Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Good Used Vehicles, Housing Needed in Haiti

Hello Everyone,

From time to time in the updates, I have mentioned that Starthrower needs to have its own vehicle in Haiti, but I have not gone into much detail. After the recent update about why we need our cats, and cat food, I thought that I should explain why we need a vehicle here in Haiti, and, even with the overwhelming need for food and medical supplies here, why a vehicle is a necessity, not a luxury.

So here, in what is likely more detail than you need, are the reasons why Starthrower needs to have at least one vehicle in Haiti (though given the wide geographic area we travel, two vehicles would be even better).

Why Starthrower needs a vehicle:
  • Security - Staff has been robbed in the market waiting for taxis
  • Safe travel for me (I have been robbed 3 times on public transit)
  • Transport goods to and from shops, customs office, etc
  • Transport goods, text books, foods, to and from Sen Rafayel (28 km / 17 miles; a 3-hour trip), pay tuition, visit those in crisis
  • Transport students to and from home/doctor in Cap-Haitien and outlying hospitals
  • Home visits to students in areas not accessible by taxi (taxi drivers refuse to enter some areas)
  • Reliability and cost of taxis
Here are some typical trips in and around Cap-Haitien that we now make by taxi and or tap-tap:
  • Weekly food purchases in bullk (100 lb. bags) for our twice weekly distribution program
  • Transporting propane tanks for refill
  • Purchasing house supplies/hygiene products in bulk for student distribution
  • Transport students to Carfoumoustik for x-rays, sonograms (45 miles / 73 km), accompanied by staff
  • Transport students to Sacre Coeur Hospital in Milot, for surgery (accompanied by staff)
  • To Milot for pre/post op appointments
  • To Hopital Justinien for emergencies
  • Drs. Jerome and Bell for private consultations
  • Dr. Junior for dental emergencies
  • Labs for analysis
  • Home visits to students in Cap-Haitien
  • Purchase and deliver beds, mattresses, mosquito nets to students homes
  • Transport centre repair/building supplies - - heavy things like planks, sacks of cement etc (same for repair to student residences)
  • To various schools to pay school fees
  • Security for trips to do banking
  • Delivering ill students to their homes
  • Delivering meds and potable water to those too ill to come to Starthrower's centre
  • Purchase and transport 5 gallon containers of water currently used in our 6 month Potable Water Project
I have looked into what's involved in buying a new vehicle: New vehicles must be purchased in Port-au-Prince, and require a lot of government paperwork beforehand, and after-purchase trips for maintenance. The trip to Port-au-Prince means travelling over rough roads, and requiring an overnight stay, which is not only costly and time consuming, and would take the vehicle out of service for several days, but it is considered a dangerous trip by UN workers. If we buy a used vehicle, we can purchase it here in Cap-Haitien for a lower price. I cannot put a price on added security and fast access to medical care.

We draw our young people from a fairly wide geographic area, and need to take them to various medical clinics, schools, etc. in various locations. When we have to stand and wait for an hour for taxis and the cost of taxis, it takes up a lot of time that could be used better.

A used vehicle usually costs $10,000 -$15,000 USD, and even then, are in short supply, and there is much competition for them when they do come up for sale.

By outlining the reasons we need a vehicle of our own, I hope you all can better understand and appreciate our situation here. I am most acutely aware of the great many other things that we could buy for that amount of money. I arrived at this conclusion based on my 10 years experience in Haiti, and almost 5 years experience working with our staff, students and schools, and living among those Starthrower serves, in two very geographically challenging locations. It is only possible to know what is needed here after living and experiencing to the fullest the misery inflicted upon these young people.

While I am at it, I may as well mention the need for proper housing. Student housing is an ongoing critical issue. Two more of our girls were put out of their ti kays on the weekend. These orphans are at the mercy of whomever is paying the bills and have no security. We really need to find a way to offer them proper shelter. How can they concentrate on their studies when they suddenly have no place to live?

If we purchased the partially completed house in La Violette and put on a second story, we could easily house 14 young people very comfortably. Asking price is $25,000 USD (down from original $40,000 USD. To complete the second storey construction, it would cost about $25,000 USD.



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