Rather than bore myself by listing some mundane details about the daily routines of my life at the base, I’d rather jump into what I’m helping to build. Cornflakes for breakfast and a snoring festival amongst 80 bunk beds aren’t that exciting to talk about (but believe me, I’m not complaining because I am living the luxury lifestyle compared to nearly all Haitians).
Yesterday, I was initiated to the school building team. School tuition in Haiti is payed for completely by the parents- no government contribution even though Haitians do pay many taxes. When the majority of schools in earthquake-affected zones fell down on January 12, children suddenly faced the possibility of losing their opportunity at an education because it is beyond the means of the collective of these families to build new schools when they don’t even have homes anymore.
All-Hands is completing its fourth new school right now, with a total of 20 on the drawing board. They obtain funding from a variety of sources of international aid and internal fundraising. Below is a picture of Christina and I first thing this morning, showing off the louvres which we installed.
With school #4 on the path to completion- approximately two more weeks of roofing, stucco, painting, and building desks- the foundation for the next school needs to get underway. Into the taptap (a Haitian minivan aka a little 2wd pickup with a seat rack in the back welded out of rebar) I jumped with three other volunteers and we headed for the Leogane countryside. In a farm field replete with roving goats and great views of the mountains and ocean, we confirmed with the school director the limits of the land which has been allotted to the new school. We carefully set out string lines on batter boards for the 20 foot by 84 foot foundation then we began to dig. And I mean dig! With picks and shovels, we are excavating a 10 inch wide by 16 inch deep trench around the circumference of the foundation. Just the four of us, we completed most of one long side today in the blistering heat. Tomorrow onwards, I will be the “team leader” for these school foundations, working with up to a dozen local and foreign volunteers, completing the trenches, bringing in rubble and gravel to provide a good base for the foundation, building edge forms, tieing rebar and mixing and placing the concrete.
I am quickly realizing that no progress in this difficult situation happens without expending a bunch of sweat, but there is no shortage of laughs nor deeply appreciative Haitians.