World ORT’s training facility in Haiti for construction workers is to be fitted out with top quality office furniture discarded by major British companies.
A container-load of tables, chairs, cabinets, draughtsman’s boards, whiteboards and stationery was this week being loaded on board a ship bound for Port-au-Prince for the two-week journey across the Atlantic.
Their arrival is a sign of World ORT’s commitment to its five-year programme, the first year of which is funded by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), to train at least 3,000 building labourers in earthquake-resistant construction techniques. World ORT and the JDC have enjoyed many productive partnerships over the years to the benefit of thousands of people around the world. Major programmes have included post-tsunami reconstruction efforts in India and Sri Lanka, and support for Kosovan refugees.
The conditions at the Camp Perrin workshop 150 miles from Haiti’s devastated capital are, unsurprisingly for a rural site in the Western hemisphere’s poorest country, basic. The “as new”? office furniture will not only be practical but will enhance the professional spirit of the training course and emphasise World ORT’s long term commitment to the people of Haiti.
“The men who come on our courses are deeply grateful for the opportunity and very serious about studying: they wear their best clothes for classes and even borrow clothes in order to look presentable. It is not hard to imagine that improved facilities will only add to the sense of pride they have on acquiring a higher level of skills,”? said Daniel Kahn, Head of World ORT’s International Cooperation office in Geneva.
The £20,000-worth of equipment has been collected, packed and shipped by British-based organisation Waste to Wonder leaving World ORT having to pay only transportation costs.
Waste to Wonder has shipped surplus equipment for offices, schools and hospitals to projects in 15 countries but this is its first shipment to Haiti. UK General Manager Michael Amos said he and his colleagues were happy to be working with World ORT on such an important project.
“This one is of particular importance to us because [the earthquake] was so prevalent in the world Press and it was so distressing to see the immediate aftermath,”? Mr Amos said. “So to be able to bring the Haitians up to first world standards is something we’re proud to be involved in.”?
Mr Kahn said that a bonus of using Waste to Wonder was the ecological benefit of recycling material.
“We at World ORT are as concerned for the well-being of the environment as anyone else,”? he said. “The material being shipped to Haiti is in near-new condition “ﾓ it’s astonishing what we in the developed countries throw out. It makes ecological as well as economic sense to extend the working life of this equipment rather than buy newly-manufactured equivalents.”?
Talks are underway to organise a second container-load of superior quality surplus items “ﾓ this time of building tools.
“At the end of each 10-day course our trainees receive a bag of tools which will enable them to work using the techniques we have taught them,”? Mr Kahn said. “Things like sieves, buckets, spirit levels and concrete block moulds. They are basic equipment but they can make a world of difference for the individual labourers as well as the communities they will help to rebuild.”?
Each residential course takes on 16 “ﾓ soon to be 32 “ﾓ men, teaching them general business and construction skills as well as anti-seismic techniques.
The techniques taught at surprisingly simple, said Mr Kahn, who devised the project with award-winning high school principal Igal Guez after being sent to the Caribbean island soon after the earthquake to see how ORT could use its expertise in vocational training and education for its long-term benefit.
“And the cost of a properly made building is less than one-fifth more than the low-grade buildings which were so common in Haiti before the earthquake. The idea is to train at least 600 people per year for five years “ﾓ the more money we get the more people we can train and the longer the programme can continue.”?
It is estimated that 160,000 homes need to be built in Haiti, a task that could take 30 years. But with most of the January earthquake’s death toll of 200,000 attributed to the collapse of poorly constructed buildings it is vital that those charged with reconstructing neighbourhoods do so in a responsible way, which is where World ORT’s training comes in.
“You can see how doing the ORT course gives them self-esteem. This new sense of pride means they will be reluctant to do work in a way which they know is inferior. They want to change things,”? Mr Kahn said. “This is vital to the long term success of the programme in a country which has no official building regulations.”?
World ORT is a member of the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, through which the JDC coordinates the work of major Jewish organisations in North America to prevent duplication and maximise the effectiveness of aid efforts. Although the JDC is funding the ORT IC training programme for Haitian building labourers, World ORT is seeking additional sponsors.
ORT IC has implemented more than 350 non-sectarian projects in 92 countries to the benefit of more than two million people since its establishment in 1960. ORT IC’s work has received support “ﾓ and praise “ﾓ from major organisations such as the World Bank, Hewlett-Packard, the United States Agency for International Development, the Coca-Cola Foundation, the United Nations and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.