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Helping Haiti


About me

My name is Bridget Davis and I will be a senior in the fall of 2013 and I am majoring in electrical engineering. This blog relates to the trip to Haiti my senior capstone group is taking to collect data for our project which is to design a solar power system for a village in Haiti.

July 26, 2013

Today is the first day of our adventure to Anse-a-Galets, Haiti. Our mission is to collect on site data pertaining to the village's electrical system. Then over the course of the school year, we will design a 60 kW solar power system that will be interconnected with the current system of generators that the village already uses. In addition, the civil engineering students on this project will perform surveying and soil tests of the proposed site for the system and they will determine if the site is an ideal collection site. It should be a very interesting week and I am so grateful to be able to have the opportunity to work on this project.

Both of our planes ended up being delayed.  On our way through security in Columbus, John got stopped by TSA for a full body pat down. They examined the one piece of surveying equipment he was carrying and the machine gave a false reading for explosive material. It was pretty funny watching it. What a way to start off the trip!

I knew that Haiti would be much less developed than the US, especially in Anse-a-galet, but I was surprised, upon descent into Port-au-Prince, to see so many shacks that were practically on top of each other. 

I was also surprised at how pushy the people were. I practically got run over by a guy with a luggage cart. I suppose it is part of their culture but I found it rude.

It was also surprising how close the mountains are to the city. It was a very beautiful site. 


Coming out ofthe airport was a major culture shock. There were people everywhere trying to grab your stuff to take to your car for money. There were also people everywhere trying to sell you stuff. I again saw the impatience in the Haitian people. The drivers do a lot of honking. Frank said Haitians only know how to use a horn and the accelerator. Most of the cars have people crammed into them; much more is than would ever be legal in the states. On our ride up the coast, we rode in the back of a truck with a cage on it in the bed. After that ride I was in major sensory over load. I had an image in my head of what it would be like but it is much different in real life. It is hard to imagine that people can live the way these people do. They live in shacks and use the river to wash their clothes.  This is the same River that is also used for bathing and using the bathroom. Animals roam freely, rarely fenced in. Sometimes they are left tied to a pole while the owner is away. Children walk around naked and dad chickens are sold in the street. There are no real traffic laws and people drive like maniacs. It has definitely definitely been an eye opening experience and I am grateful for the life of privilege that I have been blessed with. The WISH missionaries work closely with the Wesleyan mission organization to help the village of Anse-a-galet function. There are an estimated 25,000 people in the town and about 125,000 on the island of LaGonave. The generators operate from 6 to 9 and power the hospital, missionary complexes, ice plant, and weld shop. The missionaries that are here for WISH are Rod and Michelle Goszlier and their three boys. 


July 27, 2013

The guest house is very nice and Rod and Michelle have been very hospitable. Today we went into town to become familiar with the setup. WISH and the Wesleyans have a truly amazing compound. The generators, ice plant, and new library are all on the same plot of land. The generators feed the WISH and Wesleyan houses, the ice plant and WISH mall, the hospital, and the tool depos. They use the 100 kW generator during the work week to run the weld shop as well. The Wesleyans are building a new hospital that is very well built-especially knowing the Haitians don't have the kind of technology we have. Julian and Marie showed us around the old and new hospital. Julian is the project manager for the new hospital and Marie is his wife. They are from the UK. Later we discussed some of the plans we have for the project. We have a lot more questions than answers but it gives us a place to start and a vision of what we want to accomplish. Being here to see everything in person definitely helps and will help when designing the system. This evening we made drawings of the compound. Josh and Brian took distance measurements of the lines. John and I went to the generator plant,    ice plant, and library to take dimensions of the buildings to load into a computer program and to take pictures and collect information about the electrical system. For dinner we just had sandwiches but one of the Haitian cooks made pie. I had a piece of coconut cream pie and it was delicious!

July 28, 2013

Today we went to a Haitian church and witnessed the service. It was very festive with lots of singing. The Haitians looked much different than yesterday as they were all dressed in their Sunday best. The church was packed and several people, including us, had to sit outside. It wasn't all bad though because we got to enjoy a nice breeze. This service was special because there were pastors visiting from other churches on the island. There was also a pastor visiting from Virginia named Robert. He would speak English and a Haitian would translate it to Creole. Robert preached about the power of the Holy     Spirit and Jesus and how we are made to experience that power through Jesus Christ. During the service there was a little boy who was practically sitting on me while playing with my digital watch. He was so enamored with it and he played with it for a good ten minutes. Some of the other children kept touching my hair and a couple of children were pushing each other to try to get the other to touch me.

I’ve gotten into the habit of eating a tiny fruit here called kanips between meals. They are really slimy and remind me of an eyeball but they are pretty cirtrusy and make a good filler between meals. Josh went out and knocked a couple of coconuts out of a tree by the house. We had fun laughing at him when he tried to climb the tree and was unsuccessful. 

This afternoon we took a little tour of the town. First we went to the Saline, which is an area along the coast that is deedless but people can live there until their homes are ruined when water comes in. Then we went to the reservoir for the water supply. The reservoir holds up to 40 gallons of water that flows through the pipes to the pumps in town. We had to climb a wall and walk across it to get on the reservoir to see the water. The water flows at 100 gallons per minute. We also drove up to see the captage which is like a pool of water that has collected between two shelves of land. There is slotted piping underneath the captage and this water then flows to the reservoir through the piping. It is hard to imagine that people live on these mountains and travel to the fountains to get water. We also saw people bathing at the fountains. On our way up, we stopped at a quarry where men were mining for aggregate. It is very hard work and the men were very fit. The cave was huge but pretty cool inside. These workers get about $2 for a wheelbarrow full of aggregate.


July 29, 2013

This morning we went to the airport on the island. It is a dirt strip by the ocean. It is overseen by a man named Jonas who has 30 children. Right now John and I are going to finish collecting our electrical data from the WISH compound while Josh continues to record the distances of the lines. Brian and Dale went to get Stacy from Port-au-Prince.

This afternoon John and I finished our electrical work. Josh, Stacy, and Brian went to prep the proposed site for surveying. For lunch we had some native rice and beans and a really good stew like dish. We also had plantanes again and we finished all of them.

We have pretty much exhausted the supply of kanips so today we tried to get more. First, John and I tried to climb the tire swing but that didn’t work. Then John climbed the tree and dropped down a whole salad bowl full of kanips. We should be good for a couple of days.

I forgot to mention that yesterday John and I tried to go to the weld shop to collect data. It was locked but we drove there with a Kabota they call The Mule. Driving around town, everyone was staring at me. Apparently women don’t drive here. It must have been weird for them seeing a white woman driving a vehicle.

I continued our coconut capture fun by trying to knock them out of the tree with a rock. A Haitian walking by climbed up the tree and knocked them down for me. Then we were all trying to open them. I opened mine using just my hands and beating the coconut on a rock. My hands are very shaky and weak now. Unfortunately the coconuts weren’t ripe enough but it was still fun opening it up.  

This evening we went to the Saline to watch a soccer game. There were a lot of people there. That is obviously the place to be. There was music and lots of teens were dancing and having a good time. The soccer players were pretty talented. Soccer is obviously something they are very passionate about.    While we were there, there were several little kids that came up to me and the others and were attached to us like leeches. Some of them walked all the way back to the compound with us. There was also an older man who came over to me and wanted his picture taken with me and the other little girls. He had had a bit too much to drink and after he came up to me a second time, some younger Haitian men called him over and told him to stop bothering me. He wasn’t doing anything bad but it is still nice to know that the Haitians respect us and our mission enough to be on the lookout for our well being. Rod and Michelle have remarked that they have never had issues with safety in their 3 years on the island. The Haitians know that the missionaries are here to help them and that they provide work for the Haitians.

July 30, 2013

This morning we went over to the proposed site. Stacy and Josh worked on surveying the site. They got the part we will probably use done but they are also going to do the area next to the library just in case. While they did that, John and I used the solar pathfinder. The pathfinder is used to show us, at a certain spot, how much sunlight that spot will receive during the year and throughout the day. You set up a tripod and on the tripod you set this device that has a compass on it. You line up the compass to be pointing due north (towards you when reading the pathfinder) and set the tripod level. You then place a cutout piece corresponding to your latitude on the device. Then you place a glass dome over the device. Looking into the dome you can see where shadows are going to affect the amount of sunlight your panel will receive at various times of the day and year. It was really neat to see. We will probably cut down most of the trees in the area anyhow but even with the trees our percent of sunlight received during the year at each location was very high. The proposed site will be very good for the solar panel system.    

Earlier we took a trip to the Haitian market. Pretty much everything there was everyday stuff that we didn’t need. All the little shops were packed tightly together with sheets over the gaps. Food was sold there too. Most of it looked and smelled pretty nasty. We also exchanged our money for Haitian gouds. I got 1725 gouds for $40. I’ve also been learning some basic Creole.

Com e ye zome = How are you friend?  Bonjour = Good morning.  Merci vou cou = Thank you very much.  Von sua = Good afternoon.  Quise = what  Dlo = water  Glase = ice  cola = pop  Quishan ou di = How do you say?

This afternoon we finished surveying the proposed site. Josh took a machete to help chop down some of the plants in the way of the surveying equipment. He went all Amazon man on us. Brian was scratching his leg with it and managed to cut himself. Boys will be boys I guess.

July 31, 2013

This morning we went back over to the proposed site to take soil samples and perform PERC tests. (I don’t really know what those are. Some foreign civil thing.) John and I came back and worked on putting our data inthe computer.  

After lunch there was a bunch of vendors right outside the guest house. The merchandise they had was all handmade and it was gorgeous. There were all kinds of bracelets and necklaces. There were also conk shells, carved figurines, hand sewn handkerchiefs, paintings, stone carvings, and wooden machetes just to name a few. I bought a hemp like bracelet, two stone-like necklaces, a picture, and a man in a barrel wooden carving. I paid for all of this in gouds and I have what was left of my money in all increments of Haitian money to take home as souvenirs.

We have played euchre the past few evenings after dinner. Josh and John have beat Brian and I every time be we have had fun and it is a good way to relax. Since we have all our work done we are going to help WISH by setting a pole for electric lines tomorrow. Tonight we looked at the pole and where the best place to put it is. We decided it will be best next to the existing pole. We are also going to clear up some of the bushes that the line goes through.

We celebrated Joe’s 13th birthday tonight. Michelle made cake and ice cream and we all sang for him. It was nice to be included in their family event.

August 1, 2013

This morning we started working on putting up the new pole. This pole was 24 feet long and made of concrete. It took 17 of us to lift it from the ground and onto the trailer. Then we had to maneuver it so that most of the weight was on the trailer and not stick out too much to hit the tractor tire. We also had to be sure we weren’t stressing the concrete too much or else it could break. We got the hole dug and used a piece of steel pipe attached to the concrete to help support the pole and keep it from breaking. We placed the pole in a spot where the line is further away from the tree and the roof of the Wesleyan guest house. We also wanted the new pole because the current pole is old and leaning quite a bit. Then they are going to rerun the line from the wood pole by the transformer over to the new pole and on to the youth center. It is this rerun of line and new pole placement that increases our clearance and makes the line more effective. We definitely had to get creative in finding ways to move the beam since we had little heavy equipment at our disposal. But it was challenging and fun to try to figure out and it felt good to help WISH with something other than our project.    

This afternoon the guys went to get special haircuts with cool designs and Frank, Dale, and I took Stacy around town since she wasn’t here to take the tour before. Later we went to The Point and swam in the ocean. The water was so blue and clear. It was also nice and warm and felt really good after a long week of working in the sun. Josh, John, and Ben swam out to the coral reef which was a good 400 meters. They brought back really pretty sand dollars for us. Stacy and I found some good conk shells to take home too!

Overall this has been a wonderful week and I wouldn’t have passed up this opportunity for anything. I am looking forward to working with me team and WISH to make this dream a reality.