The figures are staggering. The loss of life. Families and lives torn apart. And all in a country where pain and suffering never seem to cease. Our hearts go out to the people of Haiti. Or should I call them “the survivors”? Damato of the Day Is … “Responding to Unimaginable Loss”

The figures are staggering. The loss of life. Families and lives torn apart. And all in a country where pain and suffering never seem to cease. Our hearts go out to the people of Haiti. Or should I call them “the survivors”? Damato of the Day Is … “Responding to Unimaginable Loss”

The American people reacted swiftly on hearing news that a powerful earthquake had devastated the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Doctors and rescue crews left immediately. We even sent Marines to help the police keep order. The last report I read said we had collectively contributed over $600 million to causes supporting relief to this country so desperately in need.

But our memories are short. That is not a criticism; just an observation. We do have to get on with our lives and there is always another crisis to capture our attention as the calamity du jour moves to page two, then ten, then section C.

My reflexes are slow in most situations. Just the way I am put together. It has been no different in reacting to the Haitian earthquake. My skill sets and resources do not match up well with emergency relief such as search and rescue or emergency medical aid. And while every cent counts the money we give in situations like this seems so small, especially when it just goes away leaving you to wonder how much good it did. 

I decided almost instantly that I would look down the road months, perhaps even years, and try to help the people of Haiti rebuild. The immediate need is great, but the rebuilding from this disaster will proceed for many years to come. While my contribution will still be miniscule, I hope to make it not only with my family’s checkbook, but with my hands.

Being involved in the construction industry for decades makes volunteering with Habitat for Humanity quite natural. It is very much an extension of my vocation. I signed up to volunteer to do whatever I could for Haiti when Habitat launched their rebuilding program there. Habitat’s basic mission is providing simple decent housing for people in need and not disaster relief. Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami that hit in Southeast Asia has somewhat altered the model. Habitat reacted and established long-term rebuilding programs in both areas. These rebuilding programs have accomplished much and are still going strong. So I anticipated that the same would be true for Haiti.

Habitat began raising funds and awareness almost instantly and, like many non-profits reacting to various needs there, had a presence in Haiti prior to the earthquakes. The first thing Habitat is setting out to do is to help with short-term shelter and salvaging building materials. It is anticipated that acquiring building materials will be a big challenge as Haiti rebuilds. One cannot help but to think how construction must change to account for the ever-present threat of hurricanes and now earthquakes.

Thinking I would keep an eye on Habitat’s progress through news reports and the Website (, I did not expect to get the call for months. Well, I spent Saturday with around a hundred of my closest friends working on Habitat’s “miracle” project to ship 8,000 totes containing tools and temporary shelter to start the rebuilding process in Haiti.

The miracle is that one week ago Habitat had nothing more than the idea that something needed to be done to help Haiti’s people obtain simple temporary shelter and begin the important work of salvaging building materials (from their destroyed homes and buildings). In a week’s time the Whirlpool Corporation came through with space and logistical support at their distribution center in McDonough, Georgia (near Atlanta). An assembly line had been set up for volunteers to remove the packaging from a variety of needed items including tarps, safety glasses, face masks, sledge hammers, chisels, plastic buckets. The list goes on and on.

Removing the packaging was to recycle it here rather than sending it to Haiti where it would doubtless be burned and to make room for more usable goods in the totes. A specification for packing each of the totes has been designed that will allow the shipment of a remarkable “care package” for the recipients. The totes will be loaded into containers, shipped to the Gulf Coast to be loaded onto cargo ships. The time it is taking to make all this happen is nothing short of a miracle. As with many of life’s experiences, I learned that working on an assembly line is only fun when done with some new friends and interesting conversation. Glad I do not make a living that way.

With some good fortune and what I expect will be ambitious plans by Habitat for Humanity International, I hope to eventually travel to Haiti to participate “hands-on” in the rebuilding. And it will be long after memories of the shocking images of devastation have moved from page one and faded from our primary consciousness.

Many of you who read this blog are likewise involved in the roofing and construction industry. Join me by finding a way to help with the reconstruction in Haiti. If you seek it, an opportunity to serve it will come your way. And perhaps sooner than you think.