The earthquake that rocked Haiti in January resulted in an estimated 3 million people being affected and 230,000 left dead. But once the aftershocks ended, the biggest concern was the estimated 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings that either collapsed or were damaged.
Most of the damaged buildings were in the towns of Port-au-Prince and Jacmel, where landmark buildings damaged or destroyed included the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly building, the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, the Palace of Justice, the Supreme Court, and the Prison Civile de Port-au-Prince.
The earthquake destroyed a nursing school in the capital and severely damaged the country’s primary midwifery school. Haitian artworks were destroyed, and museums and art galleries were extensively damaged, among them Port-au-Prince’s main art museum, Centre d’Art, College Saint Pierre and Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Furthermore, the clothing industry, which accounts for two-thirds of Haiti’s exports, reported structural damage at manufacturing facilities. And about half the nation’s schools and the three main universities in Port-au-Prince were affected.
The list goes on and on for residential homes and commercial facilities that left people homeless and businesses unable to open.
But hope is not lost with humanitarian aid, building material donations and financial assistance coming from all over the world, including from the wall and ceiling community.
Because of the devastation, many countries and U.S. businesses responded with humanitarian aid, pledging funds and dispatching rescue and medical teams, engineers and support personnel.
Jolanda Logan, a spokesperson with Habitat for Humanity International, says Habitat’s goal in the rebuilding of Haiti is to serve 50,000 families affected by the earthquake.
“We will do this through a multi-phase process that includes relief, rehabilitation and housing reconstruction,” says Logan, who notes relief efforts began by assembling 8,500 emergency shelter kits in February. “These kits contained tools to help families make house repairs and construct temporary shelters.”
In April, Habitat assembled more than 13,000 additional kits that will be shipped and distributed in the Port-au-Prince area ahead of the peak of the rainy season in May. In the rehabilitation phase, Habitat for Humanity will help families remove debris, salvage materials that can be recycled, repair homes that received minimal damage and build transitional shelters that meet basic needs.
“In the reconstruction phase, Habitat will build core houses, basic housing units that are permanent and resistant to earthquakes and hurricanes,” Logan says. “They are designed to be expanded over time by the families and meet international humanitarian standards.”
In the wake of the disaster, Habitat Disaster Response mobilized all available resources to address shelter solutions for the families impacted by the quake.
“A Habitat assessment team entered Haiti from the Dominican Republic within 48 hours after the earthquake,” Logan says. “Once the full magnitude of the disaster was known, Habitat began recovery efforts as soon as conditions permitted.”
In all, Habitat for Humanity has worked in Haiti for 26 years and has provided more than 2,000 families with housing solutions through a variety of initiatives, including new homes.
“Habitat for Humanity’s Disaster Response staff is working with Habitat for Humanity Haiti to mobilize resources and assist with rebuilding, repairing houses and providing transitional shelter,” says Logan. “To help implement Habitat’s efforts in Haiti, Habitat will expand its Habitat Resource Centers to provide construction training, financial literacy, construction materials and help with local employment opportunities.”
Habitat for Humanity is helping homeless or displaced families improve their shelter conditions, as well.
“Habitat for Humanity is building transitional shelters with materials that can be upgraded or recycled into permanent housing,” Logan says. “In addition, Habitat is exploring the use of sustainable power in core homes.
SUPPORT FOR HAITIAN PEOPLE
Jeffrey P. Rodewald, vice president of employee benefits, safety, and corporate services for USG Foundation, says activities to support Haiti include making cash donations, the use of a distribution center and “gratis” building materials.
“The USG Foundation is committed to social responsibility and supports local and national charitable organizations that serve and educate the communities in which USG operates,” Rodewald says. “When the magnitude of the devastation in Haiti became public, the executives at USG felt compelled to provide assistance for this worthwhile humanitarian cause.”
For the first time in the company’s history, USG offered employees the opportunity to donate funds with a 50 percent match from the USG Foundation, provided the organizations are 501c3 eligible.
“USG elected to work with the American Red Cross based on its reputation and commitment,” Rodewald says. “One hundred percent of the funds raised would go directly towards relief efforts.”
Through the generosity of USG employees and the USG Foundation, funds were raised in excess of $65,000 in a matter of days, including a separate cash donation the USG Foundation made to the American Red Cross.
“USG also donated the use of a 34,000 square foot state-of-the-art distribution facility in Gulfport (Miss.) in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity to be used as a staging and processing center,” Rodewald says. “USG International has a standing offer to a building products distributor in Haiti to donate building materials when rebuilding for charitable projects.”
Anna Niehaus, director of residential business development for Royal Concrete Concepts in West Palm Beach, Fla., says the company was dedicated to helping Haitian victims rebuild by donating “expertise and experience.”
“We are known as a builder of hurricane resistant housing,” Niehaus says. “Therefore, we were contacted by over 20 different organizations that were going to Haiti to help with the extreme housing needs. We were asked to develop a product that is resistant to hurricanes and earthquakes as well as easy to transport and to set up.”
Niehaus says there are a number of private and government organizations they have teamed up with in their efforts, but Royal Concrete is not aligned with any agency exclusively.
“We are capable of producing a very large number of homes,” she says. “Our strength lays in the manufacturing of the homes. We team up with organizations that are on-site, know the specific local needs and speak the language in Haiti.”
Niehaus says the company’s biggest assets are its “expertise, experience and competitive building methods.”
“There is a great concern about the quality of construction ever since the earthquake struck,” she says. “Haitians are very afraid of being in a building that may not be perceived to be secure. As we are speaking to the various sub-contractors in Haiti, it has become apparent that concrete construction is preferred over wood or some of the new fiberglass composite due to its strength, hurricane resistance and seismic design factors.”
Still, Niehaus says she hopes every organization involved with the rebuilding of Haiti has nothing but the best interest of the people in Haiti in mind. “I hope that the money that is donated by citizens around the world will be used in the absolutely most ethical and efficient way,” she said. “Sometimes that seems a difficult task as we saw with Katrina here in our own country. The situation in Haiti is very desperate and I can only hope that nobody will take advantage of that desperation.”
Niehaus said there is a still quite a bit of confusion about how to spend the money in Haiti. “The first phase of immediate help which was mostly supplying water, food and medical aid as well as temporary shelter is coming to an end,” she said. “From here on some construction should start. There is still a large need for infra-structure before actual home construction can begin.”
DONATIONS FOR HAITI
Donations mean everything to the Haitian people.
For example, Hunter Douglas donated $550,000 to two nonprofits-the International Rescue Committee and Habitat for Humanity-to help relieve the suffering and aid the recovery of the Haitian people.
The manufacturer matched all contributions from its employees, independent fabricator partners, retail dealers and other friends. In only four weeks, the company received close to $275,000 in contributions to its Haitian Relief Fund Drive.
“I’m so proud of my colleagues, partners and customers who participated in this drive to aid those in desperate need of help and support,” said Hunter Douglas President and CEO Marv Hopkins, from a press release in April. “The compassion and generosity of our employees and friends are most impressive and heartwarming.”
Founded in 1933 and working in more than 40 countries, the New York-based IRC is an emergency relief, rehabilitation, protection of human rights and resettlement service. In Haiti, led by a team of veteran first responders, the IRC is focusing on sanitation, health, shelter, child protection, family tracing and special services for women.
Walls & Ceilings’ parent company, BNP Media in Troy, Mich., also donated funds to the Haitian relief effort. W&C
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