GTA Construction Report staff writer
Haitian Humanitarian Assistance and Relief Trips (HHART), which are inspired, funded and led by Rotarians from district 7010 (central Canada), are set to make two trips this year, bringing medical, dental and other forms of humanitarian assistance, including construction support, to approximately 12,000 impoverished people of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic near Puerto Plata.
The organization took its first trip in 2011, and in 2013 members will make two week-long journeys – one in March and one in April.
HHART coordinator Steve Wallace explains that “there are literally hundreds of thousands of Haitians settled in the outback of the Dominican. They are not welcomed by the locals, find it hard to integrate and they . . . need support. There is so much we can do and so much to be done.”
Wallace went on to explain that normally HHART makes one trip annually, but this year, that one was filled immediately. “The 42 people who are the core of HHART 3 will represent the Rotary Club of Midland,” he said. “There were so many people asking to go we decided to send HHART4 as well, representing the Rotary Club of Lindsay, so more could take part.”
Volunteers can choose to give out items like food, clothing and hygiene supplies, or do construction work. “We have team leads and local experts and people get involved wherever they feel they want to help,” he said.
Construction projects this year include building chicken coops for small clusters of families to share, a play pad for a local school and two concrete block homes. “There are planned communities of homes in the area as well but even these are not ideal since the local custom is to cook inside with coal,” he explained, adding that the team will make the homes safer by adding covered porches that can be used as outdoor kitchens.
Wallace said local communities have embraced the HHART initiative so fully that, as the trips neared, the group had raised all the needed funds and had to stop accepting donations because of each member’s 100-pound weight limit.
The Barrie Construction Association donated boxes of lightly-used construction boots. “Each of the members going on this trip will take their personal gear in a carry-on bag and their two luggage allotments will be given to the distribution team to pack the 4,000 pounds of donated items we received,” he said.
For more information on the effort, or to get involved, visit HHART.info.