St. Pierre parish, Baradères, Haiti — sister parish of St. John the Baptist Catholic Community, Silver Spring, Md.
Kado Dlo (Gift of Water)
Clean water is a basic human right. In addition to being the single biggest cause of intestinal infection and disease in developing countries, poor quality drinking water is the single biggest source of chronic infection, leading to malabsorption, which in turn leads to malnutrition. Nutrition correlates to cognitive abilities, including the ability to read. Good nutrition therefore heavily contributes to literacy. The lack of available clean drinking water can undermine even the strongest literacy and educational programs. Our program to bring clean water into the homes of Baradères is a natural complement to our on-going support of the schools and the people of the community.
Lamothe Lormier is an extraordinary person. Lamothe is the in-country liaison for Gift of Water, the organization with which we are working to bring clean drinking water to Baradères. He is Haitian, lives in Florida and frequently travels to Haiti to talk to communities like our sister parish in Baradères about clean water and the Gift of Water household water treatment system. During our recent visit to Haiti, Lamothe flew into Port-au-Prince, picked up his Land Rover near the airport and drove six hours to Baradères. A short time after his arrival, about 15 members of the Baradères community gathered in the front yard of the rectory to hear Lamothe talk about clean water. Father Jacques, the pastor of St. Pierre, opened the meeting with a prayer and then introduced Lamothe, who spoke to the community in Creole. Even to someone who does not understand Creole, it becomes immediately apparent that Lamothe speaks with passion.
Lamothe is an evangelist for clean water. He preaches the importance of clean water anywhere a community can gather: dusty courtyards, churches and schools. His sermon is the message of clean water, its importance, and how access to clean water is a fundamental human right. His parables are stories of "the cholera," how it spread in contaminated water, how it killed so many people in Haiti over the past year, how it infiltrated the estuaries of Haiti and how it can emerge from its hiding place with the arrival of the next rainy season.
Lamothe paused as a gentleman in the audience raised his hand to speak. The man told of how he lost his daughter to cholera last year and nearly lost a second infant to the disease.
Two unassuming 5-gallon buckets, one red and one grey, are stacked next to Lamothe. As he continues to address the group, he picks up the red bucket. Now his sermon turns to talk of salvation, of a simple device that can deliver families from the scourge of diseases transmitted by microbes and parasites found in contaminated water. Water from any source is brought to the home and placed in the red bucket. A tablet of pre-dosed chlorine is added and the bucket is covered with its lid. The chlorine kills microbes in the water in the same way that our own drinking water in Silver Spring is treated with chlorine to kill microbes. Thirty minutes later, a second, smaller tablet of chlorine is added to the grey bucket and the red bucket is placed on top of the grey bucket. A valve opens and clean water begins to flow through a nylon filter in the red bucket and down into the grey bucket. The nylon filter removes particles and larger parasites. A second filter inside the grey bucket contains activated charcoal to remove residual chlorine taste, making the water more palatable to drink. The smaller chlorine tablet added to the grey bucket provides residual protection against microbe growth. Clean water comes out of a tap at the bottom of the grey bucket.
Sometime this spring the first Gift of Water units will arrive in Baradères and be distributed according to a priority list of households determined by the local Water Committee. Fr. Jacques along with the people who attended this gathering will help form the committee. These units will be purchased thanks to the generous donations of the St. John the Baptist Community and a grant from the Raskob Foundation. Everyone at the meeting wants to see more units for the community. We raised enough money to start the program. The challenge now is to continue to raise money to provide water purifiers to more and more families in Baradères.
Will the Gift of Water program work? Lamothe Lormier thinks so. He emailed me this comment after his visit with us in Baradères. "Whenever he had a very good day, at the end of that day, Titus always said: ‘Nom Temporem perdidi.’ I did not waste my day! If my trip to Haiti was only to go to Baradères, I would do it again a thousand times if the circumstances allow me to. My time in Baradères was very well spent." My time with Lamothe was also very well spent. After years of planning, we will finally begin the project to provide the gift of clean drinking water to our sisters and brothers in Baradères.