It is hard to imagine a time more filled with violence and lawlessness but in this tumult hope can be found and for Two Mules, to hope is to do and it has been a productive time.
This fall we have had the privilege of hosting two international board members, Lunide Sylne, from Waipahu Hawaii, and Wildaine Andre from Gonaives Haiti for joyous reunions and long conversations about our programs in Haiti. In our quarterly meeting of the Board of Directors we unanimously confirmed Wildaine Andre as Executive Director, and Charles Provins as Program Coordinator. These two positions carry the dual responsibilities of organizing and implementing our programs in Haiti. We also had the honor of congratulating Charlie on his recent promotion to the position of Principal of La Redemption School in Gonaives!
This fall Two Mules provided $15,000 in scholarships for students in three schools, St. Aidan in La Tortue, Bon Samaritain in Beaudois, St. Michel in Fiervil. School administrators and Melina Foundation staff are selecting scholarship recipients in time for the start of fall semester. Data including student names, ages, school attended, and scholarship amount have been recorded for the preceding two years, and data for those receiving scholarships this fall will be added soon, making it possible to track their progress through the years.
We are fortunate to have found a partner church for St. Michel school through the assistance of Rev. Lisa Frost-Phillips, Assistant Rector at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Hillsborough, NC, and Two Mules board member Tom Dyne.
We have begun conversations with the P4H Global concerning a teacher training program for the schools in L’Acul and Borgne. P4H Global is an organization founded by two Haitian women who specialize in educator training in Haiti. During their undergraduate years at the University of Florida, Priscilla Zelaya, Ph.D. and Bertrhude Albert, Ph.D. co-founded P4H Global. The organization trains and equips Haitian educators through professional development consisting of a 72-hour School Quality Assurance program that is research-based, student-centered, and designed to transform classroom culture. We look forward to exploring ways to engage with P4H in the coming months.
Two Mules is in the process of creating a Health Care Advisory Committee to consult and advise on health care issues and solutions. At present, we have confirmed eight doctors and nurses who have agreed to serve on the committee. Three of the group work in hospitals and health care centers in Gonaives and Leogane, Haiti, two at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, two in the University of North Carolina Health Care System, and one is the founder of Family Health Ministries, Chapel Hill, NC. We look forward to sharing more information about the contributions of this spectacular group soon.
The L’Acul WaSH Program was supported in part by a generous grant from The Chartered Committee for Global Mission, Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. In the first year of this program, Two Mules conducted water quality tests at six water sources used by the residents of Fiervil. We then conducted a survey of 47 residents who rely on these sources, using a questionnaire designed to gather information about water access and use, water purification, sanitation hygiene practices, and beliefs concerning water quality.
The sample of Fiervil residents who were interviewed were adults living in family homes that included school-age children. If we assume this sample of respondents to be representative of householders in Fiervil, most have some formal education and most rely on farming and animal husbandry for food and income. All but a few families draw their drinking water from springs and recognize the important distinction between drinking water sources and the waterways in which they bathe and wash clothes. In most cases adult women and older children collect drinking water from protected springs in multi-use buckets once or twice per day, and upon returning home, transfer the water to designated storage containers. Most residents are aware of the need to purify drinking water and chlorination is the method most often used. Almost all homes have pit toilets, many of which are improved with a slab cover, and everyone acknowledges the importance of hand washing.
This survey provides baseline information about the demographics of Fiervil residents, their access to and use of drinking water, sanitation conditions in their homes, and their hygiene behaviors. Testing revealed that every protected spring water source was contaminated with fecal coliform. Householders understand the importance of clean water however, purification products and soap are often unavailable. Although most families have pit toilets at their homes, many are unimproved and hygiene habits are generally casual. As part of our information and education initiative, soap and SAFI water purification products were provided to all who participated in the survey (photo below).
In a second phase of research, a team of student trainers organized by the Melina Foundation assessed sanitation facilities in four schools in the Bon Samaritain Episcopal Parish. The team found that at most schools there was an absence of drinking water, no provisions for hand washing, toilets in poor hygienic condition, no trash cans in classes or on the playground, and a general lack of supervision over student hygiene. Despite personal hygiene being part of the curriculum, practices were far from effective. The team concluded that practical training for staff, teachers, and students is critical for these institutions and communities.
WaSH training is an integral part of the L’Acul WaSH Program, with initiatives being developed for schools and community organizations. As part of this initiative, Two Mules has purchased commercial water filtration systems for each school that are being installed by staff who provide explanations, demonstrations and guidance for teachers and administrators. Teaching materials, including project-based learning exercises with illustrated guides for water purification, sanitation, and hygiene practices, have been prepared, and these materials are being provided to administrators and teachers as the filtration systems are delivered.
The Molas Agroforestry Program integrates reforestation and regenerative agriculture to improve soil health primarily through farming practices that increase the amount of organic matter in the soil. This not only increases biodiversity both above and below the soil surface, but very significantly increases both water-retaining and carbon-sequestering capacities at greater depths, thus drawing down climate-damaging levels of atmospheric CO2 while improving soil structure to reverse human-caused soil erosion that is threatening local communities and human civilization at large.
This program is entering a new phase this fall as Two Mules is sponsoring two internships for students majoring in Environmental Science and participating in the Eco-Studio program in the Institute for the Environment at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The students were selected in part for their experience with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping. The goal of the semester-long research project is to provide a predictive model that maps the environmental areas where reforestation has the highest probability of success. The L’Acul and Molas Communes (comparable to counties in the US) are mostly mountainous. Environmental conditions, such as the altitude, slope, aspect (or slope orientation), rainfall, and soil type, vary significantly within this region and have critical influence on the survival of replanted tree seedlings. Fortunately, geospatial data for Haiti are available and a great deal of research has been done that enables our program to focus on factors having the greatest effect on seedling survival.
Of course, there are many factors other than environmental ones that affect the survival rate of transplanted seedlings, the most important being the farm families themselves. Haitian farmers have a deep understanding and incredible skills evolved over centuries of farming the steep mountain slopes. But some things are out of their control: commercial logging the most lucrative timber resources, and the imperative quest for cooking fuel have led to extensive deforestation and soil erosion. Today, soil fertility is so greatly reduced that even the most skillful farmers struggle to feed their families. Our goal is to work with farmers to grow more trees for fuel, building materials, shade, and fruit, in locations where they are most likely to survive, reduce erosion, and enhance the growth of other crops.
The Molas Agroforestry Program employs a multidimensional approach to innovate agriculture, cooking technology, charcoal and biochar production, and composting. This will require partnerships with many Haitian community cooperatives, US university researchers, NGOs with successful experience, and people like you who believe in a brighter future and commit to making it happen.
If you would like to join with Two Mules and the Haitian farmers who are part of this program, please consider donating. Your donation, no matter the size, will make a difference.
Hoping for a brighter future and wishing you a joyous Holiday season,
Joe, Henry, and the Two Mules Board