Monday, April 11, 2011

One House at a Time...With Dignity

As I wrote in my last blog, my 16 year old son, Ethan, and I had the opportunity and privilege to head to Haiti and help out with our Southern Baptist "Rebuild Haiti" project. The project has as a goal to see 6,200 homes constructed for Haitians in the next two to three years. The homes are simple, 12 foot by 16 foot cinder block houses with tin roofs. They are not much compared to US standards but they are a far cry above the tents and temporary shelters that almost 1 million Haitians are still living in.

A part of our desire was to see Haitians get back into homes that were safe, expandable, culturally appropriate and done in a way that gave them dignity. Ethan and I saw and worked on some of these homes and can attest that these three criteria are being met.

We have adjusted the construction to inter-lock the corners of the houses by overlaying the blocks and using reinforcement bar to add stability. We have also reduced the load bearing on the walls by utilizing a tin roof instead of heavy cement. We have also worked hard to ensure that the cement mix and materials being used are of good quality.

The homes being constructed are culturally appropriate in that the houses are very much like the ones they had before the earthquake and all materials to build are available locally. Nothing has to be brought in from outside the community. One of the neat concepts of these houses is that they are expandable. They are built in a way that next month or next year, when they get enough materials or money to buy the materials, they can add on another room or two to make it into a larger home for their families. We learned this concept in our rebuilding projects in the Indonesian tsunami of 2004.

Finally, these are homes being built with dignity. The communities are involved in the process of deciding and selecting who gets the homes. Most families, if they have able bodied people, are involved in the process of participating in the construction of their own homes.

To date, we have seen almost 800 homes constructed with a number nearing completion as I write this. The cost is about $2,500 to build one home and while we only have funding on hand for about half this number, we are trusting in God to provide the rest.

We are still a ways from our overall goal of 6,200 but it is exciting to see Haitians rebuilding their country one house at a time...with dignity!

God bless,

Jeff Palmer

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