A few weeks ago, I wrote that I’m slow to process events like my trip to Haiti with Habitat for Humanity, and that I would tell you more later. You know what? I don’t think I’ll figure out anything coherent for quite awhile, but reporter Erin Grace’s final story was published in the newspaper today, so I thought it a fitting time to post some of my favorite images from the trip to Léogâne.
I’ve posted several images below, but click here to view more of my favorite images.
Before I left, I had concerns like, “Why send 400 volunteers to Haiti for a week when you can spend the same amount of money to train local workers and have them work for a longer period of time?” and “Wouldn’t the long-term effects on their local economy be greater?”
Of course, it’s not that simple. In our week in Haiti, volunteers from around the world built 100 homes, and their work abroad seems to be an illustration of the work ahead: taking a thimbleful of hope to an sea of hopelessness.
The level of poverty was staggering. In a brief tour outside of the work site, Erin and I witnessed life in the temporary shelters so we could better understand how much people’s lives would be changed by the permanent structures the Habitat for Humanity volunteers were building.
It was impossible for me to not eye their lives through my cultural perspective. A ridge lined the dirt floors to keep the water out of a 6-by-8- hand-crafted shelter. Only a few shirts hung on the wall. Cooking was done in one small saucepan. I saw no water, no latrine, no food.
When I got back to the work site, I cleaned up to ward off the possibility of cholera, and the hopelessness of the situation hit me. What good will building 100 homes do? There are millions living in tent camps or in squalor in the squatter cities. What can I do?
One thing is for sure. No good will come from sitting around feeling sorry for the poor people of Haiti. So, I got back to work.
As the week progressed, the temperatures rose, and the air seemed to get even heavier. The volunteers started to put in longer days, attempting to finish the homes before the flight home. I was lucky enough to get to ask many of the volunteers, who each had to raise $5000 to come on the trip, why they came to build. The answers varied from the highly idealistic to the pragmatic, but the theme was basically the same. They each wanted to do something.
I also had the opportunity to talk to a few future homeowners and hear what the homes meant to them. On the final day, after the dedications, you could see happiness in their smiles and tears.
I’m sure that look of hopefulness was enough reason for many of the builders. Unfortunately, I’ve always been a bit more practical. Hopefully, the homes get finished and the owners can move in soon. Hopefully, latrines get built. Hopefully, there is enough water brought in and the cholera epidemic can be curbed. Hopefully, the owners will be able to keep possession of their homes in an area that appears to be lawless.
What stuck with me? I left Haiti impressed by the selflessness and hard work of the builders in very unpleasant and difficult conditions. I left Haiti motivated to do a little bit more myself.
If you would like to see what it was like down there, here’s a slideshow we put together as an edited version of our week in Haiti.