Haitian students participate in hygiene promotion at Collège Socrates. Hygiene promotion and the distribution of hygiene kits are part of UMCOR Haiti’s School Repairs project, where 11 Port-au-Prince classrooms were built or repaired.
Julner Jolius, UMCOR Haiti.
By Julner Jolius*
June 5, 2013—Imagine not having water even to wash your hands before eating. Imagine your children not having access to a bathroom during the school day. Until the beginning of this year, children and teachers in five Port-au-Prince schools did not have to imagine these circumstances—they lived them.
In January 2013, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) helped turn this situation around. UMCOR’s Haiti mission completed construction of rainwater-harvesting systems for hand-washing stations and drinking water, and repaired latrines to improve sanitation at the five facilities.
These upgrades were performed as part of UMCOR Haiti’s recently completed School Repairs project. In all, the project repaired or built classrooms for 11 Port-au-Prince schools, including the five targeted for water, sanitation, and hygiene activities. The schools are: Collèges Socrates, located in Delmas; Ecole Communale de Petion-ville, in Petion-Ville; Collèges Accadémique de Frère, in Pernier; Ecole Communale de Pyron, inThomassin; and Orphelinat l’Amour du Bon Berger, inTabarre.
To support the new systems, UMCOR is conducting filter installations and hygiene-promotion demonstrations, as well as distributing hygiene kits. UMCOR works closely with the schools’ administrators to schedule these activities as most of the schools operate two or three different school sessions every day.
In order to ensure that the filters are properly operated and maintained, UMCOR provides training in filter installation and maintenance for the persons at each school who are responsible for maintaining the equipment. The Hydraid® biosand water filter UMCOR used in the schools removes 98.9 percent of viruses, bacteria, and parasites and has been shown to reduce cases of diarrhea by 47 percent if it is installed and used correctly. The filters can be used to treat drinking and cooking water. After training, the facilities will be responsible for maintaining the equipment.
“UMCOR is making a very great difference in people’s lives by reaching out to those who are really in need. May God bless UMCOR Haiti more and more for the great job it has done here in Haiti,” said Pastor Jean Romain, the director of the Orphanage l’Amour du Bon Berger, one of the five participating facilities. “We really needed the water filter because the boys here at the orphanage drink a lot of water, and the rainwater catchment system really helps. The hygiene education and hygiene kits are useful to us as well,” he said.
Students and teachers alike benefit from the new facilities installed by UMCOR Haiti. Only one out of the five schools has access to municipal water connections, thus rainwater harvesting is the preferred method for securing water. Without it, students and teachers had to purchase small bags of water sold in the schools’ cafeterias or brought it in from other sources.
For the students, these changes have made a world of difference. As Sheila, a 19 year-old student of Collèges Socrates expressed, “Before, it was very difficult for me to use the latrines at school because they were in a very bad state. And I couldn’t even find water to wash my hands afterward. With the hand-washing station built by UMCOR Haiti, however, everything seems to be different here in the school, and I’m so happy about it.’’
“I really appreciate the fact that UMCOR Haiti is providing hygiene promotion for students in the school of Collèges Socrates,” said Etienne Fritzner, the school’s director. “I can’t really find the words to say thank you to UMCOR for repairing the latrines, providing the hand-washing station with rainwater-harvesting facilities. Moreover, the hygiene kits are really helpful to the students, and they like them.”
Directors of each of the schools congratulated UMCOR for the work it is doing in Haiti, especially for the work it is doing to improve school conditions.
Your gift to Haiti Response, UMCOR Advance #418325, supports programs like this one, which are helping Haitians to “build back better” after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country.
*Julner Jolius is UMCOR Haiti’s the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) assistant, a post he has held since September 2011. He leads the team for filter installation and training, hygiene promotion, and the distribution of hygiene kits for the School Repairs project.