Just Keep Juggling
It’s been a long time since we’ve posted anything here on the blog. So sorry about that! I feel like what we do is always a fine balance of juggling a lot of different balls all at once. It all revolves around getting filters out to families and households, but there’s a lot that goes into that, and the work doesn’t always look like we think it might.
For example, writing blog posts. It’s not just about updating everyone on what’s going on here, it’s about telling stories. It’s about bringing you into things here and allowing you to be part of it from where you sit reading this. You might not be able to travel to Haiti (though we would love it if you did) but you can be here in other ways seeing how important the work we’re doing is. When we get a chance to share here, or through social media, we’re expanding our reach and allowing others to join us on this journey.
In the every day stuff, some of those “balls” that we keep in the air are things like making sure all our vehicles are working well and reliably. It’s making sure the finances are all up to date so we know where we stand with things. It’s having the right staff in place, and having them trained well to do their jobs. It’s working with our Board of Directors, volunteers and people who are doing various jobs to make this whole thing work. It’s communicating with donors and supporters. It’s building relationships within our community. It’s trying to work in a way that is truly helping Haiti rather than doing more long term damage.
In any given day you’ll see all of the following happening…
Along with everything that goes on out in the work yard, there’s everything that happens in the office, doing errands, hosting guests… it can be a long list some weeks.
So how do we get to the point where things run like a well oiled machine, even with so many “balls” in the air?
The short answer is that we build up an amazing team of people.
The team that we have here at Clean Water for Haiti is truly amazing. There is no other word for it. But, that hasn’t come without a lot of hard work from all sides.
When you work cross-culturally it can take a very long time to get to a point beyond just being friendly with people. There can be huge miscommunications. There can be a lot of frustration. There can be a lot of everything, and sometimes it feels overwhelming.
We have gone through times in the mission’s history, where things were really hard with our staff. We’ve all had to learn a lot, and a big part of that has come with being vulnerable and working to trust each other. Our staff have seen countless numbers of foreigners come into the country, do what they want, and then leave. We’ve had to not only show that we’re here for the long term, but also that we truly value the people that our staff are, and that their ideas and input are not only needed, but wanted. When you live and work in a country with a past drenched in slavery and colonialism, these are really difficult things to overcome.
In the past 5-6 years we have seen a huge shift in our staff. We’ve set a high bar for them to reach, and they have not only done that, but shot past it in so many ways. Part of that has been us telling them over and over that we know they could do it. Part of it has been setting an example by maintaining those standards. If you say, “This is the bar,” but don’t consistently hold people to that, you won’t ever reach the bar. Over time, we’ve developed a standard of what it means to be a CWH employee, and now, it’s our staff that hold each other to that standard.
A perfect example of this is Evens, our Foreman. He’s been with us since 2005, when he was still going to school for part of each work day so he could finish his secondary education. Over the years we’ve seen him grow into a man of character that we very much respect. Recently, while doing an interview with a potential employee, Chris had to step out for a minute so Evens continued on with the interview. The very first words out of his mouth were, “At Clean Water for Haiti we’re a family…” He then went on to explain that in our family we don’t accept theft, lying, etc. I smiled to myself as I worked at my desk because I loved that our staff tell other people this about working here. We’ve worked so hard to get here!
At other times I’ve seen our staff get frustrated with something that an employee does that results in them getting fired, because in their minds it’s foolish. We have had employees go through disciplinary action from us as Directors for something that maybe didn’t warrant needing to be fired, but a bit of time to think about things and choose a better path. The other staff have their own discipline that happens in those moments too, because as they’ve told me – CWH is like a chain, and when one member of the chain does something they shouldn’t, it breaks the chain and they need to earn their way back in.
Our staff really set the tone for how things are here at CWH. When we have visitors, especially those that speak Creole and understand a bit about Haiti, who go out with our team for some reason, it brings us so much joy and satisfaction when they tell us what an amazing job our team do out in the field. To hear that the communities they go into respect them and very much value the work they do, as well as the organization as a whole. Our team have built up a reputation that reaches farther than we know.
Yes, running all of this sometimes feels overwhelming, but when things are running well, it’s the best kind of overwhelming, and right now, it’s the best kind of overwhelming.
In the past few months our team has done an incredible amount of work, and Chris and I sit here just feeling blown away by all of it. When we started developing plans for the new facilities, we knew we wanted to double our capacity, which meant building things so we can build and install 400 filters per month. We’ve been pushing toward that goal for several years, but still thought it was out of reach. This summer our staff have proved that it wasn’t as far off as we thought.
In the month of July our team installed 441 filters. As of the end of the work day yesterday (Wednesday) our team has installed 391 filters. They’re out on a delivery today, and another one is scheduled for tomorrow. If all of those filters get installed we’ll end up doing over 450 filters this month. What has been the most surprising is that we’ve done this with a broken down truck that needs a motor rebuild, and another truck that was down for several days for repairs, too. We’ve also managed to keep up with all of the follow up and repairs that have needed to be done.
We’re ecstatic to see this happening, and we know that our part in this is to just keep all the balls in the air and keep this well oiled machine running.