By Madie Sturgess
If you walk through Les Anglais today, the greenery is a little more scarce than usual, there are wrecks and ruins between newly rooved homes, and the market is yet to be replenished with its usual wealth of fruits. Hurricane Matthew’s signature remains graffitied across town.
And if you’ve ever walked into La Place (town square), chances are you’ve seen Vlad and his store. Raised in Port-au-Prince, Vladimir, or Vlad as he’s affectionately known, moved to Les Anglais before he finally had the chance to use his certification in technique de refrigeration (refrigeration technique). Saving money from relatives abroad, Vlad finally opened Saint Jacques Shop in 2014. His enterprising mind saw a local need for moto parts, not only saving people a trip into neighboring communes, but also drawing people into Les Anglais. It has since grown to sell food, cosmetics, and other mixed items. Once Enèji Pwòp electrified Les Anglais homes and businesses, Vlad saw the opportunity to grow again. This time he bought a freezer to sell icy cold drinks.
Like so many others, Matthew shattered Vlad’s livelihood. With his roof gone, he lost approximately 75,000 gourdes (approx. $1170) in new inventory, and his family lay home in tatters. Eager to rebuild, Vlad eventually used a small, gasoline generator to run his freezer again. Running for about 16 hours per load, his drinks were never quite cold enough, and the generator, proved costly to fuel. Others resorted to transporting ice from Les Cayes (3 hours away), or running freezers on propane or diesel generators.
As one of the few shops to still offer cool drinks, clientele demand increased faster than he could supply. In May of 2017, Vlad proposed an opportunity with EarthSpark. Our generation system was live, but was waiting for the town to recover before rebuilding our distribution system was possible. Within days of approaching us, Vlad and 2 other local entrepreneurs, became EarthSpark’s first customers since the Hurricane, with their freezers running from our generation site. Vlad’s drinks are icy cold again, his energy bills 40% cheaper, and due to the sheer volume of sales, he’s reduced drink prices.
As EarthSpark continues to rebuild, we remember the scale of change and possibility an electrified town brings. Over the coming weeks technicians and engineers will arrive, and the enthusiasm in Les Anglais is palpable.
Stories like Vlad’s are a reminder that while lights aren’t back on (yet), Les Anglais is not closed for business!