Haiti Part 3
This morning Conwell made Haitian oatmeal for breakfast. They say the sense of smell is triggers the strongest memories. This oatmeal took me back to growing up on the farm and making rice pudding with cinnamon and sugar for breakfast. The warmth of it was a physical representation of the love that I have felt the entire time like a blanket enveloping me.
We take off to deliver rice and beans to an orphanage that had run out of food. This orphanage is not affiliated with GoServ but received Safe T Homes after the hurricane demolished all their structures. The kids line up to help take the large sacks of rice in. I follow in line and get handed the same size bag as a 10 year old just took – and almost dropped it! I couldn’t believe how heavy it was and how easy that little boy made it look! The kids then gather to sing for us. The director asked if we wanted to speak. I brought out a picture of Grandpa and told them how he started the company that made their homes. I then go into describing just how big some of the grain bins we make are. They were confused. So then I tried converting to metric measurements, and that didn’t help either. It was then that the translator made the most profound revelation of the trip for me. He said, “You put grain in our houses?!” Here in the Midwest, grain bins are such the common sight and at farm shows we often get asked, “You house people in grain bins?”
We then traveled to the Village of Hope. This has the largest concentration of Safe T Homes and serves as a transitional community for widows and families to get back on their feet. Immediately after Hurricane Matthew, an extra 150 community members also were invited to live out of these homes as theirs were destroyed. While there, the village offers opportunities to learn skills like building trades, sewing, tiling, and others. After visiting all the villages, it is evident that job creation is what is crucial with every project to create a sustainable ecosystem.
Then it was on to the main event. We arrived at the location for building the Safe T Home. The family who was receiving this home have never had dry ground in their house. Their house was surrounded by rice farms, where the paddies must be flooded in the growing process. There was also only one spot in the house that it didn’t leak during rain. If it was at night, they would huddle together under that spot. I have helped assemble Safe T Homes in the states for various exhibitions, never for someone to live in. The pieces came in a dump truck. In the opposite fashion as a grain bin is built, you start with the lower sidewall rings, then build out the ballast boxes, windows, doors. The most memorable part of this process was working side by side with the experienced Haitian construction crew.
GoServ employs Haitian construction crews to build the homes. Today there were three simultaneously going up. Paying Haitians to build the home contributes to their economy more than missionaries traveling for the actual building of the home. You could tell these crews knew exactly what they were doing. We also worked with little to no common language and only used hand tools. As we worked, we all settled into what are strengths and roles were. I worked ahead speedily bolt poking while Andy teamed up with me spinning the nuts on the inside. As soon it would reach my vertical limits, Sage was there to take over while a Haitian crew member would tap my shoulder and point where he wanted me to go next. The natural ebb and flow of the build was an attestation to the key features of the home: ease and fast construction. Kids started watching and I taught a couple of them to hold the tool so the other could go through and tighten them all. They were eager to help and fast learners!
We ended the day returning to the Village of Hope. We take pictures and video for a special multimedia project (stay tuned), and spend more time with Jimmy who manages the village of hope. He lives in a Safe T Home with his wife and daughter, which is beautifully furnished and decorated.
Eddy came over for our last night’s dinner. He shared his story and we peppered the conversations with questions eager to learn more. As we sat around that night, I brought my journal out to make sure I had all the correct names and locations. Although it was a quick trip in terms of days, the amount of area covered and eyes widened were great. We then went into solution brainstorming mode. We all experienced something impactful for the first time all together, surrounded with people similarly motivated as well as similar in our eternal missions! We spoke in our idealistic “wouldn’t it be great if…” world then came up with potential ways to meet the different challenges we had seen.