Posts Tagged ‘Barrier Judie’

Yesterday I was working at trying to finish barrel vaults on the Konbit dome. They will function as “wind scoops” so that hot air can escape through the top of the house in the summer. Most of the rest of the Konbit crew have left for their homes in the U.S. leaving just Craig, Moses, and myself here now- plus several million Haitians.

Anyhow, I was up on the dome with the fellows pictured and four others, and their discussion got really heated. Although I couldn’t understand all of it I gathered that they were talking politics. Who should be president, which president has the best platform, which political party should run the nation, etc. The kinds of things that get talked about when politics are brought up. All of the boys I’m working with up there are my age, in their early 20’s. I feel like they represent a majority in the population.

They talked about it all day, mostly- fluctuating between laughter and shouting. One young man in particular- the crew leader Ducken- Said something that made everyone laugh right in the middle of a heated argument. Then they all shut up and thought about whatever he had said. Ducken is a smart guy, and has great leadership. He’s already trilingual, and wants to learn to speak English– which he tells me in English. Whatever happens in Haitian Politics, it is young Haitians like these that will be making the real differences in their country.

Top of dome with Haitian boys

These guys will take care of Haiti


Gentlemen working atop a dome

these guys are cool

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Konbit Shelter crown

'Deacon' has led the project from the very start


plaster inside Konbit shelter crown

totally plastered


Konbit Shelter Project in Barrier Judie, Haiti

Closer and closer to finish


Konbit Shelter structure complete

First layer of plaster done

I have been working in the village of Barrier Judie outside of Dufort, Haiti for about five weeks. The project has developed from a hole in the ground to a beautiful rendering of earth and mortar.

I was brought to the Konbit Shelter project by way of my friend John Rinaldi, who recommended me to the project visionary Swoon. I worked with her and three of her friends on the project for the first three weeks. I have opted to stay until February, since two members of the crew arrived just before Swoon left; and because I can’t imagine being in Haiti without friends.

The dome structure is finally finished, and all that is left is to put a smooth coat of plaster over it, and to paint. Afterward, a Barrier Judie resident will have a home. In one week, I will go home having helped to create a useful thing in a part of the world that needs more useful things. If you are reading this, and can donate time or money to projects like this, I will recommend doing so. It is extremely gratifying.

For more information on this project read the Konbit Shelter blog

I have been in Haiti with Callie and crew for three weeks. We have completed the project that was started on the previous trip and are well on the way toward completing the second earth bag structure. I will not get too carried away taking credit for these brilliant accomplishments, however. The people of Barrier Judie have been mostly responsible. Here I would like to share a photo of the fellows that I have been working with on the “community center.” We have become good friends.



From left to right: Vixon, Bathol, Whistlerson, and Raul.

Vixon speaks a little bit of english, so he’s my go to guy for explanations. Believe it or not, he’s 33. I thought he was 22. Bathol is patient and kindhearted, speaks only Kreyol, but works at anything with full intent.
Whistlerson is a painter by trade, speaks Spanish and Kryeol, and runs the crew when I go away.
Raul is the oldest, and a Mason. He also speaks Spanish.

This is only a small chunk of the total crew, but these four are my homies.

For five days we laughed about communication barriers as I learn bits of Kreyol and they try to get things across with gestures and Español. The community center is looking really good- and you can find more info on the Konbit Website.

There are a few people from another organization staying in our house. Their goal in Haiti is to facilitate emotional healing for people who did not die in the earthquake. It is a noble goal. They are working to organize people in the village as a more unified community, and to provide productive outlets for them. I was fortunate to be asked to help them design a memorial on which the names of loved ones were painted in loving memory.

In the village of Barrier Judie there are a lot of kids. As a matter of observation, most of the people in Haiti are young. Every day we head up to the work site, stop for a load of cement, then drive into the jungle to start building. All day we are the focus and fascination of the local children. They don’t have much else to do than watch us work, and trail us between tasks- trying to hold our hands and shouting our names at every opportunity.

These kids have no curricular or extracurricular activities. The boys have no structure, and the girls spend a lot of time carrying water from the well to wherever. They’re pretty fricken cute- but I’m getting a reputation as a grumpy person, because it’s really hard to work on creative solutions when you’re surrounded by children shouting in a language that sounds like flubber.

I’m starting to be in charge of a little crew of people, and I’m finding that the adults didn’t grow up with much structure, either. Of course, it doesn’t help to get them organized when I don’t speak flubber very well. Big hand gestures, and lots of words in english that don’t apply to what you’re doing. I should try monologuing about bacon and chocolate while showing them how I want the place painted. Is that wrong?

Gad. I’m getting used to Haiti. Tonight found me in the back of a crappy diesel pickup truck with six people driving through the crazy back “streets” of the town on our way to a christening. We got off the only highway and drove through a crowded dirt track through the palms and improv shelters and toppled cinder block buildings to a church that seemed to be held up by faith alone.

It was covered by a tin roof on rough sawn sticks which were tied to the re-bar of a pre-existing building. The decorations were bizzarre- some balloons and taffeta paper bows hung on and around the pulpit. The priest looked nervous in front of a bunch of kids who didn’t speak Kreyol or French, but went on bravely about God knows what. The manager of our local crew translated the christening from Kreyol to Spanish so that some of us could understand what was being said.

With my rough understanding of romance languages I only understood about 5% of the words, but I think I got 100% of the intention. The two artists running the project have taken a vow to protect the child if anything ever happens to the mother. They became Godparents.

The ceremony took less than ten minutes. When it was finished there wasn’t much mingling to do because of the communication barrier, so we all shook hands and smiled and nodded and exchanged the few we knew mutually. We piled into the truck and drove back through the jungle town to the village where a supper was prepared to celebrate. We ate fried plantains and chicken at a table in the middle of the construction site under the light of a CFL drawing from an inverted car battery.

All told, it wasn’t nearly as strange or exciting as the voodoo ceremony that we attended on christmas eve. Nobody rolled around in a bucket of water and shredded leaves, but smiles were shared in celebration of two christenings. That of the child Betsy, and of the home that will be created for her and her mother.

To read more about the project, click the Konbit link in the blogroll at the top of this page. Our group is maintaining that blog collectively.

The roosters in the village are broken.

They don’t crow first thing in the morning as rooster tales would have you expect. They crow just past midnight, or right before I’m about to fall asleep. It’s peculiar and somewhat comical, when our nearest rooster is tone deaf. Never mind… it’s better to report that morale is high in our little group of Americans. We are helping to get lots of work done on the community center and the new dome, and we’re well received when we trek to the work site each morning. I can count on a trail of children to follow me from storage shed to community center, and everywhere else I go.

I made a pair of stilts out of 2×2 so that I could reach higher places when painting. They totally loved it. I wish I had caught a picture of it.

Haven’t much time to write, now- so know that we’re well here.