Written by Martin Harrison, director of Vozandes Community Development, HCJB Global Hands
All is well in Haiti, or to explain the play on words all is about wells in Haiti! César Cortez, an Ecuadorian missionary with HCJB Global Hands' community development team, is spending three weeks in Haiti, providing strategic assistance to Lifewater International, one of our long-term partners.
Cortez is working in the Cap-Haitien area of northern Haiti. This city, although not directly affected by the January 2010 earthquake, has received an estimated 30,000 refugees from the capital city of Port-au-Prince. There are no facilities for this influx of people, and most are living with family or friends in cramped and unsanitary conditions.
The water and sanitation infrastructure is either inadequate or absent for dealing with a population crisis such as this. HCJB Global and Lifewater are playing an important role in addressing this situation, seeking to improve the water and sanitation situation and shine the light of the gospel in the process.
A typical day for Cortez—if there is a typical day in Haiti—involves visiting six or seven wells. He tests the water quality and begins repairs on them. He is able to repair one per day, but there are more than 100 that require urgent attention. Many wells have been drilled in the past but sadly have fallen into disrepair.
Our community development ministry is committed to completing projects in a different way. We find that a participatory approach—where the community owns the project from the outset—is a far more sustaining solution. Cortez is sharing this approach and other similar ideas about biblically based community development with local pastors who long to see positive and lasting transformation of their communities.
"Sanitation is another urgent need," says Cortez. After traveling around a number of communities he concluded that although many water wells have been drilled there has been virtually no focus on sanitation and the population has little understanding about sanitation, hygiene or the spread of diseases such as cholera.
In addition to repairing water wells and hand pumps, Cortez has been able to preach on Sundays and meet Christian leaders during the week. He senses a strong desire for change amongst these peoples and the communities they represent. Christian leaders are hungry to hear more about what the Bible says about healthy living, both in the physical and spiritual sense. They want to begin to apply these concepts in their communities, yearning to see the transformation that only God can bring to reality.
The interactions among HCJB Global, Lifewater, local Christian leaders and the communities are proving to be a tremendous learning experience for all. Reflecting on this, Cortez shares, "I think God brought me here with a message that can change the way missionaries and communities can work together, but I also can see from here so many mistakes I have been making back in Ecuador that I want to change when I return."