This post is the second piece of a two-part series on the recent Carter Work Project and Habitat for Humanity’s work in Haiti. To read the first post “The Story of How 600 Volunteers Built 100 Homes in a Week” click here.
In lieu of pictures, this video says it all. The commitment, the teamwork, the compassion and the hope that these volunteers have given to people who have lost it all.
Above: “Our Carter Work Project closing ceremonies video celebrates the impact of 100 new homes built in Haiti by more than 600 volunteers alongside families affected by the 2010 earthquake.”
What fascinates me so much about the Carter Work Project is the sheer volume of volunteers: 600 in total spent one full week in Haiti, giving their time, energy and money to help rebuild. There are endless amounts of inspiring stories behind each and every volunteer and what motivated them to go. If you visit Habitat’s website, there is an entire page with links to the volunteers and their personal stories.
Last week, I spoke with a two-time volunteer in Haiti, John Tastor, from San Francisco, to learn more about his experience. John is a commercial insurance broker who has worked with affordable housing and Habitat for Humanity’s local office in the Bay Area for years. After the devastating earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, John knew he had to help. Almost as a sign of fate, he received an email from Habitat for Humanity mentioning the upcoming Carter Work Project for 2011. Without skipping a beat, John applied to go and was selected as one of hundreds of volunteers who would fundraise over $5,000 to pay for the work project.
In the 2011 Carter Work Project, John and his team built 2 houses. What surprised him the most about his experience was the dire poverty that strangles Haiti. Landing in the capital, the volunteers were met by several buses that drove them to the work site. The bus ride brought the team through some of the worst slums he had ever seen and it was absolutely heartbreaking. John was stunned by the desperate conditions that Haitians live in. Many were still and remain living in tents and make-shift shelters. The roads were horrifying yet the images he saw outside the comfort of his bus haunted him, and continue to remain lodged inside his head even until this day. He knew he couldn’t turn a blind eye to the horrendous poverty and suffering that he had seen.
A year later when it was decided that the Carter Work Project would return to Haiti, John immediately signed up. This time, he was able to raise over $15,000 for the project, making him one of the top fundraisers. He was stunned by the generosity of the housing industry who financed a lot of the trip. Delta Airlines also generously donated two flights from Atlanta to Haiti for all the volunteers.
A highlight of his trip was going back to the same community and seeing the progress that had been made over the last year. Communities have come together and life was going on. The resilience and hope of the Haitian people was heart-warming. Although the homes are small, they are substantial John said. And more importantly, they give people a safe and secure place to live.
A lot more needs to be done in Haiti. There are still over 500,00 people without adequate housing. However, the Carter Work Project demonstrates that there is hope. And without hope, there is nothing.