Imagine getting ready for bed, saying goodnight to your family, and settling into bed for the night. Imagine going to bed with food in your pantry, surrounded by your prized possessions. Now imagine waking up homeless.
This was Osneur Mari Maude’s reality after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, leaving Osneur, his wife and their five children with nothing to call their own.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” Osneur explained. “I lost all of my possessions, but I didn’t lose my family.”
The earthquake left more than 1.5 million people homeless. While many left the hometowns they knew, the Maude family decided to stay in the area, setting up a makeshift transitional home as they tried to work their way back to normal.
Two years later Osneur, along with 22 other families who had lost their homes in the earthquake, formed the Kooperative Logeman Men nan Men (KOLOMM) group. Heifer Haiti partnered with KOLOMM to support the building of 23 homes for 23 families in the Lascahobas region of Haiti. Heifer also partnered with the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), a group that funded the entirety of the project.
One worry for many of the families in the group was to make sure that the new homes would be secure against any future disasters. The families participated in safe construction awareness training, learning what it took to plan and build earthquake and hurricane-resistant structures.
KOLOMM began constructing their houses in January 2014. Osneur, who is the secretary of the cooperative, is confident in the quality of the construction and of the training. “This is a chance to revive our lives and focus on the future instead of the past,” he said.
The cooperative members spend their days at the construction sites, helping to lay blocks, carry water, sift sand, dig foundations and more.
Although Osneur and his family are still living in their transitional home, they look forward to moving into the new house that Osneur helped construct.
“This is a huge step forward,” said Hervil Cherubin, country director for Heifer Haiti. “Community development is so important in this project, and it will help to rebuild a stronger Haiti.”
This is the first community housing project the town has seen, and yet the cooperative has seen huge participation, support and shared responsibility. KOLOMM plans on finishing the houses by December 2014, and additional training on food security will be offered to participants.
“Our children will finally have dignified living environments,” Osneur says. “These houses are going to change our lives.”
Although we cannot predict when the next disaster will strike, Heifer can help to train and prepare families before and after disasters hit. Learn more about how you can help families get back on their feet.
Story and Photos by Pamela Nyaga, Communications Consultant