About Project 509

Project 509 works in remote Haitian mountain villages to help improve access to clean drinking water.  We build rainwater harvesting systems and offer basic WASH training (sanitation and hygiene) in local schools and community meetings.

It is at least a four hour hike to the first villages in Pays Pourri and Marozo – the areas where we work; there is no electricity, running water, or road access.  Children walk 3–5 hours round trip daily just to carry drinking water home from steams that are also used to wash clothes, bathe, and water animals – these streams are always contaminated. 

Basic sanitation and hygiene education is low, and it is common in villages throughout the area for several people to die each year from water-borne disease such as cholera – an entirely preventable situation.

The systems we build provide cleaner – and more abundant – water than what is otherwise available, they free up time for children to attend school on a more regular basis, and at some sites they are allowing farmers to practice emerging micro-irrigation techniques, which improve agricultural production at a time of critical need.

All projects are carried out in partnership with local organizations and community members to identify sites, prioritize projects, coordinate operations, and plan for future / complementary needs.

By The Numbers ... 2010 - 2017:

2016 / 17:

  • Built 10 rainwater harvesting systems with high capacity in-ground cisterns
  • Repaired / retrofitted 5 rainwater harvesting systems with existing cisterns
  • Total people with improved long-term access to clean water: 2400+
  • Rebuilt 2 buildings and repaired 3 roofs destroyed during Hurricane Matthew (2016)

Following the Earthquake in Jan '10, cholera rapidly spread throughout the country.  We felt compelled to act, replicating a common (and seemingly effective) strategy to combat cholera's effects in an area that had been entirely ignored by the international community's response to these compounding tragedies.  During our first few years we focused on distributing, and adapting, water filtration systems.  For a variety of reasons, we realized that not only were these systems an ineffective means to improve the long-term needs of the communities we were working in, but they were actually causing damage in the immediate and short terms.  This seems counter intuitive to many, but after a thorough analysis of our findings, the truth was undeniable (link to full explanation coming in March '18), leading us to work with the community to adapt in ways that more appropriately met their needs.  Nevertheless, these first few years afforded us the opportunity to learn about the area where we worked and its community dynamics, the realities of working in a country such as Haiti, and organizational strategies to ensure our own capacity.  Above all, however, we were able to earn the trust of the community ... our most important asset.

Pre 2016:

  • Distributed 82 water filters in 16 communities
  • Deployed high capacity water filtration systems to 6 schools & churches
  • Given 32 presentations on clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)


2017:  Built 6 complete rainwater harvesting systems; began working with local organizations to promote micro-irrigation practices to improve agricultural produntion

2016:  Built 4 complete rainwater harvesting systems, and repaired 3 additional ones that had an adequate cistern in place ... we also rebuilt 2 collapsed buildings and 3 roofs destroyed in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew

2015:  Built our first rain catchment system, utilizing improved designs and building materials; this has become the cornerstone of our work moving forward; established a relationship with Freewaters Footwear

2014:  Formed a group of Haitian experts to engage with local leadership, which has greatly enhanced community trust in our work

2013:  Developed a high capacity water filtration system specifically intended for use in schools; this increases the efficiency of our efforts, and provides improved tracking and accountability of resources

2012:  Markendy Desormeau, one of our Haitian partners, and Jesse Baker were named International Sustainability Fellows at UC at Irvine because of our work

2011:  Assisted with one of the only medical missions to have ever entered into Pays Pourri, providing key insight into community health effects brought on by cholera and other water borne disease – as well as a variety of extended community health issues

2010:  Made our first trip to Haiti in response the cholera epidemic that resulted from the international response to the devastating Earthquake earlier in the year