A family stands in front of their safe, concrete house.
For over three decades, Kobonal Haiti Mission has been building sturdy houses for families in need.

Kobonal Haiti Mission Explains Five Keys To Building Safer Houses

For rural Haitian families living in poverty, the typical house is made of mud, sticks and scraps of metal and plastic. In these crumbling shelters, the roof leaks when it rains, the dirt floor turns to mud and the people living inside are vulnerable to sickness.

That’s why Cross Catholic Outreach partners with Father Glenn Meaux’s Kobonal Haiti Mission to build safe houses for families in need. The Mission has been blessing Haiti’s families for over three decades with safe shelter, clean water, Catholic education, nutritious food, basic medical care and various self-help programs such as agricultural training and a flourishing microloan ministry.

The Mission’s housing program has been particularly successful, carefully refining its approach over the years to build better houses and use resources more efficiently. Fr. Meaux knows that the well-being of his community is directly related to the strength of the local families. It made sense to give families a safe place to share meals, build relationships, make memories and pass down their faith to their children. Fr. Meaux and his staff have built a successful program by being committed to learning, changing their strategy when needed and serving Haiti’s families more efficiently.

Three men work to build a concrete block house wall in Haiti.
The Mission has learned how to build safe and sturdy houses over the past three decades.

Five Keys to Building Safer Houses in Haiti

Since Kobonal’s housing program began, Fr. Meaux’s team prioritized delivering the best product possible to the poor families they serve. The team started by building wooden homes with tin roofs — a tremendous improvement over the mud and stick houses typical for poor families.

As the program continued to grow, so did the quality of the houses, and by the time Cross Catholic Outreach began partnering with the Mission in 2003, the homes were made from more durable concrete blocks instead of wood. Today, these four-room houses come complete with a galvanized steel roof, solar-powered electricity, a lockable door and an outdoor latrine.

Along the way, the ministry has learned important lessons that have helped them become one of Cross Catholic Outreach’s most trusted housing partners. Here are five things that Fr. Meaux and his team have learned along the way:

1. Make Roofs More Durable

A solid roof makes a huge difference. The original Kobonal house roofs were made from tin, a dramatic upgrade from thatched roofs that are common for the poor in Haiti. In 2013, those roofs were upgraded to thicker galvanized steel, meaning that a coating of zinc is applied to the steel in manufacturing. This coating protects and prevents the steel from rusting, maximizing longevity. The Mission also upgraded the quality of the roof frames, switching to a more durable treated wood. This change has added years of life to the average roof, preventing rotting, mold and splintering.

A wooden pink and blue house with a rusted tin roof.
Original Kobonal houses were built from wood with tin roofs.

2. Add Solar Power to Homes

Most families in rural Haiti don’t have access to electricity and live off the grid. That’s why solar power is the most recent and exciting upgrade to the Kobonal houses. In 2020, Kobonal began installing solar power in newly constructed houses, giving families indoor electricity for the first time. This is a dream come true for poor families!

This upgrade gives children the opportunity to study after dark and the families the ability to charge small battery-powered devices. This is a safe alternative to candles, which increased the risk of house fires and other accidents.

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3. Be Diligent Making Repairs and Home Maintenance

Every home needs periodic repairs to keep the family inside safe and sound. That’s why, after three decades of building homes in the Diocese of Hinche, Fr. Meaux has a solid plan for ensuring past beneficiaries are able to maintain and upgrade their homes. Making necessary repairs is also the Mission’s way of protecting donors’ previous investment in the homes they sponsored many years ago. The most common repairs are roof and frame replacement, door and window repair, wall patching and repainting walls.

4. Dignity Is Restored When Families Take Ownership

The Mission has learned that families take more pride in their homes when participating in the construction process. For this reason, beneficiaries are required to help with initial construction and ongoing repairs.

Families are expected to level the land before the foundation is laid, assist Mission staff with any other work such as carrying bricks or other materials and digging the hole for the outdoor latrine, and be responsible for painting the inside of the home. This work also saves costs, allowing families to live in a quality house and significantly reducing the price to build it.

Other community members often show up to help, happy that their neighbors will finally have a decent place to call home. That’s the beauty of the Mission’s work — it has built an environment where people want the best for each other and serve with the joy of Christ.

5. Develop an Efficient Construction Process

Kobonal houses are a model of quality and efficiency, yet they only take five days to build. This incredible feat is only possible because the staff has been willing to take the time to learn from others and their own experiences. The Mission has also invested in equipment and employs a staff of experienced masons and carpenters who have developed an efficient construction plan. Here’s the plan that the construction team follows to build a home from the ground up:
  • Day 1: The cement foundation is poured.
  • Day 2: The masonry team builds the cement block walls and coats them with a layer of plaster.
  • Day 3: The second layer of plaster is applied to the walls. After it is finished, the masonry team moves on to build the next home. The carpentry team begins framing the roof.
  • Day 4: The carpentry team continues to frame the roof and install the doors and windows.
  • Day 5: The galvanized steel roof is installed, and the outside of the home is painted. The family must paint the inside of the home before moving in.
A construction worker plasters the wall of a home he’s building in Haiti.
The Mission’s construction team has become a model of efficiency.

You Can Help!

Fr. Meaux has followed God’s blueprint for success, growing the Mission’s housing program into a thriving ministry that’s changing the lives of Haiti’s poorest families. Kobonal homes are built to last, giving the poor a fresh start, a solid foundation and a place to rebuild their lives. Each house costs just $10,207 to build and is a priceless gift to families who have lived in destitution for so long. Will you help us continue to provide quality houses that will help Haiti’s families build better lives?

Build Safe Homes for Poor Families

Related: Protecting Haitian Families by Replacing Unsafe Housing

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Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2022, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.