Many of us sit comfortably in homes and watch the news on television, or enjoy a movie in the well-built theater, while at the same time others live a slowly developing story of tragedy.
The drama will unfold at the beginning of the next hurricane or earthquake, and will play out in the days and years that follow. In real-life, the blocks that surround the poorest people of the world will crumble down around them, and the terrible script is already written.
The villain in this story is mainly poverty; but missed opportunities from foreign aid and generous donations are also to blame. The opportunity for change is as simple as a construction block.
Cement blocks or bricks are one of the most common building materials in under-developed countries. They act as the foundation, the walls and the structure for much of what is built to protect people from the coming storms. And a repeat of history can be avoided if we divert our attention to helping them build better blocks. In Haiti people must attempt to build a home without the benefit of a functioning concrete supply chain.
If you go to your local Home Depot building material department you will find quality blocks sitting on pallets. The difference between what you see there and what a Haitian family sees in their home is like comparing a army tank and a tin can.
US factory-made blocks must meet strict standards of compressive strength and dimension, but Haitian blocks are commonly produced by the homeowner; on the ground and with no standards. Because powdered cement is the most expensive component in the creation of a block, it is the first thing to be written out of the recipe. Unfortunately the correct cement content is critical to stop the crumbling story of destruction from playing out again and again.
Another dark side to this story is the fact that a block will crumble when it begins with poor mixing processes or when it lacks the compressive pressure to create its form. In poor nations, concrete blocks are formed with mixes that are done on the ground and then never compressed at all. Watch the video (at the 1:54 minute mark) to see the opening scenes of what will someday be a tragic story.
In our U.S. block factories there are thousands of pounds of pressure applied to each block and sophisticated batch mixers used to insure the safety of our construction supplies. This process can be duplicated on a much smaller scale in Haiti and other developing nations, and we should find a way to rewrite history, when it comes to helping in block production.
If we don’t improve the block making process this story will continue. Writer, Laura Wagner interviewed a Haitian woman named Nicole who lived the real-life drama. She said, “It wasn’t the earthquake that killed people. It was the cement blocks.”
We can change the story and save many lives if we will divert some of the aid money for Haiti into providing the equipment and training to make better blocks. We urge you to spread this story to others and together we will edit out some of the sad drama from the next natural disaster.
Watch how they make blocks in Haiti…