Making Better Bricks, Building Stronger Jobs, Creating More Hope

A team of eight brick makers shovel cement mixed with gravel, sand and water into a machine that makes bricks. If properly dried, the bricks will withstand a powerful earthquake. The machine, provided by Save the Children, makes more than 1,000 blocks per day. Photo credit: Lane Hartill
Spattered with cement, and glazed with sweat, Jurice Jedene is working for his five kids. It’s not glamorous work, brick making. It’s terribly repetitive, and in the tropical heat, it will shatter a man with a weak back and no stamina. But Jurice is all sinew and focus. Heat and hard work have never bothered him.

Making bricks is better than his former life, scratching a living out of Haiti’s dry soil. Back then, working the land in southern Haiti, his hopes lived and died with the rains. For years, he never earned a steady income. That’s why he moved to Port-au-Prince and took a job at a bakery. While the work was steady, it was hard to save money when he only made 75 cents a day.

But then his brother-in-law asked him to join his seven-man block making crew. With Haiti’s construction boom, the team was getting all the work it could handle. They needed another man.

Brick making is booming in Haiti. That’s why Save the Children partnered with Build Change, a construction development organization, to teach brick makers how to make stronger bricks. Save the Children gave eight brick-making machines to businessmen who were using old fashioned molds. Build Change taught them the proper ratio of sand, cement and water to make the most solid brick possible.

They also got into details. What’s the best kind of gravel to use (rough not round); the best ratio of cement to sand and gravel; and how long bricks should be left to dry (18 days). If brick makers follow Build Change’s advice, the bricks should withstand another earthquake.

Stronger bricks are great. But brick machines also mean business owners need employees. These new machines and training have allowed each block maker to triple their production and double the number of employees. Now Jurice makes several dollars a day. Even better, he’s paid at the end of every week. Finally, for the first time in his 40 years, Jurice is making a steady paycheck.

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