Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Harris Trobman's water thesis design becomes a reality in Haiti

UDC CAUSES Center for Sustainable Development Green Infrastructure Specialist, Harris Trobman, traveled to Haiti November 19-23, 2015, to provide his design expertise for an advisory consultation with a group of twenty America’s and thirty local Haitians stakeholders. He shares his experience:

For someone who has not visited Haiti it is difficult to even begin to describe. Miles and miles; street to street piles of garbage stern out from the villages of the city. Skews of children and women walk miles carrying, 5-gallon pails of water to their homes for basic needs: drinking, cleaning, and washing clothes. As the poorest nation in the western hemisphere and one of the most disadvantaged in the world, Haiti has to deal with issues of poverty including water and food scarcity on a daily basis. Life in Haiti is not easy.

Despite the strong efforts and billions of dollars invested by many international aid agencies and governments, aid remains far away from having uniform basic needs. Sponsored by the Brethren Global Crisis Funds Mission and Service arm of the Church of the Brethren, the focus of the project was learning about the building bridges of partnerships among the Haitians and with the U.S. leaders.

Brethren Global Crisis Funds recognizes the need to have good technical expertise married with good intentions. Over the past couple years, as a graduate landscape architecture student at University of Maryland, I have collaborated and provided technical guidance of water and agriculture projects for the Brethren Church Global Funds Mission. I was joined on the trip by my former professor and now colleague Dr. Christopher Ellis (University of Maryland's Plant Science and Landscape Architecture) and we presented our ongoing work and research collaboration with the Church of the Brethren. 

 Watch Harris discuss the project. Continue reading for more on the project design.

This included my thesis design which organized a school of 600 students that included onsite drinking water treatment and a rooftop agricultural laboratory. The design delivers clean drinking water, nutrition, and social interaction spaces. Rainwater is harvested in a below-ground 10,000 gallon cistern which is then filtered to potable water standards through a biological sand filter. Other features include rooftop agriculture supported in tire planters; a scaled soccer field with two goal posts (harvested from local bamboo), a tire amphitheater and performance space; a hand washing station, and a prayer garden.

Despite travel into remote areas, our group spent two mornings visiting rural communities, meeting local leaders. We saw two recently completed pure water projects (a capped spring in Acajou and a system for harvesting and treating rain water in Morne Boulage) I helped to advise and design, each serving 500-700 people. Additionally, along the visit, we met with newly trained rural health workers, saw recently installed medical dispensaries, and experienced the warm hospitality of congregations.

I also presented to the group a session entitled “Improving Health and Lowering Mortality Rates through Pure Water.” Throughout our travels, Dr. Ellis and I spoke with leaders from the Brethren Church about opportunities for broader collaboration between the Global Funds Mission of Church of the Brethren University of District of Columbia and University of Maryland. Our ongoing work will provide opportunities for students to participate in the design and research of ongoing water and agriculture projects.

Harris Trobman can be reached at harris.trobman@udc.edu.

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