LaToya Ingram with members of Clinton Hill’s Emmanuel Baptist Church goes to Haiti and builds houses.
Haiti lost so much housing in the 2010 earthquake and, according to a government official, the country has a 400,000 housing-deficit. Post-earthquake, Emmanuel Baptist Church took on a 10-year commitment to help Haiti and began its work bycollaborating with the in-country organization Grace International, building new homes for earthquake victims.
On the Church’s first one-week trip to Haiti in 2012, Ingram says, “I sifted rocks to make concrete for house foundations –three or four homes in the first block of Lambi Village,” located between Port-au-Prince and Leogane.
“I’ve also done interior carpentry finishing, “ she says. Ingram has returned twice more with work teams, always in February; this timeframe attracts many teachers and principals on their winter break.
The team works alongside Haitians who eventually live in the completed houses. Eighteen of one 20-member team were women. Ingram recounts how surprised the locals were of all the women. “We passed buckets of concrete, chain-gang style, that would be poured into forms for the walls,” describing construction tasks and admitting, “It was heavy work, but, we did it!”
LaToya Ingram is an organizational development executive with the airline JetBlue. “JetBlue heard of my experiences in Haiti and decided to partner with the agency (Grace International) to provide relief to residents still impacted by the earthquake,” she says.
The Grace International compound, 10 miles west of downtown Port-au-Prince in Carrefour, houses girls who have lost one parent or are orphans–terrified after the earthquake, a clinic, a school and a community center.
“There were 25,000 who lived in the 20-acre compound following the earthquake,” says Johnny Jeune, describing their tent city refuge camp as the second largest in the country. Most have relocated but there are almost 3,000 people still living in tents just on the other side of the compound wall.
After the earthquake, Jeune joined his parents’ work at Grace International knowing his U.S.-honed skills in general contracting, construction and development were really needed.
To this end, Lambi Village 1 in Gressier grew to its, now completed, 50 dignified, Haitian-style houses, built to earthquake- and hurricane-proof standards.
With a “Habitat for Humanity”-type work model, church teams build with the future residents, providing both physical and financial support. Additionally, Haitian trades and craftsmen are hired for the skilled work and expertise needed to build the homes.
Dozens of families in Lambi Village also live in tents (life for them is safer than in the tent cities). They will move a couple miles away to another planned development, Lambi 2 that will house 150 families.
JetBlue, as part of its humanitarian efforts, is financing a fresh water well for the Lambi 2 Village and its staff with Grace International broke ground at the site, several weeks ago.
“A Haitian well-digging company has begun the process,” just reported a staff member from Grace International’s U.S. office. “They fit us into a very busy schedule.” Once water is available, future residents will move there so they can begin to work on their new homes and the potable water will also be accessible for the local community.
On the recent aid trip, JetBlue, additionally, donated a vast array of materials–bed linens to bilingual books and sports equipment–to be used at the Grace International orphanage and school. Two laptops were donated to the community center.
LaToya Ingram was on that trip as Lambi Village residents proudly showed off their homes. She was equally pleased to see the fruits of her labor. She says, “I have gratitude and am humbled to be a part of this work and I am grateful that my organizational skills can help Haitian dreams come true.”