Day Three: They came from Carpentersville

Crew enjoys the view from atop a job well done
By Phil Kloer

Volunteer Brandon Kasteler from Tuscaloosa, AlabamaVolunteer Brandon Kasteler from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, helps put a bright white metal roof on a new Habitat home on Tuesday. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein

The best thing about being up on a metal roof under an intense Haitian sun is that the view is great, and there is usually a breeze. The worst thing about being up there is standing on metal in the blazing sun. 

“The white steel panels are a reflective surface, bouncing that sun back up at you, so it’s like working in a solar oven,” said Travis Juracek, one of nearly 600 volunteers at the 29th Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. The project is in Léogâne, Haiti, for the second straight year.

On Tuesday, the third day of construction on 100 new homes for Haitians left homeless by the 2010 earthquake, most of the houses were crowned with gleaming white roofs.

“Everyone sees the roof on and knows we’re well on the way to completing the house,” said Phil Watson, Juracek’s friend and roofing partner. Along with Jack Festen and Dan Jensen, the four-man crew represents Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley, Illinois, near Carpentersville.

In addition to being a powerful symbol of progress, the new roofs provide shade for workers, a precious commodity with the heat-humidity index in the mid 90s for the second straight day. Despite the heat, the workers are persevering and all homes are on schedule, said Nevil Eastwood, director of this year’s Carter Project.

Jim Anderson, CEO of Dow ChemicalJim Anderson, a senior chemist with Dow Chemical, helps caulk a new wall. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein

Chalking up build No. 80

Jim Anderson thought he was prepared for Haiti. The Carter Work Project is his 80th build for Habitat. He grew up in El Paso, Texas, near the Rio Grande, and he is no stranger to what serious poverty looks like.

“Driving in from Port-au-Prince, the devastation here was worse than I expected: the rubble, the rusted rebar sticking out of buildings. The sheer number of people suffering is totally mind-boggling.”

And so, Anderson did what he has done over and over back home in Texas: He’s helping to build simple, decent shelters with people in need. A senior chemist for Dow, a major sponsor for this year’s Carter Project, Anderson has been a Habitat volunteer since 1993, mostly with Habitat for Humanity of Southern Brazoria County, Texas.

“The best part of building for Habitat sometimes depends on the build,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the people you get to work with. You teach somebody something, or somebody teaches you something you can pass on. Sometimes it’s the families, the kids, to get to know them. You feel like you’ve made a difference.”

Keep calm and carry on

Safety is the No. 1 priority on all Habitat for Humanity worksites, but sometimes accidents happen. The prize for the most bizarre mishap — and the quickest recovery — may go to volunteer Richard Vale, 48, a software salesman from Dorking, England. Vale was nailing a board on a roof Monday when the board flipped up and came down on his right forearm, driving a nail that was stuck in the board all the way through his arm, then popping back out again.

“I didn’t even know it went all the way through until I went to first aid and they showed me the exit wound,” he said matter-of-factly. “It didn’t hurt at all.”

Wearing a bandage, Vale was back at the build site Tuesday morning — even on hammering duty.