“Haiti is the poorest country in the world, it’s so poor it is actually rated as a fifth world country,” KyCorn Board Member Matt Castlen said.
He may be a Sukup grain bin dealer, but Castlen’s latest project doesn’t have his bins being sold to fill with grain, no, lately he and members of the Owensboro community are turning grain bins into homes for Haitian people.
Castlen has been to Haiti on two other missionary trips to help drill for water wells and build churches through Global Outreach Haiti and says words cannot describe the conditions there.
According to him the poverty of Haiti can be credited to the country’s lack of resources.
“Growing up on a farm and then becoming a farmer myself, I’m used to driving down the road and seeing cattle and grain crops, etc. but you won’t see that there. 85-90 percent of goods are imported, so when you have no natural resources it’s hard to have jobs. It’s 11-12 inches of rain a year there and the dirt has a high salt content, so it’s not good for growing much stuff.”
“Four out of five children die before the age of five in Haiti,” Castlen continued. “So no one really thinks much of them until they get older. You’ll see them running around covered in scabies from sleeping on the dirt and despite their dark skin they will have red hair from the lack of protein in their diet.”
Castlen said he felt called to do something to help the Haitian people and that’s when he heard about Sukup using their grain bin as homes.
The Sukup family started building little grain bin home in Haiti after the earthquake of 2010. The homes — or huts — are a standard grain bin with a well-ventilated double roof structure to reflect heat and provide cooler temperatures in their hot environment. Attached to either side of the hut are boxes, filled with soil. The boxes serve as counter weight in high winds as well as a place to grow fruits and veggies. Also equipped on the outside of the hut is a water collection system designed to funnel rainwater and dew for home use. The last feature can be found inside the hut, a loft that sleeps up to 10 people and provides a place of rest off the dirt.
This year the team hopes to raise enough money for 10 homes. Building each home will cost nearly $6,000 and an estimated additional $10,000 to ship the materials from the U.S. to Haiti.
“Our goal is to raise $80,000 by July so we can ship the materials, I’m planning on the supplies taking four to five months to clear customs so we will know everything is good before the team makes the trip next February,” he explained.
‘The team’ he is referring to is a men’s group from various churches and of all ages in the community that meet on Wednesday evenings. Together, they have constructed one hut — currently displayed in Thurston — that will travel throughout the community to showcase the cause. As of now, 12 in the group are scheduled to travel to Haiti next year to assemble the huts.
“The neat thing about it as word has gotten out we’ve had five more people come forward and say they are interested in going and that’s what I like about it,” Castlen added. It isn’t about what denomination you’re from or a single group of friends, it’s people from all types of backgrounds coming together.”
Not only has this project brought new members to the team, according to Castlen, community reaction has been huge. The original fundraising milestone needed to reach $20,000 in April. As of Thursday, April 3, Huts for Haiti had raised $31,000.
“We’ve had calls from several other communities and states wanting to get involved and our community is really excited about it, but what is really neat is other missionary groups from across the country have contacted us wanting to do the same in countries, such as Honduras and Peru.”
“If you had asked me five years ago if I thought I’d be trying to organize and fundraise for this kind of project I would’ve said no way, but I feel God calls everyone to do their part in different ways,” he continued.
According to him, people ask why they are doing this when there are things to be done here in this country.
“It’s not our goal to travel to Haiti to be Humanitarians,” he stressed. If you could see how these people live, they have no hope. They are born into poverty, starvation and disease. We are going down there and using the housing to say we do love you, we do care about you and this is what we want to do for you.
“I know building 10 homes a year there isn’t really going to help much, but maybe if more and more people began to step in we could actually change the situation there.”
“KyCorn is proud of our board member’s contributions to their communities and beyond,” Executive Director, Laura Knoth said. “It’s in a farmer’s nature to want to help feed, clothe and house those in need and Matt is a wonderful example of turning that desire into action.”
To learn more about Huts for Haiti or to see how you can help visit hutsforhaiti.org, www.facebook.com/hutsforhaiti or contact Matt Castlen at 270-314-9343.