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Communiqué #064


to the PEOPLE of HAITI

August 21, 2009

Only one thing can explain the ongoing miracle of the construction of the school on Ile-a-Vache.  It is but by the grace of God that the school is becoming a reality.  From this, GRACE School received its name!  The long awaited time to put the cement roof on the first floor has come.  Combined fundraising efforts by supporters in the United States have made the huge financial undertaking possible!   The support of the community on Ile-a-Vache has put a labor of love into action.  On one day alone, one hundred fifty (yes, 150!) men showed up to help with the roof.  Some men were hired laborers.  Other men demanded no pay, just asking for food at the end of the day!  They know in their hearts that the school brings hope to their children – the next generation.  Many of these men never had the opportunity to have a formal education of their own, but they are anticipating that with their participation their children will have a better future through education!   Thank you God for making this possible!

Nothing in Haiti is easy! Imagine building a school on the side of a mountain, with no vehicles or modern equipment to help get the job done! Supplies are purchased on the mainland. Men with pull carts are hired to bring the supplies to the wharf. Other men are hired to load the supplies on to a boat. Boat captains, with rugged wooden boats, are hired to transport the supplies over the 10 miles of Caribbean Sea to the island. Once they arrive at the island’s shore, more men are hired to remove the items from the boat and bring the supplies up the mountain. Sometimes, the school children also show up to help! If the supplies are cement blocks, they are carried one at a time up the steep, uneven path to the work site. If water is needed to mix the cement, men and women are required to fill 5 gallon buckets at the well at the base of the mountain and carry them (usually on their heads) to the work site. Sand and rock are brought up using mules with side sacks. The sand or rock is shoveled into the sacks and the mule and its master head up the rough terrain.

To do the roof alone, it took 50 lb. bags of cement in quantities exceeding three hundred bags. The cement usually arrives in Haiti on a large ship from countries like Venezuela. If we can catch the boat at the wharf, before the cement is brought into town, we can get it for a better price. If we are not there when the ship docks, we must pay a higher price to get the cement at the local store and then pay to have it transported back to the wharf where it had come from in the first place. The cement bags then need to make the journey (as described in the paragraph above) from the mainland to the work site. Once the cement is on-site and ready to be mixed, it is all done by hand, using simply a shovel and water. A hand-built ladder is erected and the “bucket brigade” of men start to hoist metal buckets of wet cement up to the workers on the roof. An assembly line of men stand on the ground to hand the buckets from the man doing the cement mixing to the men on the ladder (one on each rung) who pass the cement-laden buckets to the workers on the roof. Once the bucket is emptied, a man on the roof inserts the handle of the bucket on to a rope that whisks the pail down the rope back to the ground where a waiting worker stands. This same bucket is then re-filled with cement and begins a repeat of its journey, through the many hands of men, back up to the roof.

The roof itself is about 12” thick, made of steel bars and concrete. It is made to withstand hurricane-strength winds and the weight of a second and third floor. The small army of men were able to put the roof on in ONE day. It had rained during the night, not stopping until 10AM. With the cooler morning air already gone, the workers began the job at 11AM. They worked straight through until 4PM in order to finish the job. All this was done on a cloudless day of ninety degree temperatures and high humidity. Now that is commitment!!!

Please check out my “GRACE SCHOOL” photo album for a complete photo journal of the making of the roof!

Léon is SO excited to see his dream, for the community of his birth, become a reality. He is already planning ahead for more rooms to accommodate high school students and then trade school students, and a medical clinic and a guesthouse for missionaries! As he put it, “ I feel like I have just written the first line of the story.” He has so many hopes for an improved lifestyle for this impoverished, isolated community!

I must close this communiqué with a HUGE thank you to our Heavenly Father!   This work would have been IMPOSSIBLE without him.

A huge “thank you” also goes out to the many people who believed in the dreams for Ile-a-Vache and supported it with prayers, with labor, with funding and with encouragement!

Isn’t God Good???

Nora Léon

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time ………….

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