Overview by Trip Coordinator Becky Evans
The School for the Eco Villages community is open! Forty five children, in grades 1, 2, and 3, are receiving an education today that were not in school before! On Friday, October 10, our Seeds of Hope delegation enjoyed a wonderful introduction to the school, meeting with the students, parents, and teachers on-site. The delegation included six representatives from three churches in the Atlanta Church Group: Becky Evans, Pat Murphy, Joan Edgerton from North Decatur Presbyterian Church; Kathryn Hornsby from Emory Presbyterian; Eddie Ramos from Good Shepherd Presbyterian; and Myriame Jean Pierre, our Haitian American translator.
Our delegation also spent important time in meetings with Chavannes Jean Baptiste, Director of MPP, and Wendy Flick, the Haiti Project Leader with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, reviewing the Phase I budget, problems and resolutions in building and opening the school, and discussing needs for Phase II.
Visiting with the leaders and families of the EcoVillages 1 and 2 was especially rewarding. There are many children who are not yet being served by the school, and seeing these children in their village motivated us to move forward with continuing our support for the school!
Report on the EcoVillages School by Kathryn Hornsby
This was my first visit to Haiti. We visited the school that is being built for the EcoVillages. The students have been in school for two weeks. For some of these kids, this was probably the first time they have been to school, and it was clear they are excited to be in school. In the rooms are desks, a teachers' supply cabinet, and a chalkboard. The children use pencils and paper. There is no electricity right now. The bathroom is a latrine separate from the school. Forty-five children attend the school (grades one, two and three). Grades one and two meet in the morning and the third graders attend in the afternoon. Currently there are only two classrooms. They are clean. There are no additional instructional aides.
We interviewed all three teachers. The third grade teacher came from Port-au-Prince. His home was destroyed and his wife killed during the earthquake. He moved to the EcoVillage to start over. He was very excited to be given the opportunity to teach again.
The students don't receive meals or have uniforms yet. Usually students in Haiti get two meals and wear uniforms. After meeting the teachers and the director (their term for the principal) and spending some time at the school, I am optimistic for the future of the school and hope we can continue our partnership with MPP.
Report on Phase 1 Seeds of Hope EcoVillage School by Pat Murphy
Site Visit: Upon visiting the site we saw a partial building constructed. This building housed 2 offices and 2 classrooms, with a covered walkway bordering the rooms. The building was well-built of solid masonry construction, steel bar joists, and metal roofing and steel doors for security. The interior and exterior walls were finished with a sanded masonry, but there were few other finishes. There was little other site work done at this point. The traditional Haitian Latrine was simple, but matched the quality of the one at the neighboring government-supported school in Bassin Zim.
My view is overall the construction was of solid quality and a value for the $63,000 spent. The cost was around $25/sq ft. Even though there are no electrical or HVAC costs, this is a reasonable cost for the structure.
Before proceeding with Phase II, it is important to verify with MPP that the well for the school has been completed with Phase I funds. MPP has been waiting for a necessary part to fix the well digging machine.
At the meetings with Chavannes Jean-Baptiste on Oct 9 and 10th, he reported on the status of the Phase 1 construction. Before we had departed for Haiti, we were aware that the original construction budget was inaccurate, and that our expectations of 3 completed classrooms and the start of a sustainable garden would have to be limited.
Financial Report to date
Construction of 2 classrooms, 2 offices, 1 latrine Budget: $32,000 Actual: $63,212.00
Foundation for 3rd classroom
Salaries for 1st year – 3 teachers and director Budget: $15,150 Actual: $12,345.00
Guard and Custodian
Books, Supplies, Furniture Budget: $5,766.94
Well – to be built Budget: $10,000 Actual: $ 7,000.00
Total Actual $88,323.94*
Chavannes proposed, and after meeting with the parents and teachers, we agreed that the remaining $11,000 in the Phase I budget go to uniforms and a simple meal of milk with peanut butter and cassava bread for the students, starting in January. So there is no agricultural development funding in Phase I.
Report on Visiting the EcoVillages by Eddie Ramos
The EcoVillage project is an effort from Mouvement Paysan Papaye (MPP), Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) to help construct homes for people displaced by the Haitian earthquake of 2010. With the financial support from PDA and UUSC, MPP has spearheaded the building, development and training of displaced people in traditional agricultural processes. The goal of the EcoVillage project is to foster sustainability with the land and the people. We had the privilege to visit with two of the EcoVillages (EcoVillage 1 and 2).
We first visited with the people of EcoVillage 2. At this village we met with the President and Secretary in the community building at the EcoVillage. This building serves as a meeting, work and entertainment center and sometime works as a detention center. (We learned from people in EcoVillage 1, that when criminals are captured they are detained in the community building until the authorities arrive.) The community building was clean but empty – he apologized for not having any chairs for us to sit in.
The leader explained to us the structure of the EcoVillages with the homes located around the community center. He also gave us information about the leadership organization of the EcoVillage. He told us of his experience with farming, the ups and downs, and invited us to see the community garden. He gave us the layout of the community plot, told us of the crops that the community is growing and he gave us a tour of his home and family garden. There we met his lovely wife. I took a photograph of the two and promised to get them a picture.
We also heard about some of the village needs/wants. The water well needs repair, and they need/want electricity in their central building. (He joked that they are from Port-au-Prince and that they are used to lights at night.) He also told us of a need for transportation (motorcycle) that is sorely needed when medical emergencies occur; at night they are at the mercy of travelers to get help. He told us of a pregnant woman that had complications and waited a long time to flag someone down on the main road to get her to help.
He also shared the good things about the village life. A number of children have been born at the EcoVillage, and he is happy that they were born at a time and place like the present time in the EcoVillages at Papaye. These children will not grow up in the poverty and devastation that he has witnessed. His wife also mentioned that she loves living in the EcoVillage and she feels “at ease”. This resonated with me, as I could see that she beamed of peace in her new home.
At EcoVillage 1, we met with the president of the EcoVillage. Again, we met in the community building. Immediately, you could tell that this village was further along that the first village we visited. As we walked into the building, they had chairs, benches and tables. In addition, EcoVillage 1 had solar power that they used to power a small grid to provide electricity to the homes at the village. The community building had a small television on which they had watched the Haitian national soccer team play the night before. The building was also full of corn that they had harvested and had begun shelling. Some of the corn will be kept for seed, some will saved as stock and some will be sold.
Speaking with EcoVillage 1 president, we didn’t hear about their needs. We heard about their dreams. He expressed thanks for the EcoVillage school, and told us his villagers want education classes started for the adults. He was very thankful for everything and humbled by the generosity of everyone involved with the EcoVillages. He also mentioned transportation being an issue and a need for a plan to get that issue resolved. My impression is he is a great leader, and in the short 30 months of this EcoVillage's existence, he has helped navigate them to a successful start.
As we walked through EcoVillage 1, we saw an organized and manicured environment. Trees had fruit, vegetables were growing in the garden, the tire gardens had seedling and all the homes had decorative flowers and plants that made their homes inviting. The village had well water and had many water faucets located throughout the village. We didn’t visit the community garden but we were told that their community garden land was the best in the area for growing corn. I think he was being humble and was downplaying his hard work.
Overall, our trip, including our visits with the EcoVillages, was very educational. I learned that the EcoVillages and MPP are Presbyterian (i.e., democratic) in their organization. The local organization consists of an elected president, secretary and a treasurer. They also have a local assembly, regional assembly and a general assembly. For the general assembly – one male, one female and one youth are elected to attend. It is this organization, leadership and hard work at each EcoVillage that is helping make these EcoVillages sovereign. Like parents everywhere, the EcoVillage parents want access to health care and to provide a good education to their children.