Haiti ‘Village of Hope’ takes root with first Safe T Homes installed
SHEFFIELD, Iowa -- When the time had finally come to begin erecting modified grain bins as homes in Haiti, Brett Nelson couldn’t help but wonder how people would feel about living in them.
The answer was overwhelming.
“They loved them. They thought they were beautiful,” said Nelson, who spearheaded the idea of using bins made by Sukup Manufacturing Co. as shelters.
Nelson and three others from Sukup led a team that erected the first 11 Safe T Homes in February near Les Cayes, Haiti. The “Village of Hope” will eventuallyhave about 50 Safe T Homes, with seven circles of seven homes. Each pod will have a gazebo at the center as a gathering place.
Each day about 100 people gathered at the construction site, most of them hoping to land a job building the homes, Nelson said. “If you put your wrench down it was gone. It’s not that they were stealing it. They wanted to work.”
Nelson and the others from Sukup Manufacturing – Nick Sukup and employees Luke Erickson and Joe Germain – had no trouble finding capable workers. They divided them into four teams –working on sidewalls, roofing and ballast boxes – and built two houses per day. The last of the 11 homes was put up almost entirely by Haitians.
A key to the Safe T Homes’ use as transitional housing is the ease with which they can be built. An experienced team of four can put one up in just a few hours using minimal tools. Even a novice crew can have one up and ready in a day. The homes are a great value compared to other temporary shelters, and with a double roof and vented eaves are much more comfortable than one would imagine, Nelson said.
The Safe T Home™ was recently recognized by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers as an AE50 Award winner. The awards recognize outstanding agricultural innovations that have potential for broad impact.
The 18-foot-diameter Safe T Homes built in Haiti will be used as temporary shelters for families. Those staying in them will learn agricultural and entrepreneurial skills, then move out when they find family-supporting employment and adequate housing elsewhere. Then another family can move in.
Prospective residents are being screened by Global Compassion Network, a nonprofit agency that is administering the Village of Hope project.
“They hope to build a larger Safe T Home to be used for a clinic, and one also for a church,” said Nelson, who is the safety director at Sukup. He suggested using modified bins as homes following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in January of 2010 that killed an estimated 230,000 Haitians and left about 1.6 million homeless.
Sukup President Charles Sukup and Chief Financial Officer Steve Sukup agreed to donate 14 Safe T Homes, and Nelson began coordinating the design and fabrication of the homes and putting the word out about them.
“I’ve gotten dozens of calls from people who are interested – church organizations, missions, non-government organizations,” he said.
Along with Global Compassion Network, Sukup Manufacturing is partnering with the Iowa Food & Family Project, which is an initiative launched by the Iowa Soybean Association; and Meals from the Heartland, an Iowa-based nonprofit that has packaged more than 20 million meals for hungry families around the world.
The goal is to deliver 48 Safe T Homes this spring. So far, there are enough donations for 34 Safe T Homes, Nelson said. Twenty-six have been shipped, and another 13 will go May 1.
Global Compassion Network is planning to acquire another piece of property for a second village. The acquisition process takes a long time, Nelson said, because of the complex property laws and record-keeping systems.
He and Nick Sukup and the other crew members from Sukup Manufacturing hope to return to Haiti to help put up more Safe T Homes.
No doubt they’ll be greeted again by scores of eager workers of all ages.
Sukup Manufacturing Co. is the fastest-growing grain bin manufacturer in the world. It is also the largest family-owned and operated grain handling equipment manufacturer in the world.
Located in Sheffield, Iowa, USA. Sukup has provided top-quality products to agricultural producers since 1963. The product line includes farm and commercial grain bins, portable and tower dryers, centrifugal and axial fans and heaters, stirring machines, bin unloading equipment and bin floors and supports. Sukup also makes a line of material handling equipment that includes bucket elevators, drag conveyors and chain loop conveyors. The company also recently began producing pre-engineered metal buildings.
Sukup products are sold throughout the United States and Canada, as well as in more than 50 other countries.
More on the Web
- To view the “Village of Hope” video on YouTube, click here.
- To read more about the Iowa Food and Family Project, or to donate, go to iowafoodandfamily.com
- To learn more about Global Compassion Network, go to globalcompassionnet.org
- For more on Meals from the Heartland, go to globalcompassionnet.org