Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bon bagay! (good things)

The shelter is up! Genesis, Linda, and baby Carlos moved in and we are continuing to interact with them daily. The build was incredible and we learned a great amount.The second shelter will be delivered in the next few days and we will be building it in Croix des Bouquets (a suburb of Port-au-Pince) for our new friend Magdala and her family.

From Pomona, California to Port-au-Prince
 The images below show the assembly from the frame to finished shelter. You can see earlier images of the site preparation and assembly further down on the blog. Special thanks to Laurel Cummings for the amazing photography. For more information about the shelter design please visit our site ubershelter.com

View of interior layout

View from second floor

In this photo we are preparing to raise the roof. The reflective wall on the left is the roof of the shelter. The roof and wall panels are made of a lightweight fire retardant and UV resistant material called corrugated polypropylene. We glued aluminum foil to the exterior of the roof to reflect the heat from the sun. So far this has kept the interior temperature bearable under the Haitian sun.

Keep it steady on the left side!

Armand hoisting the roof into place. In this shot you can see the roof vents located along the peak of the roof.

Josh from Indiana tightening frame bolts. He is a Grass Roots United volunteer and came to help us out for the day. There are surprisingly several Hoosiers staying at Grass Roots, last week I counted six. Indiana is representing in Haiti!

View from first floor into the second

Access to second floor

Taking the acrylic windows up to the second floor
It's not as steep as it looks on camera!

Attaching walls

Genesis installing the first wall panels

We have been receiving visitors to see the assembly and finished shelter.

View from second floor

Shot from third floor

Our translator Val explaining to another volunteer how to install the windows

Armand double checking the window functions after installation. We are using mosquito screen and acrylic sheets for windows. The windows open and close and ventilation from the windows plays a huge roll in keeping the interior temperature comfortable.
We had all kinds of help in setting up the shelter. This was an unexpected surprise and it turned out to be great exchange with the local community. It was also a huge learning curve for Armand and I to manage a group of people who were very eager to help but had no experience in setting up the shelter.  Several bottlenecks became apparent  in the current design that need to be addressed in order to make the assembly process more efficient.

Val and Armand installing the door

View from high ground of the Adokin IDP camp in Delmas 33. There are an estimated 30,000 people living in this camp. Lets hope that one day this photo can be used as the "before picture" and the "after picture" is a sea of much better homes.

It has been interesting to see how people with very little manage to find materials to build their own shelters. Almost all the homes in this camp are self built with scrap wood, metal, and tarps. There is even a market for building materials for people living in camps. Street side vendors sell tree branches and USAID tarps to buy and build their makeshift homes. It is also interesting to see the businesses that pop up in the camps. JP/HRO camp, the largest in Port-au-Prince with around 50,000 people, has a main street in the camp where there are vendors, restaurants, cell phone charging booths, barbershops, beauty salons and much more.  After having lost everything, people still find a way to find hope and keep going. Haiti is an example of perseverance and I have been most impressed with how people just find a way to make things happen. Seeing how many people function here has been a lesson in entrepreneurship for me.

Boom! It's up

I think Genesis is happy..

Genesis and his wife Linda in their new home

Armand was in charge of finishing the final detail of the assembly which opened up some time for me to interact with neighbors and community members about their thoughts on the shelter. The gentleman in the white tank top gave some incredible feedback and was very candid about what he likes and about what improvements he would like to see. This wrapped up a great day and was exactly what we came to Haiti for: to hear directly from end users about theirs wants and needs around shelter.

Last but not least, the fourth inhabitant of the Uber Shelter is Junior. He is Gesesis' dog and maybe the cutest thing ever!


  1. Genesis's wifes name is Irene :)
    NICE JOB UBER, I'm sure they love their new home!!! THANKS for sharing :) xoxoxo

  2. YES! So happy to hear this news Rafael! Congratulations brother. This is a proud day for Uber Shelter, for the Unreasonable Institute, and for me. :-)

  3. I want to hear more comments from Genesis. What is working? What needs improvement? How are the neighbors accepting it? Congratulations to the photographer, great pictures! Armand and Rafa: Keep on writing; we are all excited to get updates!!!

  4. Rafa, we knew you would end up doing this with the Uber, even when shopping for materials for the first time. I think it's fantastic that you are able to get the shelter into the hands of a young family in exactly the right environment to see how it works and holds up over time. Keep charging!

  5. Beautiful work. Thanks a million to all on behalf of the Haitian people. Keep up the good work. May God bless and protect all of you.

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