It is a well-known premise that a company is only as good as the employees it keeps and this is most certainly true here at Clean Water for Haiti. As the newest rookie on the block, the one thing I wanted to do was to get to know and become acquainted with all of our staff. I am sure the awkwardness was consensually felt – here I am, another “blan” in their midst, and what’s worse is this one can only say, “Bon Jou, Bonswa, or Mesi” (good morning, good afternoon, and thank you).
This could not be any further from the truth. As I was introduced there was an immediate feeling of warmth and welcome aboard from “the guys” which is a term of endearment used by our adorable 3 yr old Alex. Even as I sit here, the gentle breeze coming through my window brings with it the friendly banter of the guys out in the work yard. I love listening to their discussions, although it is true I don’t understand even a quarter of what they are talking about, I know that they are enjoying the camaraderie that is so prevalent here at Clean Water for Haiti. The Haitian proverb, “Anpil men, chay pa lou.” Translated as, “With many hands a load is not heavy.” could best be illustrated by observing our staff at work.
For those of you who don’t know, our Bio-Sand Filters are manufactured right here on site and there is a lot of hard arduous work that goes into it; everything from the welding of the molds, mixing and pouring the cement, grading and bagging the gravel and sand, the scraping, painting, and finishing of each filter is all done by hand, and the work is shared by all. However, the manufacturing is only the beginning of the demands and responsibilities of the guys.
The next step in the process is the delivery and installation. I must reiterate here that our filters are being delivered in the most hard to reach and remote areas in this region, most of which are farming or fishing villages, and are also some of the poorest of the poor villages. There is no running water and no public sewer systems, which would also mean that the roads and bridges are not maintained either. Our crew cannot simply deliver water filters on demand, the only feasible way is to deliver truckloads of 30 filters at a time, in one delivery.
A complete Bio-Sand Water Filter includes a 160 pound cement filter, approximately 80 pounds of sand and/or gravel in three bags, a diffuser basin, and a wood carved top. The day before a delivery date entails loading these 160 pound filters and 80 pound bags of sand onto one of our flatbed trucks, including all the tools and equipment that is needed for the installations, including hand trucks and a couple of coolers for water and drinks for the crew. Depending on the location, traffic issues, or road conditions, the delivery and installation days are anywhere from 12 to 16 hour days.
What I have learned in the short couple of months I have been working with the guys, going out on deliveries with them and observing their work ethics, is that it is the brotherhood and its unity of purpose that makes the laborious and often times exhausting production and installation of our water filters less grueling. I have watched and experienced their respect, compassion, and the concern they show for their fellow man. I have heard them teach, train and educate these families on the importance of clean water and maintaining their filters. I have also witnessed the smiles they bring to everyone, from the little babies, to the youth, mothers and fathers, and the older wise men in the village. I have seen God’s work in action as our guys take on the challenge of being our brother’s keeper by providing the life sustaining resources these communities so badly need.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” I would add to that the lesson I have learned while working with the “Zo rèl do a”, the backbone of Clean Water for Haiti, “….to work hard at work worth doing is realizing and responding to the work that God requires each of us to do – to love our neighbor.”