There's a place on this lowly planet that is near and dear to my heart. A little island nation 600 miles from Miami that is has the poorest economy in the Western hemisphere and it was made all the poorer in 2010 when an earthquake turned its cinder-block and concrete buildings into rubble-piled death traps. Yes, I'm talking about Haiti. I've been there twice - pre-earthquake - for mission work (sweating and lifting with the locals to work on churches and schools), and hope to return soon to help again.
And why would I talk about Haiti in a machinery blog? A press release that came across my desk this week points to the problems the country faces (especially as a lot of eyes now turn toward Japan). The folks at JCB are providing machinery to help in the Haiti rebuilding effort. And recently added more machines to the job.
As someone who's been there, in the days after the earthquake, I had one over-whelming thought about the cleanup: "They have no equipment." While we take for granted the occasional sighting of a backhoe loader or excavator at work in a farm field or in town, I really don't recall much construction equipment at work on the island. With a high unemployment rate, you can get a lot of work done with the labor available.
But the massive destruction caused by the earthquake changed the equation. JCB - and others - stepped up right away - with two JCB 3CX backhoe loaders to help with the relief effort. In a catastrophe that brought down as many as 200,000 buildings (you read that right), every little bit helps.
The news this week is the addition of more machines - two JCB excavators and a wheeled loading shovel - were bought by the charity Oxfam and donated to the not-for-profit organization Disaster Waste Recovery, which continues work at clearing damaged houses and recycling the debris.
The JCB JS220XD excavator shown below can move a lot of concrete, and as you can see more than a year after the "event" there's plenty to move. A JS145W and that JCB 426ZX machine are at work as well. The machines are demolishing damaged properties and loading a crusher and screening plant because Haitians will recycle the debris.
While human labor can move a lot of material, mechanizing the process will only help speed Haiti's recovery.
You see not much is wasted in a country where folks don't have much. In my limited travel to the country, I've seen block from walls piled up for re-use - and chances are after the quake that was an issue many struggled with too. You just don't go in and rake out the old to build the new, instead the old must be sorted and stacked to help build anew.
JCB's release was, in fact, focused on their winning a very competitive contract for the Haiti work. But I got a little insight into the company's focus on this issue when I requested photos. Karen Guinn from JCB notes the company was able to get its first machines into Haiti using some of their connections in the country, and she has a friend working in mission there today. She adds that she is "grateful for a company that cares about giving back and an industry that does as well." Aren't we all.
So JCB yellow machines are at work in Haiti, and Karen, like me, worry that as the media buzz from Haiti continues to die down; help may dwindle as well. Add in the incredible losses in Japan - a country that is far richer by the way - and a small island nation tucked into the Caribbean could be forgotten. Let's hope not.