Haitians help to rebuild Staten Island after Sandy

(CBS News) STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - The big blizzard hit areas that have barely started to recover from Superstorm Sandy a little more than three months ago. Fortunately, one New York City neighborhood is benefiting from what you might call island-to-island help.

The language is Creole. The message is: "Let's get to work rebuilding this damaged house."

" I'm here because after the big hurricane Sandy," said Frank Joseph, "some of us saw how...you know...devastated."

Joseph and his colleagues are from Haiti. They survived the 2010 earthquake that devastated their nation. And they haven't forgotten the kindness of so many American strangers.

"Because they helped us to rebuild, we ready to put in insulation, to put in sheetrock, and everything that needs to be done," said Joseph.

The Haitians arrived Thursday, just in time for weather they've never seen. Icy temperatures and blizzard conditions as they began rehab work in a Staten Island neighborhood wrecked by Superstorm Sandy.

They were brought here by Richard Hotes whose foundation, he says, built some 500 homes in Haiti for people living in refugee camps after the earthquake.

"They were living on the dirt," said Hotes. "They had nothing. They actually said to us, 'One day we want to do what you are doing. We want to go and help people.'"

Hotes paired the Haitians with local contractors. Asked if the skills he acquire will help him back in Haiti, Joseph said: "We're learning. Right now if I go back to Haiti and anybody who have this kind of work, I say, 'Okay I'm ready.'"

He also learned something not useful in Haiti: how to have a snowball fight.

The Haitians will be in Staten Island through next week.

"From all of our hearts, we are grateful to be here," said Joseph.

They hope to help rebuild 100 homes by then.

  • Tony Guida

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