Friends of Haiti has been sending a medical team to Grand Boulage for years. Most recently, the group from Olympia, Washington makes up the lion's share of volunteers who go there. Some providers have gone so frequently to Grand Boulage that they are providing some true continuity of care, as they have gotten to know the patients there quite well.
Grand Boulage is up in the mountains, about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from Port Au Prince. It is a lovely area, with a cooler climate than down in the city.
About 3000 families live in Grand Boulage and the surrounding area. 70% of the children attend one of the two schools in town. Grand Boulage does not have paved roads or electricity, but many people have cell phones and the literacy rate has increased dramatically in the last 10 years. Most people go to get water from a local spring, and in the rainy season everybody collects rain water from their roofs. When the water system they have is working, people pay a very small contribution to get water from the kiosks.
Grand Boulage's biggest building is the community center. The view from the community center looks out over rolling hills and small farms. It is not a fancy building, but it keeps out the torrential rains that sometimes batter the area.
Friends of Haiti gets to use the community center every six months when we arrive with our medications and supplies. The patients start lining up in the early morning, and we see hundreds of patients daily. The patients come from all over the area, as there is no local medical care other than that provided by Friends of Haiti. Volunteers work hard, but generally leave feeling that they want to return to Grand Boulage.
For many years FOH worked with the villagers to help them learn to grow their own trees. They learned the value of reforestation as well as the importance of being able to grow their own fruit trees to feed their families as well as take to market. The nursery is no longer operational but the skills learned will last a lifetime. Numerous families now plant their own trees from seeds collected from the more mature trees on their small farms.
Friends of Haiti also taught them the value of purified water and the process of water harvesting. Overall general health has improved greatly now that water purification is practiced on a routine basis.
The people of Grand Boulage are forever grateful to Friends of Haiti for teaching them how to do composting. Most area farmers now use composting routinely to help increase their crop production. And it helps keep the manure out of the drinking water.