Friday, November 17, 2017

Piti piti zwazo fè nich

"Piti piti zwazo fè nich" - "Step by step, a bird builds its nest."

In a reversed fashion of sorts, I'm writing this beginning last as I found myself ready to publish this update, I realized I hadn't explained my choice of proverb for this update. Today's saying is one heard often in Haiti (particularly this week.) It's employed often in cases including introduction to a new environment, when things don't go to plan, and slow but steady integration into new norms. The wisdom to be understood being that everything is a process, like a bird building its nest. Good and worthwhile things take time and yield fruit in their time (the case in the proverb of a new home for the titular bird.) With that finished, let's dive into our update...'s introduction!

It is with elation I find myself again writing from the Project Managment office in Cangé. Just over two months ago you might recall Hurricane Irma making its way through the Carribean. Hispaniola in the projected path of the storm, the decision was made that I was to be evacuated from the Haiti if at all possible. It was, and I found myself aboard one of the final flights out of Toussaint L'Ouverture airport bound for New York. What I was sure would be a brief stay to simply ensure I would not be in danger while abroad, indeed became a nearly two-month-long wait before I was able to return to Haiti and work in the Central Plateau. It's been nearly two weeks and the welcome I've received has been one of the warmest in my life. "Mwen kontan pou mache avek enjenyè yo Clemson anko" commented Djapanou, one of the guys we work with on the water team, meaning that he was happy that we'd finally returned and to be feeling similarly about working together once more. Further, I've had the opportunity along with the rest of the community to welcome Ashley as my new partner and our newest intern, Ashley. Ashley is actually Clemson alumna having earned her B.S. earlier this year in Civil Engineering with a minor in Environmental Engineering; her time in Haiti as part of her graduate studies in which she is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Environmental Engineering. With my tenure in Haiti still set to terminate next month, I have just a few weeks to show Ashley many of the things she will need to know as an intern, in addition to tutoring her in Kreyòl so as to be effective and ready for the remainder of her internship extending into next year and to teach her own new partner in January. That said, we have had a very busy two weeks and expect to have an equally busy three more to follow, let us begin with the retelling:

The focus of Ashley's graduate research is one of the steps taken in treating Cangé's water supply, chlorination. In preparation for this, the design for a replacement of the then current chlorinator began early this summer. We carried the constituent pieces of the new chlorinator with us and arriving in Cangé late at night on Saturday (04/11/2017,) we set about work the following day after church. Assembly and installation of the chlorinator could not have gone better, and in the week to follow we set about testing the chlorine levels of treated water at the filter building and each fountain every day. There are, however, always hiccups in life. In this case, manifesting in unfortunate occurrences. Passing a whole week back in Cangé and five days with the new chlorinator, we arrived at the filter building Saturday morning to learn that in the night a loud sound had been heard by security emanate from the filter building; the sound heard turned out to be the cap of the chamber where water passed through chlorine tablets for treatment blowing from its seating and striking the opposite wall.. Ubiquitously, unfortunate things happen, and in preparation for unforeseen circumstances, the chlorinator was designed with a redundant treatment chamber which we employed handily while arranging for a replacement cap. There are also times, for reasons we often don't understand, where a seemingly preternatural contrivance takes place only to stymy one's efforts. You may now be thinking to yourself "what a rather cryptic thing to say," and you would be correct, it is not however without significance. You see, I gave voice to this latter thought due to my ignorance of another way to describe what happened next. Just two days later, early on Monday (13/11/2017) morning, another loud sound which was (as you may have guessed by my borderline labored preamble) the cap of the chlorinator's redundant treatment chamber also blowing from its seating and striking the wall. Saturday morning, we had a problem. Now, we have a big problem. There may have been just a bit of internal freaking out at this juncture, without caps for the chambers, how will we treat the water? Fortuitously, we'd earlier that weekend received the balance of an order which afforded us fresh filters for installation at the filter building. This information in the back of our minds was a positive point of our current situation of course, but we still needed to devise a mode by which we could continue chlorinate the water passed through the filters without a chlorinator. After conferring with David and planning the better part of the afternoon, we had our solution and as the sun set over Cangé (occurring around 17:00 or 5:00 PM now) we set about its implementation. With our chlorinator out of commission at the moment, we needed to route the water around it. The design to reintroduce chlorine to the system was simple; we had available lines in the system from when we used to use UV Rays to treat water which we had ceased due to its unsustainability. With the assistance of the team, we added a new connection in the pipe with a ball valve in the middle to serve as our "door" into the pipe, the means by which we would add the chlorine tablets into the pipe. The flow on either side of our emergency design (dubbed tongue-in-cheek as the "nouvo nouvo machin klowoks" or "new new chlorinator") manageable by the presence of ball valves, the outflow now serving the dual purpose of preventing the passing of whole pieces of chlorine tablets through the subsequent piping. We now had purchased for ourselves time, and I'm happy to say that just today we worked out the details of receiving replacement caps for this time next week.

Ashley and I have joked the last few days when asked that discounting the volatile nature adopted by the subject of her research, transition into life in Haiti has been very smooth! We've begun familiarization with the regular operations of the water system such as cleaning filters and testing water at the filter building, maintenance of the dam and pumps at Bas Cangé, beginning to understand and speak in a new language, and of course, (delicious) Haitian Cuisine. Before I return home, there are still some objectives to complete and ventures to other villages to be had; the details of which I plan to share with all of you. Bearing that in mind, check back often as I'll be undertaking the (arguably ambitious, given my record) of weekly updates for the remainder of my time as project management intern. Just before we sign off here, it's time for the best part: pictures.

Our arrival on the fourth was timely in the interest of being present for the monthly maintenance at Bas Cangé (normally scheduled for the 12th of each month.) Maintenance typically consists of checking each of the pumps, changing their oil, and noting any abnormalities in function in addition to the cleaning of the dam. In this picture, Djapanou was showing Greg and I an issue with the butterfly valve for pump two where we weren't able to close the valve completely and totally shut off flow to the pump. We were able to shut off flow to the pump at the dam, but became aware that will need to replace the valve in the near future. 
Cleaning at the dam is a necessary operation which the team currently undertakes monthly. As you might remember from earlier explanations, we partly drain water held by the dam via an overflow pipe built into the dam. Once the water is wade-able we set about cleaning mud and other flotsam we don't want to flow into the pumps or is otherwise stuck on some part of the dam. 

This picture is actually mid-installation of the nouvo nouvo machin klowoks. Once Ashley and I settled on a design and a plan, we called the team to help with its addition into the system. Having picked up those Stillson wrenches myself, I would have appreciated smaller ones! They were however what we needed and got the job done, and after that, I could not in good conscience ask for more. 

Completed installation! The design, as I mentioned earlier, is very simple with ball valves on either side managing flow and the upright valve allowing a point of access for the addition of chlorine tablets. 

Here lies what remains of the caps for the chlorinator. As you can see, the breaks were relatively clean. It was also very fortunate that when the caps blew, neither their threading nor the chambers themselves suffered any damage. This turn of events was just enough, however, to put a (slight) damper on our day.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Men anpil, chaj po lou

"Men anpil, chaj po lou." - Many hands, make the load lighter

Welcome back again, I know, two updates in two days, unheard of before. I knew that I wanted to create a post updating all of you about how I spent the first week of the month, but also knew that I'd said the next update would be dedicated to a history of Lake Péligre. So, my word kept and promise fulfilled, I'm now at liberty to share my experiences visiting two other villages in the neighboring Artibonite département. As I mentioned in my last post, the Artibonite River flows across all of Hispaniola (Artibonito in Spanish, as it is known crossing the border into the Dominican Republic) and is the namesake of the département. First, I'll tell you about the day I spent in the town of LaChapelle and after about the remote mountain village of Perodin.

The second week of July I was put in contact with Dottie Kelley, local to the Charleston area (where my family also lives) back in South Carolina. I was invited by her to journey together to LaChapelle at the beginning of August so that I might see some five hundred acres of land allocated for farming adjacent to the river. The problem I was told was that despite being situated in close proximity to the river, water was scarce in different parts of the land. I agreed happily to come view the site and we made the necessary arrangements. As July flew by I began to prepare the trip to LaChapelle. Upon arrival at the site, I was amazed at the vastness of the land. I, of course, knew that five hundred acres was a sizeable amount of land, but I tell you truly it is entirely different to hear and know something and to see and walk the same thing. I was delighted to learn two things this day regarding the land: the first was that at an unspecified time (nobody in the area remembered exactly when) following the January 2010 Earthquake, an organization from Canada constructed an irrigation system that is sourced by a tributary of the Artibonite and that it services much of the farmland. The second was that the irrigation system in fact services much of the land with the exception of a section closest to the river that was slightly more elevated. Leading me and my traveling companions who traveled from South Carolina with Dottie (Greg, a retired US Army officer and Steve, a practitioner of internal medicine,) was Fernand. An incredible young man from LaChapelle I had the pleasure of meeting who happens to serve as the head of an organization of young men in the LaChapelle area dedicated to improving life in the community; he graciously volunteered to serve as our guide when other pressing matters drew away my planned company, including LaChapelle's mayor. As Fernand, Greg, Steve, and I made our way down slope from the road to the farmland we decided on an itinerary for seeing the site, however as often happens, we needed to amend our plans when we met some local farmers to whom Fernand, explaining that I was an engineer come to see what could be done to help with the water shortage, asked if we'd be willing to walk them while they showed us where needed the most help. I'd realized two things quickly as we began to walk with the farmers: the first was that while the irrigation of the small tributary was a good and helpful thing, it was insufficient for the entirety of the area. The second was that many of the attempted additions to the irrigation system by the farmers weren't working because the land they needed to supply was more elevated than their source. As we made our way to the river I remember them asking Fernand after conferring with me for a moment what I was thinking. With Fernand's assistance, I described what I noticed as the principal problems and what I was thinking could help and we had a brief conversation that went something like this:

Fernand: "So I should say the reason they don't have water because the water is lower than the land?
Me: "That's part of it yes, we need to help it flow uphill."
Fernand: "But water doesn't flow uphill, how will we do that?"
Me: "It doesn't without help, and engineers somewhat specialize in helping nature do things it doesn't normally."

Admittedly, this amused me because the problem here was the exact same problem Cangé had and I felt confident we'd be able to develop a solution for LaChapelle as well. We were discussing this as we drew near to the river itself. I remember being in awe at the sight of it as I'd not so many times before been so close to a major river. I'd wondered at first if flood irrigation might serve the farmland, but upon arrival at the river bank, I realized the problem immediately. The very spot where we were standing was between twenty and thirty above the water level. Now having seen everything for myself, I turned to see Fernand waiting with the farmers to hear what I would say next. I was pleased to be able to tell them that I thought we (CEDC) would be able to come up with a solution that could help them. After translating, I was thanked by the farmers and, replying in Creole, I told them that we would do what we could for them.

After taking Tuesday (1/08/2017) to see the farmland in LaChapelle, Greg, Steve, and I traveled with Smith to the village of Perodin early Wednesday morning. Smith, like Fernand, is dedicated to inspiring positive change for the betterment of Haiti. Perodin is located in the Chaines des Cahos mountain range which stretches from the coast in the west to the central plateau. As we made the hike to Perodin, Smith told me that Perodin is only one of several villages where he works and due to his degree in forestry, he has also developed plans for the different villages to replant the mountainsides vastly depleted of trees and other wild foliage. At Perodin, there is a small medical clinic where we volunteered the next two days. Word spread across the villages on the nearby mountains that not only was a group of Americans coming to visit Perodin, but that one of them was a doctor and we'd be at the clinic in Perodin. Following breakfast Thursday morning we walked to the clinic and upon arrival saw a mass of people awaiting us. It seemed difficult to me to obtain an accurate count of how many people were actually packed together under the stretch of awning at the clinic, but Greg quickly estimated there were about sixty people. Thereafter, we made the acquaintance of the auxiliary nurses as well as head nurse, Fernande. Despite Steve being the only medical professional, we quickly devised a system for seeing patients in which: Steve would see patients, I and the auxiliary nurses would record relevant patient information and diagnoses, Fernande, Greg, and another man who works regularly at the clinic would distribute prescriptions for ailments that could be treated with what was available at the clinic. Over the course of two long days, we saw one hundred and sixty-three people at the clinic. Many of them were suffering from arthritis and cataracts, products of hard labor and daily mountain climbing coupled with constant exposure to the bright and constant Caribbean sun. It was pleasantly noteworthy that despite these common issues and a small number of more serious conditions, the community was in overall good health. I remember Aaron telling me once (a former intern himself with the conversation regarding advice on the operating in Haiti) that I should always watchful for opportunities to new projects and community development. That in mind, when Smith mentioned that after dinner on Thursday night he was attending a meeting with leaders from the village I asked if I might accompany him. It was an honor to be accepted with great hospitality and warmth by the village elders which I tried to reciprocate by introducing myself, why I'm in Haiti, and that I'd like to hear their concerns and discuss how I and CEDC might be able to help in Creole. As is often the case when I meet new people and they learn I speak Creole, I was greeted once more with even more warmth and welcomed not only as a visitor, but as someone dedicated to building relationships and change. They had many concerns and I thought of each as important. In an attempt to better understand how their minds were tending, I asked Smith if he would ask for me "if they could choose one thing that could be fixed overnight, what it would be?" After he finished asking my question, there was a great deal of murmuring for a minute, and then what seemed to me like consensus. They provided the following analogy: "Alex, they said imagine you are preparing a meal and you've gathered the three rocks upon which you need to set your pot. They say their priorities are like the three rocks being the road to the village, public health, and reforestation." I needed a moment to process this after Smith finished explaining, not because I hadn't understood the analogy (meals prepared outside in a pot situated amount three rocks was not only a common sight but something I'd enjoyed a number of times already,) but because I found myself insufficiently prepared for the concision of their well-thought out answer. Briefly discussing the specifics of that thereafter, we concluded the meeting. It is my hope that we'll be in a position to advise and aid Perodin in the future.

So, this was a very long update, but I wanted to ensure that I share important and a plentiful amount of details to everybody taking the time to read these. It was my distinct pleasure to become acquainted with Fernand and Smith. They're both men with vision, and who are truly dedicated to the idea of Haiti's improvement coming from its people, and not from any extraordinary amount of external assistance. This is incredibly important because while help from generous and kind people should not be undervalued, solutions provided by external sources (foreign governments and NGO's, for example) implemented without involving the community ubiquitously fail. It was also a respite for me to meet Dottie, Greg, and Steve as well. Often, it is easy for large organizations with the purest of intentions toward helping people in need to become burdened by bureaucracy and other ailments which render their efforts ineffective. For my skill with language, I find it difficult to express sufficiently in writing the importance of people like Dottie, Greg, and Steve who choose an area to support and invest in the community there; people who truly understand how critical it is to immerse yourself in a community and understand it in order to understand how to effectively help. If you've made it to the end here, it's time for the best part of these posts, where I stop talking and I share pictures of everything I just described.

Here, is one of several pools in the irrigation system constructed by the Canadians. from what I could see, their primary purpose is to send water in multiple directions (in this case, two.) 

This trip wasn't Greg's first visit to Haiti. In fact, he'd visited LaChapelle for the first time with Dottie in April and met many of the people we passed on our walk to the river. In preparation, he, Dottie, and Steve brought things like deodorant, soap, and toothpaste for people they'd met last time. Here is a picture of Fernand with a family with eight children after receiving some of these things. 

This picture was taken by Greg as we walked through the fields. The farmers plant many different things in accordance with the season including, but not at all limited to beans, cane, mango, rice, papaya and much more. 

When we arrived at this part of the walk, Fernand was leading and Greg and Steve walked past me. They turned to see me lingering and laughing quietly to myself. Inquiring as to why, I told them this was my first time fording (if it could be truly called that.) Amused, they took this picture of me 

To make the hike to Perodin, we arose at four thirty in the morning and climbed into Smith's truck on our way at five o'clock. We arrived at this spot at about an hour and a half later when the tire went flat. Fortunately, this was the exact spot where Smith had planned for us to disembark and being the (uphill, between seven and eight miles) hike to Perodin. Fortunate indeed!

This was during lunch time on Thursday. We'd worked at the clinic five hours already, and speaking truly, doctoring is fatiguing work. Steve asked Smith if the ladies preparing lunch for us might make coffee as well. Stating that it was no problem, coffee beans were gathered and ground by hand before our very eyes. I don't think I've mentioned this on here before, but I really enjoy Haitian coffee.  

I pondered sharing this with all of you for a while before I decided in favor of it. This was the tablecloth from the meeting I attended with Perodin's elders. Listening to their concerns, I began to think of how CEDC might be able to help them. Speaking candidly, I despaired momentarily at the sum of the problems and the want of resources for addressing each of them. It was in the midst of these thoughts that I looked down for the first time at the tablecloth and noticed that it was in fact orange. I couldn't help but smile, as I thought (not that I'm at all superstitious) that the table cloth  just happening to be orange was nothing short of a good omen. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Lake Péligre

"There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know." - Harry S. Truman

In my last posting, I promised to dedicate the next to a brief  (likely subjectively so rather than objectively) retelling of the history of Lake Péligre. Without further ado, let us begin. Lake Péligre is not truly a lake at all, but rather a man-made reservoir created by the damming of the Artibonite River (which flows not only across Haiti, but the island of Hispaniola.) The dam was constructed in 1956 without support from the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The premise was that the dam would provide reliable hydroelectricity to Haiti. Today, there is much controversy and debate about who has actually benefited from this electricity, but rather than engage in speculation (which is admittedly well-grounded, but not the purpose of this particular retelling,) I will speak about the repercussions felt locally.

If I have ever spoken with you personally about CEDC, you know that our work is centered in and around the village of Cangé.. What is less well-known however, is how Cangé came to be and the reason by its location. It is a story recounted at the beginning of each semester for students new to CEDC and also to serve as a reminder as to why CEDC exists. Beneath Lake Péligre, lies a valley submerged formerly home to farmers who worked the fertile land. At the completion of the dam, the farmers were obliged to relocate in order to escape the rising water. The farmers climbed to the highlands surrounding their former farmlands, however these mountains, arid and rocky, would prove unforgiving to their new residents in both accessibility and want of good soil for planting. Albeit, without alternative, people remained on the mountains and founded new villages. Cangé is one such village. Without land suitable for farming, Cangé became poised for sixty years of hardship and poverty. This story is important because it is often imperative to understand where a person, community or country has been to understand where it is in the present and where it is going.

I've had the distinct pleasure for the last two semesters of being part of Clemson Mappers, a division of the Youth Mappers organization. Clemson's chapter provides GIS support to CEDC, and to that end we've also been charged with telling the story of Cangé, as well as Haiti, in an informative and interactive medium. I've have tried to mindfully (and purposefully) maintain brevity while also properly conveying a basic understanding of the history of both Lake Péligre and Cangé. Below, should you find your curiosity piqued and your time unoccupied, I will provide the link to the story map we've generated over the last two semesters. The story of Lake Péligre is more specifically detailed there in addition to having full sections on other important point in both Cangé and Haiti's story. The most recent update to the story map's URL is:

P.S.: For fun, should you decide to view the story map, attempt to guess which sections I contributed (you might detect themes pertinent to language and length...)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pito ou wè lwen ou pa avèg

Pito ou wè lwen ou pa avèg - "It is better that you're farsighted, and that you're not blind."

I experience what I believe to be a great irony: I often indulge (what I think of as the great,) need to carefully and consistently consider the consequences of actions in order to project my sight as far into the future as possible; the irony being (or perhaps compensation,) stemming from my inability to see physically far at all without the assistance of my glasses. In this brief update as to what I've done the last few weeks, I wanted to discuss the importance of impact, but after some reflection, I've decided rather on vision. So, without further ado, let's begin.

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been working with the Water Team on making repairs to the water system and traveling to more remote villages where CEDC has worked in the past. A little over a week ago I boarded a kannòt (canoe) and embarked (see that?) on a twenty-minute ferry across Lake Peligré (history on that in the next post) to visit a village where previous interns worked on a water system. Accompanied by Colón, Gregg, Sadrack, and Hermane (a man from the village who works consistently to improve life there,) we followed a process similar to when I first arrived in Cangé, in which we walked (climbed) the system from end to end evaluating what can be improved and what needs to be repaired. As a consequence of not being able to actually see into the future, we plan with an accounting in mind of possible scenarios when selecting a course of action in response to a situation, however, even good design and planning are undermined at times by external and unforeseen factors. It was with deep regret, I made notes while walking the system of the many sections of the system in need of repair. After making our way to the source for the water system, we descended a short way back down the mountain to where the village proper is; a silver lining found in that the parts of the system there are in excellent condition. After descending back down to the shoreline, we discussed what could be done to help the village.

Back in Cangé, we've experienced a great leap in optimizing and repairing deficits in our system. I'll begin with a short description of our water distribution: after the water pumped from Bas Cangé has been filtered and passes through the chlorinator (for an additional step of purification,) the water is stored in a network of cisterns. All of the water is pumped to the (aptly named) Summit Cistern. Afterward, water for the Partners in Health campus is stored in two other cisterns named for a Partners In Health co-founder, Tom White, and Jackie Williams, who has contributed greatly to the community with the co-founding and management of the Artisan Center (Sant Art) in Cangé, respectively. The water delivered to the fountains in the village itself (with the exception of Rezima, the fountain closest to Summit Cistern,) is stored in the Village Cistern. Each of these cisterns have their flows managed by ball valves. These valves are in chambers next to the cisterns. Village Cistern's valve chamber is just downslope from crops of a family that lives next to the cistern. As such, water (as is its tendency) travels downward and toward the chamber, which has a slit in the door to accommodate a standing pipe connected for the management of air pressure. Colón showed me that dirty water (as a result of the water flowing from the crops accumulating earth and rocks as it moved downhill,) was entering the chamber with some passing into the piping due to a compromise at the tee connection of the standing pipe with the water line. We determined that the best of course of action to solve this problem was to remove the standing pipe, cut the end, and re-thread it, as well as raising the height of the chamber with cement blocks in order to prevent runoff from entering in the future. We completed the new chamber this afternoon, and with the first rain in a few days falling earlier around dinner time, we'll see how the new chamber is faring quickly.

Those are the major updates since last time. Next week will see my travel to the village of LaChapelle in the neighboring Artibonite départment, but now, picture time:

This is the fountain closest to the shore when you cross the lake. As I approached it, Hermane told me that no water is flowing from it and hasn't for a while. The reason as to why the fountain had no water was immediately clear as we continued the walk along the system; which had piping split in several places along the path with water spilling onto the ground at the sections with uninterrupted connection to the water sources. In addition to repairing the what's damaged, the development of companion preventative measures will be crucial going forward. 

This is the new cement block box for Village Cistern's chamber, nearly complete before replacement of the door. It may look low, but the box is actually five levels of block tall, in addition to making the surrounding ground more level to further divert runoff in the future. In keeping with vision, this is a solution we're confident will last for some time. 

Often, in the name of progress, there are casualties. In this case, a pair of my shorts. After making the necessary repairs to the piping yesterday, but while waiting for a delivery of sand to mix the mortar, we cleaned the inside of the cistern. over the course of climbing atop the cistern to the access hatches, what was a small hole became a tear; and following the tear was a near complete split the length of my thigh. Not before a healthy amount of laughter, Colón suggested that I take them to Jackie and maybe the talented folk at Sant Art could mend them for me. Although, I think this may be the end of the road for this particular pair and perhaps time that they *rest in peace.* Following the split, I found myself instantaneously reminded of an iconic cartoon character who was once in a similar situation...

Just before we made our way back across the lake, we decided climbing mountains and evaluating water systems was hungry work. We were fortunate to pass a home with particularly fruitful mango trees whose owner graciously allowed us to take as many as we could carry. During the roughly twenty minute ferry, we divided the twenty or so mangos we had. At the time of our disembarkation, two saw the journey completed. 

I took this picture just before we crossed the lake the first time. It was around nine o'clock and the angle of the sun made for a rather picturesque scene. What I couldn't see from my vantage point admiring this view through a camera lens was the copious trash floating on the surface of the lake. Here's why I wanted to end with this picture: Musing in the canoe astonished at the volume of trash I saw, I realized two things: the first being that often when there is something so much bigger than ourselves before us, it is difficult to see past the surface upon that which we are looking. We miss details until that picture is scrutinized, and it is only then that we understand the impact and repercussions of previous actions. The second thing was the impact of singular actions. In the United States, we heavily (though less so than other countries) prioritize proper waste management. Although, many people underestimate the effect produced by the improper disposal of their trash. We have prevalent municipal waste management, as well as good samaritans who will clean the trash of others in the interest of the environment. In Haiti, it isn't typically part of the frame of mind what happens to something after it ceases being useful or functioning as intended. As a result, trash builds along roads, and at times, makes its way to the natural environment. While trash is a real problem in Haiti, my discussion of it here is allegorical for this purpose: no action is so small or insignificant that it does not produce a ripple. The sum of many "insignificant" actions accumulates into something much larger than its individual parts. I found the thought an important one to consider in ponderance humanitarian work, this subject being the very reason for my tenure as Project Management Intern. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Avèk pasyans, ou ka deplase yon mòn

"Avèk pasyans, ou ka deplase yon mòn" -“With Patience, you can move a mountain.” 

In my office, here, I have a book of Haitian proverbs in Kreyol with English translations (and some explanations.) I’ve oft thought that much can be learned about a culture and a people by familiarizing oneself with their proverbs. One learns what is applicable and important to a people by learning what wisdom has been passed through generations from their ancestors to them. One also learns about the world from the sorts of analogies that are made. This book has several sayings on patience, a virtue which I’ve found indispensable in Haiti. "With patience, you can move a mountain" is one of my favored sayings in my native English. I’m somewhat amused to have not found a translation for this saying, mostly on account an allusion to not only patience, but mountains as well. Without further ado, it has been nearly a month since my last posting, and there is much to share.

Much of June has been invested in evaluating the state of the water system in Cangé and developing a list of what needed to be addressed in preparation for a visit from the World Health Organization (henceforth to be referred to as WHO.) The system is in overall excellent working order. Chief among my responsibilities in Cangé is to work with the water team, who oversees the daily operation of the system, and over the course of which I’ve learned much about what each member does individually as well as together. I’ve had the opportunity to walk the system from end to end, test water quality, and further familiarize myself with the operation of the pumps at Bas Cangé and how we distribute water to the village. Each time Cholera is mentioned in conversation; I’m reminded how vital the water system truly is. For those of you not familiar with Cholera, a brief summation would explain that it’s a bacterial disease that spreads via contaminated food and water sources with symptoms including severe diarrhea and dehydration. It’s treatable, but often fatal if not treated right away. Haiti’s Central Plateau, with wanting infrastructure and without widespread access to clean water, was an ideal breeding ground during the introduction of Cholera in October 2010. An epidemic which is ongoing and has since spread not only to all ten of Haiti’s départements as well as neighboring Cuba and the Dominican Republic. During my first visit to Haiti in March, I learned from speaking with one of the faculty members who came with us from Clemson that the hospital in Cangé run by Zanmi Lasante (Partners in Health, henceforth to be referred to as ZL) does not operate a gastrointestinal disease ward. There is no need to do so as there aren’t occurrences of Cholera or other gastrointestinal disease in Cangé, a direct result of the water system. It was a great pleasure to show the water system to the representatives from WHO, and they were equally delighted to see the system at work. With CEDC’s work in Cangé serving as a résumé, WHO is interested in collaborating in the future. A great honor and privilege, going forward.

It's my hope to be able to update this blog a little more frequently in the future (perhaps bi-weekly to start, big commitments are intimidating.) July will see updates on the water system repairs and traveling to the remote villages where we also have projects. For now, I’m attaching pictures below for your viewing pleasure (they’re prettier anyway and are better than my rambling on,) until next time, or as I've been saying a lot lately: "M' pral wè pita!" (See you later!)

At the dam in Bas Cangé we have grates through which water passes to the different pumps (there are three) and one other pipe (video below.) The grates had a metal mesh on them to keep larger objects in the water (such as branches, leaves, or rocks that might be washed away by the river) from passing through and on to the pumps. As is probably obvious, metal and water don't mix well together, naturally, the mesh began to deteriorate. It was the team's idea to use this plastic lattice as a replacement for the mesh. With the "go-ahead," we set about stripping the old mesh from the grates and laying the lattice over-top the grates. The lattice, with slightly larger holes, still does a superb job of filtering so that water exclusively passes on to the pumps. (Featuring Colón)

One of the more severe cases of needed replacement on the system. This is Mossoul Fountain (nicknamed "Beautiful Fountain" so named for the unique paint job, picture of that another time) what is missing is the housing and lever for the tap. Without the tap, the ball valve has to remain close and water can't flow from this particular tap to anybody who comes to the fountain for water. 

This is a piston holder. One of the many small, yet critical parts which ensure that the pumps (and the system to a larger extent,) run smoothly. This one is at the end of its life and I was so surprised when I was told the top piece is originally brass, so I knew right away this was one thing I wanted to share here. 

In honor of W.H.O. coming to visit, we wrested the white board from storage to be able to draw informative diagrams to go along with our explanations on how the system works. Sadly, we did not use the board to this end, but I did think a good use of it would be a to write a welcome that also serves to make a beloved classic rock reference. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised it couldn't be fully appreciated in Haiti. (Secondary Objective to Internship: introduce the community to the cultural and musical cornucopia that is the British Invasion)

Idea totally brainstormed by David (who flew in for the visit with W.H.O.) to which I was a shameless accomplice: we asked the ladies who cook for us if they were familiar with guacamole. They were not, and you see, this was an opportunity too good to allow to lapse. Supplying a list of ingredients, we described how to prepare guacamole. Pictured above was the first in a round of experimentation. Armed with tortilla chips, we dug in, and tasted that it was good. 

After some experimentation with the guacamole (and after also introducing separately salsa,) to further spice things up (probably should've warned you that crying from laughter is a possibility here,) we took a consensus and decided to add the salsa *into* the guacamole. When I say salsa, I don't mean mild. I don't mean medium either. I mean the hottest darn salsa we could find, complete with peppers (in addition to the pepper *already* in the mix,) and tasted that it was good. Albeit still insufficiently spicy, alas there was nothing else to add (at this juncture I find it somewhat ill-advised to attempt to see who can eat spicier food (even as a latino.))

I never noticed whether or not Coca-Cola back in the States has inspiring messages written on the bottle wrappers, regardless, it is something we enjoy here. A simple reminder from the fine folk at Coca-Cola Haiti to be positive (and I'd say to a greater extent have patience, although this might be reaching on my part for the sake of applicability.)

Lastly, we have what David assures me is a totally common (totally weird) way to spell "ketchup." Never seen it this way before, so I just had to share. 

Actual lastly (pinky-swear this time) is a video I took of the pipe at the dam in Bas Cangé. Some of you may recognize (from the video in which I became very wet) this pipe as none other than pipe whose flow rate we measured in March during my first visit to Haiti. I took the video mostly for the stark contrast: when we visited in March the dry season was coming to a close with the rainy season starting up in April, versus now about a third of the way through the roughly six month long rainy season. I thought the normal stream now comparable to what was produced in March after closing the other pathways through which the water could pass. I speak perhaps daringly here, but it is my thought this bodes very well for the potential hydro-electric project we'd like to pursue in Bas Cangé.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


For as long as I can remember, helping people has been a passion of mine. I remember well times from my childhood through my adolescence in which I did what to me seemed only natural inclination that others praised as compassion and empathy. These were the reasons that almost eighteen months ago (insane the way time flies) I decided to become involved with Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries (CEDC.) The ideals and mission of accountability, commitment, and service appealed to me and seemed an excellent outlet through which to apply both my experience in the trades with my father as well as the engineering education for which I attend Clemson. Eighteen months ago, I had no idea that as I’m typing this I’d be doing it from a small room in the remote village of Cangé in Haiti’s arid, yet verdant, central plateau. Along with my partner Zach, we have completed today, week one of our seven-month long internship in Haiti. I began this with a story about how my interests and actions during my formative years shaped who I am today and how I came to be writing this post. It has been my discovery that events in life seem to happen in such a way (one might say methodically) which serve as preludes to a future from which one can look back and very clearly see the road that led them to where they are now. People that know me know that sometimes I like to write and that I like to talk. Sometimes I put the two together. People that know me well, know that if you ever want me to stop talking the easiest way to do that is to never get me started. That said (this is the disclaimer on potentially lengthy stories to follow in the future), in closing, I’d like to personally invite each of you to follow along with Zach and I on this journey, and perhaps seven months from now together we’ll be able to clearly see how our time in Cangé has clearly shaped not only where we’re going, but also the future of each person we meet during our time here.