Margaret Spratlin, a member of the 410 Bridge team based in Alpharetta, Georgia, along with Katherine, another team member, and several Haitian members of the community’s Leadership Council, gave us an overview and showed us around the community. The goal of 410 Bridge is to enable each of these households to produce an income and become self-sustaining. It’s significant that the residents of the community are an integral part of making and executing the plans to achieve this goal.
We toured the community while talking, listening and signing with deaf and hearing residents. We learned that soon after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, a deaf Haitian man named Mackinson gathered several deaf people living in Port-au-Prince tent cities who had been displaced by the earthquake. Because deaf people face significant challenges in Haiti, an additional layer of urgency inspired the growing group of people to lobby for land to build a community. Mackinson connected with 410 Bridge, which has many projects in Kenya and was exploring ways to support projects in Haiti. 410 Bridge then partnered with another NGO, Mission of Hope, which conveyed the use of several undeveloped acres of land they owned near Leveque. To date, only three years since the quake, the community consists of over 150 two and three-bedroom pastel-colored homes with access to water from an aquifer project provided by an engineering company based in Charleston, SC. Each home has a garden and a lovely view.
Children in the community, both hearing and deaf, attend near-by schools. A tutoring program will start in February, and there are plans to build a school for the deaf on the premises. We walked up a hill to see an impressive church under construction which overlooks the community. William, a deaf man who is studying to be a pastor on-line, and who is one of the most joyful men you’ll ever meet, will be the spiritual leader of the church. The community residents access healthcare at the nearby Mission of Hope hospital or via mobile clinic. In the future, the community may consider having its own primary care clinic. Some of the residents already sell jewelry, paintings, and knitted and crocheted items. Deaf women who know how to breast feed are teaching other women to breast feed their babies with the goal of reducing infant mortality and morbidity. Several of the households will soon receive chickens and goats so that they can produce eggs, milk and meat to sell. The overall community business plan includes a market to sell food items raised by residents.
As we stood on the breezy hillside outside the church and looked at the homes below, Chuck Haupt, Executive Director of MedShare’s Western Region, asked the residents, “What does it mean for you to be living here in this community?” Two of the answers were: “We are making much more progress,” and “We now have a good future.” The enthusiasm, spirit, and determination of the residents of this inspiring community are beautiful to behold; we now have hope that in spite of the overwhelming problems facing Haiti, we are all enriched by these empowered people.