CHF - Helping Rebuild Haiti

by Global Communities

“This is not a marketplace, this is a piece of art,” said the President of the Republic of Haiti, Michele Martelly in regard to the Savané Pistache Market in Carrefour-Feuilles, Port-au-Prince.

The Savané Pistache market was inaugurated today at an event hosted by CHF International, the implementers of the project. With President Martelly, Kenneth H. Merten, the US Ambassador in Haiti; Yves Muscadin Jason, Mayor of Port-au-Prince; Alberto Wilde, Country Director of CHF International Haiti; Claude Pierre-Louise, Executive Director of SOGEBANK Foundation, Henry Morand, United Nations Development Program Representative; and Eliana Nicoloni, Project Initiator partook in the inauguration. The event also welcomed hundreds of Savané Pistache Market vendors and community members.

President Martelly began his visit by touring the grounds of the multi-level, handicap accessible market. Weaving through the pavilions painted in bright, primary colors, Mr. Wilde impressed upon President Martelly the environmentally-friendly elements of the market; including, an on-site rainwater harvesting system and links to the UNDP-funded recycling program. 

The President gazed at the rich frescoes that flank the walkways of the open-air, 5,000 square meter market.  The frescoes were painted by graduates of the National Art School and members of the local community. Prizes for the best fresco painting were awarded during the inauguration.

The marketplace was handed over by CHF to the Municipality of Port-au-Prince and COMASAP, an association of 300 members representing the needs of the Savané Pistache community.


Ever since she was a little girl, Germaine Fils-Aime, now 31, dreamed of driving one of the big construction machines. But, she was only able to study pastry making and soon was married and had two children.

It was actually Germaine’s husband who heard of the program to train heavy machinery operators and told her about it. This program was set up through a partnership between Haytrack, Caterpillar’s authorized dealer in Haiti, and CHF International which with USAID funds was implementing workforce development programs in Haiti.

“My husband told me about the initiative and encouraged me to take the course,” said Germaine. Her family was also very encouraging.

“The day I got the entry exam results and I saw that I succeed I was so happy and proud. Most women study things like secretarial jobs but I wanted to make a difference and learn how to pilot one of these heavy machineries,” explains Germaine.

Roselette Dupervil, 23, had dreamed of becoming a civil engineer but never had the opportunity to study this. When she heard about the Haytrack-CHF training she decided to join since it was in the same domain.

Roselette says that her male colleagues accepted the female trainees and anyway “the women were much more intelligent than the men in the course,” she says smiling.

Both Germaine and Roselette are now operating heavy machinery for construction companies in Haiti. Both are the only female operators where they work. “My colleagues respect my work and appreciate and respect me a lot especially since I am the only female on the team,” says Roselette.

“I am the only female working in the heavy machinery,” says Germaine, “the other women work in more feminine sections of the company.”

Both Germaine’s and Roselette’s family are proud of their work. “My husband shows off about his wife being an operator,” says Germaine laughing.

“I love being on my engine and working,” says Roselette. “What I love most is land boring to make roads, making the openings. I get a great feeling of satisfaction when they give me a plan to go bore a way through the foot of a mountain,” nods Roselette. “It is difficult work with a mountain that has a lot of cliffs, but one has to do it.”

“What I love,” says Germaine, “is when I’m at a worksite and I have to fill up all the trucks that line up. You know, all the boys look at me doing a truly professional job and I love that a lot.”

“I would be extremely proud to see my daughter enter the same profession as me,” adds Germaine speaking of her seven-year old daughter. She thinks that more women should enter this profession and thus, “prove that they can work as hard as any man.” Looking at her daughter, Germaine says, “I am sure she will be successful – but of course,” she adds, “it is up to her to decide what she wants to be in the future.”

“I still dream of becoming a civil engineer,” says Roselette. “But I adore this work and I now dream of becoming the best operator and being a professional that works with all her heart.”

Camelita Cadet with the canal that saved her home
Camelita Cadet with the canal that saved her home

Camélita Cadet, 40, had a very different experience with Hurricane Tomas than in previous hurricanes: this time, she did not have to evacuate or find her belongings buried under mud when she returned. “The water just flowed through the canals without causing any damage to the area,” says Camélita. She lives near Bienac canal in Gonaives, which was constructed by CHF International with USAID funds.

In previous years, the northern city of Gonaives was one of the most badly affected when tropical storms or hurricanes hit Haiti. Thousands of people lost their lives in 2004 when Hurricane Jeanne hit, and countless more were affected by Hurricanes Hanna and Ike in 2008. On a regular basis, homes were submerged in mud and the roads became impassable.

This year, there were no deaths in Gonaives and the damage was minimal despite the 12 inches of rainfall that Tomas brought with it. This success is due to the work that CHF International has done to protect Gonaives from flooding due to tropical storms. In a two-pronged approach, CHF reinforced surrounding slopes and ravines by planting over 230,000 trees and building more than 100,000 cubic meters of erosion-preventing dry-stone walls, while at the same time building over 15,500 linear meters of drainage canals. These lead to three main canals: Bassin, Bienac and Bigot, that drain into the sea. Additionally, CHF built five main roads which are sloped to help drain stagnant water along the sides, and an artificial lake was expanded in order to hold 16,000 cubic meters of water.

“Every rainy season before the completion of this project, all the homes along the Bassin road would be flooded,” says Jean Philippe Sejourne, 49, and President of the Bassin Community Association, “and all the commerce and traffic would be blocked.” “Now,” he says, “our quality of life is better and in the name of the community that I represent I would like to thank those who have done this work.”

Roland Poncelet, the CHF Field Office Director in Gonaives, points out that despite the great amount of rainfall there was no major damage to the city. “This time there was some flooding due to water, but no mud,” explains Roland. “Especially important is that the new Bassin canal prevented National Road No. 1 from flooding; all the water was canalized through Bienac and down to the ocean.” The Bassin canal is located above the entrance to the city, a spot previously affected by water running off the mountain ravines surrounding the area. The canal now diverts the water before it can enter. Additionally, the third Bigot canal channeled a huge amount of water without any reported damage.

 “Good job!” said Camélita enthusiastically when asked about the drainage canals built near her home. “I can guarantee you that since the completion of this work, all of us in this zone will take care of this canal as long as it is necessary,” she added happily.

I recently visited a St Marc fishermen’s association in the downtown area. St Marc is on the Caribbean sea and fishing is a major industry. But traditionally, fishermen would go out, catch some fish then come back and try and find a good place to sell them. It might be the side of the street somewhere, it might be near the sea, or maybe in the center of town. But too often their wares were spoiled by the heat or simply went unsold because of the unsettled location – consumers need to know where to come to buy. Additionally, they would have to travel for hours to get to Port au Prince to buy fishing materials and as lone buyers, never got a good deal.

The C in CHF stands for “Cooperative” and we always aim to get people to cooperate for greater benefit. We brought together many individual fishermen in the community and encouraged them to form an association. We then worked with that association to build a central market place where they can sort and prepare their catch, then sell it. In the office of the building we put in place several solar powered freezers so that unsold fish can be kept for the next day. With the building being a market place, there is now a centralized location for sales and, because of the footfall in the building, local businesses pay to advertise on their walls. Additionally we provided them with materials for wooden fishing boats, built by a local boat builder, new net technology, and a local partner provided them with a fiberglass boat in case of emergencies that can reach distressed fishermen. Finally, there are the other benefits of an association – increased purchasing power drives down prices and they can buy in bulk. A part of their – massively increased - profits goes towards running the association, the rest goes into their pockets.

When we visited it was the middle of the afternoon. The fish had been sold (the freezers were pleasingly empty) and the market place had become a place of social gathering for fathers, mothers and children, both of the human and animal variety. Ducklings, goat kids and piglets ran around on the beach alongside children who shouted to me in Spanish (presumably the language they hear most from foreigners) and posed for photographs. My eyes went to the trash washing up on the beach and I began to think about how we could install a solid waste management system, but that was for another day. Our guide, a local CHF staff member, Georges, pointed me in the directions north and south – we have built three of these buildings for the local associations. He was extremely proud of this work – genuinely passionate – and so he should be. He and all the staff in St Marc – all Haitian - had worked with his community to put in place changes along the whole market chain from improvements in catching fish to storing and selling them. And, motivated by their improved profits and lifestyle, I am certain the associations will remain in place in the future and, I hope, influence others in the area.

President Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive met with CHF International in Leogane, Haiti yesterday afternoon for a brief visit to a cluster of four steel-framed, transitional shelters constructed by CHF in response to the January 2010 earthquake. Accompanied by Paul Farmer (anthropologist, physician and founder of the NGO, Partners in Health), and with various stakeholders and philanthropists, President Clinton spent 40 minutes meeting with family members living in the shelters and speaking to Eddie Argenal - CHF Emergency Shelter and Infrastructure Officer - and with local members of the shelter construction team.

During his visit, Clinton announced an additional pledge of $2 million towards disaster preparedness in Haiti and for funding of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Committee.

To date, CHF has registered more than 2,200 shelter beneficiaries in Port-au-Prince and throughout the Petit-Goave-Leogane corridor. CHF is one of the leading organizations in construction of transitional shelters, and is currently in the process of completing 600 shelters in Port-au-Prince and Leogane. Over 60 shelters have been constructed in Leogane as part of a pilot project using steel materials that are pre-fabricated by trained workers at the local CHF warehouse. As part of the USAID/CLEARS program, CHF shelter construction, rubble removal using both heavy machinery and cash-for-work teams and assistance to host families and IDPs in Cap Haitien, will be ongoing through October 2010.



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Organization Information

Global Communities

Location: Silver Spring, MD - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Lori Goldhammer
Silver Spring, MD United States

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