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Commitment flourishes at Carter Work Project -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Commitment flourishes at Carter Work Project


Habitat volunteers Jay Stark of Los Angeles (left) and Rachel Donaldson of Venice, California, celebrate after having a blessing and commitment ceremony Thursday on the build site in Léogâne, Haiti, after announcing their engagement Wednesday during the 2011 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. © Habitat for Humanity/Gregg Pachkowski


Stark and Donaldson are blessed by the Rev. Joseph Frinel in front of the house they are helping build this week in the Santo community. © Habitat for Humanity/Gregg Pachkowski


Jay Stark and Rachel Donaldson stayed busy during their lunch break Thursday, though they didn’t need hammers for the activity. They used rings instead.

The couple got engaged during the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project this week in Léogâne, Haiti, and their announcement drew a standing ovation in the dining hall Wednesday evening. Stark and Donaldson are planning a formal wedding ceremony next year back home in Los Angeles, but they wanted to do something special while in Haiti.

On Thursday, a nearby minister, the Rev. Joseph Frinel, led the couple in an engagement blessing and commitment ceremony in front of the house that Stark and Donaldson are helping build. The bride-to-be’s attendants included her mother and father. The groom-to-be had his best friend at his side.

“We both thought, ‘There’s no better time or place to commit ourselves to each other than right now on this trip in Haiti,’” Stark said before the two exchanged vows.

“We each long ago decided that we wanted to live lives of service,” Donaldson added. “Volunteer service like this is vital to both of us and is what we want to build our relationship together on. So why not Haiti? Why not now?”

Stark and Donaldson weren’t the only volunteers committing acts of love and service Thursday. Most days this week, buses have taken weary participants back to the campsite around 4 p.m. With the week’s deadline looming to finish the bulk of construction on all 100 houses, Habitat staff said there would be two options for returning home Thursday: four buses at 4:30 p.m. and three buses at 5 p.m. for those who wanted to stay later.

By 4:45 p.m., one bus was barely three-quarters full. Most volunteers and partner families remained outside — constructing porches, nailing roof sheeting, and preparing doors and windows.

And when that first bus was finally full, an announcement was read aloud. Friday morning’s wake-up call would come an hour earlier. Breakfast would start at 5 a.m., and the first bus would head to the work site at 5:30. The reaction? Cheers.

“We’ve had a great bunch of volunteers this week,” said Nevil Eastwood, project manager for this week’s event. “It’s been hot, tough conditions, but folks are still willing to get after it.”

By day’s end Friday, Eastwood hopes Santo’s core houses will be nearly finished. Each core house is about 200 square feet. “The core house philosophy is, we build an adequate house for the family so they can expand it later on themselves,” Eastwood said. “There’s a balance between the size of the house and the cost.”

Habitat Haiti will also build latrines and water connections for each family. The hope is that all the homes built in Santo will provide a safe, quality environment for families still rebuilding their lives after the 2010 earthquake. By this weekend, 100 more families will be a lot closer to realizing that life-changing next step.