Monday, November 19, 2012

November 10th: Safe arrival in Haiti

We arrived safely after a long night at the Miami airport. We spent the first week in Deslandes and got to work on the second building stucco coat.
It is very hot and we did get some late afternoon rain for a couple of days and then a huge downpour Thursday evening which made the walk out quite muddy.
The food has been great and we have had a lot of adventures including getting the vehicle stuck in the middle of the river and breaking down a couple of times, etc.

We are now back in Verrettes and will be doing work on the property there using the materials we bought today in St. Marc.
Everyone is getting along great and having a good time - all be it with the frustrations of things taking forever to work out with the locals.

Richard Srepel
DWC Team Leader
Haiti, November 2012

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cite Soleil, Haiti: Our final day

It is always with mixed emotions that the volunteers return to a community for the last time. Some of them might return, but most will not. There are the many new friends that we have made that will stay behind, because this is their home and we are so far away in so many ways. It is our humanity that is our common bond that binds us, each to the other. There are tears, and many children who know that the hands they want to hold will never return. But we may meet again, somewhere, another place and time.

Elton ordered more concrete yesterday so that we could complete the home of Marie Ange Calix. Marie, or "Mama" as we fondly called her, who watched our tools and general building supplies throughout the project. When we arrived this morning, one home had two of its concrete and re-bar corners poured so we formed and poured concrete into the rest of the corners of the two homes: Very shortly after, the galvanized roof sections and nails arrived so we were also able to install the roof rafters and roof after lunch.

On the side you can see a picture of Jason dismantling a corner form while he sits on a new rafter. Another shot of the installation of the first tin roof section; the gaps between rafters are so wide, and the tin so thin, it's a challenge to straddle the material, measure and drive nails:

I visited the clinic, which was now occupied by two doctors and nurses from the USA, so there was a long line of waiting patients outside, and on benches inside. I took some photos of children and adults with vitamins packaged by Kamloops school children. Imagine hundreds of patients needing health care each day, and thousands more in this sector of Cite Soleil and you can see that these vitamins and the work the school children are doing has an immense impact on the long-term health of these families.

At around 3:00pm the volunteers began making departure preparations, handing out Developing World Connections T-shirts, the tools they brought, wristbands and other items that can be used after they leave. It was a warm feeling to know that medical staff were there and that the resources the volunteers left will enable both homes to be completed so their families can move in.

I will close of this blog with a photograph of Marie Ange Calix, "Mama" standing in her soon to be completed home. Her son, daughter, mother and grandmother will now have a home.

Signing off,

Cam Grant
DWC Participant

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cite Soleil, Haiti: Water Distribution Day

It's another warm and sunny day with the occasional lightning flash in the distance last night. The work has been slower than Team Leader Richard wanted but we are managing to assist our mason in every way we can. We removed the forms from the concrete/re-bar pour we did yesterday and it all looked good. Yesterday was spent assisting the placement of concrete blocks along one end of the home to give the roof a slope. Blocks were then piled on each side, and blocks were broken so that their pieces would form the slope.

It's nice to have everyone healthy and back at the work site. This afternoon we are helping a water distribution tanker - free potable water will be offered to anyone with a container!

We met the "Help Tammy Help Haiti" group at the roundabout, went an additional 500 meters and waited until white, bristling with firepower, UN emblazoned military-fitted Land Rovers, arrived at our front and back. Very shortly a large water truck arrived and we began our short, slow trek into the most impoverished part of Citie Soliel. Meanwhile, children and adults smiled and waved from their homes along the route. The place where we will stop is called "the houses of zinc" sector by the UN military, which consists of Brazilian forces. An officer told us their tour of duty is around six months, before returning to Brazil. The homes are built on tidal land, beside the sea, so they each have a dirt floor, with walls and roof made of zinc-coated tin, making them like ovens in the summer months, and the location they are in, like a swamp in the rainy season.

We drove by orderly concrete walled dwellings before we arrived at the shore; The water truck stopped 100 meters from the shore, amidst a virtual wasteland of plastic bags and vegetable matter.The families saw what was about to happen and people came running from everywhere with ever kind of container that would hold water. Then the tap was turned on.... There was no stopping it, or the endless stream of buckets that passed quickly beneath the precious water.

Cam Grant

DWC Participant

Cite Soleil, Haiti: Working on the project and touring the area

Another great day in Cite Soleil. Some participants had to stay behind today; Dan and Richard took the day off to rest and nurse their intestinal problems and Diana is still unable to walk without assistance as she injured her lower back last week while carrying bricks. However, Tony, Raymond and I loaded ourselves and our gear into the van and headed back to the work site where we met Tammy, Keri and Brad (our host partner and her workers). Tammy took the new arrivals, Brad and I, on a walkabout to see the water distribution center that "Help Tammy Help Haiti" constructed. It's an impressive structure, illustrated with graphics, and six spigots controlled by an inside tap, that serves potable water several times a week at no cost to the families. There are other water distribution sites in Cite Soleil, but they charge a fee for each water bucket.

Down below there is a picture showing Tammy and Keri standing in front of their structure. The ladder which we climbed to the top is on the right. From the top we had a panoramic view of this sector of the city and a view of the ocean. We then climbed down the ladder and walked through many streets to the newly constructed medical clinic. It is ready with four examination rooms, two on the lower level for patients who cannot negotiate the stairs and two on the top. Tammy said staff will be hired when enough funds are gathered for the first year and an annual income to ensure the clinic will remain open. There is a green steel gate provides night time security.

We returned to the rest of the volunteers and spent the rest of the day forming up the reinforcements around the top of one of the homes we are building and then mixed concrete and poured it into the rebar. The day was complete and we returned, dusty, sweaty and looking forward to a dip in the pool.

Cam Grant
DWC Participant

Cite Soleil, Haiti: The arrival of a new participant and his first thoughts

Hello everyone and bonjour! For those of us who know French, the Francais of Haiti is scattered liberally with Creole. I arrived on Monday, quite tired. After a late afternoon arrival in Miami, then dinner and a long overnight before leaving for Port Au Prince at 7am on a vintage small jet, brimming with NGOs/volunteers wearing t-shirts sporting their particular mission, and Haitians returning home. Every conceivable space was filled with suitcases and the small seats made the trip seem longer than it actually was at about 2 hours duration.

When I arrived in Haiti, it was hot and we could only use a small portion of the airport, the arrival area, now used for both arrivals and departures because looking out of the arrivals deck, the adjoining buildings were riddled with cracks and broken windows. We descended down one of the only working escalators, greeted by lively drums, and singers wearing red T-shirts advertising Digicel, in bright white letters. A large, new transport bus arrived and we piled into the sliding doors, then were transported to the makeshift arrival area, which was a baggage handling area. Its roof must have held up under the earthquake. Immigration was very efficient and friendly, and both my bags were sitting on the concrete waiting for their next journey.

The taxi drivers descended, while I looked in vain for someone holding a sign, with "Cameron" on it. After being manhandled by an aggressive helper, wearing a plastic name tag, I started to believe that I needed to leave the hordes and go looking for my sign. Sure enough, a chap was holding up a file folder with "Cam Grant, DWC" roughly writing with a ballpoint pen. This individual was still not my driver but took me toward the waiting vehicles. He demanded a $20 US fee, which I paid, and was promptly escorted to the actual driver, who with a big grin said, "welcome to Haiti", meanwhile a new set of assistants arrived to help lift my bag into the van, while at the same time holding out their hands asking for a tip. The driver looked at me and said, "this is Haiti and you are a new arrival" then he grinned again and steered his van over streets of concrete rubble, broken uplifted pieces of pavement and between tin roof buildings, narrow lanes, more turns, deeper and deeper into a land that seemed so inhospitable to a weary traveler.

After putting all my trust into my driver, and many more turns in the intense heat, we arrived outside of a 10' high steel gate, set into a forbidding whitewashed concrete wall with razor wire riding along the top. The driver beeped his car's horn and a guard, dressed in a gray uniform and sporting a semi-automatic shotgun, pushed the steel aside to reveal a small oasis of palms, lawns and motel suites on either side of a gravel driveway.

Richard walked out to greet me, gave me a key and said, "great to see you Cam, unpack your sunglasses, water bottle and sunscreen, we're leaving for the project site as soon as you return." Feeling more than a little sorry for myself, and looking forward to a cool drink, I climbed the outer stairs to reveal a cozy motel room, two beds, one for Tony D, and myself. I began to feel better, grabbed my gear and jumped into the waiting van.

Narrow streets and long walled areas with steel gates quickly became the norm, then no longer had I got used to this landscape, the busy roads opened up to all kinds of commerce; people selling tiny bags of water, petrol in bottles, mangos, coconuts, used hydraulic jacks, used TVs and every other thing imaginable.

There were business people and street people, everywhere there were cellphones and small trucks converted to hold over the maximum number of passengers, with brightly illustrated slogans like "the Lord will save you", and "Corinthians", all with tin hands sticking out of the fenders and decorated bumpers, one with tennis rackets welded on the the bumper, ostensibly to protect the turn signals. People were going places, jogging over crushed concrete amidst a landscape that was obviously post-earthquake.

Very shortly, we arrived at the outskirts of Cite Soleil, 500,000 people compressed into 4 square kilometers, a sea of tin roofs and tents stretched as far as I could view, and large canals periodically loomed between the buildings that were filled with every imaginable plastic bag and container including plant matter. We turned into a small lane that quickly became a 5' wide lane between endless concrete constructed homes, some with wood doors, some with curtains, and still more with steel doors and gates. we made a sharp turn somewhere within the city, scraping against the outside of one building, while the family watched carefully from their iron cook grate with bubbling dinner of rice and beans, the staple diet of Haitians, augmented by fruit and occasional chicken.

We finally arrived at the mission, and Tammy came out to greet me and welcome me to Cite Soleil. Her many friends surrounded her and warmly greeted me, children came to question my single earring, my rings and my watch; I felt like some type of royalty who had arrived, though this effect wore off quickly. I said hello to the rest of the volunteers, grabbed a mason's trowel and began to set concrete blocks into one of two houses and fill the space between each with more concrete.We continued to work in the sweltering heat until 5pm, with may people watching our work, the owner helping, and a handful of paid workers. Before long I was gulping water from my water bottle, filled by a blue bulk water jug, identical to the jugs in Canada, except water here is 1.50 CDN for a jug, which does not seem like much until you compare it to Haitian currency, the cuzo at 44 per dollar.

After work, all of us sweaty and concrete-dusted volunteers, deposited our tools into a large duffel then hauled it to a nearby building, secured with a heavy steel gate, then a steel door, up a steep UN-uniform set of green-piled stairs into a bare room with windows that opened to catch the breezed and afford a panoramic view of a part of Cite Soleil, and acres of tin roofs, with narrow shoulder-width lanes joining each to each. Security of tools is a must, and at night even leftover, rocks and sand, old boards and rebar is removed by the many people who are trying to reconstruct their dwellings. Cite Soleil does not have any building over two stories, but it did not escape the earthquake either. There is rubble everywhere, people carrying water from paid potable water outlets and children scrambling for a better view as we walked between pieces of concrete, open sewers and through buildings that have lost walls, yet still with floors of shiny large tiles with numerous cracks and rubble filled gaps.

Reconstruction will take decades, meanwhile people must live here, and laugh and argue, and rap fists against each others fists (including ours) as a sign of greeting and friendship in a landscape of so many contrasts, including much hope. We hear stories of youth who are taking English to have a better life, and see many who are coming home wearing school uniforms. School here is free, but a family must provide a spotlessly clean uniform and buy all of the textbooks before their child can attend classes. You can imagine one of the many challenges, yet there is always laughter, and hope.

I can easily see why our Host Partner Tammy keeps turning her dream into reality here and keeps returning. The people here love and respect her very much, I hear her name drifting between the narrow alleyways and I know something very important is happening. Tomorrow I will see more firsthand.

Cam Grant

DWC Participant

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cite Soleil, Haiti: Project Update

Well, here we are at the end of the first week of our project in Cite Soleil, Haiti. The weather has been hot and humid every day with the worst heat at around 1:30 - 2:00 o'clock. Fortunately things cool down a little after that with a bit of light cloud cover and a slight breeze at the end of the day. One of our challenges has been having enough water on the work site to last the day. This week we were able to start on the reconstruction of a couple of homes in the Boston area of Cite Soleil after getting both sites cleaned of rubble and debris. One of the homes had caught fire after the earthquake and was heavily damaged. With Tim Kasten's expertise (he is a building contractor) we were able to come up with a plan to rebuild the home without having to completely demolish what was left. One wall was removed and reconstructed with new concrete blocks with a couple of posts formed and poured at each corner. The other home is being built on an existing foundation and now has new concrete block walls going up on three sides. We always have a large group of local people that assemble at each work site during the day. Some are friends and neighbors of the recipient of the home, others are there to try to get a job that might pay a few dollars a day, and others are there just out of curiosity. This tends to result in an expressive exchange that has proven to be typically Haitian as we all build relationships with our new found friends in this unfortunate place. Certainly we can appreciate the courage and resolve that our host partner Tammy must have to work in these very difficult conditions. At the end of the day on Friday we were treated to an incredible Break Dancing display by a local group. We will try to upload a video to You Tube and provide a link later.

DWC Haiti Team

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cite Soleil, Haiti: First day on the project

Big election results yesterday meant that we were confined to the Palm Inn Hotel. The worry was that Sweet Mickey might not get elected and then things would be a little tense. Turns out he was elected and things were all good. We went to the project site today and got started about midday. We have three houses to replace the tin roofs, two houses to pour a floor for and two houses to construct for two families. Tim Kasten looked after one group while our Team Leader Richard looked after the other group. Lots of work was completed under, at times, some trying situations. Materials were purchased and arrived at the end of the day so a race was on to empty the truck of cement, bricks and rebar. Task was completed. We had been told of the problems we might encounter and in fact at the end of the day Tammy grabbed Tony Dufficy (a certified trainer of first aid) and took him to the clinic to assist her to deal with a gun shot wound to the foot of one of the locals. Today he said has been one of the highlights of his travels with Developing World Connections (he just returned from leading a team to Tanzania where he climbed mount Kilimanjaro).

On the way home the crew actually stopped off at a Texco Service Station and had a well earned beer with the locals.

DWC Haiti Team