Wayland students help build houses in Haiti

January 18, 2012

You won’t hear one group of Wayland Baptist University students complaining about being “poor college students,” anymore — or poor anything else for that matter. Not after they spent their Christmas break helping build Rubble Houses in Haiti.

The group of 10 students, led by WBU Baptist Student Ministries Director Donnie Brown, was joined by BSM students from Tarleton State University as they worked in the Haitian town of Grand Goave, a community of about 10,000 people. The team’s mission for the trip, which ran from Dec. 27-Jan. 7, was to help build what are referred to as “Rubble Houses” for people who are homeless, using rubble left by the massive earthquake that devastated much of Haiti two years ago. The work was coordinated by the Haiti Housing Network, which is a collaborative effort of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Fuller Center for Housing, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and Conscience International.

“Haiti Housing Network’s goal is to build 1,000 homes. I think right now they are around 60,” Brown said.

To accomplish that goal, Brown continued, workers must bust truckloads of earthquake rubble into small enough chunks to be moved around in 5-gallon buckets. The houses’ walls are framed with heavy wire and the rubble is poured into those wire frames before being plastered over by local workers. The result is a sturdy but flexible structure that turns earthquake rubble into something positive.

At the same time, Brown continued, the projects benefit the local economies where the houses are constructed by putting local people to work in finishing the houses.

According to the Haiti Housing Network website www.haitihousingnetwork.com, once completed, the houses measure 280 square feet (14’ X 20’). The houses have two windows, a skylight and two small patios front and back and are constructed using the favored architecture style of the region. The non-rigid foundation and flexible walls also make the structures more capable of withstanding future earthquakes and hurricanes, the site explained.

Brown said that it takes about six tons of rubble to complete a house and it all must be moved in 5-gallon buckets. The BSM team was able to “rubble in” about one complete house and a fourth of another, Brown said, adding that it costs $4,000 to build each house and local churches Stonebridge Fellowship in Plainview and First Baptist Church, Kress each donated $1,000 toward the work of the team in Haiti. That was matched by a $2,000 contribution from the BGCT.

Phil Avants, a senior from Chico, Texas, described the typical day for the students.

They would get up and eat breakfast and then walk two miles to the worksite. There, the rubble would have been dumped from a truck and they would start busting it up with hammers. They would work until noon and walk the two miles back to their compound for lunch. Then, they would walk back and work through the afternoon before walking back to the compound for the evening. Avants said it probably was some of the most challenging physical work he ever had done.

“By the next day, you’re just throbbing,” he said, adding that even after being home a few days his hands still were sore from working with the rubble. 

While showing others God’s love through Christian service is an integral part of any mission trip Brown puts together, the BSM director explained that a secondary focus is on helping the young people who go on those trips learn more about the world beyond the walls of Wayland and begin to discover how God wants them to work to impact that world.

He was happy with both results on this trip. The director pointed out that the primary focus of discussions he has had with his students since they got back to campus has been on how to process the incredible poverty they witnessed in Haiti with God’s call on their lives.

A big challenge for many of the students who went on the trip, he said, was figuring out how to readjust to coming home.

That certainly has been an issue for Krista Campbell, a junior from Big Lake, Texas. She was quick with an answer when asked what the most difficult part of the trip was for her: “Having to see what they live without and knowing here we have such an abundance.”

Brown pointed out that even without the devastation of an earthquake; most people in Haiti don’t have running water or electricity.

One of the things that stood out to Campbell was the attitude of the Haitians who frequented the area where the team was working. She said they knew the students were working to help them and were very appreciative. In particular, she continued, the children were fun to interact with.

“They were just ready to see us. They would see us and the excitement would come over their faces,” she said.

That friendliness and warmth from the Haitians ended up being a life-changing thing for Hailey Budnick, a senior from Houston.

After making the trip, she explained that she has begun to feel a new calling from God on her life. She always had envisioned becoming a doctor and doing short-term mission work as she was able.

Not anymore.

“God’s plan for me is not what I imagined at all. 

“I always thought that I would be a doctor and be in the States and go do some mission trips here and there,” she said.

What are those plans now?

“I’m pretty sure I’m called to Haiti for the rest of my life as a doctor. I loved Haiti. I didn’t so much love building houses, but I liked getting to interact with the people in a practical way. They were just easy people to love,” she said.

As Brown listened to all three students talk about their desire not only to go back to Haiti but also to open up to other possibilities, he was pleased.

“I think it helped the students,” he said.

“You hear all the time, ‘I’m a poor college student . . . ,’ ” he said adding that this particular group of students now understands just how wealthy they are.

In fact, he continued, that is part of the next challenge. They have to reconcile that.

“I think that’s one process we’re all still working through,” he said.

In the meantime, Avants summed up the thoughts of the students.

“It had the impact (on me) that I needed it to have,” he said.