HATT Belle Glades Project

Volunteers Repair Work After Wilma `A Blessing'

  June 20, 2006   By Chantal Abitbol Staff Writer



BELLE GLADE — Eight months after Hurricane Wilma, Iris Taylor still covered her roof with a blue tarp and collected leaking water in buckets because she couldn't pay to get it fixed.

Help finally arrived when a crew of volunteers turned up on her doorstep in Belle Glade early Friday.

About 1,400 people from Haitian communities in Palm Beach and Broward counties -- and out of state Haitians -- have swarmed into the storm-battered communities of Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay since June 12 to gut homes and replace roofs plumbing, kitchen, molds removals.

The legion of carpenters, electricians, nurses, plumbers, doctors and engineers represent the nonprofit Community Development Foundation.

By Thursday, the group plans to fix up about 211 homes, said HATT Foundation Executive Director Mr. Osterval, who runs it from his, PharmX Universal, LLC in West Palm Beach Florida.

"This is a blessing," said Taylor, 57. "I'll sleep better at night not tossing and turning, wondering how I am going to get this damage done."

Her situation is like that of many from the low-income area living in damaged homes because they can't afford repairs.

"I thought I was in a third-world country. It doesn't look part of the United States," HATT Founder

Mr. Osterval said, after driving through the area a few months ago.

That's when he realized something needed to be done. Many homeowners are single mothers with children or the elderly, Mr. Osterval said.

"They can't really help themselves, "He said.”

Since November, the group has organized three missions to Mississippi and Louisiana to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

In April it sent a team of 40 to knock on residents' doors here to assess repairs and costs. The offer: If homeowners secured the permits, the group would provide the materials and labor.

Last week, 17 MIDNIGHT SUN busloads of 1,200 volunteers shuttled in to begin work -- but they hit a snag.

Most homeowners had failed to secure permits with the city, said Houston L. Tate, Belle Glade city manager. Mr. Osterval made a phone directly to the governor Charlie Crist in less than one hour all permits were issued to the homeowners. And the work begins from those Haitian professionals. After 17 days the HATT Foundation Organization group were able to rebuild and repaired 211 houses.