Haiti needs to be HGTV’d!


Like many Americans, I love HGTV (Home and Garden Television).  When I go home to the US, I can’t wait to watch kitchens upgraded, bathrooms remodeled, landscapes transformed.

Whether I’m cooking with the ease of Lean Cuisine, laundering with the convenience of Kenmore, or cleaning with the miracle of Mop & Glo, I appreciate the perky background chatter of “Divine Design” (to learn more about the show click here) and “Design on a Dime” (to learn more about the show click here).

I enjoy segments on how to install bamboo flooring at a diagonal as much the next surface-obsessed, granite-loving, domestic goddess in North America.  Even when I’m at our house in Haiti, I complain about our stove, our oven, our cook-top.

It’s so small:

So tall:

—so not the stainless steel I have at home in the States.

But—(and this is a big BUT)

This past week I went with Sara to Leogane, a coastal town about 30 kilometers west of Port-au-Prince, close to the epicenter of the January 12th earthquake.  A United Nations assessment team deemed Leogane “the worst-affected area” in Haiti, with 80 – 90% of buildings damaged and nearly all concrete structures destroyed.

Just outside of Leogane I visited a community called Nolivos—

Where the houses look like this:

a "Desperate Space?"

(To learn more about the show, “Desperate Spaces,” click here.) 

The washing machines look like this:

doing laundry for a family of 7 children

The kitchens look like this:

a "Sizzling Outdoor Kitchen?"

(To learn more about the show, “Sizzling Outdoor Kitchens,” click here.)

The sinks look like this:

the community well

And the stoves look like this:

a "Kitchen Impossible?"

(To learn more about the show, “Kitchen Impossible,” click here.)

Watching a woman cook dinner for seven on  a stove of sticks and stones, I wondered whether Vern Yip would be willing to bring a “Deserving Design” to this mother or another mother in the Port-au-Prince slum of Cite Soleil.  (To watch an episode of “Deserving Design” click here.)

I wondered whether David Bromstad would splash some color a little south of Miami.  (To watch an episode of “Color Splash: Miami” click here.)

I thought:

Haiti needs to be HGTV’d!  (To learn more about the show, “HGTV’d,” click here.)

(and I thought I needed a kitchen remodel.)

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29 thoughts on “Haiti needs to be HGTV’d!

  1. Great post! At least you can still see into the pots on your stove – even if stirring them might be a challenge! :-)

    When I see how basic some people’s living conditions are, I realize how lucky I am. I always stress when an appliance breaks down, even though I know it will get fixed soon. Got to get a grip!!!

    • This coment made me laugh out loud! So true. The stove is so strangley high. Admittedly, I’m short, but not THAT short.

      I know what you mean. I keep using the same language with my myself. “Get a grip, Kathy! Get a grip!”

  2. I love how you’ve approached this post, Kathy – such a juxtaposition and soooo moving. There are many similarities with the Africa that I know, but thank you for loving Haiti and sharing it so poignantly with those of us who know so little of what really happens over there.
    Hugs from London
    Sunshine xx

    • I’m so pleased to hear this post moved you. Have you ever watched HGTV? Is the network carried in your part of the world? It’s stunning when I think of those shows (which I enjoy, by the way) and juxtapose them to this situation. I thought about sharing my post with the network, to see if it really would consider doing something here. I don’t know what or how. But something!

  3. Another post for thought. It breaks my heart to see the way so many Haitians (and so many others in the world) live. Our frame of reference is so skewed, that an undersize refrigerator or lack of a dishwasher can be really annoying. To many people, just having a kitchen is a luxury they can’t imagine. And by the way, your color scheme rocks.

    • It really is mind-numbing to see this up-close and in-person. I don’t know that I will ever be the same. But that’s probably a good thing.

      Glad you like the colors. Sara and I painted the entire interior of the house ourselves. Obviously, we like color!

    • You’re certainly welcome, Wendy. Glad to know the post served as a reminder! Having seen what I do here, I’m ashamed of my own selfish thoughts. It’s hard because so often we see our lives in terms of our own fairly singular expereince. It helps me sometimes to be pulled from that limited way of thinking.

  4. First, your kitchen is cute! Love the bright colors!
    Second through Fifth ? I think HGTV should go to Haiti! I love Candice Olsen just as much as the next girl, but wouldn’t it be cool to see some really deserving folks get a housing boost?

    • I too love Candice. And I’m serious about my recommendation. However, I have no idea with whom or how to share this idea. I’ve added the link to this post on HGTV blog posts today and emailed Anderson Cooper, since he seems so concerned about Haiti, but don’t know what else to do. Surely someone else has recommended this before me.

  5. My TV is busted. So busted that it would cost just as much to repair as it would cost to buy a new one. I’ve been fuming about that news all morning. And now I’ve read your post, and I’m ashamed of myself.

    Thanks for putting basic American materialism in perspective.

    (As a quick aside, wow! I love your kitchen! The colors and cabinets are fabulous.)

    • So, I’ll respond to your comment about the kitchen–Sara and I have painted the entire interior of our house here and are quite the decorating duo. Maybe I should share photos of what we’ve done with the house. Don’t know if that would be appropriate. Maybe? Maybe!

  6. Ugh. Okay, one: even though I cry every single day, I’ve felt a good cry tapping me on the shoulder all day today. This post nearly sent me over the edge. I hate to see people suffering like this…especially when they’re in such good spirits about it. I have this weird reaction…on the one hand, I am so hurt for them because of their struggle…and on the other hand, I am overwhelmed by admiration because of their resilience. (I’m not crying, though, like I want to…I’m in my library’s graduate study room, and it’s packed out, so I have to hold back for now.)

    Two: I really appreciate posts like these. They just help give me a little dose of perspective. However much I dislike my kitchen (not enough countertop space, cabinets are in strange configurations so that my little 5’3″ reach can’t quite access about half of them), I’m not cooking on stones…and I’m not drinking out of a stack of tires. God, Kathy, how do you just not fall to pieces every single day?

    (Oh, and I would like to chime in with 36×37’s compliment of your kitchen–it is so beautiful and fun! It must be so cheerful to see in person!)

    • I love this comment, because I so understand! I feel the same strange combination of horror and respect.

      I can only handle this in small doses, but writing helps me process the intense emotional response I have. I don’t get to these kinds of locations often for security reasons–so I’m glad I took advantage of the opportunity.

      Glad you like the kitchen. Sara and I love color.

  7. When we first moved to Tokyo I couldn’t figure out how to work the appliances because everything was in Japanese. Two things got me out of my funk- 1) One of my “Friends” told me to “get a life” after I bragged about finally doing a load of laundry successfully on Facebook and 2) realizing that if all else failed there was always the old fashioned way- the sink. Horrors- the way millions of people all over the world are doing it- only the water isn’t as clean.
    Great post! Thanks for reminding me how lucky I am.

    • Yes, folks all over the world do laundry by hand. But, I understand bragging about accomplishing the seeminly smallest of tasks when you’re learning to function in a foreign country. One of the posts I wrote around Thanksgiving explores my struggle to figure out the stove here well enough to bake pumpkin pies. “Friends” who haven’t lived abroad and expereinced these challenges are the ones who need to “get a life,” go to another country, and try to get by.

  8. <3 the post… A doctor my mother works for in St. Petersburg, travels to Leogane to administer medical aid to people with a group of his colleagues. He brings back photographs of the conditions around there and it's heart breaking to see people living in those conditions. It would be really cool to see HGTV do an episode to help these people. Maybe build a clinic for the doctors to work in…. maybe a community center with some basic features… heck how about a hotel like structure for everyone to have a solid room?

    on a side note, your stove height is an easy fix. Cut the cabinetry off the bottom that has it a few inches off the floor. Then it will be normal height.

    • Thanks so much for the comment. It would be cool for HGTV to do something here. In fact, it’s hard to believe they don’t recognize that.

      At any rate, thanks also for the suggestion about the stove. Actually, my partner, who is an architect, looked into doing that, but she insists it would interfere with the integrity of the island, weaken it, etc. I would love it if something could be done, as the stove is ridiculously high!

      Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll stop by again soon.

  9. What a clever way of putting this all together! Fantastic post. Wouldn’t it be great if someone from HGTV stopped by to take you up on these challenges?

  10. Pingback: Happy Valentine’s Day–from the Heart of Haiti | reinventing the event horizon

  11. Pingback: We Interrupt your Regularly Scheduled Program to Bring you—another Kathy? « Lake Superior Spirit

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