Twenty one years ago my wife and I were asked by Rotary District 6270 and The Ventures In People Foundation to go to Haiti to see what could be done to improve the goat population.  We are both veterinarians and had raised goats for about ten years. That trip opened my eyes to how the poorest people in our hemisphere lived and the ways Rotary could help.  Over the years a number of projects have been done to improve goat husbandry education, improve goat genetics and train veterinary agents.  I moved on to hundreds of humanitarian projects, some were my idea but most were suggested or asked for by local people, especially Haitian Rotarians.
     Haiti has made a lot of progress over the past 21 years.  Roads are improved, wells have been drilled and the number of schools and hospitals increased.  Back then transportation was by walking or on mule, donkey or horseback.  Now people travel by tap tap (pickup trucks with seats in the bed), truck or motorcycle.  Cell phones have made communication easy compared to when we had to walk miles  to find the person we wanted to talk to wherever they were.  The earthquake in 2010 and the multiple hurricanes in 2008 were huge disasters for the country and its people.  They have survived and continue to improve their lives.  Many still live in one or two room huts with no electricity.  Running water is not common in homes.  But more and more are building substantial small block homes.  There has been a big increase in commerce in the form of small shops, markets and street vendors.
     I believe the five weeks I spent in Haiti this year was the most successful trip ever in terms of the number of people served.  Twenty nine people traveled with me to make it all happen.
     We distributed 1,200 water filters to families whose source of water was not potable.  This means 6,000 to 10,000 people will have clean water to drink. These filters are supposed to last for one million gallons of water with minimal maintenance.  Added to the 1,980 distributed over the past three years a lot of people will have improved health.
     50 families were given chickens and a portable pen and the training to maintain them.  They are already laying eggs for the people to eat and sell.
     A nurse educator has been going with me for many years and again offered advanced training to nurses and nursing students. 
     I have had a course to train veterinary technicians for many years.  Veterinarians volunteer their time to teach a week of classroom work and a week of clinical work each year.  The current class finished the three year course and will receive certificates after they do a few more clinical experiences.  The students have greatly improved in their knowledge, experience and comfort handling animals and many have jobs with the government or non profits or are hired by farmers to treat their livestock.  They take the place of veterinarians of which there are very few in Haiti.
     Twenty six years ago rotary district 6270 drilled 35 wells in the Mirabalais area.  They provided clean water for thousands of people but over the years they deteriorated.  The Hartford Rotary Club and our district now have a project to repair and improve the wells.  We and the Mirebalais Rotary Club will make twenty or more of them like new and build a gated wall around each one.  Water committees are being formed to manage the wells and collect a small monthly fee.  Money will be available to buy parts and repair the wells as needed.  A local man has been hired and trained as a well and pump technician.  By the time I left Haiti 6 wells had been finished.  The club expects at least twenty to be finished in less than a year.
     Several years ago two Rotarians from district 6270 and another volunteer started a micro lending project.  They give small loans to women to start very small businesses.  They also give them financial and money management training.  They continued to expand the program again this year.
     It has been found that while micro lending helps people, savings plans might be a better option in some cases.  This January I started three Women’s savings clubs in rural areas.   We gathered a group of 12 women who lived close to each other.  The advantages of savings over borrowing were discussed.  Ventures In People Foundation has a donor designated fund to provide Arborloos to people in Haiti.  An Arborloo is a simple cement slab with a hole in the center and a seat above the hole.  It is a simple latrine.  There were almost no latrines or toilets in the areas chosen.  Open defecation was the norm and has the potential of spreading diseases.  The Arborloo is placed over a four to six foot deep hole.  When the hole is nearly full of human waste it is picked up and moved to another spot.  A tree is then planted in the dirt used to cover the original hole.   The ladies were very receptive to the idea of having this simple composting latrine.  They will provide the labor to dig the hole and make a privacy screen.  We estimate the cost to be about $60 US.  When the women have saved half the cost Ventures In People will match it and get them an Arborloo
     After discussing the advantages of the principle of gathering as a group to save each week the women decided to save 50 Haitian gourds a week (about $1.07 US).  When told it would take seven months to save enough they quickly decided to raise the savings rate to 100 Htg a week. They elected a club leader who will meet with them once a week, collect the money and take it to a bank where an account was opened for them.  A young man will manage the project and keep track of the savings and arrange for Arborloo construction. After 4 weeks, two of the clubs are meeting their commitment and one will probably be abandoned.  The hope is that after they meet their goal they will continue to save as a group for other community or personal uses.  In fact one group said they would like to save up to establish a local market in their area.  That would cost about $200.00 US.  Ventures In People will continue these clubs as long as donated funds are available.
     The Lake Country - Hartland Rotary Club has been doing a vision project in Haiti for ten years.  We check people’s vision and give out glasses.  We get prescription glasses from The Lions International Foundation and purchase reading glasses.  This has been enthusiastically received by the people.  Many had poor eyesight for years and years and were delighted to be able to read their bibles or sew and do other intricate work or to see in the distance.  2015 was a record year in that 2,828 people were served in ten days, about 1,000 more than our previous record.
      Many people have volunteered their time and at their own expense to make all this happen over the years.  I hope to continue helping the people of Haiti as long as the money and volunteers are available.  Would you consider this “service above self”?
Dr. Ken Schumann