On January 12, 2010, a massive earthquake devastated the developing country of Haiti. Cities like Port-au-Prince were ravaged, with the seismic disturbance leveling many historic and commercial districts, but those living in poverty outside of the island’s metropolitan areas arguably suffered the most–what few possessions they had were destroyed along with their ramshackle homes, and they had little access to medical care or shelters.
buildOn has been constructing schools in Haiti since 2001, and we considered ourselves fortunate to be able to serve the country’s people during their time of need. We had a team working through the emergency who used many buildOn-made schools as shelters. The same team remains in Haiti today, building schools and bettering lives. Here are some reflections from the past year on our work in Haiti.
When I asked my close friend and buildOn colleague, Clerge Garry, how he reflects on our time establishing a health clinic for earthquake victims near the epicenter in Carrefour he said, “I’ll remember the feeling that I had knowing that I was helping my country. As Haitians, we were proud to be able aide our countrymen. It was the most important thing that we’ve done in our lives, and it makes me believe that we as Haitians can work together to make our country a better place.”
“All of our school building trips involve cultural activities — visits to local midwifes, landmarks, and more that provide a deeper understanding of the way people in remote villages live. One of the cultural activities offered in Haiti was a trip to the local baker — a man who bakes bread twice a week using a huge concrete oven in the back of his home.”
“This trip showed me the strength of our methodology. On our first workday, there were 250 people working alongside us to build the school! It was amazing to see all ages working on the school. We had the president of a women’s group 300 people strong walking across the river to collect sand and rocks. We had young men and old men swinging pick axes and both men and women digging. There was even a guy walking around with a bull horn motivating people to join in. At the end of the day, it was 250 VOLUNTEERING to build a school. TOGETHER we had completed 3 days of work on the first day!”
“One night our host family said they were going to play Konpa music for us, and then took out 3 buckets and found some branches and started playing. There was a singer and 3 drummers making beats. We danced all night with our host family, making our host dad dance with our host mom. Our host sisters were cracking up.”