Thursday, October 20, 2011

Arising From the Dust of an Earthquake

Back to Haiti. For the first time as a team leader, I went to the same location on back-to-back project trips.  We even served the same ministry in Grand Goave, Haiti but this time it was to design vocational training facilities for another property owned by Haiti Arise to replace one that was damaged during the earthquake.  In addition to this, we served a second ministry, Heart to Heart Haiti, to design a new church on their orphanage property which was also damaged beyond repair during the earthquake.
Cleaned up but hardly rebuilt.  Presidential palace in the background.
Broken Walls. The cracked and broken walls of the Haiti Arise vocational training centre and the Heart to Heart Haiti church told a tale of powerful destruction.  The vocational training centre was deemed irreparable by an eMi disaster response, structural evaluation team and torn down within weeks of the earthquake but the church, located at the main gate of the orphanage remains, a reminder of brokeness in the midst of life that must move on.  (Part of our work was to provide a demolition plan to bring down this large structure in a safe manner.)
One of the two ministries we served.
The Quake. As an organization we at eMi are beginning to build up a body of knowledge about designing in post-earthquake Haiti.  The project I led there in 2009 incorporated structural detailing to address earthquakes but nobody, not even the typically conservative structural engineers, could have imagined the massive destructive power of the 2010 earthquake.  In fact, scientists didn't even know about the hidden fault-line at the base of the sea that caused the massive quake alongside the island that is home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
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A broken building that will be replaced with additional classrooms and added functions.
Repairer of Broken Walls. Our team came to Haiti to be a "...repairer of broken walls..." (Isaiah 58:12), addressing the need at both properties.  What will rise from the dust of the destruction will be new classrooms, dorms and workshops for a growing vocational, language and bible training centre and a new two-storey multi-use building that will host Sunday church services but also be a children's school during weekdays, a meeting centre for large group conferences and a community hall for all manner of events.
Dirk explains the new multi-use building to replace the broken church building.

Discovering Opportunities. The expanded usage of these facilities is an example that even in times of crisis one can discover opportunity.  For Haiti Arise the opportunity was to re-masterplan the property where they started their ministry to be a specialized training facility with classrooms, workshops, administration and dormitories.  For Heart to Heart Haiti the opportunity was to increase the usability of this large building by incorporating classrooms in addition to the main church function.
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BBQ lobster on the beach with butter and a fork for $8 each!
A Little R&R. After days of working in the heat and humidity the team took a break to visit a local beach where we swam in the ocean and bargained for live lobsters that were then BBQ'd before our eyes right on the beach.  That $8 was very delicious!
H2H Pitched Roof Exterior
Newly proposed replacement church/classroom building.
Project Photos. A new set of photos has been placed in my Photo Gallery and you have options to view it.  If you want to browse the set, click here.  If you wish to see a slideshow of the photos, click here.  If you want to see the titles and read the captions of each photo, click here.
Thank you to all those who have donated to this work through your financial support, encouragement and prayer; you have made this project a reality.
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Newly re-master planned campus for the Haiti Arise Technical Training Centre

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Vocational Training Centre and a New Church in Haiti

After a summer filled with many hours of travel by mini-van with the family, I'm stepping onto an airplane once again to fly to Haiti.  This will be a return trip to serve Haiti Arise, this time to provide a new master plan along with new building and infrastructure (water, sanitation, power) design for their existing vocational training centre which sustained some severe damage during the earthquake of 2010.

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The bonus to this trip is that our team will also be there to provide a new design for a large church in the same city that was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.  The facilities for Heart to Heart Children's Home were badly damaged, some beyond repair and they have rebuilt or repaired most of it.  But their large church/conference/training centre is a large, two storey structure that took years to build and minutes to render useless by the powerful quake.

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It will be a little odd to return to the same location in Haiti without Caitlin with me.  I had an amazing time travelling with her (see her blog entry below this one) and know that it was a good way for her what I do on project trips and see the work of eMi first hand.  It also did wonders in expanding the borders of her world beyond what she knows in Canada.

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We will once again visit the construction site for the new school that El Shaddai Baptist Church is building in Bon Repos.  This construction has received attention by Haitian building professionals and has been visited by Haiti's Ministry of Buildings and Works.  They have even declared it to be an example of good construction practice for the future of Haiti.  I'm so proud of the work of that team!

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Please keep us in prayer as we travel in the air and on the ground and also remember my family and the families of each of our eleven team members as we are away for this project.

You can visit the following links to see the two projects:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Caitlin's Haiti Reflections

Caitlin's Haiti Reflections:

"My experience in Haiti was eye opening.  Going into the trip, I didn't really know what to expect.  I have heard of the devastation that had happened a year ago, and seen pictures, but nothing could prepare me for the reality of Haiti.  You could see every picture from every angle in the highest quality, and you would still miss out on the experience, the smells and sounds and the presence of the people.

The environment was completely different and the culture shock was strange, but what surprised me more were the people.  I was totally shell-shocked.  On the Sunday we were there, we went to a local church.  Their worship was amazing.  I could've taken an Ultra HD video, recorded the highest possible sound quality and played it on an HD 3D RGBY TV, and you still couldn't experience the passion that they had when they worshipped.

These people were in a mere skeleton of a building, nothing more than wooden sticks with a tin roof.  But these people were joyful and spirited!  Though the songs were in Creole, I could literally feel their elation in the praise and the Holy Spirit in that place.  It was truly amazing.

For most of the week, Aysha, Jen and I worked with the kids who attended a school nearby.  Everyday we would do crafts with them.  We had a blast planning and playing with the kids.  They were so sweet!  No matter what we did, no matter how confused we were with the language they always smiled as us.  My personal favourite was finger painting with the first year preschool kids (approx. 3 years old).

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We gave them oversized t-shirts, and they looked so cute wearing them because the shirts went down to their ankles.  They were so grateful and happy, and wore those t-shirts with pride!  Some kids really got into the finger painting and we joined in too!

So my time in Haiti was extraordinary.  We saw not only poverty and hardship, but also a people who were joyful all the same.  Amidst all their loss and suffering, they could still sing Hallelujah!  It was inspiring!

Am I glad to be back?  Yes.  Even though I've got exams to study for and teachers to deal with, I'm glad to be back home.

Am I glad I went to Haiti?  Definitely.  It was an extraordinary experience."  - Caitlin Young

Serving with my Daughter:

What an amazing privilege it was to not only serve alongside an amazing team of professionals but to do it for the first time with my daughter made in very special indeed!  Caitlin and I had talked about it since she was three when I went on my first eMi trip that someday, when she was at least 13, I would take her on a trip with me. That was exactly ten years ago.

I was so proud of how mature she was throughout the trip in the hot, muggy conditions, dealing with mosquitos and strange, mysterious insects that you didn't know were friend or foe.  I think from her reflections she definitely gets what a big God we serve and how His ways are not our ways and that He can make good even out of the most devastating circumstances.

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Project Photos and More:

To read more details about the group we served click the link for Haiti ARISE Children's Village to the right under Greg's eMi Project Archive.  A new set of annotated photos has been place my Photo Gallery and you have options to view it.  If you want to browse the set, click here.  If you wish to see a slideshow of the photos, click here.  If you want to see the titles and read the captions of each photo, click here.

Thank you to all who have donated to this work through your financial support, encouragement and prayer: you have made this project a reality and it could never have happened without you.  This is your investment as much as it is ours.

Monday, May 30, 2011

New Children's Village in Haiti - Greg and Caitlin's Haiti Adventure

From the months of January to May of 2010, after an earthquake devastated large parts of Haiti, almost a dozen eMi disaster response teams went there to conduct structural assessments of damaged buildings and work together with Samaritan's Purse and Food for the Hungry to design camps for displace people and set up emergency water purification stations.  By May we were ready to begin reconstruction assignments and so that month I went there with the first eMi redevelopment design team.  Today a new K-12 school is under construction (and to come a medical clinic and a church) as a result of the efforts of that team.  On June 4th, I will touch down with my next project team in Port au Prince. Our first stop after leaving the airport will be to visit the property of the new school (rendering below) in order to evaluate its progress.


Following the visit to a past project, the new project will take our team west of Port au Prince to the historic town of Grand-Goave, one of the oldest towns in Haiti.  Estimates of the damage caused to major buildings by the quake in Grand-Goave have been as high as 90%.  We will have a chance to see some of this damage as we arrive to serve the ministry of Haiti ARISE.  At Haiti ARISE we will also see an example of a well-constructed building, and stay in it, when we see their two storey dormitory building that survived the quake remarkably well.

Haiti ARISE Ministries began its work in Haiti in 2002.  Their first initiative was to establish a technical training school and related living facilities, constructed on a 2 acre parcel of land.  This was followed by a church which has grown from 45 members to over 400 members.  Over the years more land has been purchased and the work has included ESL training, monthly rice and clothing distributions, a half-acre community garden and Bible School classes.


The work of our eMi team will be to master plan an undeveloped 7 acre parcel of land (below) across the street from the main campus and design the buildings for a children's village (orphanage), a new permanent school and a church/multi-function conference centre.  The bottom photo is the current temporary plywood and tin roof school, built by Haiti ARISE on their property after many other local schools collapsed in the quake.

Our team will also take a little bit of time to investigate damage to buildings suffered at another orphanage nearby.  This orphanage, where the founder of Haiti ARISE grew up, will be the recipient of an eMi team in the fall term to turn our investigation into a full design project.


We always say that every project and every project team is unique.  This one will be particularly special for me because this time Caitlin will be joining my team.  Ten years ago I went on my first eMi mission as a volunteer to Belize where the eMi leader brought his 13 year old son Zach.  Now ten years later Caitlin, who is 13 (turning 14 in July), will be on my team.  This will be Caitlin's first journey outside of Canada and the United States.  I look forward to sharing this experience with my daughter as she explores and expands her world and sees the amazing things God is doing in even the most challenging places.

Caitlin will be joined by a good friend from school who's father will be the architect volunteer for our team.  A third teenager, the daughter of our civil engineer, will also join our team and round out the trio who will be volunteering at the elementary school operated by Haiti ARISE as well as helping with their other community service initiatives.


Please pray for our travel safety and good health throughout the trip and remember our families at home as they carry on busy schedules without the help of us who are on this project team.  We'll see if we have a chance to post an entry during our trip, perhaps along with some photos.  It will depend on a satellite internet link and some electrical power (never a sure thing in Haiti).  Besides being able to update our blog, we are hoping we will get some news or even see some high-lights of the Stanley Cup Finals.  Go Canucks!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Striving to Touch 90 Million People


Our destination. The Indian state of Bihar is not a destination for tourists.  Most Indians consider it backward, lowly and not worthwhile.  Whenever I or others on my team mentioned our final destination to someone familiar to India (like fellow airline passengers) it was invariably met with "why would you ever go there?"

The statistics. Bihar is India''s 12th largest state but has its 3rd largest population: 90 million people.  Close to 85% of the population live in villages and almost 85% of the population is under the age of 25.  All these people live in a state that is slightly smaller than the US state of Kentucky and twice the size of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.  While the estimated level of poverty (living on under $1.00 per day) for the country of India is 24.3%, it is 41% in Bihar.

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The context. The majority religion is Hindu (83%) followed by Islam (16%).  This leaves 1% for "others", including Buddhism which was once prominent (Buddha is said to have found enlightenment in this state), but was forcibly pushed aside a few centuries ago by Islam.  Christianity barely makes a mark here as this region of India has often been referred to as the "graveyard of missions", both figuratively and literally.

The ministries. However, in recent years there have been new efforts to live out the love of Jesus as Christian ministries have begun to operate schools, dig many wells, advocate and provide vocational training for women without status (widows & single mothers), open orphanages, build community by establishing churches and train local pastors.  Our eMi team helped two such groups: Transform India Movement (TIM) led by Pastor Biju Thomas and Emmanuel Christian Fellowship Center (ECFC) led by Rev. EA Abraham.


Impressions. Our team landed in Delhi and took an overnight train to Patna, the state capital of Bihar.  What struck me as I travelled by train, plane, car, and rickshaw through India is that even 60 years after independence from Britain, India remains an interesting and unmistakable blend of Indian culture and its colonial past.

The food. I found the food to be amazing and any thought that I would lose weight on this project trip (an easy "diet plan"), soon disappeared.  Fresh baked naan, varied spicy curries and basmati rice, all of it was good and affordable everywhere we went.


The project properties. Both ministries were looking for a design to house key ministry functions: administration, teaching and housing.  But while one property was on an urban, small lot (TIM) the other was on a rural property surrounded by farms (ECFC).  We had brought one team to design both facilities.  We had Angie (civil engineer - water and sanitation), Ty (structural engineer), Dan and Dirk (architects), Jason (architecture student intern), Stephen (civil engineer student intern), Ivy (architect and eMi2 staff) and me.

Our headquarters. We stayed in a local hotel as our office for the week and went to each property to measure them, dig investigative pits to understand the soil type and bearing capacity and even poured water into them to learn about absorption rates in order to design surface drainage and underground waste water treatment (septic tanks).


Our work. Round after round of discussions with the ministry leaders and within our team resulted in master plans, building designs, structural design for each building and service design for the handling of both fresh water and waste water.  A week after we started, we gave a final presentations of our designs to each organization, each one tailored specifically to meet the needs of the ministry and for the specific challenges and opportunities of each property.

Being there…priceless. Both groups we served expressed their deep appreciation that a group of professionals would travel so far in order to be so intentional in meeting their individual and specific needs.  We could never have accomplished this by sitting at our desks in North America and they would never have been able to receive this level of service in an environment where the culture does not value what they value and where corruption would result in poor quality service at a greatly inflated price.  ECFC waited two years for eMi to be available to provide this assistance.

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Visiting the local church. Since we served two ministries, we took turns attending their churches on successive Sundays.  At each I had a chance to speak and shared about our oneness in God's family.  Addressing one another as "brother" and "sister" is not merely an attempt at being polite, it is an acknowledgement of the unity we share in our brokeness, our need for redemption from that brokeness through Jesus and the grace, forgiveness, wholeness and new life we now have.

Visiting established schools. ECFC was established 26 years ago by Rev. EA Abraham who is from South India.  Several of us had an opportunity to visit a few of his established schools and orphan homes.  The principle of the largest school we visited is a woman with a graduate degree in public administration.  It is a clear statement of the equality of women (and indeed all people in Christianity) that in this highly segregated traditional community, she has received this position of authority and prominence.  (BTW in the photo below, Angie is singing and playing the hokey pokey with the girls….they loved it!)


A visit to Mussoorie. After the projects were completed most of our team took the opportunity of being in India to visit the eMi2 office in Mussoorie, about 8 hours north of Delhi.  Another night train and a very windy road up the mountain brought us to Oaklands, at the foothills of the Himalayas and home of eMi in India for 13 years.  Besides resting and visiting, we held a design review of both projects with their office staff.  Later this year, this office will move down the mountain to Delhi, to begin a new chapter of eMi's work and presence in India.

Project Photos. A new set of photos has been place in my Photo Gallery and you have three options to view it.  If you want to browse the set, click here.  If you wish to see a slideshow of the photos, click here.  If you want to see the titles and read the captions of each photo, click here.

Thank you to all those who have donated to this work through your financial support, encouragement and prayer: you have made this project a reality.


Monday, February 07, 2011

India Bound in February

Tradition says that St. Thomas (yes, "doubting" Thomas) was the first Christian in the 1st century to sail to India to spread the Good News to the Jewish diaspora in that region.  In the late 1700's, William Carey, sometimes referred to as "the father and founder of modern missions", was very impactful in India both in missional as well as benevolent endeavours.  Today there are scattered communities of Indian Christians throughout the country and for my next project trip I will be leading a team to Patna, Bihar in northeastern India to serve two local ministries.
TIM Gate
Rev. EA Abraham of Emmanuel Christian Fellowship Center (ECFC) and Rev. Biju Thomas of Transform India Movement (TIM) both have established programs in medical care, education, leadership training, vocational training and children's homes.  Each are operating in scattered rented facilities and both have acquired parcels of land to construct new centres for their work.  Our team will visit them in Patna to master plan and design the buildings and infrastructure (water, sanitation, power) for these new centers.

This project is being undertaken in conjunction with the eMi Southeast Asia office in India, commonly referred to as eMi2 (it was eMi's second office).  This will be one team with a set of engineers and two architects, each to take on a separate ministry.  In this way, we will serve two ministries in the time it normally takes to serve just one. The goal of our team is to complete two sets of preliminary design master plans, building designs and preliminary engineering recommendations.  The eMi2 office will complete the remainder of the work after our time at the project locations is complete.
This is my first trip into India and I'm thankful to have Ivy Coffey, an architect on staff with eMi2, participating on our team.  Ivy will provide much needed insight into the local culture and how we can function and serve in the most effective manner possible.  You can read more about the projects by visiting the links under Greg's Upcoming Projects at the top of the right side bar of this blog.

Our team will be flying into Delhi on February 11th and for the next 14 days will be travelling by planes, trains, automobiles, buses and pedicabs plus even a little trekking with our own two feet as we do the design work in Patna and afterward make a brief visit to the eMi2 office in Mussoorie (in the foothills of the Himalayas) to conduct a design review of our project with their staff.
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Pray for our travel safety and good health throughout the trip.  We also desire to have open minds to learn, listening ears to understand the needs and soft hearts to come alongside our Indian brothers and sisters to serve them in a way that will be most beneficial to their work.

We also ask for prayer for our families at home who need to handle the ongoing busyness of life without those of us on the team.  Thank you to all supporters and friends who are making it possible for me to do this work.  I will update this blog as I am able in India but for sure will provide a follow-up upon our return.