David and Jamalyn Williamson lived in Fondwa, Haiti from 2003-2005. Newlyweds and recent graduates of Duke Divinity School, they made the leap and moved to Haiti. They worked at the community school and invested their time in building relationships with Fondwa neighbors. In 2005, the couple moved to Indiana and began serving churches in the United Methodist Church. For the next five years, they had two children, pastored congregations and visited Fondwa when they were able. Taking church groups to Fondwa was a way for them to visit friends and share their experiences with Americans. The focus of these trips changed drastically in 2010.
On January 12, 2010 at 4:53 pm, Haiti was hit by a massive 7.8 earthquake. Jamalyn was with a team in Fondwa, 15 miles from the epicenter in Leogane. Jamalyn said, “The power of the quake knocked me to the ground and in the aftermath, there was a deafening silence, punctuated only by the sound of women singing and praying after each aftershock throughout the night.”
As a result of this experience, the Williamsons became part of a grassroots group of 18 friends composed of both Haitians and Americans who began rebuilding houses lost during the earthquake. They concentrated their efforts and rebuilt 17 houses in seven years. The group decided they wanted to make a longer-term impact with a strategic approach and began by asking the community of Fondwa what it was they really wanted? The reply was, we need to expand our scope by building more houses, not just replacing those lost because a place to live is the first step in creating family stability and transforming lives. The team created a Selection Committee made up of Fondwa leaders to help establish criteria, make decisions and prioritize home building projects.
In 2018, we formed a non-profit organization called Zanmi (zah-me) Fondwa, now known as Project Rouj, to carry out our work. The name means “Friends of Fondwa” and was inspired by the act of the group of friends coming together and taking action to help the community.
Project Rouj’s strategy is based on building high quality, long-lasting homes that will create family stability for generations to come. We build houses with modern kitchens replacing dirt floors and tin walls, we build houses with indoor plumbing instead of out-houses. Our homes are made of concrete designed to withstand natural disasters and we surround our homes with trees that bear fruit to sustain families and create income. Project Rouj completed its first house in February 2019 and to date has built 32 homes. The initial goal is to build 40 homes by 2021, with a vision of 20 per year after that, a reforestation initiative, a block-factory and home water cistern projects.
Project Rouj is supported 100% by donations from individuals, churches, corporations and special grants.
At Project Rouj, it all starts with a home, a safe and secure place to live, the foundation upon which Haitians can build a better future for themselves. Project Rouj exists to improve and transform the future of Haitian families – one home at a time.