On March 4, 2010 Ferndale native Sam Moschelli traveled with Lawrence Tech. Alternative Spring Break to help build sustainable housing in earth-quake torn Haiti.  These are his journals.  Installment one includes days 1-4.



Haiti: Day One

Les Cayes, Haiti: Thursday, March 4th 2010


The plane ride(s) in were uneventful. The connecting flight from Miami to Port au Prince had a good mix of Haitians and people coming for mission work. Captain McCrackin was our American Airlines pilot. We couldn't help but chuckle. Christine Costa and I spent our time trying to pick out words in Creole. The ocean was a beautiful turquoise blue spotted with shadows from the clouds below. As we approached Haiti we could see a number of ships off the coast, presumably there to help with the aid effort. I also spotted a shipwreck just off a small island that looked like it had been there rusting for years. (Later Donald mentioned that the diving is phenomenal here and when things recover this will be a prime destination for divers). As we were landing the Captain blessed all of us who were going to Haiti to help. Baggage claim was quite hectic as people scrambled to grab their bags when they were pulled off the baggage carts. It was extremely chaotic and had trouble finding our last bag.


Going through immigration and customs was a piece of cake, and Donald's smiling face was waiting with Jean-Gary as we ushered through the red iron gates into the mayhem of the streets. After some packing ingenuity to get all of our luggage into the van, we were on our way. We took a lot of pictures of the various tent cities and the sheer multitude of people getting on with their lives. I was prepared for all of the destruction, but the intense and dense activity of the local Haitians was not expected. It reminded me of driving through New York and videos I've seen of streets in India. After about 5 hours of "offensive" driving we made it to Espwa. Not withholding pushing the van out of the river rock gravel road in the home stretch.


First impressions of the Quad, where we were staying...Tropical Oasis. After some pleasantries and good conversation we headed off to bed around midnight after having been up since 3am. All in all, it was quite an eventful first day.


Haiti: Day Two

Les Cayes, Haiti: Friday, March 5th 2010


We had a chance to sleep in this morning, but I happened to wake up before 7am. It was bright out and my roommate Jim was already gone. I laid in bed and listened to the sounds around me; roosters, children running around, adults hustling about making food and motor scooters buzzing around the property. The sounds, while noisy, were soothing and I fell back asleep until 9am. Pancakes were waiting for me when I went down to the Dining Room.


After breakfast, I brought the Girls Home Plans down and met with Junior (our contractor) and Deacon Peter to discuss our “over-engineered” foundation wall design. We ended up developing a continuous spread footing with intermittent block columns. The in-between sections would be filled with a traditional Haitian rubble foundation. We then walked the property to see all the different buildings on the campus and observed the past construction efforts. When we got back to the “Quad”, where we were staying, we empowered Kevin McLarney to modify my CAD drawings to reflect the new design. He also drew a 3D Model to better convey our ideas to Junior because of the language barrier. I think we may build a mock-up this weekend.


In the late afternoon, the trucks bringing supplies from the Sea Hunter arrived. It was a mad flurry of kids and adults ready to help unload the two trucks and a bus. The REACH team was able to take over part of the unloading efforts and work alongside the kids. It was a fun experience to be in the middle of the excitement.


Haiti: Day Three

Les Cayes, Haiti: Saturday, March 6th, 2010


Small wins has been the theme of the day today and late last night. Chris Harris stepped up and addressed the Wi-Fi issues. His suggestion to tether cell phones with unlimited international data plans to the computers has saved everyone here a lot of time and heart-ache. The 150MB limit on Wi-Fi just wasn’t cutting it.


This morning we went into town to pick-up supplies to do a mock-up of our footing and block design. 5 bags of cement, 4 - 30’ lengths of ½” rebar, and 20 – 5”x16” blocks. Gravel and sand was already on site. As we drove through Les Cayes we stopped off at the docks to see the efforts of day 2 of the Sea Hunter unload. Espwa had to pay U.N. troops to guard the dock (Later that night dinner conversation centered around how there were going to unload a 12 ton ambulance onto 4 small boats). So after the docks we proceeded on to pick-up cement and rebar from one shop where Junior negotiated the “Haitian” price instead of the “North American” price. Then we were off to the block making yard. We were watching them make blocks three at a time with an antiquated press. Junior negotiated that price at well.


When we got back, I went to the tool shed and pulled together the tools we needed. We decided to put some of the crushed river rock in the trenches to help with some water issues, and then we bent the rebar to put in the bottom of the spread footing. We had to use some ingenuity to prop the rebar 3” off the ground. Next was setting in the “L” shaped rebar that will go through the block columns. Judex, our translator, was helping to convey measurements to the crew in the trenches. In the commotion of trying to keep the guys brining gravel and sand to mix cement, I rolled my ankle. After that I was done being the supervisor. I handed over the clip board to Kevin McLarney and had him finish working with the crew. Christine Costa was supervising our concrete mix; 3 parts gravel, 2 parts sand, 1 part concrete, 1 part water. The gravel we have on site is mixed in with sand so two guys have to sift the gravel and sand so we can get the right mix. So to finish up, we got about 10 feet of spread footing poured and rebar placed for two columns. We’re really glad we took the time to do the mock-up. It will help ups prepare to ramp up production on Monday. We plan to make a couple more sifters, and make a tool to help ups do the keyway in the spread footing.


After icing down my ankle for an hour, a stiff Rum & Coke, shower and a phenomenal dinner of chicken, rice & beans, and vegetables, I was ready to close out the day.


Haiti: Day Four

Port Salut, Haiti: Sunday, March 7th 2010


I was up around 6:30am today, and went downstairs to the courtyard of the quad for early morning Tea & Coffee with the other guests. Breakfast was low key with cereal, but we were all anticipating going to Mass with Father Marc. He joined us for early morning coffee and I interviewed him about his vision and needs was we plan the charrette for “Mission Village”, a place for long and short term guests as was as Deacon Peter and his wife Linda. A big component will be to train the working age Espwa youth with Hospitality job skills.


After we talked about Mission Village we quickly talked about a pavilion that can hold roughly 1,400 people and can be used in a multitude of functions: Mass, movie night, town hall type of events, plays, etc. We then quickly got ready for Mass and headed to one of the school buildings. All of us guests had seats up front alongside the alter. Manton (“Auntie”), Espwa’s matriarch, got things in order and got the children to quiet down. The processional was followed by a choir of about 40 women dressed in black and white. There were also four dancers dressed in white robes that were bringing awareness to battered women in the community. I was able to keep up with most parts of the mass even though it was in Creole; Profession of Faith, Presentation of Gifts, High Mass, and the Our Father. The Presentation of Gifts was like nothing I’ve ever seen in Church before. Six women did a slow dance with baskets of various plants down the aisle stopping to kneel and do a small dance as they knelt down every few steps.


After mass we were able to take pictures with all of the girls who will be living in the Housing Complex we are building. We then had a fantastic Lasagna lunch that put us all in a food coma. Since most of our supplies won’t be here until Monday we planned an afternoon at the beach in Port Salut at a beach area called Calico. It was about an hour drive from Espwa, and before we got to the beach we put an order in at Auberge, a French restaurant owned by a Parisian transplant. We finally arrived at Calico and got to take in the beautiful mountains, beach and water.


We arrived at Auberge around 5 o’clock and most of us had the Lobster, which was exceptional. We also had our first opportunity to have Prestige beer, which is at a premium right now because the plant was badly damaged during the earthquake. Coincidentally, it is one of the first places that the U.N. is in the process of repairing and it will be up and running shortly. You can see where their priorities are at. I can best describe Prestige as a cross between Red Stripe and Heineken.

Following dinner we headed back to Espwa and proceeded to teach Chris Harris and Christine Costa how to play Euchre. We played a number of games and then headed to bed to recharge before our big build day on Monday.