Lessons learned in Haiti

Tonight is my last night in Jacmel, Haiti, having been helping in the relief effort for almost two weeks. As part of Shelters International Disaster Response, I have helped to clear rubble from two schools, and we just heard today that we have won the contract from the Salvation Army to rebuild the first one – a seven room grade school. I won’t be here to see it, but I’m heartened to have been a small part of the project, and proud of what SIDR is accomplishing with so little. The two Canadian founders take no salary, they live in a tent instead of a hotel, and they travel by moto-taxi and tap-tap rather than a hired SUV and driver. They treat their volunteers with respect, and give them 3 meals a day instead of just 1. Unlike many of the bigger NGOs, they have no overhead, so 100% of their donations hit the ground, feeding, transporting, and providing equipment for their volunteers, so that they can effectively help rebuild the community and provide much-needed training. True vagabonds, Laura and Scotty have called India and Morocco home for long periods of time as well as Haiti, and have not been back to their house in the woods of British Columbia in many months. As relief organizers, they go where help is needed the most.

When I set out on this adventure, I had no expectations beyond hard work and living in a tent. Even so, I was unprepared for just how hard it is to wield a pickaxe, shovel, and wheelbarrow for 7 hours a day under a hot sun, breaking down cement walls and untangling rebar. I met an artist whose workshop collapsed, paintings still visible under rubble, and I was able to give some assistance to a mother that’s living in a tent beside her damaged home. I’ve picked up piti-piti kreyol, and more of my french has come back from the recesses of high school memory.

Early in the morning I board a U.N. transport bound for Port-au-Prince to slowly make my way home to my supportive wife, comfortable bed, and indoor plumbing. But as I lie here in my tent, listening to crickets chirping and the U.N. generators humming, I think I might miss this unexpected place.

Posted by | Comments (5)  | March 18, 2010
Category: Volunteering Abroad

5 Responses to “Lessons learned in Haiti”

  1. Rebecca Travel-Writers-Exchange Says:

    Have a safe trip home! Most people are not fond of manual labor 🙂 Volunteering abroad and at home is a great way to give back to the community. You meet people from all other the world coming together for a common purpose. The bonus is that you learn and grow along the way. You’re may be open to the possibilities that the world holds for you.

  2. Nicolas Toro Says:

    Hello, I am interested in Shelters International Disaster Response, how may I find more information about them or how to get in contact. Thanks!

  3. Ted Beatie Says:

    Thank you, Rebecca! My trip home will take most of 3 days, the first one just about down.

    Nicolas, their web page is http://www.sheltersinternational.org/properties.html, but if you are interested in more details or a personal introduction, feel free to sen me mail.

  4. Nicolas Toro Says:

    Ted, thanks for the info, right now im busy in Peace Corps but this type of organization interests me very much for my future work.