A New Year in Haiti… Let’s change concrete in 2011

One year ago today the workers at the Cap Haitien Children Home spent the day producing a new cement sidewalk near one of the buildings. The goal: Get the bare feet out of the dirt and onto a clean surface.

This work began just 11 days before the ground would shake for almost a minute and change everything in Haiti for years to come.

It was a New Years day, 1-1-2010 when someone video taped these construction improvements at the Cap Haitien orphanage. And then, like we do on the first day of each new year, suggested that by 2011 they would “Drain the Swamp” that muddied the yard surrounding the buildings.

The video shows the workers mixing the cement and aggregates for the project and then showed the orphans who were receiving training in concrete-finishing. The images of a child playing on the concrete, and out of the muck, demonstrated the rewards of that work completed one year ago today.

On this first day of 2011 we are about a week and a half from the 1-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake. The images in this video suggest to me our New Years resolution for Haiti.

I don’t know if the buildings of the Cap Haitien Children Home survived the quake. I don’t want to imagine that those people I watched working on the concrete or playing near the buildings are now gone. But in my mind this 96-seconds of YouTube video demonstrates why 2011 is the year that we stop accepting mixing cement on the ground in Haiti.

Witnessing this mixing process on the video reminds us of how difficult it is to make a good concrete in Haiti. It demonstrates that many have accepted this process as “culturally based” and therefore can’t be changed. To me the shovels simply represent a construction process that needs changing, from the foundation upward.

Look at the process and then logically suggest that this action will result in acceptable building materials. Ask yourself if you would feel safe with this stuff over your head as you sleep. See with your own eyes that poverty is forcing the foundations of Haiti’s homes to be doomed right from the start.

Please commit this simple imagery to memory and then resolve to change this type of concrete construction in 2011.

Change a recipe that has accepted skimping on cement and adding too much water. Change the quality of the sand and gravel. Change the lack of good structural steel reinforcement in walls, columns and ceilings. Change the foundations that hold-up the homes and buildings of Haiti. Get the shovels off the ground as a part of the cement mixing process and produce consistent concrete in 2011. Teach better engineering and quality control.

Don’t suggest that the job is to big or that poverty and culture will win again in Haiti. Take-on a part of the problem and do something. Suggest that others join in the resolution that concrete construction will be better in Haiti by 2012.

Today marks the 1-year anniversary of a video taken at Cap Haitien Children Home. View the images in this film and then resolve with me to “drain the swamp” of poor concrete construction in Haiti from this day forward.



About cementtrust

I am a director with Cement Trust and passionate about improving cement-based production in the poorest nations of the world.
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