Thursday, January 13, 2011
Drops in the Bucket
Years ago, a Catholic Xavieran Brother named Brother Harry, began teaching English classes in a tiny Haitian village called Pandiasou, in a small convent that is to this day, without any power or worldly accoutrements. Whatever kids wanted to learn English would show up specific evenings and practice English with him. A couple star pupils were Theard Elficasse and Bastyan Emmanuel (“Manno”). I wonder, did Brother Harry ever feel discouraged, despite his faith, and wonder if his efforts made any difference? Read on, my friends…. Eventually, Theard and Manno connected with Nadene Brunk, CNM, and translated for her midwifery class in Pandiassou. The story is long, but the Midwives for Haiti program grew out of it, and Theard and Manno worked more and more often. They both married, became fathers, and their babies are all god-children of different M4H volunteers. They earned significant money, built houses, supported their families. Then, they started supporting their family’s village. First, they invited visiting doctors and health care staff to come out and do rural clinics, out of boxes, bags, helping the sick folks in the village. The biggest obstacle was the road…God, the road…it was a ditch that the truck just straddled as long as it could while climbing huge hills and boulders…then park, and boxes of meds would be walked in about a half-mile. "The guys” started an elementary school in 2009, under a mango tree, with a blackboard and some benches. Midwives for Haiti volunteers would be invited for a very, very, rough truck ride up to the village of Naran, and see the “school” they were building. First…just a roof of banana leaves and some benches. Donations helped walls get built. An outhouse with cement lining, roof and doors, was made, to keep things sanitary, then more donations, and more rooms. Doors with locks to keep the desks from being stolen. We sent money to help pay the teachers, (who worked for free, to start...) and sent notebooks, pencils, and soccer balls. They kept plugging away and emailed us photos of “graduation” each semester. The whole village would show up for these occasions. In December 09, I went out there with my new friend, and M4H volunteer , Sharon Ryan, CNM. Soon, her Mennonite church in Ohio became a major supporter. “Flower of Hope School” is now a registered Ohio non-profit, with teacher salaries paid regularly and notebooks and other supplies in abundance. About 150 kids are in class there, now. Six had Cholera in December, but no one died. So, we took a trip to Naran this week. Some of my American friends gave money for 40chlorine-based clean-water bucket systems to be purchased for 40 of the neediest families in the village. We picked up the Klorfasil buckets, and headed out there in a very beat-up, typical Haitian, hired truck. The oil pump went out about 5 miles into our journey. Oh, you know things are dire when our friend Ronel, in a 1984 Toyota Hilux that’s on it’s truly last, last legs…is the rescue vehicle. We re-loaded into Ronel's truck, and he took us out to Naran, but as we turned the curve to go up the mountain..I was stunned. The road was a real road. Yes, dirt, but drivable and graded. Theard told me that Mercy Corps had done a project in Naran, and they paid village members to improve the road. We drove, all the way to the school. I believe that the school is a huge factor that convinced Mercy Corp that Naran deserved a road, to get the kids and supplies to school. 40 families showed up to get the Klorfasil systems. Brother Harry started something truly significant, just moving ahead with what he thought would help people. His English lessons started a long story that has not really ended here… many people have acted on their belief that something good can happen if they try to do what is right. So far, it has taken us as far as a school, and a road, and some cleaner water. Let nobody scoff, today, about the concept of a “drop in the bucket.” If we all do what our hearts tell us, it can be a flood.