The time spent working in an orphanage is very often the easy part of organising a humanitarian trip to Haiti. Planning a trip includes the identification of an orphanage to work in, assessment of the work that needs doing, raising of the funds needed to carry out the work, liaising with the local contacts to compile a materials list for works to be completed and deciding on the number of locals required to complete that work. Also completed before arrival in Haiti is the purchase and collection of tools required to carry out the work, packing and repacking of suitcases with donated clothes, sweets and jerseys, booking of flights and insurance, and not to mention the conference calls and meetings to discuss the trip. Of course, that is outside of the work we were also doing to get two forty foot containers full of hospital equipment filled and on their way to Haiti. So before the trip takes place a huge amount of work has already been completed. It is a relief to finally arrive at the orphanage in Kenscoff to see first-hand all of the results of our organising. As the mini bus pulled in to the orphanage, the structure we are to re-roof with local help appears on my right hand side. I had forgotten just how big the undertaking was. The remains of a number of trees that had to be removed were still lying under the roof structure. The trees were removed because they were growing through the previous roof structure. It was decided on a previous trip that measures must be put in place to control water run-off around this building. The ground around this open meeting area is steep and water generally runs into the building. The plan was to put in place a concrete gully around the top edge of the building, diverting water into a series of other gullies further down. Another result of our organising was the piles of gravel, sand, stones and cement in front of the school. The plan for these materials was to complete more wheelchair access paths and ramps within the orphanage. Having met with Kieran who had arrived the day before me, a plan of action was quickly put in place. We got a number of panels ready for concrete and organised the materials for the roofers for the next day. At 6.45 the next morning, a safety talk was given to the roofers before they started with the aid of an interpreter. The remaining workers started dry mixing. When enough was mixed, we proceeded to finish the panels we had gotten ready the previous day. Something that is really looked forward to at break times is the cooking of Imacala. Whether it’s an omelette filled with finely chopped vegetables with chips or meat balls with pasta, it never failed to impress us. As the week moved on we completed all of the paths in front of the school and managed to do an extra section at the end of the paths. We had not planned to do this section but on the day we thought we were finished there, a wheelchair bound teenager asked us if we could help him. He led us to the end of the path where he explained that as the path finished near a rainwater gully, he had to be carried across. Kieran told him that we would make sure that he would not have to be carried across so the next morning we put pipework in place to take the water under the path and put a proper ramp in place for him. We then had to remove the gates, weld an extended section to the brackets and put them back in place. Work then moved to the concrete gully around the open meeting area. Levels were taken and groundwork prepared to receive concrete. This was an awkward phase of the work as access was difficult. An 8 inch wide channel was put around the upper section of the building, the lower levels got a 24 inch wide concrete gully to carry surface rainwater away from the building. As this was going on we then had to solve the problem of directing the rainwater which was to be harvested from the new roof. Extra roof sections had to be made and fitted to take the new gutters, these in turn were to be connected to downpipes and run into storage tanks for re-use. This part of the project is ongoing. One further project was undertaken as our time in Haiti drew to a close. The building housing the younger children had a section of ground that was rough, uneven and unsuitable to play on. We asked some of our Haitian colleagues to prepare this section and our last full day was spent putting in concrete to give these children a play area. Six large sections were laid, the smaller sections between them were finished off by the locals on our last day. Photographs were taken of the next sections / areas we propose to do on our next trip. The jerseys and other gifts brought over with us were given out and photographs taken of the happy recipients. Trips come and go, but the work we complete will be there for the years to come. John C Volunteer Haiti Orphanage Project Espwa
And the winners are . . .
On Friday March 10th, in the beautiful surroundings of the Kinsale Hotel & Spa, Project ESPWA held our grand prize