Canadian contractors build Haiti trades training facility


    Ontario Construction Report staff writer

    Experts from seven construction businesses have successfully completed a trades facility in Haiti.

    The effort resulted from a partnership with charity Empower Global Inc. and a fundraising effort that raised $60,000 to finance the construction, equipment and pay for the team’s accommodations.

    “The trades facility, constructed (by EllisDon) in tandem with Covertite Roofing, Walters Inc., Harris Rebar, Bellai Brothers, Birnie Electric, Roth Construction Ottawa, and Modern Niagara, will now host much-needed welding, automotive, electrical, construction, plumbing, masonry and woodworking workshops for a very appreciative community,” a news release said.

    Kurt Frers, president of Empower Global says the purpose of the training centre is to provide Haitians with a “hand-up” (not a hand-out) through skills training and move people from aid to enterprise.”

    The second phase of the effort is going on now and involves recruiting tradesmen (trainers). “Skills training at the centre begins this fall (October 2014) – and we need experienced tradesmen to volunteer their time to teach and train at the centre,” says Frers. “We will provide accommodation at the centre for visiting tradesmen and would encourage tradesmen to “vacation with a purpose” for a week to a month.”

    He says extended stays are available as well and might be suitable for retired tradesmen.

    The crew, which returned from Haiti in February, included EllisDon’s chief estimator, Jason Walker, who is quoted as saying, “I am so proud of our team, and of how well they came together for the sake of the common good.

    “Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this project and its overjoyed community!”

    The team installed two 80×30 foot roofs, an in-house water-pressure system, electrical power and lighting distribution, and playground equipment. They also added new roofs on the storage facility and generator building, poured a new concrete slab for multi-purpose use, installed a new water pressure system, installed a new potable water line and fit out two sea cans, converting them into office space and bunk housing for visiting trainers.

    The release says many of the locals were impressed with the team’s commitment to complete the project with little-to-no modern technology in only 11 days.

    Birnie Electric provided three electricians: Mike Johnstone, Dave Barnes and Doug Ball.  “Absolutely, I want to go again,” said Mike Johnstone, observing that he and his fellow Birnie Electric employees were deeply touched by groups of children who came to the site each day to watch the playground coming together.

    Johnstone says an average work day began at 5 a.m. and lasted 12 hours under daytime temperatures averaging 35 degrees.

    “We are very proud of these three employees who made such a difference in a country that needs so much,” said Bernie Electric Tim Bernie.

    Birnie’s employees and suppliers contributed more than $10,000 towards the project’s funding.

    Kurt Frers, president and CEO of Empower Global Inc. said: “On behalf of Empower Global, I want to thank this team for the completion of the Haiti Training Facility for Trades. Not one of the teams I have taken on projects around the world, has come close to what the EllisDon team has accomplished – and in such a short period of time. What a powerful example of teamwork and commitment!”

    To find out more about volunteer opportunities, contact Kurt Frers at or visit the website at for opportunities and contact info.


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