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Marie-Andrenise Silvius: 'I helped to build this house'

A small sky-blue house hides behind a patch of banana trees. And just through the pink doorway, a woman stands on a wobbly chair, paintbrush in hand.

“Good day! Come inside. How can I help you?” asks 43-year-old Marie-Andrenise Silvius, a broad smile breaking through the blue paint splattered all over her face. “Or did you come to help me?”

“I helped to build this house,” she says, “I brought the gravel from outside to make the foundations. And now it’s finished. My son and I are doing the painting.”

The wooden house stands close to the makeshift hut of worn-out sheets of corrugated zinc roofing and tarpaulins Marie-Andrenise and her family called home following the earthquake.

Marie-Andrenise is a farmer, born and raised in Léogâne. She has been tending her garden here since she was a child. She cultivates bananas, a Haitian staple, along with cherries and papayas, and this produce is sold at the market in the neighboring town of Gressier.

“With what I earn from agriculture, I’m able to send my children to school. I want them to learn a profession they like so they can be better off when they grow up.”

Marie-Andrenise is a single mother. She used to live in a rented room in Lafferonnay, near Léogâne, with her three children aged 20, 14 and 10. But that house was flattened in the earthquake on January 12, 2010.

The Earthquake: Then and Now

“I was in my garden. I felt the ground shake. I held on to a banana stalk to stop myself from falling,” recalls Marie-Andrenise. “As I turned around, I saw the house fall right before my eyes.”

At the time of the earthquake, Marie-Andrenise’s children were at her brother’s house.

“Thankfully, they had no injuries. My brother was fine too, but he left the house he was renting. We were all afraid of the aftershocks.”

In the days, weeks and months following the earthquake, Marie-Andrenise and her family continued living on the land near the house they had been renting. Eventually, they built a small shelter.

The Red Cross shelter team in Léogâne eventually carried out an assessment in the area. As Marie-Andrenise recalls, “The Red Cross people told me that I would get a house for me and the children. They promised my brother a house too.”

At first, it seemed to Marie-Andrenise that this promise had been forgotten. Indeed, some time passed without any visible sign of progress. But the Red Cross shelter team was verifying the ownership of the land and trying to pre-empt any other issues that could hinder construction.

“They began construction at the end of August and I realized that it was real. I would really have a house,” says Marie-Andrenise.

As she puts the finishing touches of paint on the walls, Marie-Andrenise beams: “It feels so good to know that I have my own house for me and my children. When I was living in my tent, I never thought I would have a home again.”

Learn how else the Red Cross has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Haitians by visiting