April/May 2017 Solar Mission Trip to Install AC in the OR

HAM board members, Paul Hammond and Keith Hare, arrived in Haiti on April 28, 2017 to lead a mission to update the solar collection and storage system at the clinic and to oversee the installation of an A/C system in the surgery room. Keith designed and installed the original solar system back in 2010 and as the clinic services have grown, so has the increased demand for electricity. The old system was pushed beyond capacity this past January when the eye surgery team performed 40 cataract surgeries in 3 days. We have long wanted to add air conditioning to the surgery room given the extreme heat of Haiti and our desire for to avoid corrupting the surgical field during procedures by the surgical team dripping sweat. 

Keith and Paul have been discussing an upgrade for two years now and Keith designed the upgrade to maximize solar collection and storage capacity. Prior to this mission, Paul had sourced and purchased in Haiti additional solar panels with racking system, and greater capacity batteries, and made arrangement for that equipment to be at the clinic before the teams arrival. Keith brought along two new charge controllers not available for purchase in Haiti, along with two of his nephews Aaron and Matthew, who both work as electricians for Hare Electric, their fathers business. This would be their first time to Haiti, though as with all the Hare family they have made many volunteer work trips to Nicaragua and are accustomed to challenging working conditions.

The team arrived in Haiti without incident and with all their luggage. Unfortunately, local transportation became a cloud over the mission as HAM’s Hilux truck had been stuck at the Toyota dealer for weeks with a broken radiator. We were forced to rent a van for the airport pickup and the following day when Paul, Aaron and Matthew had to run around Port-au-Prince collecting all the other electrical supplies needed for the installation. Renting vehicles in Haiti is an expensive venture, so the team needed to make the most out of the first two days to avoid the need for further vehicle rentals until Paul could sort out the truck problems. Once the team made it to the clinic on Friday evening, they immediately went to work measuring, identifying and inventorying all the electrical parts they might need over the next week.

Saturday started bright and early as Paul, Aaron, Mathew, interpreter Charles and driver Regi headed back to Port-au-Prince for some shopping. But first Paul needed to stop at the Toyota dealership to evaluate the status of the truck repair. Seems the dealership had been jerking our Haitian staff around regarding the radiator repair since it was first taken in for repair in February. They fixed it twice only to have it leak again within two days. They then told our staff it was unfixable and the radiator had to be replaced, but there was no new radiator of the right size available in Haiti and they would have to wait 4 months for the part to be shipped from Japan. When our staff located the correct radiator at a parts store on the other side of Port-au-Prince, the dealership told them to purchase it themselves and the dealership would install it for free. Not exactly what one expects when the vehicle is still under warranty, so Paul needed to involve himself directly. After visits to two different Toyota dealerships on Saturday, and a great amount of run around and arguing, we were finally assured that the repair would be fully completed under warranty and if a new radiator had been located they would purchase and install it ASAP. Of course they couldn’t do anything before Tuesday as they are closed Sunday and Monday was a national holiday. Fortunately, the remainder of Saturday’s shopping went well and we arrived back at the clinic with all the needed electrical parts. Keith had stayed at the clinic and begun the installation of the charge controllers. 

Sunday and Monday were extremely productive with the three Hares along with several Haitian helpers pretty much completed the system installation, except for the battery change. It was fortunate that the clinic was closed on Monday for the holiday, as it gave the team uninterrupted access to the clinic and no disruption to clinic operations. Work was ahead of schedule, so on Monday night the team joined the Haitian Labor Day Dumay Festival. Every year the community of Dumay holds such a festival to celebrate and promote the community, and HAM has always helped sponsor the event, but this was the first time a volunteer team has been there for the festivities. The party was held next door to the clinic at the K through High School next door to the clinic. The party was raging when we arrived and the community leaders on stage welcomed us graciously with speeches about all the HAM does for the community. There was good food and drink, arts and crafts for sale, music and dancing, and an overall good time. We enjoyed ourselves and were moved by the appreciation for HAM shown by the community.

The remainder of the week continued to be productive, with the solar and A/C systems fully installed and operational by Tuesday afternoon. Paul kept Aaron and Mathew busy with various maintenance projects around the clinic, including adding lights to the dehydration clinic and a few of the clinic rooms that needed additional lighting. The twins even did a little plumbing, carpentry, and helped Charles inventory and organize the recent order of plus and minus eye glasses and lenses we had ordered from China and had shipped directly to Haiti earlier in the year. Keith meanwhile studied and tweaked the solar system to maximize productivity. 

As for the truck, after a long and frustrating week of run arounds and arguments with the dealership, they ended up finally repairing the radiator to an acceptable state just in time to take Matthew and Aaron to the airport on Friday. Paul and Keith remained to make sure the system was working correctly, collecting data, and making sure and all was right before flying home Monday.

It was an extremely productive trip with everything planned accomplished. A huge THANK YOU goes out to Keith and his nephews Aaron and Matthew, for working so hard to get it all done and having such a great attitude the entire time.