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Utah doctor develops plan to help shelter Haitians

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah doctor is planning a second trip to Haiti to help shelter earthquake victims. Thousands still live in tent cities, but he came up with a solution for affordable homes after he saw a story on KSL 5 News.

About a month ago, KSL aired a story about small, durable concrete houses you build from a kit in about an hour. Dr. Corey Eriksen, of Fruit Heights, saw those simple homes and knew what he had to do. He hopes others will follow.

Utahns have contributed more than $1,000,000 of the $106.4 million the American Red Cross's efforts in Haiti. -American Red Cross

Eriksen and fellow Utah Dr. NyLin Johnson arrived in Haiti the 11th day after the quake. Unattached to any group, they set up a base at an LDS church and headed into several of the many tent cities. They gave Haitians antibiotics and baby formula, and dressed wounds.

Eriksen was stunned by the desperate need for direct aid.

"They're getting beans and rice from the UN," he says, "but I don't know where all the money is going."

The doctors spent six days helping Haitians, most of whom had not seen a doctor since the earthquake. Eriksen befriended several families, who helped as translators. One of the men was especially concerned for his family.

"He kept asking, 'What can you do to help me? Can I come to the United States?' And I gave him the routine answers, 'Hang in there. It will work out OK. Have faith, it will all work together for your good.' And, I came home," Eriksen says.

An estimated 1.3 million people were left homeless in Haiti by the earthquake. -American Red Cross

But Eriksen kept thinking he must do more. That's when he saw our story about the durable concrete homes made by RhinoRock Concrete Fencing in Provo. Two people can build a 10-by-10 foot house in about an hour, without heavy machinery.

Eriksen decided those houses were the perfect solution for his friends and their families.

"I said that's it. I'm going to go down there, and I'm going to get Yvonne and Champaign and these two other members a house, and hopefully the whole world sees them and says, ‘let's all do that.' And if not, worst case scenario, I've provided homes for four people," Erkisen says.

He bought five, and a Utah humanitarian company will ship them to Haiti. Eriksen expects to return in two weeks with people from RhinoRock to build them. He hopes major relief agencies pick up this model.

"This project is designed specifically to buy this house," he says. "For every $2,500 that's developed, you've got a home for somebody."

Already, a newly-formed humanitarian group -- Brothers Without Borders -- likes this idea. As the plan develops more in the weeks ahead, we'll let you know how you can help if you're interested.



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Jed Boal


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