Latest Entries »

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.

This morning on the job site we learned that there had been a wrench thrown into our plans to finish. An important sponsor insisted that the eaves and soffits of the houses be covered up by plywood. So we scrambled to get these measured and cut quickly. In the end the finish work always takes the most amount of time, however. Eugene was a little worried by our progress, I could tell by her questions. She was concerned about the doors and shutters of her house not having been delivered yet. We assured her that we would get them done by next day’s ceremony with the Carters. The doors and shutters are an important part of the security of the houses.

   
 We split into several teams, finishing whatever we could, trying to work in parallel as much as possible. One team finished the first front porch, the second team installed the siding, another started the second front porch. We had the option to go home with a later bus, which we all took to wrap things up.

Eugene brought her baby to the job site today. She was always very interested in how many children we women had and of course we had inquired about hers. On her family profile it had said that she was pregnant when buried alive under the rubble, but the baby had survived. I was extremely surprised when her sister and she arrived with a white child, thinking maybe they were babysitting a child, but then it turned out Eugene’s baby is an albino.

 

She had indicated to Beth that the baby is “like her” and that she needed special treatments for his skin. The last day we left all the sun blocker we had. We also should see if we could find sunglasses, although Eugene does not think he has a problem with his eyes (which is common with albinos).

Eugene’s doors were finally delivered in the late afternoon and Eugene argued with Monfils to get him to help unloading them from the truck. Monfils’ doors had already been delivered in the early afternoon and he was not motivated to help her out, since she had not assisted with his doors. But she had built his house with us during the two days that he had not shown up in the beginning. Eventually he gave in and assisted Eugene and her sister.

Safety and security should be the most important issues. The next day we would spend a great amount of time making sure the hardware for the doors and shutters was installed. This would make all the difference to Eunide.

At the end of the day we could happily look at two completed houses that only needed to have fine detail work such as doors and shutters, caulking to be done. However, not to be underestimated, from my own home improvement it is my experience that the finish work always takes the longest. Compared to other houses on our block we were well ahead of the game though. Compared to block 4 across however, we were behind.

Several evenings during the week Haitian artisans had been selling their goods again. For anybody knowing Haiti a little bit it is not a secret that this would be one way to help Haitians out of poverty. Haitian art is literally produced out of nothing or “junk” as one of the jewelry artists called his raw material. He is specializing in making earrings and bracelets out of cereal boxes. The amazing resilience of the Haitian people is demonstrated in their art. Once I went up the mountain to Kenscoff with my husband where a local artist just sat in a hut. The hut was dusty, but the most amazing paintings were hidden under the dirt.

At the fair there was one particular artisan whose “Fer Forge” pieces reminded me of Chagal. So beautiful, and again, scrap metal is transformed into works of art. Haiti has created such a rich culture in the applied arts, dance, and music despite its poverty. That is where the amazing spirit of the Haitian people is truly expressed. The following is a slide show of examples for Haitian art, showing a lot of the variety and richness in their crafts:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is hope that the recognition of Haitian artisans has been rekindled. A new free trade zone is being created and a lot of focus has been on the artistic talents of Haitian workers. The following link describes these recent initiatives.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/11/13/2501183/haitis-artisans-getting-lots-of.html

As part of the evening program we were able to have a camp fire chat with the Carters. It was impressive to hear president Carter talk about what he believes the real challenges to fight poverty in the world are. As a highly religious person he blamed … : The world major religions’ treatment of women. He believes that most of the misery in the world can be traced back to women being declared second class citizens. Meanwhile Habitat’s mission openly states Christian values as guidelines for its charity. Our meetings would usually start with a prayer, so this criticism came completely unexpected to me. It seems the Carters left their southern Baptist church because they disagreed over a new church policy regarding women’s status and role in society in 2006.

Catholicism is the strongest religion in Haiti. Women are not on an equal footing in Haiti. A lot of the home owners were single mothers with multiple children (four on average). The fathers were missing in action. Child support is only paid voluntarily it seems as we could see with Macintosh’s case. Either child support laws do not exist or they are not being enforced. In both cases there needs to be the political will to provide these rights to women in Haitian society.

Waking up the ladies of tent 89 were in full swing to surprise Bianca for her birthday. As soon as she went to the wash rooms there were balloons, birthday cards, and candy gifts popping up. I do not know how these were acquired but then, the women in my tent were just amazing. Maybe they are always prepared for every situation. Bianca, who is Haitian living in the US, was truly surprised. Bianca’s house leader also had prepared birthday greetings and a gift for her.

                 

On site this morning we realized that our second home owner was still missing in action. I had heard from other crews of my tent mates who reported the same issues. There were rumors of home owners from the States who were putting in their part of the sweat equity owed for their houses as being upset over their Haitian counterparts not showing up on the job site. Supposedly Habitat for Humanity staff were trying to locate the missing homeowners. I asked Eugene if she knew the second home owner. She did not, so I tried to explain to her that Habitat’s charity requires home owners to participate in the build, otherwise there would be problems. She went to find out more and returned with Monfils within the hour.

                       

We immediately  put him to work on the hurricane strips for his house. It turned out that he was very good with the hammer, although we were able to secure a pair of pliers from our block leader this morning.  Monfils is a math high school teacher with a 9 year old son and speaks English well enough to communicate with the rest of the team, which was a great help in having him participate in the work.

Chris, Robert, and Jonathan worked on the roofs for both houses. This task was extremely challenging since the metal roofs were slippery, sharp,  and became extremely hot during the day. They did an amazing job. The rest of us started on the front porches and siding for the houses. The siding was another kit of parts and designed quite cleverly when it came to reusing one size that would fit all sides (see sketch below).

Around lunch time we saw Haitian security forces move in, Sweet Mickey (the Haitian president) had arrived on site. He visited the Carter house along with Jimmy Carter. After that he gave a speech in the dining tent, asking us volunteers to go back to the US, report what we saw and tell people that Haiti is a safe country. That the people of Haiti were welcoming us and that they were grateful for what we were doing.

 

Our crew missed the event, we had gone to lunch early and were already back at work, but my tent mate Christine, who is of Haitian decent living in the US, was able to get his autograph as she had planned and told us about the speech later on. A couple of my tent mates remarked that there had been radio reports about a renewed increase of kidnappings in Haiti. As volunteers we were quite sheltered, we were discouraged from leaving the premises or going anywhere by ourselves in Haiti. Travel advisories from foreign countries usually try to discourage people from going there. It is good to see that the new government has recognized this as a major issue and is working to change this. For any business investments to be successful in Haiti, foreign or local, basic safety is a major condition.

This afternoon we met one of Eugene’s nephews, Macintosh, 11 years old, who was sent back by his father to Haiti a year ago. He is no longer attending school because the family cannot afford it, the father is not supporting his son financially. He asked me if I could call his dad in Boston and tell him to come and get him. One can only wonder why a father would send his son back to a devastated country where he would not receive a proper education. It has and is still bothering me tremendously. In a perfect world Monfils would go and start teaching the neighbor children including Macintosh math. But I am not optimistic that will happen. Meanwhile Macintosh is already exhibiting anger at his situation, against his father, and the world in general.

     There was a school right next to our camp, the children with their bright red school uniforms were a cheerful sight every morning. Even though the school might be very basic, one could see from the love that went into dressing these children how high Haitian families value education for their children. Hopefully this opportunity will be provided soon for the children of the Santos community as well.

 

The day ended with us having finished with the roofs, one front porch and large parts of the siding attached. The next day we would be able to stay longer to make sure we would get as far as possible before Friday.

At camp we had decided to celebrate Bianca’s birthday with cocktails and dinner. Special desert were M&Ms after dinner.

 

We went to the social area after dinner with vodka donated by Laura, purchased some Sprites and started mixing drinks in plastic cups and have tons of people take tons of group pictures.

After a day like this all seems to be well, I feel privileged to have experienced it. If you get a warm and fuzzy feeling after reading this, maybe it is just the time of the year, but in the end this is what the holidays should be all about.

The second day according to the construction plan was supposed to be dedicated to finishing the roofs of both houses. Purlins and rafters were supposed to be secured by hurricane brackets. We had to finish putting up the rafters on house 606, so one part of our crew started working on that, the other half started working on the hurricane brackets for Eugene’s house.

 Jonathan showed her how to do it and after that it was the girls up in the rafters, hammering out the details.

 

Eugene was sitting on the rafters with only her flip-flops on. She had no sneakers or more stable shoes. It seems we had no hard hats for the Haitians available either. We would lend them ours if we did not need them, but in the end their attire was a safety issue. Another problem were the brackets. Unfortunately, the holes in the hurricane strips were too small for the galvanized nails so the only way to push them into the wood was to strip shave the off. That  lead to a lot of mishammerings with the result that we all beat our left thumbs bloody by noon. In the evenings our marred thumbs would serve as totems of war to brag about. Nails were dropping from the roof like flies and a lot of us had some very distinct choice words for whoever was responsible for the logistics/tool planning (inhumane architects for humanity?). There were no pliers available to hold the nails so we ended up getting extremely crafty.

 

Some of our strategies included picking up “preshaved” nails that had fallen down, pre-hammering the hurricane strips so we could apply them without holding them too close to the nails with our thumbs, and building cardboard devices that would do the same trick. The next day we found out that it was not neccessary to apply two hurricane strips per purlin / rafter crossing. I think a couple of us were struggling to keep their composure for a second there….

We lost Robert to another house on block 6 that needed to have a roof on for the afternoon. According to the construction plan we were now a little bit behind.

I was asked to help put up the roofing material (I guess a day of climbing in the rafters was enough proof that I could do it),

but I started to become really whoozy, missing the roofing nails which then led to dents in the corrugated roofing.

So following my own promise to myself I told Jonathan I had to stop. Thankfully Jason had some energy left to go back up on the roof. There was also a more concerted effort on the job site by the support staff to keep everybody hydrated and replenished with electrolytes. Jonathan also made sure that we took more frequent breaks. So this time I finished the day without a headache.

At the end of the day we had finished with the framing for the second house and put up half a roof of sheeting. The hurricane strips had to be finished for the second house.

Dinner was served by the Irish Folk and two very unusual volunteers: Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. The Irish chefs had asked for some volunteers to help out in the kitchen the day before and they were there serving the food line. One thing about the rice and beans we were usually served were always of the same preparation: mushy on the outside but with a hard core. Rice and beans is something one should have outsourced to the Haitians who have a wonderful variety of these dishes in their cuisine. So Garth was serving the baked beans this evening and Jason from my crew asked him if the beans were any good. The response was very funny.  “Don’t take that,… ”.

For the entertainment program that evening Garth and Trisha pulled out their guitars and sang their songs to the volunteers, taking pictures with so many of my newfound friends over and over again. Not only did they work hard on their houses, served food to other volunteers, and performed for the camp, they also skipped the CMAs to volunteer:

http://www.defend.ht/entertainment/articles/music/1980-countrys-garth-brooks-skips-cmas-to-build-homes-in-haiti

 

Irish bagpipers and flame throwers (?) finished the night’s program rather late.

The typical work day on the Santos job site would last from 7:30 am to 4-5 pm. It was announced that we would be able to take earlier buses this first day along with the construction managers if we wanted to. So I decided to jump onto the bus at 6:30 am. After having done some calculations I was assuming that we would have about 9 people for two houses to work on. I was curious as to how much of the foundation work had already been done.

Upon arrival we noticed that the  footprint  of the houses was quite small. But it was explained to us that these were always supposed to be a extended (there are two “appendices” on the foundation that are supposed to fullfill that purpose).

 

The homeowners were not able to contribute financially (paying a low level mortgage) as in other Habitat projects, but the plan is for them to expand their houses once they have moved in and are back on their feet. So the initial house is only a “cell” / module to start. See the following sketch for the foundation.

The reason why I believe in Habitat for Humanity as a charity is their strong encouragement of ownership. Architects call this phenomenon “appropriation”. Often the success of a building project is measured  by how much occupants use / take charge of their property. The success of the Santo project will be measured this way. It will be interesting to see how fast and how much the Haitian homeowners will expand their houses. The homeowners are also required to put in “sweat equity” for the help they are receiving. There is also something about sharing hard labor and sweat that bonds people and equalizes across cultural, gender, and financial differences.

 

Volunteers working alongside the homeowners in Leogane will also help disperse another issue:  There is a great mistrust, sometimes animosity against foreigners in Haiti due to its history. For example, foreigners were not allowed to own any property in Haiti for a long time, they had to be married to Haitians. Something that definitely contributed to the lack of foreign business investement.   Another telling incident unraveled on CNN’s coverage of the earthquake aftermath on national TV. They showed a World Food Programme distribution of high calorie bars causing a riot. The food bars had the production date on the wrappers. Several angry young Haitian men saw this as the expiration date and believed that the WPF was trying to get rid of their spoiled food supply in Haiti. Things like that have already happened in Haiti where corrupt politicians allowed contaminated food to enter Haiti from abroad, basically using Haiti as a dumping ground for food that would be seen unfit for other countries. So even as a charity one is not immune from the mistrust. NGOs have a reputation of only following their own agenda, not doing enough to employ Haitians during their relief efforts. This is not the case with Habitat. The site prep team employed Haitians for the foundations.

Working alongside the home owners would generate a much greater trust. We all suffered together under the brutal conditions on site. To see what women who are not experienced in construction are capable of on the job site was extremely empowering to our female home owner, Eugene Eunide who promptly showed up on site at noon.

Her story is one of survival and resiliance. She is featured on Habitat’s website as one of the Haitian family stories.

http://www.habitat.org/cwp/2011/family_stories/eunide_eugene.aspx

We communicated in French with some difficulties understanding each other, Eugene is very soft-spoken and my German accent is probably completely incomprehensible to her. Eugene was definitely more comfortable speaking Creole. Over the week however she became more and more assertive and we loved to see her determination in making this home her own by contributing to it as much as she could. She is one power woman!

In the morning we first met the other crew mates . It took us a while to realize that our house leader was missing in action. We received some first quick instructions from the block manager so we could get started scraping of the foundation so the wall panels would fit smoothly. Jonathan was volunteered as our house leader since he has his own construction business restoring homes in Louisiana. So we were lucky to get him as a substitute. We had pre-built walls for each side of the two houses and soon the first walls went up on house 608.

The first wall is going up on house 608 !!! 

Since I have a building design background I peeked a little into our construction plan furnished by Architects for Humanity to see what the plan was after Jonathan commented that we did not have any construction drawings. Unfortunately, there were not many drawings, but a lot of descriptions. I also got a little worried since they were calling for having the walls and rafters up for both houses by end of the first day. We did not have enough scaffolding for both houses, so we had to finish one house first and then the other (could not work in parallel unfortunately).

Moving the scaffolds became an olympic discipline. 

We had lunch in the dining tent and there I met a woman from the construction crew of the neighbor houses from our block. She had been with the first team for the site prep and told me that on their team they had only women so they were a little behind on their first day already since it involved so much heavy lifting. Robert from out team went over to help them for the rest of the afternoon. At the end of the day our team had achieved a great deal. The framing for the first house was done and the second house had its wall up (see below). Go team 606/608!

 

Returning to camp that evening I had a splitting dehydration headache (again) and had to visit the medical tent to get some pills to knock out the pain. We went to eat dinner with our house crew and I just fell onto my cod, missing the local artisans selling their goods in the social area, but I also felt proud of what had been achieved by us during the day. I swore to myself to keep hydrated the next day and stop having these ridiculous headaches.

Day 2 – Travel to Haiti

400 volunteers and 100 staff left on two charter planes provided by Delta Airlines for Port-Au-Prince, Haiti in the morning. The Carters were on board of the first plane leaving. Delta had specially branded the plane for the cause.

            

I filled up my volunteer kit water bottle one last time at the airport before boarding. Irrational, but all the news about Cholera made me nervous. Clean water is a precious commodity in Haiti. Symbolically, there is nothing more valuable one could bring. My Haitian inlaws have taught me a lot about water conservation over the years, long before the issue was recognized as a major global challenge for all of humanity, caused by global warming.

On board of the two Delta charter flights president Carter used the opportunity to thank every volunteer in person, shaking our hands. I was impressed by how simple, humble, and  amazing the Carters were. We sometimes don’t realize  how election campaigns and politically biased media reports can taint our view of a public figure. My image of president Carter completely changed over this trip, he is a true humanitarian. I enjoyed to hear his unfiltered views during our camp site chats in Haiti.

Upon arrival we boarded the buses to our campsite at Christianville driving through 18 miles of devastation. This was my fourth time in Haiti and what was difficult to see before, is now impossible to bear. The scenery reminded me of a post-apocalyptical science fiction movie like the Book of Eli, a country in a severe depression that cannot help itself because of its own pathology. The combination of rubble, garbage, and overflowing sewers seems to have tipped over what the system could handle. Many tent cities are still located around the airport. A lot of displaced Haitians moved to the area of the airport expecting NGOs to be there for help. The tent cities seem to be managed better and appear cleaner than the other rogue settlements we passed by on our way. As we were warned the evening before, I felt overwhelmed by the task at hand.

By the time we arrived in camp I had a splitting headache. Luckily, since some of my tent mates had arrived earlier with the first charter plane, they had already set up the mosquito nets for us. I was so grateful to them. The women in tent 89 would become a wonderful group of friends to me during my stay. I met my tent mate Christine the first evening who saved me with a headache pill. She is of Haitian descent and was determined to get “Sweet Mickey’s” (Haitian president) autograph on Wednesday. Even before the elections he was already very popular in Haiti for his music.

 

To my great relief the Irish charity Haven who had prepared the camp had build facilities that were much better than just “latrines” and “bucket showers”.  The toilets actually flushed! The showers had running water and were so popular, even Tarantulas tried to use them.

 

The dining tent was air conditioned and we had electricity for fans and even a light bulb in our tent. An internet café was scheduled to open the next day. We even had a wireless network available to receive email on our smart phones and laptops.

Dinner, especially the vegetarian meals, fullfilled all my expectations in regards to Irish food… it was simply “just the way I like it”. After that we were welcomed by the local mayor and Haitian community leaders in the social area. The program proceeded with entertainment by a Haitian dance group meanwhile the bar provided an endless supply of Guinness resulting in what would become a strange Irish – Haitian mixture for our evening experiences.

Out of the 400 volunteers there were a lot who arrived in Atlanta at the same time with me so the trip to the hotel was a first opportunity to get to know each other. I noticed that many people were already a little bit older (in their 50s and 60s), which surprised me since it had been stated in the application materials that the trip would be physically extremely challenging. Being familiar with the climate in Haiti it was one of my greatest worries not to be phyically fit enough for the working and camping conditions. The volunteer manual had made it clear that we were going to stay in tents and there would only be basic hygienic facilities available (such as bucket showers). Some of the other volunteers described previous global village trips with Habitat and the Carter Foundation that sounded quite luxurious compared to what the conditions in Haiti were going to be.

So I could not help but wondering if some of the other volunteers due to their previous experience were maybe underestimating the physical challenges a little bit.

At the hotel we registered and received our volunteer kit. I realized that a lot of the sun protective gear that I had purchased was actually provided to us. The kit contained more info about the camp and the schedule for the next week as well.

For accommodations would be staying at Christianville with an Irish Charity – Haven – that had already built up the volunteer  camp and completed 50 houses on the job site. We got a map of the job site, my crew would be building houses 606 and 608.

 

Gallery of site pictures

In the evening over dinner we were briefed by the Carters and Habitat for Humanity staff about issues that had been overcome to achieve this first major rebuilding effort after the earthquake. One of the greatest problems that we learned about and that I was not aware of is land ownership determination in Haiti. A previous effort in Haiti by Habitat had been obliterated over a land ownership issue. This time around the titles of land donated by the mayor of Leogane for the project had been properly surveyed and assessed. Another reason why it took so long to break ground. The following is a video of the Carters from this first evening in Atlanta. They gave a brief history of the work of their foundation, talked about the conditions in Haiti and discussed the conditions the volunteers would have to face (aka bucket showers and tents).

Later we were prepped a little bit psychologically by other Habitat staffers who warned us that we would not always like what we saw. They asked us to expect feeling shocked, angry, overwhelmed, amazed, thankful. And in case there was something we absolutely could not stand, as a mental tool, we should just say to ourselves: “And this is just the way I like it!”

This saying would become the build motto as we were going through the week, dealing with unexpected obstacles and our own physical and mental challenges in Haiti.

On Tuesday, January 12th 2010 I received a phone call shortly before 5 pm from my husband who was in Port-Au-Prince Haiti to visit his family. He told me that there had just been an earthquake and wanted to let me know that they were fine in case all services would break down.

The following days with the catastrophe unraveling on the media the question was asked by many to me personally, how to help, what charity? Back then I feared that the long term efforts after the immediate disaster relief would be hard to maintain once the news would stop pouring in. So I signed up with Habitat for Humanity.

Almost two years later it happened. I was able to help rebuild along with 399 other volunteers. This is the story from my own point of view of what was accomplished in this first major rebuilding effort.

My team for houses 606 and 608.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.