12 Days in Haiti, part 2

(Days 5-8)

By, Sam Moschelli


Sam Moschelli went on Alternative Spring Break with students from Lawrence Tech to help with sustainable building.  He is sharing his story with The Ferndale 115 News in this three part series.  Read about the first four days here: http://www.ferndale115.com/20100401haiti.html


Haiti: Day Five

Les Cayes, Haiti: Monday, March 8th, 2010


We were up and ready to work at about 6:30am today. We decided we need to go and measure the footings and check them for square. Just our luck, things were not plum, and we had a lot of workers standing around. I got them moving dirt into the center of the house were we needed to raise the grade, and put crushed stone in the trenches while we headed back to the quad to work out some calculations. Christine Costa and I created shop drawings for the rebar placement and block location.


We returned later and restrung the whole site to be square. After lunch we had some Haitian Civil Engineering students take a crack at setting lines on the second house while we all worked to set rebar and dig out the trenches where it was off. We finished the work day with about 3/4ths of the rebar set and the assurance that things were square.


After a welcomed shower and an opportunity to hand wash my dirty clothes, we had a dinner of chicken soup and corn bread. My only hope was that the chicken was some of the roosters from this morning as they were extra annoying early this morning. Following dinner, we had some time to digest and then played a few hands of Euchre where I won every round no matter what partner I had. :)


Haiti: Day Six

Les Cayes Haiti: Tuesday, March 9th, 2010


Christine, Kip and I were out on the site early today surveying the last bits of rebar that needed to be completed. The crew was finishing the last length of trench that had to be cleaned out and widened. They were also prepping all the materials for the fever pace concrete mixing that will be going on. We pulled the whole crew together and divided up responsibilities for the day; two crews finishing up rebar, two crews mixing concrete one crew sifting gravel and sand and the rest on bucket brigade. Junior was on top of the right concrete mix ratios and we were on our way. Concrete is what the Haitian people deal with regularly, so they were off and running.


Chris Harris with the help of an American transplant named Scooby set up a level and makeshift measuring stick and marked the depth of footing throughout the trenches. The Haitian crew snapped a line on Chris’ stakes and the concrete went smoothly.


When we finished lunch we met with the Civil Engineering students and talked to them about Stucc on Steel. Afterword, our LTU crew worked on squaring up the lines for the second house. Somewhere in that time period I rolled my ankle again. I guess it’s time to wrap it.


After dinner we were entertained by Espwas’s local rap group, “Easy Cross”. They were high energy and fun. Linda, Deacon Peter’s wife, was glowing like a proud momma. Apparently these guys finished second in a national contest. Check them out on Youtube when you have a chance.






Haiti: Day Seven

Les Cayes Haiti: Wednesday, March 10th, 2010


I am really getting my monies worth out of my one semester of Mr. Johnsons French class from my junior year of high school 17 years ago. I’m doing my best to communicate with all of the workers. The language barrier really slows progress down sometimes. I would also associate living in the Quad with living in a zoo, and we are the animals. Imagine a building shaped like a Greek cross with a courtyard in the center. The inside corners are either wrought iron gates or decorative block with openings. The children constantly just hang out at the gate and watch you, ask you for something or want you to do something with them. You have to be “on” 24/7 while you are here.


Today was a scorcher outside. Twenty minutes of hard work combined with the sun beating on you just sucked all o my energy away. I had to hydrate and get in the shade frequently. We started the day laying two courses of block and making things fit on some of the shifted rebar. At the same time, the trenches in the second house ad to be widened. For some reason, the widening took all morning. They kept digging further down and didn’t make things wide enough. I finally had enough just before lunch and started making things happen. By this time Kevin McLarney, Christine Costa, and Chris Harris had finished prepping all the rebar for House #2. By the time lunch was over, the trenches were at 3 foot deep, had a crushed stone base, and were ready for rebar. By the end of the day most of the rebar was set, and we had columns five courses high in the first house.


We invited all of the workers over to the quad after 4 o’clock for some Cokes in the Quad courtyard. With Judex’s help, Donald thanked everyone for their continued hard work and told everyone to learn as much as they can about the building technology and to ask questions.


For dinner we welcomed four new guests who are staying at the Quad; an elderly couple, their son, and one of their grandsons who is seventeen. We quickly recruited him to fill in for Chris Harris tomorrow, who will be going into town tomorrow with Natalie, Espwa’s Accountant. Chris will be setting up a server and a four-computer network with Quickbooks to get things running smoother in the accounting office.


I spent the evening patching holes in my clothes from where I backed into some rebar, and then hand washed my clothes afterwards.


Haiti: Day Eight

Les Cayes Haiti: Thursday, March 11th, 2010


So this week I realized that roosters climb trees. There is a convenient Mango Tree a few yards from my window. No wonder those roosters are so loud. All. Night. Long… This morning we were all a little hesitant on heading out to work today. The Sun just beat us up yesterday, and we were dragging our feet. Christine Costa was the first one out to the site and she hit the trenches in Unit “B” to finish up the vertical rebar. Kip and one of the new guests, Aaron, jumped in as well to get the rebar done.

When I got out there I started prepping the get the Rubble Foundation going. I grabbed the sledge hammer and started breaking up the large river rock so there will be some jagged edges for the mortar to grab on to. Soon, I had about 8 guys down in-between the block columns in Unit “A” laying the Rubble Foundation.


I had hopes of pouring the spread footing in Unit “B” today but with the progress moving along so well on the Rubble Foundation, and the heat, I wasn’t going to push it. Eighty percent of the Unit “A” Rubble Foundation was completed today, so I feel pretty good about where we’re at. My plan is to pour the spread footing on Unit “B” in the morning and have a couple of guys finish the Rubble Foundation on Unit “A”.


Two new guests arrived today; a young reporter from Boston, Jamila, with Haitian roots, and her friend Joe, who is also of Haitian decent. Kip sat with them at dinner and ended up getting an interview. After some time talking with everyone up on the Quad roof, we headed to bed to prepare for our last day of work.