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Day Five: One drop makes a big ripple

Irish volunteers from Haven keep build going smoothly
By Soyia Ellison

Hugh Murnaghan, of Tyrone, IrelandHugh Murnaghan, of Tyrone, Ireland, cools down in the icy truck where all the water for the Carter Work Project build site is stored. Murnaghan, a volunteer for Habitat partner organization Haven, makes sure everyone building this week in Santo is well-hydrated. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein

Hugh Murnaghan is a well-known figure on the Santo build site.

From day’s start to day’s end, the large-framed, large-lunged Irishman walks the paths, lugging a heavy shoulder bag filled with water bottles and shouting, “Water, here! Water!”

So why isn’t he building? “I have absolutely no talent whatsoever,” he explained. “They’re afraid I’ll break the house. The worst thing I can do here is split a bottle of water when I throw it to someone.”

Murnaghan is a volunteer with Haven, an Irish nonprofit that works exclusively in Haiti. The Haven staff is handling all the logistics for the 2012 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project, from tent setup to food preparation. With their red shirts, rich brogues and high spirits, the 90 Haven volunteers and 20 staff members are easy to spot.

“The Irish love, love, love to travel,” said Frank Coughlan, senior logistics coordinator for Haven. “And I think the opportunity to travel to a place like Haiti — and actually help out — lights a fire in us.

“We just get in and we barrel out. There’s no rest in us.”

That’s certainly true of Murnaghan, who estimates he’s walking 18 miles a day. “At the end of the day, I realize some fat boy has been standing on my feet all day,” he said.

But Murnaghan, a civil servant — “So it’s about time I do some real work” — likes walking because he can see the progress being made on the site.

When you compare this week’s work with the need in Haiti, he said, “It’s a drop in the ocean. But at least it’s a drop going the right way and not the wrong way.”

Brandon Kasteler, a volunteer from Tuscaloosa, AlabamaBrandon Kasteler, a volunteer from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, used his ingenuity to attach a paint roller to a fence post, creating a new tool that made painting his team’s house more efficient. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein

Time to get creative

Brandon Kasteler said he’s been fretting all week about not having quite the right tools.

And then on Thursday, he had an epiphany. “It just finally sunk in today that we have limited resources, and we have to get creative,” he said. “It’s symbolic of the struggle in the world right now. We need to stop asking for resources and start creating them.”

So Kasteler, a construction manager for Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa (Alabama), got creative. When he learned he had only two short paint rollers, he secured them to two fence posts by surrounding them with screws.

“I could have screwed the posts right into the handle,” he said, “but I didn’t want to damage the roller.”

The result: Two long-handled rollers that allow workers to reach all the way to the top of the walls without climbing on the scaffolding. They’re a hit with his team.

“Am I getting credit as an inventor?” he asked, laughing. “I’ve never gotten credit for an invention before.”

‘We’re like sisters’

Ciamh McCrory of Dublin, Ireland, has made a new friend this week: soon-to-be homeowner Sophonie Brofil.

“She sang songs to us, and she gives us hugs every morning,” McCrory said. “She takes fantastic pride in her work, and whenever you ask her to do something, she has a big smile on her face.”

As McCrory spoke, Brifil emerged from the house and gave her friend a hug.

“I feel very happy and very comfortable,” she said before hugging McCrory again. “I don’t see the volunteers like foreigners; we’re like sisters. I love her.”

More from today’s build:

Memories from the Carters
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter discuss what makes Haiti special and look back at other special moments in their lifetime of service.