As­sist­ing our neigh­bours in dis­tress

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT - Ma­jor Basil Jar­rett Con­trib­u­tor Ma­jor Basil Jar­rett is the Civil/Mil­i­tary Co­op­er­a­tion Of­fi­cer for the Ja­maica De­fence Force .

DART help­ing to make a small ‘Food For The Poor’-size house for a fam­ily of five in Haiti.

JDF com­pletes Hur­ri­cane Matthew re­cov­ery mis­sion in Haiti

AS ONE of the world’s poor­est coun­tries and Ja­maica’s clos­est CARICOM neigh­bour, Haiti’s for­tunes are in­trin­si­cally linked to our own here at home. For its part, Ja­maica has con­sis­tently de­ployed sol­diers to Haiti, whether on peace­keep­ing or hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sions. Prior to 2016, our most re­cent de­ploy­ment was in 2010, in the af­ter­math of that his­toric mag­ni­tude 7.0 earth­quake.

Even six years on, since that fate­ful Jan­uary 12 date, Haiti has still not re­cov­ered fully, and amid the on­go­ing so­cioe­co­nomic crises be­ing faced, a Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane was most un­wel­come. Hur­ri­cane Mathew landed in Haiti on Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 4, and left most of the south­ern and south­west­ern re­gions of the coun­try dev­as­tated. More than 900 per­sons were killed and a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber dis­placed, with crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture se­verely dam­aged.

Hav­ing been nar­rowly spared it­self, Ja­maica was al­ready in dis­as­ter re­sponse and re­cov­ery mode, and on Wed­nes­day, Oc­to­ber 19, a de­ploy­ment of the Ja­maica De­fence Force’s (JDF) Dis­as­ter As­sess­ment Re­sponse Team (DART) left the is­land for Haiti.

THE TEAM

The team was com­prised of ser­vice per­son­nel from across the force, pri­mar­ily from the JDF’s 1 En­gi­neer Reg­i­ment, fol­low­ing the fi­nal­i­sa­tion of a for­mal re­quest from the Gov­ern­ment of Haiti for re­gional as­sis­tance. The CARICOM Dis­as­ter Re­lief Unit, which is an op­er­a­tional arm of the Caribbean Dis­as­ter Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, worked in con­junc­tion with the JDF’s DART to ex­e­cute a num­ber of des­ig­nated tasks in Haiti fol­low­ing a re­port of the Rapid Needs As­sess­ment Team of CDEMA, which was de­ployed a week ear­lier. That re­port con­tained a dam­age as­sess­ment of the area as well as rec­om­men­da­tions for the team to per­form se­cu­rity, re­lief dis­tri­bu­tion, and re­con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties.

The DART team was based in Les Cayes, one of the most heav­ily af­fected ar­eas in the south­west re­gion of Haiti. Un­der the com­mand of Ma­jor Carl Clarke and Lieu­tenant Roxwell Wed­der­burn, the team co­or­di­nated food and re­lief sup­plies dis­tri­bu­tion pri­mar­ily in the ini­tial stages of the op­er­a­tions, im­pact­ing more than 800 fam­i­lies. The lat­ter stages of the op­er­a­tions saw the DART fully tak­ing on the ren­o­va­tion of a pri­mary school, com­pletely Haitian stu­dents in their newly ren­o­vated class­room. The com­pletely ren­o­vated pri­mary school in Haiti.

re­plac­ing the dam­aged roof on the main build­ing and kitchen, re­build­ing the toi­let fa­cil­i­ties, re­paint­ing all build­ings on the school com­pound, re­mak­ing and re­paint­ing class­room fur­ni­ture, and fi­nally a last-minute project that just had to be done; the mak­ing of a small ‘Food For The Poor’-size house for a fam­ily of five liv­ing ad­ja­cent to the school where they oc­cu­pied a bro­ken down zinc shack with no bed­ding and took turns to sleep at nights.

CHAL­LENGES

The DART faced a num­ber of chal­lenges in Haiti. The re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion project it­self had 14-day com­ple­tion dead­line, which con­flicted with the pro­jected re­de­ploy­ment date. A gen­eral lack of ap­pro­pri­ate build­ing ma­te­ri­als also ham­pered the project, as the team had to im­pro­vise to en­sure that the build­ing met the Caribbean stan­dard of ac­com­plish­ing cat­e­gory-two stan­dard. A col­lapsed and caved-in sec­tion of the com­pound also added to an in­creased scope of work, which, at all times, had to meet ac­cept­able re­gional stan­dards.

The team also en­sured that

they em­ployed lo­cal labour dur­ing the project, as a means of en­sur­ing that some amount of knowl­edge and skills were trans­ferred to the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion’s builders. Eigh­teen per­sons, in­clud­ing carpenters, ma­sons, welder and un­skilled labour­ers, were the main ben­e­fi­cia­ries, as the team took the time to demon­strate and teach mod­ernised build­ing tech­niques and stan­dards.

De­spite these and other chal­lenges, the project was com­pleted on the dead­line and the team had the per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion of see­ing the happy chil­dren re­turn to school be­fore they were re­de­ployed to Ja­maica.

Af­ter a full four-week de­ploy­ment, the team re­turned on Novem­ber 17, where they were greeted by Lt Colonel Martin Rick­man. Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cer of the JDF 1 En­gi­neer Reg­i­ment. Col Rick­man con­grat­u­lated the men and noted how proud he was that JDF sol­diers were once again able to as­sist our neigh­bours in dis­tress.

I

DART ren­o­vat­ing a pri­mary school in Haiti.

The pri­mary school in Haiti be­fore ren­o­va­tion.

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