Home from Haiti

Made it home. The trip was long, hard, successful, and had some very delightful experiences. I’m running behind in getting everything down in my daily log of the trip. It is currently 35 pages long.

On the trip we had Helen Roenfeldt, Scott Conover, Dave Vangsness and myself, as well as the Haitian team of Lophane, Noel,  Benjamin.  Bazole, and Roshnel.  We are training a crew from Jubilee to build ultra-low-cost earthquake- and hurricane-resistant homes.

Over the next several days I need to write a several reports. Besides the main report, there will be a report on two orphanages were I was able to break half inch rebar with my hands. Apparently I am much stronger than I thought I was. Can you picture the thoughts which went through my head when I broke the rebar that was keeping the concrete above my head from collapsing?

On the flight from Dallas to San Antonio, I was upgraded to first class, but missed out on the first class experience because I slept through it. They had to wake me up in San Antonio so I could deplane, and kept wanting to know if I wanted a wheelchair.

Now, I need someone to keep me awake during the sermon this morning. Judy will be singing in the choir. Craig Cannon says that if he mentioned my need to some of my granddaughters (a plethora of young ladies have adopted me as their grandpa)  at least one would bring me a pillow and another would tell the pastor to speak softer so as not to disturb me.

I suspect I will not get the Sunday paper read today.

Within a day or two, I will post the first of several reports on this trip.

March 2016 in Haiti with Herb

The following is a page from a church newsletter. I’ve added a few comments since the members of the church have a back-story which you may not have.

Demonstration Villages — We have sent in a letter expressing our interest in building sustainable demonstration villages in Haiti. The sponsoring charity is interested building demonstration villages around the world using the concrete dome home technology we are using. Each village is to be supported by a million dollar donation and will result in about 100 homes.

The Team — A team of 4, (David Vangsness from CA, Scott Conover and Helen Roenfeldt, (EX. DIR of Mission:Haiti) from FL, and Herb from TX) will arrive in Port-au-Prince on March 11 have a full agenda.

Petion-ville — Inspect a building in a Port-au-Prince suburb to determine whether it is safe to use as part of an orphanage. If the building is safe, we will also discuss remodeling plans.

Bien Aime — Bien Aime is located in the highlands north east of Port-au-Prince. When Helen brought toothbrushes to Bien Aime, the residents had heard of toothbrushes, never seen one, and had no idea how to use one. A class was held on the spot. We will be doing an assessment for building a sustainable demonstration village.

Colminy (Jean-Louis) — Mr. Orelus Natin deeded over a hundred acres to the church, rather IMG_2024Mr. Orlius in front of his homethan sell it and move into comfortable quarters. The land is available for community projects. His over 100 living descendents are just as generous. The photo was taken in 2015 when he was over 120 years of age.

At a Sunday service in 2015, he offered to get up and give Herb his chair because he thought Herb needed a chair. Mr. Orelus died in January. We will be doing an assessment for building a sustainable demonstration village.


Sophia Gabriel-croppedFaith Lutheran Orphanage – Girls’ Dorm — Sophia Gabriel is 7 years old, comes from Jubilee, and does not even know how to smile. We will be pouring the slab for the dormitory where she will be living. She and the other girls who will live in the dorm will be carving Candice Dominguez’s initials in the slab in honor of Candice who is currently undergoing treatment for stage 3 breast cancer. Cost for the slab (this trip): $4,000; Cost of dome (June /July trip): $11,000. Candice has been the team leader from Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church for the last two years and was disappointed that her doctor told her that she could not go on the July trip with SHLC.



Faith Lutheran Orphanage – Boys’ Dorm — Would you let your children sleep under this ceiling with falling plaster? The boys have been moved to other rooms. Herb will be doing a forensic analysis of the roof and ceiling to determine whether it is safe to patch or whether the entire roof needs to be replaced. A group from the Lutheran Church of Canada will be covering the cost of repairs. Meanwhile, Herb is working on a concept to build much lighter, and much stronger flat roofs, but the technology is not ready. Cost for repairs: $500 to $10,000, depending on what Herb finds.

In this photo Herb is holding some rebar from a structure not far from the Boy’s Dorm. It had been exposed to chlorides and the chlorides reacted with the steel which cause it to become weak. Herb broke these pieces off rebar that had been exposed when the plaster covering it sloughed off.

Concrete 5

Yes, those are concrete block that are stuck in the roof to take up space so they do not have to haul as much wet concrete up onto the roof. Herb’s major, but not the only, concern is whether chlorides got to the rebar and caused it to swell and weaken.

Jubilee — Herb will gently supervise the building of one dome home and play with the children while the crew starts work on another dome.

He will also teach the crew to whitewash the domes so they will be 5 degrees F cooler in summer.

The crew will finish the other dome after the team leaves. When it is complete, the crew will be fully trained to build homes without Herb being present. All they will need will be money to buy the supplies and pay the crew wages. Cost per dome: $7,000

Haiti’s governmental crisis is ending

With the presidential election challenged and with the runoff canceled twice, Haiti was in crisis.

The electoral commission resigned.

The Prime Minister resigned.

By constitutional mandate, the president left office on Feb. 7.

The Parliament was charged with appointing an interim president who would be charged with scheduling and holding a presidential election.

Parliament has acted and has chosen Jocelerme Privert as the interim president. He was inaugurated on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. Many feel that he is one of the few people in Haiti who can work through the mess and resolve the issues.

Here is an article in the Miami Herald about Privert.

Currently there is a calm in Haiti as President Privert takes on the leadership of Haiti and he lays out plans for an elected government that has the confidence of the people of Haiti.

This week I bought tickets so I can head back to Haiti. Needless to say, I will have a full agenda while in Haiti this time.

January 2016 update

I did not go to Haiti as planned in January. Due to the Lutheran Church of Haiti and Pastor Benoit spending so much time on trying to get him elected to the Federal Senate, some things got delayed, such as planning for the teams which were hoping to come to Gonaives in January. Since I hook up with these teams to keep costs low, I chose not to go. If I would have gone, with having to hire a vehicle, a driver, a translator, and security, the costs would have been about $7,000 per week rather than $1,400 per week.

Now, things have been arranged so I will be joining a team in March. and staying for about two weeks. With the first set of plans, we would have been returning on Easter Sunday (see, we can fail to plan adequately also) . On that trip we will build at least one home in Jubilee, prepare for building a Girls’ dorm  at the Faith Lutheran Orphanage in Gonaives (actual building is scheduled for May), examine a building from the 1950s that is being considered for an orphanage, and various other tasks.

Homes for Jubilee is nearly complete. David South is writing the introduction for the English Version. Now we need to get the cover designed and it is ready for publishing. The Haitian Creole version still lacks about two pages of translation and we need to determine whether to use David South’s introduction for that version or have an introduction written by a Haitian.

September was a very hard month, so in October I did not get much accomplished. I had planned on writing a full report concerning the September trip, but as most of you noticed, I did not get that done. I did write a brief update.

In November I started building a scaffold based on a concept by Van Smith. It is nearly finished and will need to be shipped to Haiti in February.

In December I needed a vacation, so I started listing my failures. Several years ago Jack Canfield told me that to be a success I needed to list my successes, but I tend to be contrary. I got to 150 major failures before I was rested enough to get back to work. Friends have been encouraging me to write a book – Failing my way to Success.


Government architect visits our building site in Jubilee

IMG_2113While on our September trip to Haiti, as we were constructing a 6.1 meter dome home, Vanessa Darbouze, an architect with the Haitian government visited our construction site and was impressed by what we are doing.

When we start our next home, she will be back to learn more and to help.

We discussed her posting blogs in Creole on www.HelpHaitiBuild.com. For our project to be successful, it must become a Haitian project. Madam Darbouze’s interest in it is a strong step in that direction.

Within about 10 days we plan to post a report concerning our September trip.


Books concerning building homes in Jubilee

Homes for Jubilee and Kay pou Jubilee (Haitian Creole Version) are coming along. The job of translating into Haitian Creole has been harder than anticipated because the language is still evolving. We anticipated publication in October 2015, but that will not happen. Hopefully before the end of the year. The last major hurdle will be the cover. We need a photo of a completed home to go on the cover.

A Little Delay



When I was 50-some years younger, young men always cringed when they received a letter that started in that manner. That is how the Selective Service addressed their letters. This letter is not as bad as a draft notice in time of war.

We plan, but I think that sometimes God has a good laugh. On Saturday, April 18, I head to Haiti to build. On Thursday morning, about 9:30, I learned that our shipment, which barely missed the April 1 ship, has also missed the April 15 ship. It seems that the paperwork stating that the freight bill had gotten paid got lost between the two dates. We even have a receipt for having paid the freight bill. So my ship sailed, and I was not on it.

Suddenly I understand a friend’s comment: I would rather be audited by an IRS agent with an ingrown toenail than to be involved in international shipping.

A TV crew was interested in interviewing me, but that has been delayed also. Maybe I will have time to get a haircut before that happens. With so much going on, I never got the haircut that was on my agenda for this week.

We are setting up a new construction date, which will probably be combined with the Shepherd of the Hills Short-Term Mission Trip in July. I know of a few of my fellow church members who are going to have mixed emotions. Sorry for the delay, but excited that they will be able to participate. The Bible encourages us to be thankful under all circumstances, so I am working at making this delay a blessing.

On Thursday morning, I finished the English draft of Homes For Jubilee, except for a few drawings I will be inserting. Before this trip is over, I plan to have the book translated into Haitian Creole, and formatted for publication. (These are my plans, but we need to wait and see what God’s plans are.) My cover designer is working on the cover, and he is volunteering his services. The mock-up on the left is one I did. Ryan can do a much better job. 2015-04-07-Homes for Jubilee Mock-up - rs

Meanwhile, the printing company I’ll be using has waived the set-up fee for the title ($150 per version of the book). Within a month, we hope have the Haitian Creole version of Homes For Jubilee.

When we get the Haitian Creole draft, we will have a meeting with the Mayor of Gonaives. He is writing the Introduction, and it will help if he can read the book before he writes the Introduction.

I’ll spend time with the Jubilee Committee and answer any questions they may have. Pastor Benoit will probably arrange for me to teach a class or two. If there is not anything else for me to do, I can always join one of the medical missions and model dresses that are given to the little girls who come to get their worm medicine.  One of my friends asked recently if a photo was ever taken of me without a beautiful young lady in it. I try my best not to have such photos taken. IMG_0900-rs

For all who have been supporting this project, please know that even though we have had a delay, we will proceed and get results. Please keep the project in your prayers.

Soon my Haitian students will be able to build these homes without my being present. I could ask what I will be doing with all of my time, but I am sure Pastor Benoit will have more than enough impossible challenges to keep me busy.

Why it is Help Haiti Build

A number of people have asked why the tagline for this website is Help Haiti Build rather than Help Build Haiti. The answer is simple. It goes back to the goals for what we are trying to do in Haiti. Most have heard the statement, “If you give a man a fish, you will feed him for a day. If you teach him to fish, you will feed him for a lifetime.” We are trying to teach the Haitians to “fish.”

If we go in and rebuild Haiti, and there are many who are trying to do just that, we may leave them in a slum with no hope for improvement. A slum can be very nice, but if there is no hope, it is still a slum. If we help them build and teach them how to build disaster-resistant homes, then they are an important part of the process. They will have learned a trade so they can build homes for others and make a living. Meanwhile Mission:Haiti is working with micro loans to build small businesses.

With the Homes for Jubilee project, I will be involved in the building until an infrastructure is in place so the residents of Jubilee can continue without my help. Then I will proceed to the next project which Pastor Revenel Benoit, President of the Lutheran Church of Haiti, has in store for me.  He has told me I need to move to Haiti for ten years so I can complete all of the projects he has planned for me. So far, I have not moved to Haiti, but I go there four times per year. When I go, my friends in Haiti welcome me home. Maybe I do not know the full story. Maybe I am just coming back to Texas for a vacation four times per year.

For years, there will be a need for donors to furnish money to purchase building supplies for Haitians to use to build homes for the poorest of the poor, but there will not be a need for teams of builders to go to Haiti and build houses while Haitians who desperately need jobs stand around and watch because some foreigner wants to boost his ego and then go home and say, “Look what I did for those people. ”

Termite damage

Termites love people who want to build wooden structures in Haiti.

For years, there will be a need to feed orphans and take care of them. There will be many needs in Haiti, but swinging a hammer and building a wooden home will not be one of them, unless your goal is to feed the termites.

My most important job in Haiti


While I go to Haiti to help build the infrastructure, I often wonder if that is my most important job. Sitting in church one day in Jubilee, a young man could not get in the door, so he came through the wall.  After he got into the church, he crawled into my lap.



On another occasion, after the church in Jubilee was remodeled with a roof and walls rather than a tarp and woven palm leaves,  I had 6 children try to climb into my lap at the same time. This was after I had been introduced to the congregation and admitted that I was a Grandpa. I could not take a Selfie with 6, but here is one with just one young lady. You will notice that I am wearing a tie. Some of my relatives have never seen me wear a tie, but in Haiti, people put on their best to go to church, so I wear a tie.



When I could not work on the Homes for Jubilee project, I volunteered to help with a medical clinic. I ended up with this young lady crawling into my lap and staying for about  two hours. I never found out who her parents were or where she came from.




2014-08-28-29-Haiti 089-rs

One day at Faith Lutheran Orphanage in Gonaives, Sylvia suggested we take a photo of me with my granddaughters. She did not have a problem recruiting granddaughters for me. Candice the team leader for our group is on my right. Sylvia, who came along to ensure I did not over do things is on my left, and Sophanie, one of our translators is on Sylvia’s left.