Stories of Change

Lionel and his wife stand in the window of their new home.

Following Hurricane Matthew, which struck Haiti in October of 2016, CWS and local partners have distributed seeds and repaired or rebuilt houses in the Northwest Department.

A new house means new hope in Haiti

CWS and partners are helping to repair and rebuild houses that had been damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in the commune of Jean Rabel in Haiti’s Northwest Department. Local partner ICEDNO, located in the town of La Reserve, is leading the ongoing repair and reconstruction of 10 houses.

One of the houses that is being entirely reconstructed is that of Lionel Pierre and his family. Lionel, his wife and two of their children lived in a house built of rocks that was 18 years old when Hurricane Matthew hit. It was not a sturdy house; it had already needed to be rebuilt twice following storms.

Lionel said, “I did not understand how to build a house – it is ICEDNO that taught me. It is the first time in my life that I understand how to build a house. We don’t have enough money to build such a house, nor was there an engineer. When we felt that our lives were in danger we looked for refuge at the school [run by ICEDNO], to protect our lives. The wind was blowing and the rocks of the house fell down. The house was 18 years old. It had already collapsed two times before in strong wind (including hurricane Jeanne) and then I rebuilt it again. With these materials the house will not fall down.”

[Editor’s Note: The school run by ICEDNO was built by CWS following the Haiti earthquake in January of 2010. It served as a shelter following Hurricane Matthew.]

The foundation of the old house had been made of rocks placed on the ground – they were not dug in. That made the walls very fragile and caused the three collapses in wind. The family had also built a house of mud and sticks, which is where they are living during construction.

The team of engineers has helped ensure that this new house will weather future storms. It is being constructed in partnership with Lionel and his family, who have contributed labor, water and the digging of the foundation for the house and latrine. Lionel helped carry rocks and other materials from the main road where the truck unloaded them to the construction site. He gathered rocks to make gravel, and ICEDNO paid to break the rocks to make gravel.

Unfortunately, the new house is just the beginning of the rebuilding process for the family. They lost a mule, seven goats, a horse, a donkey, a cow and chickens as well as crops in the hurricane. Lionel’s wife used to go to the market to sell produce, but without a donkey to carry plantains that she used to buy and sell, that business has ended. The price of livestock has gone up since the storm, so the family can’t afford to replace what was lost.

The family now has more limited options; they must make charcoal and work their land in order to manage. They lost their crops and have prepared land for pigeon peas, lima beans and peanuts although they haven’t been able to purchase the seeds yet.

As construction continues, so does the relationship between the Pierre family and ICEDNO. In Lionel’s words, “The engineers tell us to be careful with our lives. They give advice and come often. I give God thanks because CWS protects people’s lives.”