“It’s a great experience for me to see that I can make good blocks,” exclaimed Fred. “It’s not just the big manufacturers that can, but the small ones, too.”Fred Elicart

Mr. Fred Elicart has been the owner of Speedy’s Block in Port-au-Prince, Haiti for 20 years. Fred’s uncle suggested he try block-making, a familiar family business. “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 manual block-making machine. Once he had the machine, he needed a site and found plot of land from a family member. Fred proudly recalls, “I made my first block on September 9, 1988.”

All was going fairly well for Fred until the afternoon of January 12, 2010, when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. “The earthquake took everyone by surprise and all businesses were hit hard,” says Fred.

When Build Change started working with Fred, the strength of his blocks was averaging 4 MPa or megaPascals, which is a technical unit used to measure block strength. At the end of the training, the quality of his blocks had improved and his blocks were averaging 9 MPa.

The technical training covered the basic principles of good concrete mixing practices, which include:

Using the right size container (bucket) to batch out concrete mixes. Fred was using a wheelbarrow before which produced more, but weaker blocks.

Proper mixing of the concrete ingredients by turning them over 3 times dry, until the color is uniform.

Curing blocks for a minimum of 7 days and selling them only after they’ve sat for a minimum of 18 days.

Build Change also introduced Fred to basic record-keeping for block production, which will help him know whether he is profitable or not. As a result of this assistance, Fred was able to hire an additional person for a total of three, as well as increase his part-time production staff from 4 to 14, depending on the workload. He’s gone from producing 400 blocks a day to about 1500. Fred estimates that with a mixer, he could produce about 2500 blocks a day. He trains 3 or 4 young people a year, passing on his knowledge about making quality concrete blocks.