by Tina Therrien, Program Coordinator
The first ever Endeavour group has arrived safely in Port au Prince, where we are based at Haiti Communitère (www.haiti.communitere.org) for our first few days. Haiti Communitère (HC) has been working in Haiti since the earthquake in 2010, specialising in post disaster relief. A combination of international volunteers plus some local Haitians make up the core team of HC. Located about a kilometer from the airport, this is a great landing pad for volunteers coming into Haiti, as a place to get grounded, and network with others working on rebuild efforts.
There are many different natural building experiments and prototype buildings that have been built here on the base, from an earthship (built by Michael Reynolds and volunteers), a super adobe shelter (long earthbag tubes), shipping container conversions, a straw bale house, a new bottle wall/clay straw house, and a fiberglass structure. Bales of trash (Ubunto blocks) are at the beginning stages of being incorporated into a structure. There is no shortage of innovative ideas for rebuild efforts in Haiti.
Some of these structures are being built with earthquake & hurricane resistance incorporated into the design, while others aren’t necessarily. I feel that if we are coming and trying to share ideas with Haitians, our prototypes need to be able to stand up to sure winds of up to 130mph. Haitians also have to like the look of the house – some of the more ‘out there’ designs aren’t quite so desirable to local folks.
Building in Haiti can be challenging. First of all there is the intense heat to deal with, but a lack of materials and functional tools is almost always the case. You have to be resourceful with the materials at hand – you won’t necessarily be able to get new materials (and most Haitians couldn’t afford them anyway), and if you do to purchase new materials, it can take much longer than you expected at the store, or waiting for delivery. Actually, every stage of building here takes longer, so we have to throw out our North American jobsite timelines and develop some realistic Haiti timelines. And even then, it will likely take longer than you think!
The heat of Haiti can be taxing to newcomers, as we found out yesterday, with a high of 95ºF. We got our bearings, and tried to find some volunteer projects here at the base for the next couple of days, since the original project we were going to get involved with is ahead of schedule (unheard of in Haiti – way to go Andy Mueller & team!). Our design teams quickly sketched out plans for a new chicken coop, and a washing station to be built with Ubunto blocks (we’ll attend a demo later today, and will write more about this soon). Dave jumped onto the jackhammer, breaking up chunks of rubble that can then be run through the rubble crusher. Sam and Megan tried out the rubble crusher, which is a great workout for sure… but a lot of work. We’re making sure to drink lots of fluids, and find shade while we can.
Dave and JP have already realised that their initial plan of rebuilding the chicken coop isn’t feasible in the two days we are here with the materials at hand, so their revised plan involves making a new door (sorely needed) and a new nesting area that will hopefully encourage more egg laying.
Megan and Shane are building a table and shelving system that will become part of a washing station for Styrofoam containers at the Ubuntu block station. Paul is floating in between jobsites when he’s not behind the camera. Sam jumped in to finish painting some lockers inside the house at HC, so really, at this point it’s only me who isn’t contributing. It is strange to be here and not be on a jobsite, so I think I’ll finish this and get out there.
Everyone got acquainted with the Hole in the Wall, which is… a hole in the wall to the neighbour’s house, and from there, they sell soft drinks and Haitian beer (beer is less than a dollar!).
We’re staying here until Sunday morning, when Ospri, from Centre d’Inspiration Jeunesse, will pick us up and take us to a beach en route to Deslandes in the Artibonite Valley. Our internet access in Deslandes will be either sporadic or non-existent, but we’ll do our best to get news of our adventures out there as often as we can.
Now, onto the jobsite to see how things are progressing. And maybe get my hands dirty too!