La Sous

Today I went to work on a really neat project in central Leogane. “La Sous” is Creole for “the source”, and Haitians have been coming to this very spot for 200 years to bath, wash clothes and socialize in and around the natural spring water bubbling out of the ground. Always a community-organized space, it has evolved into an oasis of concrete pools and troughs, steps and shady spots. Amongst a congested, polluted and impoverished city, the provided utility and escape is invaluable.

As with 90% of the structures in Leogane, La Sous did not escape the earthquake unharmed. One of the long, high walls that defines this space was badly damaged, the masonry blocks cracked, shattered and leaning every which way. This dealt a considerable blow to a place that sees up to 200 users a day, stealing them not only of privacy and dignity but also of peace of mind for it is difficult to scrub your whitest whites when the slightest aftershock- a semi-regular occurrence- could further topple the wall.

The facility has suffered from secondary effects of the earthquake and subsequent disasters. The system of drainage canals that sweeps the spring’s used washing water out towards the sea is no longer as effective, a tremendous accumulation of litter and rubble causing water to back into the space and make it much less useable. In last month’s widespread flooding served up by Hurricane Tomas, the toxic effluent lining the streets and canals filled all of La Sous right up. After helping the community clean up the muck, All Hands performed water tests in following weeks and found that the water that continued to wash back up from down stream contaminated the bathing space with significant quantities of fecal coliform, increasing the risk of waterborne pathogenic diseases to users whose health is already vulnerable.

All Hands has sat down with the community and come up with a plan to revitalize this essential space. Over the coming month, broken walls are being rebuilt, plaster artfully applied, paint tastefully splashed, stairways repaired, benches built, drainage canals cleaned, and proud entrance doors hung. It was a genuine thrill today to be a part of the start of this process. Amongst children giggling and women cheering, we brought in truckloads of supplies and, alongside mightily strong and proud Haitians, tore down the broken parts of the wall, heaved blocks and cement bags, and just had a grand old time.

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