I am reminded of this as we ride motorcycles on challenging trails that we hope will support the drilling rig. As we attempt to travel further into the island than ever before, we pass children with buckets, some empty and others full, carrying their daily supply of water two hours one way.
People know us on the island. Not as You Help Haiti but as “Go Machine Rouge”, the Big Red Truck. People know that water sustains life. Without it you die. So Go Machine Rouge is a big deal on La Gonave. When we ride our motorcycles into a village to investigate the possibilities, hopes are high.
There are so many challenges that we face each year during drilling season, and this scouting trip helped me get my mind right for what lies ahead. We are thankful for our 35 year old drilling rig because if it breaks we can fix it. This is within our control. Unfortunately there are some villages we visited that will not receive water because the roads simply will not support a rig the size of Go Machine Rouge.
It’s heartbreaking to have scheduled a meeting with village officials, only to arrive and tell them we will not be drilling. With sunken shoulders and long faces they sink into regret. Maybe another time.
I am so thankful for what Concern is doing to improve the roads around the coast and into low lying mountain villages. Their work provided access for us to reach new villages in 2011 when we drilled 23 wells in two months.
We also encourage villages to put together a “road work committee” but it is nearly impossible for them to improve road conditions with no equipment, and no supply of good foods and water for crews working.
It is simply mind boggling how on an island so small, people can be completely isolated. People in mountain villages never travel to the coast, and vice versa. Road conditions in a brutally mountainous region keep people from sharing information, trading foods or other products, teaching each other, and simply keeping in touch. Without vehicles, it’s a two day walk to make the 10 mile journey from mountain villages to coastal towns. And with no way to transport anything, why would someone travel? The conditions land lock villages and make them natural prisons that keep them disconnected from the world.
I am encouraged one again as we pass through the village of Palma where we drilled and installed wells some years ago. Its late evening and the sun is setting but there are hundreds of people gathered, visiting while they fill buckets of water for the community around them. The run off trickles across the path to a large field that is prepped and ready to grow crops this spring.
La Gonave is a bittersweet dichotomy. To view the beauty of the island but experience the desperation of the people makes me realize it is truly poverty in paradise.