VOLUNTEER IN HAITI
Low Income Housing

Build a House From Start to Finish in Haiti

Haiti is a beautiful country with a unique culture consisting of a blend of French and African heritage. Unfortunately, Haiti is also a very poor country and is in constant need of rebuilding, repair and forward development. Since the devastating 2010 earthquake, relief efforts have finally come to an end, but long-term development is very badly needed in the form of permanent housing solutions. The Build Abroad Haiti program focuses on building homes for families in need in the rural community of Pignon. This program is unique because it is the only Build Abroad trip where you can build an entire house from start to finish in as little as one week. You and your group will work closely with a Build Abroad Project Manager and a team of locals to dig a foundation, construct walls, install windows, complete a roof, and put on finishing touches like trim and paint.

Trip Date Trip Cost Open Spots
November 3-10, 2018 $1,300 2 left
November 10-17, 2018 $1,300 4 left
January 19 - 27, 2019 $1,300 5 left
February 10 - 16, 2019 $1,300 7 left

Group Volunteering in Haiti

Right now only group volunteer trips are offered in our Haiti location, meaning we require a group of at least 10 people to make the journey. This is because our goal is to build homes for families in a time-effective, efficient manner. In order to do this, we need between 10-12 volunteers working full-time for at least one week. We may offer solo trips some day, but for now this is the best way to complete our mission in Haiti.

More About Pignon and the People We Help

Pignon is a rural community of around 30,000 people located in central Haiti. It was established in 1699 by a French tradesman as an outpost and later transformed into an entire town. Known for its beautiful landscape, it is still one of the poorest areas in Haiti. Families make a living by working local fields where they grow their own food and sell crops such as sugarcane. The families we work with usually own their own land and purchase what little materials they can afford to build their home over time, but often need help with the construction process and labor in general.

Sponsor Your Build

In addition to volunteering, you can also raise money for your build. Not only will this help the family in need, it will also make your trip more affordable because building costs are initially spread amongst volunteer trip costs. You will be able to choose sponsorship options when you begin to plan your trip. Build Abroad can also guide you along during the fundraising process.

A Typical Week for our Volunteers

You should come to Haiti with an open mind and heart, ready to work. Although we try to stick to a schedule, things can change quickly due to storms, supplies available and other factors. Despite these hiccups, we work hard to be productive throughout the week. All trips last one week, from Saturday to Saturday with some time reserved for a little rest and relaxation during the weekend. During workdays, a typical schedule may look like this:

7:00 AM – Breakfast
8:00 – 12:00 PM – Morning construction shift
12:00 – 1:00 PM – Lunch on the job site
1:00 – 4:00 PM – Afternoon construction shift
6:00 PM – Dinner

(Please note, this schedule can vary)

More About Haiti

Occupying the western part of Hispaniola Island, Haiti lies within the Caribbean’s Greater Antilles archipelago. It made international headlines following the 2010 earthquake which caused devastation across the country, but many of its most captivating 19th-century landmarks remain, not to mention idyllic Caribbean beaches and a rich culture fused with Vodou folklore. For those who opt to volunteer in Haiti, you’ll discover a fascinating country steeped in slave history, delectable cuisine and resilient people, determined to rebuild.

Top tourist destinations near Pignon

La Citadelle la Ferriere

Located at the top of Bonnet a L’Eveque mountain just to the north of Pignon, this immense fortress is an icon of Haiti and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built to prevent French invasion by Henri Christophe, a key figure in the Haitian slave rebellion (1791–1804), just after the country gained independence. More than 350 cannons were obtained from different countries bearing the crest of their 18th-century monarchs, while stockpiles of cannon balls can still be seen stacked at the base of the fortress walls.

La Citadelle la Ferriere is reached along a seven-mile trail from the town of Milot where both guides and horses can be hired for the challenging uphill trek, while vendors selling fresh coconut juice and refreshments are found en route. On a clear day, there are views all the way to the city of Cap-Haïtien and the Atlantic Ocean to the north.

Sans-Souci Palace

Once the home of Henri Christophe, the Haitian king who led the independence war against the French, the Sans-Souci Palace lies just a few kilometers from La Citadelle la Ferriere. It was one of nine palaces built by the king and designed to show white foreigners (particularly the French and Americans) the power and capability of the black race. A tour of its crumbling remains takes you through the great halls and opulent grounds which were established at the start of the 19th century, as well as the spot where King Henri supposedly committed suicide with a silver bullet in 1820.

Jacmel

Just a short drive from the capital Port-au-Prince is the picturesque port town of Jacmel which is considered the handicraft capital of Haiti. Crumbling mansions and merchant houses cluster in its charming old town, while the beachfront Promenade au Bord de Mer is a bustle of activity both day and night, with freshly grilled seafood sold beneath its swaying palms. Boutique art galleries and workshops producing hand-painted wall decorations, papier-mâché masks and Vodou-esque trinkets line the way and it’s here that some of the most intoxicating Carnival celebrations take place.

Saut-d’Eau Waterfalls

Located part way between Pignon and Port-au-Prince near the town of Mirebalais, the Saut-d’Eau Waterfalls are held in high regard not only for their natural beauty but also as an important pilgrimage site for locals. It was reported that the Virgin Mary appeared on a nearby palm here more than a century ago and since that time Haitians have trekked to the falls to ask her (or the associated Vodou Lwa, Erzulie Dantor) for blessings to cure their illnesses and ailments.

Pilgrims let the cascading water wash over them as they perform both Catholic and Vodou rituals in a religious festival that coincides with the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel each July. But even if you’re not visiting during the summer, it makes for an impressive jungle hike with a refreshing waterfall swim at the end.

Haitian traditions

Haitian culture blends African traditions brought by slaves with European elements from French colonization and contributions from the indigenous Taino people and Spanish imperialists. The country is renowned for its rich folklore traditions as part of the Haitian Vodou tradition, with former dictator Papa Doc using many of its elements to guide citizens during his brutal rule.

Carnival is the biggest celebration of the year, with traditionally dressed musicians and dancers parading through the streets accompanied by elaborate floats. Haitian music includes that of Vodou ceremonies and rara parades, as well as twoubadou ballads, hip hop kreyòl and the popular modern méringue known as compas. Many styles incorporate African rhythms with both Spanish and French elements, while dancing remains an important part of Haitian life for both religious and secular celebrations.

Around 80% of Haitians are Roman Catholic and 16% Protestant, with small numbers of Muslims and Hindus particularly in the capital Port-au-Prince. Many Christians also practice Vodou rituals alongside their faith, which blends Central and West African traditions with European and Native American influences.

Haitian Cuisine

Haitian cuisine is comparable to the creole cooking throughout the rest of the Latin-Caribbean, blending French, Spanish, West African and Taino influences. But there are a few distinctions that set it apart and make it widely appealing for visitors to the country. Bold and spicy flavors from Africa blend with a French sophistication, with chilies often served on the side, together with pikliz, a combination of pickled onions, carrots, and cabbage in a spiced vinegar sauce.

Haitians love griyo (fried pork) and tassot (a dried and spiced meat), while freshly caught fish, conch and lobster are widely available along the coast. Rice, beans, fried plantains and mais moulin cornmeal porridge serve as the staple dishes for most meals, with riz collé aux pois (rice with red kidney beans) considered the national dish. It’s often topped with red snapper, tomatoes and onions or a hearty bouillon stew made from goat or beef with potatoes and spices, while chicken in a marinade of lemon juice, sour orange, scotch bonnet pepper and garlic is also popular.

Vegetarians coming to volunteer in Haiti are also well catered for, with a plentiful variety of fresh fruits and vegetables which are transformed into delicious salads, as well as the thick vegetable stew of légume Haïtien which blends a range of vegetables with spices, garlic and tomato paste.

For dessert, Haitians love shaved ice flavored with fruit syrup which is known as fresco, as well as a soft sweet bread made using evaporated milk, sweet potato and cinnamon known as pain patate. This is all washed down with fresh fruit juices which are sold throughout the country, as well as malt beverages made from unfermented barley with molasses.

Airlines which fly to Haiti from Europe, North America and Australia

The Toussaint Louverture International Airport is the main gateway for most visitors to Haiti, located just outside of Port-au-Prince. American Airlines operates direct flights from Fort Lauderdale, Miami and New York-JFK, while Delta flies direct to Atlanta and JetBlue Airways connects to Fort Lauderdale and New York-JFK, as well as operating seasonal services to Boston. There are also direct flights to Montreal with Air Transat.

For those coming from Europe to volunteer in Haiti, there are direct flights from Paris-Orly with Air Caraïbes, while Air France connects with the French Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. Sunrise Airways and InterCaribbean Airways have regular flights to destinations across the Caribbean, while Copa Airlines connects to Panama City.

For those flying from Australia, there are no direct flights and most opt to connect through the United States first.