Brubaker Inc., Colonial Electric, Grainger Supply, and HAM Operators Help a Radio Network in Haiti

Some of the team members.

The team members from PA with Peniel from Radio Lumiere and Dale Long, member of Haiti International Friendship Radio Club.

For several years, Brubaker Inc.’s Doug Brubaker and a team of individuals from Lancaster and southeastern PA have gone to Haiti to help Radio Lumiere, the national Christian Radio network of Haiti with capital projects to further enable them to broadcast to and communicate with the people of Haiti.  From February 22nd through March 2nd, 2015, the team, under the auspices of World Gospel Mission (WGM), and in partner with Haiti International Friendship Amateur Radio Club took part in one of the largest and most challenging projects they have undertaken.

tuning unit building and old tower base

Surveying a portion of the old site back in February of 2014.

For decades there had been an AM transmitting facility in Menelas, a village north of Cite Soleil and just north and west of the Port-au-Prince International Airport.  As with many things in Haiti, it was a challenge to keep the station on the air as funds were not available for upkeep and maintenance over the decades.  Eventually it went out of service, thereby depriving several million people in the greater Port-au-Prince area and much of central Haiti the opportunity to listen to Radio Lumiere.  It was hoped that someday it could be brought back into service, but the deprivations of scavenging anything of use at the station for people to resell to earn a living and, finally, the earthquake of January 2010 left nothing but a concrete base where the radio tower once stood, a concrete shed, and a ravaged shell of a transmitting station building.

before and after 1

Before and after the tower was set.

Then in the last 3 years, a dream formulated to bring the station back to life.  Because of conditions, it was necessary for the rebuilt facility to once again be AM.  While FM might have a better quality signal, AM is best for transmission and reception under certain conditions where FM will not be effective.  The huge challenge is that with AM the cost can be up to a magnitude of 10 times the cost of an FM facility.  Through creativity and the ultra-efficiency of ‘thinking Haitian’, the budget and material list was developed that reduced costs from a half million dollars to closer to the $60,000 range for a viable station.  Fund raising was undertaken a year ago, and through close scrutiny and much hard work, the dream became a plan which is on the cusp of becoming reality! 

setting the base

Setting the new tower base in mid February, 2015.
Image credit: Dale Long

In multiple phases, starting in late 2014, the transmitter building was rebuilt, and in mid February 2015, 180′ of what will ultimately be a 300′ tower was erected by members of the Radio Club, local citizens, and students from nearby Lumiere University.  A new overhead electric power service was brought in from over 400′ away. 

By the last week of February, the team from PA arrived; electric power and light systems were installed in the transmitter building, over 500′ of power and network cable were installed underground from the transmitter building to the ‘tuning unit’ building at the base of the tower; and the first 2 miles of what eventually will be over 6 miles of underground copper wire was installed as part of the signal transmitting system!

2 miles of copper radials

Some of the first 2 miles of copper radial for transmitting the AM signal.

Partnering also with the team on this trip was Grainger SupplyColonial Electric Supply of Lancaster, and Brickerville Electric.  As this project material list was being assembled, the call went out for the six miles of copper wire.  Colonial Electric was instrumental in procuring the miles of bare copper wire for the underground ‘radials’ and providing it as economically as was possible for the project.  Bottled gas such as acetylene for brazing and soldering is not always easy to obtain in a timely manner in Haiti.  As a backup (and a help for future maintenance work at Radio Lumiere’s repair and maintenance facility) Grainger helped by supplying an economical soldering station for use either as a possible replacement for acetylene and future repurposing for work on the repair bench at Radio Lumiere’s Cote Plage facility in Carrefour.  And Brickerville Electric generously contributed thousands of feet of jacketed #12 copper wire for the underground electric feed between the transmitter building and the ‘tuning shed’ at the base of the tower.

The station is now ready for equipment to be set in place and by the end of March or the first week of April 2015 AM 660 will be back on the air in the greater Port-au-Prince metropolitan area and much of the Cul-de-Sac Valley.  This will return Radio Lumiere to the airwaves for over two million listeners!

We at Brubaker Inc. are proud to help teams in Haiti to support the mission of Radio Lumiere, and we are grateful to Colonial Electric, Grainger Supply, and Brickerville Electric for their part in helping Radio Lumiere resurrect a key facility in their network!

For more pictures of this exciting project, go to Haiti International Friendship Radio Club’s Facebook page.