Fatima Estime is a Canadian volunteer who is raising funds to help the people of Desab, an isolated and impoverished village in Haiti. She first travelled to Haiti with Volunteer For Peace (VFP) and is spending time there again this summer, taking donations of much needed supplies to the village. She tells Touch BASE about her experiences there. (First published October 2016)
Desab, Haiti, is a rural and isolated village about a 90-minute drive from the capital Port Au Prince. There is no proper road to access the village which is surrounded by mountains and open land for agriculture. The locals survive on agriculture which provides unsustainable income in Desab due to the lack of water. The people in Desab are beautiful, very welcoming and appreciate any help.
While I was working with VFP, our responsibility was to teach English at the local school during the day and teach English to the adults in the evenings in Desab. However, my experience took me beyond the call of duty. I started to understand the needs of the village and I had to quickly adapt to be able to serve the people of Desab.
I personally did not limit myself to teaching. I would assist by providing school bags or shoes if students were willing to go to school and I shared my meals with anyone that came by. The important thing was to understand what the people in Desab wanted for a sustainable life.
I believe that in Desab, NGOs that go there, are not ready with projects that meet the needs of the locals. For example, while I was in Desab, we were experiencing a shortfall of rain and locals were experiencing shortage of food. Many students couldn’t attend classes because they had to help their families walk the two hour journey to the waterfall in the hope of getting some water. A lot of children went to school hungry and couldn’t focus in the classroom and so people in Desab were constantly sick. But we continued to teach English, while our students were experiencing hunger and were in bad health. Personally it became very difficult to teach in those circumstances. Due to the fact I can speak the local language, I was able to teach grade three. I realized many kids had a difficulty reading, doing basic math, social science and comprehending basic instructions.
So, after I completed the program with Volunteer for Peace, I decided that I would return back to Desab but this time not with an organization.
I personally tried to provide appropriate aid in Desab. In some seasons, Desab has mostly no rainfall. At those times people resort to drinking unclean water thus causing an outbreak of cholera.
During that trip, I studied Desab’s infrastructure to see how a sustainable water system can be built there. I provided community meals in Desab, also supplying meals to street children and to a psychiatry home in Haiti, where a lot of these individuals are abandoned by their families. I would volunteer in a hospital in Port- au Prince for two weeks where babies up to the age of four lacked care.
Now I also plan to go to a maternity home where I shall take the baby clothes that I received as donations. I plan on pursuing my education in Public Health and in Midwifery and right now I am learning what it means to assist people in a positive way.
But why am I interested in helping in Haiti? I ask myself the same question all the time, because I believe that I would help in any country.
However, when I travelled to Haiti in 2015, I saw a country where people seek life in dump sites; where people lay in front of hospital doors begging to be cared for but only to be rejected; where the child who suffers from autism does not have a fair chance to education; where children are left in front of orphanages hoping that they will be given a better life but only do find out that they have been victims of all kinds of abuse; where people who have disabilities sit on the streets of Haiti with their hands out hoping someone would help them today; where people live with their families in tents still waiting on NGOs to help them build homes promised since the earthquake struck.
Finding the right people to help, establishing the right project and the funds are huge challenges. I don’t know how I will be able to overcome them. But I plan on continuing my education so that I can gain the right insight to create such projects and hope to find a better job so I can financially fund the projects.