I REACH DOWN; a small dark hand places a pair of nails in mine. We are building temporary houses a few months after the Haiti earthquake, wooden frames covered with plastic, held taut by flat-head nails with concave washers. Our crew, American volunteers and local Haitians, erects a tin-roofed house in two hours. The boy under my shadow proves useful and reliable; whenever I drop my hand another nail appears.
We hike to the next site; my helper clutches the nail bucket. “Dieunison,” he responds when I ask his name. “Over there,” he answers when I inquire where he lives. Gestures and smiles communicate better than my Creole or his English. Over the next week we build dozens of houses in Grand Goave, about 15 miles from the earthquake epicenter. Dieunison finds me every morning; I never have to bend over for a nail. I give him water and snack bars, fair wages here for an 8-year-old. We hug before I fly home.