My Report from Haiti
A few months ago, Critical Response Associates announced our "Send Marc to Haiti" fundraising drive. As part of the annual Habitat for Humanity's Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Work Project, I was committed to raise at least $5000 and to contribute a week of my time to personally participate in the build.
I am pleased to say that I just completed an incredible week, in which I was one of 600 volunteers who built 100 homes for deserving individuals. It was a difficult, intense and inspiring experience. As part of a crew of 10, we built 2 houses from the foundation up, for Esther and her daughter and for Jean Miguel and his family, who worked tirelessly along side us throughout the week.
In six days, we constructed, installed and painted 2 small homes, consisting of a total of 8 wood-frame exterior walls, 4 interior walls, 2 roofs, exterior siding on 8 exterior walls, 8 windows, 4 doors and 2 porches.
For those of you who have not been on a Carter Habitat project, this is not a casual affair; the workload is heavy, and every team is under pressure to complete their homes, rain or shine (in this case, in 90+ degrees). We wake up at 5am every day, are bussed to the site, where we work incessantly for 8+ hours, with a 30-minute break for lunch.
Because of the logistics and lack of resources in Haiti, we slept in large tents on cots under mosquito nets. We were rewarded that evening with a cold shower, which actually felt wonderful after the long, hot day (although a bit more water pressure would have helped), followed by a visit to the outdoor "Social Center". This Habitat project was in partnership with an Irish-based program named Haven, that builds homes in Haiti on a full-time basis. The best part of that arrangement was that the Irish were wisely put in charge of the Social Center (aka "pub").
I was not able to take many photos, mostly because I had little free time, and due to security concerns, we were not allowed outside of our fenced-in areas. For those of you who know me, you know that was disappointing, as I would have liked to have had the chance to get to know the local people better. I was able to include a couple of photos of Esther and Jean Miguel and of one of the homes that we built. If you would like to see more photos of the project, check out this link: http://www.habitat.org/cwp/2012.
For those of you who contributed, know that you are responsible for the fact that 100 families now have a house to live in. It is a small house (280 square feet) that is probably half the size of one room in many of our homes, but I wish that you could have been there to witness that very emotional moment on the afternoon of the last day, when the new homeowners, whom we had come to know, officially took ownership.
As you count your blessings during these upcoming holidays, realize that 500,000 Haitians remain displaced by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck in 2010. It is a country that has an incredibly difficult and tragic history that had already left it as the Western Hemisphere's poorest country, even prior to the earthquake that killed many and which damaged 190,000 homes.
If you missed it, you still have a chance to donate through this website: http://share.habitat.org/cwp2012participants60#edit?ref=ssf. Your contribution goes to directly help Habitat's long-term goal of serving 50,000 families by 2015.
For me, it was a gratifying experience and an inspiring week, and I greatly appreciate those of you who helped me raise the money that allowed me to be a part of this.
Marc McElhaney, Ph.D.
Critical Response Associates