"Habitat for Humanity is about standing shoulder to shoulder with people and giving them visibility. It's about acknowledging them as people--brilliant, valuable people."
I love this quote from Mary Guidice, the director of operations at Habitat for Humanity Haiti!
In a recent email from HFH, I was introduced to some of the brilliant, valuable people I'll be meeting in Haiti in just a few short weeks. Let me introduce them to you:
Marie Veronila Antoine (What a fantastic name!)
Marie is assistant coordinator of the Association of Women's Solidarity in the Santo community. She is a force of nature, dressed in a Halloween vest and skirt in midsummer, with bright-colored curlers in her hair and carrying a purse covered with black-and-white images of Lucy and Ethel. She seems to know everybody in the community of emergency shelters, stopping often to exchange a laugh.
Her good humor belies the living conditions that she and two of her three children--daughter Johanna and son Nicolas--have suffered since the 2010 earthquake
"We do not want to live in these conditions," Antoine said. "This Habitat project is a new life for us. We need to show everybody here there is a new life."
The Santo Association of Women's Solidarity's purpose is to help prevent violence against women and children, and to educate women on how to improve their own lives.
"In Haiti, they say girls cannot work like men, but we like to show them different," Antoine said. "we like to show that we can work equal as men."
Genevieve Merveille and family
Genevieve Marveille, 28, and her husband Fenes Mathurin, lost everything they owned in the 2010 earthquake. But they survived with their three children: daughter Mirlaine and sons Kervins and Jean Felder.
Merveille's husband drives a taxi in Port-au-Prince, a commute that often takes two hours in each direction. Merveille is left to tend to the children, when they're not in school, and to try to make a tent a livable home.
After the Carter Work Project, Merveille and her family will move into a simple, decent house made of concrete and wood, with a real foundation and a roof. She is most excited about the difference a house will make on her children's health. The youngest boy suffers from asthma, aggravated by the dirt floor in the temporary shelter. And daughter Mirlain has had problems with her skin, caused by the extreme heat in the tent.
All three children are good students, their mother said, although Kervins is the only one who doesn't have to be prompted to keep up with his schoolwork.
"He only cares about studying," Merveille said, "He wants to be a doctor."
Rosette Louis and family
Rosette Louis, 70, shares a tiny temporary shelter with three of her four grown children. During the day, her children go out in search of work--anything to help the family survive. At night all four adults share meager rations of rice and bed down in a space barely big enough for one.
Before the 2010 earthquake, Louis rented a house in Leogane and eked out a living as a street vendor. Since the earthquake, her situation has turned desperate, forcing her to survive on virtually no income in a tent made of worn tarps.
Yet, at age 70, Louis keeps up with workers less than half her age, helping a crew of 20 community members to clear the land for the Carter Work Project. "I'm healthy. When I'm tired, I take vitamins! We are all happy to do the work."
When asked how she feels about owning her own house, the slender woman breaks into an impromptu dance.
Adeline Auguste and family
Adeline Auguste, 55, still bears the physical and emotional scars of the 2010 earthquake that took her husband's life and destroyed the home they shared in Leogane. When the earthquake struck, Auguste tried to run outside but fell, and part of the concrete house collapsed on top of her. Among many injuries, she suffered a broken wrist.
"It still give me a lot of pain," she said. The bone wasn't properly set, and her range of motion is severely limited. In addition to the broken wrist, Auguste still copes with persistent headaches and a knee injury that requires prescription medicine. Since she lives in a temporary shelter made of tarps, though, she cannot keep the medicine at a stable temperature.
"It's too hot during the day and too cold during the night," she said.
Auguste has attended all the planning meetings for the Carter Work Project and is excited about seeing this temporary community of shelters become a permanent home for her and her neighbors.
"With the new house, I'll be able to follow my prescribed treatment," she said. "It will be a total change for me."
It's not too late for you to stand shoulder to shoulder with these amazing people and give them the visibility that they deserve. Donate to Habitat for Humanity Haiti by clicking on the link to the right.