Saturday, May 26, 2012

History of the construction: an act of faith, an international collaboration!

It is an admirable international collaboration that makes the construction of the future Village Notre Dame de Lourdes possible... friends of the 96 children of Maud Laurent are in Canada, France, Germany, the US and of course also in Haiti.
While Anne-Marie Bryson from Canada was working hard to find out how to start the construction, the Sisters Missionaries of Christ King in Haiti were introducing Ray and Catherine to Maud and 3 days later work began.  It is thanks to the faith of the Filles de Jesus of Montreal,  Anjou Haiti in France but also in particular a young German Marcel Koetter, working for Hoffnungszeichen, who witnessed the reconstruction efforts done by Ray as he was training young unemployed Haitians struggling to find a future during post-earthquake Haiti , that construction was able to begin. Ray Arana, general contractor in the USA had left his family business in the care of his 27 year old twin sons to come help in Haiti as early as February 2010 and among other things, rebuilt the condemned Jesuit Novitiate and neighboring convent of the Sisters Missionaries of Christ the King.  He was also interested in teaching these young men construction skills and taught them basic English during 6 am classes.  Before leaving the US for roughly a year and a half (he had thought he was leaving for three weeks), Ray founded a non-profit called Relief Team One with the mission of teaching skills while helping reconstruction.  When I met him in June 2010, he told me: “by myself I can accomplish something but if we are several we can do so much more" and so we teamed up on various projects of which the construction of the Village is the most important.
When Mario Landreville ( Mario's story is on the French Canadian blog) made his first donation of a cement mixer, construction moved faster, but work is still all hand done by the team of young people whose talents are being revealed as the progression of the construction continues.  Last summer at the busiest, 48 men were employed at the site, including some of the young men from the Foyer who were learning about construction.  The energy, tenacity, kindness and good mood of everyone warmed the heart.  
Among the friends in Haiti that have helped so much, there is Patrick Joly, a trusted friend of Maud's without whom all the material purchases wouldn't have taken place: tireless driver, quick to laugh and always on the look out to help others, he has the constancy and honesty essential to his responsibilities.
March 15, 2011
Site of future construction, March 2011

Ray installs water pump
Leaving work after a long day
Semi-finished generator room,  May 2011

Catherine reviewing English assignments
Proud crew in front of first steel post 
Catherine in her office, June 2011
Setting floor of main building October 2011

Teaching measurements,  March 2011

Witny and Patrice working on cement
Bakery being built

Ray teaching plumbing
Construction in English class, 6 am
Gannon University student volunteer

Jean-Baptiste & Fenel finishing the roof
Translating water filter instructions
Side view of main building with new windows May 2012

Windows on  thanks to Terre des Montagnes
Marcel & Kervin, Spring 2011
Marcel, Ray and Mario, spring 2011
Truly an international collaboration, with Gilles Hudicourt in Canada, who activated the online presence of the Foyer, initiating monthly donations and with the generosity in deeds or funding of the Quebecois mentioned on the blog of the Foyer ( among whom the Filles de Jesus of Montreal and the Fondation le Pont) and of course the tireless Mario Landreville ( who among other things had the electricity installed and repaired the plumbing at the Foyer and recently donated a large generator). He is also currently actively fundraising to send a whole container full of bakery equipment to Haiti which is almost ready to go. It is the most important grant coming from the Germans of Hoffnungzeichen that really enabled the construction to grow and after that  also the support from the French of Grandir en Haiti, Anjou Haiti, and lately Terre des Montagnes ( they have just pledged additional support for the dormitory construction: many thanks). In the US, help comes from Food for the Poor, For One Another Foundation, Holy Trinity Church, School Sisters of Notre Dame, International Samaritan with Gannon University and Loyola University Maryland (gave a computer lab) that allowed me a personal leave to volunteer in Haiti for six months.  There are also all those individuals who support in multiple ways from afar or near Relief Team One's effort for  Maud and her children with monetary contributions or volunteer work.

All this wouldn't be possible without the leadership of Maud Laurent, her energy, intelligence, kindness, big heart, perseverance and her abilities to manage all,  as she tirelessly watches over the well being of the 96 children and the accompanying staff of the Foyer NDL.

What now?  We can't stop: if a lot has been accomplished (read the blogs of the Foyer NDL and of Relief Team One and see the pictures) a lot remains to be done to establish a sustainable infrastructure with a new dormitory in the Village NDL.
Bellegarde just finished installing shower heads, march 2012
Volunteer touching up professional centre

Bathroom block
Waiting for doors and windows, main building
Catherine Savell

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ice: a success story!

When I saw “Ice” for the first time, he was fixing Sister B's old fashioned sewing machine, a roughly twenty year old treasure that was one once again not functioning. She told me at the time that he could probably also fix my portable fan... and he did. The crew nicknamed him Ice because he took the trouble of bringing a block of ice every morning for the rest of the men, and they all got to chip some of it for their drinks.
Now Ice, Louis Jackson  is one of our top supervisor on the construction of Village Notre Dame de Lourdes; he has gotten to that position by unfailingly attending classes, learning everything he could from Ray, asking questions, attempting new skills and learning English any chance he had. To provide for his young wife and their new baby he also works as a tailor. He hemmed my pants, made shirts for Ray  AND he built his own house from the earthquake rubble and fixed the roof of his neighbor.  Before the earthquake, he had a job as a telecommunication technician installing telephone lines.
This is the hope of Haiti... that energy..persistence..resourcefulness and faith in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

He called me recently explaining how difficult it is to earn enough for his family to live on when we are not there to give him a job. RT1 would like to help ICE get visibility and ..more business or job. If you order a shirt from him we will make sure to facilitate shipping.  If you can hire him, please call him 011 509 37 03 51 28 or contact him at