The buses left early this day again so we could use the extra time to finish. All in all as a team we were in good shape, but the finish / detail work is always the most time consuming. Again we split up in several teams to work in parallel. Soffit covers, siding caulking, shutter and door installations, door and shutter locks and latches, cleanup…
This all had to happen until 2pm at what point the Carters would come around to take pictures with the crews. We decided not to install the gutters for the benefit of having a more complete house. There were only 3 door lock installation kits for the whole site available, so we retrieved one of them early and I am proud to say that our house was one of a handful with the door hardware installed.
The gallery below shows all the interior views.
Eugene very closely watched how the shutters were installed at other houses and questioned our approach (I love it!!!). This shows how much she cared about these details. As an interior designer I once attended a session of Architects for Humanity in NYC organized by one of my Pratt professors and Haiti came up as a focus point. The title of the meeting was the contribution of interior designers (vs architects) to the efforts of Architects for Humanity. To me the experience with our Haitian home owners was that they cared very much about the finish details and how they would operate them. Interior walls were discussed. In the end it comes down to what the interior experience of the house is. For Haitians as for anybody in the world.
The latches we had for the shutters were not really made for holding them in place when closed. We had a single shutter that needed to be attached to the sill. Some crews installed them, using only the latch to keep the window closed. That would result in a large gap at the bottom of the window. We decided against that, because the bottom of the window was just about on eye level heigh. People could have peeked in from the outside, so it became a privacy / safety issue. Instead we would chip a hole into the sill to hold the latch. I explained this to Eugene and it seems that she was happy with the approach.
We had Irish stew for lunch and one type of sandwich as an alternative. Hot stew on one of the hottest days was a combination “just the way we liked it”. We were so used to sweating and being hot that it did not really matter anymore. At lunch we were joined by some of the site’s “pets”.
We could experience first hand though how much of a difference our little houses made in terms of maintaining a cooler temperature inside. It was quite astonishing. This alone will make a big difference in people’s lives. A dry and cool place is a luxury in Haiti. With the foundation being so high there is still enough geothermal mass to even out temperature spikes, meanwhile they are not high enough to kill people if falling down during an earthquake.. So here it is to you, architects for humanity, that was well thought through.
Before we knew it, it was time for the ceremony and to take pictures with the Carters. All the women had brought a change of clothes (the last remaining clean volunteer T-shirt) and we used our newly installed doors to create an ad-hoc changing cabin.
The Carters were quite sweet, arriving on their buggy. They asked us how things had been going and of course our whistful answser was: “Just the way we like it.” President Carter had a very inquisitive look when we replied with the standard response suggested to us on the first evening to things that disagreed with us. Were we teasing or were we serious? The ambiguity was one of our little moments of fun. But in the end we meant it, our experience had been amazing.
Each of our home owners was handed over a bible in Creole as a house warming gift. President Carter and his wife left waving from their buggy. Very cute.
We continued finishing up the doors, although there were still things left to be done by the end of the day. The kids of the home owners were swarming around the neighborhood, trying to get us to leave them things we had brought on site with us. One favorite were the crank flashlights.
Here is a flip book video of two of these boys giving five to one of the volunteers:
But we had been instructed to leave donations in the evening at the camp site, instead of giving them to the home owners directly. Habitat would make sure that the donations would be distributed fairly. Otherwise, this would just fuel jealousy, already existing since not everybody in the makeshift tent camp nearby could get a house.
Security had been strict on the build site, with armed guards making sure no materials or tools would go missing. One of the guards loved to tell us how grateful he was in the name of the Haitian people and then take pictures with us. He was a little bit to much in the love and peace spirit, especially when he started hugging the volunteer women a little bit too tight when taking pictures with them. I will never forget the look on Jean’s face! I still have to laugh out loud when writing this.
My team mates asked me to explain to our home owners that there would be another crew coming to finish up the work that could not get completed. It was also important to manager their expectations since they would not move in until January.
We worked until the last minute, Jason and Robert trying to get the last door trimmed down and Jonathan being the last man standing, finishing Eugene’s second door with the children supervising.
Then it was time to say good-bye. We hugged Eugene, Monfils was MIA again, but I think Eugene will make sure that he is a good neighbor. He just needs a little encouragement .
At camp we were briefed about the travel day, wake up time was 3 am for the first group (which I was in). Oh yes, just the way we liked it! We were threatened with having to nail more hurricane strips if we missed the bus and stayed behind. A lot of us decided to just stay up all night and have a festive ending to an amazing trip.
The video was made by Habitat for Humanity to summarize our trip.
The end of this build is not the end of Habitat’s efforts in Haiti. As a matter of fact, there will be an exeption due to the extraordinary amount of need in Haiti. The Global Village trip will return next year to build another 200 houses. We were all asked to be ambassadors for Haiti, to be vocal in what we have experienced there. It is important to receive the funding for next year. The volunteers have contributed over 1 million dollars US to this year’s effort. Much more funding will be needed to continue. But be assured, Habitat for Humanity’s project is well worth it.