Approximately one year after the devastating earthquake that shocked Haiti in 2010, Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) began building a working relationship with the island community of Ile-A-Vache.
With the leadership and logistical support of CPT. Tom Lennon, several cadets have laid groundwork for what has become an ongoing mission between the two communities. Although this project is still in its early stages the information and experience that has been gathered by these cadets is considered a valuable resource in the Haiti relief process.
For a month in the winter of 2010, a team of Emergency Management (EM) cadets traveled to the island. Living eight miles off the southern coast of mainland Haiti, Simon Kvilhaug, Sean Antunes and Matt Riley coordinated with the Massachusetts based Ile-A-Vache Development Group, Inc., to perform onsite assessments of the island. The students used Disaster Risk Management principles, processes and methodologies developed through various emergency management organizations (e.g. American Red Cross, FEMA, USAID and Canada’s OCIPEP) to monitor and ameliorate the island’s fragile contingency plan.
Similarly, in the summer of 2011, a group of Environmental Safety and Protection (ESP) cadets volunteered. Kyle Conant, Adam Pike, Darryn Elder-Gotta and Candace Lindstrom, complemented the growing project by incorporating their knowledge of ecological issues. The goal of this team was to collect data concerning the quality of water in many of the island’s municipal fresh-water wells, testing for the presence of Escherichia coli., and working with the island’s newly formed Water Commission. In addition, they also examined several of the latrines, cisterns and water-pump systems, as well as the infrastructure of many of the island’s primary (elementary level) schoolhouses, health clinics and orphanages.
As MMA prepares to send the third team this coming winter, some of the previous cadets are compiling the details of their experiences with hopes of creating a published source of continuity for all of the humanitarian work on the island. While it is important for volunteers, businesses, and non-governmental organizations (NGO’S) to contribute to the overlying cause in Haiti, there is a great need for a resource that notes, in detail, the progress that has been made, and the specific projects that are underway.
The relationship between Ile-A-Vache and Massachusetts Maritime Academy is developing such a source, directly contributing to the positive changes occurring on the island, and strengthening the experience of an MMA education.