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CHF Haiti: Helping Neighborhoods Rebuild – Stronger and Better

Published 06/30/2011 by Global Communities

CHF Haiti: Helping Neighborhoods Rebuild – Stronger and Better 
Impasse 138, located in the Ravine Pintade’s community in Port-au-Prince, was a slope of crumpled houses, with iron bars sticking up from the ground and precarious gravel-sliding walkways going down towards the ravine. Through the KATYE program, funded by USAID/OFDA, CHF and Project Concern International have changed the whole landscape of this site by demolishing damaged houses, removing rubble, terracing the land, putting in retaining walls and building in a water point, drainage sys-tems, latrines and a septic system. 
As part of the recovery effort, the KATYE team developed a two-storey house prototype, which provides an efficient solution to the overcrowding in the neighborhood. The two-storey structure is made of a steel frame and has an innovative roof design to conduct air and help keep it cool at all times. The placement of windows as well as the height of the house also allows for breezes to pass through it, making it more comfortable for its inhabitants. Each house is design to fit two families, with each unit completely independent from each other and a metal staircase leading from the outside to the upper storey.
“This house is designed to with-stand a Level 3 hurricane and has been seismically tested,” says Aram Kachadurian, Deputy Program Director for KATYE, pointing to the steel-framed model which has plywood walls and is covered in plastic sheeting. Aram, who most days is climbing up and down Pintade’s sloping hills supervising the work of KATYE’S urban planners and engineers is a big fan of the two-storey prototype because of what can be done with it in the future. “This structure,” he says as he walks across now terraced landscape to where the new house has been built, “has temporary walls today but these can easily be transformed tomorrow into a more permanent structure by the residents themselves with their own investments. The foundation is strong enough and has been designed precisely with the expectation that it will eventually be made more solid by the owners.”
Imerlie Simeon says she jumped with joy when she was first shown her new home. “It is a miracle for me,” she says with emotion in her voice. “It is truly a miracle for me to have today this beautiful home. After the earthquake destroyed my house, I lost all the money I had made from my small vegetable selling business under the rubble.” But finding the me ans to reconstruct something for her family of three children she soon realized would be impossible. “I needed at least 400,000 gourdes ($10,000 USD) to rebuild a house. At my age I would be dead before I could find that amount of money.” Looking at her new home with glittering eyes she points to it saying “and look, without spending a sou (dime), a new house more comfortable and earthquake resistant was given to me thanks to CHF.”

For Imerlie, 76, one of the most difficult things to deal with this past year has been that she couldn’t bring her family together as they used to be before. She hopes with her new home she will be able to change this. “Now I will be able to bring them here so that we can all pray together, eat together, and celebrate together, all thanks to CHF.”
Caravan Engineered Structures contracted by the KATYE program not only put the structure together but ran a workshop for a dozen neighborhood men to train them in the techniques of constructing these houses. The workshop lasted a week and those trained were involved with the construction of the first proto-type.
“This training will allow me to work for my community and provide for my family,” says Eddy Dorvilas, 35, and father of one child. Eddy sees that this knowledge will not only give him short term employment through the KATYE program but can help him find other employment in the future. Eddy used to be a screen printer and before the earthquake had his own t-shirt printing studio. Since he lost the studio under the rubble, he has found it very hard to get back on his feet. Now, he knows his newly acquired skills will give him better prospects. “After the KATYE project, I can sell my service to whichever institution that is doing a similar project because now I am prepared. This is additional training that enriches my skills.”

Jean Paul Charles, 33, agrees wholeheartedly. Jean Paul was trained as a plumber, but since he graduated he has not been able to find work in his field. “This is great training for me to confront life,” says Jean Paul, “because I am sufficiently armed now to work in other projects constructing metallic structured houses.” Jean Paul hopes also to be able to take his training further: “Given my certification, I will teach other youth in the community these skills.”