Part 4: successful wells
I think that in our American culture, things that take time and involve any degree of uncertainty are often painful for us. This is true whether it is in business, in church, a nonprofit, a task, a house project, etc. We like to be as efficient and productive as possible. And that is usually how we define success.
One of the most important things I learned in Haiti, and heard over and over from our local partner Haiti Outreach (HO), was that these projects take time and trust. Every community is different. Each community will inevitably encounter a problem that they need to address, but it is always unique. And the community needs to be taught to confront it, address it. At first they may revert back to old habits of ignoring a problem, or being secretive. But the HO animator’s walk with the community and help them work out the problem and move on. And once they do this with success, they see that they can do so again should another problem arise.
When I finally stopped to think about it, the same is true for us. We are a part of different group dynamics and strong personalities in our school projects, workplaces, sports teams, book clubs, and religious institutions, etc, and they affect all of those groups differently. And most of us are bad about addressing our conflicts in these groups up front, too. Funny what we all have in common across the world.
It’s a process, not a formula
Neil Van Dine, the director HO, has been asked to consult for large and small nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) all over Haiti in the past decade on how they, too, can implement HO’s model of successful water projects. Many groups have even shadowed Neil and his staff to see it for themselves. But Neil said that most are not willing to take the time needed with each community to make them the pillar of the projects, and then adapt the schedule according to any issues that may arise. These groups have funding, so they want to put in a well now. It is easier for them that way, and then results can be reported to the donors. And unfortunately, they would rather just go back and fix the well once it breaks (or hire HO to do it), if they even do that.
Just like us, the people in Haiti that need water are not numbers; their communities are not merely checklists; programs cannot be mass executed like an algorithm; and problems that may pop up won’t magically dissolve if they are ignored.
I am encouraged by more conversations around this topic over the past year, not just in the water sector, but in the aid and development communities as a whole. And I am so grateful to have seen firsthand the hard but important work our partner, HO, is carrying out. I believe work like this brings real hope in a country that has been ravaged for decades with hardship and failed projects. My hope is that we can educate more donors on this important topic. And I know that you, like me, would like to see a higher success rate of functioning wells, to see more people receive sustainable access to water and sanitation, and ultimately, to be empowered to meet their own needs.
Water.org’s program with Haiti Outreach will rehabilitate 40 broken wells and drill 20 new ones in the rural areas of Pignon and St. Raphael, as well as carry out health and hygiene education, serving a total of 18,000 people. To date, 100% of wells drilled or repaired by Haiti Outreach are still operational.
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Thank you for being a part of this important work with me, friends.
– Erin Swanson, Water.org Communications & New Media Coordinator