Our visit to Haiti helped us understand the transport challenges facing the peple of Haiti and especially those from Fonds-Verrettes. Fonds-Verretes is 53km from Port-au-Prince along the Haitian border with Dominican Republic. It took us over 2 hours to drive from the capital to the remote village. Even with good performing trucks, we couldn't make over 35 miles per hour. The road is paved for a short distance and the rest is dirty road. The road is narrow and has several dropping cliffs. It is two way traffic and vehicles easily roll down the steep inclines. Like this tap-tap we found which rolled about 20m down a steep cliff.
The large Antoine family provides a stable support for the community of Dame Marie. Apart from his work in medicine, hospital administrator Pierre Antoine has helped build a school, in rebuilding a retaining wall for the sea after a hurricane, and by paving the revered city streets, among countless other deeds. His work inspired the doctors from ST. Francis to donate even more time and effort, and hopes are high of getting the funding to implement a surgeon for the community.
The medical visitors to Dame Marie from ST. Francis Hospital in Connecticut in October 2011 were given welcome by hospital administrator, Pierre Antoine, who allowed the group a base in his home and acted as their guide and guard during their stay in Haiti's winsome west. Having his roots firmly founded, by the scale of generations, in Dame Marie, Antoine and his family became the best source for advocating the town and its potential to the visiting doctors. The family was subsequently invited to Hartford for a dinner.
Though accessible by roads, small crafts and by sea, the westerly fishing community of Dame Marie still proves an isolated area. As such, practicing medicine can be a bit of a hardship. A couple of years ago, the operating room of the local hospital was returned to full function, enabling a visiting team to perform over thirty, life saving surgeries that week. It was part of a veterans visit from ST. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut to ten hospitals in four Haitian cities during October of 2011.
The rugged, terrain of the western tip of Haiti's south coast belongs to the city of Dame Marie, famed for its wonderful roads as much as for its cocoa production. Still the city, so wonderful to look at, struggles from a lack of opportunities for its people, who make their living mostly either tilling the earth or toiling the sea. While most of the population is of the Christian faith, there is still the strong presence of the vodou culture.
April of 2012 saw the three day event marking the fifth edition of Dame Marie's cocoa fair. The mission of the fifth edition was to accomplish strengthening the partnership of those bodies with interest in the cocoa industry. There was an opening parade by the GASC (Action Group Socio-Cultural) and students from schools across the city. Then, on the second day, the cocoa products' exhibition was opened along with an arboretum in remembrance of Eugene Piou. Various activities were hosted and presentations made on the challenges being faced by cocoa cooperatives.
As picturesque as Dame Marie is, its residents face an ugly problem in the lack of access to service like health care and education, which are essential to the growth and sustainability of the community. It's caused by a lack of infrastructure, in its turn caused by a lack of investment in other areas besides the cocoa industry. No stride has been taken to develop the city in areas such as tourism.
Dame Marie saw its golden period between the late 1800's and early 1900's due to German and French investors who capitalized on the cocoa production of the town. Much of the charming architecture for which the town is recognized was built during this time of prosperity. But this was sustained only until a destructive hurricane which tore the town apart in 1954.
From a more fairly recent population count, the town of Dame Marie, Haiti's furthest reach to the west, is home to some 37,000 people who rely on fishing and agriculture for their livelihoods. Their cocoa production is, thus, vastly important as one of the crops used largely for export; many of their other crops are used mainly for sustenance. They traditionally harvest their cocoa beans twice per year, between April and May and then November and December. The production isn't very large scale. In fact, their yield is small enough to service one main, though rather large, cocoa exporter, Weiner.
On the very edge of Haiti's most westerly leg sits Dame Marie, known in the Creole as Dam Mari. Boasting only just above 27,000 inhabitants at the census taken a decade ago, the small town on the seaside lies within the Anse-d'Hainault municipality in the Grand Anse Department. Almost all the roads in Dame Marie are paved and the town remains one of the most developed in Haiti. Its main professions exist in the fields of fishing and agriculture.