I have always had an interest in Haiti and its people’s plight, not sure why. After the earthquake, I thought even more about what I could do to help. I conducted fundraisers in the office and other activities, but still felt that a lot more could be done and that my efforts were somehow detached. However, it is hard to take that first big step and I came up with excuses as to why I couldn’t go to help in Haiti, like my family needed me, or because my dad was ill. For me, the push came from a speaker in Las Vegas last year. He spoke about leading a healthy life and about doing what you want to do, following your passion and not leaving it until it was too late. I returned home inspired to find a way to give hands-on help in Haiti. When I read about Haven I knew they were the ones that I could work with to help the Haitians.
Haven is an Irish NGO working to build sustainable communities in Haiti. HAVEN focuses on:
- Training, up-skilling and employing local Haitian people throughout the year. To date Haven has trained over 3,000 Haitians in construction, agriculture, hygiene promotion, water and sanitation and solar power installation and maintenance.
- Shelter programmes to build houses, schools, playgrounds, and community buildings. The shelter programmes run throughout the year. However, twice a year, in April and October, Haven's Haitian workforce is joined on site by a team of volunteers who take part in an intensive Build it Week.
I joined the Haven Build it Week and I am so grateful that I took that "first big step." Our team of 350 volunteers worked to build a Community Centre, 100 houses, playground, football pitch, communal gardens and communal water pump area outside the rural town of Gonaives, 150km up the coast from Port Au Prince. We worked in 45 degrees Celsius of heat and bootcamp style conditions to create a community for families. The people of the community have been living in shacks or under tarpaulins for at least three years - while we were there we met and worked with some of these families. Their living conditions are quite grim.
It was an amazing experience – a lot of hard work in very hot conditions and very emotional. It was bit like a roller coaster ride – starting with exhaustion from 24 hours of travel, through the hard work in the heat, with periods of exhilaration as the projects were finished. Working on the site was fantastic, full of colour, life and sweat - everyone working as hard as they could to achieve a common goal – and seeing the buildings being finished and the site taking shape filled us with pride. We made a difference, however small. Yes it was hot, at times hard and at times emotional but the challenges added to the accomplishment and it is an achievement that I will hold forever in my heart.
Haven has posted videos and descriptions of the Build it Week so you can see the type of work we achieved.
And what did I get from all of this? I can say that I have had an impact – a small part of Haven’s commitment to build 10,000 homes by 2014. Of course I did not do this myself and I am grateful to all of the people that supported my work through donations and to Symantec for its support through the Dollars for Doers and matching grant programs.
I know now that I can give more and that’s why I have volunteered to return in October! Before then, I need to raise a further €4,000 therefore if there is anyone out there who would like to do something like this but genuinely cannot go due to family commitments or work commitments feel free to donate to help.