What Haiti School Project has learned
After building schools and toilets in Haiti for 7 years, Haiti School Project has learned many valuable lessons about construction in Haiti. The majority of the construction for all types of buildings in Haiti is concrete block, confined masonry construction. When using confined masonry construction to build a school or other new buildings it is possible to erect structures that meet both hurricane and earthquake building standards in the International Building Code. Unfortunately, substandard materials and poor construction practices exacerbated the devastation when the earthquake hit in 2010 and many buildings failed.
Since 2011 HSP has learned much about building in Haiti. We have funded our own projects with donations from HSP donors and we have partnered with other Non-Governmental Organizations building schools and toilets, while acting as construction managers and supervisors providing plans, budgets and assisting with material purchasing.
After reviewing what we have learned from our projects we have compiled a basic list of best practices for a successful project which include two primary functions. The first and most important is operating and sustaining the completed school while the second is the school construction itself. HSP firmly believes that ownership, operating and sustaining the school must be agreed upon first before construction starts.
Operating and Sustaining the school
- School and property ownership is the first hurdle to clear. Who will own and operate the school? Will the school be owned and operated by the NGO constructing the school, owned & operated by the community, or owned and operated by a local church or other?
- Title to the land where the school is to be built must be verified.
- Are there qualified teachers available to staff the school?
- Is there a qualified school administrator available?
- How will the school operating expense be funded?
- Will meals be served?
- Will toilets be built for the school? If so what type of toilets will be built?
- The work should be done by local Haitians. This keeps the money from wages in the local economy and aids in local approval of the project.
- The “Boss Contractor should be certified by Build Change using their best practices for Confined Masonry Construction.
- The materials should be purchased in Haiti and as close to the project as possible.
- The local contractor should bid on each portion of the work per a signed contract.
- Payment for work completed should be based on work completed properly.
- The structure design should be reviewed by a structural engineer for cyclonic and seismic standards.
- The funding party should include in the construction budget sufficient funds to cover costs of supervision by a third part such as HSP or Build Change.
Our Co-Founder who lives in Haiti, Tim Myers, has traveled extensively throughout Haiti and has visited many schools and other construction projects. During his visits to some schools under construction Tim has observed that many of these structures are still being built without proper materials and proper construction methods. This happens largely because organizations start a project without engineered plans and hire Haitians who simply continue to build the way they always have. For this reason, HSP has decided to focus on offering basic construction services to NGO’s who are planning on building new schools or repairing their existing ones.
There are many things for an NGO to consider when they decide to build a new school in Haiti, property ownership, community involvement, teachers and staff salaries, teacher training, furnishings, toilets, meals, etc. These items alone make the project a difficult task, but HSP can alleviate that burden by taking care of all the construction issues from start to finish.
Once we partner up with an NGO to provide construction services for an NGO’s project we only charge expenses that are directly related to the job. These are largely travel to and from the job and wages for our Haitian staff. We provide all our off site time, construction budgets, schedules and plans free of charge.
Your donations will be used to help get this message out to other NGO’s and allow us to do an initial assessment of their project free of charge. This is a critical point. Many NGO’s do not have construction experience and are unwilling to spend money prior to construction on some of the basic construction administration and supervision items that will actually save money once the project is started.
We have been asked to look at many projects after construction has started and we are often put in the position of delivering bad news about what we observe. Unfortunately, this bad news is then often ignored.
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Our continuing goal is to provide for the school’s future vitality and quality of education in Haiti.
The Haiti School Project is a federally recognized non-profit IRC Sec. 501(c)(3) organization helping Haiti’s children supported entirely by volunteers.