Bucket Brigade

Karl Johnson's picture
Posted by Karl Johnson on
Wed, 07/14/2010

"Hey Karl, come take a look at this."

I'm in the office we share with Habitat for Humanity International. Eric, or Program Manager, had made me stick around for his meeting there as the rest of the team went home, probably because I had to go back to the house earlier to get some equipment. Now he's interrupting my work and beckoning me outside.

Now what, I mumble. Eric's been making me do stuff ever since I arrived in Haiti. "Walk here." "Eat this." "Document that site." He's an earful.

I find him standing on the patio, looking toward a building sticking out of the otherwise modest (and verdant) Pétionville skyline. The windowed façade in consideration is layered over with scaffolding all the way up to the roof–eight floors at least. There's a man standing on each level of the scaffolding, one right above the other.

"You can't see it now, but they're passing a bucket between them, on a rope." A moment goes by and sure enough, the sixth man up turns back from a dark window with a bucket, which he begins to ease downward.

"You have to understand what's going on here," Eric continues. I have a feeling I'm in for a lecture. "It's about the cost of labor versus the cost of equipment. These guys could pass a bucket of concrete up and down for a year, and it would cost less than hiring a crane for a day."

I'm not sure if he's being hyperbolic (his sarcasm attacks with a panther's stealth), but the point hits home. He goes back inside, without needing to tell me to take a few snapshots.


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