Its hard to put into words the rollercoaster of emotions felt on our most recent trip to the orphanage in Kenscoff, Haiti. It was noticeable from outside that the noise levels normally associated with an orphanage with over 600 children and young adults were somewhat subdued. Before travelling the news had reached us of the passing of Olsen a boy of just 15, he was in the orphanage since he was a baby. Once inside, we were given the opportunity to pay our respects to Gena, an amazing Mayo woman who cared for Olsen over the last 15 years of his life. It’s hard to think of words to say to someone that has lost someone so dear.
The next morning started for us at 7 am with a survey of the work we proposed to do while there. As a mark of respect, we decided not to start work until after the funeral mass and burial afterwards to a tomb on the grounds of the orphanage. The ceremony was beautiful, everyone in the orphanage took part and it was really nice to be there to show our support.
Following the ceremony which finished at 11-30am work started in earnest with the moving of the large quantities of material’s needed for the paths we proposed to do while there. Following a meeting with the 10 local workers employed for our stay, mix quantities were agreed upon and the dry mixing process began. Over our last few visits we found it best to dry mix a large quantity of gravel and cement and then add water as concrete is needed. Once the formwork was in place, wet mixing began and we soon had a number of panels complete. Work finished on that day at 8pm
Next morning work began at 7am with the laying of more wheelchair access paths this time on front of the school, extending the paths already put in place on our last visit. Work also included the fixing in place of 2 gates plus the repair of steps leading to the school. After a 12 hour shift in temperatures up to 34 degrees, our day finished. We had completed 8 sections of path ranging in size from 2 metres in length to 4 metres in length all 1.5 metres wide.
The final day of our brief visit started at 6.30am. Knowing we had to finish for 11am drove us on to complete another 6 smaller sections of path plus a long ramp connecting the new paths with the old ones. The feelings of sadness felt on our first day were replaced by feelings of elation having completed so much in such a short period of time. Olsen will not get to use the paths we completed on our visit but we hope that for those left behind, the paths will make things a little easier in a country where nothing ever seems easy.
We are already looking forward to our next trip in October where we will continue to improve things within orphanages in Haiti.