Oxfam’s Elizabeth Stevens recently visited Haiti to document our work on revitalizing rice farming and reducing the risk of disasters—including outbreaks of cholera.
If I had to choose one place to sit and learn about a rural town in Haiti, I’ve decided, it would have to be the community well. In places where there is no running water, the local well has a steady stream of visitors, and everyone has a story.
Even the well has a story.
On a November afternoon in the town of Atchevrot, Marchand Dessalines, my Oxfam colleagues and I crossed a rickety bridge over an irrigation channel to the place where villagers were collecting water.
Jean Jose—the man who dug the well with his machete back in 1984—joined us there, and Valeus Wislor, the engineer that Oxfam hired to fix it up last year was with us, too. The concrete cover, sand filter, hand pump, and drainage channel were his work. And gathered around the well to meet us that day were members of a team—trained by Oxfam partners from El Salvador—that is helping communities of the lower Artibonite Valley protect their water supplies from cholera bacteria and prepare for emergencies of all kinds. Read more about this program.
The team leader’s name is Philippe Merisson, and he is a middle school teacher. We learned that day that he is also a master in the Haitian martial art of stick fighting, and he told us a little about it. A stick fighter, he explained, learns to anticipate and block blows from all directions—even in the dark. Even when the stick is swapped out for a machete.