Our initial partnership in Haiti is with a group of Haitians and Haitian Americans called Haitian American Caucus (HAC). This is 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 we are building 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 English 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 One-Year Anniversary on March 11, 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 is quickly becoming a sustainable community hub, demonstration site and small health treatment center/pharmacy to the residents of this area. This facility is currently an unfinished building on a .25acre parcel of land that will be completed using regional, and sustainable, green building materials and techniques to integrate with local, traditional knowledge.
Eventually we would like the facility to have twenty-four hour electricity using photovoltaic (solar) panels and small wind turbines, a sustainable organic garden, a 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 eight 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, 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 has joined Shalom to offer basic computer classes to our children in first through sixth grade.
We are currently examining the possibility of retrofitting an outhouse as a dry composting toilet that will enhance the garden soil and decrease the amount of refuse produced at the compound.
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, has donated a SkyHydrant water purification system. We now offer clean drinking water to students, staff and visitors “straight from the tap” at Shalom. Over the past year, HAC also acquired a 2000gal tank so we now offer clean drinking water to the immediate community.
PROViDE has 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.
We are working with a group of local artisans, Buisson Freres Metal Work, to collect our tin and aluminum to create metal artwork. 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 with 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 is 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. HAC has now distributed 571 loans, 92% of which have gone to female entrepreneurs in the vicinity. As part of the animal husbandry program, 67 goats have now been distributed.
Shalom acquired a .26acre plot on which we are creating a tree nursery, integrated agriculture demonstration site and community meeting center with a local farmer guild we are facilitating.
We are making substantial progress with the minimal resources currently available to us and look forward to drastically improving our initiatives with more support, both fiscal and in-kind.