What’s New Around Here

I feel like time can fly by here. April for example. It’s just gone. Part of that was that I was away for a week at the end of March, then came home, had two weeks and then Chris left for a two week fundraising and board recruitment trip. He got back Friday, and here we find ourselves with another month under our belts.

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So, what’s been going on around Clean Water for Haiti?

That photo above is our neighbour, Eton, working on the water pipe that we’re running off our property so that our neighbourhood can have access to water. The nearest standpipe is a good distance to walk, so we made an arrangement that if the neighbours dug the canal that would hold the pipe we would install it. Eton’s family will be responsible for monitoring the pipe and making sure people aren’t breaking it. We have a valve inside our property so we can turn it on when the pump is running, and turn it off when the pump is off.

Let’s talk about Chris’ trip. It’s been a few years since he’s done a trip just for fundraising of any kind. And, honestly, in the past those trips have been challenging and kind of disappointing. When we factor the time away from running things here in Haiti, the time our family is apart, and the expenses of the trip itself, it takes a lot to make it feel like the trip is paying for itself. This time around though? Completely different, and we’re so thankful.

He spent about a week and a half in Vancouver, WA, where he got to meet with at least 4 potential board members. All of those meetings were incredibly encouraging and we’re excited to see how our Board of Directors is going to grow and change in the coming months. It’s been our heart to bring people onto our team that have backgrounds in the business and professional world, and all of our current candidates in the US are right there. We are a mission and ministry, but in order to grow we need to have people who have big vision, connections to network into, and the skills that will help us manage, be organized, take care of financial matters, and raise larger amounts of funding.

While in Vancouver Chris got to speak at three different Rotary clubs. Clean Water for Haiti has a long term relationship with Rotary in general and it’s a relationship we highly value. We’ve processed several grants, with our most recent being a Global Grant for filters that we did last year. That project was really successful, which was the other part of Chris’ trip – taking the last few days to go to Tennessee to visit the clubs that participated in that grant project. Everywhere he went he was warmly welcomed, and we’re very excited because all of the clubs he spent time with are looking at the possibility of partnering together on more grant funding for CWH. For Chris and I it’s so encouraging to see that over a decade of work is getting the support of such a great organization and clubs all over the US.

On top of Rotary meetings Chris also got to spend time with Columbia Presbyterian Church. Their missions committee has been a big support of CWH for several years, and we’ve had the opportunity to share with the congregation the last couple times we’ve been in the area. Their VBS has also chosen to raise money for the past two summers, and Chris had a chance to speak to several of the youth groups in the church while he was there this visit. We’re looking forward to visiting in the summer again. Another bonus is that Chris’ parents are in Vancouver, so he got to have a good family visit while doing mission stuff.

So, it was a great trip all around. It’s been incredibly affirming and encouraging to us personally. I think anytime you pour yourself into something you want to know that others see the value of what you’re doing. After over a decade of work, sweat and tears, it feels so good to see people getting excited about everything that is Clean Water for Haiti, and who want to partner with us to impact the lives of Haitian families for the long term. A big thank you to everyone that Chris got to meet with!

While he was away I got to stay in Haiti with the kids and keep things on track. My days were busy, but because of our team here it wasn’t difficult. I’m so thankful for our staff and all of the growth that we’ve seen over the years. It just amazes me when I look back to where we’ve come from.

In the past month or so we’ve been working hard at getting the work yard facilities finished, especially because it’s been getting so much hotter. We wanted to get all the roofs on the work pads so the guys would have shade. At our old place there were some big trees in the work yard that gave some shade. Here all the trees are in other places, so we wanted to get something up before the hottest time of the season hit.

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The biggest work pad where we build the filters is 30×60′. It’s so big. It took the guys a good week and a half to get the insulation foam and tin up. We found this thin foam that has a reflective side on it years ago and used it on the roof of one of our buildings at our old facilities, and it made a huge difference to the temperature under the roof, so we decided to try it under the tin. The upside is that when it rains it dampens the sound a bit too. Though, as I learned when we had a hard rain while Chris was gone, it’s still ridiculously loud. I came out of a dead sleep thinking the world was ending!

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The guys love that the spaces are all covered, and so do we. While Chris was gone all three roofs got finished, and we were able to clean things up and move some things into place. We now have separate spaces for building filters, washing sand, and a workshop where we can weld filter molds and any other things, and do any other bigger projects like carpentry stuff. Evens is working on installing the fans out there this week, which will be one of the last steps. We get a nice breeze most of the time, but when we don’t and it’s the middle of the hot part of the day it’s stifling, so the fans will give some air flow.

Two weekends ago I was finally able to move all my tools out to the workshop and get things set up so we can finish the last things that need to be done in the house over the next month. This meant that the space under the stairs in our house were finally freed up for their initial purpose, which is pantry space. The shelves had been doing temporary duty in the kids rooms while we wait for closets to be built, but we put some other shelves in their place and moved the actual pantry shelves in place, and moved all the pantry stuff to that space, freeing up more room in our storage room. That was a happy moment because we’ve had some unexpected storage issues that I’ll talk about in my next post. Moving my stuff off the front deck also meant that we could finally get some chairs out there and have it available to sit with visitors who stop by the mission.

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While Chris was away I had some of our extra construction guys help me put in the flower beds around the house. It might seem frivolous, but a) it’s a hobby that Chris and I have that helps us decompress with everything else going on, and b) Haitians actually take a lot of pride in their homes when they’re able to, so our staff and others respect it when we look after the facilities that we’ve been blessed with. Everything that we do as a finishing step gets noticed by our staff, and they were all excited and commenting on how nice things were looking. I see them walk a bit taller and their pride in working for the organization grows a bit as the facilities continue to get developed.

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I got all the doors painted, finally. No more primer. Before he left, Chris had one of the bosses put in the office and kitchen door stairs. While he was away I had the guys build a patio off the kitchen side of the house. We’ve had a lot of people asking about classes, but don’t have the facilities to host people yet. Having the patio means that we could actually have a place to cook and eat with the students while we teach on the front deck. The wood forms are so that I can plant things that will climb, like beans. The twine was to help with that, but between the dogs and our son it didn’t last for more than 24 hours on the one you see in the pictures. Back to the drawing board on that one.

It’s so nice to see stuff getting done. Our next step is to break ground on the guest house/training center. We’re working on final plans and should start staking out the septic and foundation in the next couple of days.

The last new, exciting thing is that we got our new to us passenger vehicle! Our SUV that we’ve had since 2010 is getting a complete motor rebuild, and then we’re not sure what we’re going to do with it, or how long that will even take. Our van is okay, but has some mechanical issues. Having a smaller vehicle that has 4 wheel drive again is such a blessing! A missionary friend of ours found it for a good deal and took care of the purchase and shipping into Haiti on our behalf while on sabbatical a few months ago, and it just arrived last week.

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We did have a bit of a shock a week and a half ago when one of our employees called on a Sunday to tell me that another employee had been in a bad motorcycle accident. Fritzner had been coming down the mountain from his house to go to where he stays during the week so his commute to work is easier, and the brakes on his motorcycle weren’t working. He ended up stopping by crashing into a house and being knocked unconscious for the whole trip to the hospital. He has a lot of cuts on his face and a gash in his head, but also broke the bone under one of his eye sockets. We’re thankful for a visiting team of surgeons at the local hospital who were able to operate and fix him up a couple of days following the accident. Chris was able to visit him yesterday and said he’s doing well and will be recovering for a while, but he’s still here. The accident could have been so much worse.

That’s the latest news from here! Hope you’re all having a great week.

~Leslie

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Construction Update

In December we moved to new facilities, but I realized that we haven’t actually shared much about the construction process or where things are at now. There’s no time like the present!

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The move was something that we’d spent about 5 years working toward. Literally 5 years from the time that we started talking about it until we moved. We’d had a lot of security issues over the years at our previous location, which had cost the mission a lot of money in security and legal fees, not something we were ever good with. The other issue was that as our filter program grew, we outgrew our work space. We could only ever produce a maximum of 200 filters per month because there just wasn’t room for all the supplies and the constructed filters to dry.

We bought property at the end of 2013, and in 2014 fenced it and dug a well. Then we did nothing until later that year when we broke ground on the depot building. We needed to do that first so that we could have a place to store tools and supplies that were needed during construction.

That same fall we had some exciting things happen than made it possible to move forward with construction on the main mission house and office space. You can read all about that HERE.

We broke ground on the house/office in February of last year and knew it was going to be a year of pushing hard so that we could move by December. Aside from doing the actual construction, we hit a bump in April with the sale of our previous property, but by the end of last year God had done a lot of really big things and brought so many details together that we were basically left speechless. It’s a great story and I’d love it if you checked it out HERE.

As things progressed last year I tried to somewhat regularly write a blog post, on my personal blog. Because there was so much going on those posts didn’t ever make their way here. To catch you up to date I thought it might be nice to put all the links here so you can start at the beginning and work towards moving day. We’ve done a lot more work since then, but I’m still waiting on myself to finish a few projects before we do final “reveal” pictures. I’m hoping to knock a lot of that stuff out next month while Chris is away on a fundraising trip. Until then, let me leave you with these:

Getting Ready

Let’s Get Started

Construction Week 11

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Construction Week 18

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Construction Week 51

Moving!

We’re Home!

Hope you enjoy the window into life over the past year, and learning a bit more about our family and staff in the process. If you want to check out my personal blog you can find it at www.leslierolling.com. Posting has been sporadic as of late because life got so crazy, but I’m hoping to change that this year.

~Leslie

Teamwork …. A Shared Vision

Teamwork…. A Shared Vision

There is a Haitian Proverb that states, “Anpil men, chay pa lou.” With many hands a load is not heavy.

Yesterday I witnessed this proverb in action here at Clean Water for Haiti as we poured the foundation at the construction site for our new facilities.  In all the years of my working in the new home building industry, I have never seen a foundation poured quite like this one.  More importantly, I have never been more impressed by a group of individuals coming together in a shared unified vision; the new home of Clean Water for Haiti.  Especially so, as it is was successfully completed in the Haitian tradition of hard work and ingenuity; by that I mean, 18 pair of hands, 10 wheelbarrows, a single cement mixer, 62 sacks of cement, and truckloads of rock and sand in a 12 cubic foot area, in less than 6 hours in the hot sun.  I stand amazed at the wonder of dedication, work ethic, and absolute teamwork of our staff and leadership team.

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This day was a compilation of hours of dedicated planning, creativity, and never losing site of the goal, starting with the unceasing efforts of Chris and Leslie, and our construction management team, Chewie and Thony.   Any successful project, whether large or small, begins with communication and the sharing of expertise, willingness, insight, and critical thinking.    Andrew Carnegie once said, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”  CWFH’s shared vision would not have been accomplished without the joint efforts of this highly effective management team as they directed the individual accomplishments of the whole team.PicMonkey Collage

Let’s see if I can put a visual on the whole process for you.  You pretty much had to have been there to fully get the scope of success that day, but I will do my best.  We have two guys in the trenches where the cement is being poured, we have one guy each  at, let’s say, work stations – cement bags, shoveling gravel, shoveling sand, cement mixer operator, water supplier, generator functions, and mixed cement pourer.  It is like an oiled machine, the cement, gravel, sand, and water go in as the mixer churns, and then out pours the concrete ready for service.

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That is just the beginning.  The cement is strategically poured into wheelbarrows, already lined up and ready to go with its very own “wheelbarrow handler”.  As the wheelbarrow gets filled, the handler then does a fast jog to the pour site where the foundation expeditor manages the placement and leveling of each load.  The jogs from the mixer site to the construction site, in full sun and heat, was a sight to see and experience for sure.  Later, after a section is filled and leveled, we have a water inspector to make sure the concrete isn’t drying too quickly as he sprinkles down the foundation; without the aid of a water hose, mind you, his hands do the sprinklings for him.  Here is the amazing part – we have a most perfect foundation; one that was mixed, poured, delivered, formed, and tended to all with a unified and commitment to do a job well done.  Teamwork in action …. A lot of action.

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We also had teams behind the teams, participating in this joint effort.  There was me, the trusty mission volunteer who kept everybody hydrated and fed, there was our smallest staff member, Alex, who made sure all the tools were not misplaced (not!) and he also kept us free of baby tarantulas as he kept them under a watchful eye, and the local deli/drive in café, Haitian style, that prepared our lunches to go.  Even the mangos seemed to be dancing with delight.  Every one pitched in, I heard no complaints (except for the mother tarantula) and at the end of the day we were pleased beyond measure …. And that kind of teamwork and the smiles at the end of the day …. Priceless.

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Later that evening, as I thought back to the display of solidarity amongst many, from Alex, to the gracious woman who cooked our lunch, to all of our staff, and management team, I was reminded of an earlier masterpiece of teamwork that Paul talks about in Romans, the Body of Christ.  He says that we all share in one body even though we may not have the same function, but in that one body we all belong to each other.  I know that God sends us signs, He is evidenced in our everyday lives by people, things, and circumstances.  Moreover, I know that God was with us at Camp Marie as we laid the foundation for our new facility, just as we are laying the foundation for good health through clean water for the families and children of Haiti.

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Big News!

Things have been crazy busy around here in the past couple of weeks!

As many of you know, we’ve been slowly starting to build on the new mission site out in Camp Marie. We’ve started work on the work shop (depot in Creole) and staff bathrooms, as well as the work pad. I’m going to try to update regularly and you can follow those updates on here if you’re interested.

We’re really excited that we get to share some big news with you that’s been in the works behind the scenes for several months. Six, actually.

Last summer, after returning from our summer vacation, we received a phone call from someone interested in purchasing the current mission property. We knew that finding a buyer and using the funds from the sale was going to be the best way to develop the new site because it would mean we wouldn’t have to tap into the General fund, which we wanted to see going towards operations and filter production, not construction. Conversations with the interested party moved forward, and after six months of negotiations and writing up agreements we signed a deal!

As of the end of January we have a buyer for the Pierre Payen property!

We were able to arrange a deal that saw half of the purchase price paid up front, and the other half paid at year end. This means we have funding available to start construction on the main residence and office space. This is a key thing as it will mean we’ll be able to move at the end of the year and then finish building the other work yard facilities and guest house/volunteer housing.

So, it’s been full steam ahead around here for the past month! The construction team has been working hard to keep moving on the depot, finishing up the septic system for the main house/office, started the septic system for the staff bathrooms, finished building the roof supports for the work pad, and a lot of other things! The most exciting thing is that they broke ground on the house/office foundation last week. By week end we should see rebar tied in and things ready for cement to be poured.

IMG_3436Breaking ground on the new building!

For me personally, it’s exciting because I’ve been the lead on the design plans for this building. It’s been a labor of love to design a residence and office space that will be really functional over the long term. While our family will be living in it for hopefully many years to come, I’m mindful of the fact that it’s not “our” house, but rather the missions facilities. I wanted to create a space that would not one function well for our family, but also work well for the mission over the long term and allow us room to do many of the things we do now, just better.

We do certain staff activities in our home, so factoring in a team of at least 15 for those times is necessary. Our family aims to reach out to our local missionary and expat community by opening up our homes for meals and fellowship, and it’s become a place where people like to be. We know how hard it is to be here over the long term, and how important those relationships are, so we want to do what we can to build into that body. When we host a Vision Trip week we also eat all of our meals with visitors in our home. For us, it provides a relaxed way to get to know each other and engage in conversation, often centered around people’s questions about Haiti, the filter project and just life in general for us in country.

One of the spaces I think I’m most excited about is the office space. We currently don’t have a separate office area, and never have. The “office” has always been a desk area in some part of our house. Right now it’s in our main living area where everyone is, all the time. There’s limited room, so we have office supplies stored in various places. Peggy is working on our kitchen table during the day so that we can all be in the same space and collaborate on things when needed. It’s not ideal, but we’re making it work. The new site will have a set apart office where we can close a door between the main residence and focus on work, or close it and get away from work. Both are much needed!

As we start to see walls going up I’ll be sure to share pictures with you so you can be part of the journey with us. It really is exciting times for us here in Haiti!

~Leslie