National crisis doesn’t deter Diocese of Knoxville parishioners from helping Haiti

Water is flowing again in Bouly with help from a village…and a few donkeys

By Hiske Jones

Grit, determination, human and animal power, along with financial help from the Haiti Outreach Program have paid off, and the Haiti village of Bouly now has a working cistern again, providing life-saving water to the medical clinic and for use by residents.

Bouly is accessible only by hiking five to six hours over mountainous terrain from Boucan-Carré in Central Haiti, including crossing a river seven times without bridges. This trek is arduous on its own, so imagine it while carrying rebar, lumber, and other building materials.

“The tremendous effort to rebuild the cistern was truly made possible by raw human labor performed by several dozen people, with no machines or bulldozers,” said Billy Stair, a longtime volunteer with the Knoxville Haiti Outreach Program.

Mr. Stair and Dr. Dean Mire traveled to Bouly last September and were told by the clinic staff that the cistern, originally built by the French in 2013, was leaking badly, was beyond repair, and would not last much longer. In addition, the pipes that bring the water in from a spring were leaking in several locations and no longer had the pressure necessary to fill the cistern.

“The cistern greatly cuts down the amount of time needed to collect water from the river and represented a tremendous leap forward in the basic quality of life for the residents and is an important source of water for the staff and patients at the clinic,” Mr. Stair said. “It was critical that we find a way to rebuild it.”

Given the importance of clean water to the clinic’s staff and patients, the Haiti Outreach Program agreed to provide the funds for a new cistern. In the planning process, instead of rebuilding the old cistern, a new larger cistern was designed about 20 meters from where the original cistern was located.

The materials were purchased in Port-au-Prince (Haiti’s capital, about two hours away), taken by vehicles to Boucan-Carré. Then the materials were transported by donkeys and about 40 Haitians over the mountain to Bouly. Sand for the cement was gathered at the river by women and children and hauled in buckets to the construction site. A foundation for the cistern and trenches for the pipes were dug by hand.

Julio Geffrard served as the project manager, who oversaw all aspects of the project and reported back on the progress.

“Julio has been an integral part of our team,” said Matt Webster, who leads the Haiti Outreach Program. “With our support via scholarships, he finished high school, went on to law school, and has returned to Boucan-Carré to teach and support us with various requests.”

One challenge was to balance security for the clinic with accessibility to the water for the village. The novel design involved using a fence that circles the clinic to bisect the cistern, with a spigot on the inside of the fence and another on the outside.

“This solution makes it possible to lock up the clinic grounds at night while providing access to water for residents,” Mr. Stair said.

Funds also were provided to build a smaller cistern by the spring that captures water during the rainy season and stores it for use during the dry months of summer and fall.

The Haiti Outreach Program is currently planning for a medical mission as soon as travel is allowed. Political and civil strife in Haiti have halted on-site mission work by the outreach program.

“We are increasing our outreach to doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals as well as planning a fun fundraising event in early October,” said Mr. Webster, the program’s chairman. “There are so many professionals with a heart to give back and remote areas like Bouly could really use the help.”

To volunteer, donate, or learn more about how to help, visit https://haitioutreachprogram.org or e-mail mattwebster@haitioutreachprogram.org.

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