Haiti Volunteer Overview

Architecture for Humanity runs a small volunteer outfit from their office in Pétionville, Port-au-Prince. Currently, volunteer needs on the ground are for highly skilled builders, architects and architectural designers that will be working on a variety of assignments–from site surveys and documentation to CAD drafting to research to assisting meetings to impromptu construction projects. Flexibility, patience and good humor are needed for this kind of work.

Our scope of work and current projects are discussed on the Haiti Reconstruction page. Interested parties must submit an application form to our Port-au-Prince team for consideration. The team evaluates based on matches in skill needs and schedule. Our Maison (described below) presently accommodates eight dedicated Architecture for Humanity volunteers–space is limited. Please be patient in receiving confirmation that your application has been submitted.

Volunteer applicants should expect to apply 3 months before their intended travel dates to better ensure reservation for these dates. As of February 1 we have compiled all applicants for positions starting in March. We are now accepting applications for Summer 2011 and beyond. Volunteers must have at least three years relevant experience, including international travel/experience and must be able to commit at least two months to working in Haiti.

Application Form

The Haiti Volunteer Application Form
Please read and review the helpful information below before applying. If you are still interested (and we hope you are!) please access and complete the application form. Follow up by sending us your resume and work samples–thanks!!!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

General Information

Accommodation

Volunteers, staff and design fellows are put up at the “Maison” just outside Pétionville, Port-au-Prince. The Maison has four levels–a common floor including living, dining and kitchen spaces, two lower floors for partners, tenants and volunteers and an upper floor for Architecture for Humanity team members. The upper and lower floors each have a bathroom with a shower–specific shower accommodations will be established upon arrival. Two rooms are dedicated to Architecture for Humanity team members (apart from the “Captain’s quarters”), and the Dorm Room below has bunks for additional accommodation. The Maison provides: wifi Internet; office space with printer/scanner; breakfast and coffee service; 24-hour security; parking for four or five cars (subject to availability). The Maison is comfortable, but all are asked to be mindful of its unique context.

Day to Day Schedule

Volunteers are expected to work 5 ½ days a week. Work can and will consist of a number of activities including; assisting with meetings, computer drafting, occasional construction/labor projects, site visits and documentation. Volunteers must be flexible to the variety of tasks that may be asked of them. Casual dress (pants/jeans and t-shirt) is acceptable for working in the office.

The Haiti Team splits its time between the Maison, the office in Pétionville and field tasks. A crew of volunteers and staff is shuttled to the office each morning to work for the day. A majority of the work expected of volunteers will be office related. Our projects under construction may be advised by volunteer builders but we incorporate Haitian workers into the construction process wherever possible.

Evenings after dinner are free for personal time. The Maison has a wii and PS2 for general leisure, and it is suggested to bring a book, some games and a sociable demeanor. The playing of music must not disrupt other guests and may be open to limitation based on the skill of the musician/fidelity of the recording. Justin Bieber is not tolerated among the staff. Leaving the Grounds is restricted to group outings.

Laundry at the maison is hand-washed and line dried. Volunteers are expected do their own laundry or be able to compensate the house staff for the service at 200 HTG per load (orange bags are supplied to relay one’s duds). The house staff also regularly conduct informal laundry orientation sessions. There is also a local laundry mat and it is $10 US (400 HTG) for 20 items they machine wash and dry your close but you have to call ahead of time and make sure there is electricity.

Food and Expenses

Meals are prepared by Maison staff. $25 USD is collected each Saturday for dinners (the “Maison meal plan”), but expect to pay an additional $50 per week on other meals, snacks and miscellaneous items. Money spent on project-related materials will be reimbursed. Volunteers should consider bringing some basic snacks from home, as they may be a luxury good. Oreos in Port-au-Prince cost 400 gourdes, or $10 US.

Water is delivered to the Maison and the office in large Culligan jugs from where everyone fills individual water bottles. Bottled water should be used for drinking as well as brushing teeth. Volunteers are not charged for the water service.

As the waste disposal system in Haiti is burning trash, we ask volunteers to, if at all possible, commit to flying out the plastic waste they bring with them at the end of their stay. Of course the purchase of plastic is nearly unavoidable, but we’re trying to reduce its disposal as much as possible.

Arrival

Port-au-Prince has one major airport, Toussaint Louverture International, on the north side of town. There are regular direct fights to Miami and New York in the United States. The airport is 14km from the Maison and the trip regularly takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours one-way. For this reason we ask that all volunteers travel on Friday and plan to be picked up/dropped off at the airport in the middle of the day. Volunteers are picked up by a dedicated Architecture for Humanity vehicle at the passenger loading zone on the Southern flank of the airport and driven either the office or directly to the Maison depending on the time of your arrival. After acceptance as a volunteer you will be emailed directions and a map for moving through the airport.

Transportation

Transportation will be arranged for volunteers for the duration of the stay. Architecture for Humanity has a small fleet of four-wheel-drive SUVs and drivers on hand to shuttle team members around and beyond Port-au-Prince.

Volunteers will not be expected to travel outside of Haiti during their stay.

Health

While injury is always a hazard on construction sites, the most common illnesses in Haiti, in our experience, are heat-related. Summer days in Port-au-Prince can regularly reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit and are extremely humid. Staying hydrated is extremely important–drink water with regular meals, and drink Gatorade whenever it’s available.

Malaria is a real threat in Haiti. Volunteers are required to get a malaria prescription as part of their commitment to working safely with us in Port-au-Prince. Malaria medications may start up to three weeks before a trip to Haiti–this should be kept in mind while making travel arrangements.

Volunteers will be asked to get their immunizations updated. Most travel clinics request appointments be made 4-6 weeks before the trip but may also accept last-minute walk-ins for certain services. Please review the US CDC recommendations for Haiti relief workers for more information.

Protection from mosquitoes (and the diseases/organisms they carry) begins with very simple daily practices. Protect yourself from mosquitoes with long sleeves and pants and bug spray on exposed skin–especially during twilight and breaking dawn hours. Be sure to bring mosquito netting for your bunk/bed/bag.

There are clinics and hospitals in Port-au-Prince, and first aid kits at the Maison, the office in every Architecture for Humanity vehicle.

Safety Recommendations

While our team is taking the utmost precaution to ensure the safety of staff and volunteers on the ground, the dangers in Haiti should be reviewed carefully by those wishing to volunteer. The United States State Department releases regular updates on their travel advisory for Haiti–the June 24, 2010, travel warning can be viewed here: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5239.html

During their stay volunteers are required to attend regular security briefings–one upon arrival, and updates on a weekly and as-needed basis. Architecture for Humanity Haiti staff may institute a curfew, depending on the security situation. Volunteers are required to abide by the rules specified by the Architecture for Humanity Haiti staff, whether they be verbal or written.

The use of common sense is essential. Do not flash money. Do not go anywhere alone. Avoid street protests or large gatherings. Always make sure that others know of your whereabouts and movements.

Travelers insurance is recommended especially for volunteers spending more than a month with us on the ground. Architecture for Humanity has a few go-to insurers:

World Nomads, also being used by Hands on Disaster Relief for their hundreds of active volunteers in Léogâne, is straightforward and reasonable emergency coverage. The more adventuresome insurance seekers may want to check out International Services, Inc. and there are plenty others out there as well.

Getting Money

Volunteers should bring enough cash with them for the length of their stay. Banks in Port-au-Prince still experience long lines and ATMs are hard to come by, and are potentially hazardous.

US dollars are the most easily exchangeable foreign currency. Dollars can be changed into Haitian gourdes (1 USD is about 40 HTG) in town at banks, grocery stores and at gas stations (the rates are typically lowest at the grocery stores). Some businesses accept USD (small bills) with a poor exchange rate. Large businesses accept credit cards.

Mail

There is no regular mail service to or throughout Haiti. Volunteers who wish to send or receive packages or mail are asked to send them via Architecture for Humanity headquarters. Members of headquarters make regular trips to the Haiti office and are happy to transport small care packages to and from the country. However packages will be opened and inspected by the carrier to verify contents.

Terms of Acceptance

Volunteers will be asked to sign a participation agreement waiving Architecture for Humanity of responsibility for any injury or loss that occurs during the participant's time in Haiti. Upon acceptance to the program, volunteers will receive a pdf package of welcome material which includes the Participation Agreement. Volunteers will be asked to return a digital copy of the signed participation agreement and bring the hard copy with them on their trip. Volunteers will also be asked to send their flight itinerary into and out of Port-au-Prince (travel on Friday is preferred–see “Arrival” above) and a head shot so we know who to look for at the airport.

What to Bring

• T-shirts (long sleeves are good) and Long pants / jeans
• One or two nice sets of clothing for meetings and evening outings
• Boots/good quality hiking sneakers
• Towel and washcloth
• Flip flops/sandals/indoor shoes
• Pillow and linens
• Ear plugs for light sleepers
• Mosquito net
• Sunglasses
• Big floppy hat, cowboy hat or baseball cap
• Light rain jacket
• Antibacterial hand cleanser
• Water bottle / camel pak
• Prescription medications–such as Cipro and anti-malaria pills. Also bring Imodium and Tylenol for lighter wear & tear
• Laptop with drafting/graphic software (common are the Adobe suite, autoCAD, Sketchup or more elaborate 3D programs)
• All necessary chargers and adaptors – Haiti has American-style outlets
• Laptop bag/carrying case/backpack to carry your gear to the office
• Cash for your entire trip (ATMs can be rare and rarely functioning and there are long lines for wired money)
• A color photocopy of your passport
• Your passport
• Your signed Participation Agreement hard copy
• Sense of humor and an open mind

Suggested Items – items that make life easier, but can be found in PAP if need be

• Bug spray with at least 40% DEET (no aerosol)
• Sunscreen
• Small bottle of fabric refresher
• Hand wipes
• Leatherman or pocketknife (place in checked luggage!)
• Small fan
• Personal mirror
• Flashlight or battery operated reading lamp
• Computer mouse
• USB jump drive or portable external hard drive
• Digital camera w/ backup batteries
• Wireless card if your computer is a dinosaur
• Cell phone. AT&T has service and Verizon serves world phones. You can buy local SIM cards and pay-as-you go cards for unlocked phones.
• Whatever special drafting or drawing supplies you need to do your work
• Headphones/headset
• Entertainment for the evenings (books, movies, games. No instruments please, there is a vuvuzela at the Maison)

What NOT to Bring

• Drugs
• Pets
• Valuables

We are excited to share our work with our volunteer team and hope that the environment Architecture for Humanity provides is productive, enlightening and fun. Haiti is a challenging and at times hostile place for humanitarian work but the people we’ve met on our projects are among the kindest and most gregarious in the world. A little bit of caution and a healthy dose of common sense can ensure a rewarding volunteer experience.

Please direct questions to haitivolunteer@architectureforhumanity.org.