Building a better world, one community at a time

Portland Team Returns from Les Anglais, Haiti Water Project Trip


Team Travels after One Year of Preparation

March 10, 2009

Portland, OR  -  The Portland chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB) recently completed their first trip to Les Anglais, Haiti to improve the community water system.  The trip was successful in its goals of completing critical system repairs, assessing community health, strengthening in-country connections, and gathering information for further design.

Project Initiation: Reaching out for Help

The EWB Les Anglais team began this project almost a year ago after a request for engineering help from Jim Shaw, of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (OSLC) in Lake Oswego. OSLC has been working with its sister church in Les Anglais to improve the living conditions in the community.  The group identified contaminated drinking water as a likely cause of poor health in the community.


Volunteers carrying material
to the work sites


EWB team coordination - not an hour was wasted in Les Anglais


Carolyn Shapiro took on the EWB Les Anglais project lead position and formed a team of several dozen engineers to plan the work. The goal of the project has been to assist the community in rehabilitating their aging water system and to install water treatment to address the predominance of water-borne illnesses in Les Anglais. Babies and young children are particularly affected by typhoid fever and diarrheal diseases, and many die before they reach age five.

EWB-USA is a not-for-profit organization established to create opportunities for American engineers and public health professionals to volunteer their time to work on infrastructure projects in the developing world. The Portland chapter has three international projects including the Les Anglais water project, a water and sanitation project in Ecuador, and a school infrastructure project in Tanzania

Planning the EWB Response

The EWB Les Anglais project team planned to travel to Haiti in 2008, but were unable to, first due to the political unrest and ensuing food riots in April 2008, then postponed fall travel after the devastating hurricanes swept across Haiti in August, destroying many homes in Les Anglais and damaging transportation corridors between there and Port-au-Prince.  The hurricanes also caused extensive damage to the community water system so that no water was flowing to the town site and over 12,000 people were forced to rely on only two hand pump wells for their drinking water. Les Anglais was largely passed over for disaster relief after the hurricanes. The Portland EWB team decided to pursue new plans to repair the damaged piping on the community water system as soon as they could reasonably travel to Les Anglais.



Meeting with community leaders

A Great Support Team

They worked with an EWB member in Miami, Florida, Travis Harvey, to form an all-Haitian trip support organization to procure piping materials, to transport the team from Port-au-Prince to Les Anglais, and to serve as translators and assist with the repairs. 


Steve Blaine with Jean-Marie on
the repairs team

Travis Harvey is a Haitian American construction manager who contacted the Portland EWB chapter to help with the Les Anglais project. He wanted to use his professional skills to help Haiti, where he still has many family members and professional contacts, including Laurent Auguste who led the trip support team out of Port-au-Prince.

The project also received help from Dominique Georges, who read about the project and contacted the team after the hurricanes. Dominique Georges grew up in Les Anglais and later emigrated to the US, now lives in N.J. with his wife and two children. Dominique contacted friends still living in Les Anglais by cell phone and email and gathered detailed information about the system damage caused by the hurricanes. The EWB team used this information to plan the repairs while in Portland.

The EWB Team

The EWB travel team was made up of Travis Hultin and Steve Blaine working on system repairs, Grace Weatherford and Dick Raub working on community mapping and WQ assessment, Heidi Kriz and Kay Mattson working on health assessment, Carolyn Shapiro in team coordination and Jerry Schwartz of New Mexico in photography and agronomy research.

What impressions did the Portland team have from their time in Haiti? - “In spite of the extreme hardships that people in Les Anglais face, I was struck by how people we met lived each day with dignity and joy,” notes team lead Shapiro. “Contrary to outside perceptions of Haiti, its people at home and in the US are dedicated to the goal of re-building Haiti after decades of failed governments. The country has so much potential for greatness, and we experienced this every minute working with Etienne, Laurent, Travis, Dominique and the Les Anglais community."


Young water carriers in Les Anglais


Repair work continues in Les Anglais

Next Steps

The team is preparing for another trip in June 2009 to further system improvements and prepare for future phases of the project.  The team is welcoming new volunteers to get up to speed on this project and contribute to future success. 

This project will only be possible through the support of our generous donors.  Please help bring clean water to Les Anglais.  Donate Now!


Check out a brief slideshow from the trip below.  All pictures courtesy of Jerry Schwartz.