One car two site visits. How best to divide the time accordingly? Well why not team up and help each other out? Visiting Ecole Mixte de Nancy and Institut du Foyer Savior aka Home of Knowledge, to conduct site measurements, site verifications and client meetings.
Posts by Lilian
Tensions are very high at the moment when the results of the 28th November election was released last night 7th December 2010. The results was saw Mirlande Manigat with 31.7%, Jude Celestin with 22.48% and Michel Martelly with 21.84%. The people know they voted for Manigat and Martelly, so how did Celestin squeeze into the top two?
This is the key reason why protester's have hit the streets, torching car tires, throwing rubble and ripping down and igniting Jude Celestin posters.
The Rebuilding Centre is the base for the Architecture for Humanity and has recently been awarded a grant for $800K thereabout grant from the Bush/Clinton Fund.
AFH office is housed on the ground floor and this is where I spend most of my days here in Haiti.
The presidential elections in Haiti caused much disruption and 'lock-down.' For four days we stayed in the Maison, not even allowed to go for a jog or a walk up and down the hill!
For months election fever spread throughout the country with campaign posters strewn on all empty walls, poles, fences, fallen houses too! The run up to the 28th November saw more and more poster flying up in the sky, covering opposition posters even one candidate decided to have a different image and re-did his poster!
Belleville, a whole other world in Haiti. A gated community for the wealthy in Port-au-Prince. Driving through this district one can feel as if they were in America or a suburb in the UK. The streets were manicured, the roads were smooth and perfect. You would not have thought this was Haiti!
'Gingerbread' architecture, a term coined by American tourists in the 1950's who visited Haiti has long been the term used to call these timber framed houses. This style of architecture ceased to be built in 1925 as it was banned in the city due to it being a fire hazard.
The Gingerbread Houses reflected a time of prosperity and creativity when Haiti was a vibrant part of the international community. It had hosted the Paris Exposition in 1900 which saw the local Haitian artists incorporating foreign influences into its indigenous art and architecture.
The hotel Oloffson, stands proudly and is the epitome of the typical Haitian gingerbread architecture. It was built in the late 19th century as a private home.
The property owned by the Sam family who had a lineage of Haitian presidents. Tirésias Simon-Sam was president of Haiti from 1896 to 1902 and the mansion was built by Tirésias's son, Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam. The Sams lived in the mansion until 1915, when Guillaume himself became president but only for five months until he was torn to pieces by an angry mob.
By chance we found out about this art fair organised and sponsored by Digicel happening near the new American Embassy out in Tabarre. So a few of us decided to head out there to see what was going on.
It was a collection of local artists showcasing a variety of Haitian art. It was an impressive collection and reflected the creative personality of Haiti.
Architecture for Humanity, Bezos Family Foundation together with Global Nomads Group have collaborated to get young people helping with rebuilding Haiti's schools. There intention is to get American & Canadian high school students involved with fundraising and awareness raising.
What happens is that every dollar raised by the students, it will be matched in a grant form by AFH, Bezos and GNG. Schools in Haiti wishing to be part of this grant scheme apply to be registered in the program.
Tap-tap's are readily seen all over Port-au-Prince. These are the Haitian taxi cabs and serve as public transportation in Haiti. Tap-taps are privately owned, but publicly operated as a form of shared taxi. The larger Urban Tap-taps are small pickup trucks, the smaller sometimes mini-vans, with benches and a sun cover, able to maneuver in heavy traffic.
Haiti's own Banksy!
His graffiti can be found all over Petionville and downtown Port-au-Prince. It carries both a satirical humor and political message. Much of it is repeated in different parts of the city, and a few imitations can be seen, but we know its a Jerry, when we see his signature, not the 'r's' are without the back, so one would think it says Jezzy but from our good Haitian source, his name is Jerry.
Finally, I get to visit the site in which we are building houses for Digicel Foundation. Two houses are on the drawing board. House of Odeline and House for Marie. Both are workers at a local hospital and both are in line for a new house.
The first site for Papa Odeline, is a simple house for four people. The site is very marshy and water logged, which has created site issues for construction and design. The second site, much less problematic is for Marie, but a house suitable for 17 people.
A few AFH volunteers and myself got to go and explore the Southern coastal town of Jacmel. It is about a 4/5 hour drive from Port-au-Prince, and a bumpy journey it was as we drove out of the capital. The roads up the mountain were surprisingly smooth and the journey wasn't too bad.
Jacmel, founded in 1698 was formerly called by its Taino name 'Yaquimel' until the French colonialist arrived and renamed it Jacmel. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and has a charm likened to that of New Orleans.
After a few months of e-mail correspondence I finally get to meet Fr. Gerry O'Connor, a Redemptorist priest who works and lives in Ireland. Alongside his job as a priest he also runs a Charity called Serve, 'solidarity in action.' They work in developing countries, offering volunteer programs to either to house build or to educate.
Fr. Gerry, or he likes to be called Gerry, currently is helping the Redemptorists in Haiti. If you read my previous blog about the Redemptorist under 'Home Away from Home', you can understand why they need help.
Haiti is a developing country, which entails manic driving, 'haitian' time (a real test of patience) and organised chaos. It reminds me a lot of places in Asia, especially South East Asia. The driving is on par to that of Vietnam, though instead of motorcycles they are SUV's or 4 x 4 jeeps!
However, my thoughts are actually pointing towards a positive of the Haitian government. MTPTC is the Le Ministère des Travaux Publics, Transport et Communications. They basically devised a building system to reveal the structural stability of each building.
Throughout the street corners, road bends and sometimes tucked away behind gated walls lie a very beautiful and creative side to Haiti. Paintings are strewn on the sidewalk, (well Haitian sidewalks, meaning sandy muddy pathways) clay pots hanging off trees and furniture being made and sold on the sides of busy roads.
Art can be seen everywhere, from painted advertisements on the walls, to straw chairs, to brightly coloured buildings to political graffiti. It is really part of the city and I think it is amazing!
Before I bore people with the projects I am currently working on I will introduce you to my 'home.' It has been affectionately called the 'Maison,' not really original as that means house in French.
It belongs to the Uncle of one of the design fellows working with us. It is very common for most Haitian's, with some money, to leave Haiti as soon as they can. This doesn't mean they don't want to come and visit, so most still own properties here.
It is very usual for NGO's to help each other out. The house we stay in is rather large, and we tend to always have a few beds spare. Currently, Global Nomads Group, an American NGO have 3 representatives staying with us. They have a strong relationship with Architecture for Humanity (AFH) and together with Students Rebuild help to fund and implement education programs for the schools we build.
Global Nomads Group basically creates education programs through visual media and technology so that the high school kids in the US can interact with the Haitian high school kids. Tools such as live video-conferencing and multi-media videos enables direct contact and provide continual relationships.
1946 was the last recorded earthquake on Haiti. As a result no one was prepared for such devastation on 12th January 2010. Because in most people's lifetime they have never known or experienced an earthquake. This was why so many people perished, so many buildings collapsed and why the intense destruction.
A home away from home, well not quite, but in the case of attending mass, it was! A typical Catholic mass, so I knew when to stand and when to sit, when to say 'Amen' and when to make the sign of the cross. However, Edinburgh is missing something, a set of bongo drums! That would really make for more upbeat hymns.
So if you haven't guessed I managed to break from the team and attend mass at the Redemptorist church called St Gerard. You would think it would be an easy morning, attending church, however in this case it was really testing my faith.
So I saw that Architecture for Humanity was taking on volunteers to work on rebuilding Haiti, specifically architects and builders. On a whim I decided to apply for it. Not hearing back for about three months, I received in my inbox "Hey Lilian. We'd like you to come down!" (more emphasis if said in an American accent!) I took up their offer and signed their 'Participation Agreement,' believe me, after reading that, it did make me want to change my mind, and not go to Haiti.