Conor Robinson, one of our four young Pathfinders in the middle of a year of humanist service projects around the world (and the guy who came up with the concept), writes in the Foundation Beyond Belief’s newsletter about encountering several groups of Christians “working” in the Dominican Republic.
ThePathfinders spent January working to build twenty latrines in the remote Haitian community of La Fond-Jeannette. Twenty new latrines mean lower levels of harmful bacteria in the water supply and fewer health problems related to waterborne diseases such as cholera and dysentery.
In the Santo Domingo airport, as we prepared to leave the country for Ecuador, we encountered not one, not two, but THREE separate church volunteering groups wearing matching, brightly colored, sparkly-clean t-shirts with slogans like, “Touching the lives of others because He touched us.” These groups had been in the Dominican Republic building churches. We had just traveled six hours to get across the border and another 14 hours to Santo Domingo after building twenty latrines in a place where churches are nothing more than banana leaf canopies on poles.
I invite you to imagine the foil we provided to the Christian volunteering groups. They in their clean, matching outfits; we in the grays and browns of whatever clothes were closest to passing the odor test, after traveling the same roads whose near impassability makes development in rural Haiti so damn difficult. It was a contrast not only of sights, but also of smells.
More than 60 Christian volunteers to help build three churches in the Dominican Republic, where there are already churches — clean as baptized babies. Four humanist volunteers to help build 20 latrines in Haiti, where the lack of running water, health care, and roads leads to high rates of preventable illness — dirty, unrepentant sinners.
Of course, there is another major difference between the large church groups and our small ragtag band of humanist volunteers — money. Church groups can afford to build more churches and hand out Bibles in a country where there is already a church on every block and a Bible on every nightstand. We stripped the cost of 20 latrines down to $300 apiece in Haiti, a price that includes the transportation, materials, tools, and expertise of a local mason. But to date, we have raised only $1,200 of the $6,000 we spent to stop the spread of cholera and other waterborne diseases.
If you believe (as we do) that a volunteer should arrive at the airport sweaty, smelly, dirty, and tired from the exhilarating and exhausting experience of working alongside and learning from people in need, APPEARANCES BE DAMNED, then please support us! Make a contribution to our Latrines for Haiti fundraiser. Every $300 represents one of the latrines we left for a family in Haiti, but each dollar counts.
Please help if you can. None of the money donated goes to the Pathfinders themselves, every dollar goes to provide clean and safe water for those they are helping.