"Pure water is the best of gifts that man to man can bring" This anonymous quote from a 1920 edition of The Spectator (British periodical [1828-present ... is more pertinent today than at the time it was written. The past is very clear but one never knows what the future holds when one embarks upon any project. Regarding Haiti and water, what is very clear is that any time an attempt to improve an existing water supply or somehow add a new potable water supply is begun, the future will be much brighter for the recipients of such an initiative. Such was the case in the partnership begun by Haiti Mission, Inc. (HMI) and Seton Hall University School of Law.
In the Fall of 2009, at the bequest of Rev. Jomanas Eustache, representatives of Seton Hall School of Law contacted HMI about the possibility of drilling a water well for the prison in Jeremie. At the time, no one in either HMI or the law school knew the extent of the dire situation in which the prison found itself. Overcrowding was a given. The water supply to the city of Jeremie was already overtaxed, so the prison was constantly strained to find water for all the common needs – cooking, cleaning and drinking. Unbeknown to any of the parties involved at the time except Fr. Jomanas, water had to be trucked in to supply those needs. As one can imagine, in the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, the plight of prisoners is not of uppermost concern. A contract was soon drawn up with HMI agreeing to drill a well for the prison with funding from the law school.
Then the earthquake of January 11th, 2010 enters the mix. The horror of this event is well known by all. What is little known is that, prior to the earthquake this water well was scheduled to be drilled in March. Although the earthquake disrupted drilling for a while, the well was drilled.
Although water well drilling always has unexpected aspects, not the least of which is that one never knows exactly where and when water will be found, this well was particularly surprising. Water was located at 35 feet below the surface of the prison and soon pushed up to 25 feet below ground level. Never had HMI found water at this shallow a depth! Not only was it shallow, but it was a strong aquifer with very good quality water. Since water was found so quickly, the money saved on drilling was applied to a very good electric pump system that could supply water for the prison as well as for the surrounding neighborhood.
HMI thought that this would be all that would be required of them and they would just move on to other drill sites as well as there other ministries funded by the mission. Providence had other plans.
The earthquake created much more interest by people everywhere in the work of HMI. One of those interested was Buddy Spell, an attorney from Covington, Louisiana. (see his story in the May 2010 Newsletter. Buddy's visit was the catalyst for other attorneys and interested supporters to urge the Directors of HMI to begin a prison ministry. Water and an earthquake shook things up so much that the needs of the forgotten folks in one of the hell-holes of humanity known as the Jeremie prison were now in clear focus of a few caring individuals, who were determined to make life a little better for those prisoners. So, the HMI prison ministry was born. HMI has continued to make improvements in the water supply to the prison. We now have routine visits to the prison by members of our mission groups where we have a special feeding and distribute amenities such as vitamins, playing cards and soccer balls. We periodically have a dentist visit the facility and special medical needs are addressed.
“Party at the Prison”
One of the ways that HMI ministers to the prisoners in the Jeremie Prison is to cook a special meal for the inmates, especially at Christmas time. At least once a month Fr. Joe goes to the prison to check on the inmates and address any medical and personal needs that arise such as the need for sandals or toiletries. Whenever the HMI mission team visits Jeremie, one of our goals is to bring a meal complete with cold drinks, playing cards and personal toiletries and see that each inmate receives it. The inmates are allowed to leave their cells and briefly visit with us as they receive the love and concern that is represented by this small gift. The Christmas party is always a special one. Our team enjoys doing it and the inmates are extremely thankful. Thanks to the caring donors who continue to sponsor these events. It allows HMI to minister in a small but powerful way, those truly forgotten souls that find themselves in a Haitian Prison. “The captives shall soon be released; they shall not die and go down into the pit, nor shall they want for bread” Isaiah 51:14
(Below are pictures of the HMI team preparing to distribute the food and supplies. We are not allowed to take pictures of the inmates)