There are two reasons to consider using the polypropylene high strength pulling twine instead of 14 gauge wire for making the blocks. First is because the twine is so much easier to work with than the wire. No special tools are required and it is less physically demanding. The second reason is the cost. The 14 gauge wire can be purchased in Haiti for $80.00 for 5,800 feet (100 lb coil). 6,500 feet of the twine can be purchased at Home Depot for $39.95. We can buy it in bulk, 1,000 lb minimum, for $.0001per foot or less. The polypropylene isn’t strong enough to replace the wire in the construction of the house but it is more than adequate to replace the wire in building the blocks.
The twine is cut into lengths 66 inches long. A loop knot is tied in one end. The knot is used to locate the twine in the end plate of the Ubuntublox block making machine. The twine is placed inside the spaces in the bottom of the machine just like the wire. Sometimes the twine is difficult to place in the space. I have found using a stick or piece of wire to place the string in the opening helps.
After the block is compacted and the covers are opened up the twine is used to secure the block. No special tools are required. I have found that a wire bent with an hook on one end makes pulling the end of the twine through the end of the machine very handy. My wife watched me fight it and then told me I needed to make a tool that was like a hook out of wire. I did as I was told and once again am glad I have such a smart wife.
The end of the twine is placed through the loop and pulled tight by hand. The twine is too strong to be pulled apart by hand. But pulling the end too tight can cut the loop. It needs to be pulled tight but not too tight. The block is already compressed into shape and the twine is supposed to hold that shape. The twine isn’t supposed to compress the block further.
What I have found that works well is to pull the end through the loop and then place a finger over the connection of the end of the twine and the loop. This will secure the twine in place while a half hitch knot is made. Once the first half hitch knot is made then the finger can be removed and a couple of more half hitch knots can be added. http://www.animatedknots.com/halfhitch/index.php
I secure the middle twine first and then the ends.
It’s been 5 months since I left Haiti Communitere and Haiti. I expected to be back in Haiti working with the community down at Wharf Jeremie where We Advance has their clinic and Hands Together has their school by now. My plans were to get the women working on building their own houses as a community. If we can make it work in the poorest community then we can make it work in all but the more affluent ones.
We have the house in the Haiti Communitere compound. It is a wonderful house. Few Haitians will ever see it. No average Haitian will ever experience living in it because it is rented out to foreigners at a rate only the rich Haitians can afford.
I was told the other day that it was a test. The house was built to test Ubuntublox in Haiti. That hurt my heart. Ubuntublox has already been tested for earthquakes at a rate that is over ten times greater than the one that destroyed Port Au Prince January 2010. A free standing Ubuntublox wall was subjected to 90 mph winds with a rain rate of almost six inches per hour. The wall stood there for thirty minutes. It was certified to have suffered no damage of any kind. The testing has been done.
My vision was to go to Haiti Communitere, build a house. My only line in the sand was that women had to be the builders. There needs to be a project in Haiti that concentrates on empowering the women. We empower the women the same way we empower men. It’s called wages. Women already have jobs. The sad thing is those jobs don’t pay wages because those jobs are just work that has to be done. I thought that if we built a model home in the Haiti Communitere compound and trained the women we could take the compaction machines and knowledge into the community and the women would take it from there. It was not to be. Haiti Communitere decided to have the machines in the compound and build a factory to build the blocks there instead of the community. It was explained to me that if the community made a bad house then it would ruin Ubuntublox forever in Haiti. Ubuntublox has to be controlled and the best way to control it would be to have a factory making the blocks in the Haiti Communitere compound.
I disagree. Make that, I really really disagree.
When I got back home to Texas I found a lot of people wanted to help me get back to Haiti so we could build with Ubuntublox. The problem was they all seemed to believe in the big lie about entrepreneurship that is so popular these days. It seems anyone and everyone can be an entrepreneur. Bullshit. I know entrepreneurs as well as anyone and entrepreneurs are the one group of people in the world that don’t need a helping hand. An entrepreneur will make it happen because they have the keys to entrepreneurship. They have the drive and they have the risk tolerance that it takes to accept, make that, embrace failure as part of the process of succeeding. Most of the population on this planet don’t have the risk tolerance required. The drive is pretty common in us.
Here’s the reality of Ubuntublox. Millions and millions of dollars will be made with Ubuntublox. But no one person or entity is going to make a million off of Ubuntublox. The women who make the Ubuntublox and use their training to build great homes will make money they could never make any other way. Their life will be better. The same will be true of the thousands of welders that make the equipment like the compaction machines and foam shredders. They will all make money but it will not be an individual or entity that makes all the money. The community where the women are making the Ubuntublox and building the houses will be so much better off. That’s because this is the only way these communities will be rebuilt in a sustainable manner. The way men work and men designed housing has done nothing to help the community.
It is really frustrating. I look at the big NGOs in Haiti and they are all about a bureaucracy that’s primary mission is self sustainability. If they are faith based they seem to be all about fragmenting the community with projects that isolate their followers from the community at large. The big NGOs that are USAID oriented seem to be all about corporate interests first and foremost. And faith based or international NGO oriented they seem to share the irrational fear of Haitian control. They want Haitian boots on the ground but blan butts in the office.