Opening Schools and Making Progress

Three months have passed since the January earthquake and in that short time we’ve made a great deal of progress toward restoring our schools and we continue helping thousands of people through water, food, and medical outreach programs.

Fr. Tom sent me an email in late March summarizing the progress, “Doug, I just finished visiting the four schools. At St. Francois, the third floor auditorium is already down. The new kitchen is almost finished and looks good. They have 15 new classrooms constructed of wood panel and tin roofing and they look good. The school is open. Visited St. Margaret and the kitchen is almost finished....building a new wall and almost finished. They too are building classrooms. Visited St. Ann and the kitchen there too is almost finished.  I have an official list of 1675 elderly who have received food. We arranged for 300 elderly to receive food this Friday and the following Thursday. It was all good to see.”

Life for Fr. Tom at our temporary HQ has not changed much. We are still in tents, still using makeshift latrines and showers, and eagerly awaiting the completion of our office buildings and small living quarters. There’s a serious rat problem, probably caused by the neighboring, overcrowded tent cities and the large sewage canal behind our compound.

The strain of living in tent cities, trying to stay healthy, and fighting over limited resources and definitely wears on the people. Dozens of families come to our base each day, looking for help with food, water and shelter. Many of these become the recipients of our “charity Jezi” – a program providing emergency grants to the very desperate poor.

Fr. Tom's tent at Delmas

Buckets filled with food at our compound being readied for distribution to families living in nearby tent cities

People from Delmas area come to our base and receive food packages

Engineers Assess Structures - Create Improvement Plans

Volunteer Engineers

A team of six engineers, (structural, mechanical, water, and solar engineers) loosely affiliated with Engineers Without Borders visited our work in Haiti from 3/30/10 – 4/7/10 to assess and provide rebuilding/improvement plans. The structural/mechanical team evaluated our structures and building techniques in Port-au-Prince, while the water and solar experts went north to our agricultural and development projects in the Gonaives area. Their findings indicate that most of our structures were built well, and that with some special tools and reinforcement techniques, we can avoid major demolition and save a good deal of money. The focus of their work centered on training our construction people, so that they may in turn teach others and we can create work for the native population. They will return next month to follow up on and continue with more advanced training. Here is summary of their findings and recommendations – (their reports can be found in our documents library - click here for clarke farm doc and here for school assessment report ):

  • With the exception of 2-3 buildings, the entire Becky DeWine School can be renovated and repaired using specific tools and reinforcement techniques: 
    • Our observations of the present situation at the Hands Together, Cite Soleil schools are that construction and re-construction efforts are seriously hampered by lack of proper tools and personnel to operate. We feel that an opportunity exists to instigate a concerted effort to increase usage of better hand tools and also start using power tools. Some of these tools will be needed to complete the reconstruction work detailed in our report. While in Porte au Prince, we purchased a cordless, 18V impact hammer drill to assist with installation of epoxy dowels.
  • Our construction personnel are capable of doing the work themselves – “We found the HT builders to be highly motivated and construction savvy.”  HT will organize several engineer team return visits for advanced training.
  • Building techniques and materials used in the initial constructions were adequate. Need to alter techniques on building walls to increase the base.
  • The engineers created a simple 3-room house plan that we can use as a template for building simple shelters in Cite Soleil – thereby creating jobs for local residents.
  • The solar engineers mapped out requirements and costs for all school campuses, for our residence and offices, and for the projects in Gonaives.
  • The irrigation team reconfigured the pump discharged and doubled the irrigated levels at the 70 acre farming project. The team also inspected the cement canals in Bassen and provided improvement and repair plans for the local community.

Our deep thanks to the entire team – especially to Tom Hennessy for organizing the visit and to Tom Beaudette and Mark Bradford for overseeing the structural assessment and reports.

Fr. Tom reviews Engineer Report

Main water irrigation line at Clarke Agricultural Project.

Building foundation for new classrooms.

Opening Schools Rebuilding efforts

Ongoing construction and repairs at St. Ann, St. Margaret and St. François campuses helped us open our school on March 17. We started with 700 students and as of April 16 that number is 1,756 students. Word that our schools are now open is reaching the families who left Port-au-Prince and every day we see a steady increase in school population. It’s important to provide stability to the children through classes and a daily meal and each campus also provides food and care packages to the elderly.

Instead of one large central kitchen, we’ve built individual kitchens at St. Franswa, St. Ann, and St. Margaret.

Our goal is to repair all 8 campus locations – to use them as schools, mobile medical clinic outreach, or community learning and feeding centers. We may consolidate the 8 campuses into 3 central schools: 1) Elementary at St. Margaret in Fort Dimanche, 2) Middle at St. Ann, and  3) High School at St. Franswa in Bois Neuf.

Ongoing Charity Outreach

Everyday we help families in distress, especially in the Cite Soleil slum and the tent cities in the Delmas region. We provide water, clothing and food.  In the recent weeks, several organizations approached us for assistance to areas very hard hit by the earthquake – Wharf Jeremy and the Leogone region. We prepared emergency food kits and delivered over 2,000 buckets of rice, beans and oil to these areas on April 1st.

There are nearly 1,000 elderly who come to our schools each day and receive weekend food buckets each Friday.

Medical Outreach

Our medical Director, Dr. FanFan Blookington, treats hundreds of people each day in Cite Soliel. We established a rotating, on site, mobile medical program that covers the St. Franswa, St. Joseph, St. Ann, St. Famille, and St. Margaret campus locations. U.S. medical volunteer teams frequently participate in these on-site medical clinics.

HT staff sort through donated meds, preparing for the daily clinic.

Dr. Jim Dellavalle, HT’s medical adviser, recommended that HT purchase a mobile medical unit instead of rebuilding the clinic in Boston area of Cite Soleil. A mobile clinic brings high quality equipment and services right to the areas needing it most and generates its own power supply so we can operate lab equipment and xrays. With this unit we longer are held hostage by instability of a certain region.  HT contracted with K&D Coach specialists to build our unit for a total costs of $265,000.

3 Room Mobile Medical Unit

Expanding Agriculutral Outreach

With the help of the water engineers we've created a top notch irrigation system at the Clarke Agricultural project. Our goal is to open the farming/training center in the fall and begin helping local peasants increase their crop yields through experimentation, irrigation and agronomist training.

Peasants help create an irrigation canal.

April 2010 Sourghum Crop at the Clarke Agriculture Project

Water well Drilling Outreach

Our well drilling team installed two wells in for an Orphanage in the Montrousse area outside Port-au-Prince and drilled 1 well for a group of nuns running a school and orphanage in Port-au-Prince. With help from a well drilling outfit in Maryland, we’ve made some much needed repairs to our equipment and the drilling engineers from this group worked alongside our team for 2 weeks providing valuable training.

Water well drilled in March

Water Well drilled in April 2010