'This is the best feeling ever': Reunions in Santo

Habitat for Humanity's Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project is about making connections at many levels. Faith connects to works; wall connects to roof; volunteer connects to homeowner. Some of these connections take the form of reunions. Here are five reunions that have taken place at this year's project in Léogâne, Haiti.

Compiled by Soyia Ellison and Phil Kloer
  • Coming home to help  Cassandra Nicaisse's parents moved to the United States from Haiti in the 1970s, and she was born in the U.S. in 1980. This year, she is visiting her ancestral homeland for the first time. "It's been a longtime dream of mine to come back," she said. "It's a little overwhelming and heartbreaking to see the conditions in which people are living, but I'm elated I'm here." Nicaisse, a partner services manager for the NFL Players Association from Fort Washington, Maryland, said the Carter Work Project is "the perfect opportunity to give back."     ©Habitat for Humanity/Allen Sullivan
  • A house becomes a home  Sarah Diminich, a human resources manager for a hedge fund in New York City, came back to Haiti this year after working on two houses in Léogâne in 2011. She was eager to see the houses she helped build now decorated and lived in —  true homes rather than just construction sites. "You see the home, and it's just amazing," she said. But it was even more powerful, she said, to see the Haitian homeowners, Luna Raymond and Liveny Denis. "I love them," Diminich said. "They're beautiful people."    ©Habitat for Humanity/George Hipple
  • Courtney's Angels carry on  They call themselves Courtney's Angels: eight men wearing matching gray T-shirts who reunited at this year's Carter Project after building together in 2011. Courtney is Courtney Brinegar, a Texas A & M architecture student who was their house leader in 2011 but could not make this year's project because of conflicts at school. So the men — some American and some Canadian — are back and honoring the absent Brinegar. "She was the only girl on the team, and she was amazing, a real inspiration," said Luc LeChapelle of Montreal.     �Habitat for Humanity/Allen Sullivan
  • Beyond the barriers of language  Dee Wylie, a retired teacher from Madison, Wisconsin, walked down the gravel road to Lesley Stanley's home, which she helped build last year. Stanley was on the front porch waiting for her. After a long hug, the two posed for photos with Wylie's camera, and then tried to talk a little. With no interpreter handy, though, they struggled to understand each other's English and Haitian Creole. So they just laughed and hugged again.     �Habitat for Humanity/George Hipple
  • An emotional return  Alice Dent's eyes filled with tears the minute she saw Marie Therese Gassette outside her home, which Dent helped build last year. The women hugged again and again, and Dent showed Gassette her cell phone, which still contains pictures of the two of them. "I'm very happy to see her, very happy," Gassette said. Minutes later, Dent — executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Western Wayne County (Michigan) — was still overcome with emotion. "To come back a year later and see all this beauty — I'm overwhelmed," she said. "This is the best feeling ever."   © Habitat for Humanity/Allen Sullivan