Ogden Valley residents provide humanitarian service in Haiti

Monday , March 09, 2015 - 8:21 AM

By JENNILYN WILLIAMS
Standard-Examiner correspondent

Sixteen residents of Huntsville and Eden went to Haiti in October to provide humanitarian service to the community of Timo, as part of the Haiti Health Initiative (HHI), a nonprofit organization based out of Orem.

Their project was to finish a building in Timo to be used as a community center for doctors and dentists. The building will also be used for educational, cultural, and clinical purposes.

The group completed the roofing with solar panels, rainwater collection system, and electrical wiring for the building. Because there is no electrical system in place in Timo, the building will be completely run on solar power, with a backup generator.

According to a recent report from Vernet Jean Gilles, a Timo community leader, “Every night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. we turn on the lights in the hallway of the community center to allow K-12 and college students to come study and do their homework.”

The Utah volunteers worked together with volunteers from Haiti. “When the Haitian team comes together with our team, we can overcome great obstacles together,” said Travis Poulson, one of those in the group.

After the systems were installed, the group taught the Haitian people how to run and fix the recently installed systems.

“The most rewarding thing for me was when the Haitians were able to fix the system themselves, after the system went down. Once we have returned home, there is really no way for them to be able to get a hold of us, so it’s important for them to be able to do it themselves,” said Brad Layton, another of the Ogden Valley residents attending the service project. “You can’t just go and give stuff to them. You have to teach them how to use it and how to fix it.”

Layton, vice president and co-owner of Lynn Woodward Electric, along with his son Brody, who also went to Haiti to give service, did the electrical wiring and donated all of the solar panel and electrical system for the new building.

HHI was founded in 2010 by Marc-Aurel Martial, a registered nurse and program lead at Intermountain Healthcare who was born and raised in Haiti. Martial’s grandmother is from the community of Timo.

The organization sends local medical and dental health professionals along the Wasatch Front, other U.S. states, and Canada along with agricultural and water systems volunteers, to help the community of Timo. The organization sends groups for nine days at a time, twice a year, usually in the spring and fall seasons.

Dental professionals go for the first nine days, while the second nine days are for medical professionals. The third round is for agricultural volunteers. Each volunteer pays their own travel expenses and brings their own supplies. Each person pays $1,500 to go on the trip and they do fundraising to gather needed supplies.

Travis and Chris Poulson, owners of Grass Plus Landscaping, have visited Haiti five times, three times with HHI. Travis is a team leader for agriculture and water projects and has built new water systems. On his first visit, he worked on existing water systems and mapped out four new complete water systems that are spring fed.

“People had to carry water on their heads for miles and miles. It was taking them hours every day, just to live. And it was dirty water. Now they have fresh, clean water a few feet away from their home, drawn from community spigots,” said Chris Poulson.

The Poulsons have also helped the people of Haiti by bringing them heirloom seeds they can plant in their gardens, enabling them to save the seeds to plant the following year. They have also helped people with installing a drip system in their gardens, so they can grow their gardens in the dry season.

Together with the dieticians from the visiting team, they have helped the community of Timo build the first solar dehydrator in the area and taught them how to dry foods, preserve them and use them during the rainy days or when the foods are out of season.

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