Over 15 years ago Canadian Rotarian Roy Sheldrick and his wife, Norma visited Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti. The trip became a life changing experience for Roy who wrote of this experience, “Many Haitians live in conditions that have changed little from a century ago. Many Haitians have no electricity, no running water, and no telephones. To visit Haiti is like going back in time. Potable (drinkable water) wells are life savers. In Haiti, one out of every five children die before the age of five, mostly from curable diseases. Contaminated water gives children (and adults) infections, typhoid and diarrhea which in turn can lead to malnutrition”. So, with the help of Sheldrick’s Rotary, The Rotary of Ancaster Ontario, he developed the Haiti Water for Life Program whose goal was to put 200 wells in the Artibonite Valley of Haiti, first by buying a well and subsequently over the years by building and installing many many more.
Since that time, wells have been installed in school yards, church yards, medical centers and on the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti’s campus. In April the Haiti Water for Life program announced the drilling, capping and installation of the 200th well in the Artibonite Valley of Haiti. Since its inception in 1995, Haiti Water For Life has raised over $1.3 million dollars for Haiti Water development. Major donations have come from individuals, church groups, Rotary Clubs in over 70 communities in Ontario and Western New York State. There is also a fund raising Walk for Water Event which is sponsored by the City of Hamilton Ontario’s Public Works Department along with additional funds from private foundations, the Ryan’s Well Foundation and the Foundation of Rotary International.
Hôpital Albert Schweitzer’s own Dawn Johnson and Renold Estime administer the program and are the key program leaders in Haiti. There are countless people to thank for the success of this program including the drilling crews and others who carry out the difficult construction and implementation of these wells often traveling over barely passable mountain roads to do so. There are also 3 partner Haitian Rotary Clubs that have been vital to the program, the Petite Riviere, Saint Marc and Verrettes. At a recent dinner in Canada to celebrate the drilling and opening of the 200th well Renold Estime was presented with a Paul Harris Fellowship Award to recognize his dedication and efforts in supervising the crews, training community committees and managing the work program. Sheldrick was also presented with awards at this celebration for his life’s work with the program. In his comments that evening, Sheldrick thanked all of the hundreds of people who have made the Water for Life Program possible. With its recent expansion into sanitation facilities it has become even more critical to the communities being served in the Artibonite Valley. Roy said that one of his life’s dreams had been realized with the completion of the 200th well; however he acknowledged that the work is not complete until all of the people in the Artibonite Valley (now estimated at up to 400,000) have access to clean safe water.
Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti wishes to thank everyone involved with Haiti Water For Life.
“Giving clean water to the Haitian people brings hope for tomorrow”. –Roy Sheldrick