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Home Sweet Haitian Home

Home Sweet Haitian Home

by Gretchen DeVoe, Lifeline Co-Founder and Health Care Director

For us who live in the U.S. and Canada, having our own home is often taken for granted.

Just like going to the sink and turning on the water.

Or flipping a light switch to illuminate our way.

We simply consider it a part of our way of life; a necessity and often not a blessing.  While many may not own their own home, even lower cost apartments would be a palace to a poor Haitian family.

Haitian home

What does a home mean in Haiti?
This really came home to me like a light-bulb going off a few years ago when Bob (my husband and Lifeline Co-Founder) and I were at a home dedication, led by Pastor Luc Jean-Julien of our Grand Goave Christian Church.

In his message to those of us attending the dedication ceremony, Pastor Luc shared something about his culture that even we, as 35+ year veteran missionaries, had never thought about or heard articulated the way Pastor Luc did.

He began sharing, “In Haiti, the type of home a person lives in impacts how their society looks upon them as individuals and as a family.”

As a result, this impacts their own self-image. He said they literally “cannot hold their heads up.”

home dedication

But once they are given the two-room cement block home, with steel doors, steel roof trusses and galvanized roofing, their heads come up and they smile! And if you have been to Haiti you know that the posture of the graceful Haitian people is one of holding their head up, their back straight, and walking down the streets with purpose in their step. But this is lacking in the very poor and homeless.

The recipients of the Lifeline-built homes are all the poorest of poor, those who probably would never be able to afford to buy themselves a home, even build a decent structure, or rent a nice two-room home.  Owning their own Lifeline home is simply a dream.  And this is evidenced by the tears that flow on dedication day.

traditional Haitian home

A typical home in Haiti
Most Haitians live in rented huts, dilapidated one room “houses,” woven stick shanties, or sometimes in tents. Many families share that one room home with other people…sometimes not even their own family members but another needy man, elderly woman, or orphan.

traditional Haitian home

On average 5 to 6 people occupy a space that is only big enough to throw a straw mat down and lie on a cold, damp, dirt floor.   And the condition in these homes also adds to poor health:

  • With mud or woven walls mosquitos lay their eggs on the walls exposing the entire family to Malaria or Dengue Fever.
  • Sleeping on the cold floors and breathing the cold, damp and dusty air contributes to the many respiratory infections we treat in our Lifeline clinics. And to skin sores and infections.

new home

Taking pride in their new home
In addition to being a place where a Haitian family can have their hope restored, and a new future for their families, it gives them the incentive to take pride in that home. They often invest time, energy and even a little money in creating areas outside the home for decorating: placing pretty plants in tin cans, fashioning galleries out of rocks as a place to gather and sit on hand-made wooden Haitian folding chairs, and a place their children can sit and study their school homework. They have privacy, and they have pride. They can walk the streets with heads held high.

home dedication

Lifeline’s purpose in providing homes since 2003 has been not only to lift them up from the cold dirt floors, help them to raise their heads high and smile but most importantly, point them into the loving, warm arms of Jesus who is the master builder and the provider of all good things!

Learn how you can provide a home for a needy Haitian family: