I am honored to be writing a two part series on behalf of Habitat for Humanity. Recently 600 volunteers from around the world set off to Haiti as part of the Carter Work Project for the second year in a row with the goal of building 100 homes in a week. Here is their story.
“Men anpil, chay pa lou.”
Many hands [make] the load lighter.
In 1984, President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn created the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in response to the basic need of simple, decent and affordable shelter for people around the world. For 29 consecutive Mr. and Mrs. Carter have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for one week building homes and hope in over 14 countries. Past missions have brought people together to build homes as close as Mexico and Canada and as far away as South Africa and the Philippines. It has been an amazing feat and even more impressive given the fact that Carter and his wife Rosalynn, who are both in their mid-eighties, are right there with the volunteers on the ground, pouring in their heart, sweat and soul, in every project.
This year’s project took place the last week of November as volunteers returned to Haiti with the goal of creating safe, decent and affordable shelter for the Santo Community, an impoverished area located about 18 miles from Port-au-Prince and considered the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country, leaving much of Santo in devastation.
Following are some basic statistics about the impact of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti on January 12, 2010.
- More than two million people were affected.
- Nearly 190,000 houses were damaged; of those, 105,000 were completely destroyed.
- More than 500,000 survivors remain homeless ― a population as large as Oslo, Norway; Panama City, Panama; or Las Vegas, Nevada.
Habitat’s five year goal:
- Help 50,000 families move toward safe, secure and permanent places to call home.
- Two years after the earthquake, Habitat has helped more than 40,000 families in Haiti with the provision of emergency shelter kits, transitional and upgradable shelters, structural damage assessments, repairs and rehabs, land reform advocacy, training and permanent housing.
Source: Habitat for Humanity, Haiti
Building on the progress made (100 homes were built last year in Santo with the collaboration of the Carter Work Project and Habitat volunteers, followed by an additional 55 homes built by Haven, an Irish nonprofit), an impressive crew of 600 volunteers went to Haiti to build upon their success.
As the volunteers arrived in Haiti via dozens of yellow buses, the Haitians sung and danced. Some had already received new homes and were there to give their thanks and welcome to the volunteers. Others were still awaiting a home and were exuberant in their anticipation for finally having a safe, decent place to live.
Following is a celebratory video of the volunteer’s arrival:
What they brought
Besides their energy, enthusiasm and funds (each Habitat for Humanity volunteer had to fundraise $5,000 for the project), each of the 600 volunteers who came to Haiti brought a lot with them in their suitcase: Tool belts, hard hats, a need to serve, and a sense of adventure. They prepared as best they could for a lot of hard work both physically and mentally as seeing the poverty and destitution in Haiti was not going to be easy.
A glimpse into who they are
Meet some of the 600 volunteers who went to Haiti.
“I can’t think of a better model for Haiti rebuilding than Rwanda”. -Paul Farmer
Why build homes?
It can be argued that building safe, decent homes for people are the glue that binds a community back together, especially after the devastation left behind from an earthquake. Communities are important in that they give people a sense of pride and belonging. People in communities want to do what is best for the common good and therefore have a much better chance of thriving as compared to living in shambles.
Habitat for Humanity utilizes a multi-pronged approach in its rebuilding efforts. Rather than simply build new homes, Habitat plays a key role in emergency recovery work by providing emergency shelter kits, structural damage assessments, transitional and upgradable shelters, home repairs and improvements and land reform advocacy. Building new homes takes time thus Habitat also helps by teaching construction skills, disaster risk reduction and financial skills with community and government groups within the country.
After one week in Haiti, the Carter Work Project beautifully succeeded in building 100 new homes for the Santo community. There is much work still to be done in rebuilding Haiti and it will take time and money to accomplish. Let’s hope the world doesn’t forget about Haiti and continues to help these rebuilding efforts.
Stay tuned…the second piece in this series will be based on an interview with a Habitat in Haiti volunteer.