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About the Program
Endeavour is excited to be able to offer a three-week natural building sojourn to Haiti this February, where students will be involved in working on an earth block school building and volunteer activities in a small community in the Artibonite Valley.
Tina Therrien is a leader in the natural building community in Ontario, and has been for over a decade. In 2010, Tina spent close to three months in Haiti, forging connections with NGOs, Haitian organizations, as well as ties to villagers in a small community. Throughout that time, she worked with Builders Without Borders constructing the first straw bale house in Haiti, as well as volunteering on other projects including earthbag, compressed earth block, and light clay straw structures. Her experience with different building methods, and her connection with various groups in Haiti, makes Tina the perfect candidate to lead a group of students through a building experience in Haiti. A former school teacher, Tina is excited to be able to combine her love of teaching and building in this new venture to Haiti.
What can students expect?
Students will start off their trip to Haiti by spending close to a week at a base camp in Port au Prince with an established NGO. From here, there will be a few days of volunteering on projects that might involve demolition, plastering, or reconstruction. After that, the class will travel to the Artibonite Valley to a small village where they will assist with the construction of an earthblock school for the community.
We will explore as many natural building methods as possible while in Haiti, with some classroom teaching, but with the main focus being on helping complete construction projects. We will explore various natural building projects going on in Haiti with earthquake and hurricane resistant methods.
Students will gain an appreciation into a new culture, with a world of experience that can’t be had by staying in Canada. Building in a developing country requires skills (and patience) unique to the circumstances. Learning natural building in Haiti will involve more than just building techniques. You’ll also learn the resourcefulness, ingenuity and adaptability that will allow you to work with the people and circumstances around you and still complete affordable, earthquake resistant buildings that meet the needs of the community.
Haiti was already one of the western hemisphere’s poorest nations before the earthquake of 2010, so the devastation of the earthquake hit this tiny nation quite hard. Much of the construction in Haiti is done with materials at hand, with very little money, and as a result many buildings aren’t built to withstand hurricane force winds nor earthquakes.
Endeavour is confident that our group of students will be able to contribute in a meaningful way towards reconstruction in Haiti, under Tina Therrien’s lead, given her connections with NGO’s and Haitian organizations. An important aspect of working in a developing country is to work closely with communities, first of all to identify projects the community clearly wants to develop, and secondly, to train members of the community to be able to perform the work on their own. Students from Endeavour will be working alongside Haitian apprentices who will be gaining skills they will be able to carry to their own communities to continue building affordable, accessible, earthquake resistant buildings.
Criteria for selection
Students will be selected based on several criteria, including maturity, physical fitness, general level of overall health, and independence. Life in Haiti is difficult, and even a year and a half after the earthquake, life for many people in the country remains challenging, with tent communities still set up across the country. Extreme heat, plus the possibility of malaria, cholera, and other disease make travel to Haiti a risk for those who aren’t in good health.
Prerequesites for Candidates
- Letter from doctor advising of good health
- Excellent physical condition
- Proof of anti-malaria medication
- Visit a local travel advisory clinic at least 6 weeks prior to the course commencing
Successful candidates will go to a travel agency to obtain medication for malaria, cholera, and any other shots the travel agency advises.
There are real risks to travel to Haiti. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to Haiti due to civil unrest. (Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to Haiti due to civil unrest).
This advisory was in effect both times that Tina travelled to Haiti. During times of political unrest, such as with recent elections, there can be demonstrations in the streets, which often involve tire burning.
Many of the advisories (not going out alone at night, not taking public transit on your own, especially if not familiar with Haitian creole) aren’t much different from warnings you would have in traveling through any foreign city.
There is a good chance that you will not be able to obtain travel insurance when traveling to Haiti if the travel advisory is still in effect. Access to adequate medical care can be limited in Haiti, and won’t necessarily have North American standards.
Real health risks include cholera and malaria, yellow dengue fever.