Veterans speed the work, and Haiti gains new voices
By Phil Kloer
Haitian homeowners who were a part of last year’s Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project greeted nearly 600 volunteers as they returned this year with a goal to build 100 homes in a week.
Habitat volunteer Laura Fay overlooked nothing when she started raising funds for her trip to the 29th Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Léogâne, Haiti. Her children — Bella, 7, and Noah, 5 — raised $136 for her donation to Habitat Haiti with their lemonade stand back in Melrose, Massachusetts, while her employer, Wells Fargo, donated a grant of $10,000.
Fay, 37, is a third-generation Habitat volunteer, working on the same house this week with her father, Tom Trumble, another top fundraiser. “I’m looking forward to my children being the fourth generation of Habitat volunteers, and taking them on a project like this,” she said.
Swinging a hammer with great exuberance a few feet away from the father-daughter team, Barbara Thomas was delighted to be getting her new house. Thomas has been living in a sweltering shelter of tarpaulins and plastic sheeting since the 2010 earthquake. She said her 7-month-old daughter, Wenkierina, cannot nap during the day because “it is so hot in the tent.” Her new ventilated home, which was going up rapidly Monday, will be much cooler, she said.
What only recently were just concrete foundations were quickly becoming real houses by the end of the day Monday, the second day of the 2012 Carter Work Project, which is building homes in partnership with 100 Haitian families in a former sugar cane field outside Léogâne.
“We’re doing very well on the schedule,” CWP director Nevil Eastwood said. “Nearly every house is where we wanted it to be, and about a third of them are working on tomorrow’s goals.”
This is the second year for the Carter Work Project in Léogâne, and about 40 percent of last year’s volunteers are back this week, once again braving a brutal daytime sun and sometimes challenging living conditions to work toward Habitat’s commitment to help Haiti rebuild from the devastating January 2010 earthquake.
“The continuity and knowledge of the returning builders has been key; there’s much less of a learning curve,” Eastwood said.
President Carter, 88, and Mrs. Carter, 85, have been working hard both days, but they stopped for half an hour Monday for a news conference with international media on the building site. Mrs. Carter joked that it was a welcome chance to sit down in the shade for a few minutes.
President Carter called the Haiti projects “the most challenging projects we’ve ever done.”
“One of the things Habitat workers do when we come back home is tell people about the need where we have been working,” he continued. “So Haiti will have almost 700 ambassadors when we get back to the United States, telling people about the need here.”