Two years after an earthquake struck Haiti the community of Los Cacaos has demonstrated what happens when neighbors work together to solve a problem. Fresh, clean water is now available to 700 families thanks to the community’s commitment to build a positive foundation for long-term improvements.
Catholic nuns based across the Artibonite river in San Francisco of Banica Parish in the Dominican Republic organized the project in consultation with community leaders. Jesuit Refugee Service/USA provided $113,000 to fund the project, and members of the community supplied the labor to build roads, construct cisterns and lay miles of plastic pipe and tubing.
“We had 11 brigades of 25 to 32 people each working on the project. They carried sand and cement to places where trucks could not reach. They carried these things over the hills to the source of the water,” said Wilens Thomas, of Los Cacaos.
Previously, obtaining clean water meant a hike of several miles — one way — over rugged hills and through valleys to collect the water in buckets and jerrycans. The arduous trip took four hours or more, and often had to be done twice a day.
“Before the project I would send the kids to get water, it would sometimes take them half a day or more. Sometimes the water would spill on the return trip and they’d have to go back,” said community resident Olise, a father of five. Olise’s comment highlighted an additional benefit of the cisterns: children who were before engaged in trekking for hours to water sources now can concentrate on attending school within the safety of their communities.
“This project proclaims a bright future because all different age groups are involved. And I don’t want to leave out the work the women have done, they have done a great deal of work for this project,” said Sr. Refugio Chavez.
This community-based participative model for humanitarian aid delivery and development has had the dual role of providing necessary resources for the health of the community while strengthening the role of women in the decision-making processes and empowering them to take an active role in the development projects. In light of the prevalence of gender-based violence in Haiti, the full integration of local women in the planning and implementation of this life-saving water and reforestation project will have an enduring effect on the status of women in the region.
To read the full article and learn more about this ongoing project, please visit Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.