“This is SO not a road…”

The second half of our first day in Haiti, we drove from Montrouis to the remote town of Ivoire, where Heifer International has a project rebuilding homes destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. Now if you’ve been following my blog for more than a day, you know the confluence of the words “drove” and “remote” is cause for some alarm.

Kimberly safe at the top & reunited with Pierre!

And to be sure, the road to Ivoire (as you can see) was a tortuously steep, cratered-out path that clung feebly to the side of a mountainside for 20 or 30 kilometers, with six of us crammed in a Toyota Land Cruiser bouncing around like popcorn kernels on a hot stove. Poor Kimberly, wife of Heifer CEO Pierre Ferrari, was sure we were going to tumble over the cliff at any second, and unfortunately she was on the side of the truck to get a bird’s eye view of that distinct possibility.

Way up here in Ivoire.

Whenever I’m in a situation like this, I try to take the long view: we probably won’t be hurled to our deaths, we’ll eventually get to the town, and unlike the inhabitants of Ivoire, we’re damn lucky not to have to walk up the hill. And of course, the trip up there was more than worth it – the people of Ivoire are spectacular!

The celebration that greeted us in Ivoire!

Heifer has been working in Ivoire since 2002 – helping the people living here in remote poverty reforest the land with new trees, conserve soil, harvest rainwater with cisterns, get trainings in how to raise healthy animals, and receive new goats, chickens and cows to improve their livestock. But when the earthquake hit, over 270 homes—or 1 in every 10 — in this small community were destroyed. (In Haiti overall, an estimated 250,000 homes and 30,000 commercial buildings were leveled – as well as half the primary and secondary schools and the three main universities.)

Old stone houses came tumbling down...

Towns like Ivoire are way, way down on the list to receive aid (“We were ignored,” said the community leaders bluntly)– and given the condition of the road, that’s not hard to imagine. But Heifer made the decision to facilitate the rebuilding of 110 homes here because it knew the people, and how organized and dedicated the community was.

“When we saw that people were willing to walk 3 hours carrying tin for roofs of houses, and haul bags of sand and cement up on motorcycles, we knew Heifer had to help,” Ewaldy Estil, the Heifer Northern Regional Coordinator, told the packed congregation that had gathered to sing, dance, and ceremoniously present us with heaping baskets of grapefruit, cabbages and sugar cane.

“When I am here, I forget all about the road conditions, because you inspire me with your community, your solidarity and your faith!” Ewaldy went on – which was entirely true. There was no way you could not be happy you were there…and not wish you could do more to help these people who are so intent upon helping themselves.

The face of resilience

Everyone in Ivoire gets involved!

Even as I write this, Pierre Ferrari, Heifer’s CEO, is scrambling to convince donors to invest the materials (and transportation!) to rebuild 160 more homes in Ivoire. Each house requires 28 bags of cement and 28 metal sheets, and beyond that, Heifer pays four categories of contractors to ensure quality of construction: brickbuilders ($22); mason ($89); carpenter ($38) and welder ($8), for a total cost of $900 for a 250-square foot house. From there, the homeowner and neighbors finish all the other work.

Once you see Ivoire and meet the people who somehow remain joyous and hopeful despite the strife, setbacks and isolation, it’s impossible to forget them. And the road down? It was a breeze.

Categories: Agriculture, Animals, Haiti, Heifer International, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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28 thoughts on ““This is SO not a road…”

  1. Just like the Schuylkill, is what I think I heard you say on the tape. Now, that’s a shot against my hometown Philly. A fair shot, I suppose. And when you get to the end of the Surekill Highway, I suppose you don’t meet such amazingly resilient people. Great post.

  2. I will have to remember your “long view.” I too am one of those folks who feels as though she is going to pitch over the side to her death. Thanks for keeping us posted…this is great and makes me love Heifer even more!

    • Thanks, Denise — I always figure when it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go — so why worry about it? Tee hee … works for me!

  3. Resilience is what gets people out of troubles.. and what I came to know from this post is . No matter where you are, people have that quality to come out of any kind of trouble. its just that they need that push up sometimes. When we had heavy floods here, people of Assam were so united that many had made makeshift community resting places so that those with no homes could stay there.
    Once again, an excellent report!. 🙂

    • Dear Hindupur — I really appreciate your comment, and I don’t think there is anything more moving than people working together in times of trouble! Wish I was going to visit Assam sometime soon!

  4. I took a road like that once in Costa Rica from the Arenal Volcano area to Monteverde Cloud forest. But it was for 4 hours and I ended up breaking the front axis from driving too fast (20 mph). The rental car agency had to drive a new vehicle up to us. I love adventure…as I can tell you do too!

    • I know you do, Sherry!! I have been loving your posts from Laos & Thailand … and Egypt — so happy you’re bringing them back for a second (for me, a first) look!!! (p.s. I can’t believe you drove yourself .. now that’s something i would NEVER attempt!!)

      • Actually my husband was with me on that trip… so I had more courage! I hope we get to meet some day…I think we would have a great time!

  5. Margaret

    Great and inspiring story enhanced by wonderful photos. I am inspired every time I read one of your posts. Thanks for giving your time, creativity and energy to this project.

  6. What a journey!! You have captured the resilience and sense of hope so well in the faces that they light up my day. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Italian letters … I loved meeting those people and hoped I could capture some of their strength and spirit in my words & pictures!

  7. So cool, love this. Thanks for spelling out the costs and the hours one must carry supplies to rebuild. I want my kids to see this. The last picture well I’m a visual person, just speaks volumes to me, and it says GRATITUDE! God I love that picture. Good work Betty….keep it up.

  8. I have SO been on those “roads!” We were once driving from Petion-ville to Cabaret. (This was 3 months after the earthquake.) We took a “short cut” in order to avoid rubble and swore–still do–that if that were “short,” we’d hate to see “long”–as the “road” was so BAD, it didn’t seem (call us spoiled Americans) to qualify as “road” at all.

    God, I am SOOOOO with you, Betty! Feel like you are a comrad!


    • Comrade in arms, Kathryn — we certainly are! I cannot believe you were there so soon after the earthquake and can only imagine how powerful an experience that was!!! Thanks so much for reading & writing !

  9. Susan

    Betty – you’ll tire of hearing this, but another amazing post – and what gorgeous pictures of gorgeous people. Any way to donate specifically to this project?

    • Hey Susan — THANKS and I never get tired of hearing that (never!) … As for donating specifically to this project, you can make a donation that will go entirely to Haiti (if it’s over $100) but to donate just to this Ivoire project would require a larger donation (because it’s a tax thing and coding thing) … I’ll write you an email with all the details! Thanks so much for your beautiful generosity!!!

  10. This spoiled Canadian would like to second Kathryn’s comment.

    I am soooo with you too, Betty. Only you’re the comrad on the front lines, I’m the one hanging out back in the mess tent. 😉

  11. Another great post and beautiful photos. I loved the video! More, more!

    • Okay — i just take these on my i-phone so I guess i’d better fire it up more often! (I wish I had one of those women singing and dancing … that you couldn’t believe!!!

  12. Oh man that video of the car ride was a brilliant addition … Whew.

    My favorite photo was the last one. What a face. What eyes.

  13. Ginger O'Neill

    Dearest Betty,

    The next time I find myself bitching about my children’s attitude, a lousy driver or an inept customer service experience, I will bring to mind the powerful image of ” the face of resilience” and bow my head in humility and bite my tongue.

    Thanks for the constant reminders of how few are fortunate on this earth and how many are unfortunate, yet resilient foot soldiers of hope and faith.



  14. You inspire me Ms. Betty. I hope I get the opportunity to meet you one day soon!

  15. Thanks for another great write-up and pictures. I really like the 2 portratis at the end, they somehow capture the essence of a lot of what you have said.

  16. It’s clear in all of their faces that they’d welcome some help, but they’re not waiting for it. Keep changing the world, Betty. You’re inspiring a lot of people to do a lot of good.

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