Last week, I worked with a group from the US called 21 Stones led by Pam Peoples and her husband Owen who I met last spring when they were visiting an orphanage in Delmas 75. They began planning with me during the summer to return with water filtration systems to distribute to families I take care of in the ravine and around Delmas 24. I was nervous - anytime a group of 13 foreigners is giving things away there is very high potential for rioting and violence or at the very least, a lot of resentment towards me and my staff for not having enough for absolutely everyone in the city!
During the week prior, I sent Lucson and Wesnal out with 90 little cards. They gave the cards to the families we treat most often and to other families that they know are particularly needy. Then on the first day, we worked inside the clinic at Delmas 24. Everything went like clockwork; in fact, things were so under control that I actually admitted a few additional people to receive the extra filters, something I would normally avoid at all costs for security reasons.
The second day, we trained and distributed in the ravine on Delmas 31. I had tried to rent the large warehouse where we did food distribution last year, but the caretaker wanted an exorbitant amount so we settled on the tarp-covered area in a corner of a tent city. At Delmas 24, we controlled the crowd effortlessly because we were inside a building working behind closed doors. Here though, there was no obvious barrier between the Americans, the people chosen to receive water filters and those who would not receive. I had 4 of my Delmas 24 staff as bodyguards and "bouncers" but I was still a little anxious when we arrived.
Remarkably, the training and distribution went seamlessly. We roped off the area and easily kept spectators outside the rope while we admitted small groups of recipients. The visitors would train 4 or 5 Haitians at a time how to use the hand pump filter system, they would make each person demonstrate the technique and then they would all, American and Haitian alike, drink the filtered water. I have tried since the earthquake to get the people in my neighborhood to drink filtered water but they have refused so I was thrilled to see group after group cheerfully drinking the water! And unlike last spring when over 300 people rioted during the food distribution, only one person got boisterous. Everyone else made gentle reproaches ("Why don't you have one for me?" "Can't the Americans give us food too?" "You should bring more next time, Kez!") or merely watched intently.
In addition to my usual translators, Sendhie and Josilien, three of my youth group kids joined us as translators. Ruth, Junior and Anthony have been at youth group longer than I have and they are part of what we call "the core", a sub group of about 20 teens that is sincerely serious about growing in their faith. They did a great job translating for us. I wish they didn't have to go to school so I could use them more often.
What could have been a scary and overwhelming few days instead was a very effective and helpful experience. I have already heard from several families that they are using the pumps regularly, and we are all looking forward to 21 Stones' next visit to Haiti.