Thursday, February 24, 2011


The Uber Shelter is up! Genesis and his family are moving in tomorow. The last few days have been incredible for us. We will post stories, pictures and thoughts after some rest.

Laurel (our super talented photographer) from Grass Roots United and Laura from Germany installing the last roofpanels. I think Laura did more work than Armand and I put together. To see more of Laurels photo work in Haiti visit her Picasa page!

Interior shot of the second floor and sleeping loft. we have some currious visitors

assembly crew putting finishing touches on the shelter in the afternoon heat. this feels good

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

from dirt to frame

Yesterday we worked to prepare the site for Genesis and his family. By the end of the day six concrete footers were poured into holes and concrete anchors were installed to provide a solid foundation for the Uber Shelter.

Loaded with the Uber Shelter in its flat pack, the Grassroots United bus set out this morning to the Delmas 33 camp around 7AM. We were greeted by Genesis and his friends who were happy to see us and eager to begin the build. It didn't take long until we were in full swing, each volunteer working helping out in a different way--screwing bolts, installing beams, connecting panels, sorting materials. The photos that follow show the assembly process.

Digging holes for concrete footers to anchor the shelter

First floor set! 

Securing the second floor

Third floor set

Genesis enjoying the view 

Can you see the Uber Shelter?

Photos by Laurel Cummings

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Haiti pap mouri

  Yesterday marked a decisive moment for Uber Shelter. For the last two weeks we have been touring camps and neighborhoods and meeting with many Haitians and aid workers in an attempt to better understand Haiti and find the right location to set up the Uber Shelter for evaluation.

 On Monday night, Rafael and I sat down and discussed the pros and cons of each site where we can set up the shelter. Together we agreed on which family to give the shelter to, and yesterday we met with the family and announced our decision to them. Genesis, his wife Irene (shown above) and their new born son are living in an area of Port-au-Prince called Delmas 33, in one of the most populous IDP camps known as Adoken with over thirty thousand people. Genesis, is the elected president of one section in this large camp. Through his leadership he has helped implement projects to bring in shelter supplies and water tanks with purifiers for his community. He lives with his family inside a small, two-room house made of scrap wood, tarp, and a metal roof. It sits amidst a sea of tarps precariously arranged on an overcrowded hillside. Aside from cramped and insecure living conditions, one of the biggest issues is that none of the shelters are keeping families off the ground and dry. Every time it rains the mud and water flows under the walls and inside the shelter making everything wet. Last night it rained a lot, and on the roof top where Rafael and I are staying there was some flooding and all our clothes inside our tent got soaked. I slept inside the conference room and I thought about how it would feel if I had no other option but to sleep inside the flooded tent.

Genesis hustles different jobs in and out of the camp. He has set up a cyber cafe under a tarp in the camp and his wife runs a beauty salon (under a tarp) in the camp. The amount of entrepreneurship and ingenuity here would impress you. As mentioned before, he is the elected president of one section of Adoken and is well respected by his peers in the camp. We have wrestled with the idea or whether or not giving this shelter away in a camp is a responsible thing to do. How will his neighbors and others in the camp react to him receiving a transitional shelter while everyone else is living under tarps? Will they be jealous? Will there be any tension? I feel that Genesis' standing in the community and what has done for the people around him will make it understandable why he is receiving this shelter. Our assumptions could be wrong, but we, along with Genesis feel ok about giving this a shot.


  On Sunday we went out with some friends at Grassroots and were hosted for a wonderful dinner by our good friend and translator Val. Inside his small wooden house we shared a delicious feast with his friends. With our plates full of traditional Haitian dishes--diri kole ak pwa, pikliz, salad kreson legim melanje ak bannan peze, poul ak sòs zonyon, vyann kabrit and so on--we watched his friends as they performed traditional and modern improvised songs and poems. We had a blast, and we plan to meet again this coming Sunday and we will make some dishes from our respective countries!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Making new friends

Our friend Val working with us to clean the roof panels

We are ten days into our trip, and it's been an amazing learning experience. Last weekend we left Port-au-Prince for three days to visit nearby Leogane and the beautiful town of Jacmel. By now we have been to several homeless camps (Canaan 2, Mayard, Pinchinat, JP/HRO, Delmas 33), met with organisations working to help rebuild, and spent time getting to know Haitians to better understand this complicated issue. This week we will be visiting with families, seeing more camps, and attending meetings as a precursor to the selection process of housing a family on a secure plot of land. We have also been prepping the shelter for assembly by cleaning the panels and mounting insulative laminate to the roof.

Tarp shelters in Delmas 33

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 3 in Haiti

The Uber Shelter in its package
Yesterday we attended the Building Back Better Communities conference, a program developed by the Government of Haiti to establish partnerships in the aim of rehousing displaced Haitians from the January 2010 earthquake. At the conference and expo we met international construction groups and learned about proposed and implemented shelter designs.

 Back at Grassroots United (GRU) headquarters there are shelter projects happening including a straw bale house that uses waste straw from rice production and an Earthship made of earth-rammed bottles.

strawbale building that uses waste by-product of rice agriculture
Earthship made of recycled materials

our tent on the roof of GRU