Wood for Haiti

By: Amos S. Eno
Posted on:12/13/2011 Updated:03/23/2012

How beetle-killed wood from Western forests may be the key to rebuilding Haiti.

Wood for Haiti was born out of serendipity.  It is a serendipitous notion to take millions of acres of beetle-killed wood out of western US forests and send it to Haiti to rebuild an earthquake-resistant nation - while in the process restoring forest and creating employment in America.

Gary Funk, a music professor at the University of Montana, was in the Minneapolis airport on Jan. 12, 2010, when he first saw television images of the Haiti earthquake.  “I was quite moved by that whole event,” he says.  “Probably like most everyone else that day I was moved by what I saw but kept thinking there’s nothing I can do.”  Yet, when it came time to continue planning for his spring choral concert at the University of Montana, Gary found himself transforming the event into a “Requiem for Haiti.”  

Requiem for Haiti

Knowing how aloof some university students can be to international disasters, Gary tried to present the reality of tragedy by combining Requiem masses composed by French composers with Haitian folk music accompanied by images of the earthquake’s devastation and special effects designed to simulate the sounds and shaking of the earth.  That initial effort raised $1400 for Dr. Patrick Jeudy in Haiti, a man highlighted on NPR, whose hospital had been destroyed and who had been forced to treat patients and perform surgeries on the street.  

“I’m a music teacher,” emphasizes Gary, “coming at this whole thing naively.  I still don’t know much about forestry and business and the wood industry, but I have learned how passionate people are about managing forest properly.”  

Gary began talking with people who encouraged him to do another fundraiser for Dr. Jeudy.  The second event raised $8600 and brought together a building team who worked with a Haitian architect to design an earthquake/hurricane-resistant clinic.  Haitians generally don’t know how to build disaster-resistant buildings, and wood - a material much preferred over concrete blocks - is virtually nonexistent in the long-since deforested country.  

The Seed of an Idea

The true beginning of Wood for Haiti came when Patrick Jeudy flew to Montana to accept his donations.  “He stayed with me and was quite overwhelmed,” says Gary.  “We played a DVD of the ‘Requiem for Haiti’ concert, which moved Patrick to tears.  We concluded by presenting him with the funds we had collected, along with two (sets of) architectural drawings for his clinic.  He clutched the drawings close to his chest and said, ‘This is like gold to me.’  Then he made the comment that really spurred us.  Standing outside, gazing at the surrounding forest, he said, ‘Look at all this wood. If I only had 40 trees, I could build my hospital.‘  That was the seed.”

A couple weeks later, while driving through the Helena National Forest, Gary noticed all the trees that had been devoured by the pine beetle epidemic - up to 70% of lodgepole and ponderosa have been devastated in some areas.  And it hit him:  “We’ve got enough dead standing wood here to rebuild the entire country of Haiti!”   At that point in time, Gary did not even know if pine beetle-killed wood was usable.  “I searched for answers and found an expert on the internet, Todd Morgan, and emailed him.  I had no idea where he was located, but soon after he called and invited me to speak with him in his office!  Turns out Morgan works for the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana.”  More serendipity.  

Morgan told him it was best to harvest beetle-killed wood immediately, but it could remain good for about three years, at which time it would begin to deteriorate.  “He’s a national expert, and he told me, ‘That wood is surely good.’”

We will be tell you the rest of the story of the Wood for Haiti story throughout this Christmas and holiday time of year.


re: Wood for Haiti
By: Lafume Jean Celerm on: 01/24/2012

We would like to come into contact with wood for Haiti, because we would like Ile-a-vache participate in the reconstruction, because it is very important for growing tourism in the island. I wish you to think for the Ile vache. Ile Foundation the vache pour le developpement (fdi) we hope the answer you shortly LAFUME President Jean celerm

re: Wood for Haiti
By: Joyce M. Leonard on: 12/28/2011

THE MONEY,,,,that is what is needed THE MONEY to be able to get the wood, prepare it, and ship it to Haiti..and train those interested people to work with it and build homes...Put a penny in your pocket...and maybe it will muliply to create funds for Wood for Haiti.....IDEAS...????

re: Wood for Haiti
By: Brent O'Connor on: 12/28/2011

I know Gary Funk and many others that are involved with Wood for Haiti personally and professionally. I can't say enough good things about the heart behind this project. Even the poorest in the USA have so much more than those living in poverty in Haiti. Whether you help locally or globally, help. Give. Bless others.