Jack Robertson shows off Spero Society's new protype

Homes and hope for Haiti

There’s hope for Haiti yet.

Spero hope.

Spero Society, a Chilliwack, faith-based, non-profit organization, is building homes for Haitians left homeless after last year’s mega-thrust earthquake.

On Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the third-world country, killing more than 200,000, and injuring an estimated 300,000. It also destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and displaced more than two million Haitians. It was the third deadliest earthquake in the world.

And now, one year later, many are still without homes.

Spero, meaning hope in latin, is working to change that.

“I don’t think we’re unique in wanting to help this country,” said Jack Robertson, executive director of Spero. “A lot of people saw the devastation wrought by the earthquake. Haiti is already the poorest country in the western hemisphere and the recovery will take at least two decades or more … we had to do something.”

When a local business owner, who wished to remain anonymous, donated his aluminum and glass railing systems business the society had its mission.

They had the means to build homes.

“Our mandate is to provide permanent homes to victims in developing countries,” said Robertson.

Several aid agencies are already on the ground trying to get displaced Haitians out of tent cities and into homes. But what is different is that several of those agencies are building small, transitional homes, built from plywood and tin, and costing anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 per home.

Spero, however, is bypassing the transitional homes and building permanent homes instead.

“Most organizations are trying to get [Haitians] out of the tents and into transitional homes, but these homes are only built to last three to five years,” said Robertson. “The problem with these transitional homes is that five to 10 years down the road, there’s still going to be people living in them. They’re going to become shanty towns, slums.”

The Spero homes, which are 41 square metres, are built out of aluminum framing and trusses, stucco walls and a tin roof. They have three bedrooms, a living room, bathroom and a porch with an overhang to provide necessary shade in the warmer climates. They cost $3,800 per home and will last more than 50 years, said Robertson.

“They are impervious to rot, mildew and termites, and they are resistant to earthquakes and hurricanes,” said Robertson.

And they’re easy to build.

“Two to four people could have a house built in a half a day,” said Robertson.

Spero is working with an aid agency, that has already purchased 10 acres of land, to help build a community that would consist of 100 homes, separate kitchen facilities for each, a church, school and a medical clinic.

But Haiti’s not the only place the organization is focusing its efforts. It’s also working to help those in the local community.

Spero has teamed up with BC Teen Challenge, a Christian-based rehabilitation program for young men and women, and will be employing Teen Challenge clients to help prepare the housing products for shipment. The clients will be trained in skills that include welding, grinding, assembly work, shipping and receiving.

“Not only do we want to impact Haiti, we want to work in our community as well,” said Robertson. “We’re going to be providing training to our own marginalized people. We’re not giving them a hand out, we’re giving them a hand up.”

While the society has the means to offset its overhead costs through Spero Industries, its aluminum and glass railing business, it still requires funds to ship the houses to Haiti.

One container, which fits 15 houses, will cost $57,000. So far, the society has raised $10,500.

“It is crucial for us to get funding for our first container to go down,” said Robertson.

The society hopes to send its first container within the next two months.

For more information on Spero, visit its website at www.sperosociety.ca.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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