Following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, TouchGlobal swiftly responded and has continued to send crisis responders to serve in Haiti ever since. We have established a presence and plan on staying here for a long time, so we thought it wise to set up a blog that family, friends, supporters, and teams can check to find first-hand information about life and ministry at the Haitian Queen (the TouchGlobal Crisis Response headquarters in Gressier, Haiti).

This blog will be updated regularly by various team members and staff.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Building in Haiti

Before my husband Nick and I landed in Haiti on Tuesday we had no idea there was even such a thing as construction missionaries and now we know four of them. It makes sense when you think of it--someone has to build the spaces for all of this good work to happen in. We are also both completely helpless when it comes to fixing or building anything in the States (he's an investor and I do marketing for a start-up) so I had absolutely no idea how difficult it is to build in a country like Haiti--everything moves like molasses here where delays are the rule not the exception. Bribes are par for the course and moving anything takes forever on these roads. It's rare when you're on a paved road and it's even rarer that it's not littered with cracks and debris. Sometimes there are even shanty tent villages set up in the median.

The leaders of the teams we're with (see earlier posts) were stuck on the road for over eight hours with a broken transmission trying to bring back things from a container that was dropped up in Port Haitian.

Some interesting facts I've learned from building Superintendent Jim while here in Haiti... my apologies if everyone already knows this. Haitians build everything with cement blocks because the wood here comes from South America and isn't treated for termites. Termites thrive in this tropical weather and will destroy anything you build. Sometimes people try to treat the wood by dousing it with diesel fuel, but that of course makes it extremely flammable, probably not a great idea in this heat. Wood here is also very expensive and of a much harder variety than what you normally buy in the US.

To save money, Haitians try to make their blocks with as little cement as possible.
As a result, some of them are so loosely held together that they crumble in your fist... so that's why you see piles of crushed rubble everywhere here. The blocks are internally held together by rebar: Rebar is been bent by the crake into the craziest statues everywhere here.
The Haitian Queen is also made out of concrete blocks, but likely of a better cement ratio as only the second story collapsed. Volunteers have been hard at work rebuilding the second floor--yesterday Nick, Brian and others tackled the roof.

Nick and I are actually staying outside in the outdoor bunk houses that volunteers put up when people were still too afraid to sleep indoors. I love the bright colors of the bunk houses and they're extremely well built... but somehow the mosquitoes seem to get through the nets we carefully drape over ourselves each night and I'm a little afraid of the recently sighted tarantula, which terrifies me. I make Nick do diligent flashlight sheet checks every night.
Yesterday we went out to buy chicken wire because engineers that visited recently suggested reinforcing the house by wrapping this wire mesh around the entire exterior structure. The thinking being that in the event of an earthquake, this extra support will give you a few extra seconds to get out before the house collapses. Nick's French (and mine a little, too) came in handy when negotiating to order more rolls as we went to two hardware stores where they each only had in stock.

Superintendent Jim and his lovely wife Karen Esson are with Side by Side and have been here many times and will come many more until the orphanage is finished. They come alongside other organization to help them build projects to free them up to do what they do best. They've built orphanages, like the one we're working on just down the road, hospitals (they've done one in Congo, Sudan, Chad), clinics (including one near Nairobi) and even a bomb shelter in Israel. Jim is a construction genius and has excellent relationships with the Haitians. Karen is one of the sweetest women I have ever met. It is amazing to just listen to her life stories! They've recruited Lori and Brian from outside of Atlanta to be here as house parents at the Queen for the next two months.
I'm convinced Lori is meant to be my best friend because mosquitoes seem to love us equally, we're both 25, and we have almost the exact same wedding bands. We feel very blessed to have arrived the same day as a nice couple our age. Brian will be in charge here while Jim and others work to get the needed supplies in. Right now the team is working on one of six planned buildings for the orphanage--they're starting first with the administrative house, which is the smallest. The orphanage effort is being headed up by Aaron Nelson and his group Shepherd's House. Aaron is originally from Port-Au-Prince and was adopted by two missionaries, Terry and Cary Nelson who have been working there since early 80s. We're still working on leveling ground for the first site and this morning the men marked out the building's outline. Jim is working on getting a cement mixer into Haiti so as to insure that our bricks are of the highest quality possible should another big one hit.

It's quite humbling for us to be around people who know so much about building--what an incredibly useful skill, especially in a place like Haiti! I'm resolved now to pick up a few more useful life skills! And I'm also just impressed that so many people are willing to do this much physical labor in a climate this hot and sticky. They really have a lot of love for the Haitian people.


  1. Oh Thank you SOOOOO much for posting! And for having pictures! I am missing Haiti! And the Haitian Queen. Brian and I flew down together the 15th of Feb, he is great! I know he and Lori will do amazing as house parents!!! What an answer to prayer. The second floor has a roof! How exciting. Please keep posting, I am praying. I am glad you like the Green Bunk Houses, I helped paint them my last day. If the cream bug repellent with sun screen is there, try that. I used it and only got bit once in 3 weeks. Thanks for going! Say hi to Jim, and Brian and Wes if he is still there. Hug Rosetta for me.

  2. Thanks for this post! We are praying for you both and for all there doing this good work.

    Your loving mother-in-law who hopes that you are safe from the spiders!

  3. Thanks for the update. Keep it up! We are praying for you and all the efforts out there! love, Deirdre

  4. Thanks for the update and all the pictures. I was one of the contractors that built the bunk houses and started the second floor of the house. I worked along side brian, he is such a great guy. Please say hi to him for me and keep up the good work. I hope to be back there soon. Your all in my prayers.
    In Christ,

  5. You are a terrific writer! This is the most exciting and informative post I've seen and I'm not saying that just because you featured our project!!!!! You are awesome. I'm not anonymous, but couldn't figure out what I was so picked that.
    Karen Esson