Lately I have been reading Jacqueline Novogratz’s “The Blue Sweater”, where she stresses the importance of listening to the people you are working with in the international community. Listening is key and I ask myself if I have been listening carefully. Not just to those who are sitting at the table but those who aren’t as well.
At the end of last summer we held a 3rd community engagement meeting near Bois L’Etat to discuss health concerns of the local residents, as part of our pre-planning for the clinic. Peter had suggested to me that this time I should divide the room into two – men and women – to gather information. With two architects from Perkins + Will in attendance, and also Dr. Anany Guesko from Partners in Health and Esther Boucicault of FEBS, we divided the room in two groups. The difference in how much the women opened up and participated this time was astonishing.
Last week we met with Esther and Patricia of FEBS in New York to present design options for the clinic and trade school. Due to shortage of funds, construction has slowed to a halt recently on the housing projects. Certainly we all shared frustration in this. Esther’s question to me was direct – what was our goal in my next visit to Haiti? I understood she was and is concerned about the fulfillment of all we had agreed to two years ago, even before the catastrophic earthquake of 2010.
Our first goal in returning this April is to get the construction of houses back on track. Secondly we want to install a water well for the community since access to clean, safe drinking water continues to be a significant issue directly related to health. Third I want to keep talking, and mainly listening, to my Haitian colleagues about how we can best move forward in making this a collective, community-based project run by and for the residents of Bois L’Etat.
by Joy Gutierrez, Haiti Project Coordinator