Two years after the devastating earthquake in Haiti that rendered more than a half-million people homeless, a re-building effort of permanent homes is underway thanks to the generosity of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) employees and NYCHA’s long-time partnership with Habitat for Humanity NYC.
Housing for Housing presentation. (Photo by PETE MIKOLESKI)
“Because of you there are 165 families living peacefully and decently in a place where, not long ago, there was nothing,” said Claude Jeudy of Habitat for Humanity, on a phone call from the Santos housing community in the town of Léogâne, outside of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti where permanent homes have been built with donations from NYCHA and Urban Zen.
Friends and members of the Haitian-American Association @ NYCHA heard these welcome words in a live phone call from Haiti during a celebratory luncheon sponsored by the employee organization on May 22 at NYCHA’s central offices at 90 Church St. in Manhattan. In addition to celebrating Haitian Flag Day, the luncheon provided the first opportunity for employees to hear and see concrete results from the $10,000 raised in employee donations through the concerted efforts of the Haitian-American Association @ NYCHA following the earthquake in January of 2010.
The luncheon included a presentation by Steve Milbauer, of Habitat for Humanity-NYC where he showed vibrant photographs of the clean, sturdy, permanent houses. Mr. Milbauer first visited NYCHA during the early stages of the fundraising drive at NYCHA, which galvanized support across the organization from individual employees and from a group of 11 other employee organizations, as well as from NYCHA’s Executive Department. The fundraising drive culminated in a Help Hope & Relief Haiti gala in 2010 at fashion designer Donna Karan’s Urban Zen that raised $1 million in just one night from a live auction hosted by actress, Whoopi Goldberg and a concert that featured hip hop singer, Mary J. Blige.
“NYCHA and Urban Zen helped to support this development of permanent, disaster resistant homes,” Mr. Milbauer declared during the slide presentation. “But you have built more than homes,” he continued. “You have helped to create a community. On behalf of Habitat for Humanity, I want to thank the Haitian-American Association @ NYCHA for all their support,” he said. From the phone, in Léogâne, one of the hardest-hit areas during the earthquake where nearly every concrete structure was destroyed, Mr. Jeudy also expressed his gratitude by saying, "We still have a long way to go but we believe, at the end of our journey, we will accomplish something great. On behalf of all the beneficiaries, I want to thank you for your support and tell you how grateful we are.”
In addition to relief work in Haiti, NYCHA Chairman John B. Rhea noted that NYCHA’s partnership with Habitat NYC’s extends to NYCHA developments where, through the Brush With Kindness program, volunteers have painted and brightened almost 40 community centers in the five boroughs since 2007.
Haitian-American Association President Florence Balan closed out the luncheon by thanking NYCHA’s Executive Board, all of whom were in attendance and the 11 other NYCHA employee organizations that supported the fundraising efforts for Haiti. In her remarks, Ms. Balan emphasized the personal importance not just of the financial support, but of the emotional support and empathy she received from the NYCHA community during a time of great difficulty for her and all Haitian-Americans.
By Howard Silver
May 24, 2012