Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 9: Anatomy of a Rubble Site

Alot of my friends and family have been asking what exactly it is that I'm doing down here. A lot of it involves moving rubble off of a concrete slab so a Haitian family can move back onto it and begin rebuilding their home. Some houses that remain standing but are unsafe to enter require a demolition team (lots of sledgehammers) before we can even begin moving the rubble away. I'll explain how this all works...

Yesterday we managed to demolish and clear a small home in the heart of Leogane for a man named Winston and his family. It was an easier job since Winston had a metal roof instead of the typical concrete roof that adds a few more days worth of work and need for a more technical demolition. Basically we had four badly damaged concrete walls to bring down before we could really start clearing the place. By working a sledgehammer along a line just above the foundation we were then able to pull these walls down quite easily...pretty satisfying.

Big rubble sites like the one I worked on today required some of our volunteers with technical demolition training to go in first and knock stuff down that could make the site hazardous. Arriving at the site after the demo team is done with it, we are left with rubble, walls, and slabs of concrete/rebar to move away.

The first job on the line is breaking up walls and slabs of concrete. More often than not the concrete was reinforced with rebar making it harder to break it up. We usually bring rebar cutters to clip away the excess hanging out so nobody gets impaled. Once the concrete has been broken up into rubble the second line shovels it away into wheelbarrows. The wheelbarrow runners pile the stuff up high out by the road, sometimes layering it up several feet. We generally rotate between these jobs as needed, stopping for water once every hour. Often we have someone maintaining the rubble piles so we can keep adding to them, or another person working a pickaxe to make it easier on the shovelers.

It sounds like a lot of hard work, and it is...but its an incredibly fulfilling feeling to look on with your fellow volunteers at the cleared space and massive piles of rubble. The camaraderie this stuff builds between volunteers makes the day worth every ounce of sweat. We have the oppurtunity to choose between a number of daily jobs at our evening meetings, but most people seem to stick through a job with their team to the end.

When we came back to work after lunch today , the homeowner Cesar and some of his friends joined in on the operation, not at all an expectation. We all worked hard together for the rest of the afternoon and afterwards Cesar emerged with a cooler containing cola and beer to share with us. While we sat with our beverages waiting for our Tap-Tap truck to pick us up there was an interesting mix of Creole, French and English being spoken as we looked proudly upon the days work.

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