In early May, Irish non-profit the Haven Partnership will send a group of volunteers to Haiti for its latest “Build It Week” initiative, one of many seven-day programs aimed at rebuilding homes throughout the earthquake-ravaged regions of the country.
Started in Ireland in 2009, the Haven Partnership came about after founder Leslie Buckley took a trip to Haiti and was appalled by the squalid living conditions the average Haitian family is forced to endure.
Starting almost immediately, Buckley set out to establish a sustainable shelter organization with the aim of improving the Haitian standard of living, setting a goal of building 10,000 houses from scratch. Following the devastating earthquake of 2010, however, Haven amended its priorities and began providing emergency relief to those in the worst-hit zones.
Both before and since the earthquake, thousands of volunteers from Ireland and the US, ranging from the ages of 16 to 70, have put in 12-hour days in scorching heat working towards building and rebuilding houses, aiding in disaster relief, finding sustainable and clean water sources, and combating disease.
While located primarily in Ireland, Haven has lately expanded into the US. Sarah Fitzpatrick, chair of the charity’s US wing, believes that American interest in helping out in Haiti is growing once more, after the initial barrage of donations post-earthquake.
“People often have a negative view when they see foreigners coming down to Haiti to help out, then flying away again,” says Fitzpatrick. “However, what Haven really strives to do is offer sustainable living solutions to Haitians by giving them the tools and knowledge to become self-reliant. Our partnerships with the locals themselves make Haven’s initiatives both long-lasting and extremely fruitful.”
Haven’s projects appear to be working. Since 2009, they have trained over 3,500 Haitians to implement their developments once their volunteers return home, while also undertaking at least two large-scale “Build It Weeks” per year.
For their upcoming building blitz, Haven hope to find at least 45 volunteers from Ireland and an additional 45 from the US to travel to Gressier, a few miles outside of Port-au-Prince, where they will work alongside the local Haitian workforce on the construction of houses, a playground and a local community centre.
While all volunteers will be required to fundraise $5,000, the majority of this will go towards building supplies, local community development, meals, and transport to and from Haiti. Although expertise is always welcome, volunteers need not be qualified trades-people or have previous construction experience - a strong work ethic is all that is required.
For Fitzpatrick, Haven’s 46 percent retention rate (volunteers who offer themselves up for more than one Haven project) is a testament to how valuable the experience of seeing things firsthand in Haiti can be.
“We are hoping that our growing partnership with Habitat for Humanity will help raise awareness of Haiti’s ongoing problems in the United States,” she said of their links to other groups which also number Oxfam, who are partnering with Haven on the upcoming project. “There is quite simply a massive need for help.”
If you are interested in volunteering as part of Haven’s “Build It Week” from May 5 – May 12, or would like more information, visit www.havenpartnership.com. You can contact Sarah at 917-561-8044, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.