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Haiti, Project Leogane, volunteers

Oh What a Perfect Day – Memories of Haiti

Sometimes you get just the right team on just the right site on just the right day. This was one of those days. Early on there were no signs of greatness but there was always the potential given the number of All Hands’ legends on the team. First we went to the wrong site, where I managed to crush the end of my middle finger by dropping a breeze block on it, and we were only there five minutes. Luckily Neil fetched me some fluorescent red juice and the sheer quantity of additives and chemicals brought me out of shock and back to the task at hand – no pun intended.

Back on the truck and ten minutes down the road we pulled up at the house, a small one-storey pancake – meaning that the walls collapsed but the roof remained intact. People jumped off the tap tap as it came to a stop, sledgehammers raised and ran up onto the site. This was at a time when the rubble clearance program was still at its height. People desperately needed properties cleared in order to be able to move back from IPD camps and unsafe temporary shelters.

First the roof needed to be broken up, cue Wismy and Peterson who swung sledgehammers like superheroes and ably assisted by many others who traded in and out. The rebar inside then had to be untied, pulled out and stacked on the property. Finally the chunks of conrete that were once the walls and ceiling had to be shovelled up and wheelbarrowed away. Leah and Marine Matt sprinted with wheelbarrows, full of rubble in one direction, full of children in the other. At one point a precision shovelling chain sent rubble through the air from one shovel to another and straight into a wheelbarrow.

Time and again I’ve seen volunteers work harder than I’ve ever seen people work before, and not for reward but because somebody’s got to do it. This day and this team and this site embodied everything magical about volunteering and is why some many of the workers that day are repeat offenders. We finished the house in one day. After waiting months for help all the family needed was one small group of determined and properly equipped people and they were one step further down the road to recovery. I might have had to pay for the experience later when my fingernail went black and green and eventually fell off but it was well worth it for the honour of working with such an inspiring team.

I hope to see you all again sometime, somewhere down the road.

Evidence of a hard day's work: dirt, sweat and smiles. Check, check and check!


About Jess UK

Fell in love with the crazy, inspiring, all-or-nothing world of disaster response and the wonderfully ridiculous, hard-working people who are drawn to it. Currently working in the Philippines as part of the recovery efforts after Typhoon Washi/Sendong! Want to know more? Check out disasterchasers.wordpress.com.


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