Wednesday, September 15, 2010

THE WORK FOR HAITI PROJECT, Photographs by Martha Rial 

(The above link takes you to the complete Work For Haiti slideshow and audio presentation.)

This multimedia slideshow was created by Martha Rial, an independent photojournalist whose credits include a 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography.  Martha was hired by Hopital Albert Schweitzer to create 2 multimedia slideshow presentations based on HAS projects of her choice; she chose HAS’s Cash For Work program as one of her subjects.  This “Work For Haiti” slideshow is the result. 

UN/OCHA Inspectors Visit Our Deschapelles Team

UN/OCHA Inspectors, Laetitia Rougeron & Caroline Peuget meet on-site with Water Systems Project Mgr., Renold Estime.
After making the 2 1/2 hour drive from Port au Prince to Deschapelles, UN/OCHA Inspectors Leatitia Rougeron and Caroline Peuget visited with each of the the Cash for Work project teams to see the results of Hospital Albert Schweitzer’s 3 month program.
Inspecting an Impluvium at one of the Environmental Project sites
Once the sites had been visited, the UN/OCHA inspectors met the entire Cash For Work team in Deschapelles each of whom spoke in detail about the implementation and results of their respective programs.

Eddie Rawson, Program Director, Gozde Avci with UN/OCHA Inspectors Laetitia Rougeron & Caroline Peuget
After meeting Dr. Ian Rawson, Director of Hospital Albert Schweitzer, the UN/OCHA inspectors expressed their gratitude to the Cash for Work team for ensuring that the UN/OCHA-funded Cash for Work grant had succeeded in it’s goal and contributed to much-needed progress for the Artibonite Valley, Haiti. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A VIEW FROM BEHIND THE SCENES, By Emily Hetzel, Cash for Work Blog Editor

Program Team Leaders Meeting, Deschapelles, Haiti, May 2010

In the interest of full disclosure, everyone should know that without a doubt, I have the cushiest job of anyone on the Cash for Work staff: I perform my duties as the program’s blog editor from the comfort of my home in Pittsburgh - not exactly the kind of thing to brag about, but important to point out for the following reasons: 

1.  Gozde has encouraged me to write my own C.F.W. dispatch, but unlike my colleagues in Haiti, tales of what I face on a day-to-day basis as Blog Editor would be intolerably boring to read; just in case you think I'm being modest, here's a sample: “Today, in a heroic effort to post Ian and Starry’s dispatches, I looked up the meaning of the words “Inpluvium” and “Animatrice”.  It’s not exactly gripping stuff, nor do I expect news of my newly-expanded vocabulary to be of interest to, or positively effect, the people of Haiti. 

Canal Project, May 2010
2.   In my 3+ months as part of the C.F.W./HAS program, I’ve come to realize not only the importance of programs such as this for Haiti....but also that this 3 month Cash for Work program has provided a glimpse of how willing the people of Haiti are to make their country better, if given the opportunity to do so.  So I’m editing this blog to contribute in as useful a way as I could imagine - which, although the best use of my skills, doesn’t hold a candle to what the C.F.W. staff in Haiti dealt with on a daily basis. 
3.   I've gained an extraordinary respect for the entire C.F.W. staff in Deschapelles, all of whom, for 3 months, remained undaunted, often in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, as they saw the program through to completion.  It was on my visits to Deschapelles that I saw Gozde, Eddie, Starrey, Renold, and the other “on the ground” staff as they solved and artfully negotiated conflicts which had the potential to become explosive if handled by less-qualified professionals.
And so, for these reasons, I’d like to use this opportunity to thank my co-workers in Deschapelles and also to thank Gozde Avci, Lucy and Ian Rawson and Hospital Albert Schweitzer for the opportunity to help HAS's UN/OCHA Cash For Work program. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, by Gozde Avci, Programme Director

Every now and then, I put my “Manager” hat aside and go in the field to work with the Cash-For-Work crews; it’s hard labor, but it’s something I enjoy enormously. So today, I helped the crews construct an Impluvium in the village of Godin; like many mountain villages, Godin seems lost in the Artibonite Mountains.
An Impluvium is a circular wall designed to catch rain water. We’re constructing 5 Impluviums within the HTRIP programme (Haiti Tree Reintegration Programme), in the mountains, where water is scarce and much needed for agriculture.
At 6am, I met up with the HTRIP team, and we drove to Godin on the tiny, bumpy mountain roads....we were grateful for the cool breeze as we climbed the mountain and got closer to the work site. We met with the Cash For Work team which consisted of 20 people, all of whom were already at work. 
I joined a crew of women who were in charge of carrying buckets of sand up and down the hill...sand which is needed to prepare mortar for construction of the Impluvium walls. Men, divided into three small groups, prepared the mix itself (sand, water and cement) and also carried big pieces of rock, then broke them into smaller pieces, and finally mixed it all together to construct the Impluvium wall. 
I have to say, that I admire every person who works at this site...after spending just one morning with them, I realized just how hard their job really is...working for 6 hours, under the unrelenting Haitian sun. 
I, by no means, came even close to the level of performance of my co-workers; I struggled to keep up with each of them as they climbed those hills, barefoot (and with enthusiasm!) carrying heavy buckets of sand on their heads....After a couple of round trips, I was already exhausted.
But even so, my Turkish stubbornness, and a feeling of responsibility kept me going;  seeing that I was struggling, the women I worked along-side took pity on me and helped me to carry my buckets....but I wasn't willing to accept defeat, I kept telling myself: “You DO NOT leave in the middle of a job!” I realized that I was fooling no one when the women kept on giggling, and asking me if everything was alright...each time, I’d smile and reply, “M’ap Kenbe!” (“I’m holding on!”) all the while, thinking to myself that I wished I had their strength, both physically and morally.
Towards the end, we started having mini-breaks; we chatted about the up-coming elections in Haiti, about the country I came from, about unemployment in the mountains, and about the heavy rains which had just passed through the region a couple of weeks ago…..
While we worked, men and women together, we all sang to the rhythm of schoolchildren’s songs which echoed from the hills behind us. Towards noon, the supervisor’s wife started a camp fire and cooked rice and beans for the whole team. As we quickly swallowed-up our food, we talked over our work and about just how far the Impluvium wall had advanced since we began working in the morning. I felt privileged to have had the chance to work with these amazing people, and to have done so, surrounded by those beautiful mountains, was truly a gift.

Monday, August 23, 2010

WAITING FOR GODOT by Gozde Avci, Programme Director

We'd never felt like celebrities before setting foot in Deschapelles, Haiti to run HAS's Cash for Work project. 
The first month of hirings were calm and went smoothly....I remember that we even spent time worrying about how was best to get the word out about our program; we wanted to be sure that everyone in the community knew about the job opportunities Cash for Work offered. With strong and wishful thinking, we hoped that this smooth pace would continue.
The second month’s hirings were a bit more agitated….everyone in the community was now aware that we were hiring thousands of people, and were doing so after a catastrophic earthquake, in one of the poorest regions, of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  People hoping to be hired started queuing up in large numbers at our hiring sites, and we discovered that our names and our life stories were being murmured among people in the community.  Everyone knew our faces and what cars we drove; suddenly, everyone was waving and shouting  at me as I drove by, “Kijan nous ye Madanm Gozde?” (How are you, Ms. Gozde?)  At every step, I found I was greeted with smiles and waves….We continued to be very clear that our hirings were fair and transparent, and with the exception of the displaced and handicapped, no one received preferential treatment when hired for our program....our strategy has always been, and remains, “first-come, first-served”.
The third month of hiring hit hard. People from all over the region were now aware of the Cash for Work project. For each project, we only had the resources to hire people who lived in the different areas in which the crews would work, but now that word was out, we found that people from villages far away would be waiting for us, or even camping out in front of our houses in hopes of following us to discover where we’d be hiring next.
There were hiring days where 900 people would show up for only 200 jobs; considering that our budget does not allow for taking the measures necessary to ensure the safety of a group of 600 people or more, we worried enormously for the crowd’s safety....and as a result, we were forced to come up with creative solutions which would avoid putting those waiting in line in danger.
One hiring day, we created a diversion: I drove around in my well-recognized truck the morning we were to hire, so that those who were waiting in front of my house (all of whom were not from the village in which we were to hire, and therefor not eligible for this hiring) assumed I was on my way to the hiring site, and followed me to an alternative site. At the same time, Project Managers set out on foot for the real hiring site, and went ahead and hired those already in line, a number which already far exceeded our quota for hiring.
Our last hiring was at our “base” here in 2am of hiring day, we discovered that hundreds of people had already lined up for a hiring which wasn’t scheduled to begin until 6am! Rather than risk the safety of people whose numbers could easily swell to 900 by 6am, we surprised everyone and began hiring at 3am, and after registering the first 300 people in line (and filling our quota) we packed up and left. Although we didn’t enjoy deceiving people, we felt sure that we’d avoided what could well have turned into a riot.
A day didn’t go by without putting ourselves into the shoes of people seeking jobs....I wish we would have had more finances to hire more people to do more meaningful jobs, but both we and the Haitians bitterly accept the reality of having limited resources and being obliged to hire limited numbers of people....the Haitian people are forced by nothing more than circumstance to understand and respect the limits which come with a Cash for Work job. What would you do if you’ve heard there’s a job opportunity for a month paying 90USD, and you’re used to earning only 10USD a month? And have a family at home waiting to be fed, sent to school or to hospital?  I have no doubt that I too would follow the manager’s truck or queue up for hours, hoping to be hired.  This is something I never forget when I’m doing my job.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

FIGHTING EROSION FOR FARMLAND, by Starry Sprenkle, HTRIP Project Manager

Recently, Eddie and I went up to see the work accomplished by the Cash for Work crews at the low, mountain community, Source Dupont.  The work at Source Dupont had been done in the first month of the program and all efforts focused on addressing the damaging effects of erosion. Two local crew supervisors led us on a hike through mountains and up ravines to proudly show us the progress of their crews; they'd built rock walls in the bottom of steep ravines to slow the damaging flow of water during intense rains in order to trap sediment, eventually creating agriculturally-rich soil, reduce flooding downstream, and slow the ongoing erosion in the ravines. The work being done is classified as “Ravine Correction”.
Even though I’m used to the physical work which comes with working in the mountains, I actually became winded as I climbed the ravines to inspect the crew’s work...I was well aware that the crews, many of whom are older than I, have been climbing these steep ravines while doing far more physically demanding work than I was doing;  the stamina of the people who live in the mountains continues to amaze me.
The lack of a local water source in the mountains is an ongoing struggle to the mountain communities in Haiti, a problem we at HTRIP are constantly trying to address with both long and short term solutions. In an attempt to access a local water source, the crews dug a channel at least 10 feet deep to allow the water to flow from their local spring, which up until now has been a stagnant source of water.  Unfortunately, the water just isn’t coming out fast enough, and a stagnant pool remains at the top of the deep channel.  We concluded that we need to reforest above the spring to allow more water to infiltrate the mountain itself, and eventually filter out at the spring.  That’s the long term plan......
As we walked through a few ravines which hadn’t been worked on in the past month by the Cash for Work crews, the leaders begged us to bring a second crew to continue the work.  We said we’d consider it,  but later, after we visited the last ravine (a wide-cut ravine, lower down the mountain) we realized that we couldn’t say no.  The crew lower down the mountain had built 8 ft. tall rock walls through this particular ravine, which in the last month alone, had completely filled in with sediment.  One month’s erosion represents hundreds of cubic meters of potentially farmable land which could be cultivated within these cleared, nutrient-rich ravines.  Even though the risk of losing valuable crops due to a flood remains, considering the soil on the surrounding, sloping mountains is poor in nutrients and water, the comparitively rich soil in the ravines makes it a risk worth taking. 
It’s clear that we need to do more work which will not only protect the incredible effort that went into these newly built walls downstream, but will also protect the new captured sediment which represents potential farmland. So, we’ve decided to give the mountain communities a second group of workers for the last month of the Cash for Work project.  This last crew will correct more ravines and will also work with a Mason we’ve hired to build a rock wall in a basin, to create a water-catchment (an “Impluvium”) near the center of the community.
The two Supervisors we’ve hired are very good leaders, and even though neither of them is literate, each has a good technical knowledge of what is required to get the job done. I’m confident that they’ll continue this amazing work which will undoubtedly benefit not only their own community, but also the communities downstream, as well as the local environment as a whole.....

Saturday, July 31, 2010


I’ve been playing basketball some afternoons on the court above the Hospital.  Before my daughter was born a few years ago, I’d play basketball in the afternoons, and by default, it was always against bunch of guys. I’m used to being the only woman playing with guys thanks to pick-up games in University gyms...but I still get a quiet satisfaction when the guys I play inevitably react with surprise when I stand out as one of the best players on the court.  But now, thanks to the U.N., Haiti Youth Sports Work Project, it’s different; for the first time, I see the men yielding ground not only to the next generation of boys, but also to the girls.....

My first week playing basketball on the HAS courts, I played with the girls teams. When I came to practice the following week, there weren’t any girls around, so the coach invited me to join the much more organized boy’s practice.  I noticed that Kristi, who is on the girl’s team, stood at half court for at least 30 minutes and watched us play.  Kristi is tall, gangly, probably 14, and is also the most naturally talented player of any of the kids in the group, so I wanted to do as much as possible to encourage her.  If she lived in the U.S., she’d be the star of her 8th grade basketball team and enjoy all of the pride and popularity that goes along with that role.  But here in Deschapelles, she’s the girl who shows too much interest in a boy’s game and gets teased about it; Kristi had to wait for a catastrophic earthquake to give her the opportunity to get on the basketball court.  I see some of myself in Kristi when I was young, and I’m so sorry that she hasn’t had the chance to find her identity and self-confidence through sports.

Because I’m not the coach, I couldn’t just invite her to join the practice, and it wasn’t until a few more girls from the team finally showed up, and the practice was declared co-ed, that Kristi was “allowed” to play.
The girl’s team composition is so interesting....femininity is highly valued here, a trait which is linked to clothing and comportment, just as it is in the states; it’s rare to ever see females in shorts or pants.  Although eager to play, the girls are slightly uncomfortable in their basketball gear and giggle at each other for wearing shorts, tight t-shirts, sandals, or no shoes; as the only female on the court, I knew that I had a shot at getting them past their embarrassment to the point where they could really play.

It took a few days for me to gain their trust, and I still can’t give much coaching advice without seeing a glazed look come over their eyes while I struggle to come up with the Creole translation for words like, “Dribble and Pivot”.  The good news is that the girl’s team and I are making progress, and Kristi is the most eager to learn of the group, plus, she’s got real talent.

We’ll see how things go at the end of the season.........

Friday, June 18, 2010

EXPERIENCES ON THE GROUND by Renold Estime, Water Systems Project Manager

For those of us working on the UN OCHA/ Work For Haiti Jobs Initiative Project, no matter how different our responsibilities, I’m convinced that all of us have one thing in common; the situations we’ve faced have been incredibly vivid and an incredible education.  What I think I’ll remember most are our experiences on the project’s Hiring Days. We’ve just finished hiring our second of three groups, and it’s clear that our first round of hiring went much more smoothly than the second.
Well in advance of both of our Hiring Days, we met with regional leaders to work out the logistics required when doing mass hiring: details such as deciding on a date, the location, security, etc.. For our first hiring, word had not yet spread about our programme and people did not yet realize that when we appeared we’d be hiring for paying jobs. On our first Hiring Day, we arrived to find that most people were queuing up and patiently waiting...despite a few small conflicts among the people in line, our first Hiring Day was generally calm.

Now that we’re in the second month of our programme, word has spread, and the whole region knows about our Cash For Work project. We now have many more people who want us to give them jobs than we’re able to hire, which explains why our second Hiring Day was not as calm as the first.

Our management team is very keen on being fair about the hiring process; they take all opportunities to make sure that news of our upcoming Hiring Day is made very public. Plus, our crews from the first round of hiring brought a great deal of attention, a fact which also helped word spread fast. Most people in the area now know that we hire for 20 days of work.  People who hoped to be hired in the second round began to count the days and try to estimate the date and location of our second round of hiring...and also stratigize about what was the best way to be the first in line.

We found that as our second Hiring Day approached, the tension in communities was growing. We established a fixed date for the next round of hiring and let the people in the communities know the date and location. Due to the huge number of people who need jobs, we’ve witnessed people queued up as early as 3am for a hiring session which begins at 8am! This is the reality of high unemployment in Haiti!
Our most recent Hiring Day in the town of Deslandes will remain one of my most vivid memories while working on the Cash For Work project. It was in Deslandes where we were hiring for a water pipe rehabilitation project. The mass of people who showed up to be hired were so many in comparison to our quota for employment, that regional leaders were forced to change our original location for hiring.  They said they were concerned that the location we’d agreed on wouldn’t be large and safe enough to accommodate everyone.
I worked with regional leaders to choose local people who would be responsible for our security. Everyone who is brought on-board to assist is told that anyone who is 18yrs of age or older, and has a valid, photo ID card is eligible to be hired for our programme.  We set up our chairs, tables, pen, ink, contracts, register papers, as well as guide ropes to secure the area, and began to register people for jobs. 
After about 20 minutes – just enough time to get 15-20 people registered, we could see the tension rising among the many people queuing up; although they had formed two lines, many had succumbed to temptation and were pushing and shoving each other to pass over the barrier and eventually surround our table.  We understand that they are driven do this because so many in Haiti desperately need a job, however seeing that things were getting out of hand and becoming unsafe, our Programme Manager, Gozde, went over twice to confront the mass of people to ask for calm and order. Nevertheless the pushing continued, and many people continued to overpass the barrier, surround our table, all of them showing us their ID cards and asking for jobs.

Because safety had become an issue and to clam down tensions, we packed up all of our belongings and left for the nearest dispensary for just 30 minutes.  We’d had to do this once before, and both times, we used that 30 minutes to prepare a new strategy to enable us to finish hiring.  I remembered a Haitian proverb in Creole, Nan ranmen tout, ou pedi ni sak ni krab” (One who wants it all, loses the bag AND the crab).  So, for this particular hiring, we decided to use another strategy; we’d only hire men 50yrs and older and women ages 40yrs and older - people who did not fit into these criteria have lost “Ni sak ni crab” !! 

We returned to the hiring location with our new strategy and searched for men and women who appeared to be above 50 and 40 years old.  It seemed to work;  when people realized that age was the determining factor, they were far less agitated about not being hired. Since we’d naturally eliminated hundreds of people, our task now became to find enough people who fit our new age criteria......a process which turned out to be quite enjoyable and even unexpectedly funny.  Instead of people swarming us and asking us for a job, we literally went among people and asked those who appeared to be older than 40 yrs, what their exact age was…when we’d spot men and women in the street who we thought might fall within our new age criteria, we’d stop and ask them if they’d like a job.

Here’s what we’d say when we approached people, and ultimately succeeded in filling our hiring quota both safely and fairly:

“ Bonjou Mesye! Ki laj ou? Ou pa ta renmen travay?
(Hello Sir! How old are you? Wouldn’t you like to work ?)

“Yes! But how am I going to overpass this mass of people to be employed?” 

“ Ou gen kat identite?” 
(“Do you have your ID card?”)


This situation made me think of a story told in the Bible.  A man had prepared a big buffet for many friends, however none of his guests appeared. He sent someone to find out what had happened to all of his guests.  When he was told that each guest had come up with an excuse for why they were unable to attend, the host sent his maids into the streets looking for people who’d never had the chance to eat and enjoy such food.  In our experience in Deslandes, our guests did indeed show up, but they did not respect the rules of the game and so they too lost out.

In life, we proceed on the assumption that one must plan, prepare and do what is necessary to get ahead, but when such thinking results in the near chaos we faced in Delandes, those who opted out of the competition (and the resulting chaos) were ultimately the ones who got ahead.

MISS SARAJEVO by Gozde Avci, Cash For Work Programme Director

My favorite song, “Miss Sarajevo”, was echoing in my head as I handed out the medals to our first team champions for girls basketball, part of our Youth Projects Program in the Artibonite Valley, Haiti.

“Is there a time for keeping your distance?
  A time to turn your eyes away?
  Is there a time for keeping your head down,
  for getting on with your day?”

 “Is there a time for different colors,
   for different names you find hard to spell?
 “Here she comes,
   beauty plays the clown,
   here she comes,
   surreal in her crown!”
The song was written specially for a beauty contest which was held in Bosnia during the war. Out of context, the lyrics seem an odd anthem for a beauty contest, but considering the sheer force of will required for everyday survival in Sarajevo at that time,  the lyrics become an oddly perfect anthem for a beauty contest.  
Years later, my godfather, the Serbian-born General of the Muslim, Bosnian Army told me what it was like to be in Sarajevo at that time. He described a city besieged by Serbian forces, the endless battles as the city refused to fall, and what he also told me was that despite these skirmishes and firefights taking place quite literally in their own backyards, the people of Sarajevo continued with their day-to-day lives.  At the risk of falling prey to a sniper, they continued to go to work and to school, attend concerts, and  be beautifully turned-out to do so; although they were not technically engaged in battle, the people of Saravejo, both Muslim & Christian, were also “Refusing to Fall”.
So I sang the song quietly, and if anyone was listening in the middle of our Youth Project, Girl’s Basketball Championship in rural Haiti, I must have sounded crazy.  But as I watched the girls play, I realized that although the girls were wearing sweaty gym gear and were without any make-up, they too were victorious beauty queens; each one a dead ringer for the Bosnian beauty queen, who proudly walked down the aisle, wearing her crown, wryly smiling as the song “Miss Saravejo” competed with the sounds of the bombardment of Sarajevo.
I’ve even joined the Deschapelles girls team...I play with the same girls to whom I awarded medals (all 20+ years younger than me!) We’re all looking forward to another championship....It’s all surreal indeed…watching us as we play, wearing own personal, imagined crowns.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

THE ANIMATRICE PROGRAM by Ian Rawson, Managing Director, Hopital Albert Schweitzer

The common goal of each project undertaken within HAS’s U.N. OCHA/Cash for Work Program is to employ Haitians and address issues which are ongoing obstacles to an improved quality of life for the people in HAS’s service area; the Animatrice Program plays a vital role in ensuring that HAS achieves that goal. 
As the Artibonite Valley’s population has increased due to displaced people since the January earthquake, so too have the risk factors which contribute to malnutrition and disease, particularly for families living in the denuded mountains, all of whom are dependent on rain-fed subsistence cultivation.  
Each rainy season, HAS sees a spike in patients with increased cases of respiratory infections and diarrheas....the physical manifestations of malnutrition, and are particularly dangerous for children 5 years of age and younger.

The Animatrice Program trains and employs local women to visit local households or lakou (courtyards) to assess what contributing factors exist which place children at risk for disease. The Animatrices use a graphic form which shows images of risk factors, such as lack of latrine and unfiltered water storage, using check marks as indicators. The image-only forms remove the obstacle of illiteracy and were designed and tested with the assistance of focus groups consisting of local women.
Last week Gozde, and managers from HAS’ Services Communautaires Integr├ęs, accompanied several home visitors as they used the form at their neighbors’ courtyards. The visits were successful and validated the process and the effectiveness of the graphic questionaire.
The households with children 5yrs and younger which are determined to be at high risk will be eligible for a distribution of supplemental foods. Over several years, the Animatrice program has the potential to measurably reduce the cases of severe malnutrition in the mountain communities which HAS serves.