Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina

Changing Lives in Haiti

Bread and Water Update from the Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries Fall 2012

Holidays and vacations certainly come as a welcome friend to all, whether the relief is from studying in school or a job. Regardless of one’s situation, time off is quickly accepted and appreciated. For several Clemson University students, the few days away from classes during the fall break were well spent.

Michael Ladue helping oversee installation of new turbineA total of ten students and an advisor of Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries (CEDC) spent their break in the Central Plateau of Haiti working to help install a third water pump as part of the “Bread and Water Campaign” and to gather information on future projects. CEDC is a Creative Inquiry class at Clemson University that is comprised of various majors whose mission is to “work with local communities in the Central Plateau of Haiti to develop sustainable solutions that improve the quality of life through interdisciplinary student-led initiatives that embody our core values in partnership with Clemson University, non-profit organizations, and industry.” CEDC partners closely with the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina to raise the necessary funds to help the people of Haiti. The class is divided into groups that span everything from communications, to public health, to designing communal kitchens. CEDC embraces the core values of accountability, commitment, and service both in the classroom and in Haiti.

A team effort to install the pumpThe ten students and an industry advisor left very early in morning on Friday, October 12, 2012 to begin their five day trip to Haiti. After a long day of traveling, the group arrived at the Zanmi Lasante compound in the village of Cange where they were to stay for the remainder of the trip. Zanmi Lasante means Partners in Health in Kreyol which is the spoken language of the Central Plateau of Haiti. CEDC and Partners in Health have had a long standing relationship, and the compound in Cange currently houses two Clemson interns that work fulltime in Haiti. This compound acts as a school, a health clinic, a hospital, provides economic development, and most importantly is the spiritual center of Cange. Bon Saveur, the Episcopal Church in Cange, is where it all started. It is essential for the area of Cange for both public health and education.

Making aggregate at CMU factorySaturday morning marked the beginning of what was to be several days of hard work, and for a majority of those on the trip, the first experience with Haitian culture. Some of the group went to work installing a pump in a new pump house in Bas Cange, while others went to Terra Blanche and a concrete masonry unit (CMU) factory. The group working in Bas Cange spent their time working to install a pump that would help provide water for a portion of the surrounding area.

Those in Terra Blanche were given an opportunity to see, firsthand, the poverty that overwhelms much of rural Haiti. Jeffrey Zimmerman recounted some of the experiences seeing the poverty in the village. “We expect every town to have certain elements, such as a post office, bank, and town hall. In Haiti, villages are composed of houses and plots of land with seemingly loose boundaries. It was hard for me to tell where one family’s property stopped and another’s began. Infrastructure is essentially nonexistent in this area of Haiti.” The visit to Terra Blanche was intended to evaluate a schoolhouse in the village. The current school building is made entirely from locally obtained material and has a dirt floor with tarps and thatch for a roof. A plan was formed in conjunction with the Haitians to build a modular school, which allows Haitians and Americans to build parts of the school as funds are accumulated. The trip to the CMU block factory was intended to find a sustainable way to bring the factory to international standards (ASTM). This visit allowed the students to collect more information on how to help the Haitians improve their building materials.

On Sunday, the group of students had the opportunity attend church and get a tour of the Zanmi Lasante Compound. Sunday finished with an opportunity to embrace the Haitian culture that was new to both the students and advisor. That evening, there was a celebration, called a Vey, which is equivalent to an American wake before a funeral. Haitians truly celebrate the lives of those who pass away by singing, dancing, and socializing. One student said that he “had never observed the strong sense of community anywhere else.” Another said that he felt as if he was “partaking in an important Haitian tradition just as one of the [Haitian] workers would.” It was truly a great opportunity for students to immerse themselves in a new culture and experience the joy of many of the Haitian people.

Classroom environment at CFFLMonday was spent much the same way as Saturday, as some of the group went to CFFL (Centre de Formation Fritz Lafontant) a vocational school not far from Cange while others continued work on the new pumping system. The trip to the school allowed those students to observe the education system in Haiti, while the Public Health portion of the Clemson class was able to assess public health curriculum in the school. This gave the group an opportunity to better plan how to advocate public health in Haiti.

The group finished up work on Monday and returned safely to the United States Tuesday evening; however, the trip had a far more lasting effect than its five day duration. The main purpose of the trip was accomplished because the third water pump was successfully installed in Bas Cange. In addition, valuable information was collected to help improve the school in Terra Blanche, inducing economic development by improving the quality standards at the CMU block factory, and by advocating public health as part of the curriculum in the Haitian schools. For the students it was an opportunity to experience a new culture, learn valuable information in their field of study, and most importantly, partner with Haitians to improve their quality of life. Brianna Noblin summed up her trip by saying, “The visit really opened my eyes to the needs of others and provided a purpose for the classes I am taking now.” Not only will these students have a clearer image of the projects and goals they seek to accomplish in class, but a sense of accountability, knowing that they are held responsible for making a difference in the lives of Haitians.

Students and locals combining efforts to install a valveThe partnership between EDUSC and CEDC is continuing to grow. The students of CEDC are helping oversee our projects in Haiti which improves engineering and construction standards and offers both cost and schedule certainty. The local population is seeing improvements in public health, gaining much needed skills, and striving for economic development; and most of all, we are seeing a generation of young morally straight students change the world and in turn themselves.

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