Haiti Newsletter Spring / Summer 2019
Dear Friends, Sense of Wonder Creations is involved in several projects on Île-à-Vache, a beautiful little island seven miles off the south west coast of Haiti. Nat, Pam’s husband has sailed to Haiti three times from Vineyard Haven with boatloads of supplies for Sister Flora’s Orphanage and the Haitian Community bringing used sails, rigging and fishing gear for the fishermen, tools for the local boat builders, as well as bags of dried beans and rice, educational supplies, art materials and more. We have also traveled to Haiti by plane three times which includes taking an airplane, bus, motorbike and pirogue with duffel bags of supplies. It’s always an adventure, regardless of the types of vessels employed to get there.
We have made progress on several fronts:
The Kay Kok town well that was damaged during hurricane Matthew is back in operation. Thanks to generous donations to Pam’s 501c3 nonprofit, Sense of Wonder Creations (SoWC), we were able to assist in funding a project to build a pumping station. Now the water is pumped to a header tank at the top of the hill, which feeds a number of water sources in the village and is powered by solar panels. It is so gratifying to see the residents access water without having to climb a steep trail and lug five-gallon buckets on their heads. Before the solar panels were installed they had a gasoline pump and the fuel had to be brought to the island in jugs by boat from Les Cayes, and carried to the well. Gas is expensive and the pump required maintenance.
Following the devastation from hurricane Matthew in 2016, SoWC received a generous outpouring of donations for the Haiti Fund. We have been able to partner with other philanthropic organizations to rebuild homes, clean wells, repair cisterns, provide food, replace animals, plant trees, supply seeds and plant gardens. Île-à-Vache is on the road to recovery. In September of 2017 and 2018 we sent money for school supplies for 400 children. Each child received a backpack, notebook, pens, pencils, protractor and ruler. Over the past 5 years, we have worked closely with the Kay Kok Community Center. Two and half years ago SoWC donated money to purchase guitars, drums, keyboards, recorders and couple of steel drums. SoWC has provided funding for the art program and has paid the teachers’ salaries through 2019. The Community Center is the only place where children and young adults can receive free instruction in art, music and basic computer skills. Saturday nights they can hang out, watch a movie, and play music with their friends. They have learned enough in the past two years to earn money and perform at hotels and events. We have purchased performance sound equipment and speakers for them that will be delivered in May. SoWC has brought Craig Saunders, a Hydrogeologist, to test the wells and help with the construction of the new solar powered well. SoWC has also brought the legendary Vineyard drummer, Rick Bausman and the family chorus conductor Roberta Kirn to drum and sing with the young people. Rick has fallen in Love with Haiti and will be returning on a regular basis to help restore traditional Haitian Rhythms to the people of Haiti. SoWC has also donated funds to lease a 2.5 acre community garden that has been planted, beautifully maintained and is flourishing with vegetable crops for the community. We have also established an Educational Fund to assist in paying for those young people who cannot afford to attend school or purchase books and supplies.
Île-à-Vache is alive with wooden boat building. There is activity on every beachfront. Designed by eye, and hand made with axe and machete, these traditional small craft can be seen under sail in the bays, sounds and offshore. They cast and haul their nets in Biblical fashion, then sail home to sell at the market and feed their families. Fishing and farming are the means of livelihood for most Haitians. At this time, there are no facilities to haul, repair and maintain the boats. We have proposed to build a slipway and a small woodworking shop on the Kay Kok harbor. After several meetings with town and island officials, local businessmen and waterfront property owners, all parties have responded in favor of the project.
Last winter, we located a ¾ acre piece of property for sale at the head of the harbor. It’s a level vacant lot with a white sand beach. Nat snorkeled seaward two hundred feet or so looking through clear water at the smooth sandy bottom to a depth of 12 feet – just the right slope for a marine railway. I hope to sign a long-term lease sometime soon and proceed with our plans. We are confident that this facility will provide much needed employment and create a space where traditional boatbuilding skills will be passed down to future generations.
We sincerely thank all of you who have donated to the Haitian community. If you would like to help keep these projects moving forward, please make your tax-deductible donation payable to:
Sense of Wonder Creations.
Note: “Haiti Fund” on the memo line.
P.O. Box 1558 Vineyard Haven, Ma. 02568.
On line donations may be made to the SoWC website homepage . Click on the Pay Pal donate button, and write “Haiti Fund” in the message line.
Donations are tax deductible to the full extent of the law and SoWC does not take out any administrative fees. 100% of the funds are passed on to Haiti.
We wish you Fair Winds and Following Seas, With Lots of Love and Gratitude, Nat and Pam Benjamin
For further information, See also:
Nat’s publication: Passage to Haiti
The Vineyard Gazette Article: Heading Out to Sea to Share the Bounty by Katherine Scott
The MV Times Article: Nat Benjamin sails Charlotte into warm welcome in Haiti and Cuba