MCC sends engineers to HaitiBy Linda Espenshade Mennonite Central Committee
AKRON, Pa. — Mennonite Central Committee is sending three structural engineers to Haiti Jan. 23.
The engineers will spend one to four weeks examining houses and other buildings to determine if they are in danger of collapse or if they are safe for occupation. Many Haitians are sleeping on the streets or in open areas because they don’t feel safe in their homes.
“People are scared to go back in their buildings without someone looking at them to be sure they are sound,” said Ron Flaming, director of international programs for MCC.
Leading the engineering team for MCC is Johann Zimmermann, a licensed structural engineer from Harrisonburg, Va., who served with MCC in Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Nicaragua. He attends Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg.
He will be joined by Peter Pereverzoff of Rochester, N.Y., and Marcus Schiere of the Netherlands.
Zimmermann, who is self-employed and a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, said he was motivated to go to Haiti as he thought about the safety of the people. He lived through an earthquake in Central America and understands the uncertainty that survivors feel.
“You’re afraid: Am I safe or not?” Zimmermann said. “It’s really anxiety producing. If you have children, you are worried about them more than you are about yourself.”
In Haiti, Zimmermann hopes to work alongside Haitian builders because they are the ones most familiar with local building techniques. He would like to teach them how to assess the structural soundness of buildings, so the work can continue after he and the other engineers are gone.
The engineers’ task involves a significant element of judgment and probability, Zimmermann said. They will look at the way cracks in houses were formed to determine if they are only aesthetic or if the house is in danger of falling down.
In addition to engineers, MCC is recruiting a disaster coordinator to lead MCC’s earthquake relief and rebuilding efforts over the next three to five years in Haiti.
A complete job description and contact information is available online.
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