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A view of Lake Peligre from the mountains on the way to a Heifer International cage-fishing project.
Editor's Note: Writer Katya Cengel and Photographer Geoff Oliver Bugbee traveled to Heifer projects in Haiti Sept. 11-18 for Heifer's World Ark magazine. Below, Katya's account illustrates how difficult it is for Haitians as well as employees of organizations working there to get to remote locations. Frequent natural disasters, environmentally denuded hillsides and lack of infrastructure make the work in Haiti that much more challenging. Click here for all of their blog posts from the trip as well as news from the Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York this week.
Story by Katya Cengel
Images by Geoff Oliver Bugbee
As a reporter I always like toobserve my subject’s lives rather than just hear them talk about them. When Ican see and feel something I can describe it better, thereby showing readerssomething instead of simply telling them about it. I did not realize howliterally this preference would be taken on our visit to a cage-fishing projectin Lake Peligre.

The community of Ti Trou in the lower Central Plateau region ofHaiti is rimmed by mountains on three sides and Lake Peligre on the fourth. Theplan was for a motor-powered boat to pick us up by the Peligre hydroelectricdam and take us across the lake, the second largest in Haiti, to the community.

There was only one problem: theboat’s motor wasn’t working.

That is when the adventure began.

In the absence of a motor boat wedecided to make the journey across the water shorter. Thus instead of exitingour vehicle and hopping in the boat near the dam, we drove further up themountain and exited the vehicle midway up and directly opposite the community.

At first it didn’t seem so badbecause there were stone steps leading down towards the lake. But the stepswere soon replaced by dirt and stone outcroppings made dangerously smooth frommany feet having traversed them. I opted to slide on my butt on the slickestparts. At the bottom of the mountain we shared a shady spot with several pigsand waited for the boat to arrive.

The first sign of trouble was whenwe glimpsed the motored boat, and a man using oars to move it. The second waswhen we noticed him bailing water from the craft.

Writer Katya Cengel travels across Lake Peligre in Haiti.
It turned out the motor was sortof working — it would go at a very low speed that required additional manpowerin the form of rowing. We made it across in about 40 minutes. Then we climbedthe other side of the mountain to the home of a fisherman who had receivedfingerlings from Heifer International as part of a new cage-fishing project.The man expected his crop of caged fish to be ready to harvest very soon andhoped to earn enough money from their sale to keep his children in school.
As we spoke with the family wenoticed clouds developing overhead and heard thunder in the distance. Thusbegan our trek back down the mountain, our row across the lake and our hikeback up the mountain on the opposite side.

Only this time there were quite afew more stairs on the other side of the mountain where we exited the boat,more than 400 to be exact. Did I mention that we did not pack extra water forthis trip?  Fresh coconut juice handed tous by a guy with a machete can only carry you so far during strenuous exercisein extreme heat.

Long, arduous walks and hard work are part of life in Haiti.
Along the route we passed severalwomen carrying their washing to the water. They traversed the difficult terrainquickly and easily, making our efforts seem sloth-like. The idea of a gym andstair master would have been baffling to these women who travel the mountainousregion daily. My calves felt the difficulty our family across the lakeexperiences whenever they need to go to the market, get to school or visit adoctor. For them it is an arduous, time consuming and expensive journey,because they do not own a boat and so have to pay someone to row them acrossthe water.

As for us, we made it back to the vehicle eventually, then waited out the storm in a littleone-room restaurant where we enjoyed chicken, rice and beans, plantains andlots of orange soda.


Donna Stokes

Donna Stokes is the managing editor of World Ark magazine. She has worked for Heifer International since September 2008 when she leaped over to the nonprofit world from a two-decade career in newspaper journalism.