Zionsville-based Project Rouj assists homebuilding efforts in Haiti


By Adanna Mbanu

Founded in Zionsville, Project Rouj is a nonprofit organization that provides jobs and builds houses in Haiti.

Project Rouj CEO Jamalyn Peigh Williamson moved to Haiti in 2003 with her husband David to better understand how the United States influences the rest of the world after taking an enlightening class on developing nations while attending Duke University.

The couple moved to Zionsville in 2005 but were back in Haiti in 2010 when a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit, collapsing the country’s infrastructure and destroying homes. The Williamsons stayed to help rebuild homes and quickly realized that Haiti needed something more.

“We thought the mission was building houses, but really what the mission had turned out to be is creating jobs, and the byproduct of that is that people get safe, secure housing,” Williamson said.

The increase in housing in Haiti has allowed people to move forward with their lives. It also kept many homeowners from spending excessive amounts of money to have a place to live.

“One of our homeowners, because they weren’t spending money trying to fix this house that was falling apart, was able to start a tree nursery,” Williamson said. “So, now we are able to plant around 100 trees at every house we build because his tree nursery is where we buy those trees from. People have been able to have more money by either having a job with us, or getting a house from us, which then frees up money they were spending to try and keep themselves dry from a leaky roof.”

Project Rouj is the largest employer in Fondwa, Haiti, employing more than 150 people, according to the organization, whose name is derived from the word rouj — which means red in Haitian Creole — representing the red roofs commonly seen throughout Fondwa.

Project Rouj prides itself on not just building homes in Haiti, but allowing Haitians to work for the organization, which can ultimately help end the cycle of poverty.

“We never hand a dollar directly to a person that hasn’t worked for it,” Williamson said, adding that Project Rouj.

“We really are trying to help (Haitians) help themselves,” she said. “We felt our main project was to help people get out of dilapidated homes, get them in a secure place, make them feel safe so that they can then think about what dreams they want for their lives. We’ve achieved that, but we’ve also had this enormous blessing of now being able to help people by giving them jobs.”

Learn more at projectrouj.org.