assessment exam, upon receiving a passing grade from the state test students are then eligible to move on to secondary education.  The closest secondary school is in Miragoane.  In order to attend secondary school most children must either stay in the city with family or commute every day via motorbike rental, tap-tap (Haitian bus/taxi system) or walk 8 miles every day over rough terrain. Mr. Leonel estimates that of his 8 students in the 6th grade 60-70% will pass, however only 1 will have access to resources to be able to go.

Economics An estimated 99% of the 5,000 individuals living in Sobier rely on agriculture as their main source of income.  Families practice subsistence agriculture in individual gardens.  Staple crops are corn, banana, mango, and millet.  Some families also supplement their gardens with US rice purchased at the market in Miragoane.  Other crops grown are coconut, bread fruit, bread nuts and yams.  Each garden is less than ¼ acre.  Most families do well to feed themselves off of crops grown and any extra is sold at market.  Some families were seen using fertilizer to improve crop production.  Agriculture is hard in the area due to depleted soil and a chronic lack of water.  For instance, corn plants at the edge of the field were half to a quarter the size of plants next to latrines and water cisterns.  Most families have their own set of livestock including; donkeys, chickens, goats, cattle and creole pigs.  To supplement a lack of protein most families fish by the ocean.

Besides agriculture, nine small scale merchants were observed to be operating near the Baptist school selling wares such as powdered soap, small amounts of fertilizer, fried plantains, and candy.  Mr. Leonel informed us that two cottage industries were currently operating in the area. One man makes fishing traps out of bamboo (fig. 8) and another few families make furniture out of bamboo in their spare time.

Figure 8

Healthcare The nearest access to healthcare is Miragoane. Individuals who are sick have to hire a motorcycle “taxi” for the trip to Miragoane. The regular $50 Haitian fee for the taxi is doubled to $100 Haitian if you are sick. We met a woman that lives in Sobier and is a midwife.  She is active in the Methodist church. We also met a Haitian Red Cross worker that was administering medication for the prevention of filariasis. He visits the area twice a year.  A community leader reported that Sobier had cases of cholera in the past, but that there are none now and that Typhoid was more of a problem.  He also reported that there were not many cases of malaria due to the dryness of the area.

We plotted mid arm circumference on World Health Organization charts for children five and under. Of the 31 children assessed, 17 were below the 50th percentile (appendix C).

Blood pressures were taken on 48 adults. Results were: 14 normal, 17 prehypertension, 9 High blood pressure stage 1 and 8 high blood pressure stage 2 (appendix D shows all data that was collected). Dehydration was probably a contributing factor in some of the elevated blood pressures.  One man with a history of a pin surgically placed in his arm was in pain and had a blood pressure of 186/99. A woman with a blood pressure of 160/115 had a right swollen leg (possibly filariasis).

Several children and one adult had open sores from either bug bites or stepping on sharp objects. We cleaned the sores, applied antibiotic ointment and band aids. We left supplies and instructions to change the band aids in 24 hours.

Community activities During the rainy season, the community comes together with their tools to work on the road. A drivable road was essential when they were having cases of cholera.  Good Samaritan used to help them.  All road work is done by hand.  Several members of the community expressed a need for a tractor to grate the road.

In the summer, the community organizes soccer games. The children also enjoy singing and dancing.

There is a Catholic Church and Methodist church (fig.11 and 12) in the area where we stayed.  We attended the Methodist church service on Sunday.  The church was full and they brought in extra seating for us.  There is a children’s choir and a youth choir. Both performed at the service.  Three young boys also sang at the service. After the church service we fed the congregation and their neighbors peanut butter sandwiches and juice.

Figure 11

Figure 12

Conclusion Based on conversations with the residents of Sobier and observations by the team, the following needs were identified:

  • Easier access to water for both consumption and irrigation
  • Improved road
  • Improved crop, livestock and cottage industries to provide adequate food
  • Closer access to healthcare
  • Better access to secondary school

Residents identified easier access to water as the most important need in the community.  They said the hunger was because there was not enough rain to grow the crops and there was no water to irrigate them.

Recommendation We want to explore the feasibility of drilling a well in Sobier.

Appendix A  Sobier Assessment Questions


  1. What are the most important needs in this community?
  2. Can you prioritize them?
  3. What actions could be taken to improve this community?
  4. What can you do to help with this improvement?
  5. How does the community make decisions? Who are the leaders?
  6. Are there any community activities? Religious, social, recreational, celebrations, traditions
  7. Are there any businesses in the community?

Living conditions

  1. What kind of housing do you have?
  2. Does the house/land belong to the family or do you pay rent?
  3. How many people live in the house?
  4. How many are children?
  5. What are their gender and ages?
  6. Do the members of the household a) eat less than one meal a day? b) eat one meal a day? c) eat more than one meal a day?
  7. Where do you get your water? How far? OK to drink (potable) or do you have to purify? Any springs?
  8. Do you ever catch rain water as part of your water supply?
  9. Would a closer water supply be helpful? Has any group looked at putting one in?

10. Do you have access to cleaning products (soap)?

11. Is there a latrine for use by members of your household?


  1. Is there a school within walking distance of the village?
  2. Is it a public school or a church run school? Which church?
  3. Do any of the children in your household go to school? Would they like to? Did you go?
  4. What grades does the school have?
  5. What do they teach at this school (is there a particular curriculum?)?
  6. How much does it cost for a child to go to school for a year? Tuition, books and uniforms


  1. What do the adult members of your household do to earn money?
  2. Do you grow any crops?  If no –why not?
  3. What do you grow and how have the crops done?
  4. Do the crops generate income or are grown just for family’s food?
  5. Where do you get the seeds?
  6. What do you need to make the crops more productive?
  7. Have you ever grown peanuts? Do you know how to make peanut butter?
  8. Have you raised bees?
  9. Is there any need for trees? If have mango trees, do you need more?

10. Do you raise any livestock? What?

11. Does the livestock generate income or are just used for family’s food?

12. What do you need to make raising livestock more productive?

13. Do you make anything to sell such as artwork, jewelry, baskets, SOAP?

14. Would you be interested in learning to make soap? Are there other crafts you are more interested in?


  1. If you or a member of your family gets sick, what do you do?
  2. Has a nurse or physician ever been to the community to check on your health?

Questions for Pastor and/or community leaders

  1. What is the approximate population of the community?
  2. How many of these are children?
  3. How many households are in the community?
  4. What percent of the community goes to the Methodist Church?
  5. Who built the latrines and houses on the church property?
  6. How often does the church worship?
  7. Does the pastor of the church live in the community?

“Go with the people:  Live with them.  Learn from them.  Start with what they know.  Build with what they have.  But of the best leaders.  When the job is done, The task accomplished, The people will all say, We have done this ourselves.”—Lao Tsu, China, 700 B.C.

Appendix B  UMVIM Team for Sobier Assessment May 30 –June 4, 2014

Karren Crowson – Team Leader  Karren.crowson@gmail.com

Aaron Byers, Trish Scurry, Dale Whatley, Jef Whatley

Jackie Putt – VIM Team Coordinator  Jackie.putt@gmail.com

Rodney – Interpreter, Oge – Driver/interpreter, Coz – Interpreter, Deena – Cook

Contact Karren Crowson  karrenw@knology.net if you are interest in mission work at the church.