LEOGÁNE, Haiti (November 28, 2012) — Four Costa Rican volunteers are spending the week building homes alongside ex-President Jimmy Carter, as part of Habitat for Humanity’s 29th annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. The “ticos” have joined with hundreds of other volunteers from the United States, Ireland, Canada and other countries from around the world to build 100 houses in one week’s time. The houses are being built in the Santo community, 18 miles from Port-au-Prince and considered the epicenter of the devastating 2010 earthquake.
Mauricio Artinano is one of these volunteers.
“On Friday I flew to Atlanta, where I joined more than 600 Carter Project volunteers. There, I met up with my friends, Sebas and Racha, who work with CNN en Español and who would also be participating in the Carter Project. It was fun to be on a plane full of volunteers, everyone with the same t-shirt and positive attitude.
We landed in Port-au-Prince and went directly to the volunteer camp, about two hours from the capital. On the drive we witness the impressionable poverty that Haitians are suffering, and the destruction caused by the 2010 earthquake.
The conditions at the volunteer camp were better than we expected. Sebas, Racha and I were in the same tent, and we hung our Costa Rican flag over the door.
The first two days of work have been challenging in the relentless heat. We’re finishing the roofs of two houses. It’s the first time that I’ve worked with wood on a Habitat project—I have to admit that I like building with cement blocks better, but it’s been great to learn how to work with wood. (A lot of hammering!)
Today the homeowners came to build with us, and it turns out that one of them is named Maurice. That’s all it took for him to win my affection, and we talked for a long while in my meager French.
We also went to see the houses that were built in last year’s Carter Work Project. It was incredible to see how lovely they were—full of flowers and color, the mini-businesses that the families have started, and how happy the families are in their new community. It’s clear that these projects build more than just houses; they build communities.
Another thing that has been really great is to witness the energy and simplicity of President Carter and his wife. They eat in the “dining hall” like any other volunteer, will sit and chat with anyone, and just have a really beautiful vibe. The President is 88 years old and works in these projects year after year, and this heat makes it tough. Yesterday the Carters talked with us for a good while about their experience in Costa Rica for the millennium, when they witnessed an eruption of the Arenal Volcano. ‘They were the best fireworks we could have asked for!’ said the President. Today was Sabas’ birthday, and we managed to get the President to sing for him! Later, he came over, gave a huge hug to Sebas, and talked with us a while longer.”
Habitat for Humanity has operated in Haiti for more than 28 years. In response to the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit the country in 2010, Habitat initiated a five-year plan to help 50,000 families. Since that time, more than 40,000 families in Port-au-Prince, Cabaret and Léogâne have been served through permanent core houses, transitional and upgradable shelters, repairs and rehabs, damage assessments and emergency shelter kits. Programs focused on land reform advocacy, urban reconstruction and training initiatives have benefitted thousands more.
Mauricio , Sebastian  and Ricardo  have taken the challenge to raise money in support of Habitat for Humanity’s efforts in Haiti. Click on their names to support their efforts, and share this story with your friends!
Stay posted for news from another Costa Rican volunteer, Vivian Pastor, and more CNN iReports by Sebastián y Ricardo !
For more information about the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, or about Habitat for Humanity, visit: http://www.habitat.org/cwp/2012 .
About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is a global nonprofit Christian housing organization that seeks to put God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope. Since 1976, Habitat has served more than 500,000 families by welcoming people of all races, religions and nationalities to construct, rehabilitate or preserve homes; by advocating for fair and just housing policies; and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions. For more information, to donate or to volunteer, please visit www.habitat.org , or follow us at www.facebook.com/habitat  or at www.twitter.com/habitat_org  or join Habitat’s blog community at www.habitat.org/blog .
About Habitat for Humanity Haiti
Habitat for Humanity has been at work in Haiti for 28 years and has provided housing solutions through a variety of initiatives, including new home construction, progressive building, home repairs and improvements and land reform advocacy. Habitat also builds capacity in construction skills, disaster risk reduction and financial literacy, and works in coordination with community and government agencies. To learn more, please visit habitat.org/Haiti, or follow us at www.facebook.com/Habitat  for Humanity Haiti - Official Site or at www.twitter.com/habitatinhaiti .