October 2016 saw Hurricane Matthew tear through the South and Grand Anse Departments of Haiti, and sent high winds, much rain and storm surges all along the Southern coastline of Haiti. This weather flooded the town of Belle Anse and destroyed some of the security walls surrounding the yard and buildings where our preschool, Ebel’s Foyer des Petits is currently housed.
In November 2016, on the 9th of the month to be exact, as our country was reeling from the results of the presidential election, Pierre and I flew to Haiti to have a look at the damage to the preschool yard. The trip was a welcome reprieve from the political chaos in our own country that was so draining. And after it was over, as we returned to Lansing, a plastic shopping bag floated across the road, catching on my rear-view mirror…all I could think was that aside from access to so much, the complacency about the environment and the consequences of our consumption are no different, we casually drop trash to the ground – we drop our trash into containers and send it to landfills more frequently, but there is not a conscious concern about producing waste and where it goes after it leaves our homes or our hands.
Our November trip was filled with some new adventures as the rains following Hurricane Matthew had not yet subsided, every day there was rain. The worst occurred during an excursion from Belle Anse to the little seaside town of Grand Grosier. The road ahead of the vehicle became a system of small streams as we bumped along to our destination. Down a winding narrow road we went and found ourselves in a quaint village by the sea – a surreal feeling crept over me as I felt I might be in a little Italian seaside town yet the faces that smiled at me were dark and there was obvious poverty around me, so that couldn’t be! We had only time to take a short stroll by the water, photograph the children on the steps nearby and return to the auto to drive back in the darkness.
At the preschool we found a 20-foot section of the wall had been taken out by the hurricane, the well need to be better protected and the bigger children were helping the littler ones up into the classroom space.
Back in Port-au-Prince, we met some wonderful folks at the guesthouse, one who would return to Haiti with us on a later trip. Our stays in Port-au-Prince are important to our work as they allow us to connect with others and their organizations, to pick each others’ brains and discover resources both physical and intellectual.
As the year turned to 2017, the feeling of despair I had upon returning in November, continued to grow within me, and my focus began to turn to planning my return to Haiti to help repair the preschool security wall, the well that is situated in the middle of the schoolyard and was covered with a rusted and ragged sheet of corrugated tin and the construction of steps up to the classroom so the preschool children would not have to navigate the 18+ inch rise to the platform where the desks are located.