Bateyes are where Haitian sugar cane workers live

PORTLAND, Me- A Rotarian with the Rotary Club of Portland, reported about the bateyes, near La Romana, in the Dominican Republic.

Rotarian David Small reported that 140 new, lighter and easier to install water filters were provided to Haitian residents living in the bateyes.

Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Portland have traveled to the Dominican Republic for the past 16 years, to provide humanitarian assistance to the Dominicans and to the Haitian sugar cane workers, who are living in residences called “bateyes”.

William Blount of Portland Maine Rotary

William Blount is a Portland Maine Rotarian who assisted with installing water filters in bateyes, where primarily Haitian works live, in the Dominican Republic. A new water filter system was used in the May, 2017 installation.

A batey is a company town consisting of barracks and a few houses, located close to sugar cane fields, where, primarily, Haitians work. (Haitian people speak Creole, a language with roots in the classic Romance languages and influenced by French.)

Rotarian Richard Giles in Dominican Republic

Rotarian Richard Giles helped with the installation of water filters and solar lights in the Haitian batey.

Portland Rotarians David Small, William Blount and Richard Giles accompanied fellow Rotarians Dr. Roger Fagan and his wife Dr. Elizabeth Fagan, on their May, 2017, mission to the Dominican Republic. They went to continue the program known as “3H”, an acronym for “hearing, hands and water- H2O”. This assistance is given to people living in the community of La Romana and to the Haitian people, who live in the area bateyes.  Dr. Roger Fagan is an audiologist and his wife Dr. Elizabeth Fagan is a speech language pathologist. They volunteer with clients who are hearing impaired, at a clinic in LaRomana. A second team of volunteers assisted with providing artificial hands to people who experienced amputations due to injuries or other causes.

At the same time, Rotarians also provided water filters and solar lamps to Haitian people who are living in the bateyes.

David Small gave this following information in his report to Portland Rotarians, after returning from the May, 2017, Dominican Republic mission:

Many have heard us talk about our work in the bateyes. In fact, a batey is a sugar cane company owned town, or village, where the people who work and their families, receive housing.  Although that might sound like a convenience, the conditions are quite deplorable. More often than not, the dwellings are attached, barracks type buildings. Sometimes, they are made of wood. Sometimes, constructed with concrete block.  Sometimes, they are made of stucco.  They usually have no electricity, no plumbing, and no running water. In fact, water is either collected in rain barrels or drawn from a central spigot, that might be several hundred yards away. Nevertheless, the water is not potable. As a result intestinal issues are very common. Moreover, the majority of the dwellings have no stoves on which to boil water. They just have something that resembles a small wood fired grill. Sometimes, these grills are found burning inside or just outside the housing units.

Each unit in the bateyes usually consist of something on the order of rooms about 8×10 feet, or even smaller. One room is used as a kitchen and eating area. A second room is a bedroom for the whole family. Sugar cane workers are often away in the fields, cutting approximately one ton of sugar cane per day, with a machete. Their pay consists of five bucks for the whole day. Typically, each batey has a church, a school and a commissary. One resident in the batey is hired to be the water monitor. It’s that person who tries to impart knowledge about how to make water safer to use, by boiling. They also teach resident how to collect and store water. When an opportunity arises, the monitors assist with directing who will be entitled to receive a water filter from the 3H program. They also designate who can benefit from having one of the solar lights, donated by the Portland Rotarians. When the team rolls into the batey, they arrive with a hospital representative and interpreters. First, they locate the batey’s water monitor. Then, they proceed to the church or school, for a training session with the local families. The workers are primarily migrant Haitians, because the Dominicans are not inclined to do this work or endure the living conditions in the bateyes. Hence, interpreters need to speak Spanish, French and / or Creole.  A review of the installation and maintenance of the water filters are taught, after the residents receive education regarding proper hygiene. Their instruction includes the proper disposal of diapers and about how hand borne bacteria is easily spread (hand washing).  After the training, the Rotarians split into teams with the interpreters. They have a list of names and dwelling numbers of the places identified for them as being eligible for a filter. They set about knocking on doors. Nearly everyone selected is delighted to get a filter and grateful to have been chosen. After many years of installing the sand filters, which take many parts and pieces, as well as about 30 or so pounds of three types of sand, this year, the process switched to a simpler 6 piece plastic system with ceramic filter that resembles table top iced tea or lemonade dispensers, with a spigot. These are far more compact, lighter, easier to install and less expensive. Therefore, the water filter teams were able to purchase and install 140 this year.

We feel remarkably good about our experience, in spite of experiencing the heat, and humidity, while working in pretty dusty and dirty conditions, We have seen how our work improved the quality of life for all those who now have clean drinking water.  The same goes for those who receive the gift of hearing and those who receive a new artificial hand.  All who can make this journey are encouraged to join us.  I promise you will not be disappointed.

More information about the Portland Rotary “3H” Dominican Republic program is available by contacting Dr. Fagan at drrogerfagan@gmail.com.

Juliana L'Heureux

About Juliana L'Heureux

Juliana L’Heureux is a free lance writer who publishes news, blogs and articles about Franco-Americans and the French culture. She has written about the culture in weekly and bi-weekly articles, for the past 27 years.