By Lindsey Cooke
Toronto, Ontario – June 4, 2019 – The Haiti ARISE project has been what Leanne Jefferies refers to as a ‘labour of love.’
More than five years ago, the founder of Haiti ARISE Mark Honorat attended a Canadian Collision Industry Conference and got the word out about the technical school they had just built but had been destroyed in an earthquake. As a result, the collision repair industry came together to support the cause by fundraising and building an autobody collision workshop and classroom.
In January the industry had raised $100,000, just enough to start building what would be the first-ever collision repair facility and school in Haiti.
A 4,300 sq. ft. building that would provide Haitians more jobs and a place to have their vehicle fixed if it was in an accident.
“There is nowhere to have a collision repair done in Haiti, and there’s no educational facility for it either, so it’s the first of its kind in the country. It’s going to allow them to have a revenue stream. They are going to be repairing customer vehicles. Right now, if you want collision repairs completed you have to ship your car over to the Dominican Republic. It will allow them to keep that revenue inside the country,” said Jefferies.
Jefferies, along with Tom Bissonnette, Ken Friesen, and Tom Julius flew down to Haiti for the ground-breaking ceremony. “Essentially, they started the day we put the shovel in the ground, and they’ve been building steadily ever since. About a month ago, they got the foundation completely poured and now they’re moving forward with building all the walls,” Jefferies told Collision Repair.
According to Jefferies they actually had to flip the blueprints because they realized the construction would be interfering with a giant mango tree. “It provides a lot of shade and because of the heat in Haiti, we decided it would be worthwhile trying to save this tree. So, we flipped the building over and completely redid the blueprints.”
Friesen, who has vast experience building collision repair facilities from scratch, is taking the lead on the equipment that will be shipped over to Haiti but is still hoping for more fundraising because of the cost to ship the equipment overseas.
Once the building is complete and the equipment has been shipped over they will be inviting over instructors and industry leaders to help set it up and train the trainers, who will be local Haitians.
But this facility isn’t just going to create careers for men, it will also open doors for women.
While the group visited Haiti, they met up with the dean of the college, where the school will be located. During their discussion with the dean, they had mentioned the number of women in the trade back in Canada. “His eyes kind of went wide and he was a little bit surprised at that. And we explained that actually females are actually really good at painting and have a really good eye for detail. There was a young lady working in the office and she looked over and said “me? I can do this?” It was really mind-opening that this could be a great career for not only men but for the young ladies that are attending the school,” explained Jefferies.
Jefferies anticipates that the classes will be full, and the project should be complete by next year.
To donate towards the Haiti ARISE project visit hacip.ca/donate/.