Project Leogane Volunteer Info
Coming to Project Leogane? If you have extra room in your luggage or would like to make a donation, please consider bringing something from our Project Leogane wishlist! Please note that we do not allow aerosols at our base.
For more information regarding Project Leogane, please fill out our project inquiry form.
Project Leogane launched on 15 February 2010 and will now run for 11 months – through 15 January 2011. The devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January 2010 was a tragic event with enormous scale and impact; this coastal town was approximately 90% destroyed and 30,000 people lost their lives here. Despite the tremendous needs and challenging operating environment, the people of Haiti are cleaning up and moving forward with energy and spirit. HODR volunteers are working tirelessly in and with the community, helping with the recovery efforts one day at a time.
Leogane is a town of 180,000 people, spread across urban and rural areas. We are located in the town center area. Much of the population is living in tent camps or on the street in front of their damaged or destroyed homes. Aftershocks still affect the area and people are extremely afraid, so much so that many will not enter structures even during daylight hours. One of our focuses during the early part of the project is rubble removal/demolition so that families can move from camps back onto their own clear space; we’ve also expanded to transitional classroom construction, sanitation programs, and NGO support activities.
How do I sign up to volunteer?
With an amazing outpouring of support and volunteer interest, we are now FULL at Project Leogane through January 2011! We are not accepting new volunteer inquiries at this time. If additional space opens up on-project due to rescheduling, we’ll update keep you posted. The only exception to this is skilled carpenters, builders, and people with construction experience. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
As always, our goal is to benefit the community with the support of the amazing volunteers who give their time, hearts and hands to help. We are doing our best to create an opportunity for a productive volunteer experience in this extraordinary situation, and greatly appreciate your interest and support. If you can’t join us on Project Leogane, we hope to see you on a future project!
Our basic set up is that volunteers pay their own travel expenses to the project and while volunteering, we provide a place to stay, meals, on-site training and tools to get the job done! Keep reading for more details on travel, what to expect, what you’ll need to bring and more…
If you’ve received an email from us confirming your volunteer dates and have questions about volunteering with us in Haiti, please ask on our Facebook forums, or email the Project Leogane base manager PLbasemanager@gmail.com or Tom at info@HODR.org.
Will I be safe?
Four months after the initial earthquake we continue to experience occasional aftershocks. They often strike in the middle of the night awaking everyone in our base and the surrounding community. The quakes leave volunteers uneasy, mentally shaken and have disturbed the volunteers’ sleep. Please be aware that by volunteering you will be entering into an area with high seismic activity and that there are risks involved to your physical and mental well-being. While volunteering you need to always be aware of your surroundings and places to take cover in the event of another earthquake.
Travel into the country will be more challenging than in the past, and difficulties may continue once you are on the ground. The everyday living conditions (prior to the devastation of the earthquake, even) would make some volunteers uncomfortable. Numerous social and political troubles have resulted in governments issuing travel warnings (more info below). Passage around the country is considered difficult and arduous. Road conditions are poor and vehicles may be unreliable.
It’s no secret that Haiti faces a number of social and political challenges, compounded by the earthquake. Take the time to do your own research and make an informed decision that’s right for you. We recommend that you start with your government’s travel warnings on Haiti. (The US State Department warning can be found here and the March 15 OSAC warning can be found by clicking here.) We also recommend that you register your trip with your country’s embassy. This can be done online or in person. (U.S. citizens can register here).
Regarding food security, HODR has access to food supplies and potable water. We have instituted a more rigorous reservation system for this project so that we can guarantee that you’ll have food, water and space. If your country’s warning makes you makes you feel that Haiti is not the place for you to volunteer right now, we understand and respect your decision and hope to see you on a future project.
Social issues facing Haiti include political instability, civil unrest, high unemployment, political violence, extreme poverty, high crime, and law enforcement corruption. The country’s infrastructure is in a state of disrepair, examples of which are the poor road system and limited electrical service. Kidnapping is often combined with carjacking/armed assault and can lead to violent assault. Few roads outside of cities are surfaced. Nighttime driving, rain, and dust only serve to make being on the road worse. Demonstrations/strikes are a common social expression. Situation escalation can happen quickly and volunteers must be aware of their environment. Sometimes meeting basic needs is a struggle, and people will act out of desperation. The simple act of giving a bottle of water to one person can cause a reaction from those who also want water but did not get one.
June 1 marks the start of the annual hurricane season in this region. Locals describe hurricanes as typically bringing very strong winds, but low likelihood of flooding. That said, we are living in an open air building and some people may be tenting. We will have an emergency plan in place for hurricanes, but please be aware of the potential risk. We will carefully monitor all developing storms in the Atlantic Ocean.
The people of Leogane may be sensitive to being photographed. Please ask before taking any photos of people.
We strongly recommend you purchase travel insurance that covers evacuation prior to your joining us in Haiti. Health services in Leogane are limited and currently extremely stretched. The field hospital where our volunteers have been working is now closed, which means there is no immediate medical facility within two hours of our base. Port au Prince did offer the best medical care available in Haiti, but those facilities are now critically damaged and overwhelmed.
Please read travel health advisories when deciding what immunizations and medical supplies to prepare. Arm yourself with the knowledge available on the web and make your own decision. The CDC has put together this guide for relief workers and volunteers headed to Haiti. HODR will have first aid supplies but it is advisable that each volunteer bring his/her own supply of basic items (basic pain relief, rehydration solutions, topical and oral antibiotics etc).
Hydration and heat are big issues here, and the weather will only get hotter through the summer. We strongly recommend bringing a generous supply of rehydration solution (or drinking water and eating salty and sweet local foods to maintain proper hydration).
In Haiti, you will be susceptible to all the common infectious illnesses and ailments that accompany international travel. Malaria and dengue fever are both very real concerns here, so carefully consider your prophylactic options, insect repellent, and a mosquito net.
Leogane is the site of an extended filariasis research program. Lymphatic filariasis is a parasitic disease caused by microscopic worms spread from person to person by mosquitoes. People with the disease can suffer from lymphedema and elephantiasis. Many mosquito bites over several months to years are needed to get lymphatic filariasis. People living for a long time in tropical or sub-tropical areas where the disease is common are at the greatest risk for infection. Short-term tourists have a very low risk. The best way to prevent lymphatic filariasis is to avoid mosquito bites, particularly those between dusk and dawn. Preventive measures include sleeping under a mosquito net, wearing long sleeves and trousers, and using mosquito repellent on exposed skin.
There have been suspected cases of measles in Leogane. The population’s low vaccine coverage coupled with overcrowding and living in close quarters leads to a higher risk of transmission. Measles is easily prevented through vaccination, which is strongly recommended to all volunteers regardless of age.
It is very dusty here. We strongly recommend that you bring sunglasses and a supply of dustmasks or a bandanna with you. The sun is intense and there is little cover, so it’s advisable to use sunscreen and a hat. Beginning in June, locals describe the weather as being HOT, HOT, HOT.
As in the past, we will provide drinking water at our facility.
How do I get there and what will the travel be like?
Commercial flights are flying into the Port au Prince airport, Aéroport International Toussaint L’ouverture (PAP) again. If you arrive at the airport, it may still be congested with relief operations, and officials are only using a portion of the building due to damage and repairs. When packing, be sure to check your airline’s Haiti baggage limitations, as many airlines are limiting the size & amount of baggage coming in. Changes can be made frequently, so be sure to check just before you leave so you don’t have any surprises at the airport!
No visa is necessary for most countries entering Haiti, but you may be checked for a return ticket. Non-US citizens transiting through the US may be asked for proof of onward travel before being allowed to enter US territories. Haiti is not necessarily accepted as onward travel so please check your country’s agreement and your airline’s policy when making travel arrangements.
Be sure to keep your entry card; you’ll be asked for this upon departure. Baggage collection may be a bit haphazard. In the past, at the exit they have checked luggage tags against the tags on your bags. This is inconsistent now.
If you’re coming in on the same flight as another volunteer, the base manager (PLbasemanager@gmail.com) or Tom (email@example.com) will let you know.
Another option is to travel overland from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to Port au Prince. This trip will take between 7-9 hours. One reputable, major bus company is Caribe Tours. The other is Terra Bus. We do not have more specific information.
Our base is in the center of the town of Leogane, Haiti. The facility is called Belval Plaza, located on Rue Belval. There is no street number for the address.
If your arrival time deviates in any way en route, YOU MUST call Jess Van Ness at +509 3935 4831 (Haiti), or the Base Manager at +509 3618 6341 (Haiti).
Relax on the flight and be patient on the ground. Think and breathe deeply if things don’t go exactly as planned. You will eventually get here. It will be OK.
Also, if you book your travel through our affiliate sites, you can support HODR while making your way to our project. Booking your travel arrangements through our website DOES NOT ensure a spot at the project, so be sure to fill out our Volunteer Information form.
Port au Prince Info:
If you are looking to spend a night in PAP, accommodations are very limited as many were destroyed. Hotels that are open cost upwards of US$100-US$130 per night.
Shuttle Info PaP to Leogane:
We have a shuttle service available to transport volunteers from PAP airport to our base in Leogane. The cost of the trip is US$80 and can be split between the passengers. The car should be able to fit 4 people with bags. If you would like to hire the car, please email PLbasemanager@gmail.com. Please include your name, flight number, arrival date, arrival time, and whether you would be willing to wait for people who may be arriving at a similar time to you. Our base manager will help you to coordinate with other volunteers arriving at the same time, so that you can share the car.
The shuttle cannot depart Port au Prince later than 6PM. The city government of Port au Prince has instituted a recommended 6PM curfew, and the NGO community is operating with a 7PM curfew. If you anticipate a late bus arrival, we strongly encourage you to spend a night in Santo Domingo where accommodation is readily available and more economical than in Port au Prince, and catching an early bus instead.
The airport configuration is constantly changing as they repair and improve the facility. Please click here for a map of how the arrivals/shuttle pickup is arranged. When you arrive, look for a person holding a sign with your name(s). You pay the driver directly once you arrive at our base. There is no need to tip the driver. ‘Porters’ who offer to carry your bags will usually ask for a high tip, however the car is usually very close.
Travel Agent Assistance:
If you need help organizing your travel plans we recommend Dina Phinney at Ballard Travel. She has been great in helping us plan our travel and that of our volunteers. You can reach Dina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dina provides same-day responses to email inquiries. Please provide her 1) name of traveler, 2) departure city, 3) dates of travel, 4) contact phone number.
How do I get money in Haiti?
Prices here are comparable to those in western countries. Plan your spending money accordingly. Accommodation runs at the US$35, US$70, and US$100+ price points, and the regular food insecurity combined with the recent earthquake means that staple items are often more expensive than in the US.
We recommend that you bring cash in US dollars (Euro and Canadian/Australian dollars and other currencies may be difficult to exchange) to convert to local currency for the duration of your stay. Have some small bills on hand as well. The official currency is the Haitian gourde (HTG). You will be able to change money in Leogane but there are NO ATMS so this should not be your source of currency. There are no ATM machines at the PAP airport but there are a few in the city of PAP and Petionville, adjacent to PAP. Banks change money and have resumed normal operating hours, but the lines are very long as many people are trying to access funds. Large businesses and mid/top-range hotels in PAP may accept credit cards.
You can also exchange money at most grocery stores (the rate is generally lower) and at the large gas stations (rate comparable to the bank). Be aware that changing money on the street carries the risk of being swindled and could make you a target for robbery. It is advisable to change your money into smaller denominations; local businesses may have difficulty making change for large bills (HTG 1000). US dollars can also be used in most transactions if you have no local money, but the change rate may be poor. You will often find costs quoted in Haitian Dollars (HD) – which do not exist (yes, confusing!) – it’s a unit convention like a dozen or a stone.
1USD ≈ 8 HD
1HD = 5 HTG.
What kind of accommodations can I expect?
Our base is designed to comfortably accommodate 100 volunteers. We are located at Belval Plaza, an unfinished nightclub in the center of the town of Leogane.
We are working out of an open-air building. Most of our volunteers sleep in the bunk space under the roof. Please bring your own bedding and sleeping pad. There is limited tent space on the roof of the building and we cannot guarantee there will be space for you to pitch your tent, so be prepared to sleep in the bunks (air mattress, mosquito net, and sheet). We advise volunteers to pack a tent as a precautionary measure as we are living in a disaster area where aftershocks are a regular occurrence.
We have limited running water (we’ll be flushing toilets by by bucket and taking cold bucket showers but trust us they’ll feel nice after a hot day of work!). Our space is somewhat built, but is not enclosed. Please pace yourself for the constant open air exposure. We will have electricity via generator, but the priority is to provide power each night from 6PM to 10PM. Please carefully consider your electrical needs before you pack.
There is a no-alcohol policy inside the base. There is a 10PM curfew for volunteers.
How do I call my Mother (or send email)?
There are small businesses that provide international calling service. We don’t have specific rate information yet, and call quality may be variable. We will have a mobile phone at our house, which volunteers can use to receive incoming calls.
Cellular networks have been restored to the area although service is inconsistent. An unlocked mobile phone (available here) can be fitted with a locally purchased Digicel, Voila, or Haitel SIM card (50 Haitian Dollars) for pay-as-you-go service. Local and international calling and text messaging both work with this kind of prepaid service. We are using Voila SIM cards.
We have a wifi connection available at our base, but bandwidth is extremely limited. We have 3 house laptops which are shared for internet/email and photosharing, but it’s recommended that you bring your own laptop if you want regular internet access.
What will the weather be like?
The weather is hot, dusty, and sunny during the day, and mild, dusty, and dark in the evenings. We suggest packing a mid-weight jacket. Temperatures are expected to rise and remain hot through the course of the project. The rainy season will begin soon, and locals say that evenings typically have a few hours of rain. Hurricane season will start during Project Leogane as well.
What is the food like?
We provide three meals a day to our volunteers. Breakfast will be cereal/bread and lunch/dinner will be a hot prepared Haitian meal. Haitian cuisine consists of rice and beans, plantains, a limited amount of chicken and goat, spaghetti, and modest vegetables. Bananas, mangoes, and citrus fruit are available in the local market. We will be able to accommodate vegetarian diets at our base although some flexibility, humor, and cultural understanding will see you through the inevitable awkward situations that will come up (vegetarianism/veganism are not big concepts here; we are constantly working with our cook on this). Vegans will have a trickier time, and may need to spend a bit more time stocking up on their own groceries. You may wish to bring some rehydration solution (e.g. Gatorade) and comfort food for a personal stash. Most importantly bring CHOCOLATE for all of the volunteers that arrived before you!
Travel inside Haiti
Once here, you may want to consider budgeting extra time to allow for travel around Hispaniola. Destinations in Haiti included Cap Haitian in the north and Les Cayes/Jacmel in the south. Intra-island air travel is easy, but will cost you about US$85 per segment with Port au Prince as hub. You may also want to consider travel to the east part of the island to visit the Dominican Republic.
Volunteers participating for longer than 1 month will be required to take a minimum of a 3-day mental health break away from the project base every 30 days. This is non-negotiable and you will be responsible for your own travel and accommodation during your break(s).
Please note that aerosols are not allowed at the base (we burn our trash and aerosols are explosive). We recommend bringing pump spray bottles instead.
Tent (in case space is available or in case of emergency)
Sleeping pad/air mattress & sheets (We DO NOT provide mattresses/bedding)
Shots (minimum – tetanus)
Personal first aid kit
Combination lock (we will provide lockers)
Passport + copies
3 pairs work pants
1 set of nicer clothes
lots of socks (these tend to disappear in a communal living environment)
modest shorts/tank tops ok for house
USB memory stick (for sharing photos!)
travel insurance policy (Please consider purchasing your travel insurance via our affiliate links. You get the same rate, and HODR receives a portion of the purchase.)
SENSE OF HUMOR
Remember, PACK LIGHT, it is hot here!
There is no electricity service in Leogane. We have a generator supplying power from 6PM -10PM. Electricity in Haiti is 110V to 200V AC (The same as in the US & Canada.) The most common plugs are the 2 parallel flat pins without grounding, and you may find some plugs with the grounding pin as well. Please seriously consider your needs prior to packing anything requiring electricity.
Haitian Creole is the most common language followed by French (the language of business). You can refer to our Creole – Basic Words & Phrases sheet (from Project Gonaives) for simple vocab to get you started. There are people who have a limited amount of English but communication with only English is difficult. We will have translators working with us on a daily basis in order to help our volunteer projects. A portion of the population has a smattering of Spanish.
Not comfortable with our set up?
We have not identified any other accommodation options in Leogane.
What can I bring, as a donation, if I have extra room?
The community where we will be working is very poor. The needs are tremendous and we are hesitant to have you give any hand-outs. Even the gift of a pencil to one child could cause difficulties with the children who did not get a pencil. This situation is fluid and we hope that the need will be reduced over the period of Project Leogane, allowing us to make donations on a micro scale. Please also consider making a general donation, which will be used to directly fund the projects we’re working on.
There are tools and materials that we are unable to source in Haiti. Please check our Project Leogane wishlist, if you’re interested in bringing some of these items.
What if I forget stuff?
You are encouraged to carefully consider your needs and pack accordingly. Shopping is an interesting experience but it’s a lot less hassle for you (and us) if you bring it with you. You can buy most basic supplies in Port-au-Prince, but finding it will be the hard part. It will be much more difficult to source in Leogane.
Anything else I need to know?
Several volunteers have made enthusiastic recommendations for country-specific reading material. Here is a brief list of recommended reading:
- Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder
- Damming the Flood, Peter Hallward
- The Comedians, Graham Greene
- Krik, Krak, Edwidge Danticat
- Creole Made Easy, Wally Turnbull
Lonely Planet has also publishes a Dominican Republic/Haiti guidebook.
Ummmmm, it sounds a little intimidating. Is it worth putting up with all of the above listed things?
There may be great challenges and need here but we have already bonded with people on work sites, tap taps, and in the street stalls. There is laughter and music and the need for people who want to help! It will be hot, really dirty, hard, work. And that is why we love it!