SHALOM INSTITUTE (May 2010-July 2013)
Our initial partnership in Haiti is with a group of Haitians and Haitian Americans called Haitian American Caucus (HAC). This was an important collaboration with people who have been directly impacted or whose families and friends have been struggling to recuperate from the disaster of 2010. Together, and with other partners, we created a community center, Shalom Institute, to offer primary education courses, an array of sustainable agriculture initiatives, as well as vocational training to adults in Sustainable Agriculture, Women’s Empowerment, English, Appropriate Technology and Building, Literacy, Business Skills and Computer Science.
Primary school classes currently serve almost 150 local children in the mornings while six levels of standardized TOEFL classes are offered to dozens of men and women in the afternoons.
Shalom addresses women’s issues, from hygiene to empowerment through education and enterprise, in the community at our Women’s Group. Our women’s group celebrated their Two-Year Anniversary on March 11, 2013 and is almost entirely autonomous now. Way to go, ladies!
During Tropical Storm Tomas during October 2010, Ecole Shalom housed and supported twenty-three needy families from the immediate area.
Shalom quickly became a community hub, seminar site and small health treatment center/pharmacy to the residents of this area. This facility is currently an unfinished building on a .25acre parcel. One of PROViDE’s main goals as partner at Shalom was to develop the acreage into a school garden and demonstration site as well as to equip the facility with sustainable technologies such as dry-composting toilets, solar energy, and the use of local, sustainably extracted building materials.
Eventually we would like the facility to make its own twenty-four hour electricity using photovoltaic (solar) panels and small wind turbines, a sustainable organic garden, a community recyclable materials collection area, and other green building innovations.
In Spring of 2011 we connected to the power grid which “gives electricity” a few hours a day. We then store electricity with one dozen 12v batteries and an inverter to supply the facility with power during down times. This has allowed us cold food storage, a greater internet capacity (which is necessary for research, networking and fundraising), and better technology for our many course offerings.
To bring the computer courses to fruition Shalom needs Information Technologies (IT) equipment for a computer center. The compound now has a wireless internet connection that supports a simple communications infrastructure. One Laptop per Child worked with Shalom in 2011 to offer basic computer classes to children in first through sixth grade.
To decrease our reliance to on-site well water, we would like to build a rainwater catchment system on the tin roof. A grey water system to irrigate the garden that is under construction will help water use efficiency as well.
One of our collaborators, Grassroots United, through the lovely Emma Simpson, donated a SkyHydrant water purification system in 2010 that is still in use. With minimal maintenance, clean drinking water can be accessed by students, staff and visitors “straight from the tap” at Shalom. Over the past year, HAC also acquired a 2000gal tank so they now offer clean drinking water to the immediate community for a nominal fee.
PROViDE built a refuse incinerator, a compost system on the property, and is investigating innovative uses of non-burnable, non-biodegradable refuse such as plastic and an array of metal containers used at the compound.
One solution we found for metal refuse came about as a group of local artisans, Buisson Freres Metal Work, who collect tin and aluminum to create metal artwork we then bring to the states to sell for them.
One possibility for plastic refuse on the site and around the country is recycling it into industrial strength rope that can be used for an array of industry including fishing. We discussed this plan with an international company that has the technology but they are currently unwilling to open the doors of business in Haiti.
In February 2011 we held a community meeting to investigate the interest and feasibility of conducting micro-finance to small business owners, animal husbandry with goats, and a tree nursery to aid in reforesting this region. This meeting was an imperative preliminary step to investing the community to ensure long-term effectiveness. These programs are effectively developing and are driven by the community.
The micro-loan program began with 50 loans. During our partnership, HAC distributed 571 loans, 92% of which have gone to female entrepreneurs in the vicinity. As part of the animal husbandry program, over 100 goats have were distributed during our partnership.
Shalom acquired a .26acre plot on which we started creating a tree nursery, integrated agriculture demonstration site and community meeting center with a local farmer guild we are facilitating. Unfortunately, this land is now being used to build a home on by a Haitian-American living in New York City.
We facilitated substantial progress with the minimal resources available and look forward to drastically improving our initiatives in Haiti and beyond with more support, both fiscal and in-kind.
We wish HAC the best of luck and we feel blessed to maintain contact with much of the surrounding community for updates and check-ins.