We normally discuss the issues of concrete construction practices, but this story really gets to the heart of why Haiti struggles to rebuild in a timely fashion.
There is a new factory in Haiti that was established to build homes for the Haitian reconstruction effort, yet it is now working on homes to export to South America. The PermaShelter factory hums with activity as wood is cut, nailed and stacked for shipment. The sad part of this effort is that these good shelters are heading out of Haiti and into South America.
Why, in a country that needs so many houses built, do we have a factory building shelter for Chile, Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela? The answer lies in the challenges of red-tape, government disarray and to many big NGO’s trying to be the leader.
It is frustrating for the leaders of PermaShelter who invested a small fortune in setting up to help Haiti, only to find that the hammers and their Haitian workforce must pay the rent selling shelter to other countries.
The factory shares space with a cement bagging operation, another building material that is probably underutilized as we wait for rubble to clear, land rights to be sorted and the real building to begin.
PermaShelter has also taken the lead in helping local construction companies to have access to good concrete mixing equipment. They are making space to stock and offer robust cement mixing equipment for use in the reconstruction efforts. The improved concrete construction effort is also frustrated by the many long delays in getting the building started in Haiti. All of these issues are creating a situation where people are building poor quality structures to get out of the tents. They aren’t waiting any longer for others do something, so they build with marginal tools and with poor supplies just like before.
We wanted to build back better… We put up good factories… We offered good equipment, and yet we all sit twiddling our thumbs and waiting….
It is our hope that PermaShelter’s hammers can continue to work in Haiti, and that the people in charge of Haiti’s reconstruction will allow them to finally construct shelter for their own people who need homes desperately.