Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It rained on her bed.

The director of the hospital Cardinal Leger in Leogane  ( which was the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake) called Relief Team One to see if we could repair her roof. The rainy season has started and every night it rains in her bed!  This is in the new building that was constructed to get her staff and herself out of the tents where they have been living since January last year! 
A team of seven of our best students went down and in three days they reconstructed the whole roof structure over the little chapel and the sisters’ bedrooms.  No funding comes for staff housing; foundations are much more interested in financing schools or hospitals. Yet, without staff, there is no functioning hospital….so the logic escapes me…
Any way my room was in the condemned former hospital. I was given a key to lock myself in, and when the rat decided not to enter the front door ahead of me, I was very pleased.  I have never spent the night in a deserted condemned greatly destroyed hospital before;  a  little gecko joined me in the bathroom where a thoughtful person had filled a 5 gallon bucket for my shower.  Ceilings are broken, partly fallen, equipment and supplies are still there, but everything is covered with dust and abandoned… the operating room is spooky  with only a little bit of equipment yet, some supplies still there , seemingly ready but covered with gravel and dust…everything sealed at a moment in time and deserted… creates a strange feeling.. really eerie !
The good news is that under Ray’s creative energy and guidance, the men and he were able to make a brand new roof. They all slept in the same tents the nuns have recently abandoned and had a taste for what their accommodations have been like. Mosquitoes galore, even after the UN ( gun at the ready, not sure why?) came to spray the grounds…
Where do I come in? Well I speak English and French and therefore am the link between builder and hospital staff…kind of fun!

Friday, April 15, 2011

What a class!

Half the class stayed after the hour was done to practice the problem given to them.  Their determination is palpable. They are working on assessing the material needed to build a frame structure in Haiti: something all of them can relate to, a dream that might become their reality:  they can envision building their own house! Jackson, the tailor, rebuilt the house that he lives in with his wife and young baby last spring after the earthquake destroyed it, using the skills that he learned from the program.
 This is the 7 am English for Construction class that runs five days a week every week for 6 weeks and is part of the program to teach construction techniques and construction management with hands on practice in the field.  At the end of this course they get a certificate attesting their competency in the classroom and in the field.  This is drawing a lot of students: 48 attend the class. This comprehensive concept of construction technology is introduced by Ray, the Director/Founder of Relief Team One who is a US General Contractor with a long experience in carpentry and masonry work. This course is his brainchild: class work, with top students helping weaker ones, Haitians helping Haitians. Field work takes place at the new orphanage site, under his watchful eye enforcing a tempo and a quality of work (with anti-seismic and anti-hurricane international standards) that Haitians haven’t encountered before.   In class the concepts are reinforced in English, French and Creole by Ray, Big and Bellegarde( 2 men being trained to be leaders) and I.   I enjoy adapting my experience in the classroom to this local reality: it is super fun to teach a practical application. 
26 men are currently employed by Relief Team One on the site of the orphanage complex we are building.  Ray gives out crisp orders, paces from one group to the other, directing the men to maximize their output.  He speaks no creole and ten words of French: but all listen and all hear his directives.  He has me call the owner who calls the suppliers who deliver the material and all the pieces of the puzzle of the construction come together. No heavy equipment to ease the work.  Men work in small teams on various aspects of a structure, holes and trenches are dug with pick and shovels, and cement is mixed with shovels, and it works!  Progress is evident and at every visit I get to see it.
Those men work harder than I have ever seen anyone work before: the fact that an unpaid foreign volunteer (Ray) with strong leadership skills, expertise and vision, is the drive for providing housing to their fellow countrymen who are orphans AND training and jobs for them is a HUGE motivator.  Most of them don’t have a background in construction; they are tailors, students, managers, musicians, mechanics…. But they come every morning and then work all day under the scorching Haitian sun.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sweet Mickey is New President in Haiti.

The singer Michel Martelly won by a large margin. He has the support of the young and the poor. He wants to unite Haitians to work for Haiti.  His opponent Mme Manigat, stated tonight on TV that the elections had been rigged…. Everything is calm ( very few gun shots were heard on the night after the elections) and the results have been well received…what is she trying to do?  She has the support of the intellectual class and of former president Aristide who has a big following. Is there going to be another page to the election story?  We are all hoping for peace so that the country can continue rebuilding itself.
Speaking of construction:  work at the new orphanage site is progressing.  20 workers are busy lining the septic tank, digging the foundation for the bathroom. It is a lot of fun and very impressive  to see all these men working hard in the brutal sun and making visible changes.  The plumber came and we went over the bathroom plans… it is going to look like a cross between a convent bathroom and the bathroom of  College Br├ębeuf in Montreal where we take our students every fall!  J
AND,   11 chicks were born ( 2 have already died) and are busy following their Mom /hen as she shows them how to scratch the dirt and fallen bananas trees leaves to find little bugs… Great fun to watch!
By the way , bananas right off the tree taste totally different than Giant Dole bananas: it's like another fruit!