Becca, an EDV volunteer, pouring filtered water
From the minute Britt and I walked into EDV’s house/office on January 10, 2011, it was obvious how involved in and on top of their many projects Emma Taylor, the organization’s logistical coordinator, was. Between questions from us about their work, she’d alternately answer a phone call about where and what time six of EDV’s current 8 volunteers were to be that afternoon, how many copies of their educational materials they needed for the next day’s teacher training – to teach Haitian teachers how to instruct on health topics such as cholera prevention - and when they would pick up their left-over wood and tin from the classroom they’d finished building that day. All of these are examples of the community-based work EDV has implemented since arriving in Haiti last summer.
A true community-based disaster recovery organization, EDV entered Haiti in June 2010 to assess the country’s post-emergency recovery needs. Their first step was to organize a community meeting, in which people were invited to discuss what was needed most to improve life and livelihoods in their communities. That one meeting was pretty much all it took for EDV to be flooded with a long list of projects, some of which I referred to above. EDV's t-shirts state that they are “changing the lives of survivors and volunteers worldwide,” which explains their model well. In a given week, they have anywhere from five to twenty volunteers staying in their house. While many are medical workers choosing to donate their services and supplies in Haiti, others are what they consider “strong hearts and strong backs” (i.e. non-medical volunteers) who are equally welcome and appreciated. The needs and wants of the community will determine how long they stay in Haiti, but for now they think they’ll be there for at least another year. In general, they’re trying to help the community find necessary resources and become self-sufficient. Their biggest objectives are healthcare, education, and jobs, so there is no shortage of projects to work on.
Emma and crew showed us a few examples of their work that day, the first of which was an orphanage called Le Main Tendre. Operating on the site of a former voodoo church, whose giant domed ceiling collapsed (in one piece) during the earthquake, it’s amazing they are able to house and teach all thirty-three of the children, from one-month-old to ten-years-old, who stay there. The community decided they wanted education first and foremost, so they’ve established transitional classrooms, where they hold regular classes and health clinics. And now that the classrooms are in place and functioning with volunteer teachers, their focus is on shelter. They are currently in tents and tin-roofed huts next to the collapsed church. They have city power and water but their current living situation is not a viable long-term arrangement for the orphans and caretakers. They say they have seen consistent improvement in the children’s health since they started working with them, and we hope that will only continue when the shelter situation is improved.
The orphanage's youngest children
Math class in session
Collapsed voodoo church's dome