Now imagine a village 20 kilometers from any main road, no electricity, no running water, a handful of people with shoes, wearing the same clothes for days at a time, the debris pieces of the factory remains, an old smoke stack and the shell of what the Americans once favorite vacation area- the bay accented with items painted in red, white & blue. welcome to Phaeton… 30 years past what was once a completely different life for the 2,500 that remain. Pulling into this community on Monday I first wondered, “how does a village even survive this far off the beaten path. Who knows they are here? Why stay?” As we stepped off the bus we were greeted with several sweet faces, welcoming us to their “home” saying “Bon-Wei!” Which is creole for “good night”. The local pastor, who has resided there for 22 years graciously welcomed us to his mud built home and offered us the best plastic chairs to sit and enjoy dinner.
As I looked around I could make out a structure of some cement columns across the dirt path, but I had no idea if it was being built or being torn down.
Our hand “washing” station? Bleach, water, bar of soap followed by germ-x.
As new little friends anxiously waited by the wooden gate, we scarfed down our rice, beans & chicken, refilled our bottles with purified water before heading to our sleeping area. Girls in the church and guys in tents. That was the plan at least and honestly it was comical imagining my co-worker whom is both hipster and metro “roughing” it in a tent for the next 4 nights. That was until the girls experienced the church. Weather in Haiti was hot during the day and both hot & humid at night. With no electricity and no ventilation, not to mention spiders on the wall, and a few occasional rats, we requested tents as well. One tent left- Yep- 6 women in a tent for 4. As you will see there was a screened area on our tent where my cuddle buddy, robin & I slept in every night except the night it rained and we had to pack in with the other girls. We were cozy to say the least, but it was a great bonding event. The 6 guys had 2-3 to a tent, all sleeping on plywood, a small foam block and a twin sheet to cover. Did I mention it was hot? Every night felt like a unique challenge to find something to cool down with trying to fall asleep (My preferred temperature of choice at night is upper 60’s. This was not the case here) The biggest success? Sleeping with my metal flashlight under my neck! Creativity was a survival tool this week. Speaking of creativity– here are a few fun experiences:
-bathrooms- 1 bathroom with a toilet that flushes, however the rule was, ” if it’s yellow let it mellow…” The girls were unaware of this and so we ran out of water within the first 24 hrs. Toilet paper- you bring your own in, pull the wooden door shut and germ-x like crazy after tossing toilet paper in a cardboard box next to the toilet.
-no mirrors- I feel pretty confident in brushing my teeth and placing contacts in without a mirror. I didn’t see myself from Monday morning to Thursday afternoon. It was freeing and very comical.
-changing- with no electricity and sleeping in a completely screened in area of the tent, we changed either in the dark or in a closet within the church with a flashlight providing a soft glow
-showering- Tuesday night with no water, most of us bathed in the Caribbean. I say bathed lightly as we had about 20 naked Haitian children laughing and splashing about. It was heart breaking as many asked for soap and you could tell wanted to be washed. Wednesday we had clean water! 10- 5 gallon buckets for 12 people to bathe with, which meant about 1/3 per person. When Americans owned the land I’m assuming they built a concrete structure for showering off the beach residue. No shower heads, doors or curtains, just 4 stalls. If I wasn’t comfortable with my new female roomies, this brought us all to a whole new level. Shower head or not, to actually bathe after a full days work of construction was glorious. The cement structure that we say upon pulling in was actually a church with a small dorm being built by Go Ministry & Cross Point for Phateton. Our days were filled from sun up to sun down, minus the two hour break from 12-2pm due to heat, working on the construction of a church, along with a fun field day with the kids and an incredible tour of the Citadel on Thursday! Check out my next post for information and pictures on the Citadel! The church still has a ways to go, but we got to help prep many things like digging a trench in the front, sifting sand, cleaning rebar, straightening rebar, sifting sand again, moving over 200 cinder blocks, blasting dried concrete and sifting more sand. Each day all 12 of us were stretched a little farther past our comfort zone, everyday was comical, (probably to keep some of us from tears) but never once did anyone complain, slack off or question our purpose in being there. It was challenging mentally, physically & emotionally, but every single person was supposed to be there and all week I kept thanking God for such a great group. All else aside, Phaeton, touched my heart because I got a sense that they were abandoned. Once synthetic fibers hit the market, the once thriving factory went bankrupt and over night electricity was shut off, fresh water disappeared and this community was just left with nothing but their home land in ruins. I can’t even begin to imagine what they felt and still what they feel about Americans, but thanks to Go Ministries, hope is being restored and by the end of November, they will once again have clean drinking water! What’s Next? Well, there was a book written from a first hand experience about the Dauphin Plantation in Phaeton, Haiti, The Story of Fort Liberty and the Daughin Plantation, covering all details of the community, the factory and what happened. I fully intend on buying that and continuing to learn about what happened to better understand what can be done… I am pretty excited! At some point I would love to return to Phaeton, but we will see what this next year brings! Thank you for your prayers & support! It was an amazing week. I’m happy to be home though!