Habitat for Humanity International has made a 5-year commitment to Haiti at this point. They have secured a large piece of property that will eventually have 500 homes on it, with house and plot being owned by the family that moves in. Right now the property has lighting, for security, and vented latrines. You will also see chain link fence and barbed wire in some photos. This is necessary because Haitians are desperate, and theft is understandably a problem. To protect building materials and tools, etc., some security has been necessary. HFHI also has staff in Haiti, working with local groups to build a successful community at Santo.
An Irish group named Haven completed the first 50 homes, including paint, and you'll see those in these pictures. We finished our 100 houses to near completion, and a group follows us this week to wrap up construction, paint, etc. Though these little houses are very modest in size, they are amazingly cool and solid and a huge step up from current conditions, which included living under tarps, in tents, and in make-shift shacks made from materials salvaged from crumbled buildings. It's very HOT under tarps and in tents, I can tell you, so these little coolers will be a welcome change from this:
What follows is a visual tour of the Habitat build in Leogane. Hopefully the community of Santo will grow and prosper with our help.
Our homeowner, in the orange top, Charles Judy (pronounced Char-lay Ju-dee— Charles is the family name, Judy is the first name). She spoke little English, but fortunately understand my simple French. She taught me the creole words for screw, nail, hammer, and hot. My French phrases for "please", "thank you", "that's good!", "I understand", "come with me", and "I'm sorry" went a long way to bond us :-) We became the mistresses of the Hurricane Clips, nasty little brackets with too-small nails that had to be attached throughout the roof trusses to make the roof more wind resistant. Many smashed fingers!
Part of Habitat's community building is working with SOFAS, which translates roughly to Santos Women's Coalition, formed for the protection of women in children in what is basically a refugee community. The new neighbors will be forming community for the first time, they were not necessarily friends and family before the neighborhood of Santos was being built. The hurricane and earthquake scattered and separated people, and many lost most of their family members.
Habitat's Women Build director Lisa Nickerson (left in blue shirt), Women Build blogger Tracie Troha, and I met with SOFAS to express support and ask for proposals of projects that Women Build could fund, in order to support the efforts of these women. They are teaching children, supporting each others' entrepreneurial efforts, cheering each other on. I was truly impressed, and gratified that Habitat had a concrete way of helping them. Much as we all enjoyed meeting, they need concrete help.
Notice that in every pic we are SWEATING? It was that hot. The Haitians seemed more comfortable.
OK, now as promised, Garth and Trisha. Indeed, much to our delight, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood were with us, working on the same house as the Carters. They also treated us to an impromptu concert on Wednesday. Garth playing "I've Got Friends in Low Places" on an acoustic guitar, and asking "Miss Yearwood, who wears the pants in the family because she's the one with more Grammys" if she would join him on stage to sing "She's In Love With the Boy". "You think we can get Miss Yearwood to sing one more?" as the crowd roars. The crowd being clearly Country fans knew all the words to all the songs and sang along, much to Garth's delight. We could not photograph this performance, so you have to take my word for it... it was heaven.
Even a Georgia boy sweats in Haiti...
Here's our crew. Daryl, Garth, Vajra (team leader), Jo, Cathie, Brenda, Tracie, with me, Trish, cousin of our homeowner Claude (who was mystified by all the hooplah) and Lisa. This group included an MIT grad, a director of a large corporate foundation, former Peace Corps and Americorps volunteers, skilled and unskilled people alike. I'm guessing the average age was close to 50. The world is full of need, but rather than being overwhelmed by it, they each just pitch in where they can.
The result? Happy Homeowners...
Who may someday have a safe, prosperous and beautiful homeland again.
I have great respect for the Carters and Habitat for Humanity International. I'm not pitching for them, although if you want to help Haiti and don't know how, the Carter Foundation and Habitat Haiti is a good bet. Whatever charitable cause you choose, just do something for someone. It will help, believe me.
Finally, my Stone Soup connection to all this. My Stone Soup characters "work" to help promote Habitat programs. I did the t-shirt for the Haiti Women's Build. Here is our former first lady wearing it:
That's the new President of Haiti on the left, with Haitian and US secret service behind. He seems promising... let's hope he can begin to do the work that needs to be done. Haiti deserves it!