Rebuilding hope in Haiti

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On 12 January 2010, an earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince. Thousands of people died and many buildings collapsed. In March 2013, Melville Fernandez, Group Leader of Caritas Australia’s Humanitarian Emergencies Group, caught up with Denis, a local man who now has a new house to call home.

On 12 January 2010, an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck just a few miles outside the capital of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

One of the world’s poorest countries, prior to 2010 in Haiti there were few building inspectors and poor construction techniques. As a result, the earthquake devastated the area, collapsing buildings, killing thousands and leaving many homeless.

In response, Caritas Australia raised $4.3 million to help those communities affected. In 2013, we are continuing to support the international Caritas network and rebuild hope in Haiti.

New homes, new lives

Today, many people are still living in tents, so the greatest need – particularly in Port-au-Prince – is permanent housing.

In Duval, an area within Port-au-Prince, nearly 300 (or 90 percent) of houses in the parish were destroyed or damaged. Caritas Australia is assisting CAFOD (our UK and Wales partner) and Caritas Port-au-Prince with funds to manage the reconstruction of 90 houses.

The external consultancy firm, Build Change, carried out the design’s technical feasibility; they also provided technical training to the builders engaged in the construction of these houses. This has resulted in high quality, earthquake and hurricane resistant structures.

Meeting Denis

While there, I visited some of owners of these newly built houses in Duval, and met local teacher and family man, Denis, 46. Married with one child, Denis’ house was destroyed in the earthquake so they had to move to a camp.

As various land right issues prevail in Haiti, finding a location for reconstruction is a major issue. Fortunately for Denis, he was able to purchase a small piece of land from his wife’s parents which the new house is now built on.

Denis said that he’s very happy with the quality of construction and the materials used, and at the time of my visit, was waiting for the PVC pipe connections (for diverting the rain water from the roof to the ground level sump) and the indoor toilet to be installed.

He also mentioned that two weeks previous, he’d experienced a tremor which measured 4.8 on the Richter scale, and that it hadn’t disturbed him as he was so confident of his new home’s construction.

The next step? To buy a door mat so people can dust their feet. This way the shine and cleanliness of the tiled floor can be maintained.