On our second day in Haiti, we got off to an early start…somewhat…and left Port-au-Prince for Lascahobas, where we would visit three schools and attempt to determine which one would become our first pilot school for the planned solar install in May.
The length of the drive from Port-au-Prince to Lascahobas depends on a good number of factors: time of day (light or darkness), heavy or light traffic, whether there’s an accident, etc. This first trip took about two hours, and there’s a very good reason that the majority of the vehicles one sees on the road in Haiti are Four-Wheel-Drive!
We saw many more tent villages on the way out of the capital city, and finally got to see the Presidential Palace from close up. I had seen the photos of it having been irreparably damaged in the earthquake, but now to see it in person left a knot in my stomach.
There was also more rubble to be seen than we had seen the day before, as well as a future village of more permanent prefabricated houses, which I understand are being financed by the Red Cross, but are currently being held up by the Red Tape.
We also saw some local artists’ wares on display from out our car window, as well as got caught up the midst of a funeral procession, while one of the vehicles made a stop to put some more air into a tire.
And then, still more tent villages, before we finally embarked on climbing the mountain range we’d have to cross to get to Lascahobas. All in all, an extremely interesting ride!
Once there, the first school we visited was the EFACAP school. This acronym more or less translates to letters that mean that the school is both a regional teacher training school, as well as a primary school. The EFACAP schools are located across the entire country, provide teacher training to primary school teachers on a regional basis, and are funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). We learned that this school also housed regional conferences, and provided housing for the teachers/trainees who would need to travel to the EFACAP school for the training.
As was the case for all three schools we would visit in Lascahobas, there was a very limited supply of grid electricity. Lascahobas had been chosen as the first site to receive the XO laptops because they had been one of the fortunate few localities that received dependable grid electricity. The earthquake changed that, and now the schools reported that they were lucky to receive and hour or an hour-and-a-half of electricity per day, and they never knew when it would arrive. Thus, it was impossible to charge the XO laptops.
At the EFACAP school, all the laptops were charged in one centrally located room. This was initially attractive to our team, as our currently-proposed-solution includes concentrating the laptops in one location, so as to retain the highest amount of electricity from the solar panels, and not to lose that power by dispersing the laptops across the school/classrooms to charge them there. This school was also built very soundly, which added to its attractiveness for pilot school consideration. The team took a lot of photos, made sketches, estimated heights and distances of buildings and roofs, etc. The headmaster and principal both gave us a tour of the entire grounds, including of the teacher-training center, the laptop-storage-and-charging building, the administrative building, and the classrooms.
We then continued on to the subsequent two schools we would visit, (above is the second school, below is the third school) where we did similar activities; taking lots of pictures, talking with the school administrators where possible, making sketches, and estimating heights and distances, etc. However, we were not as exact with the subsequent two schools, as we pretty much all had it in our heads that structurally, the EFACAP school was superior, and that we would likely choose that school.
We then made the rather arduous journey back to Port-au-Prince for the evening, and the team met for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. We rather unanimously voted that we would be choosing the EFACAP school for our pilot, and parted ways thinking we had our plan pretty soundly laid out.
Of course, everything changed the next morning.
Once again the saying applies: Expect the unexpected!