UMCOR partner Miyamoto International conducts a CARMEN training in best repair practices.
Haiti: Harnessing Power of Renewal
By David Tereshchuk*
June 18, 2012—Haiti’s struggle to recover from 2010’s devastating earthquake continues 30 months later, and UMCOR is playing a full and deepening part.
A vital part of the rebuilding process is ensuring that homes never again end up as vulnerable as the 300,000 buildings destroyed or badly damaged by that magnitude-7.0 quake. The program known as CARMEN –a French acronym forCentres d'Appui pour le Renforcement des Maisons Endommagées, or Support Centers for Strengthening Damaged Houses, is a central element in permitting Haitians to “build back better.”
UMCOR is a partner in this initiative, along with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the international construction firm Miyamoto International. They offer knowledge and hands-on training in building methods, especially techniques for greater protection against disaster, to more than 4,200 skilled workers and homeowners.
Part of the education drive also encourages residents to be more discriminating customers, ensuring they can insist on the highest quality work from artisans who carry out repairs and reconstruction on their homes, and they will end up getting real value for their money.
Twenty-nine year-old James Paul of UMCOR Haiti is busily involved in this wide-ranging effort. He’s a civil engineer, who says he partly owes his education and experience in this crucial field to the support of United Methodists.
When the earthquake destroyed the engineering department where he studied at Universite Quisqueya in the capital, Port au Prince, he was able to go the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (known familiarly as Virginia Tech) to complete his thesis.
“During my stay in Virginia I was provided with additional support from the local Methodist community, along with a huge number of other members of the local community,” says Paul. “They provided funds for accommodation, food, books, equipment and tuition fees.”
While in the US, Paul contributed his local knowledge to the design—by a team of volunteer engineers with the NGO “Bridges to Prosperity”—of a suspension footbridge for the isolated rural area of Ti-Peligre in central Haiti, allowing villagers to cross a treacherous river safely.
“The bridge was funded through donations from the local community, and particularly members of the local Methodist church,” Paul recalls. “They raised the money through various events including a very popular spaghetti dinner party!”
Paul then moved back to Haiti and supervised the bridge’s completion on-site in March 2011.
For a civil engineer like Paul, there was clearly much to do in his earthquake-ravaged home country. He found himself working on the construction of schools, churches, and, of course, new bridges, and running workshops with a local radio station in his original hometown of Gonaives, training people for sustainable construction work.
As a Haitian himself he is well aware what lay behind the horrifying extent of buildings completely collapsing in January 2010. “A key reason was that most buildings in Haiti are not designed to withstand powerful earthquakes; engineers have not—until now—been well trained in this area.”
In February of 2012, Paul was appointed Shelter Manager with UMCOR Haiti. So it is with understandable pride and professional determination that he says: “I am very excited to take on this position”.
A gift to Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance #418325 will support UMCOR in its vital partnerships in Haiti such as CARMEN.
* David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media analyst, and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.