Cholera Update for “Our Village”

Our contacts in Haiti report that cholera is more widespread than initially reported.  It has reached the rural villages near our sister parish, St. Therese, but our clinic in Boileau has not yet diagnosed a case of cholera. As you have heard on the news, cholera can spread rapidly, and, once contracted, cholera can cause death in a few days…sometimes in hours.; But the other concern is that it can remain dormant in an infected person for several days, then erupt.  This increases the threat of spreading to several parts of Haiti. As people flee from the epidemic locations, they can be carriers even though they do not have symptoms.  Since Boileau has been so welcoming of refugees, there is a high risk of having the bacteria in the community.

The greatest threat for transmission is contaminated water supply, so your help is having a life-or-death impact once again.  The 17 wells and hand pumps for clean water that your gifts have provided in and around the village of Boileau are a source of clean water for several thousand families. The villages estimate that each well provides water for at least a thousand people, with a rough estimate of some 25,000 people depending on all the wells. Even before the cholera threat, the doctor at the clinic reported that the wells had transformed the villages.  The clean water dramatically reduced the wide-spread problems from ingesting the parasites and bacteria in the surface water.  The ripple effect of this reaches into all parts of the village life – even to allowing kids to stay in school for higher grades.  (See the update on the school in this website for more details.)

Please continue praying that the efforts to stop the epidemic are effective. The tent-cities of earthquake refugees are the most vulnerable. We are communicating with some medical teams to see how we can help with treatment and containing/controlling the transmission.

Agriculture and Livestock Project Update

The seeds you provided are growing tomatoes and cabbage and beans and corn. Families have food and can even take a little “to market” for a small cash crop. The emergency relief food you provided sustained the villagers through the initial earthquake crisis.  The seeds and tools and agriculture training provide the start of a sustainable source of food. The recent report submitted by, Jean Robert, the man who coordinates the Agriculture and Livestock program confirms continuing progress, as well as the ongoing challenges.

The recent funding was used to purchase shovels, hoes, machetes, pitchforks, and rakes.  These were instantly put to use.  We’ve purchased similar tools in the past, but the need to share each between several villagers is a problem.  It’s a huge improvement for everyone as we reduce the number of villagers who have to share each rake.

The recent funding also produced a couple milestones: purchase of a cart and an irrigation pump.  These represent a huge step forward – both in the capabilities they provide and in the symbolic initiative. Individually they might each have only a half dozen tomatoes or cabbages or small amounts of beans.  It was not feasible for each to take small amounts to the local market.  They can now aggregate these small quantities and take a cart-load to market.  The irrigation pump is a statement that they will not be passive victims; they are becoming assertive in changing the environment. They are taking the initiative to start community collaboration to do things which have not been possible as individuals. Although this irrigation pump will only help a few, it is a start.  Of course, they realize they can’t purchase the irrigation pumps by themselves, they will need our help.

Several more families now have a start on raising livestock.  Six seems to be the magic number in the purchase of starter livestock.  The recent report states that they purchased six cows, six sheep, and six goats.  They have also place orders for a half dozen piglets, but delivery is delayed while they search for a healthier and more robust breed.  The previously purchased piglets were susceptible to disease.  The plan to purchase a bull is also adjusted.  They want to make certain that they are getting a strong and healthy genetic bull since the whole village will be depending on it. Therefore, the plan is to purchase stud service until the genetic quality is confirmed.

Jean Robert reports that there are at least 38 more families who have applied for livestock, but we don’t yet have the funds to purchase starter livestock.

For continuing training, Jean Robert is using a combination of group classes and individual “tutoring”.   He is conducting quarterly meetings which provide a combination of expert training by an agronomist as well as sharing among hemselves to helpful experience. While the agronomist training is important by providing improved insights into composting and fertilizers and irrigation, the sharing with each other is gradually building a sense of teamwork and collaboration which improves the whole village.

L’ECOLE SAINTE THERESE – Boileau School Update

Education is the cornerstone of Haiti becoming self-sustaining.  The progress in Boileau gives everyone hope! The school is crowded.  Even the storage closet is being used as a classroom.  They have energy—because you are providing a school lunch program. They have books – because of your gifts of talent and time and money. Their education will provide new solutions for tomorrow’s leadership in

When we first saw the school in Boileau — poles with a leaky tin roof and no walls – there were a little over 100 students.  The priest and school principal expected growth over the next several years, so we sized the new building for about 250 students – doubling the size.  The 2010 enrollment is 744 students! More than seven times the number of students eight years ago.  Your help has made this happen.

With the surge of earthquake refugees in the village, there are 150 new earthquake students.  This has added students at all class levels.  But the growth from 100 students to 600 students from Boileau residents is the result of several improvements which are direct consequence of help provided by your generous gifts.  The change from dropping out after third grade to completing ninth grade is because of you.

You have been providing a school lunch four days a week. Rice and beans is the standard cuisine, but with improvements in the gardening as a result of the Agriculture Project, they now get some tomatoes and cabbage for a little variety in nutrition and taste. For many of the students, this is their main meal of the day – or only meal of the day. After we provided the school building, the doctor told us that even though the building was a huge step forward, the kids were malnourished that they could not learn.  With consistent nourishment, they are doing great!!

It was only a few years ago that we noticed that although there were several students in the early grades, by third and fourth grades the numbers dropped dramatically.  By sixth and seventh grade there were only a handful of students.

When we explored the reasons that the kids dropped out, we learned that it was a combination of families not being able to afford the more expensive books of “higher grades” and the parents needed the kids to help at home – typically, to haul water and help take care of sick adults. Even though the villagers wanted their kids to get an education, few could do it.

Drilling more wells dramatically reduced the amount of time needed to walk to the well.  Also, the wells provided an alternative to water from the polluted streams.  Clean water reduced the amount of time that everyone in the family was in bed with various intestinal problems from water-borne bacteria and parasites. Since less time was needed to haul water and families were healthier, the kids could attend school!!

Generous gifts from donors make it possible to help provide books!  This means they can stay in school.  Previously, many kids had to quit school before they really mastered reading and writing…and since their parents had not been to school and had not learned to read or write, the next generation education stopped at third or fourth grade.  Now most are able to continue.  In 2010, there are 50 students in First Grade and 45 in Eighth Grade – almost no dropouts!! Life in Haiti will continue to be difficult, but the next generation will have problem solving tools provided by educations you made possible.

Education is a critical foundation for sustainable progress.