Ciamhie took part in Haven’s Build It Week in November 2012. Here, in her regular updates from the site, she shared her experiences and all the progress made by the teams of volunteers.
The past two days have been busy, busy. We are woken each morning at 5.45am to a different tune blaring loudly over the intercom around the packed campsite. With 79 other people sharing my tent, there’s no chance of sleeping it out or kidding yourself with an extra five minutes. You can only imagine what 80 people sound like first thing in the morning!!
Quick dash through the campsite to the toilet and shower block to get dressed, and ready for a quick breakfast in the crowded canteen. All aboard the buses by 7am for the 30 minute bus journey to the building site in Santos,Léogâne. Driving the short distance each morning to the epicentre of where the earthquake hit still shows plenty of devastation that ripped through this country in 2010, with ruins of houses and piles of rubble gathered along the way.
You quickly move from one emotion to another as you enter through the gates and are met with the smiling faces of the local children, screaming and chanting your names – “Keev”, “Jes-i-ca”, “Ger-al-dine”! Like music to our ears: what a great way to start a hard busy work day!
With a quick break for lunch at 11.30am, we are back on site, hammering and drilling away in the height of the searing sun. The Haitians have now taken to pointing at our arms and legs and saying “rouge” with a half laugh at our burnt Irish skin! Although the language barriers are frustrating at times, the Haitians sure understand how to have a laugh and have a great sense of humour, which baffles me when you see the desperate conditions they live in.
I think we forget that, although there are many countries across the world where people live in squalor, Haiti is part of the western world. It is only two hours away from America and shares the island of Hispaniola with the scenic, beautiful, luxurious Dominican Republic. They listen to American radio. They know what life should be like, and they know that it’s not this. And yet, day after day, after earthquakes, hurricanes, cholera epidemics, and tropical storms, they get up each morning and soldier on.
The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow… without education, life in Haiti will never change
The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow, and it’s fantastic to see so many children lining the streets each and every morning in immaculate uniforms on their way to school. Without education, life in Haiti will never change. Unfortunately, with no free state education in Haiti, this isn’t possible for every child. School is a privilege for most children here, and it is heartbreaking to see the faces of so many children still wandering around the site, long after school has started, waiting on their friends to return to play.
We have had the most amazing time with the children this week. From across the fence, they call our names with big smiles, giving us the thumbs up and high-fives! We have taught the children the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” with the actions to match, and watch their eyes light up each time. We were fortunate enough to get around to the other side of the fence to play with them properly, and were met with hugs and cheers and arms wrapped around legs. I couldn’t contain the tears as I walked away.
This incredible experience will live with me forever, and I’m sure in many years to come, I will be telling my children and grandchildren all about the fun we had with the children in Haiti. Already, I can’t wait to see them again in the morning. With this in mind, I’m off to have dinner with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, and no doubt Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood – see there are pluses to communal dining halls!
Until next time…..
Espwa Pou Ayiti- Hope for Haiti