PONDS for Peace: The joy of pond philanthropy

Many wells cracked from the earthquake and resulted in contaminated water.
Many wells cracked from the earthquake and resulted in contaminated water.

Philanthropic endeavors … what an awesome feeling and a marvelous concept! For those who have truly experienced contributing to the world community by giving back to those in need, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I have had a great career with many memorable accomplishments, but none compare to the experiences I have had since becoming involved with Water for the World, an officially designated 501(c)(3) non-profit humanitarian organization dedicated to providing water and water-related resources to individuals, families, communities and organizations around the world.

In early 2004, Water for the World approached me with regards to starting an education-based program that eventually became known as Ponds for Peace. Ponds for Peace primarily serves the needs of children with practical and functional water feature projects for schools, children’s hospitals, orphanages, children’s advocacy centers, Make-A-Wish Foundations and many other such organizations.

In the past 10 years, this industry has absolutely amazed me with how willing its members are to step up and participate in many of these projects. We’ve been lucky enough to receive contributions from dealers, distributors and manufacturers such as Firestone, Atlantic Water Gardens, Little Giant, EasyPro, Porous Pave, Soundscapes International, Pond Liner/Unit Liner, Shemin Nurseries, John Deere Landscapes, The Water Garden, POND Trade Magazine … and literally hundreds of contractors in nearly every state in the union. This industry has provided an endless and tireless group of businesses and individuals who are willing to lend a hand to this worthy cause.

Léogâne, Haiti, 2010. Our project site just after the earthquake.
Léogâne, Haiti, 2010. Our project site just after the earthquake.
Léogâne, Haiti, 2013. A lot of cleanup has been completed in the three years since the earthquake, but many damaged buildings still remain.
Léogâne, Haiti, 2013. A lot of cleanup has been completed in the three years since the earthquake, but many damaged buildings still remain.

One Such Project

Once classified as one of the poorest countries in the world, Haiti slipped further down the economic scale at 4:52 p.m. on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 when the epicenter of a catastrophic, magnitude 7 earthquake devastated Léogâne, a town approximately 16 miles west of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Significant damage was experienced at a radius of nearly 20 miles in every direction, including the capital city. An estimated 316,000 people perished in what is now called the second-most deadly earthquake in the history of the world.

Ponds for Peace was invited to design and install a water feature in the rebuilt gardens of a local children’s hospital. Part One of this story outlines the outcome of this inspirational project, sponsored in part by Ohio-based Atlantic Water Gardens and Oklahoma-based Unit Liner.

One of the few remaining usable dormitory buildings still standing at the site.
One of the few remaining usable dormitory buildings still standing at the site.
The hospital staff performs many duties outside in the sunlight because there are still no electric lights in many of the buildings.
The hospital staff performs many duties outside in the sunlight because there are still no electric lights in many of the buildings.
Some of the children from the clinic where our project site is located.
Some of the children from the clinic where our project site is located.
It became the children’s responsibility to collect water.
It became the children’s responsibility to collect water.
The walk to the area’s only safe water source was nearly three miles round trip.
The walk to the area’s only safe water source was nearly three miles round trip.
Exhausted, some of the younger children rest before making another trip to gather water
Exhausted, some of the younger children rest before making another trip to gather water

Part One

A short journey down endless rows of rough and broken asphalt roadway, past winding waves of damaged and deserted homes left vacant by the recent earthquake, just beyond the concrete canyons of the remaining village infrastructure, lies a little piece of tranquility.

It rises just above the previously flooded, mud-packed landscape that was once a thriving community. It is a tiny yet prominent place, preserved purely for peaceful, quiet contemplation of the bountiful beauty of nature and tucked amidst the vast and hectic world created by our swollen society. Here, safely nestled among a serene sanctuary and refuge for hospitalized and orphaned children, within the confines of a sacred meditation garden, a naturalistic spring boldly erupts from deep beneath the surface in a sunlit ribbon. Glistening and singing softly, the stream rolls over the rocks and stones, diligently picking its way through the gentle, boulder-strewn slope; twisting … tumbling … turning … only to calmly and quietly vanish once again.

Dragonfly sentries stand in stealthy silhouette while a small wren keeps vigil just above a small salamander settling into a newly found niche. Soft winds begin to release angelic sounds from the custom-designed wind harp standing in tall solitude above the garden floor. The motionless, ever-watchful eyes of a frog peer silently as a butterfly alights softly on lichen-covered stones, its proboscis poetically probing spots of moisture from slightly straying droplets of the sultry splash from a nearby waterfall. It all culminates in a pleasing combination of fundamentally harmonious orientation and a proportionally satisfying arrangement of the natural elements within this spectacularly serene space.

The result: one of the most successful and beneficial charity installation events for the Ponds for Peace Program, where a group of dedicated volunteers and a few of the local homeless children converged in a united effort to help create this magnificent, meandering, man-made marvel in the devastated remains of this medical clinic.

Now this quiet babbling brook serves as a place to sit and reminisce about a life overturned by tragedy, of loved ones lost and of an uncertain future that unfolds before them. Here in this tiny garden, surrounded by chaos, they have found peace. The first smiles reluctantly return to their little faces. The tears in their eyes tell us everything we need to know as our ears strain to understand something familiar in the foreign dialect of their timid voices.

In PART TWO of this story, we will take a look at the installation and technical description for this project: OVERVIEW – OBJECTIVES – OBSTACLES – OUTCOME.

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