Peninsula resident and irrigation specialist Eric Carlson travelled to Haiti earlier this month to help out a school that was in desperate need of a water system.
Carlson and a group of five others — Langford fire Chief Bob Beckett, Lt. Steve Adams, Savory elementary school principal Jane Penn, Glenwood Meats owner Rick Fisher and Langford’s former chief building inspector Dan Reynolds — travelled to the country to donate their time, labour and equipment to a school and an orphanage.
“It was a real eye opener,” said Carlson of the project. “I went down without any expectations because I didn’t want to set myself up for shock or disappointment. It took a couple of days to get used to being there but then you realize they are incredibly proud people. They are very nice and very welcoming and they were so appreciative of what we were doing.”
All the volunteers that went paid their own travel costs to allow all donations to be put back into the community. Langford Fire Rescue along with other community volunteers have worked with the orphanage in Haiti for a number of years but this was the first time they branched out to help other aspects of the community. Carlson, who works with his brother who owns a rainwater collection system company, was responsible for setting up rainwater collection tanks at the school so that the school could have water for its water fountains and taps.
“The school was my primary job, although I did also help out at the orphanage as well,” explained Carlson.
“When we arrived, the school only had one tank that held 500 gallons of water and even that wasn’t working properly. So I fixed up the old one and we were able to afford two other 1,000-gallon tanks, so now they have the capability to hold 2500 gallons rather than just 500. That’s important because in Haiti they have long dry spells where they won’t see rain for a long time,” Carlson explained.
He added the team had enough money left over to pay a pump truck to fill the tanks so the school could start with them full.
“I’ve never volunteered before in such a way and I had a great time with the team. They were fantastic. It felt like a real quick eight days.”
Carlson got involved with the initiative through his brother Dennis, who is a member of the YMCA-YWCA in Langford, as is Beckett.
“I always knew I wanted to go to a third-world country and volunteer and I had mentioned it to Dennis at one point after I had just moved down here in the spring. He heard about the initiative through Bob and next thing you know I was fundraising to go,” laughed Carlson.
“I’m still processing a lot of stuff from the first trip but if they needed me or my skills again I would definitely go. It was such a humbling experience and everyone gets something different out of it.”
The team also installed a battery inverter system in the orphanage to help ensure food in the fridge and freezer won’t spoil when the unreliable power grid cuts out.
This year marked the team’s eighth trip to Haiti since it was hit by a major earthquake in 2010.