My Observations: Within a day of moving into their new home, Genesis constructed an 8' ft. tall fence made of scrap wood and tarps around the perimeter of his land. What we have learned is that privacy is an important part of Haitian culture. While designing the shelter we envisioned that the exterior porch area would be open and used for out-door cooking . What we have learned from Gen's family and others in the community is that the kitchen is private and should be enclosed. One man explained that his neighbors can make judgments on how much income he has based on the food his wife is cooking and for this reason they always cook indoors. I imagine the dust and dirt in the camp is another reason for wanting to cook indoors. In Haiti many activities take place outside on a porch. I overheard someone say that in Haiti, if you don't have a porch, you don't have a home. It is hot during the day and porches are the area of choice for congregating, socializing and doing household chores. The next major modification following the 8ft tarp fence came a few days later when Genesis and his friends poured a layer of concrete on all the outdoor ground surrounding the shelter. Rainy season is approaching and pouring this layer of concrete will prevent the surrounding area from turning into a mud hole. When we first finished the shelter I helped Genesis move in and it took everything in me to keep my mouth shut and not tell him how I thought the shelter should be used. He and Irene made decisions I did not expect but that make a lot of sense. I was also pleasantly surprised by small details they added to make the shelters theirs, like adding carpet to the bedroom and drapes on the windows.
Irene's strongest comments have been around the use of the second and third floors. Irene and Gen chose to make the second floor their bedroom instead of the third floor which we thought would be used as a sleeping loft. They explained that this makes it easier to access the first floor and more convenient if they need to get up in the night to use the bathroom. They are currently using the third floor as storage and it will eventually become the bedroom of their baby Rob Carlos. Another factor for not sleeping on the top floor is that Irene found it very awkward to enter the third floor sleeping loft, especially with a baby in her hand. Irene stated that the third floor should be more than a sleeping loft and have the same ceiling height of the other rooms. She also requested curtains to block the view from the first floor to the second. The first floor is used as a living room and Irene would like the view to the second floor bedroom to be blocked for when they have visitors. Privacy has been a recurring theme.
The first concern Genesis had was the strength and security of the corrugated plastic walls. The walls on the first floor could be slashed with a razor by someone attempting to break in, and to fix this problem we installed plywood reinforcement on the first floor. Another design change Genesis suggested was a shelter design with the staircase located on the exterior of the house. He said that if access to the second floor was separate from the first floor he could potentially rent the first floor as an apartment and use his home for income generation. After sleeping through the first few down-pours of the year with rainy season quickly approaching, Genesis had a few suggestion for a roof with longer overhang on the eaves. The windows in the shelter play a huge role for ventilation and when it rains the windows need to be closed. Genesis believes that with more overhang on the roof, the windows could remain open on the second floor during a storm. Another very important design factor that we overlooked and that was immediately brought up by Genesis was in making the shelter baby proof. We will be working with Gen and Irene to make the shelter safer for Rob Carlos.
|We also wanted to hear from baby Rob but unfortunately he declined an interview...|
|The day after the build we had a record 13 people on the second floor.|
|A chat with Genesis and Irene before the plywood reinforcement was installed.|