Masons practice improved block-laying methods in a CARMEN Center yard.
Mehu Josny/UMCOR Haiti
By Gareth Lewis*
May 16, 2013—Ensuring that homes are never as vulnerable as the 300,000 buildings destroyed or damaged by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake of January 12, 2010, is a vital part of the rebuilding process in Haiti. Through the CARMEN Project, UMCOR Haiti, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the engineering firm Miyamoto International, has made a significant contribution toward achieving that goal.
CARMEN is a French acronym that stands for Centres d'Appui pour le Renforcement des Maisons Endommagées, or Support Centers for Strengthening Damaged Houses. The CARMEN Project was developed by UNDP and launched in late 2011. It aimed to support the Government of Haiti’s pledge to “build back better” by providing families the tools they needed to repair their earthquake-damaged homes and construction workers the skills they needed to perform quality work.
The project established five resource centers in heavily affected Léogâne and Port-au-Prince. In addition to providing easy-to-understand written information (i.e. pamphlets, booklets) on quality construction methods, the CARMEN centers provided training to householders (both owners and renters) and construction workers.
The training had two components. The first provided a half-day course in consumer-protection training for householders, including identifying and estimating the cost of repairs and creating agreements with construction workers and material suppliers to ensure the provision of quality work.
The second component was a five-day technical workshop for masons, which covered quality masonry construction principles for both repairs and new construction. The masons were given three days of classroom instruction and two days of hands-on participatory training. This two-prong approach was developed to provide masons with comprehensive support, as most of the reconstruction work in Haiti will be implemented by Haitians themselves, not humanitarian organizations.
Through a competitive bid process, UNDP selected UMCOR Haiti and Miyamoto International, a world-renowned structural and earthquake engineering firm, to provide the training. Within this context, each partner served a unique role. UNDP managed the beneficiary selection process, including extending invitations to participate and organizing the participants. UMCOR facilitated the consumer-protection training of 3,200 householders and provided overall coordination of the workshops, while Miyamoto International provided technical instruction to 600 masons and 600 demolition workers.
UMCOR and Miyamoto based their training on a curriculum the Haitian government had developed using international best practices. They then worked closely to define ways to more precisely communicate each module to the participants. Blocks and concrete, for instance, were used in practical construction sessions to explain improved construction techniques, group exercises were employed to explore how to assess repairs and calculate costs, and pictorial displays were used to illustrate the differences between good and bad construction materials.
The team worked quickly and efficiently, and in the span of just four weeks, completed preparations for the training. Experienced Haitian instructors and engineers, including staff from the government’s Ministry of Public Works, led the workshops and ensured that they were practical, up-to-date, and easily understandable.
In sum, 4,400 people participated in this vital training. As participant Amisial Ralph Junior explains, “CARMEN was a very good initiative for helping young Haitian masons like me to update our knowledge and skills to build strong, seismic-resistant buildings. I’m better able to compete against those masons who are still using incorrect methods.”
The CARMEN program made a significant difference in the knowledge of householders and masons by strengthening their overall understanding of quality construction methods in Haiti. The success of this project was a result of the close collaboration and shared vision of UMCOR Haiti and its partners. The partnership allowed UMCOR Haiti, Miyamoto International, and UNDP to quickly respond to the challenges that large and logistically complex projects often face.
Your contribution to Haiti Response, UMCOR Advance #418325, will help UMCOR continue to develop much-needed programs like this one in support of Haitians’ efforts to rebuild their country.
*Gareth Lewis is UMCOR Haiti’s Shelter and Reconstruction Program Coordinator. Gareth has been with UMCOR since 2011.