Stories of Change

Marie Olivia and some of her family in their new home.

“As a family, we are comfortable now.”

“I am so happy with the house. They finished building it around me. I needed a house so badly that I started to sleep here while the concrete block walls were still being built. I just put a mattress on the floor,” says Marie Olivia Sermé. 

Marie Olivia and her family lived in a mud-and-stick house in Haiti when the 2010 earthquake struck. Their house was damaged and unsafe, so they moved to a camp alongside other families facing homelessness. She was able to leave the camp and rent a mud-and-stick house for a while, but eventually she couldn’t afford the rent and stayed with a friend instead.  

Today, Marie Olivia and her family are living in a secure, well-constructed house that was built with support from CWS. There are 10 people living in the house, including Marie Olivia, her children, her common-law husband, two of her sisters and one sister’s family. “As a family, we are comfortable now,” says Marie Olivia. “We can go to bed without being disturbed by anyone.” 

In fact, this house brought even more love and joy into Marie Olivia’s life. Her partner, Samuel, was one of the construction workers who helped build her house. “I had a good collaboration with the construction workers—we are comfortable. In fact, during the construction work I started to date Samuel, who built my house,” she said.  

Collaboration is a key part of the construction process. “I contributed food, water and 40,000 gourdes [$440]. I paid 10,000 gourdes ($110) to dig the foundation, and I provided three manual laborers,” Marie Olivia recalls. UMCOR and CWS provided other supplies, construction workers and technical expertise.  

Finally, Marie Olivia and her family have a safe and sturdy home. “They used a lot of rebar and a lot of cement,” she recalls of the construction process. “There’s a rebar grid underneath the floor, and the columns are made of rebar. The house is strong, since it has a lot of materials. Everything was done in my presence. I will no longer be afraid; I will no longer need to take refuge elsewhere. I am ready to host other people, because several other people hosted me.” 

“The house means a lot of change in my life,” she continued. “I can just drink water and I fill like my stomach is full. I am not afraid. This is a big change for the children as well. My son said to me while he was playing: ‘mum, is it God Who did this for us?’ I am happy and I hope that other people will also get to be this happy.”