POTD – Portrait of a blockmaker

Across Port-au-Prince and Haiti you see blocks offered for sale along the roadside. This man makes 600 of these a day for something in the region of £2 a day. Thursday night’s Big Political quiz will hopefully raise a good few pennies for the Haven Partnership who build houses in Haiti

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  • Harry Flashman

    Good picture of a Haiti we don’t usually see; a hardworking man, doing honest and constructive labour, earning enough money (though pitifully small by western standards) to support his family through his own efforts. The more men and women like this there are in Haiti the brighter the future for that benighted land.

  • I agree, Harry. This man has a great physique, even though a bit skinny, presumably as a result of his hard manual labour. He does give hope for the future. There is no reason other than political failure for Haiti not having an economy equal to their neighbour, the Dominican republic.

  • HeinzGuderian

    I salute the blockmakers of the world. Without them we would have no blocks !!

  • Harry Flashman

    We’d be all living in mudhuts if it weren’t for the labours of such humble men as this Heinz, I salute him too.

    I remember a doctor friend of mine who pointed out that binmen and sewage workers had done for more to ensure public health than doctors ever had.

    It is men like our friend here, choosing to get off his arse and do an honest day’s toil, that are the building blocks (pun intended) of any civilised community.

    A thousand times more valuable to Haiti than any number of NGO’s, western charity workers and UN officials whizzing around slums in their big fancy Toyota Land Cruisers.

  • Blessed are the gobshites eh Heinz?

  • HeinzGuderian

    You would know,Moochy 😉

  • HeinzGuderian

    Harry,it was the block makers of this world who enabled the building of sewers in the first place. Without them,we would have no blocks.
    I remember talking to a binman friend of mine,who pointed out that Doctors and Surgeons do more to save the lives of the of patients,than Binmen ever had.

    As I said above. I salute this Block maker. More than likely from a long line of Block makers. A chip of the old Block,you might say ? 😉

  • Harry the number of NGO’s with their own agendas is not helpful. There is more of a concerted effort to ensure that isn’t happening, The Bill Clinton Global Initiative is trying to take the lead with that to try and ensure joined up thinking will help the future of Haiti.

  • Harry Flashman

    I often think that NGO’s and charities act to an agenda of ensuring problems never actually get solved otherwise they’d lose their precious funding, status and perks.

    I’d love to see a charity some day say “You know what? We’ve pretty much done what we can here, there’s a few residual problems but we’re sure they can be ironed out without us, we’re going to close down now”.

    But they never do that do they? They just keep going on, demanding more resources, blaming us for the problems and wanting to know why we aren’t doing more to help while at the same time building fancier offices and hiring ever more expensive PR men and advertising agencies.

    The bloke in the picture seems to be doing okay, he seems like a self-reliant chap. I’ll bet you most people in Haiti would be like him if it wasn’t in the interests of so many agencies to keep them reliant on the international aid tit.

  • JP/HRO, Sean Penn’s charity is being lauded for their approach to the problems of Haiti and how the donated money is spent. He lives frugally in a tent when last i heard. I did hear that other charities are beginning to change their modus operandi to be much the same as JP/HRO.

  • Drumlins Rock

    just over 50 yrs ago a young Monaghan man who had moved up to the Ballygawley area was making blocks in much the same way, then he heard of a machine in England that could make them in batches of 16, he went over to see it, thought he could do better and invented one that made them in batches of 32, then patented the machine as well as developing a blockmaking industry. South Tyrone is now one of the major construction products & Engineering regions in the UK, Haiti could do with a few John Finlays, maybe this man could be one of them, who knows.

  • Wow didn’t know that DR.
    Deforestation is such a massive problem (estimate vary between 1and a half % – 3 % of Haiti’s natural forest canopy remains.) The top soil runs off and dilutes the quality of river sand used in aggregate and for the making of concrete. These blocks could be potentially sold 2 days after being made. Here it takes 12 days to cure and compact breeze blocks.

  • wee buns

    ”These blocks could be potentially sold 2 days after being made. Here it takes 12 days to cure and compact breeze blocks.”

    Because of poor aggregate or is that ‘cos of climate differences too?

    Clever portrait in terms of composition & says much about the character of hardship and respect. It is not a million years ago lest we forget, that Irish people were hoofing stone hewn from fields for miles to make humble shelters, and we owe solidarity to people enduring similar hardship.

    (Not to distract from topic but nice surprise scanning this morning’s news; if only all blokes were so – er – easy on the eye.)

  • There are i believe some chemical compounds mixed in to make the blocks stronger. They also sit on a juddering/compacting table to ensure there are no gaps in the blocks.

  • circles

    I’ve seen a lot of fellas do this work and been on sites were we’ve tested a lot of these kind of blocks.
    Its hard back breaking graft mixing the cement and sand, filling the mould, tapping the block out, carting them to customers.
    The blocks may be sold after 2 days MP, but that doesn’t mean the curing happens faster in Haiti than elsewhere – it just means they are sold as fast as possible, and with no authority controlling the quality of these blocks, they are in the majority of cases not really of a good quality.
    With no quality control and nobody to answer too, who’s going to notice if a block maker manages to get 50 blocks out of a bag of cement rather than 35? Who’s going to control if he’s using clean aggregates or just the dust brushed up from round the yard? Who’s going to notice if the block was allowed to dry rather than cure?
    And who is going to sue him if their house falls on their head at the next inconvenience?

    The guy in the picture is just doing his job, trying to make a few quid to keep going. And in most cases, if a few quid more can be made then what does it matter if a few corners are cut? If more blocks can be sold using less cement? If the quality isn’t really what it might be? You know the salt of the earth likes to make money as much as the next fella.

    By the way, just from the photo, this fellas block look fairly good.

  • I’m going to call you’ blue’ from now on circles 🙂
    I was merely highlighting the differences and difficulties (and potential future problems).
    As he toiled away his boss and the owner of the business got talking to me in broken English. He was happy for me to take photographs if it will help people understand the problems of Haiti.
    And yup back breaking and hard work.

  • lamhdearg

    £2 a day how much is it for a tub of protein in haiti.
    In a place where earthquakes happen would house’s and the like not be better being built to recist collapse.
    I wonder how much (%) profit the chap who collects the blocks and sells them on makes.
    Good luck to the chap. He must have been born on a saturday (like myself).

  • wee buns

    You would think concrete and cement too brittle and heavy to be ideal materials for earthquake country, but deforestation kinda rules out timber frames….

  • circles

    Oh people do the funniest things – live in the shadow of volcanoes, build in flood plains, farm in drought hit areas.
    If you don’t have an earthquake very regularly, people tend to get down to the business of living normally and chasing all the things other people have.

  • lamhdearg……a tub of protein could be translated to a stick of sugar cane

  • lamhdearg

    MP, i assume that is in cost, as it would not translate, as in what if would do for the chaps body. hope you all collect many pounds sterling to pass on to these folks, and have a good night.

  • I’d hazard a guess that a tub of protein would be prohibitively expensive.
    To give you an indication as to prices etc I got some 6×4 prints done which here would have cost approx 6 pence each (depending where i got them printed). They cost $1 each in Port-au-Prince (64 pence in todays rate)

  • Harry Flashman

    What’s with all the cards? What have I been missing?

  • apparently my comment at 10:27 am got me carded

  • lamhdearg

    i take it the heinz fella, got the red for something on another thread.

  • Panzer boy had it coming i think it was the MMG Presidential thread having just browsed it