Hurricane Matthew Strikes Haiti

Updated October 26th, 2016 – In early October, Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti, severely impacting the lives of an estimated 1.4 million Haitians, including at 175,000 people who lost homes and more than 500 who lost their lives. The Category 4 storm made landfall near the city of Les Cayes, where buildOn’s Haiti office is located, leaving a path of devastation throughout the southwest region where much of our work is focused.

Since 2001, buildOn has constructed 101 schools in Haiti, where more than 26,000 children, parents and grandparents learn each day. Additionally, buildOn brings groups of volunteers from across the globe to Haiti to work side-by-side with community members to break ground on these schools through the Trek program.

In the time since the hurricane, we have confirmed that 100% of the buildOn Haiti staff are safe. No out-of-country school building groups were serving in Haiti at the time; however, sixty communities within our impact areas of Grand’Anse, Nippes and Sud were some of the hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew. Nearly all of the homes within these communities sustained damage and approximately 80% of the farms were destroyed.

Fortunately, buildOn schools fared better with only a handful sustaining serious structural damage to their roofs. buildOn schools are often the most structurally sound buildings in the economically impoverished villages where we work, and most serve as de facto community centers. Thousands of people took shelter in buildOn schools during the storm, and today there are thousands of community members still living in buildOn schools as they struggle to survive and start rebuilding.

While structural damage to buildOn schools was minimal, nearly a third of these schools lost portions of their roofs. buildOn constructs schools in Haiti using corrugated tin sheeting for roofing. This tin material improves structural safety and reduces injury and loss of life in the event of earthquakes like the one that rocked Haiti in 2010; however, high winds like those that came with Matthew can rip the metal sheets away from the building. Most of our rebuilding efforts in the coming months will focus on repairing and replacing school roofs, though we do not yet have an estimate of the cost. The buildOn Haiti team is currently making preparations to start repairs of damaged schools as soon as possible. As the rebuilding process begins in the coming months, buildOn will also be partnering with additional communities in southwest Haiti that are currently without schools.

At this time, all volunteer school building treks scheduled for November have been postponed; however, we plan to resume volunteer treks in December and move forward with breaking ground on the five schools remaining in our 2016 Haiti Plan before year’s end.

We know that the path forward will be difficult, but we are committed to continuing to help the Haitian people break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations. Our thoughts are with all those who have suffered loss in the midst of this enormous tragedy. Please keep the people of Haiti in your thoughts and prayers, and follow buildOn on Facebook or Twitter to receive the latest updates and ways you can help as rebuilding gets under way.