When Build Health International (BHI) needed a helping hand to help install seamless flooring in a new two-level surgical center at St. Boniface Hospital in Haiti, they put a call out for flooring installers who would be willing to donate time and talent. Kwasi Pecou, project manager and estimator for Lane’s Floor Coverings & Interiors in New York, answered the call and travelled to Haiti.
The hospital, which is located in rural Fond-des-Blancs, Haiti, had been hit by Hurricane Matthew, the Category 5 storm that ravaged the island’s southwestern tip on October 4. Haiti had never fully recovered from the devastating earthquake in 2010 and has continued to suffer from a cholera outbreak, so the hurricane was another major setback for the country.
St. Boniface Hospital services a direct population of 50,000 people and is the main referral hospital for the Southern Peninsula, which has a population of approximately 2.3 million. In 2015 alone, hospital staff managed 62,000 patient visits, treated more than 3,200 inpatients, and helped deliver 1,300 healthy babies, according to the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation.
BHI is a non-profit that builds healthcare facilities by blending North American design and system aspects with systems, materials, and building techniques appropriate to the resource-constrained environments where they operate. BHI connects volunteers with projects and resources to build a public health infrastructure in impoverished countries.
Pecou was accompanied by his cousins Michael Mashack, journeyman floor coverer and shop steward, and Princeton Mashack, floor coverer, from New York City District Council of Carpenters/Local 2287. Also volunteering for the project was Glenn Baker, floor coverer and shop steward, from New York City District Council of Carpenters/Local 2287, and Megan Dant, journeyman flooring installer from Acoustics Associates in Golden Valley, Minn., and MN State Interior Systems Local 68 in St. Paul.
The volunteers were responsible for installing nearly 5,400 square feet of seamless flooring in a newly constructed surgical unit. “We were mainly there to install but noticed the local day laborers’ interest in the product and its installation, which they were unfamiliar with, so it turned into a teaching opportunity,” Pecou said. Coined the “seamless crew,” Pecou and the Mashacks make up two generations of floor covering installers, and they helped teach the Haitian day laborers how to install the flooring. While the surgical unit is complete, there is more flooring to install at the hospital and at other medical facilities in Haiti.
“At some point, I plan to return or travel to another location to provide my services again,” Pecou said. “I never knew my floor covering skills could make an actual difference in someone’s life. It actually changed my life as well.”
Builders Health International is continually seeking professionals in the building trades—flooring installers, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and construction contractors—who are willing to volunteer a week or more of their time to complete building projects in impoverished countries. For the right candidates, BHI will pay all travel, housing, and meal expenses. For more information on the organization or on volunteering, visit buildhealthinternational.org.