Welcome 2015!

This space has been really quiet in the past month or so as we’ve taken much needed time off as a staff for Christmas and New Years. But, we’re back at work and things are moving full speed ahead!

December was a really good month, especially since we did a bunch of filter installations right before we took our two week break. As we’ve started into the new year all of our filter installations in the past two weeks have actually been up in the mountains near Fond Baptiste, an area that is a challenge to get to but one we’re happy to go to. When the guys go up a crew of 3 will take about 20 filters, which is what the truck can carry going up the really rough mountain road. They spend about 3 days up there doing the deliveries and installations. People within the community provide a place for them to sleep, and it’s always encouraging to see how the communities that we go into embrace our staff and do what they can to support them as they bring the filters in.

We’re also currently working in areas of the Artibonite to establish new filter promoters. These promoters play a key role in telling people within their own communities about the filters, taking sign ups, collecting the co-pay and then coordinating with our staff to set up delivery times. These promoters have become a very key part of what we do here.

I think the very most exciting thing that’s going on for us right now, though, is that we’ve finally started construction at the new mission site in Camp Mary (pronounced Kan Marie in Creole)!

Some things are slowly falling into place here in Haiti, and while we can’t share a lot of details just yet, it’s meant that we could go ahead and start construction. Our original plan was to start with the main residence and office space but we’re still working with the engineer on the structural stuff, so we decided to start with the work shop and main filter production work area. These areas don’t need to have the same kind of structural engineering as the two story residence so it’s something we can do in house with questions fired at our engineer as needed.

In December we were able to get the foundation lines dug, place any plumbing and electrical conduit, get the re-bar tied to make the support posts for the work area covering and just basically get everything ready to start pouring concrete come the new year. As we went back to work two weeks ago the construction crew just kicked into high gear and it’s been amazing to see what they’ve accomplished since.

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I think it’s important to mention that all of the construction is being done by hand! We do have the option of getting ready mix in, but after pricing things out and seeing the work time line pan out we decided to do a by-hand foundation for the work area. We may decide to do poured foundations for the residence/office and the future guest house because those buildings will be more load bearing, but we haven’t decided for sure yet.

To do a hand made foundation there needs to be mortar mix that’s right on, which has been something Chris has had to work through with the guys. We started out mixing cement by hand, but after a week decided to buy a cement mixer. Yes, the filters are made with cement, but we don’t actually use a cement mixer in production because our mix is very dry. Having a lot of cement work to do over the next year and a half it just made sense to buy a mixer and we’re already talking about how we can change up how we work to incorporate it into our every day work at the mission. With the mixer we’re able to get consistent results and a more solid product for all aspects of construction, not to mention the time and physical labor being saved, so it’s a very good thing!

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Our new mixer with the mix ratios for mortar and cement written on it as a reminder.

When the guys start working on a section of foundation they dump mortar in the hole, then start throwing sized rocks into the mortar. We buy rocks by the truck full, and if they’re too large they get broken by hand. Yep, with a small sledge hammer.

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After the rocks are the right size they bosses (a term used to identify any professional tradesman) dip the rocks in water then place them in the mortar. We found out the hard way during our test sections that not wetting the rocks first caused the mortar to dry badly and not stick to the rocks. It literally just crumbled. Wetting the rocks slows the curing process as well as helps the mortar to adhere better, giving us a solid foundation.

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Along with getting the foundation done, the guys have been able to get the footers for the support posts poured. This is actually really exciting because it’s something that is going to make the work at the new site so much better than what it is now at our current location.

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At our current mission base the guys work out in the sun for a good part of the day. With the shape of the property and location of the buildings and accessibility to the work yard and things like that we don’t have a covered area where they can work. At the new site we’re very deliberately setting every bit of the work yard to provide covered shade for our staff. The driveway provides enough space for dump trucks to pull in and out without threat of knocking things over, so our plan is to build a 30×60′ work pad connected to the front of the shop with a roof about 15′ high.

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One of the support columns in progress.

The roof will be made from steel supports attached to the top of the support columns, with tin roofing on it. Not only will it provide shade, but it will also mean we can install industrial overhead fans to provide air movement, making the work area more comfortable but also dryer. We work with a lot of water, and any time there is standing water there’s a place for mosquitoes to reproduce and the potential for malaria and other mosquito borne illness. We’ll also have good drainage in place to help with this.

My biggest goal for this year is to be more intentional. More specifically, to be more intentional about carving out writing time to post on the blog so that you can be better informed about mission activities and the progress we’re making in all areas. One thing I’m really excited about is sharing the progress of the new site regularly. My goal is at least one “construction progress” post per month, but I know there will be smatterings of things as things really pick up speed. I think I’m also looking forward to being able to chronicle the process for the missions history “books” because it’s such a pivotal point in our journey as an organization.

Enjoy the photos and let us know what you think!

~Leslie

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