Ohio Wesleyan Group Transforms Truck into Haitian-style Tap-tap

Vehicle to be used as educational tool within local community

Frank Hobbs and Sally Leber at work transforming the truck into a Tap-tap. (Photo by Sara Tincher)

The HaitiOWU Initiative will be symbolized in the campus and area community with a donated truck that was recently transformed into a Tap-tap cab—a type of colorful, distinctive shared taxi commonly used in Haiti.

Frank Hobbs, assistant professor of fine arts, and members of the Haiti Initiative met in the basement garage of the Hamilton-Williams Campus Center on February 5 to paint the truck—transforming it to look like a Tap-tap. The vehicle had been sanded and prepared for painting by members of Sigma Chi fraternity in the fall.

“I did some internet research to find images that could be used for inspiration,” Hobbs says. “We painted for about six-and-a-half hours—using metal enamel paint with brushes. Every surface was covered. In the next few weeks we will enlist talented OWU artists to paint portraits or detailed items—to complete the work.”

These colorful vehicles obtained their name because riders make a sharp tapping noise on the vehicle’s metal panels to signify that they wish to disembark. Most Tap-taps operate over fixed routes, departing only when full. OWU’s vehicle is similar to those used in urban areas, while larger mini-vans or buses are used more in rural areas.

OWU’s Tap-tap will be officially unveiled in March. In May, a group of OWU students, alumni, faculty and staff will travel to Haiti for a Theory-to-Practice grant-funded service project at the Project Hope Orphanage (Pwoje Espwa) near Les Cayes. OWU graduate Doug Dittrick ’55 has played an integral role in operating the facility. Dittrick is the former chairman of the board for Free the Kids, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to support the Project Hope Orphanage/Village project.

“Completion of the Tap-tap is a great first step to generate awareness and interest in the OWU community for the HaitiOWU Initiative,” says Craig Ullom, vice president for student affairs, and a member of the HaitiOWU Initiative team. “The future is full of possibilities for making a sustainable and meaningful impact in the lives of the children at Espwa, and in the lives of our students and alumni who engage in this opportunity.”

In addition to performing service, the HaitiOWU Initiative plans to collect donated items for shipment to the orphanage. These plans are in the development stage, and will be announced late this semester.

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