A group of British Columbia Ironworkers is helping forge a fresh start for a Haiti trade school destroyed during a magnitude-7 earthquake that ravaged the country six years ago.
École Lakay was one of 30,000 commercial buildings and 250,000 residential structures left in ruins after the devastating quake on January 12, 2010. In the years since the disaster, the country has struggled to restore its infrastructure. But a Canadian fundraising campaign has raised $1.6 million to rebuild — and ultimately reopen — the school, which is located near the Haiti capital of Port-au-Prince.
On January 28, a crew of six B.C. Ironworkers travelled to Haiti to join the project, which was spearheaded by the Canadian Construction Association in partnership with the British Columbia Construction Association, Builders Without Borders and the Association de la construction du Québec. Launched in 2011, the École Lakay Project has hit significant milestones in recent years – like the demolition and removal of a water reservoir, its concrete foundation laid, and the erection of the structure’s steel frame.
During their time in Haiti, the Ironworkers have contributed essential services and knowledge towards completion of the project. Assembled by Paul Beacom, dispatcher for Local 97 of the Ironworkers Union of B.C., the team executed the building’s erection, including its floor and roof decking. While on the ground, they also imparted trade secrets to local workers.
“Sharing knowledge and information, a sense of brotherhood and humanity, can really make a difference,” Beacom told The Province newspaper.
Prior to the earthquake, the school provided room and board to 80 boys from nearby townships—some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the region. École Lakay’s new, 2000-square-metre structure will be earthquake-resistant, with space for 200 students to gain an education in trades such as woodworking, electrical and plumbing. In a country still fraught with instability, École Lakay will be a place where young people can live, study and learn a viable profession.