Our COVID-19 activities on La Gonave

Our COVID-19 activities on La Gonave

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Dear Chad,

We just completed Phase 1 of our COVID-19 response plan.

We carried out awareness campaigns in 6 of the 11 communal sections that make up La Gonave and installed more than 80 hand washing stations throughout those six sections. We are in constant contact with our network of community leaders on the island, who continue to evaluate and report back on the situation and maintain the hand washing stations that were installed in their communities. We are in contact with staff at La Gonave’s only hospital and are a member of the COVID-19 emergency response committee that the mayors of Anse-a-Galets and Pointe-a-Raquette formed to respond to this emergency more effectively. The committee includes other elected officials, a representative from the Ministry of Public Health and the hospital in Anse-a-Galets, and various NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that work on the island.

Phase 2 of our plan includes training leaders in the five remaining communal sections of the island and quickly spreading awareness about the virus and distributing prevention materials there. If we are able to raise the funding needed, Phase 2 will also involve supporting the production and distribution of locally sewn masks, and a micro-grant initiative that will put funds directly in the hands of communities leading their own COVID-19 prevention efforts.

By investing in local leadership on the island for the past decade, we have been helping La Gonave prepare for moments just like these. With our community-driven approach to development and our strong network, we are able to support effective emergency response efforts and the following longer-term, recovery efforts in a way that does not compromise future development or resiliency, but instead strengthens local capacity. Increasing evidence and policy guidance have been pointing towards the importance of local leadership in development, crisis response, and post-crisis recovery and resilience. Roots of Development is uniquely situated to accompany the people of La Gonave in their fight against COVID-19.

COVID-19 and La Gonave

La Gonave is in a unique situation in terms of the potential spread and impact of COVID-19 across Haiti. As an island accessible only by boat, the virus may take more time in reaching the island than the rest of the densely populated and interconnected mainland. However, while that isolation may be an advantage in terms of delaying the arrival of COVID-19, it quickly becomes a disadvantage in terms of facing the threat of the virus once it arrives. La Gonave only has one full-service hospital, The Wesleyan Hospital in Anse-a-Galets. The hospital is currently equipped with 40 beds. As of mid-April, based on information obtained by Roots of Development from hospital management, the hospital was in possession of sufficient masks and gloves for staff but did not have sufficient eye protection. The hospital has minimal oxygen capacity (only enough for about 3 or 4 patients) and no ventilators. According to reports, there are only around 60 ventilators in the entire country (Haiti). Testing is not available on the island.

The geographical isolation of La Gonave makes it unlikely for medical reinforcement to arrive in the event of a surge of COVID-19 cases. Supply chain management for basic medical supplies on the island is a challenge in non-emergency times. With reduced movement, closed markets, and other limitations caused by the pandemic, La Gonave’s health systems will struggle to maintain supplies. La Gonave’s isolation as an island also makes it difficult for those with COVID-19 to seek treatment elsewhere.

La Gonave has long been socio-politically marginalized from the mainland. It was largely forgotten in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, and it is likely the same will occur during this emergency. On May 18th, there were 533 reported cases of COVID-19 in Haiti, including 21 deaths. The number of new cases is starting to quickly rise. 

“Haiti, spared a major coronavirus outbreak so far, now a ‘tinderbox’ set to ‘explode’.” – The Washington Post, 5/15/2020

It is essential that we, in partnership with our local partners (island leaders), use this time to educate as many citizens as possible, distribute necessary equipment, and prepare La Gonave for the impact of COVID-19.

Please continue to support our emergency efforts by making a donation today

Sincerely, 

Chad Bissonnette

Executive Director

Installation of another set of solar street lamps on La Gonave with Parsons School of Design

For the second year in a row, key locations in several communities on the island of La Gonave have been lit up with newly installed solar-powered street lamps. The new light is a product of a second collaboration between Roots of Development, a team from Parsons School of Design in New York City, and Roots’ local community partner APDAG. This year’s project built on the success of last year’s installment of five solar street lamps in key areas around the community of Gran Sous.

 


Chad Groshart, a professor at Parsons School of Design, teaches a graduate course on lighting in the developing world for students studying lighting, architecture, and product design. A group of his students collaborated to provide design and technical expertise for the street lamps. They also helped raise money to fund the purchase and transport of the light poles. Groshart and the students joined Roots of Development on La Gonave last month to help local community groups install the new set of lights.


The street lamps are solar powered, and have controllers which allow them to turn on automatically when it starts getting dark. Around 6:30PM every evening, the lights turn on. They stay turned on at full power until midnight, at which time the controller reduces the light by half until 6:00 AM when the lamps turn off. This process helps save power by limiting the light produced when there are fewer people around and therefore less need for light.


The preparation and implementation phases of the project were led by APDAG and representatives of its various member groups. The community’s role included selecting where the street lamps would be placed, preparation of the installation site, providing materials and labor for the installation, and of course maintenance of the poles. With guidance from APDAG, residents debated the merits of possible locations for the solar street lamps. Based upon the needs of their community, they determined which spots would benefit the most from the light. Local groups were also responsible for providing cement, sand, rocks, water, and labor for the installation of each lamp.

The street lamps were purchased from a Haitian-owned company based in Port-au-Prince called ENERSA. This is the second year that ENERSA has worked on this project, as they also provided the light poles for the installation in May 2016. Every part of the light pole is locally sourced and purchased in Haiti, and is meant to have a long life span. They are made of strong durable materials, with solar panels that can last over 25 years and LED lights that will last about 10 years.


The new light has had a clear and immediate impact on the community. Small businesses have popped up under the lights, students are able to study after dark, and the community gathers to plan and discuss current events. Not only does light add to the development of an area by serving as a focal point for economic activities, it strengthens community. Immediately following the installation of the lamps, the community began gathering under the new light. They were hanging out, telling jokes, and listening to music. The influence of the new lamps is already spreading across the island, with leaders from other communities traveling to see the lamps and meeting with APDAG to learn how they might acquire similar lamps to light their own communities.


In evaluations that took place with APDAG after the completion of the project, the great majority of community members in attendance marked the project as a real success. The majority of respondents rated “project implementation” as very good or excellent, including on critical elements such as management of time, money, and materials, the efficiency of the planning process, and accomplishing the project’s objective. Excitement about the new lamps was clear at the meeting. As one resident explained, “this was only seen in our dreams before, only in dreams. Even our ancestors never could have imagined this for our community. Not our great grandparents, not our grandparents, not our parents.”


This project would not have been a success without the generous support of donors and sponsors including The New School, USAI Lighting, Vode, Mercury Lighting, and Lumenwerx. If you are interested in getting involved in Roots of Development’s work, or helping us expand this project specifically, write to us at info@rootsofdevelopment.org.

Initial Assessment of Damage on La Gonave after Hurricane Matthew

Here is the initial assessment of the damage on La Gonave after Hurricane Matthew, compiled by the island’s government representatives. One version is in Creole and one is in English. A final assessment has not yet been completed because some locations have been hard to reach, but it is clear from the initial report that the damage is already extensive. Over 1,000 homes destroyed and another 6,000 damaged. Our estimate is that over a third of the island’s infrastructure has been impacted.


ENGLISH VERSION

 

VESYON KREYOL

Guidelines for Helping in the Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew

1. Wait for the Needs– Wait for formal assessments from the government and from local organizations with already established relationships on the ground.

 

2. Work Within the System– Work under the direction of local government officials and/or with organizations that understand the needs and already have systems in place on the ground.

 

3. Raise or Give Cash and Give Locally- Funds (instead of goods) can get to those in need faster and more cheaply, and can always respond to the greatest need of the moment. Collected goods can be costly to transport, not fulfill a specific need, prevent needed goods from getting where they need to go, and undermine the local economy.

 

4. Few Volunteer Opportunities– Like unsolicited collected goods, untrained volunteers can clog the system and undermine the work of established relief organizations. If you do fit (can fill) a need, make sure you are wanted, your arrival is known beforehand, and that the logistics surrounding your trip are worked out in advance (i.e. transportation, lodging, and access to food/water).

 

5. Don’t Work Alone– Try to combine forces with other groups wanting to help in order to avoid duplicating efforts or overwhelming those on the ground.

 

BEST THING YOU CAN DO?

Raise funds and foster community awareness of established organizations!

New Solar Street Lamps Installed on La Gonave

Roots of Development is happy to announce the success of the recent community driven project in Gran Sous to bring public lighting to the village.

 

A group of students from Parson’s School of Design in New York City donated and worked alongside Roots’ local partners to install solar powered LED lighting at key areas of Gran Sous. Led by Parsons faculty member and alumnus Chad Groshart, six students in the Parsons’ Lighting for Developing Countries class traveled from New York City to Haiti.

 

The culmination of a semester-long study on light poverty in less developed countries, the project used the design skills and critical thinking of the students to craft a sustainable, durable solution to the committee’s request for public lighting.


“Through this project, our students have demonstrated that lighting design has the power to improve the quality of life for an entire community,” Groshart said. “Not only does light allow the community to socialize, study, and sell goods after dark, it is also seen as a marker of progress that will help it to attract more partners to advance development.”

 

Through each stage of the project, Groshart and his students focused on a homegrown approach to development: The team sourced needed gear from local vendors and worked closely with community residents on the design and installation of the lighting system.

“The idea of development shouldn’t come from us, but from the community with which we’re working,” Groshart said. “There’s a long history of outside organizations with good intentions bringing ill-begotten solutions to Haiti. Our approach, which mirrors the approach of Roots of Development, is to give the community the tools they need to drive their own progress.”

 

Responding to a request from The Professional Association for the Development and Advancement of Gran Sous (La Gonave), a local community group established by Roots of Development, Groshart and his students worked with local residents to develop an action plan to bring public lighting to their community. Together with residents of Gran Sous, students dug holes for the lights and set them in concrete.

“After we completed the task of installing several solar lighting fixtures around Grand Sous, the faces of the residents told an entire story in one glance,” Alexander Valencia, MA Architecture ‘17, said. “They were proud of their lights and everyone in La Gonave was excited about the development. But more important than their sense of pride was their sense of connection to the larger community of Haiti and the rest of the world.”


To view more photos from this exciting project click here.

 

The project was sponsored by the Atelier Ten Foundation, Bartco Lighting, Lumenwerx Lighting, and USAI Lighting. A huge thank you to them and Roots of Development’s many partners.