You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘volunteerism’ tag.

Leer en español

“With the world population having surpassed seven billion this year, we must tap every person’s potential to help others. Everyone can make a difference. Volunteering matters.”
- United Nations Secretary General BAN Ki-moon

This year, some 13,900 people volunteered at Habitat for Humanity construction sites in Latin America and the Caribbean. 1,700 more participated in non-construction activities, such as advocacy and training. Of the more than 15,000 volunteers in the region, 10,400 were local—Latin American and Caribbean citizens lending a hand in their own communities.

Around the world, the spirit and solidarity of volunteerism is spreading. Young people are seeking ways to support their communities and ensure a better future for themselves and their children. Business people are responding to the call for Corporate Social Responsibility, organizing volunteer teams to help improve the communities where their businesses are located. Families are organizing to mutually help one another and better the neighborhood. Retired adults are joining social causes, leading with their wisdom and experience.

Volunteering matters.

The International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development (IVD) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 17 December 1985. Since then, governments, the UN system and civil society organizations have successfully joined volunteers around the world to celebrate the Day on December 5 (worldvolunteerweb.org).

However, the true importance of celebrating International Volunteer Day today, is what happens tomorrow. Improving the lives of families around the world is a 365-day a year task. Local and international volunteers are stepping to help.

In Haití, we heard voices of solidarity…

In México, we hear them…

In the Dominican Republic as well…

Nicaragua… present!

And you… What will you build?

Pregunta y respuesta con Joe y Hábitat (English below)

Joe Johnston es colaborador del programa de Aldea Global en Americus, Georgia, EE.UU –una de las sedes internacionales de Hábitat para la Humanidad. Todos los días, ayuda a coordinar brigadas de voluntarios estadounidenses con destino a países latinoamericanos y caribeños. Pero en esta ocasión, Joe se hizo voluntario él mismo, liderando no sólo uno, sino dos grupos de voluntarios a Haití para ayudar en la preparación del terreno para el Proyecto Carter. A su regreso, le preguntamos sobre su experiencia.

HPH: ¿Qué sabes de Haití ahora que no sabías antes del terremoto?
Joe: En realidad no sabía mucho de Haití antes de haber viajado allá. Sabía algunas cosas básicas, pero sobre todo siento que el viaje fue una experiencia que me abrió mucho los ojos. Por ejemplo, me sorprendió aprender de la falta de una red eléctrica formal o un sistema de saneamiento—aprendí cuanto carecía la infraestructura de Haití inclusive antes del terremoto. Las cosas más básicas de mi propia vida nunca han sido establecidas en Haití.

HPH: ¿Cómo impacta tu vida, tu trabajo y tus sueños el enfrentar la situación de Haití en carne y hueso?
Joe: El viaje a Haití fue una experiencia increíble. La cultura… el paisaje… la gente… todo súper lindo.  Es muy doloroso ver a tantas personas que luchan todos los días solo para sobrevivir. Haití reafirmó mi compromiso a la misión central de Hábitat: brindar acceso a viviendas adecuadas y asequibles para los que más lo necesitan. La experiencia me inspiró a continuar trabajando por un mejor futuro global.

HPH: ¿Por qué fuiste a Haití, porque otros deberían seguir apoyando?
Joe: Viajé a Haití para ser parte de una solución. Tan pronto que me enteré de que Hábitat iba movilizar brigadas de voluntarios a Haití, me alisté para unirme a una. Luego del viaje, me ofrecí para liderar otra por la increíble experiencia que era. Quiero seguir siendo parte de este esfuerzo por todo el tiempo que me sea posible. Me ha motivado a compartir mi experiencia con otros y recolectar fondos para el programa de Hábitat en Haití. Estoy convencido que otros deben seguir apoyando la recuperación de Haití, como parte de la construcción de una mejor comunidad global. Los haitianos carecen de nuestro apoyo, y por mi parte, estoy listo para ayudarles a reconstruir.

HPH: ¿Cómo has visto que los haitianos son parte de la solución?
Joe: En Leogáne, vi la comunidad de Santo trabajando arduamente para construir sus hogares. Trabajaron en equipo. Hicieron cualquier cosa y toda cosa que se tenía que hacer. Nuestra brigada tuvo la oportunidad de trabajar hombro a hombro con ellos, compartiendo el sudor y la risa. Fue una experiencia muy enriquecedora. No dudo que a esta gente tendrá un futuro sólido.

Joe Johnston
Americus, Georgia, EE.UU


Q & A with Joe and Habitat for Humanity

Joe Johnston works with the Global Village program in Americus, Georgia, U.S.A. –one of Habitat for Humanity’s global headquarters. Each day, Joe helps coordinate volunteer teams from the United States traveling to Latin American and Caribbean countries. On this occasion, however, Joe became a volunteer himself, leading not one, but two teams to Haiti to help prepare ground for the Carter Work Project. We asked Joe a few questions about what he learned.

HFH: What do you know about Haiti now, that you didn’t know before you traveled there?
Joe: Honestly, I did not know very much about Haiti before traveling there. I knew some of the basics, but most of all I feel like this trip was such an eye opening experience. I was amazed to learn of Haiti’s lack of a power grid and sanitation system, for example—that the infrastructure of Haiti was lacking before the earthquake. The things that seem most basic in my own life have never been established here.

HFH: How has experiencing Haiti firsthand impacted you, your life and your dreams?
Joe: The Global Village trip to Haiti was an amazing experience. The culture… the landscape… the people… are all so beautiful. It’s heartbreaking to see so many people struggling everyday just to get by. Haiti further cemented my dedication to Habitat’s central mission of providing decent, affordable shelter to those in need. The experience has inspired me to continue to work for a better global future.

HFH: Why did you travel to Haiti, and why should others continue to support its recovery?
Joe: I traveled to Haiti to become part of a solution. As soon as I heard that we would be sending these Global Village teams to Haiti I was ready to be a part of one. I’ve volunteered to lead another trip to Haiti because of what I experienced. I would like to continue to be a part of this effort for as long as I can. I have been motivated to share my experience and raise funds for Habitat’s program in Haiti. Others should continue to support Haiti’s recovery as part of building a better global community. The Haitians need our support, and I am ready to help them rebuild.

HFH: How have you seen the Haitian people being part of their own solution?
Joe: In Leogane, I witnessed the people from the Santo community working hard to get their homes built. They worked as a team. They did anything and everything that needed doing. Our team was able to work alongside them and share sweat and laughter. It was a very rewarding experience. I have no doubt that these people will create a great future for themselves.

Joe Johnston
Americus, Georgia, U.S.A.

Sobrevivir a lo peor (English below)

El 12 de enero del 2010, cuando se dio el terremoto, Eunide Eugene tenía cuatro meses de embarazo. Estaba en su casa en Léogâne, cuando ésta se derrumbó sobre ella, atrapándola bajo los escombros.

“Casi morí aquel día”, recordó. “Todo mundo –mis amigos y vecinos –creyeron que yo había muerto. Pero dos personas me sacaron de entre los escombros. Gracias a Dios, el bebé estuva bien”.

En Santo, Eugene se unió a cientos de sus nuevos vecinos que quedaron sin hogar. Más de un año y medio después sigue viviendo allí, cuidando a sus cuatro hijos, a tres sobrinos y a su abuela de 79 años –todos en el mismo albergue de emergencia.

Cada semana ella viaja en un “tap-tap”, uno de los comunes “buses” privados haitianos  – que a menudo son pickups destartalados-, al pueblo de Malpasse, cerca de la frontera con República Dominicana, para comprar perfumes, cosméticos y productos de belleza. Los lleva a las abarrotadas calles de Puerto Príncipe, para venderlos a crédito a los vendedores ambulantes. Los miércoles, regresa para cobrar sus humildes ganancias.

El albergue actual de Eugene es terriblemente pequeño para las nueve personas que viven allí.

“No tenemos a dónde ir”, dijo ella. “No tenemos dinero, no tenemos nada”. Una nueva vivienda, dice, ayudará muchísimo a su familia, brindándoles un lugar seguro y adecuado donde vivir y dormir.

Eunide Eugene
Léogane, Haití

Surviving the worst

Eunide Eugene was four months pregnant on January 12, 2010, when the earthquake struck. She was at home in Léogâne, and the concrete house collapsed on top of her, pinning her in the debris.

“I almost died that day,” she recalled. “Everybody—my friends and neighbors—thought I had died. But two people pulled me out. Thank God the baby was OK.”

Eugene joined hundreds of her now-homeless neighbors in Santo. More than a year and a half later, she still lives there, supporting her four children, three nephews and her 79-yearold grandmother, all of whom live in one shelter.

Every week she catches a tap-tap, one of the ubiquitous privately owned Haiti “buses”—frequently just dilapidated pickup trucks—to the town of Malpasse, near the Haitian border with the Dominican Republic, and buys cosmetics, perfume and beauty supplies. She takes them to the teeming streets of Port-au-Prince, and sells them on credit to the sidewalk vendors there. On Wednesdays, she returns to collect her modest profits.

Eugene’s current shelter is painfully small for the nine people who live there.

“We have nowhere else to go,” she said. “We don’t have money, and we don’t have anything else.” The new house, she said, will help her family a great deal, giving them a simple, decent place to live and sleep.

Eunide Eugene
Léogane, Haiti

 “Men anpil chay pa lou” en acción (English below)

“Men anpil chay pa lou” es un proverbio en Criollo Haitiano que significa, “muchas manos hacen la carga más ligera”. He estado vistiendo una camiseta con esta frase por un rato, tanto porque me gusto el sentimiento en general y porque cuando la compre en Threadless algo del dinero, de alguna forma, apoyo los esfuerzos de reconstrucción en Haití. La frase se convirtió en mi lema de campaña cuando empecé a prepararme para este viaje hace algunos meses, porque pensé que era apropiado. Si lo fue…

Después de dos días de trabajo en Haití, estoy abrumada con el poder de estas palabras en acción aquí en la Comunidad “Santo” de Hábitat para la Humanidad. Este es un ejemplo fenomenal de lo que muchas, muchas manos trabajando juntas para que la carga catastrófica ocasionada por el terremoto sea un poco más ligera. Más ligera no porque la traumática experiencia que vivió este país no sea olvidada, sino porque la gente de Santo sienten esperanza de tener una vivienda permanente, al ver que la misma toma forma frente a ellos.

Hemos visto, oído y aprendido mucho en los pasados días, yo no podría ser capaz de compartir todo antes de caer dormida, exhausta. Trataré de resumir desde ahora, porque esta es un proyecto fenomenal del que todos ustedes deben oír. Hemos oído historias de una gran cantidad de fuentes – Personal de Hábitat quienes han estado en Haití desde días después del terremoto, así como familias Haitianas a quienes hemos tenido el privilegio de conocer y escuchar. La colaboración entre las dos partes es una historia realmente maravillosa.

Estamos trabajando afuera de la ciudad de Leogáne, el epicentro del terremoto. En los días y semanas que siguieron al terremoto, cientos de personas que quedaron sin hogar se congregaron en un terreno que antes había sido utilizada para cultivo. Formaron una ciudad de tiendas de campaña y carpetas de diferentes organizaciones de ayuda humanitaria y se esperanzaron con una mejor solución. Viven en tiendas de campaña que son brutalmente calientes cuando hace sol y mojadas de forma insoportable cuando llueve. Consiguen agua de un pozo y la transportan en jarras y baldes a sus pequeños lotes de tierra. Las familias recibieron una variedad de promesas de viviendas de diferentes fuentes de información, pero estas no dieron frutos. Mientras tanto, Hábitat encontró esta ciudad de tiendas de campañas y negoció con el Alcalde local hasta que donó la tierra a ellos para un Proyecto de Desarrollo de Viviendas de Hábitat. En colaboración con Arquitectos para la Humanidad, así como lo que se determinó como una conexión esencial – líderes comunitarios – Hábitat empezó a hacer planes para una comunidad de 500 viviendas para ser completadas en los siguientes años, 150 de las cuales serían construidas este año.

La cooperación de los líderes comunitarios ha sido notable – escuchamos de varios de los líderes de comités – El “comité de adultos mayores”, el “comité de mujeres” y el “comité de jóvenes”. Ellos expresaron repetidamente su profunda apreciación para Hábitat para la Humanidad y Margarit, una persona local quien ha sido contratada por Hábitat para manejar el aspecto de involucramiento con la comunidad en este proyecto. Hubo una serie de reuniones de comunidad o “charettes”, donde tuvieron el aporte de miembros comunitarios en el diseño de las casas, manejo de tierra y espacios públicos. La primera fase para la construcción incluirá el 2011 Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Work Project, cuando 100 viviendas sean finalizadas en una semana. Otras 50 viviendas serán construidas este año, algunas por Brigadas de Aldea Global, de las cuales somos el primer grupo. Es increíble ser parte de esta fase inicial, y de escuchar las reflexiones de los miembros de la comunidad – hoy muchas personas dijeron que han estado soñando sobre esto por mucho tiempo y que están extremadamente felices y agradecidos por empezar a ver como se transforma en realidad. Literalmente, estamos construyendo sus viviendas de ensueño.

Allie Harned
Chicago, EE.UU

 

“Men anpil chay pa lou” in action

“Men anpil chay pa lou” is a Haitian Creole proverb that means, “many hands make the load lighter.” I have been wearing a t-shirt with this phrase on it for a while now, both because I liked the sentiment in general, and because when I bought it from Threadless some money somehow went to rebuilding efforts in Haiti. The phrase became the title of my fundraising appeal as I began to prepare for this trip a few months ago because I thought it was rather appropriate. Was it ever…

After 2 days of working in Haiti, I am overwhelmed with the power of these words in action here on the Habitat for Humanity “Santo” community. This is a phenomenal example of many, many hands working together to make a catastrophic load a little bit lighter. Lighter not because the traumatic tragedy that this country endured will ever be forgotten, but lighter because the people of Santo are feeling hope as their dreams of a permanent housing solution takes shape in front of them.

We have seen, heard, and learned so much in the past couple days, I will not possibly be able to convey everything before I fall asleep from exhaustion. I will try to summarize for now, though, because this is just such a phenomenal project that y’all need to hear about it. We have heard stories from a variety of sources – Habitat personnel who have been on the ground in Haiti since days after the earthquake, as well as Haitian families who we have had the privilege of meeting and hearing from. The collaboration between the two parties is a truly remarkable story.

So we are working outside of the city of Leogane, the epicenter of the earthquake. In the days and weeks following the earthquake, hundreds of people left homeless congregated on a field that had once been farmland. They formed a tent city with tarps and tents from various humanitarian aid organizations, and hoped for a better solution. They live in tents that are brutally hot when the sun is out, and unbearably wet when it rains. They get water from a well and carry it in jugs and buckets to their small plot of land. The families received a variety of promises of houses from different information sources, but these did not come to fruition. Meanwhile, Habitat found this tent city, and negotiated with the mayor until he donated the land to them for a Habitat housing development. In a collaboration with Architects for Humanity, as well as what they determined was an essential link – community leaders – Habitat began making plans for a community of 500 houses to be completed over the next few years, 150 of which will be built this year. The cooperation of the community leaders has been remarkable – we heard today from several leaders of committees – the “committee of old people,” the “committee of women,” and the “committee of young people.” They repeatedly expressed their profound appreciation for Habitat for Humanity and Margarit, a local who was hired by Habitat to manage the community involvement aspect of this project. There were a series of community meetings, or “charettes,” where they got input from community members on house design, land management, and public spaces. The first phase of construction will include the 2011 Jimmy and Roslyn Carter work project, when 100 houses will be finished in a week. 50 other houses will be built this year, some by Global Village groups, of which we are the first. It’s amazing to be a part of this initial phase, and to hear the reflections of the community members – today many people said they have been dreaming about this for a long time, and they are extremely happy and grateful to see it begin to become real. We are literally building their dream homes.

Allie Harned
Chicago, IL, U.S.A.

Después de un año en el campamento (English below)

“Pensé que había perdido a dos de mis hijos. Estaban dentro de la casa cuando esta colapsó”, dijo Chrisler Oibrice de 40 años y padre de cinco: Chrislanda de 14 años; Blondy de 6; Betina de 6; Féguer de 3; y Frantzo de 18 meses.

“Mi esposa y yo estábamos preparando algo para cenar, mientras Chrislanda, Blondy y Bettina jugaban afuera. Cuando comenzó el terremoto, tomé a mi esposa y salimos rápidamente sin tener tiempo de poder buscar a Féguer y a Frantzo”. Gracias a Dios ambos chicos sobrevivieron al desastre.

Con su casa en ruinas, Olibrice recogió todas los pedazos de latas,  madera y  plástico que encontró para construir un albergue para él y su familia. “Fue difícil vivir dentro del albergue, especialmente cuando llovía”, dijo. “Pasamos noches enteras despiertos”.

La familia pasó más de un año viviendo en este albergue inseguro, en un campamento de emergencia.

“Un día, un representante de Hábitat se acercó y nos dijo que nuestra condición era crítica”, dijo Olibrice. “Le expliqué que estábamos esperando un bebé, y que no sabíamos ni donde ni cómo íbamos a cuidar a este nuevo miembro de la familia”.

Hoy, Olibrice y su familia viven en un alojamiento temporal de Hábitat. Es una de las 1.250 familias que han recibido alojamientos en Cabaret, Haití, gracias al apoyo de la Agencia de EE.UU para la Oficina de Desarrollo Internacional de Asistencia ante Desastres, a través de un sub-financiamiento de “Servicios Católicos de Consuelo” (Catholic Relief Services), el Comité Metodista Unido para Ayuda (United Methodist Committee on Relief) y la colaboración de la Misión Bautista  Afroamericana (African-American Baptist Mission Collaboration).

Para hacerse cargo de su familia, Olibrice trabaja diariamente en sus cultivos. Su esposa, Dieutane Joseph, de 40 años, vende lo que producen y otros productos que puedan generar un pequeño ingreso. “Hábitat lo hizo posible, y esta es nuestra mayor bendición del año”, dijo Olibrice. “No sé qué nos proveerá Dios para el futuro, pero lo único que sé es que mi esposa y yo podremos mandar a Chrislanda, a Blondy y a Bettina a la escuela en octubre”.

Chrisler Olibrice
Cabaret, Haití

 

After a year in the tent camp

 “I thought I lost two of my boys. They were inside when our house collapsed,” said Chrisler Olibrice, 40, father of five children: Chrislanda, 14; Blondy, 6; Bettina, 5; Féguer, 3; and Frantzo, 18 months.

 “My wife and I were preparing something for dinner. Chrislanda, Blondy and Bettina were playing outside. When the earthquake struck, I grabbed my wife, and we jumped outside without having time to take Féguer and Frantzo.” Thankfully, both boys survived the earthquake.

With his home in ruins, Olibrice gathered up all the metal sheeting, wood and plastic material he could find to build a shelter for his family. “It was hard to live inside it, especially when it rained,” he said. “We spent entire nights awake.”

The family spent more than a year living in their unsafe shelter and surrounding shanty.

 “One day, a Habitat surveyor came to me and said that our condition was critical,” Olibrice said. “I explained to him we were expecting a baby, and we didn’t know where or how we were going to take care of this new child in our family.”

Today, Olibrice and his family live in a Habitat transitional shelter. They are one of 1,250 families to receive a shelter in Cabaret thanks to the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development Office for Disaster Assistance through a subgrant from Catholic Relief Services, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, and the African-American Baptist Mission Collaboration.

To take care of his family, each day Olibrice tends his crops. His wife, Dieutane Joseph, 40, sells what their plot of land produces and other things that can bring in some money. “Habitat made it happen, and this is our biggest luck of the year,” Olibrice said. “I don’t know what God will provide us for the future, but the only thing I know is my wife and I will send Chrislanda, Blondy and Bettina to school in October.”

Chrisler Olibrice
Cabaret, Haiti

“Haití estará para siempre en mí” (English below)

Recientemente regresé de Haití como parte del primer equipo enviado por Hábitat para la Humanidad para empezar a reconstruir desde que el terremoto de 7,0 grados azotó el país el 12 de enero de 2010. El terreno en que estábamos construyendo había sido donde muchas familias habían sido desplazadas y se habían instalado con sus tiendas de campaña tras el terremoto.

Los miembros de la comunidad nos contaron historias acerca de la forma en que lo perdieron todo cuando ocurrió el terremoto, cómo no podían quedarse donde estaban y recogieron lo que quedaba de sus pertenencias, también como empezaron a caminar hasta encontrar un terreno para instalar sus tiendas de campaña.

Una vez que el plan para el barrio se había establecido, fueron trasladados al otro lado de la carretera para que Hábitat pueda limpiar el terreno y empezar a construir.

Este es mi sexta construcción con Hábitat y nunca estoy preparado para las cosas que se ven. Todos los días que pasamos por los barrios, todo lo que podía ver eran filas y filas de tiendas de campaña en muy mal estado. Para alguien que trabaja en el negocio de las noticias y que sigue de cerca la historia por más de un año, yo todavía no estaba preparado para lo que vi. Toda la “ayuda” que hemos enviado no había hecho mucho para aliviar las personas que sobrevivieron el terremoto.

A un año y medio después, las familias estaban todavía en tiendas de campaña, todavía no tenía agua limpia y había una gran cantidad de escombros que aún no se habían recogido. Me recordó a Nueva Orleans después del huracán Katrina. En uno de mis viajes por allí, había casas en muy mal estado y montones de escombros que se mantuvieron en las calles durante meses.

También tuve la impresión de que las tiendas que fueron enviadas al pueblo de Haití después del terremoto estaban proporcionando un refugio habitable y seguro para los desplazados, pero con solo una mirada a las “ciudades hechas de tiendas” dejó claro que este no era el caso. Uno de los miembros de la comunidad explicó que las tiendas dejan filtrar el agua cuando hay una tormenta. Llueve muy a menudo en Haití y las tiendas se inundan fácilmente y no son seguras para que las personas permanezcan adentro.

Luego está el calor insoportable, las tiendas se calientan tanto que es imposible permanecer en el interior de ellas casi todos los días por lo que no proporcionan refugio casi a nadie. Estas tiendas de campaña que se supone que proporcionan alivio en realidad son inhabitables para las personas que se supone que deben ayudar.

Durante una reunión tipo ayuntamiento que hemos tenido con la comunidad, me puse muy emotivo al escuchar sus historias y ver cómo han perseverado a pesar de todo. Una de las mujeres utilizó un traductor para decirme que, “Mwen renmen-li anpil… Mwen enviado po-li andan mwen” que traducido significa “Me siento muy bien con ella. La siento en mi piel”. Este vínculo que hemos creado creció durante la semana que estuve allí. Ella me mostró su casa (tienda) y me presentó a su hijo. Hablamos todos los días en el lugar de trabajo y me trajo una sandía en muestra de agradecimiento de que yo esté allí.

Interactuar con la comunidad y trabajar junto a los futuros propietarios, renovó el compromiso de nuestro equipo para conseguir construir dos casas totalmente terminadas tan pronto como nos fue posible. Tuvimos éxito con nuestra meta al tener dos casas construidas antes de partir, y después de que termináramos de construir en el último día, los miembros de la comunidad se nos acercaron a las casas terminadas para sorprendernos con una fiesta de despedida, y para darnos las gracias por el trabajo que habíamos hecho. Todos rezamos juntos, cantamos juntos y bendecimos sus nuevas casas. Nos trajeron regalos y cestas con frutas, significó mucho para mí, porque estas personas lo habían perdido todo… ¡todo! Y todavía encuentran la manera de expresar su agradecimiento hacia nosotros trayéndonos muestras de aprecio.

Este viaje es una experiencia que cambia la vida. Siempre es una bendición poder ver cómo otras personas viven en otras partes del mundo, de manera que siempre mantengo lo que es importante en perspectiva. El pueblo haitiano pudo haber perdido sus posesiones físicas, pero no cambió lo que son, su amor por los demás y su amor por su país. Haití estará para siempre en mí y oro por los que conocí mientras estuve allí. Con las casas que hemos construido juntos, mano a mano, espero haber dejado una huella positiva en sus corazones y a como ellos la han dejado en la mío.

Nailah Ellis Timberlake
Nueva York, EE.UU

 

“Haiti will forever be in me”

I recently returned from Haiti as part of the first Habitat for Humanity team sent to start rebuilding since the 7.0 earthquake hit the country on January 12th, 2010. The land that we were constructing on had been where many displaced families had set up their tents after the earthquake.

The community members told us stories about how they lost everything when the earthquake hit and how they couldn’t stay where they were and picked up what was left of their belonging and started walking until they found some land to set up their tents on.

Once the plan for the neighborhood had been established, they were moved to the other side of the road so that Habitat could clear the land and start constructing.

This is my sixth Habitat build and I’m never prepared for the things I see. Everyday we drove through their neighborhood and all you could see were rows and rows of tattered tents. As someone who works in the news business and followed the story closely for over a year, I was still unprepared for what I saw. All of the ‘aid’ that we sent hadn’t done much to help the people who survived the storm.

A year a half later, families were still in tents, still had no clean, running water and there were large amounts of debris that still had yet to be cleared. It reminded me of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit. On one of my trips down there, we were gutting houses and piles of debris remained on the streets for months.

I also had the impression that the tents that were sent to the Haitian people after the earthquake were providing a livable, safe shelter for those who were displaced, but one look at the ‘tent cities’ made it obvious that this was not the case. One of the community members explained that the tents don’t keep out the rain when there’s a storm. It rains quite often in Haiti and the tents would flood and be unsafe for people to stay in.

Then there’s the unbearable heat; the tents get so hot that it’s impossible to stay inside of them on most days so they didn’t provide much shelter to anyone. These tents that were supposed to provide relief are actually unlivable for the people that they’re supposed to help.

During a town hall style meeting that we had with the community, I got very emotional hearing their stories and seeing how they’ve perservered through it all. One of the woman used a translator to tell me that, “Mwen renmen-li anpil..Mwen sent-li andan po mwen” which translated to “I like her a lot. I feel her in my skin.” This bond we created grew over the week that I was there. She showed me her home (tent) and introduced me to her son. We chatted everyday on the work site and she brought me a watermelon to show me that she appreciated me being there.

Interacting with the community and working alongside future homeowners renewed my team’s commitment to get the two houses completely built as quickly as possible. We were successful in our goal to have two houses constructed before we left and after we finished building on the last day, the community members came over to the finished houses to surprise us with a going away party and to thank us for the work that we doing. We all prayed together, sang together and blessed their new homes. They brought us gifts and baskets of fruit and it meant so much to me because these people had lost everything… everything! And they still found a way to express their thanks to us and bring us tokens of appreciation.

This trip was a life changing experience. It’s always a blessing to be able to see how other people live in other parts of the world so that I always keep what’s important in perspective. The Haitian people may have lost physical possessions, but it didn’t change who they were, their love for one another and their love for their country. Haiti will forever be in me and I pray for those that I met while I was there. With the houses that I built side by side, hand in hand, I hope that I’ve left a positive mark in their hearts and as they’ve left in mine.
 
Nailah Ellis Timberlake
New York, U.S.A.

“Estoy usando mi voz” (English below)

Frantzyse Erisma, de 28 años, es la coordinadora general de la Asociación de Solidaridad de Mujeres, un grupo que ha sido instrumental para el trabajo de Hábitat para la Humanidad en la comunidad de Santo. Erisma y sus hijas, de 6 y 7 años, son una de las familias que se mudarán de tiendas de emergencia a viviendas permanentes después del Proyecto Carter.

“Esta vivienda es muy importante para nuestra familia”, dijo Erisma. “Cuando uno ya tiene casa, solo le pueden suceder cosas buenas. Esto es muy importante”.

La casa que Erisma alquilaba se destruyó con el terremoto de enero de 2011. Ella y sus dos hijas vivieron temporalmente en una carpa de emergencia, luego se pasaron a vivir a una casa de una habitación en Léogâne mientras esperan la construcción de su nueva vivienda en Santo.

“Soy una mujer fuerte, y estoy aquí para ayudar a Hábitat y a la comunidad”, dijo. “Estoy usando mi voz”.

Frantzyse Erisma
Leogáne, Haití

“I am using my voice”

Frantzyse Erisma, 28, is the general coordinator of the Association of Women’s Solidarity, a group that has been instrumental in Habitat’s for Humanity’s work in Santo. Erisma and her daughters, ages 6 and 7, also are among the families who will be moving from tents into permanent homes after the Carter Work Project.

“This house is very important for our family,” Erisma said. “As soon as you have a house, good things can happen for you. This is very important.”

Erisma’s rented house was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. She and her daughters lived in a tent for a while, but since have moved into a one-room house in Léogâne while they wait for their house to be built in Santo.

“I’m a strong woman, and I’m here to support Habitat and the community,” she said. “I’m using my voice.

Frantzyse Erisma
Leogáne, Haiti

La historia de Patty

Patty de Arcia, una chica “común” de El Salvador, preparó las maletas para viajar a Haití. ¿Cómo lo logró? Recaudando fondos de sus amigos, familiares, conocidos y desconocidos, para que a esas personas tuvieron la misma oportunidad que ella de unirse a la causa.

Volver a Voces de Haití

Patty’s story

Patty de Arcia, a “regular” girl from El Salvador, packed her bags and traveled to Haiti to help rebuild after the 2010 earthquake. How did she do it? By raising funds from friends, family, colleagues and strangers, so that they could have the same opportunity that she did to support the cause.

Return to Voices from Haiti

Leer esta entrada en español

By Francisco Leguizamón, D.B.A.

A couple of months ago, I was fortunate enough to hear Bernardo Klisberg speak, a Latin American citizen who, along with Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize winner in Economics in 1998, wrote the book “First the People.” The book examines the problems of the globalized world based on the ethics of development. As a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Costa Rica, I was interested to hear the words of an expert in the subject and to share this with my colleagues. I think that everyone who attended was not only impressed but highly motivated to promote volunteerism in all its possible forms.

Indeed, during the conference, Klisberg made a sincere argument for volunteerism in Latin America. His statements, conclusions and recommendations weren’t rhetorical, but research-based and carefully developed. He continued with a brief comment about something he called, “The Seven Theses on Volunteerism in Latin America.” Klisberg began by positioning us in front of an apparent paradox regarding volunteers. “If they have no economic incentives, nor influence in the market, what can we expect of them? In the view of the most orthodox economists, what we can expect will be marginal and, by definition, almost entirely inefficient.”

From this statement, he proposed a way to resolve the paradox through a lucid, powerful, inviting, unconventional role of volunteerism in Latin America, and its contribution to development.

Volunteerism is a major producer of goods and social services. It is estimated that in Latin America there are one million organizations supported by volunteer work, acting in different fields: emergency services, basic necessities, environment, training, human rights, peace processes and more. The region, prone to frequent and varied conflict, is thus a fertile ground for volunteerism. In Brazil, the societal contribution from volunteerism exceeds 2% of the Gross Domestic Product. Recently, the president of Costa Rica, Dr. Oscar Arias, recognized the labor of Habitat for Humanity Costa Rica during the inauguration ceremony of the Drum Project. A contribution by Florida Beverages, coupled with over one thousand volunteers, helped to resolve the housing problem for the victims of the recent Cinchona earthquake.

Volunteerism is a builder of social capital. According to Albert Hischaman, the more social capital is used, the more it grows. In his words, “love or citizenship are not limited resources, or fixed, such as other factors of production. These are resources whose availability, far from diminishing, increases with employment.” Costa Rica in general, and Habitat for Humanity in specific, is a good demonstration of the ability of its people to respond with force and speed to their countrymen in situations of need.

It’s a fallacy to position government and volunteerism against each other. The state, by definition, is considered largely responsible for attention to social causes. Latin American history has taught us that this responsibility has not been sufficient for achieving the purpose of development. Countries that have achieved relatively greater levels of development present a model in which collaborative efforts between government institutions, civil society organizations and volunteer support contribute effectively to meeting development objectives. Klisberg expresses that the region must overcome the culture of false oppositions and mutual prejudices. Costa Rica is a good example of restraining this fallacy. The government responds in collaboration with volunteer organizations, dealing with problems like housing through projects in which they act as partners toward a common challenge.

Volunteerism is motivated by a strong force: the ethical commitment. Klisberg predicts that, “in a region such as Latin America, which has always been characterized as swarming with ideals, a spark can ignite them extensively… because the background environment is conducive.”

In a study by the University of Michigan, it was found that those who donate to a cause are 43% more likely to be considered happy than those who do not. Perhaps that’s why Costa Rica holds a privileged place among the happiest countries of the continent. That is the same appreciation of the personal satisfaction I have with both local and foreign volunteers who support the housing construction projects carried out by Habitat for Humanity.

There is an emerging new form of volunteerism, the volunteered building of citizenship and participation. Klisberg feels that volunteerism is at the forefront of the fight for expanded citizenship. “Experiences such as ‘Villa El Salvador’ in Peru are very encouraging. 350.000 people suffering from poverty used volunteer work to create an entire municipality. They built their streets, schools, health centers and highways on a self-management basis, and for the most part succeeded in improving basic living conditions. The ‘Volunteer of the Villa’ was decisive. Without the enormous amount of volunteer hours, the project would have been impossible.” As it consolidates and extends the experience, the Habitat projects point to the construction of a community that goes beyond the technical solution that provides decent housing.”

The achievements of volunteerism in Latin America have been recognizable, despite the fact that they are just beginning to emerge. While there is not yet the support for primary education levels that exists in other parts of the world, it is comforting to note the number and variety of nonprofit organizations whose results are based on volunteerism, and are contributing significantly in Latin America. The reader is probably familiar with at least a few in his or her own country, and perhaps already involved in one of them. While Costa Rica does not lag behind in growth, strengthening and diversity of solidarity activities increasingly occupy more time and energy of its inhabitants, particularly the younger generations.

Volunteerism has not yet said what it needs to say in Latin America. The words of Klisberg are at once inviting and challenging. We question, “Is it utopian to believe in volunteering?” And he responds: “No way. It is in the roots of the ethical and spiritual beliefs of Latin Americans,” and proposes a final example. “The Aymara, one of the oldest civilizations in the continent, distinguish between ‘welfare’, which means having material goods, and ‘good living’ which means to feel oneself by always opting for good and knowing that others see you as a ‘good person’. They argue that the welfare does not guarantee good living, but that this is a superior human state.” I believe that Habitat’s colleagues, and friends who volunteer with other organizations, can claim to live and work in collaboration with ‘good people’.

Incorporating, sharing and disseminating these new ideas and thoughts probably help us to overcome myths about volunteering, to facilitate the multiplication of volunteerism wherever it is needed, and to successfully overcome the barriers to our development as a region.

Leer esta entrada en español

“For me the experience has been invaluable. Although, working in the office, I’m not directly working with families or building homes,  I’ve found it fulfilling to be able to help out behind the scenes  and allow the team here to get out into the field and do what they do best: coordinating construction, supporting families, coordinating and hosting  volunteers.”

I had never volunteered before. I had thought about it, but was always too busy with work and life getting in the way. But when I recently gave all that up and had the opportunity to move to Costa Rica I realized that this would be my chance to get involved with some type of NGO. I also selfishly thought it would be a great way to learn about the country outside the isolated ex-pat community we had moved into.

For me the experience has been invaluable. Although, working in the office, I’m not directly working with families or building homes,  I’ve found it fulfilling to be able to help out behind the scenes  and allow the team here to get out into the field and do what they do best: coordinating construction, supporting families, coordinating and hosting  volunteers. 

I’m inspired by the Habitat for Humanity Costa Rica staff and the work they are doing.  They are so dedicated to the cause, so interested in the families they are helping and so determined to find new ways to bring hope to people it’s contagious and I’m learning that the rewards are so much more gratifying than the ever changing bottom line of the corporate world I came from.

Besides all of that, my Spanish is improving. I’ve learned a lot about Costa Rican culture and continue to learn more about the country and the people every day.

I’m grateful to be part of organization with such a spirit of generosity, kindness and such high levels energy and engagement from Habitat staff and supporters.

Christine Rothdram
Costa Rica

Seguir

Recibe cada nueva publicación en tu buzón de correo electrónico.

Únete a otros 104 seguidores