In light of the many setbacks experienced by international aid organizations that rushed into Haiti after the 2010 earthquake to rebuild the country, it’s refreshing to hear a positive report from a ministry who got it right.
Last week, I met with Dan Shoemaker, a house-construction contractor who worked with Cross partner MEBSH to provide homes for earthquake survivors. Cross has poured a lot of time and energy into solving Haiti’s housing needs, which were serious even before the quake destroyed thousands of homes and displaced 1.5 million people.
Dan told me that before he began to build, his first order of business was to sit down with two Haitian community leaders and ask them what they wanted. Their answer: a stable, secure home in which families could begin to rebuild their lives. At the time, you didn’t have to travel far to find quake survivors living in temporary, hastily-built shelters that were barely an improvement over the tent camps set up immediately after the disaster. Though good-intentioned, these crude houses failed to provide the sense of security and stability that so many Haitians longed for. They were stiflingly hot, had no lockable doors, and the walls were essentially tarp wrapped around a frame.
By contrast, when Dan’s houses went up, the families – and their neighbors – reacted with enthusiasm. It’s easy to see why. These culturally-appropriate homes are sturdy enough to last for as long as 20 years, they are earthquake and hurricane resistant, and they come with a porch, two lockable doors and two lockable windows with glass panes and screens. In addition, each family is presented with a Creole Bible as a special gift and a reminder that this outreach is an expression of God’s love for the needy.
While many aid agencies have run into supply shortages and have horror stories about clearing goods through customs, Dan has experienced few problems. By God’s grace, he’s been able to purchase the materials he needs at a reasonable price and build the houses in a timely manner. MEBSH selected the 20 neediest families, and Dan promptly fulfilled his commitment to provide 20 new homes. What a blessing his work has been for these poor Haitian families who now have the dignity of being homeowners!