Jamie and Lisa Carter are Southside plumbers with big hearts.
Jamie has been a plumber for over 35 years. Lisa, who has degrees in nursing and public health promotions, has been in the plumbing business with her husband for 27 years. This Greenwood Plumber took his plumbing skills to Haiti to help others in need.
Their son, Kelson, also is learning the family trade, following the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Their daughter, Lauren, is a graduate from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and heading to Taylor University in the fall for her Masters.
The Carters recently put their skills to use in Haiti, where Jamie built new bathroom facilities for nearly 40 orphans at the Christian Light School in Port-au-Prince (www.christianlighthaiti.org). They talked to the Star about their experiences.
Question: Most of us have heard of Doctors without Borders, but this is the first we’ve heard of plumbers without borders. How did you end up building bathrooms in Haiti?
Answer: This truly is a “God thing.” Lauren, our daughter, has a huge passion for mission work, so she was the instigator. Jamie had never been on a mission trip before.
Lauren and Lisa have been to a Navajo reservation, Costa Rica and Colombia. With Jamie going on this mission, the folks in Haiti were ecstatic about (having) a plumber. . . . Lauren and Lisa were his helpers. Lauren explored other orphanages a few days, and Lisa, a registered nurse, treated children at the orphan’s clinic.
Q: Tell us about the orphanage you are helping.
A: It is an amazing facility that houses 38 orphans. Most were left homeless when their parents were killed in the earthquake. It’s a very humble facility with dirt walkways, limited water supply, outhouses and no air conditioning. The resources are extremely limited, including medical supplies and educational materials.
Q: Describe the area where you were working? Sanitation conditions?
A: It was extremely hot, dirty and unsanitary. Sanitation flows through the dusty gravel streets. Trash is piled along the sides of the makeshift streets where pigs, goats, chickens and dogs roam freely. There are no restroom facilities and people are seen relieving themselves along the roads. Buckets are used in some tents.
There were a few toilets at the orphanage, and we were not allowed to flush paper. At the mission house where we stayed, we used the army method to shower — turn the water off between suds. Water is not filtered, and many Haitians have died from cholera.
Q: Are toilets and bathrooms common there?
A: No. The poverty level is so high that no one can afford a bathroom. There are no sewers or sanitation facilities. Rainwater is collected. The ice cream bell American’s hear in the local neighborhood, Haitians hear a bell from a water truck delivering small bags of drinking water to locals.
Water at the orphanage is brought in through a well; however, it is contaminated because of the surrounding sanitation issues. The water is siphoned to the rooftop where a large plastic cistern holds it for showers. During the day, temperatures get up to 115 degrees and the water becomes stagnant and moldy.
One of the first things Jamie did was install lids on the cisterns on the rooftop because pigeons would sit on top of them and, well you get the picture.
Q: You are there to make life better for the Haitian orphans, but how has this experience affected your lives?
A: We were both impacted by how little these people have and yet they are happy.
God has given us a new vision to make a difference regarding the installation and education of bringing fresh water sources and sanitation to third world countries. We want to start or partner with a nonprofit to improve the fresh water sources and sanitation in these impoverished nations. We recognize the need and there are matters out there bigger than us.
Q: Does your company do this kind of pro bono plumbing work for local needy folks or charities?
A: We do. We donated the installation of new plumbing in a house for one of the State Fair stage collapse victims last year. It was a complete remodel, and we donated the installation of all new handicapped plumbing fixtures to accommodate the young man.