Rhode Island Helping to Rebuild Haiti
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
“When I first got there, it was not easy to tell if the poverty and awful living conditions were pre-earthquake or post-earthquake,” Ryan said.
He recalled seeing multi-story buildings reduced to a few feet of ruins and mostly dirt roads crowded with rubble and tents set up by the homeless. Schools also were temporarily relegated to meeting in tents, Ryan said.
A Simple Way to Make a Positive Impact
Ryan, an architect with the Providence-based firm, 3SIX0, teamed up with Plan USA to help the beleaguered country rebuild its schools. “It was great to work on a project that is considerably different than what I typically work on,” Ryan said. “This was, I thought, a great chance to have a positive impact doing something quite basic.”
Plan USA, which is headquartered in Warwick, was already in the country when the quake hit in January. The agency, which focuses on improving the lives of children in developing countries, jumped right into the relief effort, pouring resources into rebuilding the schools, according to Robin Costello, a spokeswoman.
“When Plan surveyed close to 1,000 youth in Haiti, post-earthquake, and asked what would help, children said they wanted to get back to school,” Costello said. “They said they needed an education, jobs and a say in the future. That’s powerful. These are Haiti’s future leaders.”
Within a month of the disaster, the agency drafted an initial plan to construct 40 schools in Haiti, tapping Ryan to design the new schools. Ryan first visited the building sites in April, then returned for most of May to supervise the first buildings, working with local construction teams (pictured at below right)—rather than out-of-country volunteers—to construct them.
“They had a lot on their mind, but I think they did a great job,” Ryan said. “It was tough because you realized some of the workers are going home to a tent or a damaged home at night.”
But he said the workers he met had a can-do spirit and an eagerness to rebuild their country. “I got the sense that they knew that their friends or their children would go to the school—some of them had gone to the school. You could tell they were invested,” Ryan said.
When he arrived there, the infrastructure for the schools was, in a word, a mess. In the cities, public schools that had been built on cramped spaces with no fields or playgrounds, were now coated with a few feet of crumpled concrete.
Private schools tended to have more space—but no proof of ownership, since the deeds to the land were housed in public buildings that had collapsed during the quake. “That’s kind of the irony of the situation,” Ryan said.
Ryan first visited the country on a volunteer basis in April to scope out building sites and get his plans approved by the government. He returned as a consultant for most of May, supervising the construction of three schools in the southern town of Jacmel. Plan USA wants to build 37 more in the community as well as 36 additional schools in Croix-des-bouquet, a community outside of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.