News Archives

Methodist well project assists Haitian island

4/10/2002 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

NOTE: For additional coverage of church work in Haiti, see UMNS story #152.

By United Methodist News Service

Residents of the semi-arid island of La Gonave, a part of Haiti, now have better access to drinkable water, thanks to the combined efforts of the Methodist Church in Haiti and the United Methodist Church.

In February and March, a team completed the drilling of two wells and began installing a windmill at Dent Grignin.

The water project was conceived in 1993. Members of the United Methodist Kansas East Conference had been visiting the island for years to build schools and churches and share their religious faith, but the idea of making water a priority came after Glen Paden, a Kansas engineer, discussed the situation with a Methodist district superintendent for La Gonave.

Lois Waters led the conference committee that worked with the Haitian church on the project proposal. It took root in 1994, as the conference raised an initial $27,000 and the United Methodist Committee on Relief supplied a $167,000 grant, she said.

Despite setbacks and changes in project plans, "everyone has persevered," Waters said. "We have overcome cultural differences, changes in goals and vision, but the result has been five wells drilled and a plan, which has begun, for Phase II, training Haitian well drillers. God has been with us through the struggle."

The project has survived, she added, because the right people have come along at the right time. One of those people is H. Ray Newmyer, a volunteer with Lifewater International, a clearinghouse for professionals who want to do volunteer work.

The Methodist Church in Haiti had contacted Lifewater for help with drilling problems on La Gonave. Newmyer, a water-well driller from Mosca, Colo., with 42 years of experience, has made three trips to the island in the past year. The first occurred last summer, to retrieve a cable tool rig and rotary rig that had become stuck in a well hole. "My task was basically to get them unstuck and get the wells finished," he explained.

Gary Downey, an employee for the Methodist Church in Haiti who accompanied the well-drilling team on its most recent trip to the island, recalled the support of the people there. On a Sunday morning, he spoke in Creole to a local congregation, asking the members to pray for the team's success in removing a drill, and the people responded. "It was almost like water because you had these voices rising and falling around you," he remembered.

That afternoon, when the drill was freed after only 30 minutes of work, "it was almost as if the prayers of the people had been answered," he said.

Newmyer, who attends an independent Brethren church back home, noted that he did have the right tools to do the job, but added, "I'm quite sure the prayer really helped."

Members of the community also knew that the well would then be in working order. "They were lined up there with their buckets, waiting," he said. Once the water came, "the women danced. They got excited and danced."

Newmyer will participate in the next phase of the project as well, which involves training local well drillers. The Rev. Lebrun Sorsaire, who serves as the Methodist pastor for the island, said that five young men had been recruited for a two-year training program.

Donations can be made through the Advance Special of the United Methodist Church, earmarked for No. 418900-1, water development in Haiti. Checks should be made payable to "Advance GCFA" and can be dropped in church collection plates or mailed directly to Advance GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, GPO, New York, NY 10087-9068. To make a gift by credit card, call (888) 252-6174.

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