Upon seeing and experiencing the devastation of Hurricane Matthew and being witness to the uncoordinated response of relief and aid organizations, Cherlie and I felt strongly that we needed to do something to help Haitians in communities around the clinic to rebuild their homes.  Over 90% of the houses in the area were severely damaged or destroyed.  Roofs blew off, walls fell down, and during two months of daily rain, people were wet and discouraged.  Most of them lost clothing and personal possessions, livestock and crops.  They were destitute and hungry.  Some of them built small shacks to live in temporarily, built with old tin, bark from coconut trees or coconut leaves.  They knew it was a temporary solution but they didn’t have money or resources to rebuild their houses, until Friends for Health in Haiti came to their door.

Temporary shack made of tin

A temporary home not even as tall as it’s owner

 

Coconut leaves and bark make a shelter for this man

We sent our community coordinator, Gemi Baptiste to visit every home in the communities closest to the clinic site.  He had a proposal for them:  the clinic will supply you with 30 sheets of roofing tin, 10 pounds of nails and 4 sacks of cement on the condition that you rebuild your own house and allow us to photograph the house before and after.  Those who agreed to the conditions received a card with their name on it and the amount of materials they would receive.  At a later date, they would be informed as to when materials would be ready at the clinic for them to pick up.  In the meantime, they could start to clear the debris from their old house and build the frames for walls and roof.  Later, we heard about comments like these from recipients of the cards:  “We knew that if any help would come to us, it would be from Dr. Wolf, Miss Cherlie and the clinic.”  Others said, “We know that if something is given to Dr. Wolf and Miss Cherlie, they will share it with the communities and not keep it for themselves.”  This, to us, is what Christianity is all about – living out your faith and meeting the needs of those you are called to serve.  But, it also means meeting those needs in a manner that empowers the local people, by having them participate in the process, rather than creating dependency by doing everything for them.

Her house is destroyed so why is she smiling???

Roof is intact but the house fell down

Wet clothing and possessions lie where this house used to be

House skeleton remains

From the time of the hurricane until the beginning of December, rain poured down every single day, making our drive up the mountain to our clinic and down again a muddy, slippery trek.  There were days when we couldn’t get up the mountain and afternoons when we couldn’t get down, due to large buses getting stuck in mud in narrow parts of the road.  Our four-wheel-drive jeep with its big, knobby tires kept us going, barely.  Finally, the rains stopped, the road dried up but there were deep ruts and crevices where the rain and the buses had left their mark.  We wanted to start our house-rebuilding project but first we had to do some road repairs.  So, we hired some local young men and we had Miller, our driver, take up gravel and rocks and we repaired the worst portions of the road.  We decided it was better to repair the road than to risk significant damage to our dump truck!

Workers shovel fill dirt and rocks into the dump truck at the river

Dump truck unloading fill dirt and rocks on the road

Young men spreading out the fill dirt on the road

Unloading rocks in an area of the road with deep ruts

We were able to take 5000 sheets of tin, hundreds of pounds of nails and 300 sacks of cement up to the clinic before Christmas.  This past week, the materials were distributed to people who had been visited by Gemi, deemed to be in need of house repair and given a card.  This is just the start of our rebuilding process.  To date, we’ve given cards to 500 families in communities closest to the clinic.  In the ensuing weeks, we hope to visit and help another 1000 to 1500 families further up in the mountains, thanks to the generosity of our donors.  The area in which we work has 7800 households, and over 90% of their homes have been badly damaged.  So, there is still much work to be done.  But, when the people of God put their hearts and hands together, much can be accomplished.  Thank you, donors!  And, thanks to the Haitian homeowners who are rebuilding their own houses with grace, dignity and gratitude.  We’ll have more updates in the weeks to come.

 

 

 

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