Saturday, August 7, 2010

Give Me Shelter

So first up, check out this little video of life as a Hands On volunteer in Haiti:

It gives you a little feel for what the typical day around here is like.

Hard to believe I only have a week left in Haiti. My time here has been flying by. I am enjoying the work and people so much I would extend and stay on, but for the fact that I have responsibilities back in the states and can't very well just abandon a great scholarship like the one AU has offered me.

Oh well.

As for Haiti at the moment: I've been working recently on building some shelters in the area. Working with a couple of other NGOs, Samaritan's Purse and SASH, we're constructing long-term transitional shelters.

Here's how it works: Samaritan's Purse has been hiring local Haitians to pre-fab the walls, truces, planks, and all that is needed for construction of the shelters and importing that which cannot be produced locally (roof sheeting, nails, plastic tarping for the walls). Then SASH, which is in the business of managing camps in the Dufort area just a little west of Leogane on the national highway, plays the middle man in getting them to those who need them. Hands On has been providing some volunteers to act as the muscle to help put them up.

It's a fairly easy procedure. First the pre-fab walls are put up and nailed together. Then the structure is squared by measuring the diagonals and getting them at the correct length. Next, the roof beams are added as are the roofing planks - it was a little nerve-wracking for me to sit ten feet up on a single two by four, but it's amazing what you can get used to. At the same time, there are three shelves added to one wall of the shelter. Then the metal roofing is put on and the walls are covered by stretching tarp around the whole structure. That, the tarp, is by far the hardest part. Pulling it tight and holding it while it gets nailed in. It makes for some mighty sore hands.

The finished shelter also includes a gutter that directs water into rain water collection barrels and hurricane straps to keep the whole thing from blowing off in a big storm. Not a bad way to restart. And they are customizable: the tarp can be taken off and wooden walls put up (though this is expensive), they can cut out windows, add doors. We've seen a couple that have been moved into and are now real homes. It's very gratifying to build something after weeks of just hauling out rubble.

The shelters are great for keeping people dry, but they can be a little hot during the day with the tarp and all. Better than nothing and I like that they are upgradable. A starter home in a way.

And that's the latest from Haiti. Next post I'll talk about my trip to Jacmel and the amazing waterfall and pool where we spent a great afternoon. Until that time.

1 comment:

Andy said...

Very inspiring! thumbs up

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