Warm Greetings from a frosty Martha’s Vineyard,

As many of you know, Pam and I are involved in several projects on Île-à-Vache, a beautiful little island seven miles off the south west coast of Haiti.  We’ve sailed to Haiti twice from Vineyard Haven with boatloads of supplies for Sister Flora’s Orphanage, used sails, rigging and fishing gear for the fishermen, tools for the local boat builders, as well as bags of dried beans and rice, school supplies and art materials.

This winter, our schooner Charlotte, will be shivering in the cold water of Vineyard Haven harbor, so we will be heading down to Haiti via airplane, bus, motorbike and pirogue with duffel bags of supplies.  It’s always an adventure, regardless of the types of vessels employed to get there.

We have made progress on several fronts:

The Kai Kok town well that was damaged during hurricane Matthew is back in operation. Thanks to generous donations to Pam’s 501c3 nonprofit, Sense of Wonder Creations (SoWC), we were able to assist in funding a project to build a pumping station. Now the water is pumped to a header tank at the top of the hill, which feeds several water sources in the village. It is so gratifying to see the residents access water without having to climb a steep trail and lug five gallon buckets on their heads.

One goal this year is to install a solar powered well pump to replace the gasoline model. Gasoline must be brought to the island in jugs by boat from Les Cayes, and carried to the well. Gas is expensive and the pump requires maintenance. Both of these problems can be solved with solar power.

Following the devastation from hurricane Matthew in 2016, SoWC received a wonderful outpouring of donations for the Haiti Fund. We have been able to partner with other philanthropic organizations to rebuild homes, clean wells, repair cisterns, buy food, and plant trees and gardens. Île-à-Vache is on the road to recovery.

In October 2017, we sent money for school supplies for 200 children. Each child received a backpack, notebook, pen, pencil, protractor and ruler.

Over the past three years, we have worked closely with the Kai Kok Community Center. This year, SoWC donated money to purchase 10 guitars, 12 drums, 8 keyboards and 21 recorders, have provided funding for the art program, and have paid the teachers’ salaries through January 2018. The Community Center is the only place where kids and young adults can receive free instruction in art, music and basic computer skills. Saturday nights they can hang out, watch a movie, and play music with their friends.

On January 20th, 2018, SoWC will bring the legendary Vineyard drummer, Rick Bausman to conduct drum workshops with the kids. Knowing Rick’s enthusiasm and teaching skills, this may become a yearly event.

Île-à-Vache is alive with wooden boat building. There is activity on every beachfront. Designed by eye, and hand made with axe and machete, these traditional small craft can be seen under sail in the bays, sounds and offshore. They cast and haul their nets in Biblical fashion, then sail home to sell at the market and feed their families. Fishing and farming are the means of livelihood for most Haitians.

At this time, there are no facilities to haul, repair and maintain the boats. We have proposed to build a slipway and a small woodworking shop on the Kai Kok harbor. After several meetings with town and island officials, local businessmen and waterfront property owners, all parties have responded in favor of the project.

Last winter, we located a ¾ acre piece of property for sale at the head of the harbor. It’s a level vacant lot with a white sand beach. I snorkeled seaward two hundred feet or so looking through clear water at the smooth sandy bottom to a depth of 12 feet – just the right slope for a marine railway.

I hope to sign a long-term lease this month and proceed with our plans. We are confident that this facility will provide much needed employment and create a space where traditional boatbuilding skills will be passed down to future generations.

We sincerely thank all of you who have donated to the Haitian community.

If you would like to help keep these projects moving forward, please make your tax-deductible donation payable to:

Sense of Wonder Creations. (Note: “Haiti Fund” on the memo line.) P.O. Box 1558 Vineyard Haven, Ma. 02568.

On line donations may be made to the SoWC website homepage: http://senseofwondercreations.org

Click on the Pay Pal donate button, and write “Haiti Fund” in the message line.

Donations are tax deductible to the full extent of the law and SoWC does not take out any administrative fees. 100% of the funds are passed on to Haiti.

We wish you Fair Winds and a Happy New Year, Nat and Pam Benjamin

For further information, See also:

Nat’s publication : Passage to Haiti 

The Vineyard Gazette Article:    Heading Out to Sea to Share the Bounty by Katherine Scott.

The MV Times Article:   Nat Benjamin sails Charlotte into warm welcome in Haiti and Cuba