2011: ‘A new way of life’ in Haiti

Marie Veronila Antoine and her children were among the multitude of Haitians left homeless by the 2010 earthquake. “We were hopeless, looking up and down, waiting for something, like what? A house, help, but from whom? No one knows,” she says.

Until the 2011 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project arrived in the community of Santo to build 100 houses, Antoine, her young son Nicholas and her teenage daughter Johanna were living in a tent. At the end of that week, she and 99 other new Habitat homeowners celebrated at their home dedications. “When we lived in the tent, I was afraid to leave my children or my belongings,” she says. “In the new house, we have a new way of life.”

Antoine’s cheerful pink house was built with help from the Carters, something she says she never would have dreamed. “This is an unforgettable experience in my life, above all, working alongside President Carter and his wife,” she says. “I would never imagine myself building among hundreds of foreigners from different states and countries who came to build in Haiti. It was a great pleasure to sit with them, work with them, be their friend, telling jokes and smiling.”

Active in the Santo Association of Women’s Solidarity, Antoine and the group were very involved with the planning for the Carter Work Project and in the community itself. In 2012, the Carter Work Project returned to add 100 more houses in Santo, an event Marie says was even better than the 2011 build, because people knew what Habitat would do.

“This project has done so much for families in Santo,” she says, “and everyone in the community is happy and thankful.”

 

Reader Submission: “The kind of person I want to be”

I count myself fortunate that I was able to participate in the 2011 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Haiti. I made a very amateur video of my week. At about the 3-minute-30-second mark, you’ll see new homeowners and family members celebrating and a thank you from Marie Veronila Antoine to the Carters.

When I returned from my trips to Haiti in 2011 and 2012, people would ask me, “So, how was it?” I would reply, “It was fabulous. But what we accomplished in a week is just a drop in the ocean of what still needs to be done. If I did not have a husband, a mortgage and a job, I would join the Peace Corps and go back to Haiti.” Little did I know this statement would be a portent.

My husband has recently been diagnosed with a form of leukemia. We have had the most difficult talks of our lives about what my future will be without him.

Volunteering with Habitat has shown me the kind of person I want to be. Valued for what I can accomplish. Respected for the experience I can bring. Accepted for my desire to participate. Included because united, more things are possible.

The more I volunteer, the closer I get to being that kind of person. The only thing that will make sense for my life is to serve others, and I plan to take advantage of the long-term volunteer opportunities Habitat offers.

That’s my story. It’s not a happy one, but if Haiti can come back from devastation, so can I.

— Lorna Kruthers