July 18, 2017 — On May 25, Bishop Joseph Gontrand Décoste, a Haitian Jesuit, presided over the launch of a new Jesuit-initiated housing project in Roseaux, Haiti, one of the areas hardest hit by the Category 4 hurricane that battered the island nation last October. Since the launch, six houses have been completed or are nearing completion.
Bishop Joseph Gontrand Décoste, SJ, (center) presided at the launch of the Jesuits' housing project. (Photo: Jean-Thomas Dabady, SJ)
In addition to killing 1,000 people, Hurricane Matthew destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes. The worst hurricane in Haiti in more than 50 years only added to the devastation of the 2010 earthquake that claimed an estimated 230,000 lives.
Last fall, the Jesuits in Haiti responded forcefully to the crisis, establishing an emergency relief operation and planning a bold new initiative: the construction of 75 hurricane- and earthquake-resistant new homes for those who lost their homes to the hurricane.
Fr. Miller Lamothe, SJ, provincial delegate for Haiti, sent a fundraising
appeal for the construction project directly to the Jesuits’ General
Congregation 36, meeting at that time in Rome. On behalf of the Jesuits of
Haiti and the French Canada Province, of which they are members, he asked
Jesuits around the world to “show solidarity with the victims of Hurricane
Beneficiaries attended a meeting in April to learn about the project. (Photo: Jean-Thomas Dabady, SJ)
From the newly elected Jesuit Superior General Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, who called the reconstruction of Haiti “an urgent work of mercy,” to small Jesuit provinces around the world who contributed from their limited resources to the project, the global Society of Jesus stepped up in force. By April 2017, the funding goal for the construction of 75 houses was exceeded — with individual contributions ranging from $11.63 to more than $100,000 — the majority supplied by Jesuit provinces, communities and works.
An illustration of a home designed by Project Engineer Jean-Honnel Joassyn. (Image courtesy Jean-Honnel Joassyn)
The new homes will be built in three areas that Jesuits have identified as “intervention zones” on Haiti’s southern peninsula. Twenty-five are planned in Roseaux, 20 in Desormeaux and 30 in the towns of Cesse and Bergerac.
Project Engineer Jean-Honnel Joassyn designed the three-room hurricane- and earthquake-resistant structures to be sturdier than most other new and existing homes in the affected regions.
Work on the project began in late May. (Photo: Jean-Honnel Joassyn)
In late April, the project team, which also includes Project Director Jean-Barnabé Bellanton and Project Supervisor Fr. Jean-Thomas Dabady, SJ, hosted a meeting with the families in Roseaux who will occupy the new homes. The team explained each stage of the construction process, an important meeting since the beneficiaries of the project will be providing in-kind services to reduce the cost of construction. Although the coming rainy season will affect progress, the team anticipates completing five houses per month.
When Pope Francis addressed the Jesuits’ General Congregation in Rome last fall, he reminded the delegates that “mercy is not an abstraction but a lifestyle consisting in concrete gestures rather than mere words.” In the case of the Jesuits’ housing project in Haiti, a “concrete gesture” means homes for 75 families.
One of the first six houses nearing completion. (Photo: Gay Fenel)