During last year’s trip we selected this particular school as the work required suited the team’s skillset and fitted in with our timeframe for carrying out the work. We constructed new toilets facilities, laid new floors in the classrooms, built up and repaired blockwork on the walls, levelled and laid a new surface on the yard so they can now play Soccer and Basketball, Repair the stairs and added a handrail which incorporated a basketball hoop, Plastered the outside walls on the ground level and painted external walls and internal walls of the toilets and kindergarten sections, Knocked the old toilets and converted it into a recreation area for the kids, constructed a new roof on the kindergarten section and the new toilets. Plumbed the new toilets into the newly sunk well, skudded the underneath of first floor walkway and constructed new benches for the classrooms.
Each day we would be onsite for 6.30am and work through till 4.30pm in temperatures of up to 36⁰C. On the first day each person was given an area to start working on that would suit each person’s skillset, then as the days went on, we started to rotate between jobs so everyone would get a break from the sun and get to try working on different areas. While a construction site is a construction site no matter where in the world you are, there is quite a difference in the workload when you have limited tools available – I have a new appreciation for cement mixers after spending a number of hours mixingcement on the side of the road with a shovel and carrying by the bucket load in 36⁰C heat. However we loved every second of it, and there is a great buzz out of seeing the changes you are making to the building and to the kids lives which makes the work even more enjoyable. To all the Haitians people we are known as ‘Blanko’ (White person) as most of them would never before have seen a white person so everyone called us by that rather than our names. The kids don’t know what to make of us at first, they usually will come up and touch your skin very cautiously to start, and then they will try to rub the skin to see if the white will wipe off. The girls were fascinated with my hair – straight hair and blond is just alien to them.
Each evening we had something organised to do. The first evening the Nun’s of St. Joseph cooked us dinner as a thank you for the work we did on the building last year, and we got to see their school and kitchen in which they feed 700 people each day and educate 350 kids for free each year. The second evening we got to visit Mount Blonc where Mick and John had previously built houses after the 2010 earthquake. For the other evenings we brought 4 suitcases which were filled with a mixture of toys, sweets, jerseys and footballs, all donated by Irish people and we divided them out evenly between the school, the orphanage, the Hospice and the kids around where we were staying. In the evenings we would hang out and play soccer with the kids that lived around where we were staying. Word always gets around quickly that the Blanko’s are in town as the first evening we had 23 kids, and on our last evening over 60 showed up. This year Mick organised a penalty shootout where they would line up and each would get sweets and cloths with the winner each night getting a greater prize – one evening a Barcelona jersey, another evening $10 US Dollars (Equivalent to about €50)
We visited the orphanage another evening which broke every one of our hearts to see the state the building was in. No running water, no proper toilet facilities, the roof over their play area was leaking so much that some of them just stood out in the rain altogether. The rooms consisted of metal bunk beds that had very poor mattresses which would see 2 kids per bunk. The orphanage had 30 kids and 18 bunks. We all agreed that we had to do something before we left so a few days later we got sheets of ply wood and fitted them to each bunk and gave money to the pastor to purchase new mattresses. We are now making plans to return to this orphanage to carry out a reconstruction project in 2018.
Overall it was a hugely successful trip with us finishing the work on the school two days early which allowed us to carry out the work on the bunkbeds in the orphanage and also do some light repair work to plumbing and extra electric work to the building we constructed last year. The principal, teachers, and students were extremely happy with the finished school with the principal showing us his appreciation with a Haitian tradition of presenting us with a cooked goat feast.
A huge THANK YOU to every single person in ZimmerBiomet who donated to the cause, whether through money donation during the ‘dye a beard’ and ‘guess the score’ or through toys and cloth, because every bit of it has brought a smile and greatly improved a child’s life in some form.