Haiti (MNN/HCJB) — With people desperate for clean water in the northern Haitian community of La Bruyere, the hope of César Cortez in returning to the region could have been characterized by a popular movie phrase, slightly tweaked: "If you come, they will build it."
Cortez, an engineer with HCJB Global Hands, returned to Haiti after earlier trips to firm up project logistics and receive assurance that La Bruyere residents were fully backing efforts to rehabilitate the community's aging water system. The dilapidated system only serves 14 of La Bruyere's 300 families.
Working in Haiti since March 10, Cortez is assisted by Ecuadorians Francisco and Edison Caiza, whose Andean community benefited years ago through help from the HCJB Global Hands' Vozandes Community Development staff. Much of the work at La Bruyere, however, fell to the Haitians who grasped it with gusto, according to Cortez.
"The Haitians not only showed this week that they are good workers once they know what to do and how to do it," he said, "but they were also competing to work with the Caizas and learn the techniques used in protecting the spring and fixing the water reservoir."
Shoulder to shoulder, Cortez, the Caizas, and La Bruyere residents built a new spring protection catchment. It's the first phase of rehabilitation at the community near Cap-Haitien, following earlier visits by Cortez that built trust and established relationships. Partners in the project include Lifewater Canada and One Mission Society (OMS).
"We have finished the protection of the new spring, the reservoir tank, and we have 10% of the [3,200-foot] feed line done," Cortez wrote from Haiti this week. Commenting on the Haitians' zeal for the work, he said, "In Ecuador, we may need a month to accomplish what we did in the first week in Haiti because of the enthusiasm of these people." (It is a high compliment to the Haitians, given that he and the Caizas are Ecuadorians.)
Like much of northern Haiti, La Bruyere has become overpopulated with people from the country's quake zone, according to Cortez. Two Lifewater wells already equipped with manual pumps are not sufficient to provide water for everyone, so many walk to the river to get water. Affected by the cholera epidemic that swept through Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, river water is not safe to drink.
At its eventual completion, the project will serve each home with a water meter (cost covered by the community) and a spigot mounted on a concrete pedestal. Cortez expects La Bruyere's residents will finish the first phase later this month by protecting the spring, piping water to a reservoir tank, and getting some feed line and spigots installed. Public latrines are also part of this phase with a plan including each home eventually having a latrine.