I returned this past Saturday from my week-long trip to Haiti with the Building Goodness Foundation (BGF). The trip was a great experience, although there are plenty of challenges involved in working in the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Not least, I was sick and well below 100% for three of our five work days, but luckily we had a great team of American volunteers and Haitian carpenters and the construction went without a hitch.
The house is small by most standards, 12′ by 20′, although not too small because many aspects of Haitian life, such as cooking and socializing, take place outdoors. It’s a fairly simple structure made of wood, yet it should withstand both hurricanes and earthquakes. Its few details include front and back doors, four windows, one interior partition wall, and a covered front porch.
Construction of the house follows a detailed plan that BGF has developed over the years. There is no floor platform to work on; instead, eighteen wooden posts are set into poured concrete footings, and the house is plumbed and trued as the plywood wall panels are attached. This is a tedious and slow process, but it’s worth taking the time to get it right. The roof trusses are built on site and then raised, and the corrugated metal roofing installed on purlins.
Camping at the work site made for very basic amenities, and being sick wasn’t all that pleasant. At the same time, the location was beautiful, balanced on a ridge overlooking a small river valley in the Haitian countryside. The area is extremely deforested, like the whole country, but the lack of trees does create some spectacular views.