Families who were left living in ‘galvanised metal sheds in the middle of a dump’ following last year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti have had their lives improved thanks to an Irish house building project that included a group of people from Tipperary.
John O’Donovan, from Donaskeigh, travelled to Haiti with the Haven charity earlier this month and was part of a 360 person team from all over Ireland who completed 90 homes for the people of Gonaives.
“Where the people are living it is absolutely dire, horrible,” John described the conditions that Haven was able to move people from. “You can’t let it get you down but it’s emotional when a family gets housed.”
The group also completed a community centre, a playground for the children and a football pitch.
Explaining why he decided to go to Haiti, John told The Nationalist that now his family are reared he may be over 60 but he still feels like he can do something to help. He first heard about the project when he met a neighbour who was fundraising to travel to Haiti with Haven. That was just before the earthquake struck. The men were due to go out to the Carribbean island last autumn but a cholera outbreak saw the trip postponed until April.
Gonaives, where John travelled to, is about four hours north of Port au Prince. The people there are living in poverty and horrible conditions, he said. “Little children, all they want is a hug or to catch your hand,” he added.
“When you come back to Ireland and see the recession it’s nothing to what they go through,” John pointed out.
John and his fellow volunteers worked in heat over 40 degrees at its hottest, starting at 5am and finishing at 6pm, with a rest during the day to get out of the searing heat.
Having seen the highs and lows John is hoping to return to Haiti this autumn, when Haven will be building more houses for local families. He will have to raise €4,500 to do this, which he says is very hard to ask people for at this time.
Three other people from Tipperary were among tehe group travelling with John - Francis Griverwood, Johnny Ryan and Rosemarie McGrath, all from Cappawhite, and James Doherty from Oola.
John said there was a great camaraderie between the group and they did an awful lot of work in their week in Haiti.
This is not John’s first trip abroad to help with a charity building project. Four years ago he travelled to Albania with a group of people from Holy Cross to help build a church in the town of Tirana, the birthplace of Mother Theresa.