This past weekend I think we all anxiously kept eyes on Irma as she raked destruction through the Caribbean and Florida. I lost track of how often we refreshed the storm tracker sites that we follow. On Thursday and Friday we hung out at home just waiting to see what was going to be doled out to us. In all honesty it was a combination of stress that ended up being anti-climactic, and that was a very good thing.
Haiti is typically hard hit, but this time it was like watching a miracle unfold as Irma slightly bumped north. It was just enough to have it move past Haiti far enough out in the ocean that we experienced very little damage. In fact, it was weird how little damage Haiti experienced. I’ve been here for almost 12 years and we’ve had more rain and wind from smaller storms than the country experienced with Irma this weekend. We had more rain the previous weekend during normal rainy season weather. Again, we’re really grateful for that, especially after having Matthew make landfall last October. Typically storms that move to the north of the island bring a lot of rain and flooding, something that is very literally disastrous here where there are very few resources to deal with that. In years past it has meant almost 10 feet of mud sweeping through major cities and killing thousands.
As we all watched Irma make landfall in Cuba and then head north, I will not lie, we all breathed a sigh of relief because we were fully aware of how bad it could have been for Haiti. And we feel that tension between being very grateful, and yet grieving with those all through the Caribbean and Florida and the south eastern US who have lost so much right now.
As reports started coming in from around the country on Saturday in the networks that we’re part of everyone was surprised. Yes, there was some flooding in the north because of the amount of rain dumped on the Dominican Republic, causing rivers to swell. There definitely was some wind, but most reported a few trees down and the occasional tin missing. There were a few injuries, but nothing like in other places that experienced Irma.
In our specific area, which would also include the Artibonite Valley where the bulk of our filters go, we heard of some flooding when rivers and canals swelled with water from the rain in the Dominican Republic. We decided to wait until we came back to work yesterday and were able to start connecting with our Community Promoters in the areas that we serve to get on the ground reports of any damage. While some have had their gardens and crops flooded, we haven’t heard of situations where homes have been lost or where people are feeling there is a crisis.
As an organization funding is always at the forefront of our minds because it enables us to do what we do. We also want to be able to respond in the best way possible when there is a need here in Haiti. For us that means knowing what we do, and what the best application is for our filters that will lead to the greatest impact over time. Over the years we’ve learned that we are not a relief organization, we are a development organization. After a crisis where assistance is needed, we are better suited to be in the second wave that comes as people are rebuilding their lives, so we can help to give them tools for the long term.
In 2010 Cholera was introduced to Haiti, and it has been an ongoing battle ever since. When the rainy season hits we see spikes in cases, especially in the area that we serve the most. We are very aware that many of the families affected by Cholera are in very rural areas, too far away from medical resources. Cholera, in a weakened immune system, can kill in 48 hours, and yet is completely preventable and treatable. As an organization we have focused on providing a tool for families to use to prevent the spread of Cholera so they don’t get sick in the first place. Every person drinking treated water exclusively is cutting off the spread of disease.
A canal in the Artibonite Valley.
This week we are seeing the long term impact of all the work that we do as an organization. This morning I spoke with Richard, our delivery co-ordinator that works with all of our Community Promoters to make sure that we’re meeting the demand for filters. The Promoters that he’s been in contact with over the weekend have reported that while some have lost gardens, there are a lot of people who now want filters because they know the threat of Cholera is very real and they’ve seen how those that have filters are not getting sick. Because there are few sanitation facilities, flooding leads to the spread of feces, the greatest contributor to the spread of Cholera and water borne disease. Those that have filters are not afraid for their health right now, because they know that they have a very effective way of protecting themselves.
As an organization we will always put a priority on being transparent and ethical in our fundraising efforts. We will always be honest with you about the reality, not exaggerating things just to raise funds. So, I am here being very honest with you right now in Irma’s wake – Haiti is not in crisis. We don’t need relief money right now. Not on the level that other countries do right now. Yes, there may be some communities that have had some impact, but it is not wide spread, and it is not a crisis. There might be some people or organizations that won’t like that I just said that, but I’m okay with that because it’s the honest truth.
We WILL tell you that we are hurting right now for finances because of a slump in donations, and that we would really appreciate your support as we continue to help families take control over their health. Your gifts WILL be effectively used. We’re seeing that this week as those families that would normally be heavily impacted by not having a source for clean water are drinking safe, clean water this week. It’s taken years to get here, but we’re rejoicing right now because we’re seeing all that hard work pay off.
Water sources like this are what most people have available to them in the Artibonite Valley.
We want to reach those families that are needing and wanting filters now, that don’t have another way to treat their water. But, we need your help. We would love it if you would donate so that the next time Haiti goes through a natural disaster, because we know that day will come again, those families will be equipped to care for themselves. Together we can help eliminate Cholera in Haiti. We’re on the way.
$100 will help provide a filter for a home. That filter will typically provide clean water, every single day, for 5-10 people. We visit each filter we install 3 times in the first year, and have just started 5 year visits. We know that over 95% of our filters will still be in use after the first year. That means that this time next year over 95 homes will still be using their filter in every 100 that we serve. In people that means over 475-950 people will daily have clean water available to them in their homes. They don’t have to buy it. They don’t have to worry that the water treatment boutique they might buy from, if they have money, isn’t working at 100%. They don’t have to worry that they only have canal water that looks like a mud puddle will be their only source. They will have control over the water they drink indefinitely for $100. $10-20 per person for long term life change. Seems like a great investment to me.