If cholera resulted in broad policy of building latrines with every project where it is appropriate, it is simply a new dilemna tthat we face when we heard about "Chikungunya". We have not only heard of it but on the day of the celebration of Lambi Fund's 20th anniversary in Camp Perrin, there were 11 people at our proximity suffering with a debilitating fever, joint pain, rashes, immobility. A mosquito borne fever, it is infecting like wild fire and the projection is that 50% of the population will be affected by this desease that is very little known. The Center for Disease Control in the United States affirms that there is no known treatment for the active period and its sequelae.
I immediately think of the farmer in the rainy season and the potential to contract this infection by mosquito bites. Our field monitor contracted Chikengunya and was disabilitated for days. For our farmers without any institutional support from the department of health and any other institution of the State, what options and alternatives do they have? The call for infrastructure building is past due, even as the discussion on minimum wage wagers on in Haiti, it is hard to detect any way the rural farmer is protected and preserved to continue its hard work.
Latrines will continue to evolve, but it is the inclusion of the voice of the farmer and the focus on the public good that will ultimately improve his participation in the democratic processes in Haiti and improve his quality of life.
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I remember last February going to visit one of our animal husbandry project in the south of Haiti, near . We travelled three and half hours and there was no pitt stop for any urgent need. Arriving in Chantal, everyone was scurrying to find a restroom. to no avail. It took the cholera for all of us program providers to acknowledge that sanitary conditions is an integral emelment of development and improving the quality of living in the areas we are working. Since the epidemic of Cholera started in 2011 and over 7,500 persons have died and over 150,000 gotten deathly ill, it has reframed the issue of potable water and sanitation for all concerned.
With your help the Lambi Fund placed 30 latrines strategically in the projects where there is public gathering such as the mills, where thousand of rural farmers gather during the harvesting season to transform their grains into eatable cereals to take to the market. None of the mills had a restroom and access to water to wash hands and assure sanitation.
Not only we embarked on a campaign to inform the people how to prevent the transmission of the cholera virus based on the public health model and method targeting the rural area , we teach the people how to set up hand washing stations to sanitize hands before and after using the restroom and at the entry of the mills. We also define a new policy for project development. The Lambi fund will develop toilets and acccess to water for hands washing in all projects being built effective immediately. Your contribution will assure that we continue to practice these preventive and safety measures throughout the rural areas where we have forged partnership to improve the living conditions in Haiti.
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They traveled by dusty dirt roads, through the mountains, on the back of a moto-taxi, crammed into the back of a colorful tap-tap and many walked a good part of the journey. In all, 36 leaders of grassroots organizations arrived in Ennery, Haiti eager and excited—albeit a bit tired—but ready to begin their training. Nine partner organizations with the Lambi Fund of Haiti were present and the participants were young and old, male and female—20 women and 16 men in all. These grassroots leaders are Haiti's hardworking farmers, enterprising female merchants and upcoming youth that are pouring their blood and sweat into changing Haiti for the better—and they came to attend Lambi Fund's 2013 conference for the Artibonite region on civic education, gender equity and how to lead more democratic organizations.
Clearly, this was quite an ambitious agenda for just four days. So, early on September 9th, after sitting down for a communal meal of eggs, bananas, piping hot coffee and bread rolls, Lambi Fund's facilitators got straight to work.
Day one had the task of providing an introductory course on civic education in Haiti. This included a brief history on slavery, Haiti's independence, and democracy today. Discussions of what it means to be a citizen, a citizen's role in society and the rights of a citizen were all covered.
For most, this was their first formal discussion about what it meant to be a citizen of Haiti and what rights and responsibilities accompany being a citizen. Voting and participating in Haiti's democracy and advocating for certain changes in their community are all part of being an engaged citizen. There was a lot of talk about participating, speaking up when things are going wrong and being proud of Haiti and its flag.
Part of this included discussing each person's human and civil rights – the right to food, a home, security, health and an education.
An engaged young manand member of OPMO, emphatically stated, “This training is working us up so that we can go homeand change things.” After discussing Haitians' rightsand responsibilities as citizens, another responded, "The development should come from us. Only this will happen when we step up." A woman from APEAG said, "Before this education, I didn't know anything about these topics at all. Now I know much more and understand how we should strive to live and the type of country we can and should be."
Next on the agenda was discussing the imbalance of men and women in society. By default, many participants assumed that their homes and organizations are models of equality, yet as the trainers delved deeper into what it means to have equality, several interesting topics arose.
From the get-go, there was a consensus that women are just as good as men and that they should have the same rights. Once trainers explored this a bit more and teased out what equality means within the contextof society, interesting discussions emerged.
For instance, there was a lot of discussion about the unfair burden of work that falls on a Haitian woman's shoulders. She must cook, clean the house, fetch water, watch after the children, tend the fields, wash clothes, go to the mill to have their grains milled, and then find time to go to market to buy and sell goods. Participants recognized that a man, however, will come home, say he is hungry and demand that dinner be ready. He never offers to help with the meal if she is overwhelmed with work because that is "woman's work."
Many laughed at the thought of a man helping his wife prepare a meal, but when it was shared that women often eat the remaining scraps in another room or forgo meals altogether to feed their husbands and boys, many nodded as they acknowledged the unspoken practice. Throughout Haiti, women face much higher rates of malnutrition.
One woman from APEAG was especially inspired withthis discussion. She stated, "[Before this training,] I didn't know what gender equity was. I used to hear people talk about it, but I never quite understood what they meant. Now I know that it's not about just holding our organizations to this standard. Although I have more boys than girls, four boys and one girl, I used to put all the weight of the chores on my girl and me. She had to carry the water, help with cooking and cleaning and now I know I can spread out the chores more evenly."
Solange Michelle from OPMO declared, "From now on, when I cook for my husband, I'm going to make two plates - one for me and one for him. I'm not going to eat scraps out of the bowl in the corner anymore…and if there aren't two pieces we both won't eat or we'll share."
The discussion then moved past the home to discuss women's place in society – the clothes they are expected to wear, how their hair should look, the tendency to send boys to school over girls, and how women are represented in society. Clearly these are diverse topics with deeply embedded social undertones, yet most participants agreed that women should look, act, and behave in a way that is "feminine," while males are expected to be "strong" and "brave."
One of the older men in the group said, "Women are taking big and important posts [in society and the government] and this is something we need to continue to work on for the next 5, 10, 55, years so that we see more of this."
By no means does Lambi Fund think that the few days set aside to discuss the imbalance of women in society will radically transform or magically create communities throughout Haiti that are equitable for both men and women, but one can be certain that seeds of change were planted and some social norms that had never before been questioned are now being looked at in a different light. Perhaps the most hopeful statement was from a young woman from ACHVRO, "This training was especially important in regards to gender equity. I don't have a family yet, but now I know how I should balance my family when I do."
The last and final component of Lambi Fund's training was providing the participants with practical tools to return home and share this information with their organization members. Methods of “animation” or group singing, role-playing, and dancing - which are common activities in Haitian grassroots organizations, were covered.
Vita, one of the trainers, taught participants new songs and showed the grassroots leaders how to educate and share certain topics through animation. In addition, a great deal of time was spent covering what types of characteristics make a leader democratic and what makes a leader authoritarian. In that same regard, members shared what kind of practices within organizations actively include and exclude its members.
Both the trainers and participants also reflected on what makes up a truly inclusive and democratic organization and they shared with one another how to lead meetings that are efficient and productive. It is hoped, that as a result of this training, these participants whoare leaders of organizations in their community will return home witha newfound sense of motivation. Beyond acquiring some toolsand techniques for making their organizations stronger, hopefully, these leaders will relay some of the concepts discussed.
Quite possibly they will become advocates for certain rights and issues in their communities, use the network of leaders they met at the training as resources and allies and maybe, just maybe, these grassroots organizations will begin to see the strength in working collectively and in valuing each person as an equal. Here's to the next chapter in Haiti.
Work to build latrines in rural Haiti continues as the Lambi Fund of Haiti has set the goal of building ten additional latrines in 2013. These latrines will be maintained by five grassroots organizations throughout the country. Currently, Lambi Fund staff members are working with partner organizations to identify appropriate locations for the construction of these buildings. Early discussions have identified community grain mills, sugar cane mills and community centers as prime locations. Members have prioritized these locations because they are public places, where the community meets. Having access to a bathroom in these areas will greatly improve public health and overall cleanliness of the surrounding environment.
In addition to mapping out plans for these impending latrines, Lambi Fund staff is working with partner grassroots organizations to prepare for the fast-approaching rainy season. With the rainy season, come increased rates of cholera infection. As such, meetings that discuss prevention strategies and water hygiene are taking place.
All in all, Lambi Fund staff members and our community partners are continuing their efforts to strengthen overall access to sanitation in rural Haiti. With each new latrine comes improved privacy for citizens, health and wellbeing. Cheers!
The Lambi Fund of Haiti staff members recently visited projects throughout the country and met with grassroots partners to receive updates and to learn more about the daily challenges they are facing. One such memorable meeting was with the Saint Martin Youth Association for Community Development (AJSDC). This group, founded by youth members in the community, is doing fantastic work to increase economic opportunities in their area and to improve overall living conditions for its members.
AJSDC partnered with Lambi Fund to build a grain mill in their community and one component of this project was building latrines adjacent to the mill. During this visit we had the opportunity to not only tour the grain mill, but to see the bright and shiny latrines out back!
While latrines may sound like the most glamorous addition to a project, these latrines are making a significant impact in the community. Before their installation, grain mill customers were left to "do their business" wherever they could find a bit of privacy. As you can imagine, this is both difficult and unsanitary. Now, the latrines are providing proper bathrooms to grain mill customers and the surrounding environment is cleaner and healthier - while cross-contamination with grains is now no longer a concern.
Mesi ampil for helping make these latrines a reality in AJSDC's community! Lambi Fund's work is not complete though as we have numerous locations that continue to require the installation of latrines and we hope that you continue to support these efforts.
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