Return to Haiti gives Wiltonian a new outlook

The catastrophic 2010  Haitian earthquake left Andrew Chung — at the time a college freshman and recent graduate of Wilton High School — stranded in a small town 50 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince.

This summer, he and classmates of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., were sent on a second Haitian  project, and he recently returned with a new perspective on the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Although the landscape and climate were familiar, Mr. Chung said the impoverishment and destitution were surprisingly worse since the natural disaster.

“Everywhere you go everyone was struggling to survive,” he said.

His team was assigned to a week-long project, Aug. 7-14, to  build sustainable-energy sleeping quarters adjacent to a medical center, using solar panels and an unused freight container from Trenton, N.J.

His 2010 trip was centered in Lascahobas, a gated residential town, where he stayed in a school church. This summer he stayed in a house in the much more rural town of  Rantlamouaie, about four hours and twice the distance from Port-au-Prince.
The town had little connection with the outside country, and social activities were centered around a church. Mr. Chung said the sense of the community was remarkable.

 

“There was more of a community feeling this time,” he said. “Everyone says hi to you and are friendly and willing to help.”
Upon his arrival, he was greeted by villagers who helped carry his luggage in the pouring rain. It entailed a 15-minute hike from his van up muddy streets to his designated home, which the residents vacated for the week.

 

The project
Solar panels, donated by General Electric, were attached to the container, windows and doors were cut, and the dwelling was given exterior reflective paint, to help cool it against the sweltering climate. The ventilation design incorporated principles of natural cooling, with cold air coming from the ground and warmer air escaping.

The windows had to be cut in Haiti, in order to meet shipping regulations from the United States.
The structure now accommodates 10 beds, and is adjacent to the village medical center. The completed project is the culmination of Mr. Chung’s semester-long engineering course.

The 2010 project entailed creating a solar-powered energy system for a computing classroom in Lascahobas.
Mr. Chung said the whole village will be impacted by this year’s project, and community members gathered for a ceremony upon its completion.

“I want to do this for the rest of my life,” he said “One of my goals is to start my own company to help change the world.”
On the last day of the trip, driving through Port-au-Prince, he witnessed the devastated city and saw the badly collapsed capitol building.

He recounted his more hectic departure two years ago, in which he had no cell service to reach his parents and there were no commercial flights leaving the country.

His stranded team finally managed to leave from an airport in the Dominican Republic the first time around. Cell phones were no good because there was no cell tower in Santo Domingo, the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic.

For more information on Andrew’s projects or to support his efforts, email [email protected] or visit Facebook.com/ESWRPI.

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