As most of you who have been following us very long know, life here in Haiti can be difficult and challenging on a regular basis.  Just over the past few days there has been unrest again in Port-au-Prince, making travel difficult and creating uncertainty regarding whether or not to have visitors come to work with us.  Right now, we have a group of 7 waiting in Port-au-Prince at a hotel, unable to get out to Jérémie.  The predictions that this unrest would be short-lived are proving themselves to be quite wrong, unfortunately.  We appreciate your continued prayers for them.

In our daily lives, we often have difficulties as well, mostly related to ADLs, or activities of daily living.  There are things that we take for granted in the United States such as 24/7 electricity, running, drinkable water and flushing toilets.  In Haiti those things are a luxury.  How well do we now know it!

For the past three months, Cherlie and I have not had running water at our house in Jérémie.  This is because the transportation department has torn up the water pipes along the sides of the road outside our house in order to build drainage ditches and pave the road.  It’s a huge government project that just started recently.

PVC pipe

Part of a PVC pip lying on the road after being dug up by construction equipment.

Road construction3Drainage ditch being built along one side of the road going into town. 

Road construction1

Drainage ditches on both sides of the road. 

So, why do we not have water and how does the water system work around here?

Well, our house is situated on the main road leading from the town of Jérémie to the airport. Along the road, buried not very deeply, are pipes that bring water from a huge reservoir several miles from us, into town.  These pipes supply the numerous public fountains along the road, where people can get water on a near-constant basis without paying for it (it usually runs all the time during the day).

Other people, like us, pay a monthly fee to the government and we have a pipe that comes in off the road onto our property.  Even so, we have never received water all the time, so we have plastic storage tanks, 200 gallon and 400 gallon, on our roof to conserve water.  Normally, when the water is turned on for us, coming in from the road, there is enough pressure in the pipes to push it all the way up onto the roof and into the storage tanks.  When the tanks are full, the water turns off and goes instead into a large cistern under Cherlie’s closet.  This is basically a big room built into the lower floor of the house and conserves water for the times when we don’t get it coming in through the pipes. We have a water pump in the cistern so we can pump water from the cistern up to the roof if needed.  Water then feeds by gravity from the roof tanks down into the bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen for our daily use.  When it’s just the two of us here, the roof tanks can last for 2 – 3 weeks with conservative water use.  And, by pumping water from the cistern to the roof, our water supply can last for a couple of months (as long as we don’t do laundry with it).

Well, the cistern is now empty.  So, for the past month or two, we have been bringing buckets and 5 gallon jugs of water from the clinic (where we have a very good well and plenty of water) down for our use at home.  We’re bathing from water in buckets (which is definitely a technique to be mastered!) and using buckets of water to flush the toilets.  Needless to say, our upper body strength is being improved with all the buckets we carry to our bathrooms every day!

They say that necessity is the mother of invention and, in our case, that’s proving to be true.  The other day I went down to the government water office and asked them how long we would be without water.  “Oh, it’s going to be a long time,” the guy in the office said. “It’s not just a matter of repairing the pipes, all new pipes need to be laid,” he explained.  Of course, the problem was not their fault, it was the fault of the transportation department (all part of the same government but so what?). So, we realized that we’re in this for the long haul and if we want to have water for our visitors and if we want to take showers again instead of bucket baths, we need to do something about it.

Let me digress by saying that we did try to do something about our water situation two years ago because we were suffering from vandalism of our pipes.  We had another mission organization come dig a well in our yard but lost our $5000 investment when they struck salty water!

But, our present situation is a real dilemma that won’t be resolved soon.  So, we decided to set up a rainwater collection system using drainage pipes that come off our roof and connecting them to the cistern under Cherlie’s closet.  Once there’s rain water in the cistern, we can pump it up to the roof and have running water again!

Pipe from roof

PVC pipe coming from the roof and going into the cistern to collect rain water.

Of course, with our new system, we need rain.  So, let the rain dances begin!

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