Rebuilding Haiti Better with Build Change: The Story of Homeowner Mirlande Joseph by Kathleen Jeanty
35 seconds. That’s all it took. In just 35 seconds, on a normal afternoon on January 12, 2010, Mirlande Joseph’s life changed forever. The 38-year old seamstress was at home sewing a shirt as a favor for a friend in Carrefour, a city right outside of the nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince. She had just finished exchanging pleasantries with her friend, when she felt what she describes as a very powerful generator starting up or a huge truck passing by. “It was a big noise and I felt something shake,” Mirlande said. “I looked up, looked around me and when I didn’t see anything, I went back to sewing the sleeves on my friend’s shirt.”Then all of sudden, the entire house started to violently shake and the walls of the house started to crumble around her. Panicking, her friend yelled out “Oh my God, it’s an earthquake!” and urged them to get out of the house immediately. Instinctively, Mirlande scurried to protect her niece from the falling pieces of concrete that made up the walls of the house she was renting, as they tried to make it out of the house. The shaking was so powerful that it catapulted both Mirlande and her niece off the ground, sending them both crashing against the gate. They landed in the street, just as the remaining walls of the house came crashing down. In just 35 seconds. Read the FULL ARTICLE.
Back in the late 80’s, all Fred Elicart wanted was a car. He wanted the freedom to easily go anywhere he wanted, without having to depend on Haiti’s unreliable public transportation. So he asked his uncle who was in the block-making business for advice regarding what he should do to get a car. His uncle asked him what means he had to make a living, such as what type of work he did or if he had a business. Fred told his uncle that he didn’t have any means, as he wasn’t working nor did he have a business. So his uncle asked him what he planned to do with the car. That’s when Fred realized he had no idea. He just knew that he wanted a car to get around freely and easily. Upon hearing this, his uncle told him that he should look to do something that will make him money instead of costing him money, a lesson Fred holds dear to him until today.
After that conversation, Fred started thinking heavily about what his uncle told him and decided to look into the idea of starting a business. But Fred always knew that he didn’t really have the mindset to have a business. The uncle continued to encourage Fred and suggested that he purchase a machine to make blocks instead of purchasing a car. “But I don’t know anything about making blocks,” Fred told his uncle. The uncle responded by saying, “Just come by my block-making business for a couple of days to see how it’s done and you can take it from there.”
Fred did as his uncle suggested and in a couple of days’ time, he grew enough of an appreciation for making blocks that he went to the bank and got the money he needed to purchase the machine. Once he had the machine, he needed a site and found plot of land from a family member. But the lot needed to be cleared and prepared to manufacture the blocks. So Fred tapped a friend who had access to a tractor and this friend helped him every Saturday until he was able to open his own block-making business. Fred proudly recalls, “I made my first block on September 9, 1988 and the rest, as they say, is history.” READ THE REST OF FRED'S STORY HERE...
Gertha Alerte lives in Delmas 60, a densely populated neighborhood in Port-au-Prince where most of the houses were damaged. Gertha’s house partially collapsed during the earthquake killing her young nephew and injuring her mother.
“I know now that my house collapsed because it was not well built”, she said, after receiving Build Change’s Homeowners’ training workshop.
“Even though I don’t know when I’ll be able to rebuild my house, I know now how to build it right, and I want to thank Build Change for that.”
“Your training is great, and that you should keep up with your excellent work.”
Moise is a mason by trade whose house was so badly damaged during the earthquake that he is unable to repair it. “I have found this training extremely useful, as I learned things I didn’t know about laying blocks, making better connections, and about using the right proportion of materials for mixing concrete. I learned new things that I can use every day in my work.”
“Even though I am a builder, I would be very thankful to Build Change if it could provide me technical assistance when I start rebuilding my house”, he said, after attending Build Change’s Homeowners’ training workshop.