Ken Robins and Rory MacNish had never seen anything like it.
This past April, Mattituck Presbyterian Church parishioners were on a mission trip to Be Tòti, on the tiny Haitian island of La Gonâve, where they watched a Rotary International-funded reverse osmosis water filtration system turn on for the first time. Many of the villagers had never before seen, much less had access to, clean water.
“It gives me chills remembering how they were, from little kids to fully grown adults, just dancing and jumping,” Mr. Robins, a Cutchogue builder, recalled. “For something as basic as water.”
The Rotary Foundation paid for the system, which was provided by Steri Technologies of Bohemia for the significantly reduced price of $27,000.
The villagers’ joy was unfortunately short-lived, since the generator needed to power the system, which filters dirty water until it’s safe to drink, was quickly overpowered. After just one day, the system had to be shut off.
But this week, the people of Be Tòti will once again have clean water — and this time, it will flow uninterrupted for the foreseeable future.
George Solomon of Mattituck, who belongs to the Rocky Point chapter of Rotary International, will travel to Haiti today, Thursday, Oct. 8, to help install solar panels on the roof of the utility building that houses the reverse osmosis system. Once in place, the panels will provide the energy needed to power the system continuously.
“It will pump 1,000 gallons of fresh water a day,” said Mr. Solomon, a Mattituck Presbyterian Church member who has participated in mission trips to Haiti since 2005. “That is enough to supply water for the school and the surrounding families.”
The project has been a work in progress for the past two years. Mattituck Presbyterian Church’s youth group, which made its first mission trip to Haiti in 2013, eventually raised enough money to construct a well and the utility building.
“The kids are very enthusiastic about it,” said Mr. MacNish, a Mattituck photographer and multimedia specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County in Riverhead.
Their work isn’t finished, however. Through an effort called One Hundred for Haiti, the youth group is now trying to raise $100,000 for the construction of a combined school and church in Be Tòti.
Pastor Agones Jean-Jacques, who has a longstanding relationship with Mattituck Presbyterian Church and runs an existing combined school and church in Be Tòti, fears he will soon be evicted from the building he rents there. He reached out to the church for donations for a new structure a year and a half ago.
“As he told us, we said, ‘Why don’t we go to 100 churches and ask for a thousand dollars from each?’ı” Mr. MacNish said. “That’s where ‘One Hundred for Haiti’ came from.”
To date, the Mattituck youth group has raised nearly $20,000 toward its goal — enough to lay down the structure’s 70-by-30-foot foundation. In early January, roughly 10 young church members will travel to Be Tòti for a week to work with local laborers on positioning the building’s cinder block supports.
“I think it’s going to be hard to keep up with them because their work ethic is so good,” said Alec Durkin of Mattituck, 17, who is attending the trip. “But it’s going to be a fun challenge.”
If all goes as planned, Mr. MacNish said, the combined school and church will be completed by 2017.
“We would like to bring the kids down there and have a ribbon-cutting of sorts,” he said. “That would be a good goal.”
How to help:
Donations to One Hundred for Haiti can be mailed to Mattituck Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 1411, Mattituck, NY 11952. Call the church at 631-298-4145 for more information. Click here to watch a video about the group.
Photo caption: Mattituck Presbyterian Church youth group member Rebecca Guariello of Southold with Cardona, a little girl from Be Tòti. Credit: Rory Macnish