Jeremy Willet and friends see firsthand how hard it is to get water in Haiti and discover a painful reality there
- Jeremy Willet // August 25, 2010
At 5a.m. as the fog lifted above the mountains of Aux Cadet, Haiti, 13 kms south of Port-au-Prince, I heard a faint noise in the distance. I never thought this particular sound would bring so much joy, but the next 2 days would be spent exploring an entire community with children in search of the best source for this exact item: Water.
Although 2 ½ hours away, the sound of rushing water was so audible because the distractions of modern technology were temporarily removed.
For 9 days, 10 other Americans would join me in Haiti alongside Willet Missions Field Agents, Kathleen Willet & AshLee Romines in search of some of the most vulnerable people in the world so that we could provide assistance.
As relief agencies continue to pour aid into the earthquake-ravished city of Port-au-Prince, and the UN develops strategies for the reconstruction of most of the country, thousands of Haiti residents in the surrounding communities outside the city continue the struggle of accessing life’s basic needs: food and water. For several days, our team would embrace NGO, Food for the Hungry’s (FH) vision to “Go to the hard places.”
As a band, WILLET adopted the community of Aux Cadet earlier this year; therefore, our team would work as an initial assessment team to evaluate physical and spiritual obstacles of community development. Our team helped in the following ways:
•Malaria education and mosquito net distribution with partner, Operation Net
• Wealth ranking activity to assess water sanitation issues, food availability, and housing structure.
• Community Mapping to review roads conditions, existing structures, earthquake damage, and # of households.
• Vacation Bible School to share the love of Jesus and begin to break the spiritual poverty of voodoo participation.
• Pastor Conference led by Pastor Glen Willet to train and equip local pastors from surrounding communities. (Some Pastors walked over 6 hours each way to attend the 5-hour training).
•Medical clinic for height/weight measurements, de-worming medicine and essential vitamin distribution.
• Relief items distribution of sleeping mats, blankets, toiletries, girl dresses and boy underwear/t-shirts.
• Road repair & rubble removal with FH’s “Cash for Work” program.
A highlight for many on this trip was having the opportunity to visit their sponsored child! As a band, we sponsored Rolando a few months ago, and began writing letters, sending photos and supporting him through Food for the Hungry. Rolando sleeps on the dirt floor with no pillow or blanket alongside 4 other siblings. His family’s house collapsed during the earthquake, so they now live in a temporary shelter constructed of old tin and branches. Rolando recently received de-worming pills from FH because of our support, and is now overcoming extreme malnutrition. Near his house, we also found a pair of TOMS SHOES that they received from a recent shoe drop, the same style and color that my brother, Jordan was wearing while visiting Rolando! One for one! During our time with Rolando, he never spoke one word to us, however, when we asked him and his family if they believed in Jesus, a cute smile spread across his face as he nodded his head.
It is difficult to describe in writing the harsh reality that residents of Aux Cadet face on a daily basis for the most basic necessities of life. When you have no other option but to walk over 2 hours up and down a dangerous mountain cliff with a bucket to draw water from a slow dripping spring 2 to 3 times a day, suddenly, the words of Micah 6:8 make sense!
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
To walk humbly was our only option as sweat poured out of our body at a rapid pace, and our heart pounded painfully in our chest in attempt to carry the water back to our camp. Even more humbling was the fact that we had a team of 5 people to take turns carrying the water as children raced past us with 2 buckets that they carried the whole way!
Many Haitian children are forced to immediately return to the water source if they come back home with water missing from the bucket because water is such a precious item. Many of these children will complete this walk 2-3 times a day!
Now the bad news…
The water that many families spend 6 hours a day attempting to retrieve is non-drinkable! It is full of parasites and bacteria, and if not treated, will cause extreme sickness and even death. Over the course of 4 days in Aux Cadet, we discovered that there are 5 potential water sources. Our next step is to evaluate how we can best draw the water out of the sources, sanitize it, and provide a location accessible to the most people in the community through a well.
As I continue to debrief and reflect from our trip to Haiti (and pray for my wife who is stationed there full-time as a community development coordinator), I reflect on my time with the broken. We held the hands of children that hadn’t eaten a meal in 3 days, prayed over a boy that may have HIV (we are in the process of sending a medical clinic to his area for testing), walked through an IDP camp tent community in Port-au-Prince, and experienced times without water and food readily available. All of this served as a reminder of how grateful we should be if we have running water in our home, electricity, and food on our table. In fact, if you have any of these items, you are in the top percentage of the world’s wealthiest people! Give thanks…then…give. Give food to those that are hungry, shelter to those who are homeless, and clothes to those who are naked (Isaiah 58:7). Give in Jesus’ name.
Jeremy is the lead singer and songwriter for the band, WILLET (www.willetonline.com), co-author of the book "carried. - Bearing the cross to a world in love with kingdoms", and co-founder of The Hunger Strike. Jeremy and his wife, Kathleen, live in Haiti while Jeremy travels back and forth to the U.S. on tour with the band to encourage sponsorship of children. He is planning another visit to Haiti in September to help construct a shelter for Willet Mission Field Agents in Aux Cadet and meet again with community leaders. For more info on Willet Missions and additional details/photos of his most recent trip, please visit, www.willetmissions.org. To sponsor a child from Haiti, and be a part of rescuing that child from poverty, please visit www.fh.org/willet.