January 11th 2018

There were not many opportunities for me to post while in Haiti so this post comes days after these events took place. On January 11th we went to Coteaux (pronounced Co-Toe). This is the place where Dayana grew up so we visited her father. The way there was rough. It took a little less than an hour but we had to travel along several hills so the road was winding and I was very motion sick. However, it was a beautiful drive. To the right of me was a vast terrain filled with hills and to the left was the ocean. Words cannot explain how pretty this was, but pictures can:

The scene on the way to Coteaux.

There were also many structures made from plastic bottles that I saw on the way. They were used as market stalls to sell goods and I thought it was a great way to reuse plastic waste.

I greeted Dayanas father with a big hug and he is the sweetest man in the entire world.Our first stop was “The Steps.” Their real name is, “500 Marches de la Médaille Miraculeuse,” or “500 Steps to the Miraculous Medal,” and they are part of a religious installation dedicated to the Virgin Mary. There are 500 steps that span up the side of a hill and overlook Coteaux. So of course we had to go up all 500 steps. While climbing, about half way there I was feeling very insecure about my physical fitness and I had forgotten my inhaler. Once I saw Dayana’s father pass me up those steps so easily, I knew that I needed to do it. I did. 🙂

The Steps

The view at the top of the steps

The next part of our adventure in Coteaux was more technical. Coteax and two neighboring communities are run on a solar energy grid. The way people buy electricity is through a pay as you go system. You basically go to where the solar panels are, buy electricity, and then go home and punch in your card information to turn on the electricity.

Solar Panels in Coteaux

They also have a diesel back up generator in case the solar panels do not produce enough energy.

Diesel back up generators.

They had several transformers to step up the voltages for delivery to the utility grid from the solar energy facility. The transformers below were damaged by Hurricane Matthew.



Pwoje Espwa


Today is the day I was really looking forward to. Pwoje Espwa is the agricultural teaching orphanage in Les Cayes and the place where our septic system design will be implemented as well as our biodigesters.

Once entering the grounds there is a long dirt road that leads to the orphanage.

A house along the road before entering Pwoje Espwa

It is currently the 20th anniversary of the orphanage and there were banners hanging at the entrance.

Sanitation and housing domes newly built at Pwoje Espwa.

Cameron Parker is a director of Pwoje Espwa and since he isn’t in Haiti this week he connected us with his right-hand man, Ti Boss. Once we met with Ti Boss we went to go look at a current sanitary system they are building.

Large septic tank not fully built with three chambers. It rained the previous day so there is water in the system.

Then we headed over to the site where a new housing unit would be built in place of an existing one. This housing unit is not technically a part of the orphanage but is a part of Pwoje Espwa’s outreach program to the neighboring houses. As of right now this is the site where the next septic design will be implemented. We took field notes and measurements of the site.

Plot of land where the project will be implemented. The current house in the photo will be replaced with a bigger and better housing unit.

We began digging a hole at 11:05 AM in order to conduct a permeability test of the soil. We filled a hole that was 17 inches deep with about 9 inches of water. We came back at 12:05 PM and measured the height of the water to be about 8 inches. Therefore we saw a water level drop of 1in/hr.


Owen digging a hole for a permeability test.

Chris takes measurements for the permeability test

For the hour we were waiting for the water to infiltrate the soil we headed over to the pig farm where the biodigesters will be used.

This is the sides of the pig farm. There are holes along the bottom where the waste gets flushed through. This then runs off into a composting pile.

Waste drainage on the side of the pig farm at Pwoje Espwa.

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Haiti Development Study Center

The Haiti Development Studies Center is located in Les Cayes, Haiti. Upon arrival this big large gate opened up for us and we all hopped out to check out our home away from home for the next week. The center is surrounded by concrete walls. Tobi the guard dog lives in the back and gets to roam freely at night when everyone is in for the night. He is strictly a guard dog and there is no petting Tobi. My room is on the second floor and I’m sharing Dayana’s room. Ralph and Dayana are both from southern Haiti and went to highschool right behind the study center. They were chosen to receive a funded Umass Lowell enrollment and now live at the study center. Both Ralph and Dayana are very smart and they are super cool to hang out with. They also help us translate when conversing with the staff at the study center.

The upstairs dining room area


My bed

The view of Les Cayes from the center.

There are a few rules to note:

•Be conservative with water. When showering only turn the water on when you need it to rinse.

•Don’t drink the water from the tap and use the bottled water to brush teeth.

• Don’t take any photos of people unless you have their permission. Sometimes people are going to end up in photos of structures or land but that’s ok as long as you aren’t deliberately sticking a camera in someone’s face.

•Power comes on sporadically, so don’t leave electronics plugged in because the surge will ruin your devices when the power comes on.

Nothing too crazy or unexpected. I’m so comfortable here and the food is AMAZING. Tonight we had goat with rice and it was so good. I will definitely miss having Haitian food every night. All of the meals are prepared by the staff and they put so much effort in preparing the meals. I will be looking forward to staying here again in the spring time.


Port au Prince


Yesterday’s drive in from Port au Prince was a lot to take in. We landed in Port au Prince and the airport was nice – it reminded me of the Miami Dade airport. Once we got off the plane I looked out of the window and saw these beautiful mountains. Once we left the baggage pickup and went outside we were bombarded with offers to carry our bags. We had to stay close and keep walking to find Stevenson, our driver and chief security at the study center. We followed Stevenson over to our van and so did a few young Haitians who put our bags in the van for us.


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