My third day at Clean Water for Haiti and my first day of working out in the field is one I will not soon forget. I was prepared with information about the Bio-sand filters and the benefits that were included in that ownership. I was optimistically encouraged about meeting and greeting the proud families of these new filters. I was anxious to put to use my few new Creole words, and as I stuck my Creole word flashcards along with my handy dandy Creole dictionary, I knew the two hour drive would help with the steep learning curve. However, I was totally unprepared for the beautiful people I would meet and the most humble village one could imagine. Their lives are very hard and yet one would never know by the smiles on their faces. Their energy and enthusiasm was priceless.
I was in good hands with Evens and Fritzner as we started out at morning’s first light. I was slightly apprehensive, as I am sure they were, knowing very little of each other and my definite inadequacies of carrying on a conversation while I only had a handful of words in my vocabulary bank. These anxieties were far from the truth as our friendships grew. Mainly because they laughed at me all the way to our destination as I tried out my Creole abilities on them. By the time we got to Ti Dedune, we were fast becoming buddies.
As we neared our destination, we pulled off the main highway onto a rough gravel road, and all you could see for miles was rice paddies and a small stream that wound its way through the flooded fields of rice. I was quite naïve to the fact that this small stream was their water source, that is until we passed a family gathering their buckets of water. The gathering of water is one chore that is common throughout each home and each village. There is no running water, there are no sewer lines, and water is not conviently delivered to your door.
All of these things are so easy to read and understand on paper; however, very few can totally grasp the realty of gathering the day’s supply of water. This same stream is the water source for many, many families. These families wash their clothes here, take their baths here, and take the water they need for cooking and drinking in five gallon buckets. This is reflective of the unshakable reality of the need for every family to have a resource for clean water. It truly drove home in my heart the purpose and goals of Clean Water for Haiti. And then we came upon the village …
Our first stop was to pick up the Promoter (a volunteer representative within the community that promotes and pre-sells the filters before a delivery day). As I waited in the truck, word must have spread pretty rapidly within the village because I soon had an audience of smiling faces. It seemed everyone knew that filters were being delivered on this day and the excitement was uncontainable. The joy and enthusiasm was contagious throughout the day and with each stop we made, the audience grew exponentially while the smiles remained the same.
This was also true for all the babies, toddlers, and infants. I am not positive that it was because I was the only “blan” they had ever seen or because something different was going on in their familiar surroundings; however with each home we visited the questioning stares of these babies were real. The young mothers would simply hand over their babies to me. I like to think it was my “grandmotherly” welcoming smile that made them feel comfortable with this stranger holding their babies; however, it was probably because they wanted a photo.
Speaking of photos, there wasn’t a child there who didn’t want their photo taken. I understand that this is because the image that I show them afterwards may be the first time they have ever seen themselves. I had to let that one sink in a bit …. some of these beautiful children had never seen what they look like. It is simply amazing that the western civilization is so spoiled and yet so blessed at the same time.
As we went from home to home, or more appropriately definitive – hut to hut, lean-to to lean-to – there were two things that stood out in my mind and were notably common in every instance. First was that the construction of these homes barred nothing from use; that is, everything is put to use, including shells and stalks from the rice harvest and old clothes that are woven into the walls.
Secondly, the homes were spotlessly clean, even with the chickens or the goats running through, they were orderly and clean. There is a sense of pride that permeates these villages.
There is also a sense of pride in the people who received water filters that day. They watched intently with a look of satisfaction, contentment, and appreciation…. my heart goes out to this village and I am just as proud to help bring them a resource for clean water as they are to have clean water. I feel their hearts pumping with excitement and I hear their thoughts about their sacrifice to buy the filter; I sense that these families worked very hard to get to this point and their pride was so evident in their eyes.
The main sources of income for this village is in the harvesting of the rice, and fishing in the small stream/river that meandered throughout the area. Yes, by our westernized standards these people are physically living in poverty, but they are richly blessed as well. Their pride in life is shadowed only by their strength in faith.
There is a sense of accomplishment and an overpowering sense of gratitude, thankfulness, and a pride that they have acted on improving their lives. I like to think God has smiled down on us today as I hear Him whisper, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.