Investing in people happens on many different levels. It also goes hand and hand with development. It was a huge accomplishment for our community--and a great example of what happens when community initiative meets foreign support and resources--when we were able to acquire a John Deere backhoe loader. But, we did not have anyone who knew how to driver, operate, or maintain such a machine.
Lemuel friend Derek Conley has been instrumental in training operators, as well as doing maintenance AND (even more importantly) training others to do maintenance as well.
By the end of February, our "Tractor" had done a ton of effective work in water holes, and was desperately in need of some TLC. Derek managed to squeeze a trip in at the end of the month. And what a trip it was. He flew into Ocap (ie, Cape Haitian). It was our first experience having someone actually fly into the Ocap airport. We probably won't do it again. Not only have we had TWO bad experiences in Ocap customs (Derek's and Brad/David's) but...
I'll spare you the play by play, but here are a few pictures, just to give you an idea:
Wenson took these pictures on the 6 hour drive to go pick Derek up at the Ocap airport.
Just outside of Ocap, the Excursion broke down. Noooooo. Wenson, Aspil, and Derek had to stay there for the night, and we sent Enes and two other guys with the flatbed and another pick-up truck to go get them in the morning.
Finally--one extra night and two extra vehicles later--Derek and our awesome drivers/mechanics arrived on the Plateau. Two Ocap adventures in one month were quite enough.
For the next couple days, Derek worked with our guys on hydraulic hoses, fittings, cylinders, and more. It was a great learning opportunity for Wenson and a couple others, who are always quick and eager to learn new skills. They now have new knowledge, which they can use to fix our own backhoe or maybe even someone else's someday. You never know.
Maintaining vehicles and machinery is a very discouraging reality here on the Plateau where the roads beat you up, parts are very difficult (or impossible) to obtain, and knowledgeable, reliable mechanics are scarce. But Derek had these words of encouragement for us:
I know you guys get discouraged with issues that come up on the machine or in general about repairs that need to be done to trucks, cars and the backhoe, but I need to encourage you [to] keep looking at the positives that you and Lemuel [have] been able to do with these things. I work on equipment every day, and its quite normal for things to break, for things to wear out, for things to leak. I fix things that break in North America everyday, so although it sucks when something happens out there because its a greater inconvenience then over here due to parts and time, its not simply breaking because of misuse or because its Haiti!
We have a saying in the mechanic world: The only equipment that doesn't break is the one your not using!
Thanks for the perspective, Derek!