PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- During a brief ceremony here Tuesday, the Combined Joint Task Force – Haiti Commander, Marine Brig. Gen. Ronald S. Coleman, officially opened a waterline for residents living near the CJTF compound.
“We are here to provide a better life for the people of Haiti,” Coleman stated at the ceremony. “The water will run 24 hours a day for all the residents of the community.”
According to Coleman, since arriving in Haiti, he has watched as men, women and children from the community carry buckets and jugs into the distance to get water.
When Coleman and a selected number of his staff went out to speak with the community about the CJTF’s presence and how it may affect them, he asked about what he had been seeing.
“Yesterday, I asked some of the residents how far they had to walk for water. They told me they had to walk a long way,” he explained.
“I have walked two miles everyday since moving into the community two years ago. I would then have to carry it back,” said 23-year-old Philomene Pierre, a resident of the community outside the CJTF compound. “Now I only have to go a few hundred meters for water,” she continued.
Knowing that the task force had a surplus of water on its compound, Coleman directed the unit’s engineers to remedy the situation.
The remedy came in the form of piping fresh water from a well within the task force’s compound, explained Army Lt. Col. Norberto Cintron, Director of the task force’s engineers.
“The well produces enough water for a small village,” he continued. “It produces 2,600 gallons per hour and we only use approximately 1,500 gallons per hour. So in a day we only scratch the surface.”
“I tasked my engineers to put in a pipe to provide water to the community,” Coleman stated. “When I asked how long it would take them to get water to the people, they said ‘one day.’”
“The general came to us Monday afternoon and told us to run a pipeline out to the people,” said Marine Maj. Tim McLaughlin, the task force’s deputy engineer. “We then walked the site with the contractor to find the best location to tap into the well. Once the site was determined, the contractor was told he had 24 hours to lay 300 meters of pipe and build a concrete water point with two faucets.”
According to McLaughlin, the contractor, using local labor, worked through the night to complete the task in 18 hours.
This water will greatly help the community, stated Jean Baptist, “Water is life, life is food. By bringing us this water, the Marines are helping to feed a lot of people.”
“This area was desolate,” the 36-year-old continued. “Sometimes the water we used to use would run out and we would have to buy water from trucks or go without.”
Most of the Haitian residents didn’t think the task force would be doing these type of operations for their community.
“I didn’t know that the Marines would help in this way,” Philomene explained. “It is more generous than I could have hoped.”
Julian Wikennster, a young 12-year-old resident, said he thought the task force was just here to provide security for the community, not to bring in water.
This work by the task force wasn’t totally unexpected by Jean though.
“When I heard the Marines were coming I knew they would help in this way,” he explained. “That is what the Americans do.”
“It is sad though, because the compound the Marines are in has been here for two years. The water has been here for two years as well. Our brethren that were in the compounds would never share the water with us.
“Now the United States is.”
According to Julian, now that he has seen what the United States can do, he thinks the United States could do bigger things for the surrounding community.
As the ceremony came to a close, Coleman addressed the hope for more assistance from the task force while distributing some soccer balls and basketballs.
“There will be many more projects to come in the future,” he explained “Next we will build a soccer field and then put in drainage to prevent flooding in the community.”