Another lesson learned . . .
By Don Snyder
As usual, April 2014 was another opportunity to listen and learn as we continue to work with our Haitian partners. On an otherwise ordinary day, I found myself in the company of Jude Anglade and Jean Donald Charles, 2 local water well technicians, whose job it is to manage, maintain, test and repair the 12 water wells drilled by the CHP in March of 2009.
One of their most important roles outside of doing repairs is to move the community toward being fully responsible for the management, maintenance and repair of the wells, including the procurement of spare parts, replacement of tools, and payment for their services.
As we passed along a back road from one well to another checking water quality, a small group of 15 to 20 farmers cultivating a field in Bariado in anticipation of the rainy season caught our attention, and we theirs. Upon spotting us from a distance they dropped their implements and started to run toward us. Jude and Jean Donald asked that I “hit the gas” and not wait to see what was going on, but I was inclined to do the opposite! These farmers clearly knew who we were and clearly had something to say. We stopped and waited.
Once we were face to face, the natural leader of the group began his impassioned plea, with all the drama befitting of Haitian culture. He stated that the water well in Bariado was not working and demanded that we immediately go and repair it. After listening respectfully, I asked how they would pay for the repairs, as it was certain some parts and materials would be needed and the technicians, Jude & Jean Donald had already put in a long day and were hungry and without water themselves.
They became very angry at the suggestion that they should pay. They said that they
needed the water at this well as it would take an additional 20 minute walk each direction to reach the next well. Of course, prior to the drilling of the wells, it could be up to a 2 hour walk each way to find good water! They went on to say that not only did they not have any money for the repair, but if they did they would certainly not pay Jude & Jean Donald because they were bad technicians!
I was curious to know how they had decided Jude & Jean Donald were bad technicians and in further conversation came to find out that this was based simply on the fact that Jude & Jean Donald had repaired the well about 6 months ago. They stated, “it was already broken again, so surely they were bad technicians!” I explained that it was normal at all of the well sites to expect maintenance and repairs at least every 6 months due to the pressure on the wells. Most of the wells, including the well at Bariado are being pumped by hand from dawn’s first light, to well after sunset every day of the week . . . for drinking, cooking, bathing, laundry, for watering the animals, and for other household needs.
Once the farmers understood the reality of keeping the wells operational, the fact that they needed maintenance and/or repair 2 to 3 times per year and understood the tremendous commitment that Jude and Jean Donald have made to the larger community in maintaining the entire system, they calmed down. They accepted what we had to say, at least on this day, and leaving their fields, accompanied us to the well at Bariado which Jude and Jean Donald agreed to repair. Under a hot late day sun, without water, this initially belligerent group provided the labor needed to pull the pipe, sucker rod & pump cylinder out of the well . . . all 140 feet of it. While they did not pay in Haitian goudes, they paid in sweat equity and provided Jude & Jean Donald with some food once the job was done. They had worked out an acceptable agreement for repair of the well.
As the sun set beyond the mountains, water flowed once again from the well at Bariado and the large crowd which had gathered at the well to participate or simply observe what was going on, began to celebrate. They cheered, sang, clapped, danced and crowded around the spigot, eagerly putting their cupped hands beneath the flow of water to quench their thirst.
On this day, valuable teaching moments occurred. These opportunites, I explained to Jude & Jean Donald, opportunities to respectfully communicate must always be taken advantage of. This I said was the most difficult, but also the most important aspect of their job. Nothing changes quickly here, and the conversations we had on this day, will need to be repeated many times in the future before this precious resource is sustained without any assistance from the Colorado Haiti Project. But we will get there . . . we are committed, the people in this region are engaged and we have already come a long way.
I am always humbled by these experiences and by the sight of such joy in the eyes and hearts of our Haitian partners, in this case brought on by successfully restoring this life sustaining resource. It was an honor to share in this moment with them. And as always, I must say, “Gras a Dye” . . . Thanks be to God.