Robert Riley’s heart sank when he saw the first images of the devastation in Haiti following the earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010.
“I felt compelled to try to do something if I could,” he says.
Riley’s involvement in the South Bend chapter of Habitat for Humanity put him in a position to help—directly and personally. “I told the local Habitat executive director that I would offer myself if I had a chance to get down to Haiti,” he says.
For a long time, nothing happened. Then this June he received a letter from the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Work Project, inquiring if he was still interested in building homes in Leogane, Haiti—the earthquake’s epicenter, just 18 miles from the country’s capital of Port au Prince and home of the University’s Haiti Program.
Riley, a senior audit consultant for Notre Dame Audit & Advisory Services, leapt at the opportunity. Having been a Habitat volunteer for three years, Riley had already demonstrated his capabilities as a carpenter and handyman.
Shortly afterward, he was accepted into the Carter work force and joined 400 people who will travel to Haiti with the Carters Nov. 4 through 12 to build homes from the ground up for Haitian families—many of whom still live in sprawling tent communities in unsanitary conditions.
Riley needs to raise $5,000 to pay for the construction materials that Habitat for Humanity needs to build the homes. The initial contributions from his fellow Habitat workers were encouraging. But Riley still has a long way to go. And fundraising is a completely new experience to him.
Riley already knows how heartening it is see the joy of a Michiana family whose house he helped build and the spirit of compassion that brings Habitat for Humanity workers together.
Now he is asking people in the South Bend and Notre Dame communities to be their emissary. “I want to go on behalf of everybody,” he says.
Contributions to Habitat for Humanity are tax-exempt. Donations to help pay for supplies for Riley’s trip can be made by visiting Habitat’s online donation center.