SOIL Board Visits Haiti

The SOIL Board of Directors visited Haiti in late March - one of our Board members shared his thoughts and impressions with us. We found his words incredibly moving, and wanted to share them with all of our friends and supporters, as well. Haiti is uniquely beautiful and compelling, and we believe this story will touch your hearts as it has ours. 

A 3-year girl saunters in. An older friend, sister, or cousin pulls her back as she approaches the SOIL Board members, who are visiting neighborhoods in Cap-Haitien where people use SOIL household and community composting toilets.

The Board makes for a curious sight. Madame Bwa - a longtime SOIL Sanitation and EkoLakay ambassador - leads us through the winding streets of Shada. Here, SOIL staff members wheel carts into the neighborhood each week, fill them with buckets of toilet wastes, and remove them. There is a paved road just in front of Shada which faces a stagnant, trash-saturated inlet. The SOIL Poopmobile uses this road to haul away the buckets of waste, which would otherwise end up in this water, creating serious health hazards for the many children and residents in this area, people like this three-year old girl.

Instead, the Poopmobile transports the waste from over 600 households in Cap-Haitien to the lush northern Haiti countryside, where the SOIL composting team mixes the wastes with more organic material and forms windrows that reach over 150°F, killing disease-causing pathogens and transforming the waste into nutrient-rich, organic fertilizer that is safe to use in agriculture.

Having visited the waste treatment site and witnessed the incredible professionalism with which the SOIL composting team is carrying out the work of transforming wastes into resources, the SOIL Board is now moved again by the presence of this three-year-old girl, who wears a pretty pink dress, the formal kind you might find a little girl wearing at an Easter party in the United States. The dress is accentuated with a line of three muslin roses just below the neck, little plastic jewels in their centers. And the dress is filthy.

Recoiling a bit behind the back of the older girl, she and maybe six or seven other Ti Moun (children) perch on the cinderblock frame of an 8x8’’ raised garden. As the Board checks out a recently painted SOIL public toilet, a board member takes a photo of the kids - the three-year old girl in the middle of everything.

The group is surrounded by a noticeably large group of children. It is a Monday and evident that most are not in school. Many Haitian families cannot afford to send their children to school, as this is one of the most impoverished areas in the Western Hemisphere.

The board member bends down, facing her iPhone toward the group whose photo she’s just snapped. The girls huddle together to see themselves and each other. They laugh. But the little one in the pink party dress, she is stern. She calls for a second look. When she gets it, she peers into the screen, affirmatively.

There is an expression that many Haitians know - Nou la. It means We are here. Thinking of this petit fi, this little girl, I will remember the fierce nature of the need for SOIL’s work in Shada. I am grateful to the whole SOIL Team for hosting the Board and sharing with us the courageous work being done to protect the health and dignity of Haiti’s beautiful human and natural resources.

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