Jim Carroll

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Guest post – Delorentos’ Kieran McGuinness on Haiti

Kieran McGuinness from Delorentos is one of a number of Irish volunteers heading to Haiti this week to take part in the Haven Partnership’s Build It Week initiative. Here, he talks about why he’s volunteered for the trip, the fundraising …

Wed, Apr 21, 2010, 14:44

   

Kieran McGuinness from Delorentos is one of a number of Irish volunteers heading to Haiti this week to take part in the Haven Partnership’s Build It Week initiative. Here, he talks about why he’s volunteered for the trip, the fundraising efforts and what lies ahead.

When the earthquake hit Haiti on January 12th, I’d already decided to look into possibly volunteering with Haven’s house building project. I’d heard the ads on the radio and checked the website, but watching the coverage of all the people affected on the TV I made my decision. I talked to my girlfriend first, and I guess she didn’t particularly like the idea of me heading off to build houses in a disaster area without any experience of being on a building site or being in a third world country. I also wondered whether I would be taking the place of a carpenter or plumber who would be much more important to the people of Port-Au-Prince in the wake of the tragedy.

The Build It Week is part of an initiative by the Haven Partnership to commit to build 10,000 houses in 5 years. They’ve asked people to raise €4500 and give a week of their time in April or October to build houses and communities in rural Haiti. They assured us that they needed labourers as much as skilled tradesmen and, so convinced that we could help, three of us signed up, plus our friend and soundman, Adrian.

We began raising the money as soon as we got our sponsorship cards, I called to doors in the neighbourhood and hassled people on Facebook to donate. We also organised a savage five-a-side in Ballymun and a table quiz in the Garda Club in Dublin. Organising a table quiz is harder than writing a song – it’s a bloody nightmare. We also did bag packs and asked anyone who we knew to donate and mentioned it at gigs (thank you especially to the very generous people of Kilkenny).

While we were fundraising, there was plenty of media coverage about Port-Au-Prince. When the story began to slip out of the news, George Hook, who had been on the previous October’s Build It Week, presented a documentary programme called “Hook in Haiti” and appeared on The Late, Late Show to promote it. Both programmes helped keep the crisis in people’s minds, which helped when promoting the fundraising events and meeting your cousins. It also put a human face on the plight of all the people on the island of Hispaniola. A subsequent Prime Time documentary focusing on the affects of the rainy season made my parents a bit worried for me, but I assured them we would be safe.

With our money almost raised, we attended the pre-departure meeting. They warned us about the hazards of the trip, the baking sun, the threat of mosquitoes and the list of inoculations needed. We also saw evidence of the scale of the tragedy and what we were going to do to help. There were emotional stories from the city where the community will be built – stories about people who have no possessions and families sleeping under UN rice bags.

This is an excerpt from the Haven blog about the city where we will be working: Gonaives is one of the biggest cities in Haiti and since the earthquake its population is estimated to have almost doubled from 100,000 people. This city has seen its share of troubles over the past decade – from political unrest to multiple hurricanes. The hurricanes wrought the most havoc. Jeanne came in 2004 and took 2000 lives and wiped out the homes of a quarter of a million people. No buildings were left untouched by this hurricane.

So now, thanks to many generous people, we’ve raised above and beyond our target, but there are still huge amounts of work to be done over there and its money and time that will make the difference. With a few days to go, I’m looking forward to the long journey, volcano or no volcano. We’re a little apprehensive of what we’ll encounter out there because of the stories and pictures we’ve seen, but hopefully the whole thing will be a success and we’ll achieve our goal to build the school, community centre and homes as planned. A few months fundraising and a week in Haiti could change a whole community of families’ lives, and maybe yours too.

Haven is seeking 500 volunteers from all walks of life to join them on their Build it Week in Haiti in October 2010. More information here

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