Irish NGO appeals for aid and volunteers to rebuild Haiti

A man calls for help while being trapped at the Port-au-Prince University, after a major earthquake struck, in Port-au-Prince.

A man calls for help while being trapped at the Port-au-Prince University, after a major earthquake struck, in Port-au-Prince.

Irish based international NGO Haven is calling on Galway people to volunteer to build houses for Haitian families experiencing extreme poverty. The organisation, which works to provide houses and community development schemes in the impoverished country, will hold a meeting in Galway this evening (Thursday ). The group has also appealed for donations to help stricken communities following this week’s devastating earthquake in Haiti.

A spokesperson for Haven said yesterday that, while the organisation has been working in areas to the northeast of the island largely unaffected by the earthquake, the disaster is likely to have an effect for the entire country, which is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

“We are going to establish the extent of the damage in Port au Prince and also around our house building projects, but it is already clear this is a massive catastrophe and Haiti will need our help to assist survivors,” Haven founder Leslie Buckley said yesterday. “In the longer term, Haiti will also need help in building new homes and rebuilding damaged ones.”

Hundreds of thousands of people are now believed to have died in the earthquake, which struck on Tuesday and destroyed much of the capital Port Au Prince including schools and hospitals.

Haven will host a volunteer information meeting at 7pm today (Thursday ) in the Maldron Hotel in Oranmore, and is encouraging people interested in volunteering to go along to meet the team and hear more about Build It Week.

Haven is seeking 250 volunteers to take part in a Build It Week in April and another 250 in October.

“Irish people are known worldwide for their generosity,” Mr Buckley said. “With a number of people from Galway having already travelled with us to Haiti in 2009, I hope that this year we will have an even greater representation from the county.”

In 2009 Haven completed 200 new homes and upgraded 400 existing homes in Ouanaminthe, a rural area in the northeast of Haiti. It is understood these homes have not been affected by the earthquake.

Volunteers lived on site in basic conditions and worked shoulder to shoulder with the charity’s Haitian workforce ensuring that building targets were met.

“Volunteering with Haven was a more significant experience than I had expected as I had not done anything like it before,” said Myles McHugh from Oranmore, who took part in Built It Week last year. “The trip opened my eyes to the level of poverty in Haiti and to the need for people to take action. It was a very positive experience, with great camaraderie among the group. I made a lot of new friends and I plan to do it all again.”

“Taking part in Build It Week will be a life changing experience,” Mr Buckley added. “To be part of such a fantastic group of volunteers is highly motivating, but to see the beneficiaries moving from a mud hut into their new home is something that people will never forget.”

As well as seeking skilled tradesmen, Haven is appealing for people with catering experience, medical experience, and a willingness to work hard to help those less well off.

To join the team of volunteers for Build It Week in April 2010, or find to out how you can help Haven house the homeless in Haiti, phone (01 ) 4333930 or go to www.havenpartnership.com The group has also launched an urgent appeal for donations to help communities in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Haven will be working with aid agency GOAL in its response to the earthquake. Donations can be made via Haven's website www.havenpartnership.com or cheques sent to Haven, The Malthouse, Grand Canal Quay, Dublin 2.

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