BAS LIMBE, Haiti — After 20 years of trips to Haiti, I still like to listen to newbies talk about their experiences as they travel to the poorest country in the western hemisphere. I watch their faces as we travel through Cap-Haitian to our remote village site and listen to their comments about how the Haitian people live.
The streets are packed with people and vendors are set up along the road selling an assortment of goods including fruits, bread, rice, charcoal, books and clothing. Although there are some mom and pop stores throughout the city, most commerce takes place on the streets.
Roads and hillsides are jammed with small homes or shacks, sometimes smaller than one room of my home in Kokomo. The smells of trash along the roads and fires for cooking always linger in the air. Dust is everywhere. Though the roads are mostly paved, the streets are rarely cleaned and most waste is dumped in the streets.
Three planes and a long, windy truck ride finally brought us to Bas Limbe and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, sister parish to Kokomo’s St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church. After more than a year of planning, our team of five arrived without one member of our team, Ryan Pownall, who never made it past Ft. Lauderdale where his passport was stolen.
With just eight days and an ambitious work plan, we began work right away. Haitian parishioners helped carry 50, 100-pound batteries to the second floor of the 450-student school and 16 solar panels to the roof, where we installed a new electrical system. This system replaces an electric generator that consumed about $6,000 worth of fuel a year.
Everything went smoothly until a drill bit broke, drilling through Kokomo contractor Gary Maggard’s wrist. Fortunately, he missed all major veins and arteries — nothing a good first aid kit and Ibuprofen could not fix.