Get’r Done

I’ve been here without Leslie and Olivia for 2 weeks now and we’ve gotten so much done! Olivia is a very affectionate daughter, and everywhere I go she wants to go with me. Typically, I head out to the work yard to discuss something with the workers and make some plans and Olivia follows me out there. If I just start walking fast, she can’t keep up and starts crying. Then if I wait and slow down, the dog runs up and about half the time she licks Olivia until she starts crying and I have to pick her up. Then, if I actually make it into the work yard at all I’m carrying a 3 year old and trying to remember why I went out there in the first place. Now that my family is gone I can focus and it turns out we have been able to get some really useful things done.

Fritzner bringing a bag of installation sand.

One interesting thing is that we sent another 35 filters over to La Sous, La Gonave. The first batch of filters went over there last month. Getting filters over to the island is a big logistical pain, but in this case it seems to be going pretty well. The locals arranged for a boat to carry the filters and then brought them to their homes in preparation for installation. I sent Edmond over there to do installations and follow up with the first batch and the whole project went very well. Last year many of the villagers died of cholera so they are all very interested in getting filters. Donnie Rogers used to be a missionary out there in the 80s and he put them in contact with us and one of his workers has been making arrangements. One filter got broken when it got left on the beach too long and a kid knocked it over but hey, this is Haiti and it’s a miracle we only lost one out of the shipment.

Our greatest resource is our staff, and I’ve taken the past few weeks of relative peace to find out what their ideas are for making Clean Water for Haiti better. One thing that came to light is in regards to installations. For some reason, most of them thought that Julie needed to be the one filling out installation forms. It’s not true – it’s just that we hadn’t trained the installers enough. I had julie do an “installation form” class that turned into an educator’s course. If all the technicians can fill out the installation forms exactly right, they won’t have to wait for Julie to come around and fill out the forms for them and installations should go more smoothly.

Another thing the workers pointed out is that we have a big network of Community Organizers and we do almost nothing to recognize them. We did something long overdue: we hosted a lunch party for all our most faithful and effective Community Organizers. Yonese cooked up approximately 100lbs of rice and beans and about 30 lbs of potato salad plus fried chicken and creole sauce and we all quit work early on Friday afternoon and hosted our Organizers. It was really fun! I found it encouraging, myself, because it was confirmed for me that our workers really take pride in their work. The organizers were all bragging about how many different communities they had brought filters into and they shared ideas about how we can get the word out more. We are planning to go on the radio and talk about filters soon, for example. I know that will encourage the organizers even more.

Little Feast

The contrast between our workers in 2011 and our workers in years previous to say, 2007 is extreme. I really think that the work we did together on January 13 the day after the earthquake really brought us together, and now with the cholera it is always right in everyone’s faces how important filtration and clean drinking water is. We’re saving lives, and all the workers know it.

We have Ashley Thomson here right now from Duke University studying the Biosand filter and taking many, many water samples. The results of the study won’t be available for 2 years or more but we learned some things already just from the source water samples she has taken. So far, every single sample she has taken has had cholera in it, even the piped water in Saint Marc. Our own well has cholera (a small amount), which was a bit of a shock for the residents of Pierre Payen. Some wells in the Artibonite tested EXTREMELY toxic. It’s amazing anyone is still alive out there! Ashley and her husband will be visiting us 3 more times over the next two years as she collects more data for the study, which has to do with the Biological layer development in the filter.

I’m trying to work on the long, involved process of stabilizing the mission’s funding. In recent years (especially 2010) we had a huge amount of funding come in because of the disasters Haiti experienced. People are very enthusiastic about giving money for disaster relief, but much slower when we’re just facing the every day problems. It makes my job difficult, because we expand when we receive disaster related donations, but CWH isn’t at all about disaster relief – it’s about development. We have a well-trained professional staff of long-term employees, not a bunch of contractors brought on for 3 months. I’m going to do the best I can, but it’s so much easier to find one-time donations and grants than it is to find long-term funding. Thanks to everyone who donated in 2010 after the earthquake though! Whether or not you donate again, know that your donations enabled us to ramp up production higher than ever before.

I’m also trying to work through the nightmare of getting some ceramic filters here across the border from the DR. Potters for Peace is a great organization that also makes locally produced, household filters but they use a ceramic filter as opposed to a Biological one. We like the Biosand filters better, ourselves, but they sure are heavy! 8lb ceramic filters would be much better for us to distribute in mountain communities that have no roads nearby. Potters for Peace has committed to distributing 400 of their filters in Haiti, but don’t have a production site here, only in the DR. They have asked us to bring the filters across the border and distribute them, but it is really hard to work that out with customs. Anything like that is really tough in the third world, but we’re working on a solution.

I’m leaving in less than two weeks to join my wife in Canada and wait for the new baby to arrive! Keep Clean Water for Haiti and the Rolling family in your thoughts and prayers.


2 thoughts on “Get’r Done

    1. I spoke with Burt Cohen about the ceramic filters at length last winter and I definitely see the advantageous possibilities of having these filters produced in Haiti. I intend to learn from the experience of distributing these filters. We need to concentrate our efforts on improving and sustaining our Biosand efforts at the moment, but perhaps when CWH is ready to grow again we’ll look more closely at the ceramic filters. It’s really on my heart to reach Haiti’s mountain people. For the moment, it’s too soon for us to acquire a mold or commit to a whole new production process.

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