Pondliner recently got a call from the Apostolic Christian Church’s outreach arm, HarvestCall. This was no ordinary inquiry about a backyard pond or a commercial water feature. They needed to line a pond in Haiti.
This particular reservoir is the water source for the hydroelectric power plant for Hospital Lumière, located in the village of Bonne Fin, high in the mountains of southern Haiti. The reservoir is a 150-by-250-foot pit of rocky soil that had an old, failed liner that no longer held water. The reservoir is an important element in controlling a constant supply of water for the hydroelectric generators that help power the hospital and town.
Complications in Haiti postponed the original plan to install the liner in early June, so the actual weeklong project took place in late August. Three HarvestCall members of the reservoir team had to return to college after the postponement, leaving only two young adult missioners, Alisha Bahler and Colby Waibel from West Lafayette, Indiana, to help. The mission team met up in Miami for the next-day flight to Port au Prince. Once there, they endured a harrowing, five-hour van ride westward through the city, which has no traffic control, along a bumpy, narrow, mountain roadway to Bonne Fin and Hospital Lumière.
“We went there to train and supervise the Haitian workers as they unrolled and installed the underlayment and lining,” Andy Dyke recounted. “Our job was to seam the liners together and ensure a waterproof seal around two 8-inch pipes.” One pipe is the inlet from the natural springs, and a lower pipe is a drain for water to run 500 feet down the mountain to the generators.
Monday proved to be a learning day, as we got two panels in place and sealed the overlapping joint. The job was complicated by its mountain location, 16-foot depth, and steep, 45-degree sloping sides. Installation of the heavy liner sections was hampered by limited access. Mountains on one side and steep cliffs on the other forced us to deploy the liner in the bottom of the pond and then pull it up the slopes. All this was exacerbated by our not knowing the local French Creole dialect.
Although Tuesday started off better, heavy afternoon rains delayed further deployment. Wednesday morning we found ourselves with only four of nine panels installed and a pool of water in the bottom of the pond. We needed the bucket brigades (a line of Haitian workers with 5-gallon buckets) to bale water from the reservoir.
By noon Wednesday, we had dried the subgrade, redressed the slopes damaged from erosion and installed the fifth 50-by-100 panel. With a refreshed outlook, we worked until dusk on Wednesday and were able to get all the panels installed, seams set in the entire bottom and up the slopes to the 10-foot depth mark, and the boot installed on the outlet pipe in the bottom of the pond. It was a miraculous achievement fueled by the relentless, amazing, never-say-can’t Haitian workers.
A Rousing Success
The team successfully lined and seamed everything with the help of 30 Haitian men and one Haitian interpreter. The lined reservoir is now fully fenced, and the locals get water for their personal use from a well pump placed outside the perimeter. Solar panels and backup diesel generators also provide electric power for the hospital and town.
All the people associated with the project completed beautiful work. The advance preparation of the Haitian workers and missionaries helped make the reservoir lining a success. We are both grateful for the opportunity to utilize our skills and knowledge to assist in this worthy cause.