| Feb 19, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - February 19, 2009 Haitian team‘s “Bumpy ride” to successBy Julie Druker

One of the classrooms at Ste. Therese school in Grison-Garde, Haiti

Linda Bates of Verona and 4 volunteers, Kevin and Heather Ryan, Monique Haggar and Lise Woods. arrived home somewhat exhausted from their trip to Haiti but confident that they “had done their best.“

They accomplished their mission and delivered $37,000 worth of school supplies, which had been gathered here and shipped to 4 schools in the small village of Grison-Garde.

The group spent the majority of their time at Ste. Therese school in Grison-Garde. They did some renovations, built furniture, organized supplies and trained the local teachers with the newly arrived materials, many of which the teachers had never seen before.

The mission, however, was not without difficulties.

Linda recalled, “A lot of the supplies that we thought we would be able to purchase in Haiti were not available so we basically had to revamp a lot of our plans.”

Not easily deterred, her group made the necessary changes, survived on 4-5 hours of sleep per night and managed to redesign their original plans in order to build classroom furniture with the limited supplies available.

Another bump in the road occurred when they found out that their truckload of school supplies would be arriving many days behind schedule. Once again the group made the most of their time and set to work accomplishing the many unforeseen tasks that needed immediate attention; including painting walls, cleaning up litter, rebuilding outdoor pathways around the school, renovating the school's kitchen, and reinforcing a very rickety and dangerous flight of stairs.

No time was wasted and Linda and her team also had a chance to spend time with local students teaching them games like frisbee.

Other more literal bumps in road included some gigantic potholes. Everyday travel was slow and difficult and there was even a general strike one day, when nothing could get done.

When the school supplies finally arrived on Day 7, just two days before the team’s scheduled departure, there were screams of joy and cheering as locals gathered to help unload the dump truck full of school supplies. Linda and her staff had a lot less time to train teachers with the new supplies than they had planned, but once again did the best that they could in the time they did have available.

Haiti made a considerable impression on the group who kept a shared, day-to-day diary of their experiences which they plan to share with their families, friends and the many supporters of their mission.

An entry at the end of Linda Bates diary summed up both the difficulties and the joys of the experience.

“We leave Grison-Garde with mixed feelings of anger, despair and resignation, but also with some small measure of satisfaction, for even with all out trials and ‘bumps’, we have ‘done our best.’”

Linda plans to make another trip back to finish where she and her team left off.

“There is still a lot of work that needs doing including finishing the classrooms, fixing the ceilings and roofs in the school and leveling out the playground,” she said.

Not one to run from a challenge Linda is determined to complete the job in Haiti.

“I should be back there (Haiti) in about 23 months and nine days but whose counting,” she said

Welcome home to Linda and her team:

Here are a few excerpts from diaries.

On bringing in some medical supplies:

“Our belt has given up again, and the third tire iron repair attempt was the last.  The trip to get the replacement van was to be 10 minutes. At this point we are just starting to appreciate exactly what the term “Haitian Time” is, namely, basically whenever it happens regardless of any planning you might have done. This is one of the most frustrating traits here as we have been planning for months and we have our agenda on how we are going to accomplish everything in 1 week, the lack of coordination can be very frustrating. 45 minutes later the truck and the new van arrive, in the interim we have been mobbed by young children wanting to see the “blancs”. We arrive [at the school] without further mishap. For those of you who are wondering about the medical supplies in the back of the truck they were untouched and arrived intact.”

On the school:

“We are greeted by the director of the school and his wife who runs the sewing class and some of the teachers. We tour the school and grounds and are stunned at what we find. It’s much worse than anything we have been shown or read in the preliminary reports. We have many requests on top of what we have planned for.  The school yard is a shambles of garbage, broken glass, and cow pies (apparently the locals bring their cows in and stake them out to eat the good grass). There are no longer windows or shutters on many of the windows, the roof is caved in at one end of what was supposed to be the kindergarten class room, the interior stairs to the third floor are almost to the point of being dangerous.

Many of the treads are broken and split and they all flex as you step on them as they were made out of 1” thick boards. The director would also like a new office if we can find the time. When we inquire about help from the local parents we are told it won’t be a problem depending on what we are offering to pay. We are shell shocked, between the living conditions of the general population and the extreme misrepresentation. We don’t know whether to scream in anger or cry with frustration. We got about 4 hours of sleep. The other hours were busy revamping and redesigning approaches to tackle the various projects. We are informed that our shipment will not be in today but probably tomorrow. Well that puts a spike in our wheels, as all our tools and supplies (save the two cordless drills, drill bits and the 30 pound box of screws in Kevin’s  suitcases) are in the shipment. The medical team and Lise and Monique head off to the school while Kevin, Linda Heather and Father Acnays leave for acquisition of building supplies. We decide to purchase a skill saw if we can locate one, along with a rake, shovel, and painting supplies, brooms, concrete and wood. With all the changes for necessary materials and new tools we are now 800.00 dollars over our planned budget. A quick dip into personal traveling funds and our shipment is guaranteed for delivery for later today.” 

On further travelling difficulties

“While we load the truck, a young lady approaches us and hands us a leaflet. A general strike and protest is to be held tomorrow (Wednesday). From 5:00am to 6:00 pm the major Highway between Cap Haitian and Port au Prince is to be shut down and no traffic will be allowed to move. This is in protest of the poor road conditions (we agree whole heartedly after just two trips on the “Highway”). We hope it will have little or no impact on our plans.”

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