WATER! Universally, there’s a two-way relationship between extreme poverty and lack of access to safe water. About 2/3 of those without clean water live on less than $2/day; half of these on less than $1/day. They don’t have the ability to improve their situation. This was a truism for Colminy. “Even pooling their resources, these communities will never be able to afford a well for safe water.”1 Others must help! So HHC did!
Wells aren’t possible in Colminy …their aquifers are simply too deep. When HHC started in 2016, most Colminians were fetching their water from a dirty, distant canal. Initially, we supplied Sawyer water filters at a highly reduced rate. These effectively remove all dirt and 99.9999% of microbes, making the water safe to drink. But still, the daily chore of collecting water consumed hours from other productive pursuits, and hauling their 5 gallons (40 lbs.) of sloshing liquid home on their heads created headaches and, over time, spinal problems.
Local women brainstormed possible solutions with us. In the end, we hired 4 local young adults (that we’d sponsored for training in concrete work) to construct a centrally located, 2,500 gallon clean water station. The station is totally theirs and totally sustainable! By charging 30 Haitian gourdes/5 gallons (approx.. 40 US cents) they can pay a water truck company to refill the tanks, and the station’s local attendant and manager.
This worked great! …only one problem. Water in the tanks grew too hot under Haiti’s scorching sun. So, on our next trip, we hired 5 young adults to construct a shade-cover over the tanks. Now the water is never warmer than the shaded ambient air.
Sanitation & Hygiene
Early in 2017, as advised by OUR SOIL in Port au Prince, and a start-up grant from The Pollination Project, HHC introduced arborloos as a safe and profitable sanitation system for Colminy, to replace the habit of opened defecation. Arborloos are temporary small, unlined-pit latrines. After each defecation, users cover their feces with a scoop of ash and soil, thus preventing odors and flies. It also promotes composting. Dry leaves are added periodically. Once nearly full, a new pit is dug. The slab supporting the bucket seat and privacy housing is moved over it and the process begins again. The old pit is topped off with fresh soil and a tree (or other) seedling is planted in it. Meanwhile, the pit’s contents have composted, providing a nutrient-rich environment where the young tree can grow and thrive. You may notice that we lined the buckets with swimming noodles to form a soft, cushy seat.
After building 6 arborloos for an elementary school, we hired our Haitian clinic-staff to teach the children the why and how to use them. They also taught the kids how germs and diseases spread, and ways to stop it, especially with proper handwashing. HHC culminated these efforts with a “Sanitation Celebration.” Parents were invited, but very few came.
The school kids “got it.” Unfortunately, their parents didn’t. HHC spent the next two years promoting home-based arborloos, to no avail. Only recently has one been built. In spite of its appearance, we are delighted to see the very first home-based arborloo in the community! Once filled, we plan to reward them with a fruit tree seedling of their choice.
Meanwhile, two of the school arborloos have been filled. A lime tree seedling now grows in one, a cherry tree in the other. Also the workers HHC trained and hired for building projects decided to start a business producing and marketing arborloo slabs. As pictured here, they’ve already begun pouring some for themselves. We have real hopes that they’ll succeed. After all, these guys are not “outsiders” hired to promote sanitation, but Colminians willing to invest in their own arborloos, then share the benefits with their neighbors.
When we return to Colminy in February, we plan to reinforce and expand the sanitation and hygiene teaching for the school kids. Hopefully, we’ll also be able to provide a new and improved handwashing system.